Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On this date in 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, 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. He started writing poems at 13 and 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. 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.” A father of six children, he died at age 75 in 1882.

PHOTO: Longfellow, circa 1850.

Freedom From Religion Foundation