The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Tales of a Wayside Inn

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TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN. The ‘Tales of a Wayside Inn,’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was published in three parts, in 1863, 1872 and 1873, respectively. The poet followed the old plan of presenting a series of stories as told by different persons — in this case by friends of the author who, though they were not named, were so plainly characterized as to be easily recognizable. Among those of wider fame are Ole Bull, the violinist, and Thomas William Parsons, the poet and translator of Dante. The “Wayside Inn” was the old Red Horse Inn at Sudbury, 20 miles from Cambridge — a favorite resort for parties from Harvard College. Each of the three parts has a prelude and a finale, and there are interludes which link together the tales and introduce the narrators. Most of the stories were derived by Longfellow from his wide reading — many of them from the legends of continental Europe, a few from American sources. The ‘Birds of Killingworth’ was developed from no slight a hint that it may fairly be said to be of the poet's own invention. Longfellow, while not a poor story-teller, was hardly at his best in narrative, particularly in narrative with vigorous action, and the ‘Tales of a Wayside Inn,’ taken as a whole, is not to be listed among his most distinguished works. A few of the Tales have, however, won a place for themselves. Among these are ‘Paul Revere's Ride,’ told by the Landlord, and ‘King Robert of Sicily,’ which is ascribed to the Sicilian.

William B. Cairns.