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Bayard Taylor

journalist, traveler, lecturer, poet, and translator

Bayard Taylor

Bayard Taylor was born in the village of Kennett Square in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1824, the son of well-to-do Quaker farmers. He received his education from schools in West Chester and Unionville, and from an early age began feeling the desire to expand the limits of his known world. He began studying languages and literature, and started writing poetry, as a teenager. His first poetry was published in Philadelphia's Saturday Evening Post in 1841.

At the age of 17, Taylor was apprenticed to a printer in West Chester. During this period he became acquainted with Rufus Griswold, editor of Graham's Magazine, whose encouragement and support led Taylor to publish Ximena; or, the Battle of the Sierra Morena and Other Poems (1844). Highly praised, this work led to a contract with the Saturday Evening Post, which in turn provided him with enough money to travel the world.

In 1844, Taylor, a cousin, and a friend, travelled to Europe. Over the span of two years they managed to tour England, Germany, and Italy, living on six cents a day (according to them). The articles Taylor wrote about his travels for the Post were compiled into Views Afoot; or, Europe seen with a Knapsack and Staff (1846), which enjoyed many reprints over the next thirteen years.

Upon his return to Kennett Square, Taylor became engaged to Mary S. Agnew. Before the two could be married, however, Taylor needed a more secure income, so he moved to New York and obtained an editing position with the New York Tribune, in 1847. He would maintain a relationship with the Tribune for the rest of his life.

In 1849, the Tribune sent Taylor to California to report on the Gold Rush. This trip resulted in publication of Tribune; Eldorado, or, Adventures in the Path of Empire (2 vols., 1850), which was an immediate best-seller.

Now financially stable enough to win Mary's hand, the couple was married on October 24, 1850. Unfortunately, Mary was suffering from tuberculosis, and she died on December 21, 1850.

In 1851, Bayard and his brother again sailed for Europe. Over the next two years they visited England, Austria, Egypt, and China. This trip resulted in a number of works, including: Poems of the Orient (1854), 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, Picturesof Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain (1854); and, A Visit to India, China and Japan in the Year 1853 (1855). A subsequent tour of Sweden, the Arctic, Germany, and England resulted in Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Pictures of Sweden, Denmark, and Lapland (1857).

The popularity generated by Taylor's Tribune articles and his books made him a star of the lecture circuit, and people loved to hear him tell his travel stories in person.

While on his third trip to Europe, Taylor met Marie Hansen, whom he married on October 27, 1857. With the United States in the midst of a financial crisis, the couple stayed in Europe while they awaited the birth of their daughter Lilian.

By the time the couple returned to Kennett Square, Taylor had earned enough money to build an estate, into which the couple moved in 1860. Although he continued to travel, he began spending more time at home in order to have time with his family and concentrate more on his writing, especially a translation of Goethe's Faust (2 vols., 1870-1871).

Taylor's first novel, Hannah Thurston; A Story of American Life, was published in 1864. Although it met with little success, he wrote three more: John Godfrey's Fortunes; Related by Himself (1864), The Story of Kennett (1866), and Joseph and his Friend; a story of Pennsylvania (1870); all of them met with less than enthusiastic responses.

In 1878, Taylor was appointed U.S. Minister to Germany, and sailed for Berlin that same year. By this time, however, years of travel had taken their toll on Taylor's health and he was suffering from a chronic liver condition. He died in Berlin on December 19, 1878.

Other major works by Bayard Taylor include:

Rhymes of Travel, Ballads, and Poems (1848)
A Book of Romances, Lyrics, and Songs
The Picture of St. John (1866)
Colorado, a summer trip
Masque of the Gods (1872)
Lars; a Postal of Norway (1873)
The Prophet; a tragedy (1874)
Prince Deukalion: A Lyrical Drama (1878)

Link of Interest

The Literature Network

See Also

Civil War

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The Robinson Library >> American Literature >> 19th Century

This page was last updated on 12/19/2018.