The Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell: With Illustrations (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell: With Illustrations

Mrs. Harriet Spence Lowell, the poet's mother, was of Scotch origin, a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She is described as having a great memory, an extraordinary aptitude for language, and a pas sionate fondness for ancient songs and ballads. It pleased her to fancy herself descended from the hero of one of the most famous bal lads, Sir Patrick Spens, and at any rate she made a genuine link in the Poetic Succession. In a letter to his mother, written in 1837, Lowell says [am engaged in several poetical sfiusions, one of which I have dedicated to you, who have always been the patron and encourager of my youthful muse. The Russell in his name seems to intimate a strain of J swish ancestry at any rate Lowell took pride in the name on this account, for he was not slow to recognize the intellectual power of the Hebrew race. He was the youngest of a family of five, two daughters and three sons.

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James Russell Lowell (February 22, 1819 - August 12, 1891) was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers. But Lowell's real strengths as a writer are better found in his prose essays than in his verse. A man great in literary learning (he was professor of belles-lettres at Harvard College for many years), wise and passionate in his commitments, he was a great upholder of tradition and value. His essays on the great writers of England and Europe still endure, distinguished not only by their astute insights into the literary classics of Western culture, but also by their spectacular style and stunning wit. Lowell graduated from Harvard College in 1838 and went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. He published his first collection of poetry in 1841. Nor was Lowell merely a dweller in an ivory tower. In his youth, he worked passionately for the cause of abolition, risking his literary reputation for a principle that he saw as absolute. In his middle years, he was founding editor of the Atlantic Monthly and guided it during its early years toward its enormous success. In his final years, this great example of American character and style represented the United States first as minister to Spain (1877--80), and afterwards to Great Britain (1880--85). Lowell was married twice: First to the poet Mary White Lowell, who died of tuberculosis, and second to Frances Dunlap. He died on August 12, 1891, at his home, Elmwood. He was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

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