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Title: Four Famous American Writers: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, - James Russell Lowell, Bayard Taylor - A Book for Young Americans
Author: Cody, Sherwin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Washington Irving
Edgar Allan Poe
James Russell Lowell
Bayard Taylor

A Book For Young Americans

Sherwin Cody












[Illustration: _WASHINGTON IRVING._]




The Revolutionary War was over. The British soldiers were preparing to
embark on their ships and sail back over the ocean, and General
Washington would soon enter New York city at the head of the American
army. While all true patriots were rejoicing at this happy turn of
affairs, a little boy was born who was destined to be the first great
American author.

William Irving, the father of this little boy, had been a merchant in
New York city. He had been very prosperous until the war broke out.
After the battle of Long Island, the British then occupying the city,
he had taken his family to New Jersey. But later, although he was a
loyal American, he went back to the city to attend to his business.
There he helped the American cause by doing everything he could for
the American prisoners whom the British held. His wife, especially,
had a happy way of persuading Sir Henry Clinton, and when the British
general saw her coming, he prepared himself to grant any request about
the prisoners which she might make. Often she sent them food from her
own table, and cared for them when they were sick.

When their last son, the eleventh child, was born, on April 3, 1783,
the parents showed their loyalty by naming him Washington, after the
beloved Father of his Country.

Six years after this, George Washington was elected president, and
went to New York to live. The Scotch maid who took care of little
Washington Irving made up her mind to introduce the boy to his great
namesake. So one day she followed the general into a shop, and,
pointing to the lad, said, "Please, your honor, here's a bairn was
named after you." Washington turned around, smiled, and placing his
hand on the boy's head, gave him his blessing. Little did General
Washington suspect that in later years this boy, grown to manhood and
become famous, would write his biography.

In those days New York was only a small town at the south end of
Manhattan Island. It extended barely as far north as the place where
now stand the City Hall and the Postoffice. Broadway was then a
country road. The Irvings lived at 131 William Street, afterward
moving across to 128. This is now one of the oldest parts of New York.
The streets in that section are narrow, and the buildings, though put
up long after Irving's birth, seem very old.

Here the little boy grew up with his brothers and sisters. At four he
went to school. His first teacher was a lady; but he was soon
transferred to a school kept by an old Revolutionary soldier who
became so fond of the boy that he gave him the pet name of "General."
This teacher liked him because, though often in mischief, he never
tried to protect himself by telling a falsehood, but always confessed
the truth.

Washington was not very fond of study, but he was a great reader. At
eleven his favorite stories were "Robinson Crusoe" and "Sindbad the
Sailor." Besides these, he read many books of travel, and soon found
himself wishing that he might go to sea. As he grew up he was able to
gratify his taste for travel, and some of his finest books and stories
relate to his experiences in foreign lands. In the introduction to the
"Sketch Book" he says, "How wistfully would I wander about the
pier-heads in fine weather, and watch the parting ships bound to
distant climes--with what longing eyes would I gaze after their
lessening sails, and waft myself in imagination to the ends of the earth!"



Irving's first literary composition seems to have been a play written
when he was thirteen. It was performed at the house of a friend, in
the presence of a famous actress of that day; but in after years
Irving had forgotten even the title.

His schooling was finished when he was sixteen. His elder brothers had
attended college, and he never knew exactly why he did not. But he was
not fond of hard study or hard work. He lived in a sort of dreamy
leisure, which seemed particularly suited to his light, airy genius,
so full of humor, sunshine, and loving-kindness.

After leaving school, he began to study law in the office of a certain
Henry Masterton. This was in the year 1800. He was admitted to the bar
six years later; but he spent a great deal more of the intervening
time in traveling and scribbling than in the study of law. His first
published writing was a series of letters signed "Jonathan Oldstyle,"
printed in his brother's daily paper, "The Morning Chronicle," when
the writer was nineteen years old.

Irving's first journey was made the very year after he left school. It
was a voyage in a sailing boat up the Hudson river to Albany; and a
land journey from there to Johnstown, New York, to visit two married
sisters. In the early days this was on the border of civilization,
where the white traders went to buy furs from the Indians. Steamboats
and railroads had not been invented, and a journey that can now be
made in a few hours, then required several days. Years afterward,
Irving described his first voyage up the Hudson.

"My first voyage up the Hudson," said he, "was made in early boyhood,
in the good old times before steamboats and railroads had annihilated
time and space, and driven all poetry and romance out of travel.... We
enjoyed the beauties of the river in those days.[+]

[Footnote +: Irving was the first to describe the wonderful beauties
of the Hudson river.]

"I was to make the voyage under the protection of a relative of mature
age--one experienced in the river. His first care was to look out for
a favorite sloop and captain, in which there was great choice....

"A sloop was at length chosen; but she had yet to complete her freight
and secure a sufficient number of passengers. Days were consumed in
drumming up a cargo. This was a tormenting delay to me, who was about
to make my first voyage, and who, boy-like, had packed my trunk on the
first mention of the expedition. How often that trunk had to be
unpacked and repacked before we sailed!

"At length the sloop actually got under way. As she worked slowly out
of the dock into the stream, there was a great exchange of last words
between friends on board and friends on shore, and much waving of
handkerchiefs when the sloop was out of hearing.

"... What a time of intense delight was that first sail through the
Highlands! I sat on the deck as we slowly tided along at the foot of
those stern mountains, and gazed with wonder and admiration at cliffs
impending far above me, crowned with forests, with eagles sailing and
screaming around them; or listened to the unseen stream dashing down
precipices; or beheld rock, and tree, and cloud, and sky reflected in
the glassy stream of the river....

"But of all the scenery of the Hudson, the Kaatskill Mountains had the
most witching effect on my boyish imagination. Never shall I forget
the effect upon me of the first view of them predominating over a wide
extent of country, part wild, woody, and rugged; part softened away
into all the graces of cultivation. As we slowly floated along, I lay
on the deck and watched them through a long summer's day, undergoing a
thousand mutations under the magical effects of atmosphere; sometimes
seeming to approach, at other times to recede; now almost melting into
hazy distance, now burnished by the hazy sun, until, in the evening,
they printed themselves against the glowing sky in the deep purple of
an Italian landscape."



Soon after returning from this trip, Irving became a clerk in the law
office of a Mr. Hoffman. There was a warm friendship between him and
Mr. Hoffman's family. Mrs. Hoffman was his lifelong friend and, as he
afterwards said, like a sister to him; and he finally fell in love
with Matilda, one of Mr. Hoffman's daughters, and was engaged to be
married to her. Her sad death at the age of seventeen was perhaps the
greatest unhappiness of his life. He never married, but held her
memory sacred as long as he lived.

In 1803 he was invited by Mr. Hoffman to go with him to Montreal and
Quebec. Irving kept a journal during this expedition, and it shows
what a rough time travelers had in those days.

Part of the way they sailed in a scow on Black River. They were
partially sheltered from the rain by sheets stretched over hoops. At
night they went ashore and slept in a log cabin.

One morning after a rainy night they awoke to find the sky clear and
the sun shining brightly. Setting out again in their boat, they were
soon surprised by meeting three canoes in pursuit of a deer.

"The deer made for our shore," says Irving in his journal. "We pushed
ashore immediately, and as it passed, Mr. Ogden fired and wounded it.
It had been wounded before. I threw off my coat and prepared to swim
after it. As it came near, a man rushed through the bushes, sprang
into the water, and made a grasp at the animal. He missed his aim, and
I jumped after, fell on his back, and sunk him under water. At the
same time I caught the deer by one ear, and Mr. Ogden seized it by a
leg. The submerged gentleman, who had risen above the water, got hold
of another. We drew it ashore, when the man immediately dispatched it
with a knife. We claimed a haunch for our share, permitting him to
keep all the rest."

Irving had one or two experiences with the Indians which were not
altogether pleasant at the time, but which afterward appeared very

On one occasion he went with another young man to a small island in a
river, where he hoped to be able to hire a boat to take the party to a
place some distance farther down the stream. They found there a wigwam
in which were a number of Indians, both men and women; but the Indian
they were looking for was away selling furs.

He soon came in, with his squaw, who was rather a pretty woman. Both
he and she had been drinking. While the other young man was trying to
explain their business, the Indian woman sat down beside Irving, and
in her half drunken way began to pay him great attention.

The husband, a tall, strapping Hercules of an Indian, sat scowling at
them with his blanket drawn up to his chin, and his face between his
hands, while his elbows rested on his knees.

But soon the Indian could no longer endure the flirtation his wife was
carrying on with Irving. He rushed upon him, calling him a "cursed
Yankee," and gave him a blow which stretched him on the floor.

While Irving was picking himself up and getting out of the way, his
friend went to the Indian and tried to quiet him. By this time the
feelings of the drunken redman had quite changed. He fell on the young
man's neck, exchanged names with him after the Indian fashion, and
declared that they would be sworn friends and brothers as long as they

Irving hastened to get into his boat, and he and his companion made
off as quickly as possible, having no wish for any further intercourse
with drunken Indians.



Irving's health was by no means good, and his friends were so alarmed
that when he was twenty-one they planned a trip to Europe for him. As
he stepped on board the boat that was to take him, the captain eyed
him from head to foot and remarked to himself, "There's a chap who
will go overboard before we get across."

To the surprise of the captain and other passengers, however, he did
not die, but got much better.

He disembarked at Bordeaux, in France, and joining a merry company,
traveled with them in a kind of stagecoach called a diligence.

Among the company were a jolly little Pennsylvania doctor, and a
French officer going home to see his mother. In one of the little
French towns where they stopped they had an amusing experience, which
Irving has described in his journal.

"In one of our strolls in the town of Tonneins," says he, "we entered
a house where a number of girls were quilting. They gave me a needle
and set me to work. My bad French seemed to give them much amusement.
They asked me several questions; as I could not understand them I made
them any answer that came into my head, which caused a great deal of
laughter amongst them.

"At last the little doctor told them that I was an English prisoner,
whom the young French officer (who was with us) had in custody. Their
merriment immediately gave place to pity.

"'Ah, the poor fellow!' said one to another, 'he is merry, however, in
all his trouble,'

"'And what will they do with him?' said a young woman to the traveler.

"'Oh, nothing of consequence,' replied he; 'perhaps shoot him or cut
off his head.'

"The honest souls seemed quite distressed for me, and when I mentioned
that I was thirsty, a bottle of wine was immediately placed before me,
nor could I prevail on them to take a recompense. In short, I
departed, loaded with their good wishes and benedictions, and I
suppose I furnished a theme of conversation throughout the village."

Years afterward, when Mr. Irving was minister to Spain, he went some
miles out of his way to visit this town. Says he:

"As my carriage rattled through the quiet streets of Tonneins, and the
postilion smacked his whip with the French love of racket, I looked
out for the house where, forty years before, I had seen the quilting
party. I believe I recognized the house; and I saw two or three old
women, who might once have formed part of the merry group of girls;
but I doubt whether they recognized in the stout, elderly gentleman,
who thus rattled in his carriage through their streets, the pale young
English prisoner of forty years since."

