Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On this date in 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Maine, the son of an attorney, who was also a member of Congress. Longfellow's mother was a descendant of John Alden of the Mayflower. Henry began writing poems at 13. He graduated from Bowdoin College, where classmates included Nathaniel Hawthorne. Longfellow traveled widely, married twice (both wives dying tragically), and became professor of modern languages at Harvard. He was the 19th century's most popular American poet ("I shot an arrow into the air"). His poems included "The Village Blacksmith" and "Paul Revere's Ride," as well as "Evangeline" (1847) and "The Song of Hiawatha" (1855). William Ellery Channing reputedly said of Longfellow, a lifelong Unitarian, that "he did not belong to any one sect but rather to the community of those free minds who loved the truth." D. 1882

“I think that as he grew older his hold upon anything like a creed weakened, though he remained of the Unitarian philosophy concerning Christ. He did not latterly go to church.”

—Friend W.D. Howells, writing about Longfellow (Literary Friends and Acquaintance, 1901. p. 202). Cited in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, by Joseph McCabe.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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