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Kavanagh is a novel by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


Longfellow began writing the story in 1847[1] and it was published in 1849. Kavanagh is the story of a country romance. Besides a character named Kavanagh, among its characters is a school teacher named Mr. Churchill, who has always planned to write a romance, but whose procrastination never allows him to start, until late in life he resigns himself to his "destiny".

Longfellow also used the novel to argue against the view, in the book propounded by a character based on Cornelius Mathews, that American literature must be entirely devoid of European influences and be exclusively national. Instead, Longfellow felt that American literature could and should be universalist, with its unique North American influences. He saw the use of European models not as imitation but as a "continuation" that Americans could be proud of.[1]

Of the novel, Robert L. Gale writes in A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion that[2]

Kavanagh is of little value as a novel, even though Emily Dickinson […], Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Dean Howells, among other contemporaries, admired it greatly.

Kavanagh was also a precursor of local color writing, and "it depicts what is probably the first lesbian relationship in American fiction".[3]


  1. ^ a b Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, United States national literature, and the canonical erasure of material nature., ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly), December 2006
  2. ^ Robert L. Gale (2003), A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow companion, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 130, ISBN 978-0-313-32350-8, retrieved 28 January 2011
  3. ^ Charles C. Calhoun (7 June 2005), Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life, Beacon Press, p. 197, ISBN 978-0-8070-7039-0, retrieved 28 January 2011

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