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The Biglow Papers   By: (1819-1891)

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The Biglow Papers by James Russell Lowell is a thought-provoking and deeply satirical collection of poems that explore the themes of politics, war, and society in mid-19th century America. Through the use of clever wordplay, witty humor, and biting commentary, Lowell offers a scathing critique of the government and the individuals who shape it.

One of the distinguishing features of The Biglow Papers is its unique format. Presented as a series of letters and verses written by fictional characters, the collection takes the form of social and political commentary from the perspective of Ezekiel Biglow, a simple countryman. This narrative structure allows Lowell to express his criticisms in an accessible and relatable manner, effectively conveying his ideas to a wider audience.

The poems within The Biglow Papers cover a wide range of topics, but the central focus is on the Mexican-American War and its aftermath. By using satire, Lowell sheds light on the negative consequences of war, questioning the motives behind it and criticizing those who profit from it. His witty and ironic verses expose the hypocrisy and corruption of politicians, highlighting the stark divide between their actions and their lofty rhetoric.

Beyond its political themes, The Biglow Papers also tackles societal issues prevalent in Lowell's time. The poet skillfully explores the class divide and the struggles of the working class, offering insights into the economic disparities and social injustices of mid-19th century America. Through Ezekiel Biglow's voice, Lowell gives voice to the common man, raising important questions about the true nature of democracy and equality.

What makes The Biglow Papers particularly enjoyable is Lowell's masterful use of language. His deliberate choice of dialect and colloquial expressions adds depth and authenticity to the characters, immersing readers in the world he creates. The meter and rhythm of the verses create an engaging and lively reading experience, captivating the audience and enhancing the impact of the satirical messages.

While The Biglow Papers is undoubtedly a brilliant work, it can be challenging to fully appreciate without some knowledge of the historical context in which it was written. Readers unfamiliar with mid-19th century American politics may find certain references and allusions difficult to grasp, preventing them from fully understanding the depth of Lowell's social and political critiques. However, with a little research and patience, readers will find that the reward is well worth the effort.

In conclusion, The Biglow Papers by James Russell Lowell is a powerful and incisive collection of poems that offers a scathing critique of politics, war, and society. Through its unique format, clever wordplay, and biting satire, the collection sheds light on the flaws and hypocrisies of mid-19th century America. While some readers may find the historical context challenging, those willing to dive into this impactful work will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the complexities of their own time, as well as a reminder of the enduring power of satire and critical thinking.

First Page:






Reprinted, with the Author's Sanction, from the Last American Edition.


Transcriber's Note

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect spellings, contractions and discrepancies have been retained.

Greek words have been transliterated and are shown between {braces}.

The carat symbol [^] has been used to note 'superscript', and three asterisks [] represent an inverted asterism. The following less common characters have been transcribed as follows:

[)a] a with breve [=a] a with macron [oe] oe ligature


In order to avoid any misconception, the Publishers think it advisable to announce that the present Edition of the "Biglow Papers" is issued with the express sanction of the Author, granted by letter, from which the following is an extract:

"CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, 14th September, 1859 ... Continue reading book >>

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