Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Taylor, Bayard
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|Edition of 1889. Written by Edmund Clarence Stedman. See also Bayard Taylor on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.|
TAYLOR, Bayard, author, b. in Kennett Square, Chester co., Pa., 11 Jan.. 1825; d. in Berlin, Germany, 19 Dec., 1878. He was the son of Joseph and Rebecca (Way) Taylor, and was of Quaker and South German descent. His first American ancestor, Robert Taylor, was a rich Quaker, who came over with Penn in 1681, and whose eldest son inherited land that now includes “Cedarcroft,” the poet's recent estate. His grandfather married a Lutheran of pure German blood, and was excommunicated by the Quakers. The poet's mother, although a Lutheran, was attached to the Quaker doctrines, and the Quaker speech and manners prevailed in her household. Bayard was named after James A. Bayard, of Delaware, and his first book bore on its title-page, through a mistake of Griswold, its editor, the name of “James Bayard Taylor.” After reaching his majority he always signed his name Bayard Taylor. His boyhood was passed near Kennett on a farm. He learned to read at four, began to write early, and from his twelfth year wrote “poems, novels, historical essays, but chiefly poems.” At the age of fourteen he studied Latin and French, and Spanish not long afterward. In 1837 the family removed to West Chester. There, and at Unionville, the youth had five years of high-school training. His first printed poem was contributed in 1841 to the “Saturday Evening Post,” Philadelphia. In 1842 he was apprenticed to a printer of West Chester. His contributions to the “Post” led to a friendship with Rufus W. Griswold, who was then connected with that paper and was also editor of “Graham's Magazine.” Griswold advised him concerning the publication of “Ximena, and other Poems” (Philadelphia, 1844), which was dedicated to his adviser and sold by subscription. By this time he found a trade distasteful, and, to gratify his desire for travel and study in Europe, he bought his time of his employer. The “Post” and the “United States Gazette” each agreed to pay him fifty dollars in advance for twelve foreign letters. Graham bought some of his poems, and with one hundred and forty dollars thus collected he sailed for Liverpool, 1 July, 1844. Horace Greeley gave him a conditional order for letters to the “Tribune,” of which he afterward wrote eighteen from Germany. His experiences abroad are well condensed in his own language: “After landing in Liverpool, I spent three weeks in a walk through Scotland and the north of England, and then travelled through Belgium and up the Rhine to Heidelberg, where I arrived in September, 1844. The winter of 1844-'5 I spent in Frankfort-on-the-Main, and by May I was so good a German that I was often not suspected of being a foreigner. I started off again on foot, a knapsack on my back, and visited the Brocken, Leipsic, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich, returning to Frankfort in July. A further walk over the Alps and through northern Italy took me to Florence, where I spent four months learning Italian. Thence I wandered, still on foot, to Rome and Civita Vecchia, where I bought a ticket as deck-passenger to Marseilles, and then tramped on to Paris through the cold winter rains. I arrived there in February, 1846, and returned to America after a stay of three months in Paris and London. I had been abroad for two years, and had supported myself entirely during the whole time by my literary correspondence. The remuneration which I received was in all five hundred dollars, and only by continual economy and occasional self-denial was I able to carry out my plan.” His letters were widely read, and shortly after his return were collected in “Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff” (New York, 1846). Six editions were sold within the year. In December, 1846, Taylor bought, with a friend as partner, a printing-office in his native county, and began to publish the Phœnixville “Pioneer.” But after a year he sold his newspaper and obtained a place on the New York “Tribune” in the literary department and as man-of-all-work. In December, 1848, he published “Rhymes of Travel, Ballads, and Poems,” which gave him repute as a poet. In 1849-'50 he was sent by the “Tribune” to California to report on the gold discoveries, and his letters