       *       *       *       *       *

In this manner he wandered about for nearly two years. He visited
Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus, and climbed Mount Vesuvius. He
dined with Madame de Stael, the famous author of "Corinne." At Rome he
met Washington Allston, the great American painter, then a young man
not much older than he. They became good friends, and Allston
afterward illustrated some of Irving's works. Irving was tempted to
remain in Rome and become a painter like Allston. But he finally
decided that he did not have any special talent for art, and went home
to finish his study of law.



Washington Irving returned to New York, quite restored to health; and
there he soon became a social hero. Trips to Europe were so uncommon
in those days that to have made one was a distinction in itself.
Besides, Irving was now a polished young gentleman, very fond of
amusement; and having become a lawyer with little to do, he made up
his mind to enjoy himself.

He and his brother Peter, with a number of young men about the same
age, called themselves "the nine worthies," or the "lads of Kilkenny,"
and many a gay time they had together,--rather too gay, some people
thought. One of their favorite resorts was an old family mansion,
which had descended from a deceased uncle to one of the nine lads. It
was on the banks of the Passaic river, about a mile from Newark, New
Jersey. It was full of antique furniture, and the walls were adorned
with old family portraits. The place was in charge of an old man and
his wife and a negro boy, who were the sole occupants, except when the
nine would sally forth from New York and enliven its solitudes with
their madcap pranks and orgies.

"'Who would have thought," said Irving at the age of sixty-three to
another of those nine lads, "that we should ever have lived to be two
such respectable old gentlemen!"

About this time Irving and a friend named James K. Paulding proposed
to start a paper, to be called "Salmagundi." It was an imitation of
Addison's _Spectator_, and consisted of light, humorous essays, most
of them making fun of the fads and fancies of New York life in those
days. The numbers were published from a week to a month apart, and
were continued for about a year.

The young men had no idea of making money by the venture, for they
were then well-to-do; but to their surprise it proved a great success,
and the publisher is said to have made ten or fifteen thousand dollars
out of it. He afterwards paid the editors four hundred dollars each.

Irving now visited Philadelphia, Boston, and other places. He thought
of trying for a government office, and was tempted into politics. His
description of his experience is amusing enough.

"Before the third day was expired, I was as deep in mud and politics
as ever a moderate gentleman would wish to be; and I drank beer with
the multitude; and I talked handbill-fashion with the demagogues, and
I shook hands with the mob--whom my heart abhorreth. 'Tis true, for
the two first days I maintained my coolness and indifference.... But
the third day--ah! then came the tug of war. My patriotism all at once
blazed forth, and I determined to save my country! O, my friend, I
have been in such holes and corners; such filthy nooks, sweep offices,
and oyster cellars!"

He closes by saying that this saving one's country is such a sickening
business that he wants no more of it.



On October 26, 1809, there appeared in the _New York Evening Post_ the
following paragraph:


"Left his lodgings, some time since, and has not since been heard of,
a small elderly gentleman, dressed in an old black coat and cocked
hat, by the name of Knickerbocker. As there are some reasons for
believing he is not entirely in his right mind, and as great anxiety
is entertained about him, any information concerning him left either
at the Columbian Hotel, Mulberry street, or at the office of this
paper, will be thankfully received.

"P.S. Printers of newspapers will be aiding the cause of humanity in
giving an insertion to the above."

Two weeks later a letter was printed in the _Evening Post_, signed "A
Traveler," saying that such a gentleman as the one described had been
seen a little above King's Bridge, north of New York, "resting himself
by the side of the road."

Ten days after this the following letter was printed:

"_To the Editor of the Evening Post_:

"Sir,--You have been good enough to publish in your paper a paragraph
about Mr. Diedrich Knickerbocker, who was missing so strangely some
time since; but a very curious kind of a written book has been found
in his room, in his own handwriting. Now I wish to notice[+] him, if
he is still alive, that if he does not return and pay off his bill for
boarding and lodging, I shall have to dispose of his book to satisfy
me for the same.

[Footnote +: Legal term, meaning "to give notice to."]

"I am, sir, your obedient servant,

"Seth Handaside,

"Landlord of the Independent Columbian Hotel, Mulberry Street."

On November 28th there appeared in the advertising columns the
announcement of "A History of New York," in two volumes, price three

The advertisement says, "This work was found in the chamber of Mr.
Diedrich Knickerbocker, the old gentleman whose sudden and mysterious
disappearance has been noticed. It is published in order to discharge
certain debts he has left behind."

When the book was published the people took it up, expecting to find a
grave and learned history of New York. It was dedicated to the New
York Historical Society, and began with an account of the supposed
author, Mr. Diedrich Knickerbocker. "He was a small, brisk-looking old
gentleman, dressed in a rusty black coat, a pair of olive velvet
breeches, and a small cocked hat. He had a few gray hairs plaited and
clubbed behind.... The only piece of finery which he bore about him
was a bright pair of square silver shoe-buckles." The landlord of the
inn, who writes this description, adds: "My wife at once set him down
for some eminent country schoolmaster."

Imagine for yourself the astonishment, and then the amusement--in some
cases even the anger--of those who read, to find a most ludicrous
description of the old Dutch settlers of New York, the ancestors of
the most aristocratic families of the metropolis of America. The
people that laughed got the best of it, however, and the book was
considered one of the popular successes of the day. The real author of
this book was, of course, Washington Irving. When forty years later
the book was to be included in his collected works he wrote an
"Apology," in which he says, "When I find, after a lapse of nearly
forty years, this haphazard production of my youth still cherished
among them (the New Yorkers); when I find its very name become a
'household word,' and used to give the home stamp to everything
recommended for popular acceptance, such as Knickerbocker societies,
Knickerbocker insurance companies, Knickerbocker steamboats,
Knickerbocker omnibuses, Knickerbocker bread, and Knickerbocker
ice,--and when I find New Yorkers of Dutch descent priding themselves
upon being 'genuine Knickerbockers,' I please myself with the persuasion
that I have struck the right chord."



"Knickerbocker's History of New York" was undertaken by Irving and his
brother Peter as a parody on a book that had lately appeared, entitled
"A Picture of New York." The two young men, one of whom had already
proved himself something of an author, were so full of humor and the
spirit of mischief that they must amuse themselves and their friends,
and they thought this a good way of doing it. There was to be an
introduction giving the history of New York from the foundation of the
world, and the main body of the book was to consist of "notices of the
customs, manners, and institutions of the city; written in a
serio-comic vein, and treating local errors, follies, and abuses with
good-humored satire."

The introduction was not more than fairly begun when Peter Irving
started for Europe, leaving the completion of the work to the younger
brother. Washington decided to change the plan, and merely give a
humorous history of the Dutch settlement of New York.

Let us take a peep into this amusing history. First, here is the
portrait of "that worthy and irrecoverable discoverer (as he has
justly been called), Master Henry Hudson," who "set sail from Holland
in a stout vessel called the Half-Moon, being employed by the Dutch
East India Company to seek a northwest passage to China."

"Henry (or as the Dutch historians call him, Hendrick) Hudson was a
seafaring man of renown, who had learned to smoke tobacco under Sir
Walter Raleigh, and is said to have been the first to introduce it
into Holland, which gained him much popularity in that country, and
caused him to find great favor in the eyes of their High Mightinesses,
the Lords States General, and also of the honorable East India
Company. He was a short, square, brawny old gentleman, with a double
chin, a mastiff mouth, and a broad copper nose, which was supposed in
those days to have acquired its fiery hue from the constant
neighborhood of his tobacco pipe.

"He wore a commodore's cocked hat on one side of his head. He was
remarkable for always jerking up his breeches when he gave out his
orders, and his voice sounded not unlike the brattling of a tin
trumpet--owing to the number of hard northwesters which he had
swallowed in the course of his seafaring.

"Such was Hendrick Hudson, of whom we have heard so much and know so

You must read in the history itself the amusing account of Ten
Breeches and Tough Breeches. One of the Dutch colonists bought of the
Indians for sixty guelders as much land as could be covered by a man's
breeches. When the time for measuring came Mr. Ten Breeches was
produced, and peeling off one pair of breeches after another, soon
produced enough material to surround the entire island of Manhattan,
which was thus bought for sixty guelders, or Dutch dollars.

In due time came the first Dutch governor, Wouter Van Twiller.

Governor Van Twiller was five feet six inches in height, and six feet
five inches in circumference, his figure "the very model of majesty
and lordly grandeur." On the very morning after he had entered upon
his office, he gave an example of his great legal knowledge and wise

As the governor sat at breakfast an important old burgher came in to
complain that Barent Bleecker refused to settle accounts, which was
very annoying, as there was a heavy balance in the complainant's
favor. "Governor Van Twiller, as I have already observed, was a man of
few words; he was likewise a mortal enemy to multiplying writings--or
being disturbed at his breakfast. Having listened attentively to the
statement of Wandle Schoonhoven, giving an occasional grunt, as he
shoveled a spoonful of Indian pudding into his mouth,--either as a
sign that he relished the dish or comprehended the story,--he called
unto him his constable, and pulling out of his breeches pocket a huge
jack-knife, dispatched it after the defendant as a summons,
accompanied by his tobacco-box as a warrant."

When the account books were before him, "the sage Wouter took them one
after the other, and having poised them in his hands, and attentively
counted over the number of leaves, fell straightway into a great
doubt, and smoked for half an hour without saying a word; at length,
laying his finger beside his nose, and shutting his eyes for a moment,
with the air of a man who had just caught a subtle idea by the tail,
he slowly took his pipe from his mouth, puffed forth a column of
tobacco smoke, and with marvelous gravity and solemnity pronounced,
that, having carefully counted over the leaves and weighed the books,
it was found that one was just as thick and heavy as the other;
therefore, it was the final opinion of the court that the accounts
were equally balanced; therefore, Wandle should give Barent a receipt,
and Barent should give Wandle a receipt, and the constable should pay
the costs."

It is not wonderful that this was the first and last lawsuit during
his administration, and that no one was found who cared to hold the
office of constable.

This is only one of scores of droll stories to be found in this most
interesting "history."



It seems strange that the success of the "History of New York" did not
make Irving a professional man of letters at once. The profits on the
first edition were three thousand dollars, and several other editions
were to follow steadily. But though he wished to be a literary man,
and now knew that he might make a fair living by his writings, there
was still lacking the force to compel him to work. He had always lived
in easy circumstances, doing as he liked, enjoying society, and
amusing himself, and it was hard for him to devote his attention
strictly to any set task.

He applied for a clerkship at Albany, but failed to get it. Then his
brothers, with whom he must have been a great favorite, as he was the
youngest of the family, arranged a mercantile business in which he was
to be a partner. Peter was to buy goods in England and ship them to
New York, while Ebenezer was to sell them. Washington was to be a
silent partner, and enjoy one fifth of the profits. At first he
objected to taking no active part in the business; but his brothers
persuaded him that this was his chance to become independent and have
his entire time for literary work.

