Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Besides working to establish the study of modern languages and comparative literature in the United States, Longfellow became the most popular of all living poets during his time.
The second of Stephen and Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow’s eight children, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine, while Maine was still a part of Massachusetts. As a member of a loving, prosperous, and distinguished Unitarian family, the future poet seems to have had a happy childhood that included the scenes he would describe in “My Lost Youth.” He was a gentle, precocious boy who started school when he was three. At the age of six, he enrolled in the Portland Academy, where he was still a student when, on November 17, 1820, “The Battle of Lovell’s Pond,” his first published poem, appeared in the Portland Gazette with merely “Henry” given as the author’s name. His work did not receive unanimous acclaim: That evening, he heard a family friend disparage the poem.
In 1821 Longfellow passed the entrance examination for Bowdoin College; however, maybe because of his age, he remained at the Portland Academy another school year while working for college credit. It was not until the fall of 1822 that Longfellow, with his older brother, left home to study on the campus in Brunswick, Maine. While at Bowdoin, he studied hard, read avidly, joined a...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born into a well-to-do family in Portland, Maine, in 1807, a mere thirty years after the American Revolutionary War began. He entered Bowdoin College in Maine at the age of fourteen, and he studied the usual classical curriculum taken from British universities. He graduated from Bowdoin in 1825, having made such an impression upon the faculty there that he was given a fellowship to go to Europe to study the modern languages to prepare himself for an appointment as a professor at Bowdoin. In 1829, he was appointed a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin and remained there for seven years. He was a successful and industrious teacher; he provided materials for his classes because there were no texts in the modern languages at the time. In 1831, Longfellow married Mary Potter, a fellow native of Portland. His success was marred by Mary’s death in 1835. The sunny poems of Longfellow, in fact, often mask private tragedies.
Longfellow’s success at Bowdoin led to an appointment as professor of modern languages at Harvard College, which he began in 1835. Longfellow was writing poems at the same time. There was an obvious conflict between his duties as a professor and the demands of a career as a poet. He published Ballads, and Other Poems in 1841; the first important poem by Longfellow was...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Longfellow contributed much to American poetry. He showed that Americans had a marvelous and important history. He makes early America into a mythic land: The Indians, the Pilgrims, and the exiles from Nova Scotia are all given a treatment that had previously been reserved for Greek or Roman myth. Longfellow also opened American poetry to a variety of poetic meters and structures. Certain themes recur; Longfellow generally portrays women as submissive and passive. He also suggests that there is progress in the world; the disaster of Evangeline or the dislocation of the Indians cannot drive out the optimism that things are getting better and humankind is becoming more civilized.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the second of eight children, was born into an old and distinguished New England family. Stephen Longfellow, his father, was a prominent lawyer who had served as a representative in Congress and who could count among his ancestors New England patriarchs such as Samuel Sewell. His mother, Zilpah, could trace the Wadsworth name back through a Revolutionary War general to seventeenth century Plymouth Puritans such as John Alden. Schooled at the Portland Academy and Bowdoin College, Longfellow finished his formal education in 1825, graduating in a class that included Nathaniel Hawthorne. From the beginning, he had been expected to carry on the traditions of his two family groups: “You must adopt a profession which will afford you subsistence as well as reputation,” his father had counseled him just before graduation. During his collegiate years, Longfellow had shown so much aptitude for foreign languages that Bowdoin actually offered him a newly established professorship in modern languages. The trustees of the college, however, insisted that their new professor travel to Europe at his own expense to round out his language training.
Accepting the offer, Longfellow toured Europe from 1826 to 1829, dividing his time between France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. By August 11, 1829, he was back at Bowdoin, preparing lecture notes and writing his own grammars and study texts. For the next six years, his scholarly duties at the college...
(The entire section is 784 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s father was an influential lawyer, and his mother’s family went back to Priscilla Mullins and John Alden, passengers on the Mayflower. A talented, bookish lad, Longfellow at the age of fifteen entered Bowdoin College, where one of his classmates was Nathaniel Hawthorne. After his graduation he was offered Bowdoin’s newly established professorship of modern languages. Because European study was a preliminary requirement, Longfellow in 1826 began that long and loving dalliance with the treasures of the Old World that was to color all his experience and influence his writing. In 1829 he returned from the first of his four excursions to Europe and began teaching at his alma mater.
In 1834 Harvard University appointed Longfellow to its Smith professorship of French and Spanish. Before beginning his new duties, Longfellow undertook another European tour, this time accompanied by his wife, the fragile Mary Potter of Portland, whom he had married in 1831. Her death in Rotterdam was Longfellow’s first great sorrow. Eight years later he married Frances Appleton, the model for the heroine of the semiautobiographical Hyperion; eighteen years of domestic happiness followed until Frances Longfellow’s death from burns resulting from an accident at home. Five children were born of this marriage,...
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a member of the Eighteenth Congress of the United States. In 1822, Longfellow enrolled in Bowdoin College, a new academic institution where his father was a trustee. However, Longfellow went against his father’s wish, which was for his son to study law, and chose to pursue a literary career. A prolific writer, Longfellow published poems in several different publications while in school. In 1825, the poet was offered the position of chair of the new modern languages department at Bowdoin. In an effort to prepare for this post, Longfellow took a trip to Europe, which stretched into three years. From 1829 to 1835, the poet taught at Bowdoin, where he spent much of his writing time working on textbooks, essays, and other academic endeavors.
In 1835, Longfellow and his wife, Mary, pregnant with their first child, set off for Europe. However, later that year, Mary died of complications from a miscarriage, an event that greatly affected Longfellow. The poet soon gave up his academic publishing in favor of his poetry, and, in 1836, he accepted a teaching position at Harvard University. He renewed his former practice of publishing his poems in several different magazines. In Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841), Longfellow reprinted many of these poems. During this time, the poet was also trying, in vain, to win...
(The entire section is 472 words.)