Poet. Among his most famous works are "Evangeline" (1847), "The Song of Hiawatha" (1855) and "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (1858). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a Portland lawyer and congressman. His mother Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow was descended from Priscilla and John Alden of Mayflower fame. Young Henry was a bookish lad, who wrote his first poem, "The Battle of Lovell's Pond," and had it published in the ‘Portland Gazette' when he was thirteen. Longfellow's translation of Horace earned him a scholarship at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. When Henry was a senior at Bowdoin he became intrigued by the chair of modern languages just established by the college. Longfellow asked if he could become the first professor, with the understanding that he should be given a period of time after graduation in which to travel and study in Europe before assuming the professorship. His request was granted. So after graduating, he traveled in Italy, France and Spain from 1826 to 1829, and returned home to work as a professor of modern languages and librarian at Bowdoin. As was common practice at the time, he had to prepare his own texts for his classes, because no suitable books were otherwise available. He translated a French grammar for his students to use, and edited a collection of French proverbs and a small Spanish reader. In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter, a former schoolmate. In 1834, he was appointed to a professorship at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and once more set out for Europe by way of preparation, traveling with his young wife. The journey ended in tragedy. In Rotterdam, his wife died in 1835, and Longfellow came alone to Cambridge and the new professorship. In 1836 Longfellow began teaching at Harvard, taking lodgings at the historic Craigie House overlooking the Charles River, where General Washington had lived during the Revolutionary War, not knowing at the time that it would be his home for the rest of his life. In time, it passed into the possession of Nathan Appleton. In 1843 Longfellow married Frances Appleton, daughter of Nathan Appleton, and Craigie House was given to the couple as a wedding gift. The marriage was a happy one, and the Longfellow house became a popular place for youngsters to visit and play with the five Longfellow children - two boys and the three girls whom the poet describes in 'The Children's Hour' as "grave Alice and laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair." 'Evangeline' was published in 1847 and was widely acclaimed. To devote more time to his writing, he resigned from his professorship in 1854 and the next year published his best-known narrative poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," which gained immediate success. 'Hiawatha' caused such great excitement because for the first time in American literature, Native American themes gained recognition as sources of imagination, power, and originality. The appeal of 'Hiawatha' for generations of children and young people gives it an enduring place in world literature. Longfellow's happy family life came to an end in 1861, when his second wife Frances died tragically from burns received when her dress caught fire from a lighted match. The following years were filled with honors. He received honorary degrees at the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge, was invited to Windsor by Queen Victoria, and called by request upon the Prince of Wales. He was chosen a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and of the Spanish Academy. The poet's 70th birthday in 1877 was celebrated nationwide. When it became necessary to remove "the spreading chestnut tree" of Brattle Street, which Longfellow had written about in his 'The Village Blacksmith', the children of Cambridge gave their pennies to build a chair out of wood from the tree and presented it to Longfellow. Longfellow died in Cambridge on March 24, 1882. In London, his marble image is seen in Westminster Abbey, in the Poet's Corner.
Bio by: Edward Parsons