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 Evangeline, published in 1847. Suddenly, Longfellow made Americans see that their experience was as fit a subject for...
(The entire section is 561 words.)