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The Fireside Poets
for literature, language arts and social studies classrooms and home schoolers.

literature > author list > FIRESIDE POETS < social studies

Fireside Poets, also known as the Schoolroom, and Household Poets, were a group of 19th century poets from New England. The name of the group derives from their popularity as entertainment for families before electronic distractions.

Characteristic of their poetry was the use of conventional poetic forms which was easily memorized and recited, the use of American legends for inspiration, and for the causes they took on, such as slavery.

A 2003 mystery novel, The Dante Club, employes three of the Fireside Poets in a fictional tale of murder.

William Cullen Bryant
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
James Russell Lowell

John Greenleaf Whittier

William Cullen Bryant, Giclee Print
William Cullen Bryant,
Giclee Print

William Cullen Bryant
b. 11-3-1794; Cummington, Massachusetts
d. 6-12-1878; NY

William Cullen Bryant was a romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.

His most remembered poems, staples in Amercian literture curriculums, are “Thanatopsis” and “To A Waterfowl”.

William Cullen Bryant ~
• “He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.” To A Waterfowl

• “The sweet calm sunshine of October, now/Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mold
The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough/drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.”
• “When shrieked/The bleak November winds, and smote the woods /And the brown fields were herbless, and the shades/That met above the merry rivulet/Were spoiled, I sought, I loved them still; they seemed/Like old companions in adversity..”

Thanatopsis / Poetry Forms Blank Verse Poster
William Cullen Bryant at

American Physician and Author Oliver Wendell Holmes, by Spy from English Periodical Vanity Fair, Photographic Print
American Physician and Author Oliver Wendell Holmes, by Spy from English Periodical Vanity Fair, Photographic Print

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
b. 8-29-1809; Cambridge, MA
d. 10-7-1894; Boston

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was a physician and Professor of Anatomy & Physiology, but achieved his first fame as a writer and poet with his poem “Old Ironsides” which saved the 18th century wooden Navy frigate USS Constitution from being scraped in the 1830s. She is now the oldest commissioned ship afloat in the world.

In 1843 he published The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever which described how the deadly puerperal fever, also known as childbed fever, was carried from patient to patient by physicians and nurses.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
b. 2-27-1807; Portland, ME
d. 3-24-1882; Massachusetts

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of America's most popular poets. His poetry was translated into 24 languages during his lifetime, and he became the first American poet to be honored in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in London.

A professor of language at his alma mater Bowdoin College, and a professor of French and Spanish at Harvard University, Longfellow was one of the first American academics to have a truly global interest in literature. He was convinced that America was in need of its own mythology, poetic tradition, and epic forms, comparable to Homer and Virgil.

Longfellow's poetry is quite varied, from ballads and other simple poems on popular subjects such as “Paul Revere's Ride” and “The Village Blacksmith” to long, narrative poems such as The Courtship of Miles Standish, and The Song of Hiawatha.

Longfellow's first collection of poems, Voices of the Night, was published in 1839 and sold 43,000 copies. A second collection, Ballads and other Poems, published in 1842, was also a big seller.

In 1854, Longfellow left teaching to write and enjoy a quiet life surrounded by friends from the literary world. Tragically his wife died in a fire and he dealt with his grief by translating Dante's Divine Comedy. The sonnets he wrote as a preface to it show the sad mood of his later years. Longfellow grew his famous beard to cover scars left by the burns he suffered while trying to save her.

FYI ~ Among Longfellow's classmates at Bowdoin College were Nathaniel Hawthorne and Franklin Pierce.

• more Henry Wadsworth Longfellow posters

James Russell Lowell, American Poet, Essayist and Diplomat, Giclee Print
James Russell Lowell, American Poet, Essayist and Diplomat,
Giclee Print

James Russell Lowell
b. 2-22-1819; Cambridge, MA
d. 8-12-1891; Cambridge

James Russell Lowell, a Romantic poet, a satirist, a diplomat (Spain, London), an abolitionist, and the first editor of The Atlantic Monthly, was the godfather of Virginia Woolf and a descendent of colonial America theologian Jonathan Edwards.

James Russell Lowell quotes ~
• “Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”
• “The best academy, a mother's knee.”

Odes, Lyrics, and Sonnets from the Poetic Works of James Russell Lowell

John Greenleaf Whittier in 1838, Giclee Print
John Greenleaf Whittier
Giclee Print

John Greenleaf Whittier
b. 12-17-1807; near Haverhill, MA
d. 9-7-1892

Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier was an abolitionist and humanitarian who aspired for a political career at one time.

Among Whittier's best known works are the ballad Barbara Frietchie, and the poems The Barefoot Boy and Snow Bound.

Many public schools have been named for Whittier as well as the city of Whittier, CA and Whittier College.

John Greenleaf Whittier quotes ~
• “I'll lift you and you lift me, and we'll both ascend together.”
• “Give fools their gold, and knaves their power; let fortune's bubbles rise and fall; who sows a field, or trains a flower, or plants a tree, is more than all.”
• “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”
• “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, / But spare your country's flag," she said.” ~ Barbara Frietchie
• “The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.”

The Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier: A Readers' Edition

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