But five years passed away and little was accomplished. This covered
the period of the War of 1812. At first Irving was opposed to the war;
but when he heard the news of the burning of Washington his patriotism
blazed forth. "He was descending the Hudson in the steamboat when the
tidings first reached him," says his nephew in the biography which he
wrote. "It was night and the passengers had betaken themselves to
their settees to rest, when a person came on board at Poughkeepsie
with the news of the inglorious triumph, and proceeded in the darkness
of the cabin to relate the particulars: the destruction of the
president's house, the treasury, war, and navy offices, the capitol,
the depository of the national library and the public records. There
was a momentary pause after the speaker had ceased, when some paltry
spirit lifted his head from his settee, and in a tone of complacent
derision, 'wondered what _Jimmy_ Madison would say now.' 'Sir,' said
Mr. Irving, glad of an escape to his swelling indignation, 'do you
seize on such a disaster only for a sneer? Let me tell you, sir, it is
not now a question about _Jimmy_ Madison or _Jimmy_ Armstrong.[+] The
pride and honor of the nation are wounded; the country is insulted and
disgraced by this barbarous success, and every loyal citizen should
feel the ignominy and be earnest to avenge it.' 'I could not see the
fellow,' said Mr. Irving when he related the anecdote, 'but I let fly
at him in the dark.'"

[Footnote +: The Secretary of War.]

As soon as he reached New York, Irving went to the governor and
offered his services. He was immediately appointed military secretary
and aide with the rank of colonel. His duties were neither difficult
nor dangerous, and he enjoyed his position; but he was glad when the
war came to an end the following year.

When the War of 1812 was over, his friend Commodore Decatur invited
him to accompany him on an expedition to the Mediterranean, the United
States having declared war against the pirates of Algiers. Irving's
trunks were put on board the _Guerriere_, but as the expedition was
delayed on account of the escape of Napoleon from Elba, he had them
again brought ashore, and finally gave up his plan of going with
Decatur. His mind was set on visiting Europe, however, and he
immediately took passage for Liverpool in another vessel. Little did
he think that he was not to return for seventeen years.

One of Irving's married sisters was living in Birmingham, and his
brother Peter was in Liverpool managing the business in which he was a
partner. Soon after Washington's arrival, however, Peter fell ill, and
the younger brother was obliged to take charge of affairs. He found a
great many bills to pay, and very little money with which to pay them.
He was now beginning to face some of the stern realities of life. He
worked hard; but the black cloud of ruin came nearer and nearer. Other
difficulties were added to those they already had to face, and
finally, in 1818, the brothers were obliged to go into bankruptcy.

It was now absolutely necessary that Irving should earn his living in
some way. His brothers procured him an appointment at Washington; but
to their astonishment he declined it and said he had made up his mind
to live by his pen.

He immediately went to London and set to work on the "Sketch Book,"
and during the next dozen years wrote the greater number of his more
famous works.



While he was worrying over the failure of his business, Irving was
fortunate enough to make some distinguished literary friendships. He
had already helped to introduce Thomas Campbell's works in the United
States, and had written a biography of Campbell; one of the first
things he did, therefore, after reaching Liverpool, was to go to see
the English poet.

It was not until a little later that he became acquainted with Sir
Walter Scott, who was the literary giant of those times. In 1813 Henry
Brevoort, one of Irving's most intimate boyhood friends, had presented
to Scott a copy of the "History of New York," and Scott had written a
letter of thanks in which he said, "I have been employed these few
evenings in reading the annals of Diedrich Knickerbocker aloud to Mrs.
S, and two ladies who are our guests, and our sides have been
absolutely sore with laughing. I think, too, there are passages which
indicate that the author possesses powers of a different kind."

Irving, too, had been a great admirer of Scott's "Lady of the Lake."
Campbell gave him a letter of introduction to the bard, and in a
letter to his brother, Irving gives a delightful description of his
visit to Abbotsford, Scott's home.

"On Saturday morning early," says he, "I took a chaise for Melrose;
and on the way stopped at the gate of Abbotsford, and sent in my
letter of introduction, with a request to know whether it would be
agreeable for Mr. Scott to receive a visit from me in the course of
the day. The glorious old minstrel himself came limping to the gate,
and took me by the hand in a way that made me feel as if we were old
friends; in a moment I was seated at his hospitable board among his
charming little family, and here I have been ever since.... I cannot
tell you how truly I have enjoyed the hours I have passed here. They
fly by too quickly, yet each is loaded with story, incident, or song;
and when I consider the world of ideas, images, and impressions that
have been crowded upon my mind since I have been here, it seems
incredible that I should only have been two days at Abbotsford."

And here is Scott's impression of Irving: "When you see Tom Campbell,"
he writes to a friend, "tell him, with my best love, that I have to
thank him for making me known to Mr. Washington Irving, who is one of
the best and pleasantest acquaintances I have made this many a day."

When the "Sketch Book" was coming out in the United States, and Irving
was thinking of publishing it in England, he received some advice and
assistance from Scott; and finally Scott persuaded the great English
publisher Murray to take it up, even after that publisher had once
declined it. On this occasion Irving wrote to a friend as follows:

"He (Scott) is a man that, if you knew, you would love; a right
honest-hearted, generous-spirited being; without vanity, affectation,
or assumption of any kind. He enters into every passing scene or
passing pleasure with the interest and simple enjoyment of a child."



Irving's most famous work is undoubtedly the "Sketch Book"; and of the
thirty-two stories and essays in this volume, all Americans love best
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."

After the failure of his business, when Irving saw that he must write
something at once to meet his ordinary living expenses, he went up to
London and prepared several sketches, which he sent to his friend,
Henry Brevoort, in New York. Among them was the story of Rip Van
Winkle. This, with the other sketches, was printed in handsome form as
the first number of a periodical, which was offered for sale at
seventy-five cents. Though "The Sketch Book," as the periodical was
called, professed to be edited by "Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.," every one
knew that Washington Irving was the real author. In fact, the best
story in the first number, "Rip Van Winkle," was represented to be a
posthumous writing of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the author of the
"History of New York."

There are few Americans who do not know the story of "Rip Van Winkle"
by heart; for those who have not read the story, have at least seen
the play in which Joseph Jefferson, the great actor, has made himself
so famous.

Attached to the story is a note supposed to have been written by
Diedrich Knickerbocker, which a careless reader might overlook, but
which is an excellent introduction to the story. Says he:

"The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but
nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of our
old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvelous events
and appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories than this
in the villages along the Hudson; all of which were too well
authenticated to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with Rip Van
Winkle myself, who, when I last saw him, was a very venerable old man,
and so perfectly rational and consistent on every point, that I think
no conscientious person could refuse to take this into the bargain;
nay, I have seen a certificate on the subject, taken before a country
justice, and signed with a cross, in the justice's own handwriting.
The story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of doubt."

Rip was truly an original character. He had a shrewish wife who was
always scolding him; and he seems to have deserved all the cross
things she said to him, for he had "an insuperable aversion to all
kinds of profitable labor--in other words, he was as lazy a fellow as
you could find in all the country side."

Nevertheless, every one liked him, he was so good-natured. "He was a
great favorite among all the good wives of the village, who took his
part in all the family squabbles; and never failed whenever they
talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the
blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would
shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports,
made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and
told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he
went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them,
hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand
tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him
throughout the neighborhood."

You can't find much fault with a man who is so well liked that even
the dogs will not bark at him. You are reminded of Irving himself, who
for so many years was so idle; and yet who, out of his very idleness,
produced such charming stories.

"Rip Van Winkle," continues the narrative, "was one of those happy
mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy,
eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or
trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If
left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect
contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about
his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his

This description is as perfect and as delightful as any in the English
language. Any one who cannot enjoy this has no perception of human
nature, and no love of humor in his composition. In time Rip
discovered that his only escape from his termagant wife was to take
his gun, and stroll off into the woods with his dog. "Here he would
sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents
of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow sufferer
in persecution. 'Poor Wolf,' he would say, 'thy mistress leads thee a
dog's life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt
never want a friend to stand by thee!' Wolf would wag his tail, look
wistfully into his master's face, and if dogs can feel pity, I verily
believe he reciprocated with all his heart."

Rip is just the sort of fellow to have some sort of adventure, and we
are not at all astonished when we find him helping the dwarf carry his
keg of liquor up the mountain. The description of "the odd-looking
personages playing at nine-pins" whom he finds on entering the
amphitheater, is a perfect picture in words; for the truly great
writer is a painter of pictures quite as much as the great artist.

"They were dressed in a quaint outlandish fashion; some wore short
doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts. Their
visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large head, broad face, and
small piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of
nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a
little red cock's tail. They all had beards of various shapes and
colors. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout
old gentleman, with a weather-beaten countenance; he wore a laced
doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red
stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them.... What seemed
particularly odd to Rip was, that though these folks were evidently
amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the most
mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of
pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of
the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were
rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder."

But now comes a surprise. Rip indulges too freely in the contents of
the keg and falls asleep. When he wakes he finds a rusty old gun
beside him, and he whistles in vain for his dog. He goes back to the
village; but every thing and everybody is strange and changed. Putting
his hand to his chin he finds that his beard has grown a foot. He has
been sleeping twenty years.

But you must read the story for yourselves. It will bear reading many
times, and each time you will find in it something to smile at and



"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" also purports to be written by Diedrich
Knickerbocker, and it is only less famous than "Rip Van Winkle." When
he was a boy, Irving had gone hunting in Sleepy Hollow, which is not
far from New York city; and in the latter part of his life he bought a
low stone house there of Mr. Van Tassel and fitted it up for his
bachelor home.

"The outline of this story," says his nephew Pierre Irving, "had been
sketched more than a year before[+] at Birmingham, after a
conversation with his brother-in-law, Van Wart, who had been dwelling
on some recollections of his early years at Tarrytown, and had touched
upon a waggish fiction of one Brom Bones, a wild blade, who professed
to fear nothing, and boasted of his having once met the devil on a
return from a nocturnal frolic, and run a race with him for a bowl of
milk punch. The imagination of the author suddenly kindled over the
recital, and in a few hours he had scribbled off the framework of his
renowned story, and was reading it to his sister and her husband. He
then threw it by until he went up to London, where it was expanded
into the present legend."

[Footnote +: That is, before it was finally written and published.]

No sooner had the first number of the "Sketch Book," as published in
New York, come to England, than a periodical began reprinting it, and
Irving heard that a publisher intended to bring it out in book form.
That made him decide to publish it in England himself, and he did so
at his own expense. The publisher soon failed, and by Scott's help, as
already explained, Irving got his book into the hands of Murray.
Murray finally gave him a thousand dollars for the copyright. But when
it was published, it proved so very popular that Murray paid him five
hundred more. From that time forward he received large sums for his
writings, both in the United States and in England.

The "Sketch Book" was followed by "Bracebridge Hall," consisting of
stories and sketches of the same character; and later by the "Tales of
a Traveller."

In the "Tales of a Traveller" we are most interested in "Buckthorne
and his Friends," a series of English stories, with descriptions of
literary life in London. Most famous of all is the account of a
publishers' dinner, with a description of the carving partner sitting
gravely at one end, with never a smile on his face, while at the other
end of the table sits the laughing partner; and the poor authors are
arranged at the table and are treated by the partners according to the
number of editions their books have sold.

Irving's father was a Scotchman, and his mother was an Englishwoman;
and one of his sisters and one of his brothers, as we have already
learned, lived in England for many years. It is not strange, then,
that England became to him a second home, and that many of his best
stories and descriptions in the "Sketch Book," "Bracebridge Hall," and
the "Tales of a Traveller" relate to English characters and scenes.



When Irving went to Liverpool in 1815, it was his intention to travel
on the continent of Europe. As we have seen, business reasons made
that impossible. But after the publication and success of the "Sketch
Book" he was free. He was now certain of an income, and his reputation
was so great that he attracted notice wherever he went.

