J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Life and Legend at Longfellow House

I just got back from a fine slide talk by Carol Bundy based on her book The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-64. This event was hosted by the Friends of the Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Bundy is a collateral descendant of Lowell, a Union Army administrative and cavalry officer during the Civil War. Twenty years ago she came across some unpublished, unarchived letters by him and started to research his life. The family library included a book that described the man in very complimentary terms, and as she researched Bundy kept expecting to find a point when that book had veered away from documented facts and started printing legend. But she didn’t. The story of Lowell and his circle makes for quite an affecting saga of a generation facing a national crisis.

A previous lecture by Bundy, along with an interview, is archived here at WGBH.org. She’ll speak at Carlisle Barracks in September.

Since The Nature of Sacrifice is about the U.S. Civil War, it has nothing to do with New England in the American Revolution (even though Bundy did have an image of a man named Paul Revere—the silversmith’s grandson, mortally wounded at Gettysburg).

So to offer some arguably apropos content, here’s a fresh-off-the-card photo of one of Cambridge’s hidden treasures: the restored colonial-revival garden behind Longfellow House. This garden is available for people to visit every day, from dawn to dusk, though the mansion itself won’t open to drop-in visitors under 1 June.

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