Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882) MP

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Birthplace: Portland, Cumberland , Maine, United States
Death: Died in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation: Poet, 1860 Census Said That His Occupation Is “Author”, poet, professor
Managed by: Denise Unander
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About Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline". He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five members of the group known as the Fireside Poets.

Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine and 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, though he lived the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a former headquarters of George Washington.

Longfellow predominantly wrote lyric poetry, known for its musicality, which often presented 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.

Life and work

Early life and education

Birthplace in c. 1910Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, to Stephen Longfellow and Zilpah (Wadsworth) Longfellow in Portland, Maine, 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 died only three years earlier at the Battle of Tripoli. Young 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).

Henry was enrolled in 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. He printed 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 remained 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 alongside 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 on the third floor of what is now Maine Hall in 1823. 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. Between January 1824 and his graduation in 1825, he had published nearly 40 minor poems. About 24 of them appeared in the short-lived Boston periodical The United States Literary Gazette. When Longfellow graduated from Bowdoin, he was ranked fourth in the class and gave the student commencement address.

European tours and professorships

After graduating in 1825, he 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 by impressed 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 motivation, he began his tour of Europe in May 1826 aboard the ship Cadmus. His time abroad would last three years and cost his father an estimated $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 in Madrid, he spent time with Washington Irving and was encouraged by the author to write. Longfellow was saddened to learn 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, he wrote textbooks in French, Italian, and Spanish; his first published book was in 1833, a translation of the poetry of medieval Spanish poet Jorge Manrique. He also 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 was considering moving to New York after New York University considered 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.

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 position with the stipulation that he spend a year or so abroad. 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 into a lead coffin inside an oak coffin which was then shipped to Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston. Three years later, he was inspired to write the poem "Footsteps of Angels" about her. Several years later, he wrote the poem "Mezzo Cammin" to express his sorrow over her death.

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 moved in to the Craigie House in the spring of 1837, now preserved as the Longfellow National Historic Site. The home, built in 1759, had once been the headquarters of George Washington during the Siege of Boston beginning in July 1775. Previous occupants also included Jared Sparks, Edward Everett, and Joseph Emerson Worcester. Longfellow began publishing his poetry, including Voices of the Night in 1839 and Ballads and Other Poems in 1841. The latter included "The Village Blacksmith" and "The Wreck of the Hesperus", which were instantly popular.

Courtship of Frances "Fanny" Appleton

After a seven-year courtship, Longfellow married Frances Appleton in 1843.Longfellow began courting Frances "Fanny" Appleton, the daughter of a wealthy Boston industrialist, Nathan Appleton. At first, she was not interested 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". During the courtship, he frequently walked from Harvard to her home in Boston, crossing the Boston Bridge. That bridge was subsequently demolished and replaced in 1906 by a new bridge, which was eventually renamed the Longfellow Bridge.

During his courtship, Longfellow continued writing and, in the fall of 1839, published Hyperion, a book of travel writings discussing his trips abroad. In 1843, he also published a play, The Spanish Student, reflecting his memories from his time in Spain in the 1820s. There was some confusion over its original manuscript. After being printed in Graham's Magazine, its 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.

On May 10, 1843, after seven years, Longfellow received a letter from Fanny agreeing to marry him and, too restless to take a carriage, walked 90 minutes to meet her at her house. They were married shortly thereafter. Nathan Appleton bought the Craigie House as a wedding present to the pair. Longfellow would live there for the remainder 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 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, the poem "Evangeline" was published 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. Shortly thereafter in 1854, Longfellow retired from Harvard, devoting himself entirely to writing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws from Harvard in 1859.

Death of Frances

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; it may have been burning wax or a lighted candle which fell on her dress. Longfellow, awoken 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 was no candle or wax but the fire started from a self-lighting match that had fallen on the floor. In both versions of the story, however, 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 that he was unable to attend her funeral. His own injuries to his face were bad enough that he stopped shaving, thereafter wearing the beard which has become his trademark.

Devastated by her death, he never fully recovered and occasionally resorted to laudanum and ether to deal with it. He expressed his grief in the sonnet "The Cross of Snow" (1879), which he wrote eighteen years later to commemorate her death:

Such is the cross I wear upon my breast

These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes

And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Later life and 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. By 1868, Longfellow's annual income was over $48,000.

During the 1860s, Longfellow supported abolitionism and especially hoped for reconciliation between the northern and southern states after the American Civil War. 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".

On August 22, 1879, a female admirer went 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.

Writing Style


Longfellow from a posthumous edition of his poetryThough 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, utilizing 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".

Longfellow often used allegory in his work. In "Nature", for example, death is depicted as bedtime for a cranky child. Though he often used didacticism in his poetry, he focused on it less in his later years. 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. In fact, 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 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.

