Born in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, January 11, 1825; died
in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 1878. The career of Bayard Taylor
was a constantly shifting romance, comparable only to a kaleidoscope
in which every turn brings out a design. From his earliest boyhood
in a little Quaker town, he was imbued with two ambitions --
to travel and to be a poet; neither of which, from obvious circumstances,
seemed at all probable. But Life, which is always in league with
the dreamer, brought both to pass. He began at seven years of
age to write poetry and at sixteen published his first verses.
At nineteen he brought out his first book, "Ximen, or the
Battle of the Sierra Morena." In this year the second desire
of his life urged him to make trial of himself and he went abroad,
traveling about Europe on foot for nearly two years, with his
only luggage a knapsack and a scanty supply of script. From this
trip, however, came "Views Afoot," almost the pioneer
travel book of America, and immediately the poet-wanderer found
the fates smiling upon him. Soon after his return he became head
of the literary department of the "New York Tribune,"
but no office could hold so restless a spirit and at the outbreak
of the gold-fever in California in 1849, he joined the seekers,
bringing back, not gold, but the story of its pursuit, in "Eldorado."
He married Miss Mary Agnew, a childhood friend, who was incurably
ill and who lived but two months following the marriage. This
grief sent the poet to Europe again and on into the East, the
land which had been to him the dream within the dream. Here his
poetic gift came suddenly into flower, and nearly all of his
finest lyrics from this period relate to the East to which he
made many subsequent trips. In 1856 he again visited Europe and
was warmly received by scholars and writers, particularly in
Germany, where he married a daughter of the astronomer, Professor
Hansen. Returning to America, he established the beautiful home,
"Cedarcroft," in his native Pennsylvania village, and
in such intervals as were spent in its retirement, produced poetry,
novels, essays, books of travel, and translations. To literature
and travel he added diplomacy, and was sent as secretary to the
American legation in Russia and as United States Minister to
Germany, a position which he eagerly accepted in the hope that
it would give him leisure to write a "Life" of Goethe, which
he had long had in mind. This ambition, however, was not to be
fulfilled, as he was stricken with illness not long after his
arrival at Berlin and died there in a few weeks.
This biographical note is reprinted
from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed.
Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.