James Russell Lowell

Writer and Poet

In the vestibule of the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey is a stone tablet and a stained glass window in memory of James Russell Lowell, American poet and writer. The tablet is by sculptor George Frampton and shows a marble half length relief of Lowell flanked by two standing figures. It was unveiled in 1893 by Leslie Stephen and the inscription reads:

This tablet and the windows above were placed here in memory of James Russell Lowell, United States Minister at the Court of St James from 1880-1885 by his English friends. Born 22 Feb 1819. Died 12 Aug. 1891.

There are four lancet windows, one of which is in a single light, by John Clayton and Alfred Bell. The main figures in the triple light are St Botoloph, patron saint of Boston (Lowell's native city), Sir Launfal (an armed knight about whom Lowell wrote a poem), and St Ambrose. Below are scenes showing the Pilgrim Fathers with the Mayflower in the background, St Martin on his horse beside a beggar, and the emancipation of slaves. The coats of arms held by angels in the single light are those of the USA, Harvard Graduates Magazine (a mistake, as they should show the University arms), the Royal arms and the Abbey arms.

James was born at Elmwood, Cambridge, Massachusetts and died there. His grave is at Mount Auburn cemetery. He was a descendant of Percival Lowell who went to America from England in 1639. His parents were the Revd. Charles Lowell and Harriet (Spence) and his brothers were Charles, Robert and William (who died young). His sisters were Rebecca and Mary, who married Samuel Putnam. He was educated at William Wells School and Harvard university and married Maria White in 1844. Their children Blanche and Rose died young and son Walter died while they were in Europe. Mabel married Edward Burnett. As a writer and poet he contributed to many magazines including the London Daily News and the Atlantic Monthly and supported the anti slavery movement. His poems were published in two volumes.

Further reading

"James Russell Lowell. A biography" by Horace Scudder, 2 vols, 1901 (with family information and list of works)

"Letters of James Russell Lowell" edited by Charles Eliot Norton


22nd February 1819


12th August 1891


Writer; poet


Chapter House

Memorial Type

Window; tablet

Material Type

Stone; glass

James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell

By published by Dodd, Mead and Co, NY, 1898 (American Bookmen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

James Russell Lowell
Part of the Lowell window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster