A Look at Life in the Longfellow House (#3)

On January 6, 1857, Henry and Fanny Longfellow hosted a party for her half-sister, Hattie Appleton (1841-1923). He described the event this way in his diary:
A Twelfth-Night party for H. and her schoolmates. A sleigh full of school-girls. Just as they arrived and the young men from college were knocking at the door, out went the gas-lights. We sent to the gas-works, and all was soon put to rights and in full blaze. The evening passed pleasantly, with dances, and rings in the cake, and king and queen of Twelfth Night.
There were, Henry wrote in a letter, “the Christmas evergreens still hanging about” in the house. That occasion probably prompted him to write a poem that he never published, but his brother Samuel put into print after his death:
Twelfth Night

Last night this room was full of sport,
For here, amid her train advancing,
The Queen of Twelfth-Night held her court,
With music, merriment, and dancing.

Upon this Spanish convent chair
The lovely maiden queen was seated;
A crown of flowers was in her hair,
And kneeling youths their sovereign greeted.

The busts of Grecian bards sublime
Smiled from their antique oaken cases,
As if they saw renewed the time
Of all the Muses and the Graces.

And the old Poets on their shelves,
Awaking from their dusty slumbers,
Recalled what they had sung themselves
Of Youth and Beauty in their numbers.

And round the merry dancers whirled
Beneath the evergreens and holly, —
A world of youth, a happy world,
That banished care and melancholy.

Now all is changed; the guests have fled,
The joyous guests, the merry-hearted.
Ah, me! the room itself seems dead,
Since so much youth and life departed!
(Henry’s diary entry for the 9th started: “Sumner at dinner. He is elected to Congress for another term; 333 against 12. There is no mistaking the meaning of such a vote.” By that lopsided margin the Massachusetts legislature sent Charles Sumner back to the Senate. In May 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina had assaulted Sumner on the Senate floor, and he was still recovering. This year is Charles Sumner’s bicentennial, and the National Park Service is co-sponsoring several events to commemorate the senator’s life.)

(Thanks to J-Fi for the seasonal photograph above.)