November 29, 1835

Longfellow's Wife Dies

Greater Boston

On this day in 1835, 28-year-old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was devastated by the death of his beloved young wife, Mary. The couple had been traveling in Europe as the poet prepared to begin teaching literature at Harvard. The distraught Longfellow gave vent to his grief, resolving to dedicate himself to a life of "goodness and purity like hers." He vowed to abandon "literary ambition . . . this destroyer of peace and quietude and the soul's self-possession," but by the time he returned to Cambridge in 1836, he had begun writing again and eventually remarried. Over the next four decades, he would become the most popular American poet who ever lived. Contemporary poet Dana Gioia calls him the "one poet average, non-bookish Americans still know by heart."

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