Lot 88: Henry W. Longfellow Autograph Letter to Progenitor of Bohemian Club
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: LONGFELLOW, HENRY WADSWORTH. (1807-1882). American poet; author of Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha and other American classics. ALS. (“Henry W. Longfellow”). 1p. Small 8vo. Cambridge, June 21, 1879. To English actor, writer and entomologist HENRY EDWARDS (1827?-1891). ********** “I am much obliged to you for sending me our friend Winter’s beautiful lines. They are full of feeling and of melody, and, pleasantly remind me of your pleasant visit…” ********** In 1835, Longfellow became a professor of languages and belles-lettres at Harvard, taking up residence in Cambridge’s historic Craigie House. His responsibilities at Harvard were demanding, “but he went much into society, a jaunty figure immaculately clad; and he made many friends,” (DAB). Though he was deeply grieved by the death of his wife in 1861, he continued to find pleasure in the company of friends and was a host to many at his Cambridge home. “To his Craigie House came distinguished visitors year after year – Froude, Trollope, Kingsley, Dean Stanley, Lord and Lady Dufferin, Salvini, Ole Bull, the Emperor of Brazil and many others,” (ibid.). ********** From a young age, Edwards indulged his twin interests of acting and entomology. He collected specimens wherever he traveled as an actor, including Australia and California. In San Francisco, he co-founded the California Theatre and the famous Bohemian Club, met noted naturalist John Muir, and studied lepidoptera at the California Academy of Sciences, where he became that institution’s curator of entomology in 1873. However, Edwards was eager to make his mark on the stage the East Coast. On June 29, 1878, his friends from the Bohemian Club hosted a farewell nighttime picnic among the redwoods. The event was reprised annually, eventually becoming the organization’s famous annual Bohemian Grove encampment. Edwards’ appeared on the Boston stage beginning in 1878, where he undoubtedly met and befriended Longfellow before moving on to New York, starring in numerous Broadway productions over the next decade. ********** Our letter likely refers to American writer and drama critic William Winter (1836-1917). A Boston-area native and Harvard graduate, Winter was at the epicenter of the mid-19th-century Bohemian scene in New York’s Greenwich Village, helping promote the careers of such writers as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain and socializing with Edwin Booth, Horatio Alger and Winslow Homer. His work as a theater and literary critic for some of New York’s leading journals spanned nearly 40 years and saw him pen biographies of some of the most prominent thespians of the day. A collection of his papers are housed in Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library. ********** Written on the first page of a folded sheet. The envelope’s address panel has been affixed to the integral blank leaf. Folded with some surface staining and minor paper loss along the right edge. In very good condition.