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ch. We may assume that is the reason why Lowell admired them; but Lowell was also too critical and polemic to be wholly a poet,--except on certain occasions. In 1847 he published the Fable for critics, the keenest piece of poetical satire since Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, --keen and even saucy, but perfectly good-humored. About the same time he commenced his Biglow Papers, which did not wholly cease until 1866, and were the most incisive and aggressive anti-slavery literaturerved as the ground-work of Homer's mighty epic; Virgil followed in similar lines; Dante would never have been famous but for the Guelph and Ghibeline struggle. Shakespeare's plays are full of war and fighting; and the wars of Napoleon stimulated Byron, Schiller, and Goethe to the best efforts of their lives. In dealing with men like Emerson, Longfellow, and Lowell, who were the intellectual leaders of their time, it is impossible to escape their influence in the antislavery movement, and its
B. F. Butler (search for this): chapter 6
fund of wit and good spirits, and the two together served to make him very popular-perhaps too much so for his immediate good. His father had great hopes of his promising son,--that he would prove a fine scholar and take a prominent part in the commencement exercises. He even offered the boy a reward of two hundred dollars in case this should happen; but the attractions of student and social life proved too strong for James. He was quick at languages, but slow in mathematics, and as for Butler's analogy he cannot be blamed for the aversion with which he regarded it. He writes a letter in which he confesses to peeping over the professor's shoulder to see what marks have been given for his recitations, so that his father's exhortation would seem at one time to have been seriously felt by him; but the effort did not last long, and we find him repeatedly reprimanded for neglect of college duties. He did not live the life of a roaring blade, but more like the humming-bird that darts
at this time, but, on the contrary, would seem to have felt an aversion to him. The following lines in his class poem could not have referred to anyone else: Woe for Religion, too, when men who claim To place a Reverend before their name Ascend the Lord's own holy place to preach In strains that Kneeland had been proud to reach; And which, if measured by Judge Thatcher's scale, Had doomed their author to the county jail! Alas that Christian ministers should dare To preach the views of Gibbon and Voltaire! To confound the strong spiritual assertion of Emerson with the purely negative attitude of the French satirist was a common mistake in those days, and the Lowell of 1838 needs small excuse for it. He must have been in a biting humor at this time, for there is a cut all round in his class poem, although it is the most vigorous and highly-finished production of his academic years. After college came the law, in which he succeeded as well as youthful attorneys commonly do; and
Garibaldi (search for this): chapter 6
badly in America. Readers of Lowell's Fireside travels will have noticed that the first of them is addressed to the Edelmann Story in Rome. The true translation of this expression is Nobleman Story; that is, William W. Story, the sculptor, who modelled the statue of Edward Everett in the Boston public garden. Lowell's biographer, however, does not appear to have been aware of the full significance of this paraphrase of Story's name. When King Bomba II. was expelled from Naples by Garibaldi he retired to Rome with his private possessions, including a large number of oil paintings. Wishing to dispose of some of these, and being aware that Americans paid good prices, he applied to William Story to transact the business for him. This the sculptor did in a satisfactory manner; whereupon King Bomba, instead of rewarding Story with a cheque, conferred on him a patent of nobility. It seems equally strange that Story should have accepted such a dubious honor, and that Lowell should
Edmund Quincy (search for this): chapter 6
plant to another, and gathers sweetness from every flower in the garden. Finally he was rusticated, just after he had been elected poet of his class, with directions not to return until commencement. We recognize the Puritanic severity of President Quincy in this sentence, which robbed young Lowell of the pleasantest term of college life, as well as the honor of appearing on the stage on Class Day. That his poem should have been read by another to the assembled families of his classmates, sen extinct species of mammal from fossil bones. Lowell did not join the Free-soilers, who were now bearing the brunt of the anti-slavery conflict, but attached himself to the more aristocratic wing of the old abolitionists, which was led by Edmund Quincy, Maria Chapman, and L. Maria Child. Lowell was far from being a non-resistant. In fact, he might be called a fighting-man, although he disapproved of duelling; and this served to keep him at a distance from Garrison, of whom he wisely remar
Biglow Papers (search for this): chapter 6
