John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807 - 1892

portrait of John Greenleaf Whittier
1887 photo from Library of Congress

Born: 17 December 1807, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Died: 7 September 1892, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire

Raised in a Quaker family on a marginal farm, the frail boy was unsuited to the hard work and couldn't see the difference between ripe and unripe strawberries. His early education came largely from rereading his fathers six books on Quakerism. His sister submitted a poem to a newspaper; its editor, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, saw potential and encouraged the young poet to attend Haverhill Academy. He learned shoemaking to pay his tuition, served as a teacher himself in a neighboring town, and paid part of his tuition in produce from the farm. Garrison arranged for Whittier to serve as editor of two weeklies at Boston, Massachusetts and, in 1830, the New England Weekly Review of Hartford, Connecticut. Having taken a stance against slavery he ran for Congress in 1832, suffered a nervous breakdown, and spent the next 35 years speaking, writing, and lobbying for the cause. In 1836 he sold the family farm and lived with his sisters and mother at Amesbury, Massachusetts for the rest of his life. During this period he generally worked as an editor, and most of his poetry and prose were dedicated to the end of slavery, but after the Thirteenth Amendment passed in 1865 he turned to less political topics in his poetry and finally had significant financial success with Snow-Bound, published in 1966. After that, all of his poetry sold well in collections and he became known as one of the five "Fireside Poets", the New Englanders whose popularity first rivaled British poets.

Biography from Wikipedia and Suite 101

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