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The Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1878

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a commanding figure in the cultural life of nineteenth-century America. Born in Portland, Maine in 1807, he became a national literary figure by the 1850s, and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.

The following four pages trace the major developments of Longfellow's life from his youth in Portland where he first demonstrated his literary talents, through his years studying languages in Europe and teaching at Bowdoin College, to his move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he taught at Harvard, married Fanny Appleton, became a father, and wrote many of his most enduring poems; and finally into his elder years as both a celebrity poet and a grieving widower.

The information on the following pages was drawn largely from Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life by Charles Calhoun and from the essay by Richard D'Abate, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Literary Man" in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and His Portland Home. For more information on these and other sources, please see the bibliography.

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