Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches

Text for Page 279

              [newspaper clipping: first column]
	     NEW BOOKS.
  �The Life and Letters of Bayard Taylor,�
prepared and edited by his widow, Marie
Hansen Taylor, and Horace E. Scudder, will
reawaken the interest once so universally
felt in the dead poet, and lead, we hope, to a
better knowledge, on the part of the present
generation of readers, of the work he left be-
hind him.  Twenty-five years ago no name
was better known in American literature
than that of Bayard Taylor.  It was associ-
ated with the best-read and most popular
works of the day.  Bayard Taylor was of
Quaker parentage, and firt saw the light in
the little village of Kennett Square, Chester
County, Pa.  His ancestors were of mixed
English and German blood, his father�s 
mother being unable to speak anything but
the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.  He was
named for Senator Bayard of Delaware.
When he was four years old his father
bought a farm a short distance from the vil-
lage, and as soon as he was old
enough young Bayard was set to work
upon it, and during his school vaca-
tions until he left home he did his
daily share of the farm labor.  Although it
was excellent discipline for him, he heartily
disliked it.  His mind was upon books and
poetry.  Before he was fourteen he had ex-
hausted the circulating library of the town,
and had committed an enormous amount of
poetry, which he was fond of repeating to
himself while at work in the field.  When he
was fifteen his first production, a description
of a visit to the field of the battle of Brandy-
wine, was published in the village paper.  It
was the turning point of his life.  The step
which was to decide his career was taken.
A few months later he sent a poem to the
Saturday Evening Post of Philadelphia,
which was accepted and published.  About
that time he was apprenticed to learn the
printing-trade to the publishers of the Vil-
lage Record, at West Chester, near his home,
His first volume, �Ximena and Other
Poems,� was printed when he was nineteen.
It contained fifteen pieces, not one of which
is included in the later editions of his works.
The edition was principally taken up by his
friends and gave him a small amount of
money as profit.  For years he had had a 
burning desire to go abroad, which now grew
stronger with his success.  He walked one
day to Philadelphia, a distance of thirty
miles, and visited all the editors and
publishers in the city, to see if he
could make arrangements to write foreign
letters to pay his expenses.  The publisher
of the Saturday Evening Post offered him
$50 for twelve letters, with the prom-
ise of continuing the engagement if the con-
tributions should be satisfactory.  The editor
of the United Stated Gazette made a similar
offer, and Mr. Graham paid $40 for some
manuscript poems.  He then made a journey
to New York and sought an interview with
Horace Greeley, to whom he unfolded his
plan.  His reception was blunt, but Mr.
Greeley finally agreed to take and pay for
what suited him.  That was enough for the
sanguine young writer, and a week later,
with one hundred and forty dollars in his
pocket and with two old riends as compan-
ions, Bayard Taylor sailed for Liverpool as a 
second-cabin passenger in the ship Oxford.
After landing, the party set out on a pilgrimage 
through the north of England and Scotland.
They then crossed over into Belgium, and
went up the Rhine to Heidelberg, reaching
there in September.  Taylor spent the win-
ter in Frankfort-on-the-Main, applying him-
self closely to the study of German�a lan-
guage he was already tolerably familiar with
�and by the following May he had so per-
fected his knowledge of the tongue that he
was often taken by Germans for one of them-
selves.  In that month he again set out by
himself, a knapsack on his back, and visited
the Brocken, Leipzig, Dresden, Prague Vi-
enna, Salzburg and Munich, returning to
Frankfort in July.  Starting anew, he crossed
the Alps and walked through northern Italy
to Florene, where he stayed four months
studying Italian.  From Florence he again
set out, knapsack on back, for Rome and
Civita Vecchia.  From the latter point he
took a deck passage to Marseilles, and
tramped to Paris through the cold winter
rains.  He stayed three months in Paris and
London, and then sailed for America, hav-
ing been absent for two years, and having
supported himself duringthe whole time by
his literary correspondence.  His entire in-
come all this time did not exceed $500.
  On his return home, he, with a friend, Mr.
