James Russell Lowell

On this date in 1819, James Russell Lowell was born in Massachusetts, the son of a Unitarian minister. Poet Lowell ("And what is so rare as a day in June?") comprised one of the "Fireside Poets" with Longfellow, Whittier and Holmes. Lowell earned his B.A. in 1838 and his L.L.B. in 1840 from Harvard. An ardent abolitionist, he left law for literature, editing several journals. He was the first editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1857-61) and edited the progressive The North American Review (1864-72). A professor at Harvard for nearly 20 years, he also served as a minister to Spain and Great Britain. The poet wrote A Fable for Critics (1848), The Bigelow Papers (1848, 1867), and The Vision of Sir Launfal (1848). Although Lowell's poetry contains religious views that were conventionally 19th century Unitarian, rationalist biographer Joseph McCabe suggests that, based on his later remarks, Lowell became agnostic. In Democracy and Addresses, Lowell advised: "There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat." D. 1891.

“Toward no crimes have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.”

—James Russell Lowell, Literary Essays, Witchcraft, Vol. II, p. 374 (1891)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Everett Historical, Shutterstock.com

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