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The present Household Edition of Mr. Longfellow's Poetical Writings is
Great care has been taken in selecting the illustrations, which represent the
BOSTON, Autumn, 1902.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW was born in Portland, Maine, February 27, 1807. He was a classmate of Hawthorne at Bowdoin College, graduating there in the class of 1825. He began the study of law in the office of his father, Hon. Stephen Longfellow; but receiving shortly the appointment of professor of modern languages at Bowdoin, he devoted himself after that to literature, and to teaching in connection with literature. Before beginning his work at Bowdoin he increased his qualifications by travel and study in Europe, where he stayed three years. Upon his return he gave his lectures on modern languages and literature at the college, and wrote occasionally for the North American Review and other periodicals. The first volume which he published was an Essay on the Moral and Devotional Poetry of Spain, accompanied by translations from Spanish verse. This was issued in 1833, but has not been kept in print as a separate work. It appears as a chapter in Outre-Mer, a reflection of his European life and travel, the first of his prose writings. In 1835 he was invited to succeed Mr. George Ticknor as professor of modern languages and literature at Harvard College, and again went to Europe for pre
paratory study, giving especial attention to Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. He held his professorship until 1854, and continued to live in Cambridge until his death, March 24, 1882, occupying a house known from a former occupant as the Craigie house, and also as Washington's headquarters, that general having so used it while organizing the army that held Boston in siege at the beginning of the Revolution. Everett, Sparks, and Worcester the lexicographer, at one time or another lived in this house, and here Longfellow wrote most of his works.
In 1839 appeared Hyperion, a Romance, which, with more narrative form than Outre-Mer, like that gave the results of a poet's entrance into the riches of the Old World life. In the same year was published Voices of the Night, a little volume containing chiefly poems and translations which had been printed separately in periodicals. The Psalm of Life, perhaps the best known of Longfellow's short poems, was in this volume, and here, too, were The Beleaguered City and Footsteps of Angels. Ballads and other Poems and Poems on Slavery appeared in 1842; The Spanish Student, a play in three acts, in 1843; The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems in 1846; Evangeline in 1847; Kavanagh, a Tale, in prose, in 1849. Besides the various volumes comprising short poems, the list of Mr. Longfellow's works includes The Golden Legend, The Song of Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish, Tales of a Wayside Inn, The New England Tragedies, and a translation of Dante's Divina Commedia. Mr. Longfellow's literary life began in his college days, and he wrote poems almost to the day of his death. A classification of his poems and longer works would be an interesting task, and would help to disclose the wide range of his sympathy and taste; a collection of the metres which he used would show the versatility of his art, and similar studies would lead one to discover the many countries and ages to which he went for subjects. It would not be difficult to gather from the volume of Longfellow's poems hints of personal experience, that biography of the heart which is of more worth to us than any record, however full, of external change and adventure. Such hints may be found, for example, in the early lines To the River Charles, which may be compared with the much later Three Friends of Mine, Iv., v.; in A Gleam of Sunshine, To a Child, The Day is Done, The Fire of Driftwood, Resignation, The Open Window, The Ladder of St. Augustine, My Lost Youth, The Children's Hour, Weariness, and other poems; not that we are to take all sentiments and statements made in the first person as the poet's, for often the form of the poem is so far dramatic that the poet is assuming a character not necessarily his own; but the recurrence of certain strains, joined with personal allusions, helps one to penetrate the slight veil with which the poet, here as elsewhere, half conceals and half reveals himself. The friendly associations of the poet may also be discovered in several poems directly addressed to persons or distinctively alluding to them, and the reader will find it pleasant to construct the companionship of the poet out of such poems as The Herons of Elmwood, To William E. Channing, The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz, To Charles Summer, the Prelude to Tales of a Wayside Inn, and Hawthorne. The standard Life of Longfellow is the one written by his brother, Rev. Samuel Longfellow, in three volumes, and there is also an excellent single volume Life, by T. W. Higginson, in American Men of Letters.