Isle of Wight - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the most popular poet of his day, both in his own homeland of America and in Europe. His epic poem, the Song of Hiawatha (1855) - a romance about Native American culture - propelled him to international fame when it sold over 30,000 copies in a few months. On his fourth and final visit to England in 1868 he was fêted by Queen Victoria, and fellow celebrated British poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson who both had houses on the Isle of Wight.
Longfellow, who also wrote 'Tales of a Wayside Inn' (which contains 'Paul Revere's Ride') stayed here at the Crab Inn in the old village part of Shanklin during July 1868. He wrote to a friend that he was staying in a lovely little thatched-roof inn, all covered with ivy. The photo shows the inn at the time Longfellow knew it. Whilst staying here he was asked to write an inscription which now embelishes the fountain outside. It is displayed on a shield with the Union Jack and the Stars & Stripes on either side and reads:

O traveller, stay they weary feet;
Drink of this fountain pure and sweet;
It flows for rich and for poor the same.
Then go thy way remembering still
The wayside well beneath the hill,
The cup of water in His name.

Longfellow was one of the so-called 'fireside poets' of the nineteenth century. Huge numbers of ordinary people all over the English-speaking world read him with great enjoyment. His brother relates the following story from the poet's last visit to England: "Upon his arrival the Queen sent a graceful message and invited him to Windsor Castle, but he told me no foreign tribute touched him deeper than the words of an English hod-carrier, who came up to the carriage-door at Harrow and asked permission to take the hand of the man who had written the Voices of the Night (his first major poetry collection)".
Probably the most photographed pub in the country and one, which has adorned many a chocolate box, along with the surrounding Old Village. Although the exterior is largely unspoilt, a major refurbishment robbed the interior of much of its character. It now has a number of family dining rooms and, with reasonably priced food and beer; it is very popular with holiday makers.

Crab Inn - Shanklin - Isle of Wight - Longfellow

Copyright T.W. Townsend - the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and any observations were correct at the time of the review.

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