Cambridge: 20 June 1879. Manuscript. A 3-1/2-page AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED on both sides of one folded 8-7/8" x 7" sheet addressed to Helen Hamlin, the daughter of Augustus Hamlin, once Surgeon-General of Maine, thanking her for the gift of a pen, made of iron from a prison chain from Chillon that bound Francois de Bonnivard, and enclosing a SIGNED MANUSCRIPT of his poem "The Pen," 10 quatrains on one large sheet of paper folded into 4 pages (7 1/8" x 8-3/8"). In his letter, the poet asks to be forgiven for the delay in sending his thanks and encloses "some lines, not written with the Pen, but about the Pen. I find that my hand is fettered by that bit of Bonnivard's chain, and moves more easily with a lighter quill." An occasional poem if ever Longfellow wrote one, "The Pen" opens with the stanza, "I thought this Pen would arise,/From the casket where it lies,/By itself would arise, and write/My thanks and my Surprise!" It closes, "And forever this gift will be/As a blessing from you to me,/As a drop of the dew of your youth/On the leaves of my aged tree." Longfellow closes the letter with a postscript suggesting "Perhaps at some future day, if you have no objection, I may like to publish these lines in the ATLANTIC." In fact he published them in HARPER'S, in December 1879 as "The Iron Pen" and in the 1880 collection ULTIMA THULE. There are some differences between this and the published version. For example, the first line of the fourth stanza here is "That this wood of the war-ship's mast"; while the published version reads "That this wood from the frigate's mast." The last line of the sixth stanza in manuscript reads "Shall not pass from me away"; the published version reads "Shall not fade and pass away." A few other words are changed. Both letter and poem are SIGNED "Henry W. Longfellow" and dated 20 June 1879. A rare example of a complete poem in Longfellow's hand. Provenance: Sotheby's 7 December 1999, Sale Number 7394, Lot 65, from the S. Howard Goldman Collection. Minor staining and light wrinkling with remnants of mounting hinges. Near Fine. Item #020030
François Bonivard (or Bonnivard; 1493 - 1570) was a nobleman, ecclesiastic, historian, and Geneva patriot at the time of the Republic of Geneva. His life was the inspiration for Lord Byron's 1816 poem THE PRISONER OF CHILLON.