In 1820, after having spent five years in England, he at last set out
on his European journey. We cannot follow him in all his wanderings;
but one country that he visited furnished him the materials for the
most serious, and in one way the most important part of his literary
work. This was Spain. Here he spent a great deal of time, returning
again and again; and finally he was appointed United States minister
to that country.

He first went to Spain to collect materials for the "Life and Voyages
of Christopher Columbus." This was a much more serious work than
anything he had before undertaken. It was, unlike the history of New
York, a genuine investigation of facts derived from the musty old
volumes of the libraries of Spanish monasteries and other ancient
collections. It was a record of the life of the discoverer of America
that was destined to remain the highest authority on that subject.
Murray, the London publisher, paid him over fifteen thousand dollars
for the English copyright alone.

In his study among the ruins of Spain, Irving found many other things
which greatly interested him--legends, and tales of the Moors who had
once ruled there, and of the ruined beauties of the Moorish palace of
the Alhambra. His imagination was set on fire, he was delighted with
the images of by-gone days of glittering pageantry which his fancy
called up. Before his history of Columbus was finished, he began the
writing of a book so precisely to his taste that he could not restrain
himself until it was finished. This was the "Chronicle of the Conquest
of Granada"--a true history, but one which reads more like a romance
of the Middle Ages than a simple record of facts.

This was followed by four other books based on Spanish history and
legend. It seemed as if Irving could never quite abandon this
entrancing subject, for during the entire remainder of his life he
went back to it constantly.

When his great history of the life of Columbus was published and
proved its merit, Irving was honored in a way he had little expected
in his more idle days. The Royal Society of Literature bestowed upon
him one of two fifty-guinea[+] gold medals awarded annually, and the
University of Oxford conferred the degree of L.L.D.

[Footnote +: Two hundred and fifty dollars.]

The "Life of Columbus" was followed in 1831 by the "Voyages of the
Companions of Columbus." In the following year Irving returned to the
United States after an absence of seventeen years.

He was no longer an idle young man unable to fix his mind on any
serious work; he had become the most famous of American men of
letters. When he reached New York his countrymen hastened to heap
honors upon him, and almost overwhelmed him with public attentions.



Just before Irving's return to the United States in 1832, he prepared
for publication some sketches which he had made three or four years
before while living for a few months in the ruins of the Alhambra, the
ancient palace of the Moorish kings when they ruled the kingdom of
Granada. Next to the stories of "Rip Van Winkle" and the "Legend of
Sleepy Hollow," nothing that Irving has written has proved more
popular than this volume of "The Alhambra;" and it has made the
ancient ruin a place of pilgrimage for tourists in Europe ever since.

In this volume Irving not only describes in his own peculiarly
charming manner his experiences in the halls of the Alhambra itself,
but he gives many of the stories and legends of the place, most of
which were told to him by Mateo Ximenes, a "son of the Alhambra," who
acted as his guide. This is the way he came to secure Mateo's

"At the gate were two or three ragged, super-annuated soldiers, dozing
on a stone bench, the successors of the Zegris and the Abencerrages;
while a tall, meagre valet, whose rusty-brown cloak was evidently
intended to conceal the ragged state of his nether garments, was
lounging in the sunshine and gossipping with the ancient sentinel on
duty. He joined us as we entered the gate, and offered his services to
show us the fortress.

"I have a traveler's dislike to officious ciceroni, and did not
altogether like the garb of the applicant.

"'You are well acquainted with the place, I presume?'

"'Nobody better; in fact, sir, I am a son of the Alhambra.'

"'The common Spaniards have certainly a most poetical way of
expressing themselves. 'A son of the Alhambra!' the appellation caught
me at once; the very tattered garb of my new acquaintance assumed a
dignity in my eyes. It was emblematic of the fortunes of the place,
and befitted the progeny of a ruin."

Accompanied by Mateo, the travelers pass on to "the great vestibule,
or porch of the gate," which "is formed by an immense Arabian arch, of
the horseshoe form, which springs to half the height of the tower. On
the keystone of this arch, is engraven a gigantic hand. Within the
vestibule, on the keystone of the portal, is sculptured, in like
manner, a gigantic key," emblems, say the learned, of Moorish
superstition and religious belief.

"A different explanation of these emblems, however, was given by the
legitimate son of Alhambra, and one more in unison with the notions of
the common people, who attach something of mystery and magic to
everything Moorish, and have all kinds of superstitions connected with
this old Moslem fortress. According to Mateo, it was a tradition
handed down from the oldest inhabitants, and which he had from his
father and grandfather, that the hand and key were magical devices on
which the fate of the Alhambra depended. The Moorish king who built it
was a great magician, or, as some believed, had sold himself to the
devil, and had laid the whole fortress under a magic spell. By this
means it had remained standing for several years, in defiance of
storms and earthquakes, while almost all other buildings of the Moors
had fallen to ruin and disappeared. This spell, the tradition went on
to say, would last until the hand on the outer arch should reach down
and grasp the key, when the whole pile would tumble to pieces, and all
the treasures buried beneath it by the Moors would be revealed."

The travelers at once made application to the governor for permission
to take up their residence in the palace of the Alhambra, and to their
astonishment and delight he placed his own suite of apartments at
their disposal, as he himself preferred to live in the city of

Irving's companion soon left him, and he remained sole lord of the
palace. For a time he occupied the governor's rooms, which were very
scantily furnished; but one day he came upon an eerie suite of rooms
which he liked better. They were the rooms that had been fitted up for
the beautiful Elizabetta of Farnese, the second wife of Philip V.

"The windows, dismantled and open to the wind and weather, looked into
a charming little secluded garden, where an alabaster fountain
sparkled among roses and myrtles, and was surrounded by orange and
citron trees, some of which flung their branches into the chambers."
This was the garden of Lindaraxa.

"Four centuries had elapsed since the fair Lindaraxa passed away, yet
how much of the fragile beauty of the scenes she inhabited remained!
The garden still bloomed in which she delighted; the fountain still
presented the crystal mirror in which her charms may once have been
reflected; the alabaster, it is true, had lost its whiteness; the
basin beneath, overrun with weeds, had become the lurking-place of the
lizard, but there was something in the very decay that enhanced the
interest of the scene, speaking as it did of the mutability, the
irrevocable lot of man and all his works."

In spite of warnings of the dangers of the place, Irving had his bed
set up in the chamber beside this little garden. The first night was
full of frightful terrors. The garden was dark and sinister. "There
was a slight rustling noise overhead; a bat suddenly emerged from a
broken panel of the ceiling, flitting about the room and athwart my
solitary lamp; and as the fateful bird almost flouted my face with his
noiseless wing, the grotesque faces carved in high relief in the cedar
ceiling, whence he had emerged, seemed to mope and mow at me.

"Rousing myself, and half smiling at this temporary weakness, I
resolved to brave it out in the true spirit of the hero of the
enchanted house," says the narrator. So taking his lamp in his hand he
started out to make a midnight tour of the palace.

"My own shadow, cast upon the wall, began to disturb me," he
continues. "The echoes of my own footsteps along the corridors made me
pause and look around. I was traversing scenes fraught with dismal
recollections. One dark passage led down to the mosque where Yusef,
the Moorish monarch, the finisher of the Alhambra, had been basely
murdered. In another place I trod the gallery where another monarch
had been struck down by the poniard of a relative whom he had thwarted
in his love."

In a few nights, however, all this was changed; for the moon, which
had been invisible, began to "roll in full splendor above the towers,
pouring a flood of tempered light into every court and hall."

Says Irving, "I now felt the merit of the Arabic inscription on the
walls--'How beauteous is this garden; where the flowers of the earth
vie with the stars of heaven. What can compare with the vase of yon
alabaster fountain filled with crystal water? Nothing but the moon in
her fullness, shining in the midst of an unclouded sky!"

"On such heavenly nights," he goes on, "I would sit for hours at my
window inhaling the sweetness of the garden, and musing on the
checkered fortunes of those whose history was dimly shadowed out in
the elegant memorials around. Sometimes, when all was quiet, and the
clock from the distant cathedral of Granada struck the midnight hour,
I have sallied out on another tour and wandered over the whole
building; but how different from my first tour! No longer dark and
mysterious; no longer peopled with shadowy foes; no longer recalling
scenes of violence and murder; all was open, spacious, beautiful;
everything called up pleasing and romantic fancies; Lindaraxa once
more walked in her garden; the gay chivalry of Moslem Granada once
more glittered about the Court of Lions!

"Who can do justice to a moonlight night in such a climate and in such
a place? The temperature of a summer night in Andalusia is perfectly
ethereal. We seem lifted up into an ethereal atmosphere; we feel a
serenity of soul, a buoyancy of spirits, an elasticity of frame, which
render mere existence happiness. But when moonlight is added to all
this, the effect is like enchantment. Under its plastic sway the
Alhambra seems to regain its pristine glories. Every rent and chasm of
time; every moldering tint and weather-stain is gone; the marble
resumes its original whiteness; the long colonnades brighten in the
moonbeams; the halls are illuminated with a softened radiance--we
tread the enchanted palace of an Arabian tale!"

When one may journey with such a companion, through a whole volume of
enchantment and legend and moonlight, it is not strange that "The
Alhambra" has been one of the most widely read books ever produced by
an American writer.



Some people have thought that Irving's long residence abroad indicated
that he did not care so much as he should for his native land. But the
truth is, the years after his return to the United States were among
the happiest of his life; and more and more he felt that here was his

In 1835 he purchased, as I have already said, a small piece of land on
the Hudson, on which stood the Van Tassel house mentioned in the
"Legend of Sleepy Hollow." It was an old Dutch cottage which had stood
for so many years that it needed to be almost entirely rebuilt; and
Irving spent a considerable sum of money to fit it up as his bachelor
quarters. First he shared it with one of his bachelor brothers; but
soon he invited his brother Ebenezer to come with his family of girls
to occupy it with him.

As the years went on, Irving took a delight in this cottage that can
hardly be expressed. At first he called it "Wolfert's Roost";
afterward the name was changed to "Sunnyside," the name by which it is
still known. Little by little he bought more land, he planted trees,
and cultivated flowers and vegetables. At one time he boasts that he
has become so proficient in gardening that he can raise his own fruits
and vegetables at a cost to him of little more than twice the market

During this period several books were published, among them a
description of a tour on the prairies which he took soon after his
return from abroad; a collection of "Legends of the Conquest of Spain"
which had been lying in his trunk since his residence in the Alhambra
seven or eight years before; and "Astoria," a book of Western life and
adventure, describing John Jacob Astor's settlement on the Columbia

It was his wish to write a history of the conquest of Mexico, for
which he had collected materials in Spain; but hearing that Prescott,
the well-known American historian, was at work on the same subject, he
gave it up to him.

The chief work of his later years was his "Life of George Washington."
This was a great undertaking, of which he had often thought. He was
actually at work on it for many years, and it was finally published
only a short time before his death in 1859.

Irving's friends in the United States had long wished to give him some
honor or distinction. He had been offered several public offices,
among them the secretaryship of the navy; but he had declined them
all. But in 1842, when Daniel Webster was secretary of state, Irving
was nominated minister to Spain. It was Webster's idea, and he took
great delight in carrying out his plan. After the notification of his
nomination had been sent to Irving, and Webster thought time enough
had elapsed for him to receive it, he remarked to a friend:
"Washington Irving is now the most astonished man in the city of New

When Irving heard the news he seemed to think less of the distinction
conferred upon him than of the unhappiness of being once more banished
from his home. "It is hard--very hard," he murmured, half to himself;
"yet," he added, whimsically enough (says his nephew), being struck
with the seeming absurdity of such a view, "I must try to bear it.
_God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb_." Later, however, Irving
speaks of this as the "crowning honor of his life."

He remained abroad four years, when he sent in his resignation, and
hurried home to spend his last years at Sunnyside.

His first thought was to build an addition to his cottage, in order to
have room for all his nieces and nephews. His enjoyment in every
detail of the work was almost that of a boy. Though now an old man, he
seemed as sunny and as gay as ever. Every one who knew him loved him;
and all the people who now read his books must have the same
affectionate fondness for this most delightful of companions.

In the United States he met both Dickens and Thackeray. His friendship
with Dickens was begun by a letter which Irving wrote to the great
novelist, enthusiastically praising his work. At once Dickens replied
in a long letter, fairly bubbling over with delight and friendship.
Here is a part of it:

"There is no man in the world who could have given me the heartfelt
pleasure you have. There is no living writer, and there are very few
among the dead, whose approbation I should feel so proud to earn. And
with everything you have written upon my shelves, and in my thoughts,
and in my heart of hearts, I may honestly and truly say so.

"I have been so accustomed to associate you with my pleasantest and
happiest thoughts, and with my leisure hours, that I rush at once into
full confidence with you, and fall, as it were, naturally, and by the
very laws of gravity, into your open arms.... My dear Washington
Irving, I cannot thank you enough for your cordial and generous
praise, or tell you what deep and lasting gratification it has given
me. I hope to have many letters from you, and to exchange a frequent
correspondence. I send this to say so....

"Always your faithful friend,


The warmth of feeling which Dickens displays on receiving his first
letter from Irving, we must all feel when we have become as well
acquainted with Irving's works as Dickens was.

Washington Irving died on the 28th of November, 1859, at his dear
Sunnyside, and now lies buried in a cemetery upon a hill near by, in a
beautiful spot overlooking the Hudson river and Sleepy Hollow.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.--The thanks of the publishers are due to G. P. Putnam's Sons for
kind permission to use extracts from the Works of Washington Irving.


[Illustration: _EDGAR ALLAN POE_.]




Who has not felt the weird fascination of Poe's strangely beautiful
poem "The Raven"? Perhaps on some stormy evening you have read it
until the "silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain" has
"thrilled you, filled you, with fantastic terrors never felt before."
That poem is the almost perfect mirror of the life of the man who
wrote it--the most brilliant poetic genius in the whole range of
American literature, the most unfortunate and unhappy.

Poe had a singular fate. When Longfellow and Bryant and Lowell and
Holmes were winning their way to fame quietly and steadily, Poe was
writing wonderful poems and wonderful stories, and more than that, he
was inventing new principles and new artistic methods, on which other
great writers in time to come should build their finest work; yet he
barely escaped starvation, and the critics made it appear that,
compared with such men as Longfellow and Bryant, he was more notorious
than really great. Lowell in his "Fable for Critics" said:

"There comes Poe,... three fifths of him genius, and two fifths sheer

But now, fifty years after his death, we see how great a man Poe was.
Poe invented the modern art of short story writing. His tales were
translated into French by a famous writer named Charles Baudelaire.
Other French writers saw how fine they were and modeled their work
upon them. They learned the art of short story writing from Poe. Then
these French stories were translated into English, and English and
American writers have imitated them and adopted similar methods of

Conan Doyle's detective stories would probably never have been written
had not Poe first composed "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"; and the
stories of horror and fear so common to-day are possible because Poe
wrote "William Wilson," "The Black Cat," and other stories of the same

Have you ever learned to scan poetry? If you have, you know that the
rules which tell you that a foot is composed of one long syllable and
one short one, two short syllables and one long one, or whatever else
it may be, are frequently disregarded. You know, too, that some lines
are cut off short at the end, and others are made a little too long.
Why is this permitted? In his "Rationale of Verse," Poe explained all
these things, and showed how the learned of past ages had made
mistakes. In a subsequent chapter we shall see just what the relation
between music and poetry is, and what Poe taught about the art of
making poetry.

For years people thought that Poe's "The Philosophy of Composition,"
in which he tells in what a cold-blooded way he wrote "The Raven," was
a joke; but in later times we have learned to understand what he meant
and to know that he was very sensible in his methods of working.

When Poe was young he was not a very remarkable poet; but, as years
went on and he learned more and more the art of writing, he rewrote
and rewrote his verses until at last in conscious art he was almost,
if not quite, the master poet of America.



Edgar Allan Poe was descended on his father's side from a
Revolutionary hero, General David Poe. The Poes were a good family of
Baltimore, where many of them still live as prominent citizens. It is
said that General Poe was descended from one of Cromwell's officers,
who received grants of land in Ireland. One of the poet's ancestors,
John Poe, emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania; and from there the
Poes went to Maryland. General Poe was an ardent patriot both before
and during the Revolution.

General Poe's son David, the eldest, was not much like his father. In
Baltimore he enjoyed himself with his friends and played at amateur
theatricals with the Thespian Club. He was supposed to be studying
law. For this purpose he went to live with an uncle in Augusta,
Georgia; but his father soon heard that he had given up law to become
an actor. General Poe was very angry and after that allowed the young
man to shift for himself.

Edgar Allan Poe's mother was an English actress, whose mother had also
been an actress. She was born at sea, and as she went with her mother
on her travels from town to town, naturally the daughter learned the
mother's art as a means of self-support, and in time became very

At seventeen, her mother having married again, Elizabeth Arnold, for
that was her name, was thrown upon her own resources. She joined a
Philadelphia company, and remained with it for the next four years. In
June, 1802, she acted in Baltimore, and perhaps it was there that
David Poe, Jr., first saw her. She was pretty and gay, yet a good girl
and a very fine actress.

She soon married a young Mr. Hopkins, who had been playing with the
company, and for the following two years the young couple lived in
Virginia. It was then that David Poe, Jr., having left his uncle's
home at Augusta and gone on the stage in Charleston, joined the same
company. He was not a very good actor; and he never rose to a high
place in his profession.

In the following year Mr. Hopkins died, and a few months later young
David Poe married Mrs. Hopkins, who had been Elizabeth Arnold.

Mr. and Mrs. David Poe were now husband and wife, and very poor, as
most actors are. Soon after their marriage they went to Boston, and
remained for some years. There Edgar Poe, their second son, was born,
January 19, 1809.

While Edgar was still a little child his parents went to Richmond,
Virginia, to fill an engagement in the theater there. Misfortune
followed them. His father died in poverty, and his mother did not
survive him long. Edgar and his brother and sister were thus left
penniless orphans. But good friends took care of them.

Edgar was adopted by a Mrs. Allan, the wife of a wealthy man in the
city of Richmond. She was very fond of the bright little boy, and as
long as she lived he had a good home. He was petted and spoiled; but
those were almost the only years of his life when he had plenty of
money. He was very fond of his adoptive mother, and held her memory
dear to the day of his death. He was now known as Edgar Allan.



Edgar was a beautiful child, with dark eyes, curly dark hair, and
lively manners. At six he could read, draw, and dance. After dessert,
sometimes they would put him up on the old-fashioned table, where he
would make amusement for the company. He could speak pieces, too, and
did it so well that people were astonished. He understood how to
emphasize his words correctly. He had a pony and dogs, with which he
ran about; and everywhere he was a great favorite.

In June, 1815, when Edgar was about six years old, his adoptive father
and mother, with an aunt, went to England to stay several years.
Before starting, Mr. Allan bought a Murray's reader, two Murray's
spelling books, and another book to keep the little fellow busy on the
long sailing voyage across the Atlantic; for at that time a trip to
England occupied several weeks instead of a few days as now. When the
family reached London and were settled down, Edgar was sent to a
famous English school.

This school was at Stoke Newington, a quiet, old-fashioned country
town, only a few miles out from London. Here was the house of
Leicester, the favorite of Queen Elizabeth, whose story you may read
in Scott's "Kenilworth"; and here too was the house of Anne Boleyn's
ill-fated lover, Earl Percy.

The Manor House School, as it was called, was in a quaint and very old
building, with high walls about the grounds, and great spiked,
iron-studded gates. Here the boys lived and studied, seldom returning
home, and seldom going outside the grounds, except when they went with
a teacher.

In this strange school, Edgar Allan lived and studied for five years.
The schoolroom was long, narrow, and low; it was ceiled with dark oak,
and had Gothic windows. The desks were black and irregular, covered
with the names and initials which the boys had cut with their
jackknives. In the corners were what might be called boxes, where sat
the masters--one of them Eugene Aram, the criminal made famous in one
of Bulwer's romances. Back of the schoolroom, reached by winding,
narrow passages, were the bedrooms, one of which Poe occupied. When
the boys went out to walk they passed under the giant elms, amid which
once lived Shakespeare's friend Essex, and they gazed up at the thick
walls, deep windows, and doors massive with locks and bars, behind
which the author of Robinson Crusoe wrote some of his famous works.

Within the walls of this school a large number of boys had a little
world all to themselves; they had their societies and their games and
their tricks, along with hard work in Latin and French and
mathematics; and though such work may seem monotonous and dreary, they
managed to enjoy it. Poe has described his life here very carefully in
his famous story of "William Wilson." "Oh, a fine time were those
years of iron!" says he. The life produced a deep impression on his
mind, and molded it for the strange, weird poetry and fiction which in
later years he was to write.

At last, in 1820, the Allans returned with Edgar to their home in
Richmond, Virginia. The lad now added his own name to that of Edgar
Allan, and became known as Edgar Allan Poe.

He was at once sent to the English and Classical School of Joseph H.
Clarke, where he prepared for college. He did not study very hard, but
was bright and quick, and at one time stood at the head of his class
with but one rival. He was a great athlete, too, being a good runner
and jumper and boxer. He was a remarkable swimmer, and it is stated
that he once swam six miles in the James River, against a strong tide
in a hot sun, and then walked back without seeming in the least tired.

He was slight in figure, but robust and tough, and was a very decided
character among his classmates. He took part in the debating society,
where he was prominent, and was known as a versifier of both love
poems and satire. When Master Clarke retired, in 1823, Poe read an
English ode addressed to the outgoing principal.

One of his friends said of him at this time that he was "self-willed,
capricious, inclined to be imperious, and though of generous impulses,
not steadily kind, nor even amiable." Part of this temper on his part
may have come from the fact that the aristocratic boys of the school
hinted that his father and mother had not been of the best people.
They knew, however, that Mr. Allan belonged to the best society; and
it was chiefly Edgar's imperious manners that made some of them shun
him. He had friends, however, and Mr. Allan gave him money liberally.

