The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XII. Longfellow

§ 7. Evangeline

In all probability, neither of these ominous dramatic productions was in Longfellow’s mind when he was writing The Spanish Student, or planning his presumptive masterpiece, Christus: A Mystery, which finally saw the light in 1872, more than twenty years after the first appearance of its second part, The Golden Legend, one of the most attractive and yet one of the least widely read of its author’s books. Poems Swedish and German, ominous in no bad sense, were in his mind when he wrote his sentimental idyllic narrative in hexameters, Evangeline, not perhaps the best of his longer poems, but certainly the most popular both at home and abroad. Hawthorne, from whom Longfellow secured the theme of the Acadian maiden’s vain search for her lover, might have made more of the pathetic story, but he would have done it for fewer readers. Other writers might have improved the local colour of the poem, still others might have laboured more heroically to keep the hexameters from making forays across the borders of prose, but it may be doubted whether any contemporary could have written, on the whole, a better Evangeline, at least one more suited to the taste of the period. Few of his contemporaries, however, have left behind a more negligible prose romance than the story of an impossible New England village which Longfellow published in 1849 under the title Kavanagh; A Tale.