Bowdoin College


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, on February 27, 1807, and was educated at Portland Academy and alongside Nathaniel Hawthorne at Bowdoin College and then at Harvard University. He taught at Bowdoin from 1829 to 1835 as a professor of foreign languages after travelling widely in Europe 1826-29, and he joined Harvard as Smith Professor of French and Spanish in 1836 (replacing George Ticknor) and taught there until 1854, when the professorship went to James Russell Lowell. He was married twice, his first wife dying in Holland in 1835, and his second, Frances Appleton (whom he married in 1843), dying in a burning accident at home in 1861 when Longfellow himself was injured. While at Harvard, the Longfellows lived at Craigie House, a gift of his father-in-law. He had three daughters and two sons. Longfellow's first book of poems, Voices of the Night, was published in 1839, and his last, In the Harbor, in 1882. Between those two dates, Longfellow published more than 20 books:

  • Hyperion, a prose romance (1839)
  • Ballads and Other Poems (1842)
  • Poems on Slavery (1842)
  • The Spanish Student (1843)
  • The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems (1846)
  • Evangeline (1847)
  • Kavagh, a story in prose (1849)
  • The Seaside and the Fireside (1850)
  • The Golden Legend (1851)
  • The Song of Hiawatha (1855)
  • The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858)
  • Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)
  • Dante's Divine Comedy, a translation (1865-67)
  • Flower-de-Luce (1867)
  • The Divine Tragedy (1871)
  • Christus, a Mystery (1872)
  • Three Books of Song (1872)
  • Aftermath (1873)
  • The Masque of Pandora (1875)
  • Kéamos and Other Poems (1878)
  • Ultima Thule (1880)

In 1842 Longfellow visited Dickens in London, and his 1868-69 tour of Europe included honorary degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, by which time he had become as universally popular a poet as Tennyson. A bust was placed in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey after his death, the only American to be afforded this honour. For two good lives, see Newton Arvin's Longfellow: His Life and Work (1963) and Edward Wagenknecht's Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Portrait of an American Humanist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966; PS 2281 W34 Robarts Library).