Lowell, James Russell

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Lowell, James Russell,

1819–91, American poet, critic, and editor, b. Cambridge, Mass. He was influential in revitalizing the intellectual life of New England in the mid-19th cent. Educated at Harvard (B.A., 1838; LL.B., 1840), he abandoned law for literature. In 1843 he started a literary magazine, the Pioneer, which failed after two issues. The next year Lowell married Maria White, an ardent abolitionist and liberal, who encouraged him in his work. Lowell's Poems (1844, 1846), A Fable for Critics (1848), The Vision of Sir Launfal (1848), and The Bigelow Papers (1848; 2d series, 1867) brought him considerable notice as a poet and critic. The best remembered of these are The Bigelow Papers, political and social lampoons written in Yankee dialect, which established his reputation as a satirist and a wit. The first of these two series of verses expressed opposition to the Mexican War, and the second supported the cause of the North in the Civil War. In 1855, Lowell became professor of modern languages at Harvard, a position he held until 1876. In addition to teaching, he served as first editor (1857–61) of the Atlantic Monthly and later (1864–72) of the North American Review. In his later writings he turned to scholarship and criticism. Collections of his essays and literary studies appeared as Fireside Travels (1864), Among My Books (1870; 2d series, 1876), and My Study Windows (1871). In 1877 he was appointed minister to London, where he remained until 1885. While abroad Lowell did much to increase the respect of foreigners for American letters and American institutions; his speeches in England, published as Democracy and Other Addresses (1887), are among his best work. Lowell's letters (ed. by C. E. Norton, 2 vol., 1893) and New Letters (ed. by M. A. De Wolfe Howe, 1932) remain valuable for their shrewd and lively comments on public affairs and the literary activities of his generation.


See his collected works (12 vol., 1890–92); biographies by H. E. Scudder (2 vol., 1901, repr. 1969) and M. B. Duberman (1966); studies by L. Howard (1952, repr. 1971) and E. C. Wagenknecht (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lowell, James Russell


Born Feb. 22, 1819, in Cambridge, Mass.; died there, Aug. 12, 1891. American poet, critic, and journalist.

From 1857 to 1866, Lowell edited a number of journals that supported abolitionism. Lowell’s two-volume collection of verse pamphlets and feuilletons, The Biglow Papers (1848-67), became widely known. The first series of pamphlets was directed against the aggressive war carried on by the USA against Mexico (1846-48); the second, concerned with the Civil War between North and South, expressed the patriotic feelings of democratic Northerners.

Lowell became a professor at Harvard University in 1855. Between 1864 and 1872 he published a series of critical essays on writers of the past, including Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare. Toward the end of his life, conservative elements in Lowell’s social and political views became stronger.


Complete Writings, vols. 1-16. Cambridge, 1904.
In Russian translation:
“Stansy o svobode.” In the anthology Sever. Arkhangelsk, 1957. No. 18. Translated by V. Fedotov.
“Svatovstvo.” In Amerikanskie poety. Moscow, 1969. Translated by M. Zenkevich.


Istoriia amerikanskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow, 1947.
Brooks, V. W. Pisatel’ i amerikanskaia zhizn’. vol. 1. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from English.)
McGlinchee, C. J. R. Lowell. New York [1967].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lowell, James Russell

(1819–91) editor, diplomat, poet; born in Cambridge, Mass. He studied at Harvard (B.A. 1838; L.L.B. 1840), became an editor (1843), and was a staunch abolitionist and opponent of the war in Mexico. He taught intermittently at Harvard (1855–86), was the first editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1857–61), and became the ambassador to Spain (1877–80) and England (1880–85). His derivative serious poetry is largely forgotten today, but his satiric verse in The Biglow Papers (1st series, 1848; 2nd series, 1867) and A Fable for Critics (1848) provides a still lively memento of his times.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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