Cover image courtesy of Penguin Random House

“I selected ‘Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,’ by Nicholas A. Basbanes, from the Kennebunk Free Library during the winter shutdown, not only for a Portland Press Herald write-up, but because it brought back memories of my Dad, a Longfellow scholar, born, raised and schooled in Boston, a few hundred years after Longfellow. In my Dad’s day, schools had students read and memorize entire Longfellow poems which they could recite, word for word, for a lifetime. There were many times when I turned to him for an assignment in English or maybe History, and he would come up with the perfect Longfellow work. We used phrases, words and even parody at times, and they all succeeded.

“This book covers the life of Longfellow beginning with his birth in Portland in 1807 just 13 years before the State of Maine separated from Massachusetts.  There is information on his lineage and the following generations in the family of eight children, four boys and four girls, some of whom also left their mark through the ages. One brother, Samuel, wrote words set to music still found in hymnals today and still sung in churches, including some in Maine.

“Longfellow’s life had periods of great joy and times of deep sorrow. He kept and held friends most dear, seemed willing to travel at the drop of a hat to see the world, yet loved his Cambridge home, which at one time had been George Washington’s headquarters.

“I recommend ‘Cross of Snow’ highly and cannot even pick out one aspect of it that I enjoyed more than another. I actually put off finishing the last chapter, just to savor the image of Longfellow; I grew very fond of him. I am promising myself a visit to the yellow house in Cambridge where he lived as an adult.” — MARY FOLSOM, Kennebunk

Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table right now. In a few sentences, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. The pandemic in Maine is receding, but if you’re like us, you’re still reading and we want to hear what and why. Send your selection to [email protected], and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.


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