Изображения страниц

in Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff (1846).

Taylor returned to America and took up journalism. Failing in an attempt to make of the 'Pho'nixville Pioneer' a paper according to his ideal, he went to New York (December, 1847). After various experiences he secured a place on the 'Tri'bune,' was rapidly advanced, and became in time a stockholder. He was sent to California to report on the gold discoveries. This journey furnished him with the matter for his second book of travel, El Dorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850).

His whole subsequent career is but a variation on the themes of 1846 and 1850. He went everywhere, to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor (1851-52); to Spain and India, then on to China, where he joined Perry's expedition to Japan (1853). He was in Germany, Norway, and Lapland in 1856, in Greece in 1857-58, in Russia in 1862-63 (where for a while he held the post of secretary of legation), in Switzerland, the Pyrenees, and Corsica in 1868, and in Egypt and Iceland in the same year (1874).

All his adventures were transmuted into books: A Journey to Central Africa, 1854; The Lands of the Saracen, 1854; A Visit to India, China, and Japan in the Year 1853, 1855; Northern Travel, 1857; Travels in Greece and Russia, 1859; At Home and Abroad, 1859; At Home and Abroad,

'second series,' 1862; Colorado, 1867; By-Ways of Europe, 1869; Egypt and Iceland, 1874.

A part of the great success of these books was due to causes far from literature. Doubtless, if written to-day, the volumes would be read, but it were idle to suppose that they could have the vogue they enjoyed in the Fifties. The American public of a half-century ago was not nomadic. It had few ways of gratifying its thirst for knowledge of foreign lands. Photographs were so expensive that one seldom ran the risk of being obliged to sit down with a friend 'just back from Europe' to admire such novelties as the Leaning Tower and the Bridge of Sighs. The oxyhydrogen stereopticon was imperfect, the panorama clumsy and illpainted. Therefore the writings of a man who had the knack of telling agreeably what he had seen were most welcome. The home-keeping public enjoyed also hearing the traveller talk. When Taylor lectured (for he became one of the most popular lecturers of the day) they crowded the hall and thought two hours of him not long enough.

Timeliness, however, does not explain all the success of Views Afoot and its companion volumes. Taylor was an excellent writer even when he wrote most hastily. If his word-pictures were often highly colored, they possessed, among other virtues, the great virtue of having been painted on the spot. Through their aid one could really see what Taylor had himself seen.

But Taylor was a poet before he was a traveller. In 1844 he published (under the patronage of R. W. Griswold, his first literary adviser) a little volume entitled Ximena, or, The Battle of the Sierra Morena, and Other Poems. It was followed by Rhymes of Travel (1848) and The American Legend, the Phi Beta Kappa poem at Harvard (1850). To these must be added A Book of Romances, Lyrics, and Songs, 1851; Poems and Ballads, 1854; Poems of the Orient, 1854; Poems of Home and Travel, 1855; The Poet's Journal, 1862; The Picture of St. John, 1866; The Masque of the Gods, 1872; Lars, 1873; The Prophet, 1874; Home Pastorals, Ballads, and Lyrics, 1875; The National Ode (read by the author at the opening of the Centennial'), 1876; and Prince Deukalion, 1878. The great translation of Goethe's Faust, with the commentary, appeared in 1870-71.

Not content with his commercial success as a writer of travels, and his artistic triumphs in poetry, Taylor tried fiction. The first of his four novels, Hannah Thurston (1863), is in part a satire and shows in their most disagreeable light the people who abhor meat and swear by vegetables, the people who profess to hold communication with spirits, the people who think other people ought not to buy and sell human flesh, and so forth.

John Godfrey's Fortunes (1864) embodies not a few of Taylor's journalistic experiences in New

York. Here are glimpses of literary society such as the soirées at the home of Estelle Ann Lewis, the Mademoiselle de Scudéry of that time and place. The Story of Kennett (1866) is a Pennsylvanian study, a true and lively picture of a phase of civilization which the author perfectly understood. Joseph and his Friend (1870) closed the series of efforts by which Taylor tried to earn money enough to free him from the thraldom of the lecture platform.

His other publications were Beauty and the Beast, and Tales of Home (1872), The Echo Club (1876), the posthumous Studies in German Literature (1879), and Essays and Studies (1880).

Of Taylor's private life a few important facts remain to be recorded. The pathetic story of Mary Agnew, the beautiful girl whom he had loved since they were school-children together, and whom he married on her death-bed, is a romance which fortunately has been well told by both of Taylor's biographers. In 1857 (seven years after Mary Agnew's death) Taylor married Marie Hansen, daughter of Professor Hansen of Gotha, the astronomer. How devoted and helpful she was to him during his arduous life, and how loyal to his memory, are facts too well known to require emphasis.

[ocr errors]

The home at Kennett known as Cedarcroft' was built in 1859-60. Taylor lavished on it both money and affection; and while for a few years it

gave him a deal of happiness, it proved in the end a burden he could ill afford to carry.

Robust and vigorous though he seemed in middle life, Taylor by unremitting activity had sapped his powers. He gave no evidence of declining literary ambition, but at fifty he was worn out by overwork. A notable recognition of his worth came to him in 1878, when President Hayes appointed him Minister to Germany. He was not to enjoy the honor for long. In May, ,1878, he took up the duties of his office, and on the fifteenth of the following December he died while sitting in his armchair in his library.



AMBITION was a ruling motive in Taylor's life. Yet there has seldom been an ambition which, albeit as consuming as fire, was at the same time so free from selfish and ignoble elements.

Taylor aspired to fame through cultivation of the art of poesy. This was the real object of his life. To gain this object he toiled unceasingly and made innumerable sacrifices. Baffled in the attempt to reach his ideal, he was a little comforted when he could persuade himself that he had not fallen completely short of it. And there was exceeding

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »