Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
See his letters (ed. by A. Hilen, 4 vol., 1967–72); biographies by his brother, Samuel (3 vol., 1891; repr. 1969), T. W. Higginson (1902, repr. 1973), N. Arvin (1963), and N. A. Basbanes (2020); studies by C. B. Williams (1964) and E. C. Wagenknecht (1986).
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
Born Feb. 27, 1807, in Portland, Me.; died Mar. 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Mass. American poet. Son of a lawyer.
Longfellow graduated from Bowdoin College and completed his education in Europe (1826-29). He was a professor of literature at Harvard University (1836-54).
Longfellow published his first verses in 1820. His poetry collections included Voices of the Night (1839), Poems on Slavery (1842; Russian translation by M. L. Mikhailov, 1861), and Birds of Killingworth (1858). His translations of the works of European poets (1846) played a great role in American cultural life. He also wrote the novels Hyperion (1838) and Kavanaugh (1849) and a book of travel sketches, Outre-Mer (1835).
Longfellow juxtaposed the world of nature to the confining pragmatism of the bourgeoisie. He praised patriarchal mores and idealized America’s past and the life of its native Indians. Even his early verses were dedicated to the Indians’ struggle for independence. Longfellow saw the sources of American national culture in their legends and traditions.
As a humanist, Longfellow was appalled by the extermination of the Indians and by Negro slavery. He formed ties with the abolitionist movement in the 1840’s but made no direct call to action. Turning to his country’s past, he created epic works about the life of America’s early settlers, establishing the hexameter in American poetry (in the narrative poems Evangeline, 1847, and The Courtship of Miles Standish, 1858).
Longfellow based The Song of Hiawatha (1855; Russian translations by D. L. Mikhailovskii, 1868-69, and I. A. Bunin, 1896), which brought him world fame, on Indian folk legends and the Finnish epic Kalevala. Hiawatha combines legends of gods and other mythological beings with historical events; the many stories are unified by a single hero. Hiawatha embodies the best features of the American Indian: courage, incorruptibility, and spiritual strength. But Longfellow, unable to shed his puritanical moralizing, substituted sentimentality for some of the poetry and naive simplicity of the ancient Indian legends.
In Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863), Longfellow turned to the story cycle in the manner of Boccaccio and Chaucer with a free and tongue-in-cheek narrative style.
Possessing the skills of a translator and a scholarly interest in philology, literature, and folklore, Longfellow undertook the editorship of the 31-volume publication Poems of Places (1876-79), a collection of nature poetry from poets all over the world. Longfellow’s collection Poems on Slavery was popular in Russian democratic circles, especially in the 1860’s. Russian translators have often turned to his lyric poetry and ballads.
WORKSThe Complete Poetical Works. Boston-New York, 1906.
Poems. London-New York, 1960.
The Letters, vols. 1-4. Cambridge, Mass., 1966-72.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1958.
REFERENCESMikhailov, M. L. “Amerikanskie poety i romanisty.” Sovremennik, 1860, no. 12.
Brooks, V. W. Pisatel’ i amerikanskaia zhizn\ vol. 1. Moscow, 1967. Underwood, F. H. Life of H. W. Longfellow: A Biographical Sketch. New York, 1882.
Smeaton, W. H. O. Longfellow and His Poetry. London, 1919.
Osborn, C. S., and S. Osborn. Hiawatha With Its Original Indian Legends. New York, 1944.
Wagenknecht, E. H. W. Longfellow: Portrait of an American Humanist. New York, 1966.
M. A. NERSESOVA