HWL. Letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 19 March 1843.


*2001M-8, box 1. Purchased with the Bayard Livingston and Kate Gray Kilgour fund, 2001. Houghton Library.

This letter, addressed to "Nathaniel Hawthorne at Dr. Peabody's West Street," shows Longfellow from his relaxed, playful side:

"Dearest Hawthornius, Don't forget that you are to dine with me on Tuesday next-that is to say, the day after tomorrow-at 3 o'clock. I want very much to see you, and to tell how truly delighted I was with your last story, The Birth Mark. Not the comet himself can unfold a more glorious tail. But you should have made a Romance of it, and not a short story only. More of that on Tuesday; till when Yours very truly H.W.L."

Longfellow had read "The Birth-mark" in the March 1843 issue of James Russell Lowell's periodical, The Pioneer. The comet he mentions was the so-called "Great March Comet" of 1843, the record-holder for the longest tail in history. Note Longfellow's pun on tale/tail, and, also, how seamlessly the length of the comet's tail becomes part of an attempt to convince Hawthorne to write a longer "tale" (a novel) instead of limiting himself to shorter works.