Critical response

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". 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] 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 lead 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".Lewis Mumford said that Longfellow could be completely removed from the history of literature without much effect. Towards the end of his life, contemporaries considered him 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.

Legacy

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia and Katherine C. Tobin, member of the USPS Board of Governors, unveil the new U.S. postage stamp in honor of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 2007.Longfellow was the most popular poet of his day. 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. 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. In 1884 he was the first and only non-British writer for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London.

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, causing 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". Longfellow was very quiet, reserved, and private. In later years, he was known for being unsocial and avoided leaving home.

Over time, Longfellow's popularity rapidly declined, beginning shortly after his death and into the 20th century as academics began to appreciate poets like Walt Whitman, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Robert Frost.

More recently, he was honored in March 2007 when the United States Postal Service made a stamp commemorating him. A number of schools are named after him in various states as well. He is a protagonist in Matthew Pearl's murder mystery The Dante Club (2003).

List of works

  • Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea (Travelogue) (1835)
  • Hyperion, a Romance (1839)
  • The Spanish Student. A Play in Three Acts (1843)
  • Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (epic poem) (1847)
  • "Kavanagh: A Tale" (1849)
  • "The Golden Legend" (poem)(1851)
  • The Song of Hiawatha (epic poem) (1855)
  • The Children's Hour (1860)
  • Household Poems (1865)
  • The New England Tragedies (1868)
  • The Divine Tragedy (1871)
  • Christus: A Mystery (1872)
  • "Aftermath" (poem) (1873)
  • The Reaper and the Flowers (unknown)
  • The Bell of Atri (From The Sicilian's Tale)(1863-1872)
  • Poetry collections
  • Birds of Passage
  • Voices of the Night (1839)
  • Ballads and Other Poems (1841)
  • Poems on Slavery (1842)
  • The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems (1845)
  • The Seaside and the Fireside (1850)
  • The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (1858)
  • Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)
  • Flower-de-Luce (1867)
  • Three Books of Song (1872)
  • The Masque of Pandora and Other Poems (1875)
  • Kéramos and Other Poems (1878)
  • Ultima Thule (1880)
  • In the Harbor (1882)

Anthologies and translations

  • Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique (Translation from Spanish) (1833)
  • The Waif (Anthology of other writers – 1845)
  • Poets and Poetry of Europe (Translations) (1844)
  • Dante's Divine Comedy (Translation) (1867)

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A descendant of eight Mayflower Passengers, Richard Warren, John Howland, Elizabeth Tilley, Henry Samson, William Mullins and Wife Alice.

  • Richard Warren m. Elizabeth Walker
    • Mary Warren m. Robert Bartlett
      • Joseph Bartlett m. Hannah Fallowell Pope
        • Joseph Bartlett m. Lydia Griswold
          • Samuel Bartlett m. Elizabeth Lathrop
  • John Howland m. Elizabeth Tilley
    • Desire Howland m. Capt. John Gorham
      • James Gorham m. Hannah Huckins
        • Experience Gorham m. Thomas Lathrop
          • Elizabeth Lathrop m. Samuel Bartlett
            • Elizabeth Bartlett m. Brig. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth, Jr.
  • William Mullins m. Alice
    • John Alden m. Priscilla Mullins
      • Elizabeth Alden m. William Pabodie
        • Ruth Pabodie m. Benjamin Bartlett, Jr.
          • Priscilla Bartlett m. John Sampson
  • Henry Samson m. Sarah Ann Plummer
    • Stephen Samson m. Elizabeth Sprague
      • John Sampson m. Priscilla Bartlett
        • Susanna Sampson m. Deacon Peleg Wadsworth
          • Brig. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth, Jr. m. Elizabeth Bartlett
            • Zilpah Wadsworth m. Stephen Longfellow IV
              • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Biography

written by Roberto Rabe

Probably the best loved of American poets the world over is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Many of his lines are as familiar to us as rhymes from Mother Goose or the words of nursery songs learned in early childhood. Like these rhymes and melodies, they remain in the memory and accompany us through life.

There are two reasons for the popularity and significance of Longfellow's poetry. First, he had the gift of easy rhyme. He wrote poetry as a bird sings, with natural grace and melody. Read or heard once or twice, his rhyme and meters cling to the mind long after the sense may be forgotten.

Second, Longfellow wrote on obvious themes which appeal to all kinds of people. His poems are easily understood; they sing their way into the consciousness of those who read them. Above all, there is a joyousness in them, a spirit of optimism and faith in the goodness of life which evokes immediate response in the emotions of his readers.

