Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters News for March 2011

New Analysis Ties “Paul Revere’s Ride” to Slavery Issue

The American Scholar has published Harvard professor Jill Lepore’s “How Longfellow Woke the Dead,” analyzing the poet’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” as a “a bold statement of his opposition to slavery” in 1860. Lepore researched this article in part in the Longfellow House archives, and shared her thoughts in last fall’s lecture series at Old South Meeting House, primarily sponsored by the Paul Revere Memorial Association.

Longfellow House Ranger Rob Velella to Perform as Poe

Rob Velella, who has led tours at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters for the past three years, is also a busy scholar of nineteenth-century American literature. (Check out his daily American Literary Blog.) He shares some of his work through first-person interpretations of those figures. On Sunday, March 27, Rob will present Edgar A. Poe at Gore Place in Waltham. He will read from “such stories as ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ and one story so horrific that it was censored by the author himself.”

Poe helped to make his reputation as a new voice in American letters in part by attacking Longfellow as a plagiarist of other poets’ ideas and metaphors. But Rob doesn’t pick sides in that dispute—he’s also portrayed Longfellow.

New Article about William Vassall and the Puritans

The Longfellow House was built in 1759 by John Vassall, a young gentleman who had inherited a fortune in Jamaican sugar plantations. Over a century before, the Vassall family had a role in the Puritan settlement of Massachusetts. John’s great-great-grandfather William emigrated to Massachusetts, but ran afoul of the prevailing religious and civil authorities. Linda K. Palmer’s article about William Vassall, “A Busy and Factious Spirit,” appears in the March 2011 issue of The Congregationalist (PDF download). Linda’s website shows her portrayal of Ann Vassall, William’s wife.

Drilling Complete in Longfellow Driveway

Since last fall the driveway at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters has been a construction site as workers drilled holes for an improved geothermal heating and air-conditioning system. Conditions both geological and meteorological meant that work took longer than initially expected. The drilling stage of the project is complete at last, and new equipment is going into the holes. The driveway will be restored over the coming weeks in time for the summer season.