Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton

Written by Josi S. Kilpack
Review by Val Adolph

This “historical proper romance” is based on poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s seven-year courtship of Fanny Appleton. The writer covers the period from their first meeting in Switzerland in 1836, as Fanny’s family enjoys their grand tour of Europe, to their eventual union in Boston in 1843. Her novel is based on biographies, letters and journals, fleshed out to provide a sketch of the life and times of an older widower and a young woman irresistibly drawn together.

Their love story opens with a picture of a wealthy New England family in Europe, and then moves to depict their lifestyle as they return to Boston. Comparison is made between the Appletons’ affluent lifestyle and the more limited means of a poor Harvard professor at the time. The question arises throughout the book – why would the daughter of a wealthy and respected Boston family even consider a man socially so far beneath her? The answer to this is provided in the frequent extended interior monologues, especially those of Fanny Appleton. Her introspection is shown as increasingly tinged with religion as she slowly comes to realize the worth of her suitor.

Kilpack has included a few stanzas of Longfellow’s love poems to ground the reader in his reality as he faces the long years of rejection. She also includes at the end of the book a timeline, along with extensive chapter notes, a brief bibliography and discussion questions. This book fills a void for readers of romantic historical novels while illustrating the issue of class in early 19th-century Boston society.