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Birth

INTRODUCTION

I

THE MAN AND POET

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born

February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine, in a house still standing and known as "the Longfellow House." His parents, Stephen and Zilpha (Wadsworth) Longfellow were descendants from Yorkshire. families that had come to this country in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Henry, the second son, received his name from a maternal uncle, Henry Wadsworth. The boyhood years of the poet were spent in the beautiful city of Portland, with its charming view across the bay, the mountains at the other side, and Deering's Woods in the outskirts, where the boys of the city spent many Saturday afternoons and holidays. The Life, edited by his brother Samuel, brings before us an interesting picture of the poet's early days at home.

Youth

"Henry is remembered by others as a lively boy, with brown or chestnut hair, blue eyes, a delicate complexion, and rosy cheeks; sensitive, impressionable; active, eager, impetuous, often impatient;

quick-tempered, but as quickly appeased; kind-hearted and affectionate, the sunlight of the house. He had great neatness and love of order. He was always extremely conscientious, 'remarkably solicitous always to do right,' his mother wrote. "True, high-minded and noble, never a mean thought or act,' says his sister; injustice in any shape he could not brook. He was industrious, prompt, and persevering; he went into everything he undertook with great zest."

Inheriting from his mother a very sensitive

Education and romantic imagination and from his father traits of natural courtesy and honesty, Henry Longfellow grew up in a home where books and music were common and where he learned to value fine character, true friends, and good reading. He received his first education at the Portland Academy; at the age of fourteen he entered Bowdoin College, founded twenty years before at Brunswick, and graduated in the class. of 1825, not with great distinction but as one of the honor men of an especially strong class. That for some time the question of a profession had been occupying his mind is attested by a letter which he wrote to his father in December before he graduated and which revealed interestingly the aspiration of the young collegian.

Profession

"I take this early opportunity to write you, because I wish to follow fully your inclina

tion with regard to the profession I am to pursue when I leave college. For my part I have already hinted to you what would best please me. I want to spend a year at Cambridge for the purpose of reading history and of becoming familiar with the best authors of polite literature; whilst at the same time I can be acquiring a knowledge of the Italian language, without an acquaintance with which I shall be shut out from one of the most beautiful departments of letters. The French. I mean to understand pretty thoroughly before I leave college. After leaving Cambridge I would attach myself to some literary periodical publication, by which I could maintain myself and still enjoy the advantages of reading. Now, I do not think that there is anything visionary or chimerical in my plan thus far. The fact is and I will not disguise it in the least, for I think I ought not the fact is, I most eagerly aspire after future eminence in literature; my whole soul burns most ardently for it, and every earthly thought centres in it. There may be something visionary in this, but I flatter myself that I have prudence enough to keep my enthusiasm from defeating its own object by too great haste. Surely there was never a better opportunity offered for the exertion of literary talent in our own country than is now offered.

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"Whether Nature has given me any capacity for knowledge or not, she has at any rate given me a

very strong predilection for literary pursuits, and I am almost confident in believing that, if I can ever rise in this world, it must be by the exercise of my talent in the wide field of literature. With such a belief, I must say that I am unwilling to engage in the study of law." To this letter the father replied, discouraging the proposed literary career, but approving the plan of the year at Cambridge.

First appointment

Immediately upon graduation, Longfellow received the appointment to the recently created department of Modern Language at Bowdoin, with the permission to spend the year abroad in travel and study. The remainder of the year 1826 he spent in France; then eight months in Spain, a year in Italy, and half a year in Germany brought him back, eager and enthusiastic for the new work in the autumn of 1829. His lectures covered the various modern languages, Italian, Spanish, and French, and were prepared and delivered with the genuine ardor of a young romanticist. As a pioneer in the study and teaching of modern, foreign literature, he was compelled to compile his own text-books, collect a library, and stimulate interest in a new field. Endowed naturally with a fine faculty for translative work, and equipped by training with the knowledge of several languages, the young instructor soon won a more than local reputation.

Marriage and

In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter, Harvard daughter of Judge Barrett Potter, of PortAppointment land. The two had been schoolmates when they were children, but had scarcely seen each other since childhood. The next three years were a season of great happiness to the young writer. His college life was going successfully and the poet looked forward to a clearer expression of himself in a more definite form than teaching. It was not strange then that he soon felt the restrictions of the little college and began to look elsewhere. Fortune favored him and threw in his way the best offer that could come to him, the professorship of Modern Languages at Harvard, a position that was then held by the distinguished historian and critic, George Ticknor. Longfellow gladly accepted the appointment and also the proposition that he might go to Europe for a year or more to study.

His trip, beginning in April, 1835, was In Europe marked with great sorrow, for after a year in England and Norway and Sweden they crossed to Holland, where Mrs. Longfellow died, November 29, 1835. After one more year in Germany and Switzerland, he returned in October, 1836, prepared to enter upon his new work at Cambridge. He secured lodgings in the famous Craigie House and settled down to the routine of academic instruction. The story of Longfellow's going to live in the Craigie House is most

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