Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Maine, but lived most of his adult life in Cambridge, the village outside Boston where many writers lived. One of Longfellow's grandfathers was a state senator and the other grandfather had been a Revolutionary War general and a congressman. Longfellow's family also expected him to choose a career of public service, as well as to support himself in some profession. Following his graduation in 1826 from Bowdoin College, where he was a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Longfellow went to Europe to study. When he returned to the United States three years later, he taught European languages, first at Bowdoin and then at Harvard. For a number of years, though his poetry was quite popular, Longfellow continued to earn his living by teaching, but after 18 years of teaching at Harvard, he resigned his position because he felt it interfered with his writing.

During the last years of his life, Longfellow received many honors, including honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford Universities in England. After his death, a bust of Longfellow was placed in the Poet's Corner of Westminister Abbey¡Xthe first American to be so honored.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow brought European culture to the attention of Americans, and in turn spread American folklore in Europe, where his work was popular. American readers liked Longfellow's lyrical style, which was influenced by the German Romantic poets, and they were pleased by his emphasis on such subjects as home, family, nature, and religion. His style and subjects were conventional especially in comparison with Whitman or more modern writers, and over the years Longfellow's position as a major American poet has declined. Nevertheless, in the late 19th century, Longfellow was without a doubt the most popular American poet.