Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is born on 27 February in Portland, Maine, the second of eight children of the lawyer Stephen Longfellow and his wife, Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow.
Enters Portland Academy, where he remains for eight years.
November 17: Longfellow's first published poem, "The Battle of Lovell's Pond," a lament for colonists killed by yelling savages, published in the Portland Gazette (signed "HENRY").
Admitted to Bowdoin College, Maine, but remains in Portland for his freshman year, studying with a private tutor.
In September, Longfellow and his brother Stephen begin their residence at Bowdoin College.
Graduates from Bowdoin College, in the same class with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Bowdoin offers Longfellow a professorship of modern languages, provided that he prepare himself for the position with a period of European travel, a proposition he cheerfully accepts.
19 June: arrives in Paris. Visits Rouen, Auteuil, Limoges, and Bordeaux, and hikes through the Loire Valley.
From March to November in Spain and Gibraltar, where he enjoys "much happiness" (undated journal entry, 1827). Visits La Mancha, a "poor, poverty-stricken country" (September 1827) and, in November, sees the Alhambra, where he is enthralled with "mirage of oriental luxury." In December in Marseilles, where he meets George Washington Greene from Rhode Island, the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Spends Christmas in Genoa. Resides in Florence and Rome, visits Naples and Rimini, and arrives in Venice in December: "What an enchanting scene!-so calm-so beautiful-with the long curve of lamps around the wide basin at the entrance-and here and there a little gondola flitting across the water, and darting into a little alley" (14 December).
February to June: in Göttingen, Germany, where Longfellow attends lectures at the university and reads German literature. Returns to the United States in August and begins teaching French and Spanish at Bowdoin, where he also serves as the college librarian and writes his own textbooks.
Elements of French Grammar and Manuel des Proverbes Dramatiques.
Publishes "The Origin and Progress of the French Language" (The North American Review, April); 14 September: marries the 19-year-old Mary Storer Potter, the daughter of a Portland judge.
Publishes three essays in The North American Review: "The Defense of Poetry," a review of Sir Philip Sidney (January), "Spanish Devotional and Moral Poetry" (April); "History of the Italian Language and Dialects" (October). In July, Syllabus de la Grammaire Italienne and his anthology of Italian short stories, Saggi de' Novellieri Italiani d'ogni secolo,are published by Gray and Bowen in Boston.
Publishes his translation of Don Jorge Manrique's Coplas por la muerte de su padre with Allen and Ticknor in Boston.
Longfellow is offered the position of the Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard University and plans another European trip, this time with the goal of strengthening his proficiency in German and acquiring some Scandinavian languages.
Departs for Europe on 10 April and visits England, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and Germany. On 29 Mary Potter Longfellow dies in Rotterdam from complications after a miscarriage. Though grief-stricken, Longfellow sends Mary's body home in a sealed coffin and continues his travels.
Spends the winter and spring in Heidelberg, reading Goethe, Jean Paul, and Herder. July: Meets the Boston businessman Nathan Appleton and his family in Switzerland and falls in love with Frances Elizabeth (Fanny) Appleton, who gives him the cold shoulder. Returns to the United States in October.
23 May: Longfellow begins his Harvard lectures. Moves into Craigie House as a lodger. With the law partners Charles Sumner and George Hillard, the classicist Cornelius Felton, and the literary dilettante Henry Cleveland, Longfellow forms the "Five of Clubs." After being approached by Hawthorne for help, Longfellow publishes appreciative review of Twice-told Tales in the North American Review.
August: publishes Hyperion: A Romance and, in December, Voices of the Night, Longfellow's first collection of poetry. Poe begins his long critical campaign against Longfellow with a negative review of Hyperion in the October issue of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.
32 December: Publishes Ballads and Other Poems.
Meets Charles Dickens. April -September: On leave from his Harvard teaching job, Longfellow takes the water-cure in Marienberg on the Rhine in Germany, where he befriends the radical German poet Ferdinand Freiligrath. On his return voyage to the United States, writes Poems on Slavery (published in December).
Publishes The Spanish Student in May and marries Fanny Appleton on 13 July. Nathan Appleton purchases Craigie House and transfers title to Fanny. Spends honeymoon in the Catskills and the Berkshires, accompanied part of the time by Charles Sumner.
