Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life

TUE, FEB 8, 2005 (54:22)

Charles C. Calhoun shows how the young poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow blended the Federalist politics and Unitarianism of his parents' generation with the German romanticism he discovered on his travels. The result was distinctive American poetry, traditional in form, but nationalistic in sentiment. Longfellow's Paul Revere, Priscilla Alden, Miles Standish, and the Village Blacksmith became American icons. And in his masterpiece, Evangeline, Longfellow invented the foundational myth of Acadian and Cajun ethnic identity.

Calhoun's Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life is a Victorian family saga. As a young man from the provinces, Longfellow gained international celebrity and great wealth; yet his life was afflicted by chronic melancholy, by the tragic deaths of two beloved wives, by a spendthrift son, and by a self-destructive brother.

A procession of vivid characters walks through the pages of Calhoun's book, from the poet's Revolutionary War grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, to his friends and acquaintances, including Hawthorne, Emerson, Charles Sumner, Dickens, Carlyle, Fanny Butler, Queen Victoria, and Oscar Wilde.

Boston Athenaeum
Longfellow's Bicentennial Series