James Russell Lowell was born on February 22, 1819, into one of New England's foremost families. The earliest Lowell in New England was Perceval, seven generations earlier, who arrived in 1639. His father Charles was a Unitarian minister and his uncle Francis Cabot Lowell was the leading manufacturer in Massachusetts at the time.
James Russell Lowell attended Harvard, where he was recognized for his poetry but otherwise had an undistinguished career as a student. In his senior year, he came to chapel intoxicated and was "rusticated" for two months, a mild punishment that restricted his social and literary life. An unintended benefit was that he met Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau during this period.
Lowell graduated from Harvard College in 1838 and Harvard Law in 1840, although he never actively practiced. He met Maria White, an ardent [477:abolitionist, whom he married in 1844. Her influence converted Lowell to the cause. He wrote extensively for abolitionist publications for the next five years.
In 1848, Lowell published the first The Bigelow Papers, a collection of poems written in a rustic New England style, which satirized the Mexican-American War, which he believed had been provoked by the South. This, along with a second series by the same name, published in 1867, which satirized the Confederacy, established Lowell's reputation as a native American humorist.
Maria died in 1854, leaving him with one surviving daughter. Harvard named him Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literature in 1855. To prepare himself for the post, he traveled in Germany and Italy for a year. He was named editor of Atlantic Monthly in 1857 and kept the position until 1861.
In 1872, he resigned his professorship to travel in Europe. The undertook diplomatic missions for the United States beginning in 1877, when he was named minister to Spain, switching to minister to England in 1880. His diplomatic career lasted until 1885. His second wife, whom he had married in 1857, died in that year. James Russell Lowell died on August 12, 1891, in the place where he was born.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by James Russell Lowell.
Regarding Public Opinion
The pressure of public opinion is like the pressure of the atmosphere; yuo can't see it -- but it's there, it is sixteen pounds to the square inch.
Interview with Julian Hawthorne
Regarding James Buchanan
The theory that the best government is that which governs least seems to have been accept literally by Mr. Buchanan, without considering the qualifications to which all general propositions are subject.
Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1861 regarding the inaction during President Buchanan's last months in office