Americans owe a great debt to Longfellow because he was among the first of American writers to use native themes. He wrote about the American scene and landscape, the American Indian ('Song of Hiawatha'), and American history and tradition ('The Courtship of Miles Standish', 'Evangeline'). At the beginning of the 19th century, America was a stumbling babe as far as a culture of its own was concerned. The people of America had spent their years and their energies in carving a habitation out of the wilderness and in fighting for independence. Literature, art, and music came mainly from Europe and especially from England. Nothing was considered worthy of attention unless it came from Europe.

But "the flowering of New England," as Van Wyck Brooks terms the period from 1815 to 1865, took place in Longfellow's day, and he made a great contribution to it. He lived when giants walked the New England earth, giants of intellect and feeling who established the New Land as a source of greatness. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and William Prescott were a few of the great minds and spirits among whom Longfellow took his place as a singer and as a representative of America.

The first Longfellow came to America in 1676 from Yorkshire, England. Among the ancestors of the poet on his mother's side were John and Priscilla Alden, of whom he wrote in 'The Courtship of Miles Standish'. His mother's father, Peleg Wadsworth, had been a general in the Revolutionary War. His own father was a lawyer. The Longfellow home represented the graceful living which was beginning to characterize the age.

Henry was the son of Stephen Longfellow and Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow. He was born February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. Portland was a seaport, and this gave its citizens a breadth of view lacking in the more insular New England towns. The variety of people and the activity of the harbors stirred the mind of the boy and gave him a curiosity about life beyond his own immediate experience. He was sent to school when he was only three years old. When he was six, the following report of him was received at home:"Master Henry Longfellow is one of the best boys we have in school. He spells and reads very well. He can also add and multiply numbers. His conduct last quarter was very correct and amiable."

From the beginning, it was evident that this boy was to be drawn to writing and the sound of words. His mother read aloud to him and his brothers and sisters the high romance of Ossian, the legendary Gaelic hero. Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' was a favorite among the books he read. But the book which influenced him most was Washington Irving's 'Sketch Book'. Irving was another American author for whom the native legend and landscape were sources of inspiration.

"Every reader has his first book," wrote Longfellow later. "I mean to say, one book among all others which in early youth first fascinates his imagination, and at once excites and satisfies the desires of his mind. To me, the first book was the 'Sketch Book' of Washington Irving."

Longfellow's father was eager to have his son become a lawyer. But when Henry was a senior at Bowdoin College at 19, the college established a chair of modern languages. The recent graduate was asked to become the first professor, with the understanding that he should be given a period of time in which to travel and study in Europe.

In May of 1826, the fair-haired youth with the azure blue eyes set out for Europe to turn himself into a scholar and a linguist. He had letters of introduction to men of note in England and France, but he had his own idea of how to travel. Between conferences with important people and courses in the universities, Longfellow walked through the countries. He stopped at small inns and cottages, talking to peasants, farmers, traders, his silver flute in his pocket as a passport to friendship. He travelled in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and England, and returned to America in 1829. At 22, he was launched into his career as a college professor. He had to prepare his own texts, because at that time none were available.

Much tribute is due him as a teacher. Just as he served America in making the world conscious of its legend and tradition, so he opened to his students and to the American people the literary heritage of Europe. He created in them the new consciousness of the literature of Spain, France, Italy, and especially writings from the German, Nordic, and Icelandic cultures.

In 1831, he married Mary Storer Potter, whom he had known as a schoolmate. When he saw her at church upon his return to Portland, he was so struck by her beauty that he followed her home without courage enough to speak to her. With his wife, he settled down in a house surrounded by elm trees. He expended his energies on translations from Old World literature and contributed travel sketches to the New England Magazine, in addition to serving as a professor and a librarian at Bowdoin.

In 1834, he was appointed to a professorship at Harvard and once more set out for Europe by way of preparation. This time his young wife accompanied him. The journey ended in tragedy. In Rotterdam, his wife died, and Longfellow came alone to Cambridge and the new professorship. The lonely [Longfellow] took a room at historic Craigie House, an old house overlooking the Charles River. It was owned by Mrs. Craigie, an eccentric woman who kept much to herself and was somewhat scornful of the young men to whom she let rooms. But she read widely and well, and her library contained complete sets of Voltaire and other French masters. Longfellow entered the beautiful old elm-encircled house as a lodger, not knowing that this was to be his home for the rest of his life. In time, it passed into the possession of Nathan Appleton. Seven years after he came to Cambridge, Longfellow married Frances Appleton, daughter of Nathan Appleton, and Craigie House was given to the Longfellows as a wedding gift.

