Born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was raised in a Puritan family with three brothers and four sisters. While growing up he kept a good relationship with his family members. Longfellow spent many years in foreign countries to further his horizons. Longfellows solitary life style would not be expected from his extreme success in poetry (Williams, p.26).
Longfellows boyhood home was built by his grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, in 1784-86, and was the first brick house in Portland. As a memorial to the poet, the house is still standing today. Then the house was by the seaside, where Longfellow could hear the rhythmic roar of the ocean. Probably much of his writing for his rhythms in his writing came through his listening to the wind and waves. Longfellow always visited there, especially up to the time of his fathers death in 1849 (Williams, 29).
The life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a mixture of triumph and tragedy, fulfillment and disappointment. His youthful ambitions were all literary, but to please his father he became a teacher. During the eight years he taught language at Bowdoin College and eighteen years at Harvard, he never quit writing. Thirteen of his books were published, including Evangeline (1847), the Poems on Slavery (1842), and The Golden Legend (1851). Longfellow also wrote poems about is family (Evangeline, preface). Longfellows six children were born in Craigie House, and he shared his love for them in The Childrens Hour (1860). When his wife, Mary, died, he commemorated her in the sonnet The Cross of Snow (1879) (Longfellow, p.730).
In 1855, the year after Longfellow gave up teaching for writing, his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote him, No other poet has anything like your vogue(Evangeline, preface).Longfellow was married twice: in 1836, his wife of five years died in childbirth. Seven years later he married Elizabeth Appleton and settled in historic Craigie House, Cambridge.
In a tragic accident she was burned to death in 1861, leaving him with six children to raise. Longfellow overcame his sorrow and continued his work, which was enjoyed throughout America and Europe.
In 1881, the year before his death, his birthday was celebrated in schools all over America. Three years later a bust of Longfellow was unveiled in the Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey (Evangeline, preface).
The records of his early education show that Longfellow was a cautious student, but not much more than the other children in New England Puritan families. He is said to have started school when he was three years old, with his brother Stephen, two years older. By age six he had entered the Portland Academy; apparently he also attended other private schools.
Although Longfellows father was a Harvard graduate, he was determined to send his sons to Bowdoin. Longfellows grandfather, old Judge Longfellow, had been one of the founders of Bowdoin. For a time he was a member of a self-constituted military group call the Bowdoin Cadets, which drilled regularly.
Longfellow spent many years in foreign countries to expand his horizons to further his literary work. After many years of living a solitary lifestyle in a foreign country, he returned to the states to teach.
Henry didnt quit follow the traditional New England Puritan style of marrying as soon as he was well established. It was at the beginning of his third year at Bowdoin before he married. During one of his visits to Portland, Longfellow was struck with the attractiveness of one of three daughters of Judge Barrett Potter.
Mary Potter was five years younger than Longfellow. He began to court her by way of his sister Anne. They were married in September, 1831, when Longfellow was 24. they were married for three years and on November 28, 1835, in Rotterdam, she died of an illness following a miscarriage.
In late summer of 1836, Longfellow met an attractive woman by the name of Fanny Appelton. From the time of their meeting they were romantically interested. Neither were ready to fall in love when they met, Longfellow was still morning the loss of his first wife.
They were eventually married on July 13, 1843, nearly seven years later. Once again Longfellows marriage was ended by the death of his wife. Her death was followed by the deaths of his father (1849), older brother Stephen (1850), and his mother in 1851 (Williams, p.85).
During his eighteen years at Harvard, Longfellow overcame many hardships while continuing to write. With the experiences of foreign cultures, tragic losses, and the influence from the Civil War, Longfellow wrote a variety of poems to make his name known worldwide.
Williams, Cecil B.Henry Wadsworth LongfellowBoston:
Twayne Publishing, 1964.
Longfellow, Henry WadsworthEvangeline.Canada:
Penguin Books Canada Limited, 1964.