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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 1: Longfellow as a classic (search)
iting poets would be to inspect books of selections made in Great Britain out of this class. I find two such lying near at hand; the first is Pen and Pencil Pictures from the Poets, published by William P. Nimmo at Edinburgh, containing fifty-six poems in all, each with a full-page illustration, generally by Scottish artists. Of these selections, six are taken from Longfellow, five each from Wordsworth and Thomson, and three each from Shakespeare, Burns, and Moore. Of other American poets Bryant and Willis alone appear, each with one contribution. Another such book is Words from the Poets; selected for the use of parochial schools and libraries. To this the leading contributors are Wordsworth (twenty-one), Longfellow (eighteen), Cowper (eleven), and Tennyson (nine), the whole number of contributors being forty-three. Such statistics could be easily multiplied; indeed, it will be readily admitted that no American poet can be compared to Longfellow in the place occupied by his poe
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 3: first Flights in authorship (search)
up to that time. The authors represented were Bryant, Longfellow, Percival, Dawes, Mellen, and Jonens being always designated by his initials and Bryant's with a perhaps more dignified B., denoting oy established, so that a hint was sufficient. Bryant's poems, it must be owned, are in this case vesame page, Longfellow's Autumnal Nightfall and Bryant's Song of the Grecian Amazon; Longfellow's Italian Scenery and Bryant's To a Cloud; Longfellow's Lunatic Girl and Bryant's The Murdered Traveller.Bryant's The Murdered Traveller. United States Literary Gazette, i. 237, 267, 286. How the older poet was impressed by the work of ery small space. It is to be remembered that Bryant had previously published in book form, in 1821lled by our surprise, it says, when we took up Bryant's poems, listened to the uncommon melody of thentioned in the Galaxy on a level with that of Bryant and Percival. The leadership of Bryant was ofBryant was of course unquestioned at that period, and Longfellow many years after acknowledged to that poet his i[3 more...]
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 6: marriage and life at Brunswick (search)
1, 1832) the introduction to his Phi Beta Kappa poem, and during the following year published a volume of poetical translations from the Spanish; thus imitating Bryant, then in some ways his model, who had derived so much of his inspiration from the Spanish muse. It is not unreasonable to recognize something of his young wife'sining of a poet's wife. It is a touching accidental coincidence that one of the poems most emphatically marked is one of the few American poems in these volumes, Bryant's Death of the Flowers, especially the last verse, which describes a woman who died in her youthful beauty. To these are added books of maturer counsel, as Miss With this as a concluding volume, it will be seen that Mary Potter's mind had some fitting preparation for her husband's companionship, and that the influence of Bryant in poetry, and of Austin, the precursor of Hawthorne, in prose, may well have lodged in her mind the ambition, which was always making itself visible in her husba
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 7: the corner stone laid (search)
, its gloomy misanthropist in song, and that even Wordsworth, in some respects an antidote to Byron, was as yet a very unsafe model for imitation; and he farther points out how invariably those who have imitated him have fallen into tedious mannerisms. He ends with a moral, perhaps rather tamely stated: We hope, however, that ere long some one of our most gifted bards will throw his fetters off, and relying on himself alone, fathom the recesses of his own mind, and bring up rich pearls from the secret depths of thought. lb. 78. The true glory of a nation—this is his final attitude—is moral and intellectual preeminence; thus distinctly foreshadowing the title of his friend Charles Sumner's later oration, The True Grandeur of Nations. American literature had undoubtedly begun to exist before this claim was made, as in the prose of Irving and Cooper, the poetry of Dana and Bryant. But it had awaited the arrival of some one to formulate its claims, and this it found in Longfell
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 9: illness and death of Mrs. Longfellow (search)
Peace! peace! she is not dead, she does not sleep! She has awakened from the dream of life. With my most affectionate remembrance to Eliza and Margaret, and my warmest sympathies with you all, very truly yours, Henry W. Longfellow. On the 2d of December the young husband left Rotterdam for Heidelberg. There he spent the winter, like Paul Flemming of Hyperion, and buried himself in old dusty books. He met many men who interested him, Schlosser, Gervinus, and Mittermaier, and also Bryant, the poet, from his own country, whom he saw for the first time. An added sorrow came to hi in the death of his brother-in-law and dearest friend, George W. Pierce, He the young and strong, as he afterwards wrote in his Footsteps of Angels; but in accordance with the advice of his friend Ticknor he absorbed himself in intellectual labor, taking the direction of a careful study of German literature This he traced from its foundations down to Jean Paul Richter, who was for him, as for many ot
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 11: Hyperion and the reaction from it (search)
