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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Monday, April 12, 2010

Where Longfellow Read the Words of Paul Revere

Over at 150 Years of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” we’ve posted an article by Charles Bahne about how Henry W. Longfellow came to convert the history of Paul Revere into a poetic legend, and how that poem was published on the eve of the U.S. Civil War. Here’s a taste from the first part:

Longfellow had long known the story of Paul Revere’s ride “through every Middlesex village and farm” in 1775. Twenty-two years after that fateful ride, Revere himself had been asked to detail the events of that April night. His recollections were published in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Collections in 1798, then reprinted in October 1832 in J. T. Buckingham’s New England Magazine.

By coincidence, that same October 1832 issue of New England Magazine also contained one of the first published works of a 25-year-old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Part V of “The Schoolmaster,” a prose piece describing his travels to Europe. Almost certainly the young college professor read every word of that magazine issue, including Revere’s narrative. And in 1877, when Longfellow was asked about his sources, he was able to cite that magazine story by volume and page number, four and a half decades after he had first read it.
Incidentally, the man who published both Revere and Longfellow in 1832, Joseph Tinker Buckingham, has shown up here at Boston 1775 in quotes from his profile of his mentor in printing, Benjamin Russell. Revere, Russell, and Buckingham were all important figures in the history of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.

Charles Bahne will speak about Revere and Longfellow twice this week, including tonight at the Dallin Art Museum in Arlington.

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