The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.
§ 13. Rank and Place.
|It may be gathered from this brief survey of a long life and a productive career that Longfellows reputation, in the opinion of the present writer, was amply deserved in the poets day, and rested in the main on his gifts as a story-teller in verse, on his power to transplant to American literature some of the colour and melody and romantic charm of the complex European literatures he had studied, and, more especially, on his skill in expressing in comparatively artless lyrics of sentiment and reflection homely and wholesome thoughts and feelings which he shared with his countrymen of all classes throughout a broad land the occupation of which proceeded apace during his own span of years. Whatever he accomplished beyond this as teacher and editor and writer of prose, and as self-conscious poet seeking success in the more elaborate traditional forms of his art, is worthy, to say the least, of as much praise as the similar work of his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors among American poets, and is not clearly doomed to a speedier death than the elaborate productions of his contemporaries and successors among the British poets. His place is not with the few eminent poets of the world, or even of his century, as the admiration of the mass of his countrymen and the critical lucubrations of some of them might be held to imply; but it is, legitimately and permanently, in the forefront of the small band of important writers in verse and in prose who during the first century of the republics existence laid firmly and upon more or less democratic lines the foundations of a native literature.