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kindled his spirit and gave force and direction to a character which was ready to respond, and yet might otherwise have delayed active expression. They were not inarried until 1844; but they were not far apart in their homes, and during these years Lowell was making those early ventures in literature, and first raids upon political and moral evil, which foretold the direction of his later work, and gave some hint of its abundance.
About the time of his marriage, he published two books which, by their character, show pretty well the divided interest of his life. His bent from the beginning was more decidedly literary than that of any contemporary American poet. That is to say, the history and art of literature divided his interest with the production of literature, and he carried the unusual gift of a rare critical power, joined to hearty spontaneous creation. It may indeed be guessed that the keenness of judgment and incisiveness of wit which characterize his examination of literature sometimes interfered with his poetic power, and made him liable to question his art when he would rather have expressed it unchecked. One of the two books was a volume of poems; the other was a prose work, Conversations on Some of the Old Poets. He did not keep this book alive; but it is interesting as marking the enthusiasm of a young scholar treading a way then almost wholly neglected in America, and intimating a line of thought and study in which he afterward made most noteworthy venture. Another series of poems followed in 1848, and in the same year The Vision of Sir Launfal. Perhaps it was in reaction from the marked sentiment of his poetry that he issued now a jeu d'esprit, A Fable for Critics, in which he hit off, with a rough and ready wit, the characteristics of the writers of the day, not forgetting himself.
The portrait of himself, thus drawn, is but half serious, and it touches but a single feature ; others can say better that Lowell's ardent nature showed itself in the series of satirical poems which made him famous, The Biglow Papers, written in a spirit of indignation and fine scorn, when the Mexican War was causing many Americans to blush with shame at the use of the country by a class for its own ignoble ends. Lowell and his wife, who brought a fervid anti-slavery temper as part of her marriage portion, were both contributors to the Liberty Bell ; and Lowell was a frequent contributor to the Anti-Slavery Standard, end was, indeed, for a while a corresponding editor. In June, 1846,
there appeared one day in the Boston Courier a letter from Mr. Ezekiel Biglow of Jaalam to the editor, Hon. Joseph T. Backingham, inclosing a poem of his son, Mr. Hosea Biglow. It was no new thing to seek to arrest the public attention with the vernacular applied to public affairs. Major Jack Downing and Sam Slick had been notable examples, and they had many imitators; but the reader who laughed over the racy narrative of the unlettered Ezekiel, and then took up Horca's poem and caught the gust of Yankee wrath and humor blown fresh in his face, knew that he was in at the appearance of something new in American literature. The force which Lowell displayed in there satires made his book at once a powerfal ally of an anti-slavery sentiment, which heretofore had been ridiculed.
A year in Europe, 1851-52, with his wife, whose health was then precarious, stimulated his scholarly interests, and gave substance to his study of Dante and Italian literature. In October, 1853, his wife died; she had borne him three children: the first-born, Blancle, died in infancy; the second, Walter, also died young; the third, a daughter, Mrs. Burnett, survived her parents. In 1855 he was chosen successor to Longfellow as Sinith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatnre and Professor of Belles Lettres in Harrard College. He spent two years in Europe in further preparation for the duties of his office, and in 1857 was again established in Cambridge and installed in his academic chair. He married, also, at this tiine Miss Frances Dunlap, of Portland, Maine.
Lowell was now in his thirty-ninth year. As a scholar, in his professional work, he had acquired a versatile knowledge of the Romance languages, and was an adept in old French and Provençal poetry; he had given a course of twelve lectures on English poetry before the Lowell Institute in Boston, which had made a strong impression on the community, and his work on the series of British Poets in connection with Professor Chill, especially lois biograplıcal sketch of Keats, had been recognized as of a high order. In poetry he had published the volumes already mentioned. In general literature he had printed in magazines the papers which lie afterward collected into liis volume, Fireside Travels. Not long after he entered on his college duties, The Atlantic Monthly was started, and the editorship given to him. He held the office for a year or two only ; but he continued to write for the magazine, and in 1862 he was associated with Mr. Charles Eliot
Norton in the conduct of The North American Review, and continued in this charge for ten years. Much of his prose was contributed to this periodical. Any one reading the titles of the papers which comprise the volumes of his prose writings will readily see how much literature, and especially poetic literature, occupied his attention. Shakespeare, Dryden, Lessing, Rousseau, Dante, Spenser, Wordsworth, Milton, Keats, Carlyle, Percival, Thoreau, Swinburne, Chaucer, Emerson, Pope, Gray, - these are the principal subjects of his prose, and the range of topics indicates the catholicity of his taste.
In these papers, when studying poetry, he was very alive to the personality of the poets, and it was the strong interest in humanity which led Lowell, when he was most diligent in the pursuit of literature, to apply himself also to history and politics. Several of his essays bear witness to this, such as Witchcraft, New England Two Centuries Ago, A Great Public Character (Josiah Quincy), Abraham Lincoln, and his great Political Essays. But the most remarkable of his writings of this order was the second series of The Biglow Papers, published during the war for the Union. In these, with the wit and fun of the earlier series, there was mingled a deeper strain of feeling and a larger tone of patriotism. The limitations of his style in these satires forbade the fullest expression of his thought and emotion ; but afterward in a succession of poems, occasioned by the honors paid to student soldiers in Cambridge, the death of Agassiz, and the celebration of national anniversaries during the years 1875 and 1876, he sang in loftier, more ardent strains. The most famous of these poems was his noble Commemoration Ode.
It was at the close of this period, when he had done incalculable service to the republic, that Lowell was called on to represent the country, first in Madrid, where he was sent in 1877, and then in London, to which he was transferred in 1880. Eight years were thus spent by him in the foreign service of the country. He had a good knowledge of the Spanish language and literature when he went to Spain ; but he at once took pains to make his knowledge fuller and his accent more perfect, so that he could have intimate relations with the best Spanish men of the time. In England he was at once a most welcome guest, and was in great demand as a public speaker. No one can read his dispatches from Madrid and London without being struck by his sagacity, his readiness in emergencies, his interest in and quick percep
tion of the political situation in the country where he was resident, and his unerring knowledge as a man of the world. Above all, he was through and through an American, true to the principles which underlie American institutions. His address on Democracy, which he delivered in England, is one of the great statements of human liberty. A few years later, after his return to America, he gave another address to his own countrymen on The Place of the Independent in Politics. It was a noble defense of his own position, not without a trace of discouragement at the apparently sluggish movement in American selfgovernment of recent years, but with that faith in the substance of his countrymen
gave him the right to use words of honest warning. The public life of Mr. Lowell made him more of a figure before the world. He received honors from societies and universities; decorated by the highest honors which Harvard could pay officially ; and Oxford and Cambridge, St. Andrews and Edinburgh and Bologna, gave him gowns. He established warm personal relations with Englishmen, and, after his release from public office, he made several visits to England. There, too, was buried his wife, who died in 1885. The closing years of his life in his own country, though touched with domestic loneliness and diminished by growing physical infirmities that predicted his death, were rich also with the continued expression of his large personality. He delivered the public address in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Harvard University; he gave a course of lectures on the Old English Dramatists before the Lowell Institute ; he collected a volume of his poems; he wrote and spoke on public affairs ; and, the year before his death, revised, rearranged, and carefully edited a definitive series of his writings in ten volumes. He died at Elmwood, August 12, 1891. Since his death three small volumes have been added to his collected writings, and Mr. Norton has published Letters of James Russell Lowell, in two volumes.