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Biography of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow was a powerful figure in the cultural life of nineteenth century America. Born in 1807, he had become a national literary figure by the 1850s and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882 Henry's grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth (1748-1829), was a Revolutionary War general who later served seven terms in the United States Congress. The family home in Portland was built for Peleg in 1785-6. Father Stephen Longfellow (1776-1849) was a lawyer and legislator who helped found many of Maine's early cultural institutions, including the Maine Historical Society (1822). Henry's mother and early encourager was Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow (1778-1851), direct descendant of Plymouth's John and Priscilla Alden, and a woman of learning, wit, and liberal religious convictions. Longfellow attended Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, where he met Nathaniel Hawthorne, his lifelong friend and literary colleague. After graduation in 1825 and three years of touring and study in Europe, he assumed the professorship of modern languages — then a relatively new field — at Bowdoin. His publishing record (six foreign language textbooks in as many years) finally earned him a similar post at Harvard in 1834, beginning his long association with the city of Cambridge. Longfellow published his first poem at age thirteen in the Portland Evening Gazette — a precocious sign of an astounding literary career as editor, anthologist, translator, playwright, novelist, and, above all, poet. His many published works sold in phenomenal numbers and multiple editions. Most important are Ballads and Other Poems (1841), Poems on Slavery (1844), Evangeline (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863), his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (1867), and Keramos (1878). One of Longfellow's favorite metaphors is the backward glance. People in the present look back into their distant pasts and make a discovery. What had once been history — political, conflicted, sad, and bloody — could now be seen as imaginative myth: ordered, noble, and a source of strength. Longfellow wrote for a young nation ready to make this backward glance.
Marriage to Frances "Fanny" Appleton Longfellow began courting Frances "Fanny" Appleton, the daughter of a wealthy Boston industrialist, Nathan Appleton. 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 as the Longfellow Bridge. After seven years, Fanny finally agreed to marriage, and they were wed in 1843. Nathan Appleton bought the Craigie House, overlooking the Charles River as a wedding present to the pair. The house was occupied during the American Revolution by General George Washington and his staff. 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), who married Richard Henry Dana III, son of Richard Henry Dana Anne Allegra (1855-1934) When the younger Fanny was born on April 7, 1847, Dr. Nathan Cooley Keep administered the first obstetric anesthetic in the United States to Fanny Longfellow. Longfellow retired from Harvard in 1854, devoting himself entirely to writing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws from Harvard in 1859.
List of Longfellow's Works Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique (Translation from Spanish) (1833) Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea (Travelogue) (1835) Voices of the Night: Ballads; and other Poems (1839) Hyperion, a Romance (1839) Ballads and Other Poems (1842) Poems on Slavery (1842) The Spanish Student. A Play in Three Acts (1843) Poets and Poetry of Europe (Translations) (1844) The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems (1845) Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (Epic Poem) (1847) Kavanagh: A Tale (1849) The Seaside and the Fireside (Poetry)(1850) The Golden Legend (Dramatic Poem)(1851) The Song of Hiawatha (Epic Poem) (1855) The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (1858) Tales of a Wayside Inn (Poetry)(1863) Household Poems (1865) Flower-de-Luce (Poetry)(1867) Dante's Divine Comedy (Translation)(1867) The New England Tragedies (1868) The Divine Tragedy (1871) Christus: A Mystery (1872) Three Books of Song (1872) Aftermath (Poem)(1873) The Masque of Pandora and Other Poems (1875) Kéramos and Other Poems (1878) Ultima Thule (1880) In the Harbor (Poems)(1882)
Emerson’s Distaste In his famous essay "The Poet," Emerson claims that men who are skilled in the use of words are not true poets, saying, "...we do not speak now of men of poetical talents, or of industry and skill in metre, but of the true poet" (qtd. in Richards, 103). And slightly later, he adds, "For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that makes a po