Lengthy handwritten letter about the events of July 1861 that would forever change his life

(LONGFELLOW, Henry Wadsworth)

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Place Published: Boston
Date Published: 1861

Description: 4 pages (front and back) on embossed blind-stamp letterhead, each two-page spread measuring 7.5 x 9.75 inches, Boston, July 29, 1861. Written and signed by Marie Goodwin, the constant companion to Mrs. Samuel Appleton (aka "Aunt Sam"), giving a firsthand account of the tragic and horrific death of Fanny Longfellow and its aftermath, in part: "...I know you will be interested in hearing of the welfare of the family since the distressing death of Mrs. Longfellow. The papers were quite correct in their statements. A match probably set fire to a very delicate muslin dress she wore and in her fright she rushed into the room where Mr. Longfellow was - thus increasing the flames, and in a few moments she was so much burned that life was despaired of. Mr. Longfellow did what he could by wrapping a rug round her and the servants came with water. Ether was given her and through the night she was mostly unconscious from its effects, she sank away quietly about ten o'clk the next morning. Poor Mr. Longfellow has suffered since very severely, both hands being burned, but the Physicians think he will in time recover their use. His sister Mrs. Peirce [Anne Longfellow] is constantly with him and the children are to be under the care of a Governess...It was thought best to tell Mr. Nathan Appleton [Fanny's father] of the dreadful calamity which had befallen Mrs Longfellow and also of its results. He was very weak and had felt for some time that his end was near, and it is not thought that his death was hastened by the intelligence. He wanted to hear all the particulars of the accident and he saw all the family after their return from Cambridge and was told of the funeral. He was rather restless and could not sleep that night and at four o'clk on Sunday morning he quietly passed away as if in sleep..." Natural folds; very good(+) condition.

Comments: Nathan Appleton, a former U.S. Congressman and banker, was too weak to attend his daughter's funeral and died one day after she was buried. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffered severe burns to his hands and extensive scarring to his face -- so much that he forever thereafter grew his trademark beard to hide his disfigurement. He also was unable to attend the funeral. The story that all newspapers carried specifically stated that Mrs. Longfellow was melting wax to seal lockets of her children's hair in envelopes when the hot wax dripped on her, igniting her dress. Fifty years later, Longfellow's youngest daughter Annie explained the story differently, claiming that there had been no candle or wax but that the fire had started from a self-lighting match that had fallen on the floor. This, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society, was the first reference to a match. Marie Goodwin mentions the match in this letter and it is very feasible that she shared this story with Annie Longfellow (the baby of the family) whom she was extremely close to.

Signed: Y
Binding: unbound
Language: English
Type: Autographs

Book ID: 253691


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