9 June: birth of Charles Appleton Longfellow. In late December, publishes The Waif, an anthology of poems by Herrick, Browning, and others.
Carey & Hart in Philadelphia publish an edition of Longfellow's Poems but omit Poems on Slavery. Begins work on Evangeline. 23 November: birth of Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow. Margaret Fuller launches her "bilious attack" on Longfellow in the New-York Tribune. Attends Emerson's lectures on "Representative Men." In December publishes The Belfry of Bruges.
Longfellow feels "mad for travel" (2 April). Goes to see John Banvard's three-mile long "moving Diorama of the Mississippi" (19 December). Publishes The Estray, a sequel to The Waif.
Defines American literature as a "composite" of different national traditions, "embracing French, Spanish, Irish, English, Scotch and German peculiarities." Whoever is the "most universal" (i.e. cosmopolitan) writer "is also the most national" one (6 January). Meets the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz. After finishing Evangeline on 27 February, Longfellow immediately begins work on a short novel, Kavanagh. 7 April: Fanny Longfellow gives birth to their daughter Fanny, the first delivery in the U.S, in which ether was used. 30 October: Evangeline published.
11 September: Daughter Fanny Longfellow dies after a short illness, aged 1 year, 5 months.
January: Attends Fanny Kemble's Shakespeare readings. 14 May: publishes Kavanagh. Reads Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience, which he finds "extremely good." 3 August: his father dies in Portland, after "a life of suffering." The Seaside and the Fireside published in December.
Spends the first of many summers on the Nahant peninsula. 22 September: Alice Mary Longfellow is born at Craigie House.
12 March: death of Longfellow's mother. Sumner is elected to the Senate in April. The Golden Legend, a dramatic poem, published in November.
22 October: daughter Edith is born.
Resigns from Harvard, giving his last lecture on 19 April. The increasing volume of his fan mail overwhelms him: "all my unanswered letters hang upon me like an evil conscience" (3 May). "Sick and sorrowful" over the arrest of fugitive slave Anthony Burns (27 May). Begins to read the Kalevala and on 22 June "hit[s] upon a plan for a poem on the Indians."
For several months, goes to the opera regularly, often several times a week (Bellini's Norma, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Rossini's Semiramide, Verdi's Rigoletto). 29 March 1855: beset with neuralgia, writes his poem about Portland, "My Lost Youth." 8 November: birth of Anne Allegra ("Annie"); two days later, Song of Hiawatha published. The first edition being almost sold out before publication, Ticknor & Fields immediately prints an additional 3,000 copies.
By February, 20,000 copies of Hiawatha have been printed and Longfellow has earned $4,000. Lowers his royalties from 20% per copy to 15%, "so that greater discounts may be made to large purchasers" (19 March). 10 April 1856: Charley maims his left hand when playing with a gun at Fresh Pond. 23 May: Sumner is caned in the Senate by Preston Brooks.
31 March: Ticknor tallies sales for Longfellow, with Hiawatha (50,000 copies sold) and Voices of the Night (43,550) leading the list. Agassiz invites Longfellow to join the Saturday Club.
16 October: The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems published. The new volume sells 25,000 copies in two months.
17 January: sees Adelina Patti in Rossini's Barbiere de Seviglia and in Bellini's I Puritani. In December, Longfellow acquires Wetmore Cottage in Nahant, which he owns jointly with brother-in-law Thomas Gold Appleton.
His pacifism colliding with his passionate hatred of slavery, Longfellow is shaken up by the attack on Fort Sumner. "When the times have such a gun-powder flavor, all literature loses its taste" (30 April). 9 July: death of Fanny Appleton in a fire caused by a lighted match; her father, Nathan Appleton, dies on 14 July. Numb with shock and despair, Longfellow "cannot record" the thoughts "that are in my heart and brain" (19 September).
Cornelius C. Felton dies on 26 February. Longfellow writes in his journal: "I can make no record of the days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps some day God will give me peace" (10 July). Takes Charley and Erny to visit Niagara Falls and Montreal: "Niagara is too much for me. My nerves shake like a bridge of wire" (9 June 1869). Dismayed by the violence that has erupted but convinced that the North needs to stand up against the South: "What an infernal thing war is!" (23 September). Works on Tales of a Wayside Inn.
