Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Biography of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. His father served in Congress and his grandfather was a Revolutionary War hero. He attended the Portland Academy and Bowdoin College, where he developed a love of storytelling and a passion for reading. The Bowdoin board of trustees, impressed with Longfellow's academic prowess, awarded him a grant that he used to study languages in Europe from 1825, his graduation year, to 1829. Upon returning he took a teaching position at the college and married Mary Storer Potter in 1831.
Two years later, he published his first book, a memoir of his adventures abroad, titled Outre Mer. Longfellow then embarked on a second trip to Europe with Mary in 1835, but his wife died abruptly, leaving the poet in an deep state of grief. He stayed in Germany for a year after her death, lost in Romantic poetry which went on to influence his subsequent work. He returned to the United States in 1837 and began teaching at Harvard College. In 1839 he published his first collection of poetry, Voices of the Night, as well as another prose work, Hyperion, both of which were highly acclaimed and obviously inspired by the German poet Goethe. After the publication of Ballads and Other Poems (1841), Longfellow married Frances Appleton in 1843, an event that renewed his happiness and revived his creativity. The couple had six children.
Longfellow published abundantly for the rest of his life, including Evangeline (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (1858), and Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863). He resigned from his teaching position at Harvard in 1854 in order to focus more intently on his writing, and for a time the poet's life continued normally and happily. However, in 1861, Appleton's dress accidentally caught fire and she died the following day, throwing Longfellow once again into a deep grieving period during which he published nothing.
In 1867, Longfellow printed his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy and returned to the realm of literature. His own works were, at the time, being translated worldwide and he was considered to be one of the greatest American poets. He continued publishing poetry and prose, as well as an extensive analysis of the history of Christianity. Longfellow died on March 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 75.