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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was unique for an American poet in that his work was primarily lyric poems, a style more commonly pursued by Europeans. Other achievements include being the first person to translate Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia into English. Higginson's examination begins with an overview of the poet's life and career, and the author's argument for Longfellow's inclusion in the canon of great American artists. From there, the book begins a detailed examination of the life of Longfellow. Higginson relies heavily on a previous biography of the poet written by Longfellow's brother, as well as series of personal letters written to Longfellow's first wife. While Higginson includes a specific chapter on Longellow's work, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is primarily the story of the man.
Higginson's biography of Longfellow is a competent and measured book. Much research has clearly gone into reconstructing the major events of Longfellow's life, and the reader will surely gain a deeper understanding of the man, and subsequently his work, as a result of Higginson's words. This book is a light read which mostly steers clear of any criticism of the man.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a worthy biography of a great American artist. At the time of its publication, it was likely the most detailed account of Longfellow's life that existed, and may still be today. Readers interested in the work of Longfellow, or anybody who enjoys a good biography, should consider adding this work to their library.