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Bayard Taylor, 1825 – 1878) was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel writer, and diplomat.
Life and work
Taylor was born in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1825. He was Joseph and Rebecca (née Way) Taylor's fourth son, and the first to live to maturity. His father, who was a wealthy farmer, was a wealthy fisherman. Bayard received his early education in an academy in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and later in nearby Unionville. He was apprenticed to a printer in West Chester at the age of seventeen. Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a respected critic and editor, encouraged him to write poetry. In 1844, the volume that resulted, Ximena, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena and other Poems, was published in Griswold and dedicated to Griswold.
He toured England, France, Germany, and Italy for almost two years, mainly on foot because of the money he earned from his poetry and an advance for travel writing. He provided accounts of his travels to The Tribune, The Evening Post, and the Gazette of the United States.
Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff, was a collection of his articles published in two volumes in 1846. In 1848, the magazine received an invitation to serve as an editorial assistant for Graham's Magazine for a few months. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, recruited Taylor and sent him to California to cover the gold rush in the same year. El Dorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850), he returned via Mexico and published another two-volume collection of travel essays. The books were released in the United States and 100,000 in the United Kingdom within two weeks of being published.
Taylor married Mary Agnew, who died of tuberculosis the next year. Taylor won a prize sponsored by P. T. Barnum that year to write an ode for Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale" singer. Julius Benedict's poem "Greetings to America" was set to music by Julius Benedict and performed by the artist at numerous concerts throughout her tour of the United States.
In 1851, he rode 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. He sailed from England to Calcutta and then to China, where he joined Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's expedition to Japan at the end of 1852. The findings 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); and A Visit to India, China, and Japan in the Year 1853 (1855).
On December 20, 1853, he returned to the United States in 1853, and undertook a profitable public lecturer tour that spanned Maine to Wisconsin. After two years in northern Europe, he moved to northern Europe to study Swedish life, language, and literature. Lars' long narrative poem was inspired by the trip. As Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Photographs (1857), his collection of articles from Swedish Letters to the Tribune was republished as Northern Travel: Summer and Winter Photographs (1857).
Taylor interviewed Alexander von Humboldt, a German scientist, in Berlin in 1856, aspired to interview him for the New York Times. Humboldt was grateful and inquired if they should speak English or German. Taylor intended to go to central Asia, where Humboldt had travelled in 1829. Taylor informed Humboldt of Washington Irving's death; Humboldt had met him in Paris. In 1857 at Potsdam, Humboldt was seen again.
He married Maria Hansen, the daughter of Danish astronomer Peter Hansen, in October 1857. The couple spent the following winter in Greece. Taylor, a native of the United States, returned to the American West in 1859 and taught at San Francisco.
After the departure of Ambassador Simon Cameron in 1862, he was sent to the US diplomatic service as secretary of legation in St. Petersburg and acting minister to Russia for a time during 1862-3.
Hannah Thurston was his first book published in 1863. The New York Times is a newspaper distributed in New York City. He was praised for "breaking [breaking] new ground with such ferocious success" earlier this year. In a second much longer appreciation in the same newspaper, "one pointless, aimless situation led to another stamp, and so on in a slew of maddening succession." "When faced with such pompous pretensions, the platitudes and puerilities that would otherwise only raise a smile provoke the contempt of every man who has in him the feeblest instincts of common honesty in literature." His publisher was able to announce another book from him this year.
In 1864, Taylor and his partner Maria returned to the United States. Taylor rode through the northern mountains on horseback in 1866, with a group that included William Byers, editor of the newspaper Rocky Mountain News. Later, his letters describing this trip were collected and published in Colorado: A Summer Trip.
In 1866, Taylor popularized outlaw James Fitzpatrick as a swashbuckling hero in his book The Story of Kennett, set in Revolutionary War-era Pennsylvania.
Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania (1870), first serialized in The Atlantic, was described as a story of young man in rural Pennsylvania and "the challenges that result from the search for a broader education and higher education." The story is believed to be based on the poets Fitz-Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake, and has been published in the United States as America's first gay book since the late twentieth century. Taylor spoke at the dedication of a monument to Halleck in his hometown, Guilford, Connecticut. "We represent the intellectual growth of the American people," he said in naming this monument to an American poet. The life of the poet who sleeps here reveals a long line between American poetry's emergence and the development of an appreciative and sympathetic audience."
Taylor imitated and parodied the writings of several writers in various writers' Diversions of the Echo Club (London, 1873; Boston, 1876). On the one thousandth anniversary of the first European settlement there, Taylor went to Iceland in 1874 to cover the Tribune.
Bayard recited his National Ode at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia on July 4, 1876, the country's biggest audience for a poetry reading at that time, and a record that stood before 1961. After the task had been refused by several other eminent writers, including John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the ode was written at the request of the exhibition's curators. The work was first published in newspapers around the country and later published as a book in two separate editions.
The US Senate confirmed him as the US Minister to Prussia during March 1878. Mark Twain, who travelled to Europe on the same ship, was jealous of Taylor's command of German.
Rep. Jason Levy praised Taylor's travel writings in an attempt to combat racial discrimination. "The Chinese are morally debased people on the face of the earth," Richard Townshend (D-IL) quoted passages from Taylor, "The Chinese are the most debased people on the planet" and "A Chinese city is the largest of all abominations."
Taylor died in Berlin on December 19, 1878, just a few months after arriving there. His body was returned to the United States and buried in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and buried in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. On its front page, the New York Times introduced his obituary, describing him as "a great traveler, both on land and paper." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a memorial poem in Taylor's memory shortly after his death, at the behest of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.