Longfellow, Frances Appleton (1819–1861)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Longfellow, Frances Appleton (1819–1861)

Second wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow . Name variations: Fanny. Born Frances Elizabeth Appleton in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 6, 1819; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1861; one of two daughters of Nathan Appleton (a wealthy merchant); married Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882, the poet), on July 13, 1843, in Boston; children: two sons and three daughters.

The second wife of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fanny Appleton was born in 1819 in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. A well-educated and traveled young woman, she met Henry while they were both touring in Switzerland, and during their long courtship she succeeded in assuaging his deep grief and loneliness after the loss of his first wife, Mary Storer Potter , who died in 1835. The couple married on July 13, 1843, while Henry was a professor at Harvard University, and settled into blissful life in a large house ("Craigie Castle") on Brattle Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fanny was deeply in love with her new husband. "How completely my life is bound up in his love," she wrote in her journal on May 27, 1844, just 12 days before the birth of her first son, "how broken and incomplete when he is absent a moment; what infinite peace and fullness when he is present. Can any child excite as strong a passion as this we feel for each other?"

The happy union produced two sons and three daughters before coming to a tragic end. On July 9, 1861, Fanny was heating sealing wax to close a packet containing a lock of one of her children's hair, when the sleeve of her light cotton dress caught fire. She was immediately engulfed in flames. She ran from the library into the front room, where Henry was working. Although he was able to save her face from the flames, she was severely burned and died the next day. Henry was so badly burned in his attempt to save his wife that he was unable to attend her funeral.


Edgerly, Lois Stiles. Give Her This Day. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House, 1990.

Thompson, Lawrence. Young Longfellow (1807–1843). NY: Macmillan, 1938.


Fanny Longfellow's journal is with her papers at the Longfellow House, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts