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George Washington Greene was born on April 8, 1811 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He entered Bowdoin College in 1824, but left in his junior year on account of ill-health. Greene traveled to Europe in the hopes of boosting his health. In 1828, while in Italy, he befriended Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and served as the aspiring poet's traveling companion; their friendship lasted 54 years. Greene was in Europe during the majority of the next twenty years, except in 1833–1834, when he was principal of Kent Academy at East Greenwich. He served as the United States consul at Rome from 1837 to 1845.
He was instructor in modern languages in Brown University from 1848 to 1852. In 1853 he edited Joseph Addison's works, with copious notes (6 vols., New York). He took up his residence at East Greenwich in 1865, and soon afterward was chosen to represent the town in the legislature. He made speeches in 1867 and 1869 on the ratification of the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution of the United States. In 1871-1875 was non-resident lecturer in American history in the Department of History at Cornell University.
Greene died at East Greenwich, Rhode Island, on February 2, 1883. He was canoeing down a river with a friend and drowned. His grave stands next to his father's.
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