Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, February 27th

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Julia Margaret Cameron (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine, the second of eight children born to Stephen and Zilpha (Wadsworth) Longfellow. At the age of fifteen, Longfellow enrolled at Bowdoin College where he was named Phi Beta Kappa and began publishing his poetry. Upon his graduation, he was offered a position at Bowdoin teaching modern languages. Before assuming this position, Longfellow traveled for three years in Europe where he learned several languages. While at Bowdoin, Longfellow began translating texts from French, Italian and Spanish and was the first to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into English.

In 1834, Longfellow was offered a teaching position at Harvard with the condition that he first spend another year abroad studying foreign languages. During this trip Longfellow’s first wife, Mary, died. He settled in Cambridge, Mass. in 1836 to assume his duties at Harvard. In the late 1830’s, Longfellow began publishing poetry and found great success immediately with poems such as the Wreck of the Hesperus and the Village Blacksmith. He married his second wife, Frances Appleton, in 1847.

Longfellow went on to write several poetry collections and became immensely popular both in the United States and in Europe. He remains the only American poet with a bust in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. He retired from teaching in 1854 to focus on writing, which was becoming very lucrative for him. In 1861, Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, died leaving him devastated.

He continued to write and to work on translations, while also supporting abolition during the 1860’s.

Longfellow died on March 24, 1882 in Cambridge, Mass.

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — A comprehensive site from the Maine Historical Society includes biographical information, a database of poems, and resources for teachers of Longfellow’s work.
  • Public Poet, Private Man : Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 — The Web version of an exhibition mounted by Harvard University’s Houghton Library in honor of Longfellow’s 200th birthday.
  • The Wadsworth-Longfellow House — This site from the Maine Historical Society focuses on Longfellow’s childhood home in Portland, Maine and includes biographical information, images and details of the home’s restoration.
  • Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters — Longfellow’s home in Cambridge, Mass. is now a national historic site maintained by the National Parks Service (NPS). This NPS Web site includes image galleries, biographical information about Longfellow, his family and friends and descriptions of the many historical collections held by the site.
  • Longfellow’s Wayside Inn — This site documents the history of and current happenings at the Inn made famous by Longfellow in his “Tales of the Wayside Inn.”
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow : Collected Poetry Online — Links to Wadsworth’s poems.
  • Resources for Teaching Longfellow — Resources developed during the “Longfellow Institute” (2003 – 2004 ) and made available by the Maine Historical Society
  • Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters: For Teachers — Resources for teachers from the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters site
  • Lesson Plan: Paul Revere’s Ride – 18 April 1775 — A lesson plan for this famous poem from the Massachusetts Historical Society.
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