Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was an American poet best remembered for the patriotic “Paul Revere’s Ride.” He was also the first American to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into English. Born and raised in Maine, Longfellow attended Bowdoin College, where he befriended fellow writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Following his graduation, Longfellow spent three years traveling in Europe, learning languages and meeting Washington Irving, who encouraged the young man to pursue a career in writing. For the next several years, he taught at Bowdoin, before accepting a similar position at Harvard shortly after the publication of his first book.
The first of Longfellow’s original poetry appeared in 1839. In 1841, his Ballads and Other Poems appeared, containing classic works such as “The Village Blacksmith,” and “The Wreck of the Hesperus.” In 1842 he published Poems on Slavery, his public support for abolition.
In 1861, his wife died from burns received after her dress caught fire. Longfellow, whose burned face caused him to adopt his characteristic beard, fell into a deep depression and began using laudanum. Returning to work, he began his translation of Dante, which finally appeared in 1867.
Longfellow became the most popular writer in America for a period of time, earning him both critical praise and unprecedented salary for his work. He died in 1882 from peritonitis and was buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.