Bayard Taylor (January 11, 1825 – December 19, 1878) was an
American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and
1 Life and work
2 Legacy and honors
4 Published works
7 External links
Life and work
Taylor was born on January 11, 1825, in Kennett Square in Chester
County, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth son, the first to survive to
maturity, of the
Quaker couple, Joseph and Rebecca (née Way)
Taylor. His father was a wealthy farmer. Bayard received his early
instruction in an academy at West Chester, Pennsylvania, and later at
nearby Unionville. At the age of seventeen, he was apprenticed to a
printer in West Chester. The influential critic and editor Rufus
Wilmot Griswold encouraged him to write poetry. The volume that
resulted, Ximena, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena, and other Poems,
was published in 1844 and dedicated to Griswold.
Using the money from his poetry and an advance for travel articles, he
visited parts of England, France,
Germany and Italy, making largely
pedestrian tours for almost two years. He sent accounts of his travels
to the Tribune, The Saturday Evening Post, and The United States
In 1846, he published a collection of those articles in two volumes as
Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff. That
publication resulted in an invitation to serve as an editorial
Graham's Magazine for a few months in 1848. That same
year, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, hired Taylor and
sent him to
California to report on the gold rush. He returned by way
Mexico and published another two-volume collection of travel
essays, El Dorado; or, Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850). Within
two weeks of release, the books sold 10,000 copies in the U.S. and
30,000 in Great Britain.
San Francisco in November 1849, from publication El
In 1849 Taylor married Mary Agnew, who died of tuberculosis the next
year. That same year, Taylor won a popular competition sponsored by
P. T. Barnum
P. T. Barnum to write an ode for the "Swedish Nightingale", singer
Jenny Lind. His poem "Greetings to America" was set to music by Julius
Benedict and performed by the singer at numerous concerts on her tour
of the United States.
In 1851 he traveled to Egypt, where he followed the
Nile River as far
as 12° 30' N. He also traveled in Palestine and Mediterranean
countries, writing poetry based on his experiences. Toward the end of
1852, he sailed from England to Calcutta, and then to China, where he
joined the expedition of Commodore
Matthew Calbraith Perry to
Japan. The results of these journeys were published as A Journey to
Central Africa; or, Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the Negro
Kingdoms of the White Nile (1854); The Lands of the Saracen; or,
Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain (1854); and A
Visit to India, China and Japan in the Year 1853 (1855).
He returned to the U.S. on December 20, 1853, and undertook a
successful public lecturer tour that extended from
Maine to Wisconsin.
After two years, he went to northern Europe to study Swedish life,
language and literature. The trip inspired his long narrative poem
Lars. His series of articles Swedish Letters to the Tribune were
republished as Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Pictures (1857).
Berlin in 1856, Taylor met the great German scientist Alexander von
Humboldt, hoping to interview him for the New York Tribune. Humboldt
was welcoming, and inquired whether they should speak English or
German. Taylor planned to go to central Asia, where Humboldt had
traveled in 1829. Taylor informed Humboldt of Washington Irving's
death; Humboldt had met him in Paris. Taylor saw Humboldt again in
1857 at Potsdam.
In October 1857, he married Maria Hansen, the daughter of the
Danish/German astronomer Peter Hansen. The couple spent the following
winter in Greece. In 1859 Taylor returned to the American West and
lectured at San Francisco.
In 1862, he was appointed to the U.S. diplomatic service as secretary
of legation at St. Petersburg, and acting minister to Russia for a
time during 1862-3 after the resignation of Ambassador Simon
Cedarcroft, Taylor's home.
He published his first novel Hannah Thurston in 1863. The newspaper
New York Times
New York Times first praised him for "break[ing] new ground with
such assured success". A second much longer appreciation in the
same newspaper was thoroughly negative, describing "one pointless,
aimless situation leading to another of the same stamp, and so on in
maddening succession". It concluded: "The platitudes and puerilities
which might otherwise only raise a smile, when confronted with such
pompous pretensions, excite the contempt of every man who has in him
the feeblest instincts of common honesty in literature." It proved
successful enough for his publisher to announce another novel from him
the next year.
In 1864 Taylor and his wife Maria returned to the U.S. In 1866, Taylor
traveled to Colorado and made a large loop through the northern
mountains on horseback with a group that included William Byers,
editor of the newspaper Rocky Mountain News. His letters describing
this adventure were later compiled and published as Colorado: A Summer
His late novel, Joseph and His Friend: A Story of
first serialized in the magazine The Atlantic, was described as a
story of young man in rural
Pennsylvania and "the troubles which arise
from the want of a broader education and higher culture". It is
believed to be based on the poets
Fitz-Greene Halleck and Joseph
Rodman Drake, and since the late 20th-century has been called
America's first gay novel. Taylor spoke at the dedication of a
monument to Halleck in his native town, Guilford, Connecticut. He said
that in establishing this monument to an American poet "we symbolize
the intellectual growth of the American people.... The life of the
poet who sleeps here represents the long period of transition between
the appearance of American poetry and the creation of an appreciative
and sympathetic audience for it."