10 March: Charley Longfellow runs away to join the Union forces. "I shall not send for him," a resigned Longfellow writes in his journal on 16 March. "He is where he wants to be, in the midst of it all." The next day, he begins his translation of Dante's Inferno. Watches Colonel Shaw lead the first black regiment down Beacon Street and off to war. Finishes a first draft of his translation of Dante's Divina Commedia in April. In November, publishes Tales of a Wayside Inn. On 27 November, Charley is shot through the shoulder near New Hope Church, Virginia, and Longfellow and his son Erny travel to Washington bring him home and care for him.
Charley Longfellow is discharged from the army. 19 May: Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Writes elegy for Hawthorne, which Fields publishes in the August issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
The first volume of Longfellow's translation of The Divine Comedy is privately published in February. One of the 10 copies is rushed to Italy as Longfellow's contribution to the celebrations surrounding Dante's 600th birthday. February: Longfellow is enthusiastic about "the grand event of the century," the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery throughout the United States.
Longfellow's new collection of poems, Flower-de-Luce, published in November. 13 June: Last meeting of the Dante Club, which doesn't end until "the day was dawning and the birds singing" (13 June 1866).
April-June: The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri published in three volumes. November: Longfellow visited by Charles Dickens.
Sails to England on 27 May, accompanied by his five children, his daughter-in-law Harriet Spelman (Ernest's new wife), his brother Samuel, his two sisters Anne and Mary, his brother-in-law Tom Appleton, and Hannah Davie, the former family governess. Receives honorary LL.D. from Cambridge University. Calls on Queen Victoria. October: Publishes the New England Tragedies. Travels to Italy for the winter.
Hears "the great pianist" Franz Liszt play in Rome (to Charley, 3 January 1869). Back in Cambridge on 11 September.
9 June: death of Charles Dickens in London. Longfellow is filled "with inexpressible grief" (to John Forster, 12 June).
In March, Porter & Coates in Philadelphia print a revised edition of Poets and Poetry of Europe. Longfellow's verse poem The Divine Tragedy appears in December.
September: publishes Christus: A Mystery (1872), a uniform edition containing all three parts of his trilogy (The Divine Tragedy, The Golden Legend, and The New England Tragedy), with newly written introductory and transitional sections.
Publishes Aftermath. Deeply affected by the death of Louis Agassiz on 14 December.
Begins the verse play Michael Angelo, which remains unfinished and appears posthumously. Receives $3,000 from the New-York Ledger for The Hanging of the Crane. 11 March: death of Charles Sumner: "Of what I feel … I cannot speak" (to Caleb Lyon; 16 March). May 1874: begins work on his "Poetic Guide-Book," the 31-volume anthology Poems of Places. 26 November: translates his sonnet "The Old Bridge at Florence" into Italian.
July 7: Reads "Morturi Salutamus" at Bowdoin College in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the class of 1825. August: signs agreement with Osgood "for ten years' right of publishing my books for $4,000 annually, in equal quarterly payments." In October, publishes The Masque of Pandora and Other Poems.
March 18: death of Ferdinand Freiligrath. Travels to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and on 2 June meets Walt Whitman in Camden, New Jersey. 10 June: Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, dines with Longfellow.
Publishes Kéramos and Other Poems, which also contains Longfellow's translation of seven sonnets and a canzone by Michelangelo.
Finishes Poems of Places. 10 July: Writes "The Cross of Snow," his elegy for Fanny, eighteen years after her death. For his seventy-second birthday, the children of Cambridge present him with an armchair made from the wood of the chestnut tree that stood before the old smithy in Cambridge. 1 September: Richard Henry Dana IV, "my first grandchild," is born to daughter Edith and her husband, Richard Henry Dana III.
Publishes Ultima Thule, a collection of poems dedicated to George Washington Greene.
26 January: birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, Longfellow's second grandchild. 24 April: death of Longfellow's publisher and close friend, James Fields.
Longfellow visited by Oscar Wilde, "a very agreeable and intelligent young man" (to Mary Appleton Mackintosh, 7 February). After falling ill on March 17 with peritonitis, Longfellow dies on 24 March, at the age of 75. In the Harbor, Longfellow's last collection of poetry, is published in July. The volume ends with the last lines of poetry he wrote: "The world rolls into light / It is daybreak everywhere" ("The Bells of San Blas").