Why they wrote is undemonstrable, and the very presumptuousness of the subtitle renders the book suspect. In any case it is no more than a routine introduction to Dickinson, Longfellow, Poe and Whitman, consisting of a factual biography, some platitudinous remarks re the poetry (e.g. Longfellow's ""nobility of thought,"" Emily Dickinson's ""skill of genius""), and a sparse selection of poems. The portraits are conventionally shallow: Emily Dickinson withdraws into ""morbid isolation;"" Longfellow has a ""peaceful, creative and fulfilling life."" In contrast, the introductions to the several volumes in the Crowell Poets series (Helen Plotz on Dickinson, Dwight Macdonald on Poe, etc.) are firm, penetrating, vital. And the selection from the works is not only more extensive, it is also more representative, and representative of the best (of the five Longfellow offerings here, two are ""Paul Revere's Ride"" and the beginning of ""Hiawatha""). These capsules are essentially a dead end, though they might serve for school assignments.