The fireside poets – also known as the schoolroom or household poetswere a group of 19th-century American poets associated with New England. These poets were very popular among readers and critics both in the United States and overseas. Their domestic themes and messages of morality presented in conventional poetic forms deeply shaped their era until their decline in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century.
The group is typically thought to include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.,who were the first American poets whose popularity rivaled that of British poets, both at home and abroad. Ralph Waldo Emerson is occasionally included in the group as well. The name "fireside poets" is derived from that popularity; their writing was a source of entertainment for families gathered around the fire at home. The name was further inspired by Longfellow's 1850 poetry collection The Seaside and the Fireside.Lowell published a book titled Fireside Travels in 1864 which helped solidify the title.
In an era without radio, television, or Internet, these poets were able to garner a general public popularity that has no equivalent in the 21st century. Their influence was furthered by their respective long lives, as well as their other high-profile activities, including serving as professors and academic chairs, editing popular newspapers, serving as foreign diplomats, giving popular speeches, and translating works by Dante and Homer.
These poets' general adherence to poetic convention (standard forms, regular meter, and rhymed stanzas) made their body of work particularly suitable for memorization and recitation in school and at home. Only Emerson rejected the traditional European forms that his contemporaries often utilized and instead called for new American forms and emphasized content over form.The poets' primary subjects were domestic life, mythology, and the politics of the United States, in which several of them were directly involved. The fireside poets did not write for the sake of other poets, for critics, or for posterity. Instead, they wrote for a contemporary audience of general readers. Emerson once wrote, "I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low."