Writers of New York and Pennsylvania


For some time, our attention has been centred for the most part in the work of our New England writers; but we must not think that the literary activity of this long period was confined to the immediate vicinity of Boston. The cities of Philadelphia and New York had each its coterie of literary workers. In the rapidly growing metropolis, the generation following that of Irving and his associates of the Knickerbocker group was not without its representatives of greater or less distinction, among whom at least two, Bayard Taylor and George William Curtis, deserve especial recognition. Both were men of letters in the broadest sense, versatile in talent and giving expression to that talent in varied literary forms.

Bayard Taylor, 1825-1878.

Taylor was born in a Quaker household upon a Pennsylvania farm, and as a child was conscious of two ambitions: to travel and to become a poet. His literary ambition was gratified prematurely by the publication of a volume of verse, Ximena, -- afterward regretted, -- in 1844. In the same year, his twentieth, he sailed for England, having arranged with several editors to print the letters which he purposed to write while on his travels. For nearly two years, he tramped about over Europe enduring much hardship; his letters were published in 1846, under the title of Views Afoot, or Europe seen with the Knapsack and Staff. An editorial connection with the New York Tribune followed; and in 1849, Taylor was sent to California to report upon the fortunes of the gold-seekers. The next year his letters to the Tribune appeared in the volume Eldorado. A trip to the far East in 1851 resulted not only in more correspondence but also in a volume of verse, Poems of the Orient (1854), containing some of his best compositions, including the Bedouin Song. Bayard Taylor's fame as a traveler and an entertaining descriptive writer was extended by successive volumes recounting his experiences in Africa, in Spain, in India, China, and Japan, and in the northern countries of Europe. But he was ambitious to fill a higher place in literature.

Novels and Poems.

In 1863, he produced his first novel, Hannah Thurston, and the next year, his second, John Godfrey's Fortunes, which is to some extent autobiographical. The Story of Kennett (1866), a semi-historical romance, is his most successful work of fiction. A long and elaborate narrative poem, The Picture of St. John (1866), was followed by The Masque of the Gods (1872), and Lars: a Pastoral of Norway (1873). Other volumes of verse were published in the latter years of his life, including The National Ode, written for the Centennial at Philadelphia in 1876; but no one of Taylor's original efforts resulted in any enduring success. He wrote tirelessly and unceasingly, yet without that inspiration which gives immortality to the works of genius. His one achievement which will most certainly endure is the translation of Goethe's Faust, the two parts of which were published in 1870 and 1871. This altogether admirable version of the German poet's masterpiece ranks with Bryant's Homer and Longfellow's Dante, if it does not surpass them in this delicately difficult field of poetical translation.

Only a portion of Taylor's literary labor is recorded here; he was an indefatigable worker, and his health broke down under the steady strain. In 1878, he was appointed minister to Germany; and it seemed peculiarly appropriate that the translator of Germany's great classic should be thus honored. His appointment was universally approved, for the poet was widely respected and, in the circle of his literary associates, greatly beloved. He was welcomed at Berlin, as Irving had been at the court of Spain; but his diplomatic career was pathetically brief. Death came upon him suddenly as he sat in his library at the German capital in December of the year of his appointment.

G. W. Curtis, 1824-1892.

The boyhood of George William Curtis was spent in Providence, Rhode Island, but his family removed to New York when he was fifteen years old. He was still in his teens when he, with an older brother, entered the Brook Farm community at about the time that Hawthorne joined it. Three or four years of foreign travel, including a visit to Egypt and Syria, resulted in two volumes of description and impression: Nile Notes of a Howadji (1851) and The Howadji in Syria (1852). Lotus Eating (1852) presents another

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