Taylor imitated and parodied the writings of various poets in
Diversions of the Echo Club (London, 1873; Boston, 1876). In 1874
Taylor traveled to
Iceland to report for the Tribune on the one
thousandth anniversary of the first European settlement there.
During March 1878, the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment as United
States Minister to Prussia. Mark Twain, who traveled to Europe on the
same ship, was envious of Taylor's command of German.
A few months after arriving in Berlin, Taylor died there on December
19, 1878. His body was returned to the U.S. and buried in Kennett
Square, Pennsylvania. The
New York Times
New York Times published his obituary on
its front page, referring to him as "a great traveler, both on land
and paper." Shortly after his death, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
wrote a memorial poem in Taylor's memory, at the urging of Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Legacy and honors
Cedarcroft, Taylor's home from 1859 to 1874, which he built near
Kennett Square, is preserved as a National Historic Landmark.
Bayard Taylor School
Bayard Taylor School was added to the National Register of
Historic Places in 1988.
Bayard Taylor Memorial Library is in Kennett Square.
Bayard Taylor in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Though he wanted to be known most as a poet, Taylor was mostly
recognized as a travel writer during his lifetime. Modern critics have
generally accepted him as technically skilled in verse, but lacking
imagination and, ultimately, consider his work as a conventional
example of 19th-century sentimentalism.
His translation of Faust, however, was recognized for its scholarly
skill and remained in print through 1969. According to the 1920
edition of Encyclopedia Americana:
It is by his translation of Faust, one of the finest attempts of the
kind in any literature, that Taylor is generally known; yet as an
original poet he stands well up in the second rank of Americans. His
Poems of the Orient and his
Pennsylvania ballads comprise his best
work. His verse is finished and sonorous, but at times
According to the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica:
Taylor's most ambitious productions in poetry—- his Masque of the
Gods (Boston, 1872), Prince Deukalion; a lyrical drama (Boston, 1878),
The Picture of St John (Boston, 1866), Lars; a Pastoral of Norway
(Boston, 1873), and The Prophet; a tragedy (Boston, 1874)—- are
marred by a ceaseless effort to overstrain his power. But he will be
remembered by his poetic and excellent translation of Goethe's Faust
(2 vols, Boston, 1870-71) in the original metres.
Taylor felt, in all truth, the torment and the ecstasy of verse; but,
as a critical friend has written of him, his nature was so ardent, so
full-blooded, that slight and common sensations intoxicated him, and
he estimated their effect, and his power to transmit it to others,
beyond the true value. He had, from the earliest period at which he
began to compose, a distinct lyrical faculty: so keen indeed was his
ear that he became too insistently haunted by the music of others,
pre-eminently of Tennyson. But he had often a true and fine note of
his own. His best short poems are The Metempsychosis of the Pine and
In his critical essays
Bayard Taylor had himself in no inconsiderable
degree what he wrote of as that pure poetic insight which is the vital
spirit of criticism. The most valuable of these prose dissertations
are the Studies in German Literature (New York, 1879).
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography of 1889, Edmund
Clarence Stedman gives the following critique:
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.
Ximena, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena, and other Poems (1844)
Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff (1846)
Rhymes of Travel: Ballads and Poems (1849)
El Dorado; or, Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850)
Romances, Lyrics, and Songs (1852)
Journey to Central Africa; or, Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the
Negro Kingdoms of the White Nile, A (1854)
Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily
and Spain, The (1854)
A visit to India, China, and Japan in the year 1853 (1855)
Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily
and Spain, The (1855)
Poems of the Orient (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1855)
Poems of Home and Travel (1856)
Cyclopedia of Modern Travel (1856)
Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Pictures (1857)
View A-Foot, or Europe Seen with Knapsack and Staff (1859)
Life, Travels And Books Of Alexander Von Humboldt, The (1859)
At Home and Abroad, First Series: A Sketch-book of Life, Scenery, and
Cyclopaedia of Modern Travel Vol I (1861)
Prose Writings: India, China, and Japan (1862)
Travels in Greece and Russia, with an Excursion to Crete (1859)
Poet's Journal (1863)
Hanna Thurston (1863)
John Godfrey's Fortunes Related by Himself: A story of American Life
"Cruise On Lake Ladoga, A" (1864)
"The Poems of Bayard Taylor" (1865)
John Godrey's Fortunes Related By Himself - A story of American Life
The Story of Kennett (1866)
Visit To The Balearic Islands, Complete in Two Parts, A (1867)
Picture of St. John, The (1867)
Colorado: A Summer Trip (1867)
"Little Land Of Appenzell, The" (1867)
"Island of Maddalena with a Distant View of Caprera, The" (1868)
"Land Of Paoli, The" (1868)
"Catalonian Bridle-Roads" (1868)
"Kyffhauser And Its Legend, The" (1868)
By-Ways Of Europe (1869)
Joseph and His Friend: A Story of
Ballad of Abraham Lincoln, The (1870)
"Sights In And Around Yedo" (1871)
Northern Travel (1871)
Japan in Our Day (1872)
Masque of the Gods, The (1872)
"Heart Of Arabia, The" (1872)
Travels in South Africa (1872)
At Home and Abroad: A Sketch-Book of Life, Scenery and Men (1872)
Diversions of the Echo Club (1873)
Lars: A Pastoral of Norway (1873)
Wonders of the Yellowstone - The Illustrated Library of Travel,
Exploration and Adventure (with James Richardson) (1873)
Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Pictures - Sweden, Denmark and
Lake Regions of Central Africa (1873)
Prophet: A Tragedy, The. (1874)
Home Pastorals Ballads & Lyrics (1875)
Iceland In The Year 1874 (1875)
Boys of Other Countries: Stories for American Boys (1876)
Echo Club and Other Literary Diversions (1876)
Picturesque Europe Part Thirty-Six (1877)
National Ode: The Memorial Freedom Poem, The (1877)
Bismarck: His Authentic Biography (1877)
"Assyrian Night-Song" (August 1877)
Prince Deukalion (1878)
Picturesque Europe (1878)
Studies in German Literature (1879)
Faust: A Tragedy translated in the Original Metres (1890)
Travels in Arabia (1892)
A school history of
Collected editions of his Poetical Works and his Dramatic Works were
published at Boston in 1888; his Life and Letters (Boston, 2 vols.,
1884) were edited by his wife and Horace Scudder.