were collected in “Eldorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire” (1850). The same year he delivered the Φ Β Κ poem at Harvard. On 24 Oct., 1850, Taylor married, at Kennett, Mary Agnew, a Quaker girl of exquisite character, to whom he had long been betrothed, but who was now in an incurable decline, and she died within two months. He obtained an interest in the “Tribune,” and also issued “A Book of Romances, Lyrics, and Songs” (1851). In the autumn he again visited Europe as a correspondent, went to Egypt, and thence to Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor, and reached London in October, 1852. His instructions next led him to join Com. Perry's expedition to Japan. Travelling through Spain, he proceeded to Bombay via Cairo and Suez, journeyed through India to Delhi and Calcutta, thence, to the Himalayas and back, and finally voyaged to Hong Kong, China, which he reached in March, 1853, joining Perry's flag-ship in May, and obtaining the nominal appointment of master's mate. He remained with the expedition until September, sharing its visit to Japan, and transmitting graphic accounts thereof to the “Tribune,” besides furnishing valuable notes to Perry for the latter's report to the U. S. government. After his return home he was in demand as a lecturer, and made lecturing a vocation throughout much of his after career. In 1854 he published “A Journey to Central Africa” and “The Land of the Saracen.” “A Visit to India, China, and Japan” appeared in 1855. In 1854 he also brought out his “Poems of the Orient,” perhaps his freshest, most glowing and characteristic book of verse. The next year or two were occupied with lecturing, travelling in this country, and authorship. “Poems of Home and Travel,” a collective edition of his verse, and a revised edition of “Views Afoot,” came out in 1855. His income grew large from copyrights, lecture-fees, and the “Tribune” stock. He edited a “Cyclopædia of Modern Travel” (New York, 1856). In July, 1855, he revisited Germany, and then made a journey to Norway and Lapland. His letters to the “Tribune” composed the volume “Northern Travel” (1858). He married in October, 1857, Marie Hansen, of Gotha, and spent the winter of 1857-'8 in Greece. In October, 1858, they returned to Kennett Square, bringing with them a daughter, Lilian Bayard, who now resides at Halle with her husband, Dr. Kiliani. Taylor laid the corner-stone of his country-home, “Cedarcroft,” upon a generous tract of land which he had purchased near Kennett Square. In 1861 the house was completed and became his residence. It is represented in the accompanying illustration. At the beginning of the civil war he spoke and wrote for the National cause, and in May, 1862, he was appointed secretary of legation, Gen. Simon Cameron being minister, at St. Petersburg. When left for a time in sole charge, he was influential, as the files of the state department show, in determining Russia to extend her sympathy and active friendship to the U. S. government. Resigning his office in 1863, he visited Gotha, where he obtained unusual facilities for his study of the life and writings of Goethe. After the loss of a brother, Col. Frederic Taylor, at Gettysburg, he went home in the autumn of 1863 and resumed his professional labors. In 1867 the Taylors revisited Switzerland and Italy, and the poet was brought near to death by an attack of Roman fever. He made a trip to Corsica in 1868. Two years were now devoted to his translation of “Faust,” which was published in the United States, England, and Germany. In 1870 he delivered a course of lectures, as professor of German literature, at Cornell university. He went again to Weimar in search of materials for biographies of Goethe and Schiller, and in February, 1874, revisited Italy and Egypt. Midsummer found him at the Millennial celebration of Iceland, which he described for the “Tribune,” and reached home in the autumn. In 1876 he once more occupied a desk in the “Tribune” office. On 4 July, 1876, he delivered the stately National ode at the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. In 1877 his health failed, and after a partial recuperation he was nominated by President Hayes as minister to Berlin. His confirmation was followed by a notable series of popular testimonials, culminating with a banquet in New York, at which the poet Bryant presided, 4 April, 1878. He entered upon his official duties in May. His books of