It was at this time that he found and lost his first sympathetic

This was Mrs. Jane Stith Stanard, the mother of one of his younger
schoolmates. When one day he went home with this friend, he met Mrs.
Stanard, a lovely, gentle, and gracious woman, was thrilled by the
tenderness of her tones and her sympathetic manner toward him, and
immediately made her his boyhood friend and confidante. To his great
grief, however, she died not very long afterward. When she was gone he
visited her grave time after time, and in after years when he was
unhappy he often thought and spoke of her.



Poe left the English and Classical School in March, 1825, and spent
the next few months in studying with a private tutor.

On the 14th of February, 1826, he wrote his name and the place and
date of his birth, in the matriculation book of the University of
Virginia, the famous college founded by Jefferson and opened about a
year before.

Poe is described at this time as short, thickset, bowlegged, with the
rapid and jerky gait of an English boy. His face, surrounded by dark
curly hair, wore a grave, half-melancholy look; but it would light up
expressively when he talked. He was a noted walker; and being the
adopted child of a rich man, he dressed well and carried himself
proudly. He studied Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian, and
stood well in his classes. At the end of the year he went home with
the highest honors in Latin and French.

Before the term closed, however, Mr. Allan went up to investigate some
stories of Poe's wildness that had reached him, and found that besides
other debts, Poe owed two thousand dollars in "debts of honor"--that
is, gambling debts. Mr. Allan paid all but the latter, and quietly
determined that as soon as the term closed, Poe's college life should

Poe was, however, a studious and well-behaved young man in the opinion
of the professors, and he was never found guilty of any serious
misconduct. He was fond of wandering over the Ragged Mountains,
whither he went alone or with only a dog, and he delighted to fancy
that he was the very first white person to penetrate some lonely glen
or ravine.

He was also something of an artist, and decorated his rooms with
charcoal sketches. He and a classmate bought a volume of Byron with
steel engravings in it. The next time his friend went to see Poe he
found him copying one of these on the ceiling, and he continued this
until he had covered the whole of the walls with figures that were
said to be artistic and striking.



At the age of eighteen there came a change in Poe's life. Until then
he had been a petted child in a wealthy family. Mr. Allan did not have
that affection for him which Mrs. Allan had. He did not understand the
boy's peculiar and erratic nature, and was particularly displeased
when he found that Edgar had run into debt at college. There was an
angry scene between the two, and Edgar was told that he must leave the
university and go into the counting-room. It appears that he made some
attempt to tie himself down to figures and accounts and business
routine; but as he had not been brought up to this kind of life, he
soon tired of it, and decided to go into the world to seek his own
fortune. He went to Boston, where he published a volume of poetry.

In the preface to this volume, Poe says that the poems were written
before he was fourteen. Though this may not be strictly true, there is
little doubt that some of them were. While he was still at school he
had collected enough of his poems to make a volume, and Mr. Allan had
taken them up to the master of the English and Classical School to get
his advice about publishing them. This gentleman advised against it on
the ground that it would make Edgar conceited,--a fault from which he
was already suffering. As soon as he was free to do as he pleased,
therefore, it was natural that he should rewrite his poems and publish

The volume was entitled "Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian."
It was published by a young printer named Calvin Thomas, and was a
thin little book, not very attractive in appearance. Several of the
pieces then published are now included in Poe's collected works, but
they have been greatly changed.

Naturally the poems of an obscure young man did not sell, and the
volume was soon suppressed--Poe says "for private reasons." The
"private reasons" were doubtless merely the fact that the book was a
complete failure, and the young, proud poet was much ashamed that he
could not sell even a dozen copies--possibly not even one.

The little money Poe had was now spent, and he was obliged to do
something to keep from starvation. The only chance he saw was to
enlist in the army. He did so under the name of Edgar A. Perry, and
the record of his service may be found in the War Department of our
government at Washington. He was assigned to Battery H, First
Artillery, and conducted himself so well that he was promoted from the
ranks to be sergeant-major. From Boston the company was sent to
Charleston, South Carolina, and a year later to Fortress Monroe,

From Fortress Monroe Poe wrote to Mr. Allan for the first time. He
soon afterwards learned of the illness of Mrs. Allan, who died
February 28, 1829. He got leave of absence to attend her funeral, and
went to Richmond.

Poe was such a bright young man that it seemed a pity for him to
remain in the ranks, when he might become an officer; therefore it was
suggested that he be sent to West Point. Mr. Allan agreed to help him;
but it is said that, after the death of Mrs. Allan, he no longer
entertained any affection for Edgar. In a letter to the Secretary of
War, he said: "Frankly, sir, I do declare that he is no relation to me
whatever; that I have many in whom I have taken an active interest to
promote theirs; with no other feeling than that, every man is my care,
if he be in distress. For myself I ask nothing, but I do request your
kindness to aid this youth in the promotion of his future prospects."

Poe did not like the life at West Point in the least, though he amused
his mates by writing satirical verses about the professors. After a
few months he asked to be discharged; but Mr. Allan would not consent.
So Poe made up his mind that he would have himself expelled. He stayed
away from parade, roll-call, and guard duty. As a court-martial was
then in session, he was summoned before it. He denied the most
flagrant charge against him; but this only made his case worse, and he
was expelled from the academy.



Once more the young poet found himself cast out on the world, without
home or friends. He could hope for nothing more from Mr. Allan, after
his disgrace at the military academy, and he had found out that army
life was not so fine a refuge from starvation as he had thought it. He
was a proud, melancholy young man, and in school and college had
learned many bad habits. He had no trade nor practical knowledge of
any kind of work, though he was quick and ingenious. He had studied
the art of writing, and this alone offered him the means of earning a
livelihood. How poor and precarious a chance it was, we shall see as
we go on.

While waiting for appointment to the Military Academy the preceding
year, Poe had made acquaintance with his father's relatives in
Baltimore. He formed some literary connections there, and had a volume
of his poems published. It was entitled "Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and
Minor Poems, by Edgar A. Poe." "Al Aaraaf" was a poem about a star
that a great astronomer had seen blaze forth and then disappear.

When he left West Point in April, 1831, nearly two years after the
publication of his Baltimore volume, Poe was short of money; and to
supply his needs his fellow-students subscribed for a new edition of
his poems. For this, seventy-five cents was stopped out of the pay of
each, and a publisher in New York agreed to issue the book in good
style. The cadets thought his volume would contain the many funny
squibs he had written on the professors; but they were disappointed.

Poe next went to Baltimore. There he tried to get employment in vain.
Friends helped him, but it was some time before he made his first
literary success.

It happened at last that a weekly paper called the _Saturday Visiter_
was started in Baltimore. To give the paper popularity, two prizes
were offered, one of a hundred dollars for the best short story, and
the other of fifty for the best poem. Poe tried for both. He had six
short stories, which he copied in a neat little manuscript volume
entitled "Tales of the Folio Club." The poem he sent was "The

The judges were well-known gentlemen of the city of Baltimore, one of
whom, John P. Kennedy, afterward became Poe's intimate friend. When
they met they looked over several stories, which did not interest them
very much. They then came to the "Tales of the Folio Club." One was
read aloud, and the three gentlemen were so much interested that they
kept on till they had read all, and at once decided to give the prize
to one of these. They chose Poe's famous story "A MS. Found in a
Bottle." Afterward they decided that his poem was the best submitted;
but noticing that it was in the same handwriting as the stories, they
thought it best to give the prize to another. When they made their
report they greatly complimented the stories Poe had sent in, and said
they should be published in a volume.

We have said that one of the judges, Mr. Kennedy, became Poe's friend.
To show how very poor Poe was, I copy this passage from Mr. Kennedy's
diary: "It was many years ago that I found Poe in Baltimore in a
state of starvation. I gave him clothing, free access to my table, and
the use of a horse for exercise whenever he chose; in fact, I brought
him up from the very verge of despair."

Here, too, is an extract from a letter from Poe to Mr. Kennedy:

"Your invitation to dinner has wounded me to the quick. I cannot come
for reasons of the most humiliating nature--my personal appearance.
You may imagine my mortification in making this disclosure to you, but
it is necessary."

Mr. Kennedy did all that a friend could do for the future poet and
story-writer. Says Poe: "He has been at all times a true friend to
me--he was the first true friend I ever had--I am indebted to him for
_life itself_."

Poe now contributed regularly to the _Saturday Visiter,_ its young
editor, Lambert A. Wilmer, becoming his friend and constant companion.
It is said that at this time he dressed very neatly, though
inexpensively, "wore Byron collars and a black stock, and looked the
poet all over."



We have seen how persistently Poe clung to his poetry. Three times he
published the little volume of his verses, revising, enlarging, and
strengthening. In those days there was no market for poetic writing,
and as Poe wrote in a strange, weird style, it is not remarkable that
no one took any notice of the contents of his little volumes. It was
his own opinion, however, that these early poems contained more real
poetic imagination than his later successes, and it is perhaps as well
that we should begin our study of Poe with some of the first fruits of
his genius.

First let us read that most pathetic of autobiographical poems,
"Alone." With strange sincerity and directness the poet tells us how
his spirit grew and learned the burden of its melancholy, yet
scintillating song:

  From childhood's hour I have not been
  As others were,--I have not seen
  As others saw,--I could not bring
  My passions from a common spring.
  From the same source I have not taken
  My sorrow; I could not awaken
  My heart to joy at the same tone;
  And all I loved, I loved alone.
  Then--in my childhood--in the dawn
  Of a most stormy life was drawn

  From every depth of good and ill
  The mystery which binds me still:
  From the torrent, or the fountain,
  From the red cliff of the mountain,
  From the sun that round me rolled
  In its autumn tint of gold,--
  From the lightning in the sky
  As it passed me flying by,--
  From the thunder and the storm,
  And the cloud that took the form
  (When the rest of heaven was blue)
  Of a demon in my view.

As a poem written in early youth we should not expect this to be as
perfect as "The Raven," for instance. Let us see if we can find some
of its faults, as well as some of its beauties:

First, we notice that it ends rather abruptly, as if it were
unfinished. In his essay on "The Poetic Principle" Poe pointed out
that many a poem fails of its effect by being too short. It must not
be so long that one is wearied out before it can be read through; at
the same time it must be long enough to convey the whole of the idea.
This poem of his own is an example of the fault he himself pointed
out. It is too short to give us clear ideas of all he evidently had in
his mind. We notice, also, that it is rhymed in couplets, that is,
every two lines are rhymed together. Now the couplets in the last half
of the poem seem to strike the ear with more satisfaction than those
in the first part. For instance, we are pleased with the sound of
these lines:

  From the torrent, or the fountain,
  From the red cliff of the mountain.

But in some of the lines the pauses of punctuation do not come at the
right points to make smooth reading:

  From the same source I have not taken
  My sorrow; I could not awaken
  My heart to joy at the same tone;
  And all I loved, _I_ loved alone.

The semicolon after "sorrow" should have come at the end of the line
instead of in the middle. Poe had not yet learned the secret of the
rhythmic flow which we find in such perfection in "The Bells," for

But in the last part of the poem we find a beauty of image and
comparison that thrills us, and something of that strange, weird
suggestiveness which was characteristic of all of Poe's poetry, the
thing he has in common with no other poet.

This weird suggestiveness is found in still greater vividness in
another poem entitled "The Lake." In this, besides, we see how Poe had
a sort of fascination for the horrible. Notice how he says:

  Yet that terror was not fright,
  But a tremulous delight.

