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last sort of man adapted to do justice to so peculiar a theme. There is no public to believe in the spiritual premises on which his Legend is founded ; and the readers of the poem -be it said with all due and sincere respect for Edgar Poeare likely to perceive that, just as the thing is to them hollow, baseless, and alien, in the range of its ideas, so must the inspiration of the poet in producing it have been vamped up and artificial. Poe perused the Fable for Critics, with a particular eye to what was set down therein about himself ; and he declared the poem to be “essentially loose, ill-con ceived, and feebly executed, as well in detail as in general,” and remarkable for " want of artistic finish.” This was probably a candid though not an unbiased opinion. An English reader of the present day would, we fancy, be much inclined to reverse the scales of judgment in which Poe poised the two performances of Lowell ; and to say that, whereas the Legend of Brittany is essentially only a clever rechauffé of obsolete conceptions, written in a spirit of literary make-believe, the Fable for Critics is really a prime example of the critical faculty cutting capers in verse, under the influence of personal likes and dislikes, and with a strong and well-justified consciousness of elastic strength.
In the same year, 1844, that he published his poems containing the Legend of Brittany, Mr. Lowell married. His bride was Miss Maria White, daughter of an opulent citizen of Watertown, Massachusetts ; herself a poetess of some grace and reputation, and authoress of many valued translations from the German. She was about twenty-three years of age at the date of the marriage, having been born in 1821. This union lasted only nine years, the lady having died in 1853. Mr. Longfellow's poem entitled The Two Angels refers to her decease.
Meanwhile Mr. Lowell had been continuing his activities in various forms of verse and of literature. In 1845 he brought out Conversations on some of the Old Poets. This was an expansion of a series of articles, Essays on the English SongWriters, published in 1843 in a Boston Magazine named The Pioneer, which he started along with Mr. Robert Carter. Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne were among the contributors; but the paper was not a commercial success, and it expired after its third number. The Conversations are dialogues upon Chaucer, George Chapman, John Ford, and poets and poetry in general, with many miscellaneous remarks interspersed. In 1848 Lowell published a further volume of Poems, one of the most remarkable of which is the Indian Summer Reverie. It contained also various effusions denouncing with fitting energy the curse of slavery, and the crime of slave-holding. These anti-slavery poems became very popular. It appears, however, that their success was not immediate ; for we find Mr. Lowell, in the introduction to the second series of his Biglow Papers, saying that up to 1848 inclusive, he was "very far from being a popular author under his own name, so far, indeed, as to be almost unread;" and that the first Biglow series, which came out originally from time to time in the newspapers, and anonymously, was the beginning of his fame. At any rate, the year 1848 proved replete with work, and at last with celebrity, for Mr. Lowell. Besides the volume of Poems already mentioned, the Vision of Sir Launfal appeared in this year; also the Fable for Critics (previously referred to, out of its proper sequence of date, apropos of Edgar Poe), a rollicking and slashing, yet in truth keenly discriminative review of most of the prominent figures in American literature of that time : also the commencement of the Biglow Papers. These relate to the Mexican War, which our author regarded as an iniquitous scheme devised in the interest of the slave-holding States of the Union, and of course the slavery question figures largely in his treatment of the subject. Nothing short of an immense success would have been worthy of this inimitable series of Yankee poems, with their oddly varied accompaniment of prose; they received the success which they deserved. “I found the verses of my pseudonym,” says Mr. Lowell, “copied everywhere : I saw them pinned up in workshops: I heard them quoted, and their authorship debated :
I once even, when rumour nad at length caught up my name in one of its eddies, had the satisfaction of hearing it demonstrated, in the pauses of a concert, that I was utterly incompetent to have written anything of the kind.”
In July 1851 Mr. Lowell left America for a European tour, visiting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy, in which last country he stayed a considerable while ; he was back in America in December 1852. In May 1855, having the prospect of being appointed to the chair of Modern Languages and Belles Lettres at Harvard College, vacated by Longfellow, he again came to Europe, passing most of the time in Dresden. He returned to his own country in August 1856, and entered upon the duties of his professorship.
