Writers of New York and Pennsylvania
III. 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