ngthened at every point by the example of his classmate Hawthorne, so he may have learned much, though not immediately, through the warning unconsciously given by Bryant, against the perils of undue moralizing. Bryant's early poem, To a Water-Fowl, was as profound in feeling and as perfect in structure as anything of Longfellow'sBryant's early poem, To a Water-Fowl, was as profound in feeling and as perfect in structure as anything of Longfellow's, up to the last verse, which some profane critic compared to a tin kettle of moralizing, tied to the legs of the flying bird. Whittier's poems had almost always some such appendage, and he used to regret in later life that he had not earlier been contented to leave his moral for the reader to draw, or in other words, to lop off habitually the last verse of each poem. Apart from this there was a marked superiority, even on the didactic side, in Longfellow's moralizing as compared with Bryant's. There is no light or joy in the Thanatopsis; but Longfellow, like Whittier, was always hopeful. It was not alone that he preached, as an eminent British critic
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 12: voices of the night (search)
emembered that he was, if this were all, in some degree preceded by Bryant, who had opened the doors of Spanish romance to young Americans eveical extremes there was needed a voice for simplicity. Undoubtedly Bryant had an influence in the same direction of simplicity. But Bryant sBryant seemed at first curiously indifferent to Longfellow. Voices of the Night was published in 1839, and there appeared two years after, in 1841, a volume entitled Selections from the American Poets, edited by Bryant, in which he gave eleven pages each to Percival and Carlos Wilcox, nine sible to interpret this proportion as showing that admiration which Bryant seems to have attributed to himself five years later when he wrote ns to the elder bard and always keeping by him the first edition of Bryant's poems, published in 1821. Both poets were descended from a commoilla Mullins, whose story Longfellow has told. Bigelow's Life of Bryant, p. 3. Thus much for first experiences with the world of reader
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 23: Longfellow as a poet (search)
was his rule to do his best in polishing a poem before printing it, but afterwards to leave it untouched, on the principle that the readers of a poem acquired a right to the poet's work in the form they had learned to love. He thought also that Bryant and Whittier hardly seemed happy in these belated revisions, and mentioned especially Bryant's Water-Fowl, As darkly limned upon the ethereal sky, where Longfellow preferred the original reading painted on. It is, however, rare to find a poeBryant's Water-Fowl, As darkly limned upon the ethereal sky, where Longfellow preferred the original reading painted on. It is, however, rare to find a poet who can carry out this principle of abstinence, at least in his own verse, and we know too surely that Longfellow was no exception; thus we learn that he had made important alterations in the Golden Legend within a few weeks of publication. These things show that his remark to Mr. Lawton does not tell quite the whole story. As with most poets, his alterations were not always improvements. Thus, in The Wreck of the Hesperus, he made the fourth verse much more vigorous to the ear as it was o
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Chapter 24: Longfellow as a man (search)
will perhaps be found, as time goes on, that the greatest service rendered by Longfellow—beyond all personal awakening or stimulus exerted on his readers—was that of being the first conspicuous representative, in an eminently practical and hard-working community, of the literary life. One of a circle of superior men, he was the only one who stood for that life purely and supremely, and thus vindicated its national importance. Among his predecessors, Irving had lived chiefly in Europe, and Bryant in a newspaper office. Among his immediate friends, Holmes stood for exact science, Lowell and Whittier for reform, Sumner for statesmanship, Emerson for spiritual and mystic values; even the shy Hawthorne for public functions at home and abroad. Here was a man whose single word, sent forth from his quiet study, reached more hearts in distant nations than any of these, and was speedily reproduced in the far-off languages of the world. Considered merely as an antidote to materialism, such
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Index (search)
ne Pierre, 47. Besse, 239. Bierstadt, Mr., 221. Bigelow, John, his Life of Bryant, cited, 146 note. Blackwood's Magazine, 194. Blair, Robert, 62. Booth, Jes A., 125. Bruges, 161. Brunswick, Me., 18, 64, 69, 82, 100, 163. Bryant, William C., 8, 23, 60, 62, 64, 80, 112, 142, 265, 294; his early poems compared with23; selections appear in Miscellaneous Poems, 23; his early poems compared with Bryant's, 24-26; one of his poems attributed to Bryant, 27; involuntary imitation of BBryant, 27; involuntary imitation of Bryant, 27; contributes articles in Irving's style, 27; letter to, from Jared Sparks, declining article, 29, 30; his Our Native Writers, 30-36; graduates from Bowdoin,Bryant, 27; contributes articles in Irving's style, 27; letter to, from Jared Sparks, declining article, 29, 30; his Our Native Writers, 30-36; graduates from Bowdoin, 37; literature his definite purpose, 37; writes to his father about his profession, 38-40, 41, 43; father's reply, 40, 41; first visit to Europe to prepare for Bowdo 137; letter about Hyperion, 139,140; criticisms of, 141-143; his relation with Bryant, 145,146; social side, 146, 147; costume of, 147; suggestions for poems, 149,