Poetic Injustice

The inglorious fate of a famous tree

Longfellow House

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emember the spreading chestnut tree of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Village Blacksmith that you had to memorize in elementary school? It stood outside the local blacksmith’s house at 56 Brattle St. But while the house is still there, the tree’s gone. In a great moment of irony, it was cut down and made into a chair as a gift for Longfellow by well-intentioned local children; the chair now sits beside the fireplace in the study of his home, which is open to the public. Longfellow first lived in the house as a boarder in 1837; his father-in-law bought it for him as a wedding present, and he lived there until his death in 1882. The study appears as it did when Longfellow wrote his famous poems there, but it had previously served as George Washington’s headquarters when the Continental Army was encamped at Cambridge Common.

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Also in this house. on April 7, 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s second wife, Fanny, became the first woman in the United States to be given ether as an anaesthetic during childbirth.

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