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In 1841, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard the story of Acadian lovers, separated by the Expulsion and reunited at the end of their lives. He elaborated this simple tale into his long narrative poem, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. Published in 1847, it soon gained worldwide popularity, and by 1865, both North American and European French versions were in print.
In reinventing "the best illustration of the faithfulness and constancy of women that I have ever heard of or read," Longfellow offered Acadians a believable story about their ancestors. They adopted it as a distillation of their history, a true legend of their past. The tragic story of Evangeline and Gabriel has captivated Acadians and non-Acadians ever since.
Evangeline, the dutiful 17-year-old daughter of an elderly Grand Pré farmer, is in love with Gabriel, the blacksmith's son. Before the two can exchange vows, British soldiers march into the village, burn it to the ground, order the villagers into ships, and send them far from their Nova Scotia homeland. In the mayhem, Evangeline witnesses her father's death from a broken heart and loses sight of Gabriel. Her desperate continent-wide search for her childhood sweetheart — taking her from the cypress groves of Louisiana to a forest mission in the Ozark Mountains — is one of the most affecting accounts of unfulfilled love ever written. More phantom than woman by the end, Evangeline is a hero of mythic proportions.
This sumptuously produced commemorative edition of Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadia. As well as the complete text of the poem, it features more than 40 engravings from an enchanting Victorian Evangeline published in 1866 by Bell and Daldy, London.