In 1877, President Hayes appointed James Russell Lowell as minister (or ambassador) at the court of Spain. He knew the Spanish language and literature well, had kept up his study of history, and adjusted quickly to his new position. Three years later, he became the American minister in London and stayed there until 1885. As a writer, he was already well known in England and was often asked to give speeches. He was also given honorary degrees by several universities including Oxford and Cambridge, and Bologna, Italy. James Russell Lowell died in August 1891.
Share with the students an outline of the life of James Russell Lowell or have them read the short biography. Divide the class into small groups. Have some groups read Lowell's description of his years at Harvard (primary source 1), and others read about Lowell meeting his future wife (primary source 2).
The Lowells had four children, but three died when they were very young. Maria Lowell had tuberculosis and was often ill, too. She died in October of 1853. After her death, James Russell Lowell shifted to different work. After he gave a series of lectures in Boston, Harvard College invited him to teach at the college. He accepted but wanted first to study and travel in Europe for a year. While there he improved his French, German, Italian, and Spanish. After he came back to Massachusetts, he taught at Harvard for twenty years.