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the framework of The Wayside Inn does not appear; it is quite possible that he had connected The Saga of King Olaf, which had been lying by for two or three years with his friend Ole Bull, and that the desire to use so picturesque a figure had suggested a group of which the musician should
Literature had notable precedents for the general plan of a company at an inn, but whether the actual inn at Sudbury came to localize his conception, or was itself the cause of the plan, is not quite clear. He notes in his diary, October 11, 1862, “ Write a little upon the Wayside
Inn, — a beginning, only”; but an entry for the last day of the same month seems to indicate that he had had the Sudbury inn in his mind and now visited it to give local form and color to his fancy.
October ends with a delicious Indian-summer day. Drive with Fields to the old Red-Horse Tavern in Sudbury, — alas, no longer an inn! A lovely valley; the winding road shaded by grand old oaks before the house. A rambling, tumble-down old building, two hundred years old ; and till now in the family of the Howes, who have kept an inn for one hundred and seventy-five years. In the old time, it was a house of call for all travellers from Boston westward.
As such, Mr. Longfellow must have made passing acquaintance with the tavern, when in 1826 he made a stage-coach journey from Boston to Albany; he may also well have known the inn in its more recent days through report of his friend Dr. Parsons and Mr. Luigi Monti, who made it a resort for themselves and friends. At any rate his intention was now clear enough, for a few days
after his visit he writes to his companion, Mr. Fields, “ The Sudbury Tales go on famously. I
I have now five complete, with a great part of the Prelude.”
The work went on rapidly after this, for with The Saga of King Olaf and other poems on hand, he needed to write but little more to furnish the group
he had fashioned with tales enough to represent them. He sent the book to the printer in April, 1863, under the title of The Sudbury Tales, but in August wrote to Mr. Fields: “I am afraid we have made a mistake in calling the new volume The Sudbury Tales. Now that I see it announced
do not like the title. Sumner cries out against it, and has persuaded me, as I think he will you, to come back to The Wayside Inn. Pray think as we do.”
The book as originally planned consisted of the first part, and was published November 25, 1863, in an edition of fifteen thousand copies, an indication of the confidence which the publishers had in the poet's popularity.
The disguises of characters were so slight that readers easily recognized most of them at once, and Mr. Longfellow himself never made any mystery of their identity. Just after the publication of the volume he wrote to a correspondent in Eng. land:
The Wayside Inn has more foundation in fact than you may suppose. The town of Sudbury is about twenty miles from Cambridge. Some two hundred years ago, an English family, by the name of Howe, built there a country house, which has remained in the family down to the present time, the last of the race dying but two years ago. Losing their fortune, they became inn-keepers ; and for a century the Red-Horse Inn has flourished, going down from father to son. The place is just as I have described it, though no longer an inn. All this will account for the landlord's coat-ofarms, and his being a justice of the peace, and his being known as “the Squire,” things that must sound strange in English ears. All the characters are real. The musician is Ole Bull; the Spanish Jew, Israel Edrehi, whom I have seen as I have painted him, etc. etc.
It is easy to fill up the etc. of Mr. Longfellow's catalogue. The poet is T. W. Parsons, the trans
. lator of Dante; the Sicilian, Luigi Monti, whose name occurs often in Mr. Longfellow's Life as a familiar friend; the theologian, Professor Daniel Treadwell, a physicist of genius who had also a turn for theology; the student, Henry Ware Wales, a scholar of promise who had travelled much, who died early, and whose tastes appear in the collection of books which he left to the library of Harvard College. This group was collected by the poet's fancy; in point of fact three of them, Parsons, Monti, and Treadwell, were wont to spend their summer months at the inn.
The form was so agreeable that it was easy to extend it afterward so as to include the tales which the poet found it in his mind to write. The Sec ond Day was published as one of the Three Books of Song in 1872; The Third Part formed the principal portion of Aftermath in 1873, and subsequently the three parts were brought together, as now, into a complete volume. The third part, begun on the last day of December, 1872, was finished on his sixty-sixth birthday, February 27, 1873. The recital in melodious verse of those various stories, which had a special charm for the poet as he grew older, and the graceful, easy, half careless arrangement of all as the imaginary discourse of friends, was a diversion as well as a poetic task to one whose own experience had in a measure withdrawn him from the free, happy social intercourse of his manhood.
When one considers the dates of the earlier formation of the Tales of a Wayside Inn, one sees with what exclusion of his deeper self the poet entered in spirit into the story-telling company that warmed itself before Squire Howe's blazing logs. It was at the same time that he was entrusting himself to the ghostly companionship of Dante.
The persons who were charged with the storytelling were so individualized by nationality or profession as to afford a generous scope in the character of the tales. By means of a Norwegian musician the poet was enabled to draw upon
his knowledge of Northern legend ; his Sicilian may well, in person, have reminded him of the stories which had their origin in Boccaccio or in Italian folk-lore; the Spanish Jew gave him an opportunity to draw upon the Talmud, which his friend Mr. Scherb had opened to his view; and the Poet, the Student, and the Landlord increased the range of his material. The only story which was wholly of Mr. Longfellow's invention was The Birds of Killingworth. In accordance with the general plan of this edition, the several tales are furnished with head-notes only when Mr. Longfellow's own memoranda give some account of the circumstances under which he wrote. In the notes at the end of the volume will be found further explanation of the origin of the several tales, and occasional elucidation of historical points. An interesting monograph appeared in Berlin, 1884, under the title: Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn und ihre Quellen nebst Nachweisen und Untersuchungen über die vom Dichter bearbeiteten Stoffe, by Hermann Varnhagen. Recourse has been had to this for some critical suggestions.