|Henry Wadsworth Longfellow|
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow photographed by "Julia Margaret Cameron in 1868
February 27, 1807|
"Portland, Maine, U.S.
|Died||March 24, 1882
"Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||"Bowdoin College|
|Spouses||Mary Storer Potter
Frances Elizabeth Appleton
|Children||Charles Appleton Longfellow
"Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow
"Alice Mary Longfellow
Anne Allegra Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include ""Paul Revere's Ride", "The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate "Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy, and was one of the five "Fireside Poets from New England.
Longfellow was born in "Portland, Maine, which was then still part of Massachusetts. He studied at "Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe, he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at "Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841). Longfellow retired from teaching in 1854, to focus on his writing. He lived the remainder of his life in "Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a former Revolutionary War headquarters of "George Washington. His first wife Mary Potter died in 1835, after a "miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton died in 1861, after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. After her death, Longfellow had difficulty writing poetry for a time and focused on translating works from foreign languages. He died in 1882.
Longfellow wrote many "lyric poems known for their musicality and often presenting stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas. He has been criticized, however, for imitating European styles and writing specifically for the masses.
Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, to "Stephen Longfellow and Zilpah (Wadsworth) Longfellow in "Portland, Maine, then a district of "Massachusetts, and he grew up in what is now known as the "Wadsworth-Longfellow House. His father was a lawyer, and his maternal grandfather, "Peleg Wadsworth, was a general in the "American Revolutionary War and a "Member of Congress. He was named after his mother's brother Henry Wadsworth, a Navy lieutenant who had died three years earlier at the "Battle of Tripoli. Longfellow was the second of eight children; his siblings were Stephen (1805), Elizabeth (1808), Anne (1810), Alexander (1814), Mary (1816), Ellen (1818) and "Samuel (1819). Longfellow was of entirely "English ancestry, with ancestors who had settled in "New England since the early 1600s. His ancestors included the "Mayflower Pilgrims "Richard Warren, "William Brewster, and "John and "Priscilla Alden, and the first child born in the "Plymouth Colony, "Elizabeth Alden Peabody.
Longfellow attended a "dame school at the age of three and by age six was enrolled at the private Portland Academy. In his years there he earned a reputation as being very studious and became fluent in "Latin. His mother encouraged his enthusiasm for reading and learning, introducing him to "Robinson Crusoe and "Don Quixote. He published his first poem, a patriotic and historical four-stanza poem called "The Battle of Lovell's Pond", in the Portland Gazette on November 17, 1820. He studied at the Portland Academy until the age of fourteen. He spent much of his summers as a child at his grandfather Peleg's farm in the western Maine town of "Hiram.
In the fall of 1822, the 15-year-old Longfellow enrolled at "Bowdoin College in "Brunswick, Maine, along with his brother Stephen. His grandfather was a founder of the college and his father was a "trustee. There Longfellow met "Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would later become his lifelong friend. He boarded with a clergyman for a time before rooming in 1823 on the third floor of what is now known as Winthrop Hall. He joined the Peucinian Society, a group of students with "Federalist leanings. In his senior year, Longfellow wrote to his father about his aspirations:
I will not disguise it in the least... the fact is, I most eagerly aspire after future eminence in literature, my whole soul burns most ardently after it, and every earthly thought centres in it... I am almost confident in believing, that if I can ever rise in the world it must be by the exercise of my talents in the wide field of literature.
He pursued his literary goals by submitting poetry and prose to various newspapers and magazines, partly due to encouragement from Professor "Thomas Cogswell Upham. Between January 1824 and his graduation in 1825, he published nearly 40 minor poems. About 24 of them were published in the short-lived Boston periodical The United States Literary Gazette. When Longfellow graduated from Bowdoin, he was ranked fourth in the class, and had been elected to "Phi Beta Kappa. He gave the student commencement address.
