The Public Poet
Longfellow was emphatically not a professional lecturer like Emerson. He spoke with his pen rather than his tongue, he told the citizens of Carlisle, England, in one of the few public speeches he ever gave. The poetry he published-preferably in cheap as well as in more durable editions-was his form of public service, produced in private but always with the needs and expectations of a steadily growing audience of readers in mind. From the marketing point of view, Longfellow's refusal to speak in public was extremely effective, too, since this ensured that nothing detracted from the impact of his poetry.
For all his reluctance to be dragged into the limelight, Longfellow as a private citizen helped whenever and wherever help was needed. And for the readers of his more overtly political poetry-such as Poems on Slavery or "Enceladus"-there couldn't be any doubt about Longfellow's political views. Perhaps the most beautiful tribute after his death came in an obituary published in the African-American newspaper The Christian Recorder. Longfellow's influence, said the writer of the article, "was always given on the side of Liberty."