Bayard Taylor: Laureate of the Gilded Age

Bayard Taylor: Laureate of the Gilded Age

Bayard Taylor: Laureate of the Gilded Age

Bayard Taylor: Laureate of the Gilded Age

Excerpt

This study is the result of an unprejudiced effort to understand the life of one of the most colorful and popular American authors of the nineteenth century. It attempts to answer what seems to me a decidedly significant question: the question, namely, of how it has happened that the once widely esteemed writings of Bayard Taylor are now almost completely forgotten. What was the nature of his work, that it was able to arrest so remarkably the imagination of his countrymen? Wherein has that imagination changed since? Moreover, with time's perspective to assist one, what conclusion can be reached about the intrinsic value of what the man did, regardless of its present popularity? What is there in it which at least deserves attention still?

The imperfect solution here presented to these questions naturally involved some examination of Taylor's way of life, and on this point there soon became apparent a remarkable circumstance: His way of life had a typicalness about it that, in America, appears characteristic not only of his own age but of the present as well. His biography, in other words, soon took on a symbolic character which was almost thunderously alive and contemporary. Thus, while it is evident that a taste for what he wrote has waned, it is equally evident that the tendency to live as he lived has not waned at all, but waxed. And this problem stood plainly in...

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