After graduating in 1825, Longfellow was offered a job as professor of modern languages at his alma mater. The story, possibly apocryphal, is that an influential trustee, "Benjamin Orr, had been so impressed by Longfellow's translation of "Horace that he was hired under the condition that he travel to Europe to study French, Spanish, and Italian.
Whatever the catalyst, Longfellow began his tour of Europe in May 1826 aboard the ship Cadmus. His time abroad would last three years and cost his father $2,604.24. He traveled to France, Spain, Italy, Germany, back to France, then England before returning to the United States in mid-August 1829. While overseas, he learned French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, mostly without formal instruction. In Madrid, he spent time with "Washington Irving and was particularly impressed by the author's work ethic. Irving encouraged the young Longfellow to pursue writing. While in Spain, Longfellow was saddened to learn that his favorite sister, Elizabeth, had died of "tuberculosis at the age of 20 that May while he was abroad.
On August 27, 1829, he wrote to the president of Bowdoin that he was turning down the professorship because he considered the $600 salary "disproportionate to the duties required". The trustees raised his salary to $800 with an additional $100 to serve as the college's "librarian, a post which required one hour of work per day. During his years teaching at the college, Longfellow translated textbooks from French, Italian and Spanish; his first published book was in 1833, a translation of the poetry of medieval Spanish poet "Jorge Manrique.
He soon published a travel book, "Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea, first published in "serial form before a book edition was released in 1835. Shortly after the book's publication, Longfellow attempted to join the literary circle in New York and asked "George Pope Morris for an editorial role at one of Morris's publications. Longfellow considered moving to New York after "New York University proposed offering him a newly created professorship of modern languages, though there would be no salary. The professorship was not created and Longfellow agreed to continue teaching at Bowdoin. It may have been joyless work. He wrote, "I hate the sight of pen, ink, and paper... I do not believe that I was born for such a lot. I have aimed higher than this".
On September 14, 1831, Longfellow married Mary Storer Potter, a childhood friend from Portland. The couple settled in Brunswick, though the two were not happy there. Longfellow published several nonfiction and fiction prose pieces inspired by Irving, including "The Indian Summer" and "The Bald Eagle" in 1833.
In December 1834, Longfellow received a letter from "Josiah Quincy III, president of "Harvard College, offering him the Smith Professorship of Modern Languages with the stipulation that he spend a year or so abroad. There, he further studied German as well as Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, and Icelandic. In October 1835, during the trip, his wife Mary had a miscarriage about six months into her pregnancy. She did not recover and died after several weeks of illness at the age of 22 on November 29, 1835. Longfellow had her body "embalmed immediately and placed in a lead "coffin inside an oak coffin, which was shipped to "Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston. He was deeply saddened by her death, writing "One thought occupies me night and day... She is dead — She is dead! All day I am weary and sad". Three years later, he was inspired to write the poem "Footsteps of Angels" about her. Several years later, he wrote the poem "Mezzo Cammin," which expressed his personal struggles in his middle years.
When he returned to the United States in 1836, Longfellow took up the professorship at Harvard. He was required to live in Cambridge to be close to the campus and, therefore, rented rooms at the Craigie House in the spring of 1837. It is preserved as the "Longfellow House–Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site. The home, built in 1759, had been the headquarters of "George Washington during the "Siege of Boston beginning in July 1775. Elizabeth Craigie, widow of "Andrew Craigie, owned the home and rented rooms on the second floor. Previous boarders included "Jared Sparks, "Edward Everett, and "Joseph Emerson Worcester.
Longfellow began publishing his poetry, including the collection Voices of the Night in 1839. The bulk of Voices of the Night, Longfellow's debut book of poetry, was translations though he also included nine original poems and seven poems he had written as a teenager. Ballads and Other Poems was published shortly thereafter in 1841 and included ""The Village Blacksmith" and ""The Wreck of the Hesperus", which were instantly popular. Longfellow became part of the local social scene, creating a group of friends who called themselves the Five of Clubs. Members included "Cornelius Conway Felton, "George Stillman Hillard, and "Charles Sumner, the latter of whom would become Longfellow's closest friend over the next 30 years. As a professor, Longfellow was well liked, though he disliked being "constantly a playmate for boys" rather than "stretching out and grappling with men's minds."