to be an inspiration of the moment; a good foundation to begin with, but which he found afterwards it was necessary to modify. In the preface to one of his Biglow Papers he speaks of his life in Concord as being As lazy as the bream Which only thinks to head up stream. The men whom he chiefly associated with there were namee of poetical satire since Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, --keen and even saucy, but perfectly good-humored. About the same time he commenced his Biglow Papers, which did not wholly cease until 1866, and were the most incisive and aggressive anti-slavery literature of that period. Soon afterwards he wrote The visionficer in the streets of Boston, covered all over with brass let alone that which nature had sot on his countenance, which inspired his writing the first of the Biglow Papers. They were hastily and carelessly written, and Lowell himself held them in slight estimation as literature; but they became immediately popular, as no poetry
Mary Felton (search for this): chapter 6
heir hard outlines; those in the Vatican did him better justice. This idea he may have derived from William Morris Hunt, the Boston portrait-painter. He considered the action of the Niobe group too strenuous to be represented in marble. Miss Mary Felton liked the Niobe statues; so Lowell said, Now come back with me, and I will sit on you. Accordingly we all returned to the Niobe hall, where Lowell lectured us on the statues without, however, entirely convincing Miss Felton. Then we went tMiss Felton. Then we went to the hall in the Uffizi Palace, which is called the Tribune. Mrs. Lowell had never been in the Tribune, where the Venus dea Medici is enshrined; so her husband opened the door wide and said, Now go in --as if he were opening the gates of Paradise. At Bologna he wished to make an excursion into the mountains, but the veturino charged about twice the usual price, and though the man afterwards reduced his demand to a reasonable figure Lowell would not go with him at all, and told him that such
James Russell Lowell (search for this): chapter 6
nt Quincy in this sentence, which robbed young Lowell of the pleasantest term of college life, as weriting for the United States Literary Gazette, Lowell was scribbling verses for an undergraduates' poly bonds of matrimony. The union of James Russell Lowell to Maria White, of Watertown, was the mwho came within the scope of her influence. Lowell himself speaks of her as being considered traneavor. It is said that when they were married Lowell had but five hundred dollars of his own. They d perhaps never will be. A literary venture of Lowell and his friends in 1843, to found a first-rate he lost money by it. See Scudder's Life of Lowell, III.109. However the world might use him read Shelley, and Keats, and Lessing, while Mrs. Lowell studied upon her German translations. The h a sound mind and a sound body, it was James Russell Lowell. Edwin Arnold considered him the bess a poet who shall combine the savoir faire of Lowell with the force of Emerson and the grace and pu[5 more...]
, and felt a deeper, more satisfying happiness. It was much more the ideal life of a poet than that of Thoreau, paddling up and down Concord River in search of the inspiration which only comes when we do not think of it. It may be suspected that he read more literature than law during these years, and we notice that he did not go, like Emerson, to the great fountain-heads of poetry,--to Homer or Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe,--but courted the muse rather among such tributaries as Virgil, Moliere, Chaucer, Keats, and Lessing. It may have been better for him that he began in this manner; but a remark that Scudder attributes to him in regard to Lessing gives us an insight into the deeper mechanism of his mind. Shelley's poetry, he said, was like the transient radiance of St. Elmo's fire, but Lessing was wholly a poet. This is exactly the opposite of the view he held during his college life, for Lessing worked in a methodical and painstaking manner and finished what he wrote with t
E. L. Godkin (search for this): chapter 6
following year, Lowell found himself a grandfather, his daughter having married a gentleman farmer in Worcester county. He was greatly delighted, and wrote to E. L. Godkin, editor of The Nation: If you wish to taste the real bouquet of life, I advise you to procure yourself a grandson, whether by adoption or theft. . . . Get one, and the Nation will no longer offend anybody. Scudder's biography, II., 186. This was a pretty broad hint, but E. L. Godkin was not the man to pay much attention to the advice of Lowell or anybody. In fact, he seems to have won Lowell over after this to his own way of thinking. Lowell certainly became more conshe shrewd device of nominating him as a presidential elector, an honor which he could not very well decline. When the disputed election of Hayes and Tilden came, Godkin proposed that, in order to prevent Mexicanizing the government, one of the Hayes electors should cast his vote for General Bristow, which would throw the election
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