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Ohio Today

'Fellow relations

To listen to Layne Longfellow's recordings of some of his ancestor's poems in MP3 format, click on the links below:

  • "The Children's Hour," which describes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's feelings toward and observances of his three daughters, Alice, Allegra and Edith
  • "Mezzo Cammin," which the poet wrote when he was 35 years old as an observance of what we now call a "midlife crisis"
  • "Three Friends of Mine," in which Longfellow remembers Cornelius Conway Felton, Louis Agassiz and Charles Sumner, who passed away in 1862, 1873 and 1874, respectively. Longfellow himself died eight years after the poem's publication.
By Katie Fitzgerald

As a naive freshman at Ohio University, Layne Longfellow, AB '59, hoped to ride the coattails of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

"All my life people had asked me if I was related," Longfellow says. "I always just said I didn't know for sure, but my grandfather says so."

On his first day of English class, Longfellow thought he'd try a new response. As Professor Edgar Whan was taking roll, he stopped at Longfellow's name, peered over his half-rim glasses and asked if he was related to the poet.

"I said, 'Yes I am,' thinking I was going to get somewhere," Longfellow says. "Then he just says, 'Pity he wasn't a better poet,' and goes on taking roll."

He laughs at the memory, but today Longfellow can knowingly say he does in fact have blood ties to the 19th-century writer. His genealogical research revealed that he is a descendant of Michael Longfellow, a cousin of Henry.

A former psychology professor and college administrator, Longfellow's career included teaching at Reed and Prescott colleges, running executive seminars at The Menninger Foundation and pioneering executive mountaineering expeditions. He retired after 17 years as a professional lecturer.

Meanwhile, he's compiled "Longfellow Reads Longfellow: Dreams That Cannot Die," a 64-page hardbound volume of the poet's works, including 19th century illustrations, a biography of the poet and poems with commentary by Layne Longfellow. It includes a CD recording of Layne Longfellow's adaptations of the poems, recorded in the Longfellow homes in Portland, Maine, and Cambridge, Mass., and set to music by composer Michael Hoppe.

For more information, visit his Web site,

Katie Fitzgerald, BSJ '03, is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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