Monday, February 27, 2017

Born Today February 27: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Legendary poet and writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on this day in Portland, Maine (then part of Massachusetts).  His father was a prominent lawyer and his maternal grandfather was a revolutionary war veteran and had served as a member of Congress.  He was the second of eight children.  At the age of six he was enrolled in the private Portland Academy, where he was reported to be an excellent student and a fast learner of Latin.  His mother encouraged his passion for reading, steering him toward works of literature.  His first poem was published in 1820, when he was only 13 years of age.  By the age of 15 he enrolled in Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.  It was here that he met life-long friend and fellow literary writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.  After a time, he got involved with politics on campus, enrolling in the Peucinian Society, a group of students with Federalist ideals.  Between this time and the time of his graduation, he wrote and submitted poems to magazines and newspapers for publication.  By the time of his graduation in 1825, he had managed to get some 40 of them published.  He graduated 4th in his class, had been elected to the fraternity Phi Beta Kappa; as well, he gave the commencement address at the graduation ceremony.  After his graduation, he embarked on a learning tour of Europe.  While there, he learned Spanish, Portuguese, French and German with very little formal study.  He returned to his Alma mater to teach in 1829; while teaching there, he translated works from Spanish, French and Italian; with his first book publication coming in 1833, which was a manuscript of Jorge Manrique's work, a medieval Spanish poet, whom he translated into English.  He also published a travel book during this time.  Longfellow married for the first time in 1833, and in 1834 he was offered a job at Harvard.  By this time, he had published several works of fiction and non-fiction.  The job a Harvard was a professorship of modern languages, and a stipulation for the job was that he should spend a year abroad studying before assuming the professorship.  He returned to Europe and made a broad study of various Germanic languages, that included German proper, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Icelandic, with the addition of Finnish (which is a non-Indo-European language).  While he was there, his wife died of complications from a miscarriage.  He returned to the United State in 1836, to take up his teaching duties at Harvard, taking up residence in Cambridge.  He married for a second time in 1843, the marriage would produce 6 children.  Though, his second wife would die tragically in 1861, after an accident that caused her dress to catch fire.  He is said to have never fully recovered from her death.  He did, however, continue to write and translate throughout the remainder of his life.  Such was the reach of his popularity in readers of literature, that his work first appeared in a motion picture scenario before the turn of the 20th century.  The first film to feature his work came in 1897 with The Village Blacksmith.  The next film to use his work for a film scenario came in 1903 with Hiawatha, which is unfortunately a lost film, though stills still exist.  Dozens of films (most of them shorts and based on his poem "Hiawatha") were produced from his work during the silent era; the last of which was a partial silent:  Evangeline (1929) based on his poem of the same name.  The first film produced after the introduction of talkies based on work came in 1936 with The White Angel.  The most recent film to utilized his work for a film concept came in 2011 with the short Snowflakes--a 2 minute audio-visual film based on his poem of the same name. Longfellow died, surrounded by his family, after a brief, but severe, bout of peritonitis in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 24.  He was 75 years old. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, along with his two wives.

For More:

Leave Virtual Flowers @ Find A Grave (note: the site gives the wrong information as to his place of burial, he is not buried, even in part, at Westminster Abbey in the UK.)

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