The Children's Hour

The Children's Hour Study Guide

The poem was written in 1859 and first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1860. It was later included in the collection Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863). Longfellow wrote the poem a few years after resigning from his professorship at Harvard to devote himself full-time to his writing.

Longfellow based the poem off of his own home life; the three daughters in the text bear the names of three of his own children. In early editions a portrait of the three daughters by Thomas Buchanan Read was distributed with the text. Famously, a copy of the poem was found next to the body of a soldier who'd been killed on the field at Gettysburg; the Maine Historical Society now possesses that copy in its archives.

The poem has been criticized by some contemporary and modern critics for being too sentimental; Henry James parodied it in his story “The Point of View” (1883). Nevertheless, it is often anthologized, especially in collections for children.