RARE INSCRIBED PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION COPY WITH AUTOGRAPH SIGNED LETTER: FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, OF TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN, INSCRIBED BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION, WITH A LENGTHY TIPPED-IN AUTOGRAPH SIGNED LETTER EXPRESSING GRATITUDE TO DR. VAN BUREN, WHO TREATED LONGFELLOW'S SON, CHARLES, FOR FREE AFTER CHARLES WAS SHOT IN THE BACK DURING THE CIVIL WAR
LONGFELLOW, Henry Wadsworth. Tales of a Wayside Inn. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1863. Octavo, original green cloth. Housed in a custom full morocco pull-off case. $4800.
First American edition, first issue, presentation copy, of one of Longfellow's best books, containing some of his best-known poems, including "Paul Revere's Ride," inscribed by Longfellow in the year of publication to Dr. Van Buren, who treated Longfellow's son for free in New York shortly after he was shot in the back fighting in the Civil War: "Dr. Van Buren with best regards of the Author, Dec. 1863," with a tipped-in autograph signed letter that reads in small part: "I have not been able to write you my thanks for your kindness to me and mine… I found time, however, to send you, through my publisher, a copy of the Tales of a Wayside Inn… Yours very truly, Henry W. Longfellow."
"The most popular American poet of the 19th century," Longfellow produced a number of poems that remain popular favorites, such as 'Evangeline,' 'Hiawatha' and [present in this collection] 'Paul Revere's Ride' (Encyclopedia of Literature, 693). He "created a new body of romantic American legends" yet was beloved on both sides of the Atlantic: upon his death, "he was the first American whose bust was placed in the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey" (Columbia University Press). Longfellow was, according to Whitman, "the poet of the mellow twilight of the past… poet of all sympathetic gentleness, and universal poet of… young people" (Kunitz & Haycraft, 478). With engraved vignette title page. First issue, with advertisements on p. 11 of publisher's catalogue stating that this book is "nearly ready" and with no price listed (earliest state). Preceded by the London edition, also issued November 1863. BAL 12136. This presentation copy is inscribed to Dr. Van Buren and also contains a three-page tipped in letter written entirely in Longfellow's hand to Van Buren that reads: "Cambridge Dec 24 1863. My Dear Sir, I have been both so ill and so much occupied since my return home, that I have not been able to write you my thanks for your kindness to me and mine on our way. I found time however to send you, through my publisher, a copy of the 'Tales of a Wayside Inn,' as a slight souvenir of our meeting. It will doubtless reach you in due course of time—perhaps before this does. Both the wounded officers to whom you enacted the part of the Good Samaritan are doing well, and retain a grateful memory of your kindness. I remain, My Dear Sir, Yours very kindly. Henry W. Longfellow." Dr. Van Buren was responsible for treating Longfellow's eldest son, Charles, after he was almost mortally wounded fighting in the Civil War. While Longfellow objected to the idea of Charles serving in the war, Charles felt compelled to enlist and ran away in 1863, leaving a note that read: "I have tried to resist the temptation of going without your leave but cannot any longer." Charles eventually secured a commission as a lieutenant in a Union cavalry division. However, he was immediately struck by hardship, first falling ill with malaria and then incurring the injury that would bring him into contact with Dr. Van Buren. During fighting in Virginia, Charles was shot and "the bullet traveled across his back, nicked his spine, and exited under his right shoulder. He missed being paralyzed by less than an inch" (The Civil War Parlor). After receiving a telegram on December 1, 1863 notifying him that Charles was severely wounded, Longfellow raced to Washington, D.C., impatiently searching Alexandria when he could not find his son, before returning to Washington to wait for troop trains from Alexandria. According to Longfellow's journal, Charles finally arrived the next day thrown into a baggage car with 15 other men. Longfellow brought him and his wounded captain back to a hotel, calling numerous surgeons for the soldiers over the next two days and waiting for the captain's parents so that they could return as a group to New York. Upon their return home, Longfellow encountered Dr. Van Buren at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where Van Buren examined the wounded soldiers and dressed Charles' wounds. In his journal, Longfellow wrote: "He refuses any fee, saying, 'I am not often sentimental, but feel disposed to be so this morning.'" Charles, perhaps due to his father's deep concern ("the two anxious journeys to the army to bring him back, together with the waiting and the watching, have not done me much good") and solicitation of so many medical professionals, fully recovered and became a world traveler as well as one of the first Westerners to tour Japan. Longfellow clearly felt particularly indebted to Dr. Van Buren for his particular kindness toward Charles at a time of great stress and this inscribed copy constitutes a warm effort to express his gratitude.
Slight discoloration to letter. Book very nearly fine. Most desirable with a fascinating association.