Fun Facts Friday: James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell (22 February, 1819 – 12 August, 1891) was an American editor, critic, poet, and diplomat.

Books by James Russell Lowell*
Books by James Russell Lowell*

  1. Born in Cambridge MA, he was an 8th generation Lowell, ancestors to settlers who came to America in 1639.
  2. In 1838 Mr. Lowell graduated from Harvard College. Despite being known as a troublemaker, he managed to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School.
  3. In 1841 Mr. Lowell published his first collection of poetry.
  4. Together with his wife, Maria White (married in 1844), the couple had several children; sadly only one made it to adulthood.
  5. The Lowells took on the abolitionist cause with great enthusiasm. Mr. Lowell wrote anti-slavery poems and even moved to Philadelphia, PA to work as an editor for an abolitionist newspaper.
  6. Lowell taught at Harvard for 20 years as a professor of languages.
  7. In 1874 Mr. Lowell resigned from his Harvard professorship and became an ambassador to Spain (officially “Minister to the court of Spain). Even though he spoke the language and a trained lawyer, Mr. Lowell did not socialize well in Spain and used to send funny letters to his political bosses. Those dispatches were posthumously published as Impressions of Spain (1899).
  8. Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Lowell was nominated and appointed as Minister to England in 1880. Queen Victoria said that she had never seen an ambassador who “created so much interest and won so much regard as Mr. Lowell”.
  9. Lowell was already famous in England as an author and poet by the time he became an ambassador. He befriend Henry James and Leslie Stephen who even made him godfather to his daughter, writer Virginia Woolf.
  10. When teaching poetry, Mr. Lowell focused on the sound, rhythm and flow rather than technique. He said that: “True scholarship consists in knowing not what things exists, but what they mean; it is not memory but judgment.”

Books by James Russell Lowell*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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