Here is the complete poem. The young student of poetry may study it
for himself, and discover, if he can, its shortcomings, as we have
pointed out the faults in the poem "Alone."

  In spring of youth it was my lot
  To haunt of the wide world a spot
  The which I could not love the less,--
  So lovely was the loveliness
  Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
  And the tall pines that towered around.
  But when the night had thrown her pall
  Upon that spot as upon all,

  And the mystic wind went by
  Murmuring in melody,--
  Then,--ah, then I would awake
  To the terror of the lone lake.
  Yet that terror was not fright,
  But a tremulous delight,--
  A feeling not the jeweled mine
  Could teach or bribe me to define,--
  Nor Love--although the Love were thine.

  Death was in that poisonous wave,
  And its gulf a fitting grave
  For him who thence could solace bring
  To his lone imagining,--
  Whose solitary soul could make
  An Eden of that dim lake.

These poems are chiefly interesting as they give us some idea of the
nature of the young poet's mind. Poe had what may be called a
scientific mind, infused through and through with poetry. At times he
was exact, keen-minded, and patient as the scientist; then again he
wandered away into mere fanciful suggestion of things that "never were
on land or sea." His scientific turn we see in his detective stories;
his poetic nature we see struggling against this intellectual
exactness in the following sonnet:

  Science! True daughter of Old Time thou art!
    Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
  Why preyest thou upon the poet's heart,
    Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
  How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
    Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
  To seek for treasure in the jeweled skies,
    Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
  Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
    And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
  To seek a shelter in some happier star?
    Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
  The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
    The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?



While Poe was in Baltimore, after he had begun to earn something by
his pen, he went to live with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm. She was very poor,
and whatever Poe earned went toward the support of the whole family,
which included not only Poe and his aunt, but her young daughter
Virginia, at this time only eleven years of age.

Virginia was an exceedingly delicate and beautiful girl. She had dark
hair and eyes, and a fine, transparent complexion. She was very modest
and quiet; but she had a fine mind, and a very sweet and winning
manner. She had also a poetic nature, and became an accomplished

Mrs. Clemm, on the other hand, was a large, coarsely formed woman, and
it seemed impossible that she could be the mother of so delicate and
graceful a girl. She was very faithful and hardworking, however, and
sincerely devoted to Poe as well as to her daughter. She had the
business ability to manage Poe's small income in the best way, and
made for him a home that would have been extremely happy had it not
been for poverty and other misfortunes.

While Poe lived in Baltimore he would go out to walk nearly every day
with the editor of the _Saturday Visiter_; but he sometimes walked
alone or with Virginia.

After a time the young poet and story-writer decided to go to
Richmond, his early home. He had many friends there, who welcomed him
back, and a good position was offered him. The _Southern Literary
Messenger_ had been started by a Mr. White, and Poe was made assistant

He had become very much attached to Mrs. Clemm and Virginia while in
Baltimore, and now wished to marry Virginia. She was but fourteen
years of age,--indeed, not quite fourteen,--and Mrs. Clemm's friends
thought the girl too young to marry. But Poe gained the mother's
consent, and he and Virginia were united in May, 1836.

Virginia was Poe's ideal of womanhood, and we find her figuring as the
model for nearly all the heroines of his poems. In a letter after the
death of both Virginia and her poet husband, Mrs. Clemm wrote, "She
was an excellent linguist and a perfect musician, and she was very
beautiful. How often has Eddie said, 'I see no one so beautiful as my
sweet little wife.'" Poe undertook her education as soon as they were
married, and was very proud of her brilliant accomplishments.

As she was the source of his greatest happiness, her loss was the
occasion of his greatest sorrow. A year after their marriage she burst
a blood vessel while singing. The following extract from a letter of
Poe's to a friend will explain how this misfortune affected him.

"You say," he writes, "'Can you hint to me what was the terrible evil
which caused the irregularities so profoundly lamented?' Yes, I can do
more than hint. This 'evil' was the greatest which can befall a man.
Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before,
ruptured a blood vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took
leave of her forever, and underwent all the agonies of her death. She
recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year the blood
vessel broke again. I went through precisely the same scene.--Then
again--again--and even once again, at varying intervals. Each time I
felt all the agonies of her death--and at each accession of her
disorder I loved her more dearly and clung to her life with more
desperate pertinacity."

Virginia gradually grew worse and finally died at their home at
Fordham, near New York. After this sad event Poe wrote a poem which is
a sort of requiem for her death. It was not published during his life,
but after his death it appeared in the _New York Tribune_. Immediately
it took rank as one of the three greatest poems Poe ever wrote. It is
long enough to be complete, it has none of those metrical
imperfections found in his earlier poems, and it possesses in a
wonderful degree that haunting thrill so characteristic of all the
best things Poe wrote. Moreover, it has a musical flow surpassing any
other of Poe's poems except "The Bells," and in some respects it is
even more pleasing to the ear when read aloud than is "The Bells."


  It was many and many a year ago,
    In a kingdom by the sea,
  That a maiden there lived whom you may know
    By the name of Annabel Lee;
  And this maiden she lived with no other thought
    Than to love and be loved by me.

  _I_ was a child and _she_ was a child,
    In this kingdom by the sea:
  But we loved with a love that was more than love,--
    I and my Annabel Lee;
  With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
    Coveted her and me.

  And this was the reason that, long ago,
    In this kingdom by the sea,
  A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
    My beautiful Annabel Lee;
  So that her highborn kinsmen came
    And bore her away from me,
  To shut her up in a sepulcher
    In this kingdom by the sea.

  The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
    Went envying her and me,--
  Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
    In this kingdom by the sea)
  That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
    Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

  But our love it was stronger by far than the love
    Of those who were older than we,--
  Of many far wiser than we;
    And neither the angels in heaven above,
    Nor the demons down under the sea,
  Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

  For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
  And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
  And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
  Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
    In the sepulcher there by the sea,
    In her tomb by the sounding sea.



As assistant editor of the _Southern Literary Messenger_, Poe achieved
great literary success. In this paper he began those spirited
criticisms of the writers of the day, which attracted attention
everywhere. He also published numerous stories. Poetry was almost
completely abandoned for prose.

The circulation of the magazine increased by the thousands, and there
could be no doubt that its success was due chiefly to Poe. At first
his salary was ten dollars a week; later, it was raised to fifteen
dollars, and was to have been raised to twenty, but Poe suddenly
resigned his position. Precisely why he did this is not known.

Experiences similar to that with the _Southern Literary Messenger_
were repeated many times afterward, during his literary career. Just
as he was getting well settled at his work, he would have some
difficulty with the proprietor, or commit some indiscretion, and then
he must find some other place. In those days, when a great New York
daily paper like Bryant's _Evening Post_ could be bought for from
$5,000 to $10,000, there was not much money to be made in publishing
or in literature. To make money, Poe should have been a business man,
and he was not so in any sense. Many another literary man, even in our
own times, has had similar misfortunes, even without those faults of
character and that fatality for falling out with everything and
everybody which distinguished Poe.

From Richmond, Poe went with his family to New York, where Mrs. Clemm
supported the household by keeping boarders. Poe himself spent the
winter chiefly in writing "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," a tale
of the sea, which was first published by Messrs. Harper and Brothers.

From New York he went to Philadelphia, where he wrote various magazine
articles and stories, and did part of the work of preparing a school
textbook on "Conchology." He soon became associate editor of _The
Gentleman's Magazine_ with its proprietor Burton. The following year,
1840, his first volume of stories was published, under the title,
"Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque." The volume was not a popular
success. An edition of seven hundred and fifty copies was barely
disposed of, and all that Poe received was twenty copies for
distribution among his friends.

His connection with Burton's magazine did not last above a year.
Burton had been a comic actor, and offered prizes which Poe says he
never intended to pay. Poe's remarks on this transaction caused the

Poe had already been thinking about starting a periodical of his own,
and now he sent out the prospectus of _The Penn Magazine_. To found a
magazine which should be better and higher in literary art than any
other in America was his lifelong ambition. He tried again and again
to do this, first with _The Penn Magazine_, and later with a
periodical to be called _The Stylus_. He never succeeded, however.

George R. Graham, proprietor of the _Saturday Evening Post_, now
bought _The Gentleman's Magazine_, united it with a periodical of his
own called _The Casket_, and named the new venture _Graham's
Magazine_. Of this Poe soon became the editor.

After Poe's death, Mr. Graham published an article in which he said
that, while he was in Philadelphia, Poe seemed to think only of the
happiness and welfare of his family. There were but two things for
which he cared to have money--to give them comforts and to start a
magazine of his own. He never spent any money on himself. Everything
was intrusted to Mrs. Clemm, who managed all his household affairs.
His love for his wife was a sort of rapturous worship of the spirit of
beauty, which he felt was fading before his eyes. "I have seen him,"
says Mr. Graham, "hovering around her when she was ill, with all the
fond fear and tender anxiety of a mother for her first-born--her
slightest cough causing him a shudder, a heart chill, that was
visible. I rode out one summer evening with them, and the remembrance
of his watchful eyes, eagerly bent upon the slightest change of hue in
that loved face, haunts me yet as the memory of a sad strain. It was
this hourly anticipation of her loss which made him a sad and
thoughtful man, and lent a mournful melody to his undying song."

At last he left Philadelphia and returned to New York, where he
remained for the rest of his life. This is the childlike way he writes
to his mother-in-law concerning the journey:

"My Dear Muddy,

"We have just this minute done breakfast, and I now sit down to write
you about everything. * * * In the first place, we arrived safe at
Walnut St. wharf. The driver wanted to make me pay a dollar, but I
wouldn't. Then I had to pay a boy a levy to put the trunks in the
baggage car.

"In the meantime I took Sis [Virginia] in the Depot Hotel. * * * We
went in the cars to Amboy, * * * and then took the steamboat the rest
of the way. Sissy coughed none at all. I left her on board the boat. *
* * Then I went up Greenwich St. and soon found a boarding house. * *
* I made a bargain in a few minutes and then got a hack and went for
Sis. * * * When we got to the house we had to wait about half an hour
before the room was ready. The house is old and looks buggy, * * * the
cheapest board I ever knew, taking into consideration the central
situation and the _living_. I wish Kate [Catterina, the cat] could see
it--she would faint."

They had a little cottage at Fordham, in the country just out of New
York. It was a very humble place, but the scenery about it was
beautiful. Poe himself became ill, and his dear Virginia was dying of
consumption. They were so poor that friends had to help them. One of
these friends wrote:

"There was no clothing on the bed, which was only straw, but a
snow-white counterpane and sheets. The weather was cold and the sick
lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever of
consumption. She lay on the bed wrapped in her husband's great-coat,
with a large tortoise-shell cat in her bosom."

On one Saturday in January, 1847, Virginia died. Her husband, wrapped
in the military cloak that had once covered her, followed the body to
the tomb in the family vault of the Valentines, relatives of the



Next to "The Raven," Poe's most famous work is that fascinating story,
"The Gold-Bug," perhaps the best detective story that was ever
written, for it is based on logical principles which are instructive
as well as interesting. Poe's powerful mind was always analyzing and
inventing. It is these inventions and discoveries of his which make
him famous.

