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Text for Page 272 [1884]

              [newspaper clipping]
The Nation.					401
Life and Letters of Bayard Taylor.  Edited by
  Marie Hansen-Taylor and Horace E. Scudder.
  In two volumes.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin
  & Co.  1884.
IT is so much a literary fashion to divide a man�s
life into periods of development, although they
may not in reality differ from Shakspere�s Seven
Ages, that one is often inclined to be impatient
with such an exordium.  In Bayard Taylor�s
growth, however, there seem to have been two
lives, so marked was the change in his nature;
and he has, in fact, left two reputations in con-
sequence�one widespread and established, the
other narrow in its range and of doubtful perma-
nence.  Out of the still farm life of the Quaker
settlement in Chester County, where he was
cradled into poetry in the midst of a simple and
pure people and under the guardianship of a
quiet and cheerful landscape, he came at a very
early age into the excitement, the busy triviality,
and incessant vicissitude of our earlier journal-
ism; and having made a successful stroke at the
start by his first book of travels, he won his way
with rapidity and comparative east to the posi-
tion of best American reporter of scenes and in-
cidents.  This was what he called his service of
mammon, and he said he hated it.  But from the
first there was a purely literary strain in his 
blood, a spring of poetic thought in his heart
that would not be choked, and an effort of
his will toward artistic expression of the best
of his spirit.  His early friends, the sponsors of
his baptism before the muses, were not of the
choicest.  Rufus Wilmot Griswold was the editor
to discover him; but for the youth to whom
Griswold was a M�cenas, the auguries were cer-
tainly of doubtful complexion; and when he
found his Augustus in the person of the natty
Willis, the odds against his making a man of him-
self were to be counted off only by his innate vir-
tue and the vigor of his mind.  It is as good, at
least, as one of his own novels to see from his
youthful letters how much he prized the first lite-
rary society into which he was admitted, the
New York coterie of mutual admiration and se-
cret envy, of which here and there in our literary 
annals some mention may still be found under the
name of �the Literati,� as they called them-
selves.  Taylor was so far imposed on by it as to
write of �that charmed circle of artist and au-
thor life, which is the only real life of this world,�
and he was in middle life before he described it as
under-bred, half-refined, and superficially culti-
vated.  Perhaps his travels, by removing him
from the danger of constantly breathing this at-
mosphere, served him better than he knew.  How-
ever that may have been, it is enough to beget a
charitable spirit in one to remember that in his
youth the Tribune was his taskmaster and Willis
the high-priest of his cult.
  Taylor quickly enlarged his circle through the
opportunities of travel and the readiness and
freshness of his instincts for fraternity.  He
made friends with everybody he met, and one
might almost say with every creature, even to
savage beasts.  He enlarged his mind, too, and
on returning from his visit to the East he was
able to draw to himself an audience distinctly
his own.  Money flowed in from books, lectures,
and successful investments, and he built Cedar-
croft and settled down in the expectation that
fortune would continue to shower gifts upon 
him.  He was soon to be ready, he thought, to
be a poet; he had been making sure of his bread
first, and now he would make sure of his fame.
But the war came; and when it was gone there
was a new nation, and Taylor found he had out-
lived his early reputation and had lost his own
audience.  Trouble in one form or another was
at hand.  His manor-house on the paternal acres

[newspaper clipping: second column]
was a millstone round his neck; and finally, after
a long struggle of incessant hard work at book-
making, he went back to his hack-life on the 
Tribune, from which he was relieved by his ap-
pointment to the German court and his speedy
death.  In the latter part of his career he had
translated �Faust� and written long poems, and
it was for these works that he cared; for he had
learned by experience the ephemeral nature of a
traveller�s reputation, and he desired most ar-
dently to leave an enduring name.  The mass of
his writings is very large, but his heart was in
his poetry only; the rest was what he called
mere pot-boiling literature.  In these last years,
too, there was an expansion of his intellectual
nature and a sharpening of his artistic percep-
tion, due in large measure to his study of Goethe,
who overmastered his mind and determined the
character of the latest products of his genius.  It
was from the Goethean point of view that he
looked down almost contemptuously on the ear-
lier period of his literary activity, and looked
forward and up to the future work of his hands,
the true work, which was to prolong his memory
among men.  His death was thus, he would have
thought, as truly premature as if he had died in
youth.  Hope was so strong in him that when
past fifty the best of his life seemed still before
  The most prominent point in the popular con-
ception of Bayard Taylor is that he was a man of
great vitality; and, as is frequently the case, the
people have seized on the main characteristic.
The activity of his mind was enormous, and it
may fairly be said that it was the overflow of
physical health in no small degree.  But just as
he would say that the public did not see that he 
could not be so good a traveler had he not been
a poet, so the vital force that enabled him to
grasp and master such masses of work would
never have sustained him had he not been buoyed
up also by an eagerness of the spirit.  The trait
which these volumes reveal on nearly every
page, from the days of youthful ardor to those
of untiring manhood, is aspiration of the most
unflagging and incorruptible kind.  Whether
Taylor succeeded or not in realizing the fondest
wish of his heart, to be known as one of his coun-
try�s great poets, there is no doubt that he al-
ways was working upward to the plane of their
life with a high, firm purpose that grew more
strong and simple at each turn of his worldly
fortune.  It was because of this aspiration that
the difference between his first and second period
has so marked a character as to seem a difference
between two lives; he left his youthful environ-
ment and all that it contained behind him, and
rose out of �the Literati� into literature.
  It belongs to this strong aspiration, too, that
he was so avaricious of praise, hoarded up his
commendations from �the poets,� and over-
valued their meaning.  He was all his days hun-
gry for recognition; he welcomed it from any
quarter, and repaid it profusely with his own
good-will.  It was not vanity that made him lis-
ten so keenly for applause; it was not self-conceit
that was bred in him by the praise he got; and
yet it is not a pleasant characteristic to meet
with when one finds the hero so anxious for the
roses.  It made some people misunderstand and
dislike Taylor in his lifetime, and there is in it
certainly some proof that he was without the
assurance that goes with matured genius of high
order.  A discomfortable doubt of his position
always haunted him, and this made him prize
distinction of an outward kind, and practically
look to his friends to mint his coin with their
royal approval.  The trait of the parvenu, too,
is very disagreeably conspicuous in the attitude
of his mind toward the great men whom he met,
and particularly in his pleasure at being favored
by Bismarck and others whose worldly position               
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