Meantime, in the seven intervening years, he remained a rather romantic figure in Cambridge, with his flowing hair and his yellow gloves and flowered waistcoats. He worked, however, with great determination and industry, publishing 'Hyperion', a prose romance that foreshadowed his love for Frances Appleton, and 'Voices of the Night', his first book of poems. He journeyed again to Europe, wrote 'The Spanish Student', and took his stand with the abolitionists, returning to be married in 1843.

The marriage was a happy one, and the Longfellow house became the center of life in the University town. The old Craigie House was a shrine of hospitality and gracious living. The young people of Cambridge flocked there to play with the five Longfellow children - two boys and the three girls whom the poet describes in 'The Children's Hour' as "grave Alice and laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair."

From his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, Longfellow got a brief outline of a story from which he composed one of his most favorite poems, 'Evangeline'. The original story had Evangeline wandering about New England in search of her bridegroom. Longfellow extended her journey through Louisiana and the western wilderness. She finds Gabriel, at last, dying in Philadelphia.

'Evangeline' was published in 1847 and was widely acclaimed. Longfellow began to feel that his work as a teacher was a hindrance to his own writing. In 1854, he resigned from Harvard and with a great sense of freedom gave himself entirely to the joyous task of his own poetic writing. In June of that year, he began 'The Song of Hiawatha'.

Henry Schoolcraft's book on Indians and several meetings with an Ojibway chief provided the background for 'Hiawatha'. The long poem begins with Gitche Matino, the Great Spirit, commanding his people to live in peace and tells how Hiawatha is born. It ends with the coming of the white man and Hiawatha's death.

The publication of 'Hiawatha' caused the greatest excitement. For the first time in American literature, Indian themes gained recognition as sources of imagination, power, and originality. The appeal of 'Hiawatha' for generations of children and young people gives it an enduring place in world literature.

The gracious tale of John Alden and Priscilla came next to the poet's mind, and 'The Courtship of Miles Standish' was published in 1858. It is a work which reflects the ease with which he wrote and the pleasure and enjoyment he derived from his skill. Twenty-five thousand copies were sold during the first week of its publication, and 10,000 were ordered in London on the first day of publication.

In 1861, the happy life of the family came to an end. Longfellow's wife died of burns she received when packages of her children's curls, which she was sealing with matches and wax, burst into flame. Longfellow faced the bitterest tragedy of his life. He found some solace in the task of translating Dante into English and went to Europe for a change of scene.

The years following were filled with honors. He was given honorary degrees at the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge, invited to Windsor by Queen Victoria, and called by request upon the Prince of Wales. He was chosen a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and of the Spanish Academy.

When it became necessary to remove "the spreading chestnut tree" of Brattle Street, which Longfellow had written about in his 'Village Blacksmith', the children of Cambridge gave their pennies to build a chair out of the tree and gave it to Longfellow. He died on March 24, 1882. "Of all the suns of the New England morning," says Van Wyck Brooks, "he was the largest in his golden sweetness."

Wadsworth-Longfellow House

In 1784 Peleg and Elizabeth Bartlett Wadsworth, the poet's maternal grandparents, arrived in Falmouth, Maine, which was soon to be renamed Portland. Falmouth had been bombarded and burned by the British in 1775, but was being rebuilt from the ruins. Peleg, commanding general of American forces in Massachusetts's District of Maine during the war, had been wounded, taken prisoner, escaped, and continued the fight against British encroachment on the northeastern frontier. After the war, he, like so many other veterans, saw opportunity for a new, prosperous life in Maine. In 1785 he began building in the promising seaport. The house was completed in 1786. Peleg and Elizabeth moved to the new house with their six children: Charles, Zilpah (mother of the poet), Elizabeth, John, Lucia, and Henry (called Harry). Four more Wadsworth children were born there: George, Alexander, Samuel, and Peleg Jr. Zilpah's son, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, grew up in the house.

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-------------------- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow in 1868 by Julia Margaret Cameron Born February 27, 1807 Portland, Maine, United States Died March 24, 1882 (aged 75) Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States Occupation Poet Professor Literary movement Romanticism Signature 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 The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets.

Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, and 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, living the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a former 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 his translation. He died in 1882.

Longfellow wrote predominantly 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.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Timeline

1807
February 27, 1807
Portland, Cumberland , Maine, United States
1831
September 14, 1831
Age 24
1843
July 13, 1843
Age 36
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
1844
June 9, 1844
Age 37
Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts
1845
November 23, 1845
Age 38
Massachusetts, United States
1847
April 7, 1847
Age 40
Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Mass
1850
September 22, 1850
Age 43
Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Mass
1853
October 22, 1853
Age 46
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
1855
November 8, 1855
Age 48
Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Mass
1855
Age 47