By Vicki Denby, Houghton Library Technical ServicesA Houghton Library manuscript, on loan as part of the exhibition Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere, will once again be on public view when the Concord Museum reopens on August 6, 2020.
Immortalized in a poetic account by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Paul Revere (1735-1818) was the Revolutionary patriot who made a “midnight ride” in April 1775 to alert the militia that British troops were about to arrive. Longfellow first published “Paul Revere’s Ride” in The Atlantic Monthly in January, 1861, a few months before the firing on Fort Sumter that began the Civil War. A committed abolitionist, Longfellow expected his readers to readily identify with the “hour of darkness and peril and need” that confronted Revere. An immediate success, the poem was republished two years later in Tales of a Wayside Inn under the title “The Landlord’s Tale.”
In a 1798 letter, Revere wrote, “If the British went out by Water, we would show two Lanthorns in the North Church Steeple; and if by Land, one, as a Signal” (see the letter and its transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society). Houghton’s manuscript version of the poem, from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow papers, is written in pencil and has a marginal note on the first leaf that includes a variant of the poem’s most famous line, which reads “One for the land and two for the sea.” In the published version, Longfellow’s line became the iconic “One if by land and two if by sea” memorized by generations of American schoolchildren.
Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere celebrates Revere’s impact on social, economic, and political life in America. Organized by the American Antiquarian Society, the exhibition opened at the New-York Historical Society in fall 2019 and was jointly presented at the Concord Museum and the Worcester Art Museum. Be sure to visit the Beyond Midnight exhibition at the Concord Museum when it reopens this summer. Please check www.concordmuseum.org for updated information.