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James Russell Lowell
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Poet
    (February 22, 1819-August 12, 1891)
    Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Wrote 'A Fable for Critics' (1848), 'The Biglow Papers' (1848) and 'Under the Willows and Other Poems' (1869)
    First editor of 'The Atlantic Monthly' (1857-61)
    Professor of modern languages at Harvard (1857-77)
    US ambassador to Spain (1877-80) and Great Britain (1880-85)
    He summed up his years at Harvard: 'During Freshman year, I did nothing, during Sophomore year I did nothing, during Junior year I did nothing, and during Senior year I have thus far done nothing.'
    He wrote that freed slaves were 'dirty, lazy & lying.'
    He alienated several fellow poets by mocking them in 'A Fable for Critics,' most notably Edgar Allan Poe, who he described as 'three fifths genius, two fifths sheer fudge.'
    During a literary dinner, he ate the floral centerpiece.
    Poet Richard Armour wrote, 'As a Harvard graduate and an editor for the Atlantic Monthly, it must have been difficult for Lowell to write like an illiterate oaf, but he succeeded.'
    Three of his four children died in infancy.
    He was an active abolitionist and supported voting rights for blacks.
    His use of dialect in his writing influenced Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken.
    While serving as ambassador to Britain, he became godfather to Virginia Woolf.
    His anti-slavery poem 'The Present Crisis' was frequently quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr., and inspired the NAACP to name its newsletter 'The Crisis.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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