In 1857 he remarried, his wife being Miss Frances Dunlap, niece of ex-Governor Dunlap, of Portland, Maine. Subsequently to this date his publications have been--Fireside Travels, 1864; the second series of the Biglow Papers, 1864; Under the Willows, and other Poems, 1869; The Cathedral, a Poem, 1870; Among my Books, 1870; My Study-Windows, 1871, a collection of miscellaneous writings previously published, including My Garden Acquaintance, On a certain Condescension in Foreigners, and essays on Chaucer, Pope, Carlyle, Swinburne, &c. Mr. Lowell has moreover edited the poems of Donne, Marvell, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats ; and has
; written reviews and essays in several periodicals—including the Atlantic Monthly, the North American Review (of these he was editor from 1857 to 1862, and from 1863 to 1872, respectively), the Anti-Slavery Standard, and Ripley and Dana's New American Cyclopædia, in which he published an important article on Dante. In almost all these instances, his name was appended to the contributions. In 1854-55 he lectured on the British Poets at the Lowell Institute, Boston (founded by a relative of his own), with no little increase to his growing reputation. The English University of Cambridge conferred on him the degree of LL.D. in 1874.
At last Literature was fated to yield to Diplomacy the first place in the daily cares and nightly vigils of Mr Lowell. It A.
has often been said that the condition of society and of politics in America is such that the most cultivated natures and the highest intellects shrink with fastidious self-respect from coming forward in the crush and scramble of public life; but, so far as literary men are concerned, the examples are frequent of important national posts bestowed upon persons whose celebrity derives entirely from the use of the pen. Authors are singled out for embassies or consulships as being authors. Strange to say, it is assumed that a man who has shown some capacity as a historian or a poet is likely to be equal to the duties of a diplomat; nor has experience refuted this, in English eyes, rash, dangerous, and subversive assumption. Towards the close of 1874 it was proposed to appoint Mr Lowell Minister of the United States to Russia. This offer he declined : but in 1877 he accepted the mission to Spain, and, after some two years' service in that country, he was transferred to England.
Mr. Lowell has been described as “a true hearted man" by one who knew him ; and he appears to have always been a particular personal favourite among his literary and other acquaintances-genial, kindly, and brilliant. Portraits representing him in his earlier years show him to have been unusually handsome ; with a cast of countenance assimilating partly to the character of a youthful saint in some Italian picture, and partly to the romantic type of a mediæval troubadour. If any artist had secured him at that period as a model for the rejuvenated Faust of Göthe, the choice would have been a very felicitous one.
The poems of Mr. Lowell may be broadly divided into the serious and the humorous. We shall say a few words about each of these classes of compositions, without attempting to forestall in the main the judgment which our readers may themselves form of them.
The serious poems are of the romantic order, or descriptive, sentimental, or moral, in aim. There is little belonging to an ideal or abstract inspiration; neither is there any exceptional beauty of form or subtlety of music. An uncommon alertness
or nimbleness of mind characterizes all that Mr. Lowell does. He is never at a loss for a mode of presenting his subject, or for variations of theme as he develops it. He has a great deal of ingenuity both of thought, of imagery, and of phrase ; he expounds a subject without either exhausting or very deeply fathoming it. His reader is presented with an abundance of novel suggestions, acute intimations, pleasantly gleaming side-lights, but not with much that can be called a new idea. The writer works not so much by way of integral realization as of diversified detail. Perhaps the English poet whom Mr. Lowell most nearly resembles in characteristic quality, though not in mere externals of style, is Thomas Hood: we are speaking solely of the serious poems of both these authors. Lowell's verses To the Memory of Hood testify directly and unmistakeably to his high appreciation of that remarkable genius. Two significant examples of our author's style may also be cited in confirmation-one being a poem of the descriptive class, and the other of moral symbolism : the Indian Summer Reverie, and Hunger and Cold. The former offers not a little of that picturesque personifying description of which Hood was so rare a master ; and the latter imports into a different range of ideas something of the same personifying faculty--quaint, sharp, and impressive. The picturesque is in fact one of the leading attributes of Mr. Lowell's poetry : in that he is seldom wanting, and seldom does he exhibit in higher degree any quality which might be pronounced of loftier essence intrinsically. Not indeed that he is without decidedly ambitious aims in writing. This is apparent, not only from the poems themselves, but from his own self-estinate recorded in the Fable for Critics :
“There is Lowell, who's striving Parnassus to climb
With a whole bale of isms tied together with rhyme.