The purpose of this website is to increase an appreciation of Whittier’s poetry. Although he was one of the best-loved poets in America in the 19th century, as the pace of life picked up in the 20th century with the new options for communication and entertainment, many people became too impatient to spend the time necessary to read through the long poems of Whittier. In this website I have taken passages from the poems that I chose to represent him as Quaker, Abolitionist, and resident of Haverhill and Amesbury, which bring out his beliefs, his passions, his appreciation, and his inspiration as expressed in his poetry. It is hoped that anyone who reads the excerpts will want to click on the link to the entire poem and read that next.
The images are a means of increasing the reader’s interest in the poetry, as we live in a visual age of television and computer screens. They are a combination of photos taken by several people: Kurt Eddy, Audio Visual Technician at North Shore Community College, Pam Fenner, past president and member of the Whittier Home Association in Amesbury, MA, and me. The postcards are mainly part of the collection of the Whittier Home, which generously allowed us to photograph them, but they also include some in my private collection, picked up at flea markets. The illustrations are all 19th century, and were scanned from 19th century collections of Whittier’s poetry I found in libraries and used bookstores, and from three publications by the Trustees of the Whittier Homestead, which has generously allowed us to use them for this site. They can also be found in the hundreds of collections of Whittier’s work, published in the last decades of the 19th century, and still available in both libraries and used book stores.
There is nothing original about the text. Everything I know I learned from the excellent biography of Whittier by Roland H. Woodwell, published under the auspices of The Trustees of the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead, Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1985. Much of the information I have used can be found in other Whittier biographies, and may be considered general knowledge, but I first learned about it in Woodwell, and I didn’t put down anything I didn’t find confirmed by Woodwell. When the information was so unusual to have been found by me only in Woodwell, I gave a citation with the page number, but the entire text should be considered to be a paraphrase of Woodwell’s study. I have the feeling that as a fellow English teacher, Roland Woodwell would have been pleased at the use to which I have put his text. I urge anyone who wants to know more about Whittier to start with Woodwell’s biography.
In doing this I have has the help and support of Julie Riley, Instructional Designer at North Shore Community College, who has done all the technical work in designing and putting the website together, in Terri Whitney and Carl Carlsen, NSCC faculty who had previously done websites www.hawthorneinsalem.org and www.poetryofplaces.org and shared their experiences and suggestions with me, of Kurt Eddy for taking pictures and scanning illustrations for me, of Bill Meunier, Coordinator of Public Services in the NSCC library for getting old editions of Whittier’s work through Interlibrary Loan for me, and of members of the Whittier Home Association, beginning with the late Frances Dowd who took me around Amesbury, showing me Whittier spots, such as the marker for Susannah Martin, for Stephie Caverno, Pat Dubus, curators for the Whittier Home, and Renee Harlow, the curator of the Whittier Homestead, for opening their collections and providing me with information for the site. For the three presidents of the Whittier Home Association, during the time I have been working on the site: Sally Lavery, Pam Fenner, and Janet Howell, for their help and support, and a special thanks for Pam Fenner for her research, photos, links and support while I was in the final stages.
I hope to continue to build on this site as Whittier’s 200th year continues to be celebrated, and I would welcome hearing from anyone who feels I have left out an important work in one of the four categories on the site—or that I have misused or misstated any of the material included at Sherman@northshore.edu.
Freeman, Donald C., John B. Pickard and Roland H. Woodwell. Whittier and Whittierland: Portrat of a Poet and His World. Haverhill, MA: Trustees of the Whittier Homestead, 1976.
Pickard, Samuel T. Whittier-Land: A Handbook of North Essex. Cambridge, Riverside Press, Trustees of the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead, 1904.
Woodwell, Roland H. John Greenleaf Whittier: A Biography. Haverhill, Trustees of the Whittier Homestead, 1985.
Whittier, John Greenleaf. At Sundown. Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1895.
_________. The Poetical Works of______. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
__________. The Poetical Works of______. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.