Marie Hansen Taylor translated into German Bayard's Greece (Leipzig,
1858), Hannah Thurston (Hamburg, 1863), Story of Kennett (Gotha,
1868), Tales of Home (Berlin, 1879), Studies in German Literature
(Leipzig, 1880), and notes to Faust, both parts (Leipzig, 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
^ Joseph A. Lordi. Kennett Square. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia
Publishing, 2006, p. 104.
^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos,
California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 38. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
^ Wermuth, Paul Charles. Bayard Taylor. Twayne Publishers, 1973: 13.
^ a b c d e f g One or more of the preceding
sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public
domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Taylor, Bayard".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
p. 467. This cites Smyth (1896) and Howells (1901).
^ Bayless, Joy. Rufus Wilmot Griswold: Poe's Literary Executor.
Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1943. p. 128
^ Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. The Literary History of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906: 273.
Bayard Taylor House", Living Places Website, with
excerpt from 1971 nomination to National Register of Historic Places,
accessed May 30, 2011
^ "The Vault at Pfaff's - Biographies - Individuals," A site dedicated
to denizens of a popular 19th century watering hole, frequented by
such characters as Walt Whitman, accessed April 19, 2015
^ Helmut de Terra, Alexander von Humboldt. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
^ "News from Washington". New York Times. March 29, 1862. Retrieved
May 9, 2015.
^ "Important from Washington". New York Times. February 14, 1863.
Retrieved May 9, 2015.
^ "Hannah Thurston. A Story of American Life". New York Times.
November 26, 1863. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
^ "Hannah Thurston. A Story of American Life". New York Times.
December 27, 1863. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
^ "Literary Gossip". New York Times. September 10, 1864. Retrieved May
^ "New Publications". New York Times. December 8, 1970. Retrieved May
^ Austen, Roger (1977). Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in
America. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. pp. 9–10.
^ "The Halleck Monument". New York Times. July 9, 1869. Retrieved May
^ Hallock, John W. M. The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall
of Fitz-Greene Halleck. University of
Wisconsin Press, 2000: 151.
^ Haskell, Juliana (1908). Bayard Taylor's translation of Goethe's
Faust. Columbia University Press. p. 13.
^ Fisher, Henry W. (1922). Abroad with
Mark Twain and Eugene Field:
Tales They Told to a Fellow Correspondent. New York.
^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary
Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982:
200. ISBN 0-19-503186-5
^ Melton, Jeffrey Alan. Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The
Tide of a Great Popular Movement. Tuscaloosa: The University of
Alabama Press, 2002: 81. ISBN 0-8173-1160-2
National Park Service
National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
^ a b Rennick, Andrew. "Bayard Taylor" in Writers of the American
Renaissance: An A to Z Guide. Denise D. Knight, editor. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 2003: 354. ISBN 0-313-32140-X
Cary, Richard (1952). The Genteel Circle:
Bayard Taylor and his New
York Friends. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Howells, William Dean (1901). Literary Friends and Acquaintance :
A Personal Retrospect of American Authorship. New York: Harper &
Smyth, Albert (1896).
Bayard Taylor (American men of Letters series).
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Taylor, Bayard (1997). Selected Letters of Bayard Taylor. Bucknell
University Press. ISBN 978-0-8387-5363-7.
Wermuth, Paul (1973).
Bayard Taylor (Twayne's United States authors
series). New York: Twayne Publishers.
Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1889). "Taylor, Bayard". In Wilson,
James Grant; Fiske, John. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American
Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Taylor, (James)
Bayard". Encyclopedia Americana.
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United States Envoy to Prussia
May 7, 1878 – December 19, 1878
Andrew D. White
United States Ambassadors to
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