F. E. Foster, bought a weekly paper pub-
lished at Ph�nixville, Chester County, which
they re-christened the Chronicle, and the
first number was published Dec. 29, 1846.  In
writing of this period of his life some years
later, he thus summed up his brief experience
as the editor of a country paper:
  I soon discovered that the paper which I
wished to publish would not satisfy the de-
mands of my subscribers.  I could not make
my pen serve the petty local interests, which
alone they cared for; as I wished to remain
neutral in politics, I offended both parties;
when I endeavored to illustrate higher liter-
ary points of view, my orthodoxy in religious
things was called in question.  At last, after
wasting a year in the thankless business, I
gave it up in despair and went to New York
weighed down with debt, the paying of which
cost me the earnings of the next three years.
  He wrote to the New York papers for em-
ployment.  Horace Greeley, who had become
his warm friend, wrote him a letter so full of
good sense and so applicable to like cases of
the day that we quote it in full:
		NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 1847.
  My Friend Taylor�I know nothing at
present wherewith to tempt you toward this

[newspaper clipping: second column]
city.  We are in the vortex of literary and
miscellaneous adventure.  All the aspiring
talent and conceit of our own country and of
Europe confront the crowd on our pavements,
and every newspaper or other periodical
establishment is crowded with assistants and
weighed down with promises.  My own judg-
ment is that you will do ill in leaving work
secure and ready to your hands to hunt work
in any of the unhealthy crowds congregated
on the seacoast.  But judge of this for your-
self.  It seems to me that two or three years�
experience in a country village will better
qualify you for a department in a city paper;
that, as to study, time is everything, and
that is scarce with anybody�s hirelings in
this city; and that should you evince high
qualities in your present position, they will
be noted, and your services requested else-
where.  Life is very hurried and fretful in a
great city.  Yours,	HORACE GREELEY.
  He obtained engagements which would
bring him in $9 a week, however, and
with that assured, with the hope of
making more, he removed to New York.  He
had from childhood been attached to a school-
mate, Mary Agnew, and soon after his return
from Europe the two became engaged.  He was 
anxious to obtain a permanent position,
so that he could make a home for
his wife.  Shortly after his arrival in New
York Greeley offered him a position on the
Tribune at $12 a week, which he at once ac-
cepted, writing to Miss Agnew that it was �a
glorious chance.�  The work was hard and
incessant, but his whole heart was in it.  In
1849 he was sent to California to write up the
country and the wonderful new life devel-
oped by the mining emigration.  He returned
in the summer of 1850, and found Mary Ag-
new in the last stages of rapid consumption.
They were married in October, simply that
she might bear the name of Taylor, and that
he could be with and assist in taking
care of her.  She died a few weeks
later.  For a time Taylor was inconsolable,
but the demands of his profession and con-
stant friction with the outside world after a
time dulled his grief, and his attention
turned once more towards literature and
travel.  In 1851 he went abroad as a corre-
spondent of the Tribune.  He penetrated
Central Africa, went up the Nile, traversed
Syria and Asia Minor, and finally to China,
where he joined the Perry expedition to
Japan.  On his return he was besieged with
invitations to lecture, and, as he was in need
of money, he consented.  In a few days he
was booked for sixty-five lectures, his en-
gagements taking him to all parts of the
country.  His letters to the Tribune from
abroad had given a popularity not enjoyed,
till then, by an American traveller or jour-
nalist.  Everybody knew him, and his sur-
prise grew every day at his success.  From
Milwaukee he wrote to his mother�
  People come ten, fifteen and twenty miles
over the prairie in their wagons to see and
hear me.  They all take the Tribune and
read every one of my letters conscientiously,
and their great curiosity is to see what sort
of an animal I am.  They are greatly disap-
pointed because I am not forty-five ears old.
I had no idea before that I was half so well
known.  I am carried from place to place in
triumph, have the best rooms at hotels, the
most obsequious attention, and am stared at
in a way that quite puts me out of counte-
nance.  At Rockford the gave me a sere-
nade.  Some of the farmers� wives are so
overcome with awe when I am introduced to
them that they cannot say a word.  It�s puz-
zling to me to see this; I examine myself to
see what I am, and find myself to be some-
body else than I thought I was.  Why, there
are men coming down from Janesville (sev-
enty miles off) to hear me lecture tonight
here, although I have lectured in Janesville
once already.  The people are infatuated,
and I can�t understand why.  It�s a new and
curious experience.