Longfellow met Boston industrialist "Nathan Appleton and his family, including his son "Thomas Gold Appleton, in the town of "Thun, Switzerland. There, he began courting Appleton's daughter, Frances "Fanny" Appleton. At first, the independent-minded Appleton was not interested in marriage but Longfellow was determined. In July 1839, he wrote to a friend: "[V]ictory hangs doubtful. The lady says she will not! I say she shall! It is not pride, but the madness of passion". His friend George Stillman Hillard encouraged Longfellow in the pursuit: "I delight to see you keeping up so stout a heart for the resolve to conquer is half the battle in love as well as war". During the courtship, Longfellow frequently walked from Cambridge to the Appleton home in "Beacon Hill in Boston by crossing the Boston Bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1906 by a new bridge which was later renamed the "Longfellow Bridge.
In late 1839, Longfellow published "Hyperion, a book in prose inspired by his trips abroad and his unsuccessful courtship of Fanny Appleton. Amidst this, Longfellow fell into "periods of neurotic depression with moments of panic" and took a six-month leave of absence from Harvard to attend a health spa in the former Marienberg Benedictine Convent at "Boppard in Germany. After returning, Longfellow published a play in 1842, The Spanish Student, reflecting his memories from his time in Spain in the 1820s. There was some confusion over its original manuscript. After it was printed in "Graham's Magazine, the editor "Rufus Wilmot Griswold saved the manuscript from the trash. Longfellow was surprised to hear that it had been saved, unusual for a printing office, and asked to borrow it so that he could revise it, forgetting to return it to Griswold. The often vindictive Griswold wrote an angry letter in response.
A small collection, "Poems on Slavery, was published in 1842 as Longfellow's first public support of abolitionism. However, as Longfellow himself wrote, the poems were "so mild that even a Slaveholder might read them without losing his appetite for breakfast". A critic for "The Dial agreed, calling it "the thinnest of all Mr. Longfellow's thin books; spirited and polished like its forerunners; but the topic would warrant a deeper tone". The New England Anti-Slavery Association, however, was satisfied enough with the collection to reprint it for further distribution.
On May 10, 1843, after seven years, Longfellow received a letter from Fanny Appleton agreeing to marry him. Too restless to take a carriage, he walked 90 minutes to meet her at her house. They were soon married. Nathan Appleton bought the Craigie House as a wedding present to the pair. Longfellow lived there for the rest of his life. His love for Fanny is evident in the following lines from Longfellow's only love poem, the sonnet "The Evening Star", which he wrote in October 1845: "O my beloved, my sweet "Hesperus! My morning and my evening star of love!" He once attended a ball without her and noted, "The lights seemed dimmer, the music sadder, the flowers fewer, and the women less fair."
He and Fanny had six children: Charles Appleton (1844–1893), "Ernest Wadsworth (1845–1921), Fanny (1847–1848), "Alice Mary (1850–1928), Edith (1853–1915), and Anne Allegra (1855–1934). Their second-youngest daughter, Edith, married "Richard Henry Dana III, son of the popular writer "Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of "Two Years Before the Mast. When the younger Fanny was born on April 7, 1847, Dr. "Nathan Cooley Keep administered "ether as the first obstetric "anesthetic in the United States to Fanny Longfellow. A few months later, on November 1, 1847, Longfellow published his epic poem "Evangeline for the first time. His literary income was increasing considerably: in 1840, he had made $219 from his work but the year 1850 brought him $1,900.
On June 14, 1853, Longfellow held a farewell dinner party at his Cambridge home for his friend "Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was preparing to move overseas. In 1854, Longfellow retired from Harvard, devoting himself entirely to writing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from Harvard in 1859.
