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White Mr. Longfellow, the (from Literary Friends and Acquaintance)   By: (1837-1920)

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In "White Mr. Longfellow," William Dean Howells offers readers a captivating exploration of the life and work of one of America's most beloved poets. With grace and eloquence, Howells takes us on a journey through the personal and literary world of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, shedding light on his character, influences, and the societal context in which he thrived.

One of the most commendable aspects of this book is Howells' ability to seamlessly blend biography and criticism. He not only presents us with a comprehensive overview of Longfellow's life but also delves into the intricate nuances of his poetry. Howells offers insightful analysis, drawing our attention to the deeper meaning and craftsmanship behind Longfellow's verses. In doing so, he allows readers to appreciate the poet on a deeper level, encouraging them to revisit his works with a fresh perspective.

Furthermore, Howells reveals Longfellow's profound influence on the literary landscape of the time. By situating Longfellow within the context of his contemporaries, Howells paints a vivid picture of the literary and cultural milieu that shaped the poet's writing. Through his meticulous research and engaging narrative, the author provides readers with a broader understanding of the historical significance of Longfellow's work and its lasting impact on American literature.

While the book primarily focuses on Longfellow, Howells also introduces us to other notable figures in the poet's life. Whether it is his wife, Fanny, or his close friend and fellow writer, Charles Sumner, Howells explores the relationships that shaped Longfellow's creative journey. These secondary characters add depth and complexity to the narrative, allowing readers to grasp the intricate web of personal and professional connections that helped mold Longfellow into the iconic poet we know today.

One minor drawback of "White Mr. Longfellow" is its occasional forays into tangential historical anecdotes. While these diversions can be intriguing and informative, they sometimes detract from the primary focus of the book – Longfellow himself. However, given the compelling nature of the anecdotes and their relevance to the broader context, this can be seen as a minor flaw in an otherwise engaging read.

In conclusion, William Dean Howells' "White Mr. Longfellow" is a remarkable exploration of the life and work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Through a skillful blend of biography and criticism, Howells paints a vivid portrait of the poet, shedding light on his influences, character, and literary significance. This book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of one of America's most celebrated literary figures.

First Page:


by William Dean Howells


We had expected to stay in Boston only until we could find a house in Old Cambridge. This was not so simple a matter as it might seem; for the ancient town had not yet quickened its scholarly pace to the modern step. Indeed, in the spring of 1866 the impulse of expansion was not yet visibly felt anywhere; the enormous material growth that followed the civil war had not yet begun. In Cambridge the houses to be let were few, and such as there were fell either below our pride or rose above our purse. I wish I might tell how at last we bought a house; we had no money, but we were rich in friends, who are still alive to shrink from the story of their constant faith in a financial future which we sometimes doubted, and who backed their credulity with their credit. It is sufficient for the present record, which professes to be strictly literary, to notify the fact that on the first day of May, 1866, we went out to Cambridge and began to live in a house which we owned in fee if not in deed, and which was none the less valuable for being covered with mortgages. Physically, it was a carpenter's box, of a sort which is readily imagined by the Anglo American genius for ugliness, but which it is not so easy to impart a just conception of... Continue reading book >>

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