In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site Designation Act. This law changed the official name of the Longfellow National Historic Site to Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site to highlight the building’s full importance in American history. The Friends and National Park Service supported this bill, and we are grateful to our local elected officials for sponsoring it.
Exhibit at the Boston Public Library
The Rare Book department of the Boston Public Library is hosting an exhibit called “The Public Life of Poetry: Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, and Their Contemporaries” through the end of January 2011. The library’s exhibit description says:
The Public Life of Poetry: Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, and Their Contemporaries presents the work of poets who believed themselves to be speaking to and for a vast number of Americans. As critics have pointed out, the American literary milieu was dominated until the early nineteenth century by writers who were effectively dilettantes and could not hope for large readerships. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, with the example of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the professional poet was born. Longfellow’s books could be found on parlor tables across the country.The curator of this exhibit is Nadia Nurhussein, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Mike Chasar’s Poetry & Public Culture blog interviewed Nurhussein about the exhibit. She told him, “One of the exhibit’s most exciting cases is devoted to Longfellow parodies.”
But, in fact, nineteenth-century Americans found poetry in print all around them—not only in their private homes, but also in the public sphere—and this exhibit also presents some of the “disposable” or “ephemeral” poetry that circulated during this period alongside the work of respected literary lions.