  Again he went abroad, spending 1856-7 in
North Germany and the Scandinavian coun-
tries.  In 1858 he was married at Gotha to
Marie Hansen, the daughter of a distin-
guished German astronomer.
  When the war broke out, he went to the
front as war correspondent for the Tribune.
From this position he was recalled by an
offer from Simon Cameron to make him sec-
retary of the Russian legation, with the
primise that later he should be made charg�
d�affaires.  He accepted the offer, but the
promises made were only partially kept.
Cassius M. Clay was appointed minister to
Russia in the spring of 1863, and Taylor re-
signed his position and returned to New
York.  For the next dozen years he gave
himself up to hard literary work, with occa-
sional travel.  The following extract from a
letter to a friend a year before his death will
interest all readers, and particularly those
who contemplate a literary career:
  But seriously now, my dear friend, have
you any idea of the life of a man who has at-
tained a certain amount of name (by which I
don�t mean fame) in literature?  Have you
ever considered how many solid claims are
made in return for certain very intangible
advantages?  I should like to enlighten you
a little on this point, for within the last year
I have seen the comfortable statement re-
peated in various newspapers that a man has 
only to do good literary work in order to be
appreciated�and rewarded.  Nothing could
be more untrue in this country at this time.
The public supposes that the mere knowl-
edge of a man�s name is the token of his suc-
cess.  If notoriety were success, this would
be true; but it is sometimes the reverse.
However, notoriety brings with it the same
penalties as genuine fame; and a large pro-
portion of the very persons who most
worry an author imagine they are
cheering him with compliment!  When
they do this they boldly assert their 
claims upon his time and patience.  For in-
stance, nothing is more common than for me
to receive a package of manuscripts, accom-
panied by a letter beginning in this way: �I
ask of you the same assistance which others
gave to you when you were young.  Will you
read my manuscripts and return them to me
with your critical judgment?� etc.  The sim-
ple fact is.  I never had such assistance when
young.  I never sent an article to an author
who was not also the editor of a periodical; I
never asked another�s influence to procure
admission into a magazine; and, with all the
sympathy which I still keep for the hope and
uncertaintly of beginners, I have never yet
found that [words cut off]
avail, excep [words cut off]
ardent you [words cut off
or paragraph writer.
  Several years before this he had written to
Mr. Phillips, who had congratulated him on
his success�
  You exaggerate what you consider my suc-
cesses, and hence, very probably, the effect
which you imagine them to have upon my
nature.  From 1854 to 1862, or thereabouts, I
had a good deal of popularity of a cheap,
ephemeral sort.  It began to decline at the
time when I began to see the better and
truer work in store for me, and I let it go,
feeling that I must begin anew and acquire
a second reputation of a very different kind.
For the past five years I have been engaged
in this struggle, which is not yet over.  I
dare not pause to rest, for my own sake; the
change in my nature gives me the energy of
a new youth, and I know that this cannot 
last many years more.  I am giving the best
blood of my life to my labors, seeing them
gradually recognized by the few and the
best, it is true, but the are still unknown to
the public, and my new claims are fiercely
resisted by a majority of the newspaper
writers in the United States.  Out of a dozen
intimate literary friends in New York and
Boston, only three have sent me a word of
congratulation about �Lars.�	   *      *      *
And now comes a report from Strahan,
the London publisher.  �Lars� is the
first poem of mine ever published in
England, and I hoped for some im-
partial recognition there.  Well, the
sale is just one hundred and eight copies!
My translation of �Faust� is at last accepted
in England, Germany and America as much
the best.  It cost me years of the severest 
labor, and has not yet returned me five hun-
dred dollars.  The �Masque of the Gods� has
not paid expenses.  The sale of my former
volumes of travel has fallen almost to noth-
ing, as is natural, for they were doomed,
from the first, to a transient existence.  For
two years past I have had no income of any
sort from property or copyrights, and am liv-
ing partly upon my capital and partly upon
mechanical labor of the mind.  Within a
year I have written �Lars,� compiled a vol-
ume on Central Asia for Scribner�s, done the
Vienna Exposition for the Tribune, written a
complete �School History of Germany�               
Loading content ...