Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Story of Henry Littlefield - Part 2


Henry Littlefield's grandfather, Walter Littlefield,
was an eminent journalist, editor, and author.

The journalist Walter Littlefield could tackle any subject.


Emile Zola: Novelist and Reformer - 1902

Russia in Revolution - 1905

The Birth of United South Africa a Unique Event - 1910

Should We Build a Channel Tunnel? - 1917

Dante in Art and Translation - 1922


This list is the tip of the iceberg. In beautiful economical prose, Littlefield wrote about the American West, the charms of New England; war, European politics, the Wahhabis’ 1924 invasion of the Hejaz . . . 

Walter Littlefield was a reporter and editor at the New York Times (1898-1941), a literary correspondent for the Chicago Record-Herald (1903-1913), and the author, editor or translator of books about James Russell Lowell, Dante, Lord Byron, and Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

Littlefield's best-known story about Dreyfus
appeared in Munsey's Magazine in 1899.

His coverage of the Dreyfus Affair rendered him an expert on the case and enabled him to make the leap from his native Boston to New York City in 1898. He and his elegant, Italian-born wife, Luigina Pagani Littlefield, would live in Greenwich Village until the 1940s.

Born in 1867, a descendant of English colonists, Walter began publishing his own short stories in 1889, the year he entered Harvard to study languages and history. On the side he tutored college-bound students in comparative literature, fine arts, and languages.

After he graduated from Harvard, Walter Littlefield
taught and tutored in Boston.

By 1893 Walter had graduated and married Luigina, a “gifted musician with a voice of more than ordinary richness, educated at the Notre Dame Academy,” the newspapers reported.

She was the daughter of Dr. Joseph Pagani, who studied medicine in Rome and Palermo before immigrating to the U.S. in 1865. Inexplicably, Pagani received a medal from Dom Pedro II, the last monarch of Brazil, and was a member of an ancient Russian Aryan order. 

Surely influenced by Luigina, whose West Twelfth Street salon drew the American and European intelligentsia, Walter developed a passion for Italian culture and politics. He fell hard for Mussolini in 1921, corresponding regularly with Dux, as he called him, and reporting for the Times:


Mussolini is being called a dictator. But so was Garibaldi, when he seemed to be carrying on war in defiance of the orders of King Victor Emmanuel. It is easy to mistake, in times of political turmoil, the words of a disciplinarian for those of a dictator. Like Garibaldi, Mussolini is a severe disciplinarian, but no dictator. How can he be when he swears to recognize the authority of his Majesty? 

One year later, the Times published Walter’s poem, “Fascisti.” In appreciation of the poem, Victor Emmanuel declared Walter a Commendatore della Corona d’Italia (Knight of the Crown of Italy) in 1933.

Littlefield wrote his poem in the early 1920s.

Between his knighting, the Reichstag fire, and other momentous events, Walter must have been unusually preoccupied in 1933 when he and Luigina became the grandparents of Henry Miller Littlefield, son of their son Henry Mario Littlefield. 

Actually, Henry Miller Littlefield was the second child of Henry Mario Littlefield, who had a daughter by a previous marriage and would soon head to Reno to divorce his second wife, Elizabeth, mother of newborn Henry.

Reno, 1933: "wild scenes were enacted at the
office of County Clerk 'Boss' Beemer."

Luigina died in 1945 and Walter in 1948, by which time they had left West Twelfth Street and moved, oddly, to the town of New Canaan, Connecticut. By then, Henry Miller Littlefield was a teenager.

Since he told students that he grew up without a father, one wonders whether he ever met his paternal grandparents. He grew up to become an imaginative historian and teacher of whom Walter and Luigina would have been proud (even if they disagreed about Mussolini).


See previous post, "Story of Henry Littlefield," March 8, 2023.


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