The group is typically thought to comprise 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, nearly surpassing that of Alfred Lord Tennyson. The name "Fireside Poets" is derived from that popularity: The Fireside 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 also at home, where it was a source of entertainment for families gathered around the fire. The poets' primary subjects were the domestic life, mythology, and politics of the United States, in which several of the poets were directly involved. The Fireside Poets did not write for the sake of other poets; they wrote for the common people. They meant to have their stories told for families.
Most of the Fireside Poets lived long lives. A culminating event was the 70th birthday party of Whittier in 1877. Organized by publisher Henry Oscar Houghton, then editor of the Atlantic Monthly, the event was meant to serve as a symbol for the magazine's association with the poets, most of whom were present for the celebration. Lowell had recently moved to Spain. Mark Twain gave a now infamous after-dinner speech in which he satirized the poets as uncouth drunkards.
- "A Brief Guide to the Fireside Poets" at Poets.org. Accessed 03-22-2009
- Heymann, C. David. American Aristocracy: The Lives and Times of James Russell, Amy, and Robert Lowell. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1980: 91. ISBN 0-396-07608-4
- Rubin, Joan Shelley. Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007: 25. ISBN 978-0-674-02436-6
- Duberman, Martin. James Russell Lowell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966: 282–283.
- Rubin, Joan Shelley. Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007: 26. ISBN 978-0-674-02436-6