Public Poet, Private Man

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200
A portrait of Longfellow as professional author, devoted friend, and family man


The most popular American poet of his day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was a multiculturalist before the term was invented. He passionately believed in the value of foreign travel and conceived of American literature as deeply “transatlantic.” A polyglot poet-scholar, the first American to translate Dante’s entire Divine Comedy, he was also a hands-on, unconventional father who produced numerous Edward Lear–like drawings for the entertainment of his children.

Based on an exhibition at Harvard’s Houghton Library and originally published as a special issue of the Harvard Library Bulletin, this volume offers an innovative view of the poet’s personal life, his connection with his audience, and his efforts to add an international dimension to American literature. Profusely illustrated with manuscripts, drawings, and photographs from the extensive collections of Houghton Library and the Longfellow National Historic Site, it demonstrates how intensely involved Longfellow was in family, fatherhood, and friendship. It also shows how these supposedly “private” aspects of his life constantly intersected with the more public aspects of his understanding of authorship, his collaborative projects, and his commitment to his readers. The result is a vivid introduction to Longfellow’s world.

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