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Of the living poets of America, none—not even the allpopular Longsellow—has, in relation to the public of the British Kingdom, a more direct and distinct personality than James Russell Lowell. For many years he has been exceedingly popular among us as the author of that masterpiece of comic vis, the Biglow Papers; and within the last few months he has been appointed United States Minister to the Court of St. James. is true that in other respects Mr. Lowell is not particularly well known here-his serious poems, for instance, have never had any great vogue among us : but the author of the Biglow Papers has, by the very intensity of his Americanism, stamped himself clearly and deeply into the British mind; and the United States Minister is while we write, or very shortly will be, a particularly prominent, and no doubt a widely and increasingly honoured, figure in London society.
Mr. Lowell was born on the 22nd of February 1819, at Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was the Rev. Charles Lowell, D.D., a congregational minister who was still living not many years ago, pastor of the West Church, Boston. He was a descendant of Percival Lowell, who emigrated in 1639 from Bristol to America ; and the family has generally
been distinguished for culture and literary refinement. The grandfather, Judge Lowell, was a member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of Massachusetts, and he introduced into the Bill of Rights the clause which effected the abolition of slavery in that State. James Lowell studied at Harvard College, and graduated there in 1838. He was intended for the legal prosession, and in due course was admitted in 1840 to the Bar at Boston; but he practised there little or not at all, the bent of his mind taking him off to literature, and especially to poetry. His first published verses were composed in the very next year after he had obtained his degree-- A Poem recited at Cambridge, 1839, of a satirical and humorous turn; and his being called to the Bar counted, for practical purposes, merely as an interlude between this and his second poetical publication, which was named A Year's Life, issued in 1841. Some but not all of the poems contained in this volume have been reproduced in the collected editions of the author's works. Three years later, 1844, appeared his first moderately mature publication, named Poems, containing the Legend of Brittany, Prometheus, and other compositions. The Legend of Brittany found particular favour with the poet-critic Edgar Poe, who pronounced it to be “ decidedly the noblest poem of the same length written by an American.” Our reader may turn to The Fable of Critics, and see what was the verdict which Mr. Lowell, in his turn, delivered upon Poe--
“ Three-fifths of him genius, and two-fiíths sheer fudge.”
He will form his own opinion whether or not the author of The Raven was likely to consider this estimate a handsome response to his own rather risky laudation of a poem the subject of which is partly hacknied and partly repulsive, and which could perhaps be satisfactorily treated only by a mediæval Catholic, capable of genuine and childlike belief in such an order of events in nature and super-nature. A New-Englander of the nineteenth century, of acute discursive mind, and deft literary fingering, seems to be almost the