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[247] A brief-lived literary magazine, Putnam's monthly, in 1853-54 had given place to one or two of his best known essays, and a new literary enterprise, The Atlantic monthly, in 1857 gave further opportunity for his prose. Lowell was editor of the new magazine for two years and a regular contributor of reviews and articles until 1863, when he joined with Charles Eliot Norton in editing The North American review. For the next dozen years his essays both political and literary appeared mainly in this review.

During the Civil War, Lowell's chief contributions to poetry were the new series of Biglow papers which began in the Atlantic in 1861. It was not until the war was over that the great themes of national triumph through sacrifice called forth the four memorial odes. Miscellaneous verse of the preceding twenty years was collected in Under the Willows (1868); but the odes and longer poems, as The Cathedral (1870), Agassiz (1874), best represent both the emotional impulses that followed the war and the maturity of Lowell's art.

The political interests which had engaged much of his prose writing before and during the war had not interrupted his increasing devotion to the study and criticism of literature. He had been directing his attention less to contemporary letters and more to the masters of English and to a few of the masters of foreign literature, notably Dante. The result of these studies was a long succession of essays which make up the volumes Among My books (1870), My study Windows (1871), and Among My books, second series (1876). It is these books which are his main contributions to literary criticism.

Lowell and his wife spent two years (1872-74) in Europe, and after a brief resumption of his professorship he was appointed minister to Spain in 1877, and in 1880 was transferred to England. After his retirement in 1885 he spent a considerable part of his time in England until his death in 1891. The mission was a recognition of his distinction not merely as a man of letters but as a representative of the best American culture, and this distinction Lowell maintained in a number of addresses on both literary and political themes, represented by the volume Democracy and other addresses (1886). Although his poetry became infrequent there was enough for annual volume, Heartsease and Rue, in 1880.

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