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Lowell, James Russell

Lowell, James Russell (1819-91), American man of letters, was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts. After completing his education at Harvard, be was called to the bar, but never practised. His first volume of poetry, .1 Year's Life (1841), was followed three years later by another volume containing several fine pieces. Conversations on some of the Old Poets (1845) gave indication of his powers of literary criticism, whilst his reputation as a poet was much increased by the Indian Summer Reverie and the Vision of Sir Lannfal (1848), founded on the legend of the search for the Holy Grail. A Fable for Critics (1848) is a witty but good-humoured satire on certain well-known American authors. But the chief work of this period was the Biglow Papers (1846-48), in which the Mexican War is presented in the most unfavourable light; these compositions are remarkable alike for their keen humour, their satirical force, the justice of their political views, and their insight into the characteristics of the rural population of America. The second series (1864), occasioned by the War of Secession, are less humorous, but display a loftier vein of sentiment. In 1855 Lowell succeeded Longfellow as Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Harvard. He edited the Atlantic Monthly from 1857 to 1862, and the North American Review from 1864 to 1866. Of his remaining works the most important were the volumes of critical essays entitled My Study Windows (1871) and Among my Books (two series, 1870, 1876). Lowell was United States minister to Spain from 1877 to 1880; in the latter year he was transferred to England, but was recalled on the fall of the Republican party, and returned to America in 1885. His Bemocracy and other addresses delivered in England were republished in 1886.