Monday, March 21, 2011

Collecting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, The Legend of Paul Revere's Ride

US Postal Service Longfellow Stamp, 2007

"Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...." is the opening of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's classic poem of America's call to arms and of the legendary ride, warning that the British are coming.  Certainly not accurate history but the poem remains a cherished piece of American cultural history.  While some may forget about the events of April 19, 1775; the dawn battle at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA, the shot heard round the world, and the retreat of the British regulars through Lexington towards Boston, Longfellow's poem honoring Paul Revere's legendary ride will forever celebrate the birth of a nation.  Historical accuracy aside, if so many learn of ancient Rome through Shakespeare, Longfellow's poem may always remain a simple introduction to the first hours of the American Revolution.

Longfellow's poem was originally published on December 18, 1860 in the Boston Evening Herald newspaper followed a few days later with publication in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine and three years later in his famous collection of poems, Tales of A Wayside Inn, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, 1863 (Routledge, Warne and Routledge, London, 1864) as "The Landlord's Tale".  There are copies available of both the Ticknor and Fields edition and the Routledge, Warne and Routledge edition (it would be fun to have a British first edition!).   The Ticknor and Fields edition seems to be available in three states.  The first state included a publisher's catalog where Tales of A Wayside Inn is listed as forthcoming, without a price.  The second state included a publisher's catalog with the title listed in the advertising with a price.  I have seen mention of a first edition without the publisher catalog and I would need to access a few research guides to verify that copies of the first state were actually printed without the catalog.  Most available copies are in sad shape as is to be expected for a book that was very popular when published and probably read over and over again.  Some copies have been rebound in leather to honor the collection where Longfellow channeled his best Chaucer (and perhaps Rabelais) to offer a set of tales told among a small group of travelers at the Wayside Inn, which still exists today, in Sudbury, Ma.

One April 19, 2011 it will be the 150th celebration of Patriot's Day, after the original publication of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and perhaps just the motivation I need to arise well before dawn and trek to the Old North Bridge to honor the birth of our nation!  Well, probably not, I've been meaning to do so for near on 16 years since I moved to Stow, MA where in 1775, the Stow Minutemen reacting to the general alarm, mustered in the dead of night and left for Concord around 4AM.  Perhaps, this year, I'll simply go about what I do best, acquiring a copy of the newspaper issue, The Atlantic Monthly issue and the first edition of Tales of A Wayside Inn.   

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