The first of the Lowell family ancestors to come to the United States from Britain was Percival Lowle, who settled in Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1639. James Russell Lowell was born February 22, 1819, the son of the Reverend Charles Russell Lowell, Sr. (1782–1861), a minister at a Unitarian church in Boston, who had previously studied theology at Edinburgh, and Harriett Brackett Spence Lowell. By the time James Russell Lowell was born, the family owned a large estate in Cambridge called Elmwood. He was the youngest of six children; his siblings were Charles, Rebecca, Mary, William, and Robert. Lowell's mother built in him an appreciation for literature at an early age, especially in poetry, ballads, and tales from her native Orkney.
James Russell Lowell became an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets. These poets usually used conventional forms and meters in their poetry, making them suitable for families entertaining at their fireside.
Lowell graduated from Harvard College in 1838, despite his reputation as a troublemaker, and went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. He published his first collection of poetry in 1841 and married Maria White in 1844. He and his wife had several children, though only one survived past childhood. The couple soon became involved in the movement to abolish slavery, with Lowell using poetry to express his anti-slavery views and taking a job in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the editor of an abolitionist newspaper.
Maria White died in 1853, and Lowell accepted a professorship of languages at Harvard in 1854; he continued to teach there for twenty years. He traveled to Europe before officially assuming his role in 1856. He married his second wife, Frances Dunlap, shortly thereafter in 1857. That year Lowell also became editor of The Atlantic Monthly. It was not until 20 years later that Lowell received his first political appointment, the ambassadorship to the Kingdom of Spain. He was later appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James's. He spent his last years in Cambridge, in the same estate where he was born, and died there in 1891.After services in the Appleton Chapel, he was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
The Last Tribute Paid. James Russell Lowell Laid At Rest. Buried Under Hornbeam Trees In The Spot He Had Himself Selected And Near The Grave Of Longfellow At Mount Auburn". New York Times. August 15, 1891. Retrieved 2010-03-23. "Simple but impressive funeral services over the body of the late James Russell Lowell were held in Appleton Chapel, Cambridge, at noon to-day. ..."
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M. A. De Wolfe Howe (1933). "Lowell, James Russell". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Duberman, Martin. James Russell Lowell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966.
Heymann, C. David. American Aristocracy: The Lives and Times of James Russell, Amy, and Robert Lowell. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1980. ISBN 0-396-07608-4
Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
Sullivan, Wilson. New England Men of Letters. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1972. ISBN 0-02-788680-8
Wagenknecht, Edward. James Russell Lowell: Portrait of a Many-Sided Man. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
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