Scope and Contents
John Greenleaf Whittier was a Quaker poet, journalist, and abolitionist. A major figure in the anti-slavery cause, his correspondents include William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Julia Ward Howe, and Lydia Maria Child. The bulk of the collection is correspondence. A closely related collection in Friends Historical Library, the John Greenleaf Whittier Research Papers compiled by C. Marshall Taylor, contains copies and transcripts of Whittier papers not held by Friends Historical Library.
Organized in five series:
- Correspondence, arranged chronologically
- Letters to Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward
- Freitchie Album
Copyright and Rights Information
Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Biographical / Historical
John Greenleaf Whittier was born December 17, 1807, in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Whittier and Abigail Hussey Whittier, Quaker farmers, and began to write poetry at the age of fourteen. William Lloyd Garrison published Whittier’s first poem in 1826 and persuaded his parents to send him to Haverhill Academy for two terms. His poetry, influenced by Byron, Burns, and Wadsworth, was well-received, and he also edited several New England newspapers and served one term in the Massachusetts legislature.
In 1833, Whittier published a tract proposing immediate and unconditional emancipation of slaves. He became a leading abolitionist, writing poems and essays supporting anti-slavery, lecturing, and editing newspapers. Believing that the anti-slavery movement needed a political vehicle, he helped found the Liberty Party in 1839 and supported the efforts of Massachusetts legislators to influence decisions in Washington, D.C.
Poor health forced his retirement after 1840 to a house in Amesbury, Mass., where his poetry focused on New England rural life and traditions. In particular, his poems “Snow Bound” and “Tent on the Beach” were critical and financial successes, and he was widely accepted as a major American poet. His poetry focused on religious and moral themes, but was not encumbered by theological issues; he appealed to both Orthodox and Hicksite Quakers, combining Quaker quietism with a respect for the Bible. In 1881, he was awarded an LL.D. from Harvard, and he died September 7, 1892.