On July 9, 1861, a hot day, Fanny was putting locks of her children's hair into an envelope and attempting to seal it with hot sealing wax while Longfellow took a nap. Her dress suddenly caught fire, though it is unclear exactly how; burning wax or a lighted candle may have fallen on her dress. Longfellow, awakened from his nap, rushed to help her and threw a rug over her, though it was too small. He stifled the flames with his body as best he could, but she was already badly burned. Over a half a century later, Longfellow's youngest daughter Annie explained the story differently, claiming that there had been no candle or wax but that the fire had started from a self-lighting match that had fallen on the floor. Both accounts state that Fanny was taken to her room to recover and a doctor was called. She was in and out of consciousness throughout the night and was administered "ether. The next morning, July 10, 1861, she died shortly after 10 o'clock after requesting a cup of coffee. Longfellow, in trying to save her, had burned himself badly enough so that he was unable to attend her funeral. His facial injuries led him to stop shaving, and he wore a beard from then on that became his trademark.
Devastated by her death, Longfellow never fully recovered; he occasionally resorted to "laudanum and ether to deal with his grief. He worried he would go insane and begged "not to be sent to an asylum" and noted that he was "inwardly bleeding to death". He expressed his grief in the sonnet "The Cross of Snow" (1879), which he wrote eighteen years later to commemorate her death:
Longfellow spent several years translating "Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy. To aid him in perfecting the translation and reviewing proofs, he invited friends to weekly meetings every Wednesday starting in 1864. The "Dante Club", as it was called, regularly included "William Dean Howells, "James Russell Lowell, "Charles Eliot Norton and other occasional guests. The full three-volume translation was published in the spring of 1867, though Longfellow would continue to revise it. It went through four printings in its first year. By 1868, Longfellow's annual income was over $48,000. In 1874, "Samuel Cutler Ward helped him sell the poem "The Hanging of the Crane" to the "New York Ledger for $3,000; it was the highest price ever paid for a poem.
During the 1860s, Longfellow supported "abolitionism and especially hoped for reconciliation between the northern and southern states after the "American Civil War. When his son was injured during the war, he wrote the poem "Christmas Bells", later the basis of the carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. He wrote in his journal in 1878: "I have only one desire; and that is for harmony, and a frank and honest understanding between North and South". Longfellow, despite his aversion to public speaking, accepted an offer from "Joshua Chamberlain to speak at his fiftieth reunion at Bowdoin College; he read the poem "Morituri Salutamus" so quietly that few could hear him. The next year, 1876, he declined an offer to be nominated for the Board of Overseers at Harvard "for reasons very conclusive to my own mind".
On August 22, 1879, a female admirer traveled to Longfellow's house in Cambridge and, unaware to whom she was speaking, asked Longfellow: "Is this the house where Longfellow was born?" Longfellow told her it was not. The visitor then asked if he had died here. "Not yet", he replied. In March 1882, Longfellow went to bed with severe stomach pain. He endured the pain for several days with the help of "opium before he died surrounded by family on Friday, March 24, 1882. He had been suffering from "peritonitis. At the time of his death, his estate was worth an estimated $356,320. He is buried with both of his wives at "Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His last few years were spent translating the poetry of "Michelangelo; though Longfellow never considered it complete enough to be published during his lifetime, a posthumous edition was collected in 1883. Scholars generally regard the work as autobiographical, reflecting the translator as an aging artist facing his impending death.
Though much of his work is categorized as "lyric poetry, Longfellow experimented with many forms, including "hexameter and "free verse. His published poetry shows great versatility, using "anapestic and "trochaic forms, "blank verse, "heroic couplets, "ballads and "sonnets. Typically, Longfellow would carefully consider the subject of his poetic ideas for a long time before deciding on the right metrical form for it. Much of his work is recognized for its melody-like musicality. As he says, "what a writer asks of his reader is not so much to like as to listen".
As a very private man, Longfellow did not often add autobiographical elements to his poetry. Two notable exceptions are dedicated to the death of members of his family. "Resignation", written as a response to the death of his daughter Fanny in 1848, does not use first-person pronouns and is instead a generalized poem of mourning. The death of his second wife Frances, as biographer Charles Calhoun wrote, deeply affected Longfellow personally but "seemed not to touch his poetry, at least directly". His memorial poem to her, a sonnet called "The Cross of Snow", was not published in his lifetime.
Longfellow often used "didacticism in his poetry, though he focused on it less in his later years. Much of his poetry imparts cultural and moral values, particularly focused on promoting life as being more than material pursuits. Longfellow also often used "allegory in his work. In "Nature", for example, death is depicted as bedtime for a cranky child. Many of the "metaphors he used in his poetry as well as subject matter came from legends, mythology, and literature. He was inspired, for example, by "Norse mythology for ""The Skeleton in Armor" and by Finnish legends for "The Song of Hiawatha.
Longfellow rarely wrote on current subjects and seemed detached from contemporary American concerns. Even so, Longfellow, like many during this period, called for the development of high quality American literature. In "Kavanagh, a character says:
We want a national literature commensurate with our mountains and rivers... We want a national epic that shall correspond to the size of the country... We want a national drama in which scope shall be given to our gigantic ideas and to the unparalleled activity of our people... In a word, we want a national literature altogether shaggy and unshorn, that shall shake the earth, like a herd of buffaloes thundering over the prairies.
He was also important as a translator; his translation of Dante became a required possession for those who wanted to be a part of high culture. He also encouraged and supported other translators. In 1845, he published The Poets and Poetry of Europe, an 800-page compilation of translations made by other writers, including many by his friend and colleague "Cornelius Conway Felton. Longfellow intended the anthology "to bring together, into a compact and convenient form, as large an amount as possible of those English translations which are scattered through many volumes, and are not accessible to the general reader". In honor of Longfellow's role with translations, Harvard established the Longfellow Institute in 1994, dedicated to literature written in the United States in languages other than English.
In 1874, Longfellow oversaw a 31-volume anthology called Poems of Places, which collected poems representing several geographical locations, including European, Asian, and Arabian countries. Emerson was disappointed and reportedly told Longfellow: "The world is expecting better things of you than this... You are wasting time that should be bestowed upon original production". In preparing the volume, Longfellow hired "Katherine Sherwood Bonner as an "amanuensis.
Longfellow's early collections, Voices of the Night and Ballads and Other Poems, made him instantly popular. The New-Yorker called him "one of the very few in our time who has successfully aimed in putting poetry to its best and sweetest uses". The "Southern Literary Messenger immediately put Longfellow "among the first of our American poets". Poet "John Greenleaf Whittier said that Longfellow's poetry illustrated "the careful moulding by which art attains the graceful ease and chaste simplicity of nature". Longfellow's friend "Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote of him as "our chief singer" and one who "wins and warms... kindles, softens, cheers [and] calms the wildest woe and stays the bitterest tears!"
The rapidity with which American readers embraced Longfellow was unparalleled in publishing history in the United States; by 1874, he was earning $3,000 per poem. His popularity spread throughout Europe as well, and his poetry was translated during his lifetime into Italian, French, German, and other languages. As scholar "Bliss Perry later wrote, Longfellow was so highly praised that criticizing him was a criminal act like "carrying a rifle into a national park". In the last two decades of his life, he often received requests for autographs from strangers, which he always sent. John Greenleaf Whittier suggested it was this massive correspondence that led to Longfellow's death, writing: "My friend Longfellow was driven to death by these incessant demands".
Contemporary writer "Edgar Allan Poe wrote to Longfellow in May 1841 of his "fervent admiration which [your] genius has inspired in me" and later called him "unquestionably the best poet in America". However, after Poe's reputation as a critic increased, he publicly accused Longfellow of "plagiarism in what has been since termed by Poe biographers as "The Longfellow War". His assessment was that Longfellow was "a determined imitator and a dextrous adapter of the ideas of other people", specifically "Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His accusations may have been a publicity stunt to boost readership of the "Broadway Journal, for which he was the editor at the time. Longfellow did not respond publicly, but, after Poe's death, he wrote: "The harshness of his criticisms I have never attributed to anything but the irritation of a sensitive nature chafed by some indefinite sense of wrong".
"Margaret Fuller judged him "artificial and imitative" and lacking force. Poet "Walt Whitman also considered Longfellow an imitator of European forms, though he praised his ability to reach a popular audience as "the expressor of common themes – of the little songs of the masses". He added, "Longfellow was no revolutionarie: never traveled new paths: of course never broke new paths." "Lewis Mumford said that Longfellow could be completely removed from the history of literature without much effect.
Toward the end of his life, contemporaries considered him as more of a "children's poet as many of his readers were children. A contemporary reviewer noted in 1848 that Longfellow was creating a "Goody two-shoes kind of literature... slipshod, sentimental stories told in the style of the nursery, beginning in nothing and ending in nothing". A more modern critic said, "Who, except wretched schoolchildren, now reads Longfellow?" A London critic in the London Quarterly Review, however, condemned all American poetry, saying, "with two or three exceptions, there is not a poet of mark in the whole union" but singled out Longfellow as one of those exceptions. As an editor of the Boston Evening Transcript wrote in 1846, "Whatever the miserable envy of trashy criticism may write against Longfellow, one thing is most certain, no American poet is more read".
Longfellow was the most popular poet of his day. As a friend once wrote to him, "no other poet was so fully recognized in his lifetime". Many of his works helped shape the American character and its legacy, particularly with the poem ""Paul Revere's Ride". He was such an admired figure in the United States during his life that his 70th birthday in 1877 took on the air of a national holiday, with parades, speeches, and the reading of his poetry.
Over the years, Longfellow's personality has become part of his reputation. He has been presented as a gentle, placid, poetic soul: an image perpetuated by his brother Samuel Longfellow, who wrote an early biography which specifically emphasized these points. As James Russell Lowell said, Longfellow had an "absolute sweetness, simplicity, and modesty". At Longfellow's funeral, his friend "Ralph Waldo Emerson called him "a sweet and beautiful soul". In reality, Longfellow's life was much more difficult than was assumed. He suffered from "neuralgia, which caused him constant pain, and he also had poor eyesight. He wrote to friend Charles Sumner: "I do not believe anyone can be perfectly well, who has a brain and a heart". He had difficulty coping with the death of his second wife. Longfellow was very quiet, reserved, and private; in later years, he was known for being unsocial and avoided leaving home. He had become one of the first American celebrities and was also popular in Europe. It was reported that 10,000 copies of "The Courtship of Miles Standish sold in London in a single day. Children adored him and, when the "spreading chestnut-tree" mentioned in the poem "The Village Blacksmith" was cut down, the children of Cambridge had the tree converted into an armchair which they presented to the poet. In 1884, Longfellow became the first non-British writer for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in "Poet's Corner of "Westminster Abbey in London; he remains the only American poet represented with a bust. In 1909, a seated statue of Longfellow sculpted by "William Couper was unveiled in "Washington, D. C.
More recently, he was honored in March 2007 when the "United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating him. A number of schools are named after him in various states as well. "Neil Diamond's 1974 hit song, ""Longfellow Serenade", is a reference to the poet. He is a protagonist in "Matthew Pearl's murder mystery "The Dante Club (2003).
Longfellow's popularity rapidly declined, beginning shortly after his death and into the twentieth century as academics began to appreciate poets like Walt Whitman, "Edwin Arlington Robinson, and "Robert Frost. In the twentieth century, literary scholar Kermit Vanderbilt noted, "Increasingly rare is the scholar who braves ridicule to justify the art of Longfellow's popular rhymings." 20th-century poet "Lewis Putnam Turco concluded "Longfellow was minor and derivative in every way throughout his career... nothing more than a hack imitator of the English Romantics."
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