The story of the gold-bug is that of a man who finds a piece of
parchment on which is a secret writing telling where Captain Kidd hid
his treasure off the coast of South Carolina. The gold-beetle has
nothing whatever to do with the real story, and is only introduced to
mystify. It is one of the principles of all conjuring tricks to have
something to divert the attention. Poe's detective story is a sort of
conjuring trick, but it is all the more interesting because he fully
explains it.

Cryptographs are systems of secret writing. The letter _e_ is
represented by some strange character, perhaps the figure 8. In "The
Gold-Bug" _t_ is a semicolon and _h_ is 4, so that; 48 means _the_.
Sometimes the letter _e_ is represented by several signs, any one of
which the writer may use; and perhaps the word _the_, which occurs so
often, is represented by a single character, like _x_. Often, too, the
words are run together, so that at first sight you cannot tell where
one word begins and another ends.

Solving a cryptograph is like doing a mathematical problem, and Poe
was very clever at it.

He published a series of articles on "Cryptography" or systems of
secret writing, in _Alexander's Weekly Messenger_, and challenged any
reader to send in a cipher which he could not translate into ordinary
language. Hundreds were sent to him, and he solved them all, though it
took up a great deal of his time.

In the same line with this was another feat of his. Dickens's story,
"Barnaby Rudge," was coming out in parts from week to week, as a
serial publication. From the first chapters Poe calculated what the
outcome of the plot would be, and published it in the _Saturday
Evening Post_. He guessed the story so accurately that Dickens was
greatly surprised and asked him if he were the devil.

Again at a later date Poe wrote a remarkable story, "The Mystery of
Marie Roget." A young girl had been murdered in New York. The
newspapers were full of accounts of the crime, but the police could
get no clew to the murderers. In Poe's story he wrote out exactly what
happened on the night of the murder, and explained the whole thing, as
if he were an expert detective. Afterward, by the confessions of two
of the participants, it was proved that his solution of the mystery
was almost exactly the truth.

"The Gold-Bug" was not published until sometime later, but it was as
editor of _Graham's Magazine_ that Poe first became known as a writer
of detective stories. One of the most famous is "The Murders of the
Rue Morgue." It is an imaginary story, but none the less interesting.
A murder was committed in Paris by an orang-outang, which had climbed
in at a window and then closed the window behind it. The police could
find no clew; but the hero of Poe's story follows the facts out by a
number of clever observations of small facts.

"The Gold-Bug" seems to have been written in 1842 for Poe's projected
magazine, _The Stylus_. F.O.C. Darley, the well-known artist, was to
draw pictures for it at seven dollars each. Poe himself took to him
the manuscript of "The Gold-Bug" and that of "The Black Cat."

As this magazine was never published, the story of "The Gold-Bug" was
sent to Graham some time after Poe had left him; but he did not like
it, and made some criticisms upon it. Poe got it back from Graham in
order to submit it for a prize of $100 offered by _The Dollar
Newspaper_. It won the prize, and became Poe's most popular story.

       *       *       *       *       *



"The Raven" was published in New York just two years before Mrs. Poe
died; it instantly made its author famous, although it brought him
little or no money. It is said that he was paid only ten dollars for
the poem; but as soon as it appeared it was the talk of the
nation,--being copied into almost every newspaper. Poe had written
and published many other poems, but none of them had attracted much

We have spoken of Poe as a story-writer, and now in "The Raven" we see
him a great poet.

It is not unusual to think of poetry as the work of inspiration or
genius; but how it is written, nobody knows. Poe maintained that
literary art is something that can be studied and learned. To
illustrate this he told how he wrote "The Raven." Some people
considered this a sort of joke; but it was not. When Poe began to
write, his work was not at all good; as years went on, he learned by
patient practice to write well. It was more than anything else this
long course of training that made him so great.

The essay in which he tells how he wrote "The Raven," begins by saying
that when he thought of writing it he decided that it must not be too
long nor too short. It must be short enough so that one could read it
through at a sitting; but also it must be long enough to express fully
the idea which he had in mind.

Then, it must be beautiful. All true poetry is about beauty. It
doesn't teach anything useful, or analyze anything, but it simply
makes the reader feel a certain effect. When you read "The Raven" you
hardly know what the poet is saying; but you feel the ghostly scene,
and it makes you shudder; and there is a strange fascination about it
that makes you like it, even if it is horrible.

He goes on to say that he decided to have a refrain at the end of each
stanza, the single word "Nevermore." At first he thought he would have
a parrot utter it; but a raven can talk as well as a parrot, and is
more picturesque. The most striking subject he could think of was the
death of a beautiful woman--this he felt to be so because of his own
impressions concerning the approaching death of his sweet wife.

Besides this, Poe said that poetry and music are much alike, and he
tried to have his poem produce the effect of solemn music. All his
best poetry is very much like music.

With these materials at his command, he now turned his attention to
the construction of the poem. He would ask questions, and the raven
would always reply by croaking "Nevermore." As an answer to some
questions, this would sound very terrible. Says he: "I first
established in my mind the climax, or concluding query,--that query in
reply to which the word 'nevermore' should involve the utmost
conceivable amount of sorrow and despair. Here, then, the poem may be
said to have its beginning--at the end, where all works of art should
begin--for it was here, at this point of my preconsiderations, that I
first put pen to paper in the composition of the stanza:--

  "'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
  By the heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore!--
  Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
  It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore,--
  Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.'
          Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"

This principle of beginning at the end or climax to write a poem or
story was one so important that Poe insisted on it at great length. In
the "Murders in the Rue Morgue" the author necessarily began at the
end, imagined the solution of the mystery, and gradually worked back
to the beginning, bringing in his detective after everything had been
carefully constructed for him, though to the ordinary reader of the
story it seems as if the detective came to a real mystery.

It may be observed that all of Poe's stories and poems are built up
about some principle of the mind. They illustrate how the mind works.
After the principle is stated the illustration is given.

Can anything be more important and interesting than to know how the
mind thinks, how it is inspired with terror or love or a sense of
beauty? If you know just how the mind of a man works in regard to
these things, you can yourself create the conditions which will make
others laugh or cry, be filled with horror, or overflow with a sense
of divine holiness. Ordinary story-tellers and ordinary poets write
poems or stories that are pretty and amusing; but it is only a master
like Poe who writes to illustrate and explain some great principle.
His stories teach us how we may go about producing similar effects in
the affairs of life. We wish success in business, in society, in
politics. To gain it we must make people think and feel as we think
and feel. To do that we must understand the principles on which men's
minds work, and no poet or writer analyzed and illustrated those
principles so clearly as Poe.



Poe always maintained that music and poetry are very near of kin, and
in nearly all his greatest poems he seems to write in such a way as to
produce the impression of music. As you read his verses you seem to
hear a musical accompaniment to the words, which runs through the very
sounds of the words themselves.

Poe explained that poetry and music are alike in that both obey
absolute laws of time, and that the laws of time or rhythm in poetry
are just as exact as the laws of time in music. He wrote an essay
entitled "The Rationale of Verse," in which he demonstrated that all
the rules for scanning poetry are defective. Every one knows that the
ordinary rules for meter have numerous exceptions, but that if the
rules were exact in the first place, there would be no exceptions.

Perhaps you know something about musical notes. If so, a simple
illustration will show you what "feet" in poetry are. You have perhaps
been taught that a "foot" in verse is an accented syllable with one or
more unaccented syllables, and you scan poetry by marking all the
accented syllables. In Latin, poetry was scanned by marking long
vowels and short. Let us scan the first two lines of "The Raven":

  "Ónce up | ón a mídnight | dréary, || whíle I | póndered
      | wéak and | wéary,
  Óver | mány a | quáint and | cúrious | vólume | óf
      for | gótten | lóre."

Observe that most of the feet have two syllables each, while two have
three. But if you read the lines in a natural tone you will see that
you give just as much time to one foot as to another, and where there
are three syllables they are short and can be pronounced quickly. Some
syllables take more time to pronounce than other syllables; and to
accent a syllable simply means to give it more time in pronouncing. In
music, time is accurately represented by notes, and a bar of music
always contains exactly the same amount of time, no matter how it is
divided by the notes; for if you wish, in place of a half note you can
use two quarter notes, or in place of a quarter note you can use two
eighth notes. Represented in music, our lines will be as follows:

[Illustration: (music) Once up on a midnight dreary, as I pondered,
weak and weary, O-ver man-y a quaint and cur-i--ous vol-ume of for-
got-ten lore.]

We see this still further illustrated in a poem of Tennyson's, where a
foot consists of but one long syllable, thus:

[Illustration: (music) Break, break, break, On thy cold grey stones, O

One of Poe's greatest poems, "The Bells," was written for the express
purpose of imitating music in verse. The story of how it was first
written is as follows:

Poe went one Sunday morning to call on a lady friend of his, Mrs.
Shaw, who was something of a physician and had been very kind to his
wife. It was a bright morning, and the church bells were ringing. For
all that, Poe felt moody, and the church bells seemed to jangle.

"I must write a poem," said he, "and I haven't an idea in my head. For
some reason the bells seem frightfully out of tune this morning, and
nearly drive me distracted."

After he had been chatting with Mrs. Shaw for some time, he evidently
felt in better mood, and the sound of the bells grew more musical; or
perhaps their actual sound had stopped and his imagination suggested
bells that were indeed musical.

As he kept on complaining about his inability to write a poem, Mrs.
Shaw placed pen and ink and paper before him, first writing at the top
of a sheet the title, "The Bells, by E. A. Poe." Underneath she wrote,
"The bells, the little silver bells." Poe caught the idea, and
immediately wrote the first draft of the following stanza. According
to his habit he rewrote this poem many, many times. The original
stanza began with the words Mrs. Shaw had written. Here are the verses
as they may now be read in Poe's works:

  Hear the sledges with the bells--
    Silver bells!
  What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
    How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
        In the icy air of night!
    While the stars that oversprinkle
    All the heaven, seem to twinkle
        With a crystalline delight;
      Keeping time, time, time,
      In a sort of Runic rhyme
  To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
    From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
        Bells, bells, bells,--
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Mrs. Shaw then wrote the words, "The heavy iron bells." Poe
immediately completed the stanza which now reads:

        Hear the tolling of the bells,--
          Iron bells!
  What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
     At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
          Is a groan.
        And the people--ah, the people--
        They that dwell up in the steeple,
          All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
        Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone!
        They are neither man nor woman,--
        They are neither brute nor human,--
          They are Ghouls;
        And their king it is who tolls,--
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
        Rolls a paean from the bells!
        And his merry bosom swells
        With the paean of the bells!
        And he dances, and he yells,
          Keeping time, time, time,
        In a sort of Runic rhyme,
        To the paean of the bells,
          Of the bells.

The other stanzas were written afterward. There is music in these
words; but do not think that the music is all. Underneath is the deep
harmony of human suggestion, as in the lines,

  Feel a glory in so rolling
      On the human heart a stone.

Now let us see if we can represent by musical notes the meter in which
this poem is written. We must remember that a punctuation mark at the
end of a line often makes a complete pause, which is represented in
music by a rest. In music a rest has the same effect in completing a
bar as the corresponding note. Here are the first two lines:

[Illustration: (music) Hear the sledg-es with the bells, Sil-ver

In the two following lines the commas in the middle of the line stand
for rests, like the punctuation at the end of the first line; or if we
wish we can make the words "time, time, time," three longer notes. It
all depends on how we pronounce them:

[Illustration: (music) