If it had been a half a crown, I would have watched where it came down*

*parody of Longfellow’s “The Arrow and the Song”

(I remember the comic version from childhood reading, but haven’t tracked down its source; though the likely contenders are P G Wodehouse, Frank Richards, or Anthony Buckeridge.)

John Morton noted in Critical Survey Vol 27(3), 2015:

“Both Longfellow and Tennyson were “great men” in the Carlylean tradition, with multi-volume memoirs of their lives, edited inevitably by their children, to demonstrate this, and yet they have both recently been reassessed as innovative figures in terms of their approach to celebrity. Kathryn Ledbetter, for instance, in 2007 described Tennyson as the first “media poet” (just as Victoria was a “media monarch”); Longfellow was described in the same year as “America’s first “pop” poet” by Christopher Irmscher. Both Irmscher and Ledbetter, in Longfellow Redux and Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals respectively, present their chosen poets as actively involved in the creation of their public persona.”

James Marcus opened his article on Longfellow in the New Yorker of 1st June this year:

“On March 26, 1882, Ralph Waldo Emerson went to a funeral. As the elderly writer stared into the open casket, he grew perplexed. He could not identify the body. He seemed to know that the man had been a friend—indeed, he felt sad that the bearded stranger in the casket had predeceased him—but Emerson had no idea who he was. “Who is the sleeper?” he finally asked his daughter. The answer was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Emerson was in the throes of dementia. Even so, the story seems like a small allegory of Longfellow’s disappearance from American culture. He was, in his heyday, the most famous poet in the English-speaking world. Perhaps T. S. Eliot, in his sports-arena-filling prime, would be a comparable figure. But Eliot was lionized by many people who didn’t read his poetry, whereas Longfellow’s books were devoured not only by the literati but by ordinary readers. When Longfellow was received by Queen Victoria, in 1868, she noticed the servants scuffling to get a glimpse of him. To her amazement, they all knew his poetry. No other visitor had provoked “so peculiar an interest,” she noted. “Such poets wear a crown that is imperishable.” “.

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