travel, subsequent to those heretofore named, were “Travels in Greece and Rome” (New York, 1859); “At Home and Abroad” (2 vols., 1859-'62); “Colorado: a Summer Trip” (1867); “Byways of Europe” (1869); “Travels in Arabia” (1872); and “Egypt and Iceland” (1874). Among his miscellaneous works are a “Masque,” for the golden wedding of his parents (printed privately, 1868); a “School History of Germany to 1871” (1874); “The Boys of other Countries” (1876); and “The Echo Club” (1876). The last-named is a book of talk upon modern poets, with burlesque imitations of their verse, for which sparkling by-play Taylor had a native readiness. He also edited, with George Ripley, a “Handbook of Literature and Fine Arts” (1852), and, alone, the “Illustrated Library of Travel” (8 vols., 1871-'4), besides various translations. He began with much zest, in 1863, his career as a novelist, laying his plots and scenes in his own country. “Hannah Thurston” (1863), whose heroine is a Pennsylvania Quakeress, was followed by “John Godfrey's Fortunes” (1864); “The Story of Kennett” (1866); “Joseph and his Friend” (1870); and “Beauty and the Beast, and Tales of Home” (1872). “The Story of Kennett” is the most complete as a work of art. But it was as a poet that Taylor exerted all his powers and hoped to be remembered, and some of his verse reflects his highest creative mood. His later books of poetry comprise “The Poet's Journal” (Boston, 1862): “Poems” (1865); “The Picture of St. John,” a romantic art-poem (1869); “Ballad of Abraham Lincoln” (1869); “The Masque of the Gods” (1872); “Lars: a Pastoral of Norway” (1873); “The Prophet: a Tragedy” (1874); “Home-Pastorals” (1875); “The National Ode” (1876); and “Prince Deukalion: a Lyrical Drama” (1878). His poetry is striking for qualities that appeal to the ear and eye, finished, sonorous in diction and rhythm, at times too rhetorical, but rich in sound, color, and metrical effects. His early models were Byron and Shelley, and his more ambitious lyrics and dramas exhibit the latter's peculiar, often vague, spirituality. “Lars,” somewhat after the manner of Tennyson, is his longest and most attractive narrative poem. “Prince Deukalion” was designed for a masterpiece; its blank verse and choric interludes are noble in spirit and mould. Some of Taylor's songs, oriental idyls, and the true and tender Pennsylvanian ballads, have passed into lasting favor, and show the native quality of his poetic gift. His fame rests securely upon his unequalled rendering of “Faust” in the original metres, of which the first and second parts appeared in 1870 and 1871. His commentary upon Part II. for the first time interpreted the motive and allegory of that unique structure. During his one summer in Germany he was able only to revise the proofs of “Prince Deukalion” and to write an “Epicedium” on the death of Bryant. Tributes were paid to his memory at Berlin, Berthold Auerbach pronouncing an eloquent address. His remains, on arriving at New York, were honored with a solemn reception by the German societies and an oration by Algernon S. Sullivan. The body lay in state at the city-hall, was then removed to Kennett, and there interred, 15 March, 1879. Posthumous collections of Taylor's miscellanies, “Studies in German Literature” (1879), and “Essays and Notes” (1880), were edited by George H. Boker and Mrs. Taylor. In person he was of a handsome and commanding figure, with an oriental yet frank countenance, a rich voice, and engaging smile and manner. — His wife, Marie Hansen, b. in Gotha, Germany, 2 June, 1829, is the daughter of the late Prof. Peter A. Hansen, founder of the Erfurt observatory. She zealously promoted her husband's literary career, and translated into German his “Greece” (Leipsic, 1858); “Hannah Thurston” (Hamburg, 1863); “Story of Kennett” (Gotha, 1868); “Tales of Home” (Berlin, 1879); “Studies in German Literature” (Leipsic, 1880); and notes to “Faust,” both parts (Leipsic, 1881). After her husband's death she edited, with notes, his “Dramatic Works” (1880), and in the same year his “Poems” in a “Household Edition,” and brought together his “Critical Essays and Literary Notes.” In 1885 she prepared a school edition of “Lars,” with notes and a sketch of its author's life. After six years' labor in collecting and arranging the poet's extensive private correspondence, she completed, with Horace E. Scudder, the “Life and Letters of Bayard Taylor” (2 vols., Boston, 1884).