HWL. Portrait of Toni Toscan in Journal in Italy and Germany, 1828-1829; with Toni Toscan, "Ottova Al Nobil Sig.r Erico Mericano."


Longfellow Papers MS Am 1340 (178). Houghton Library.

Longfellow met gondolier and folk poet Toni Toscan in Venice in December 1828.  Longfellow's drawing was signed by Toscan himself, in the Venetian language: "Poeta Natural che venizian / ch' el so nome xe un Tal / Toni Toscan."("The Venetian folk poet, whose name is a certain Toni Toscan"). Longfellow quotes these lines in the "Note-Book" chapter of Outre-Mer (1835).

In his "Ottova," which Longfellow inserted into his journal, Toscan reflects on his relationship with Byron, whom he served as a gondolier, and describes floating along the Canal Grande with Longfellow, singing stanzas from Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata to him. Longfellow reprinted the poem, along with his own translation, in his essay "History of the Italian Language and Dialects," The North American Review 35 (October 1832): 283-342.