Samuel Longfellow, 1819 - 1892
Samuel Longfellow was a Unitarian preacher who adapted the Transcendentalist philosophy to his sermons and hymns. Like his classmates Samuel Johnson
and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
, he first encountered Transcendentalism at Harvard Divinity School and was attracted to its spiritual idealism and lofty goals. Longfellow spent a number of years compiling a new book of Unitarian hymns with Johnson. He was known for his focus on children, his kind and optimistic disposition, and his poetical Christianity. True to his Transcendentalism, he considered himself a "Theist" who admitted no mediation between himself and the Divine Spirit.
A contemporary and intimate friend of Johnson, a Transcendentalist equally positive, but of more mystical type, is Samuel Longfellow. The two are interestingly contrasted, and by contrast, blended. Between them they collected and published a book of hymns--"Hymns of the Spirit"--to which both contributed original pieces, remarkably rich in sentiment, and of singular poetical merit. Johnson's were the more intellectual, Longfellow's the more tender; Johnson's the more aspiring, Longfellow's the more devout; Johnson's the more heroic and passionate, Longfellow's the more mystical and reflective. Like his friend, Longfellow is quiet and retiring--not so scholarly, not so learned, but meditative. His sermons are lyrics; his writings are serene contemplations, not white and cold, but glowing with interior and suppressed radiance. A recluse and solitary he is, too, though sunny and cheerful; a thinker, but not a dry one; of intellectual sympathies, warm and generous; of feeble intellectual antipathies, being rather unconscious of systems that are foreign to him than hostile to them. He enjoys his own intellectual world so much, it is so large, rich, beautiful, and satisfying, that he is content to stay in it, to wander up and down in it, and hold intercourse with its inhabitants; yet he understands his own system well, is master of its ideas, and abundantly competent to defend them, as his essays published in the "Radical" during its short existence, testify. He has published little; ill health has prevented his taking a forward place among reformers and teachers; but where he has ministered, his influence has been deep and pure. Not few are the men and women who ascribe to him their best impulses, and owe him a debt of lasting gratitude for the moral faith and intellectual enthusiasm he awakened in them.