Biography of Longfellow


HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, American poet, was born at Portland, Maine, on the 27th of February, 1807. His father was attorney-at-law. In 1821, he entered Bowdoin College, and was graduated therein four years later. He then read law in his father's office a few months, a pursuit which happily he did not continue, friends who knew his genius by his college life, providing him with the opportunity of an occupation more congenial. They offered him the position of Professor of Modern Languages at Bowdoin, one entirely proper to his bent. To qualify himself the better for his duties, Mr.Longfellow spent the three years and a half succeeding the acceptance of the offer, in Europe, visiting France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, and England for this purpose. He came home in 1829, and began his professorship at Bowdoin, which continued until 1835, when the death of Mr. George Ticknor, who held the corresponding position in Harvard University, resulted in his acceptance of the vacant professorship in that eminent seat of learning. Before actually entering upon his duties he again went to Europe, this time visiting the Scandinavian countries, Germany and Switzerland, mainly with the view of promoting his acquaintance with the literature of Northern Europe. In the autumn of 1836, he began to teach in Harvard, and continued there eighteen years, when he was succeeded in his position by James Russell Lowell. He began his literary work while a student at Bowdoin, many of his earlier poems being published in the United States Gazette, and while a professor he contributed many able criticisms to the North American Review. His first collection of poems was published in 1839. "Ballads and Other Poems," in 1842, and "Poems on Slavery," and the "Spanish Student," the year following. The poem that brought him the most fame, "Evangeiine," appeared in 1847, and "Kavanagh," in 1849. "Hiawatha" was published in 1855, "Miles Standish," in 1858, "Hanging of the Crane," in 1874, and "Keramos," in 1878.

As a poet, Mr. Longfellow was peculiarly remarkable for the absolute purity, refinement, sweetness, and melody of his verse. He was in quick sympathy with all that belongs to humanity, and, though rarely sounding the great depths of passion, he swept every string of beauty, pathos, and tenderness, and was preeminently the poet of the home. He was a master of beauty, the Titian among poets, and especially the master of the finer and tenderer emotions of the heart, and for this reason he appealed to the hearts of all, and entered the circle of every American home as a welcome and honored guest. No American poet has been so greatly admired in Europe as Mr. Longfellow, and his works have been translated into most of the Continental languages. He visited Europe again in 1868, and again the following year. The honorary degree of L.L.D. was conferred upon him by Cambridge University in 1868, and that of D.C.L., by the University of Oxford, in 1869. In 1873, he was elected a member of Russian Academy of Science, and in 1877, a member of the Spanish Academy. He died at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 24th of March 1882.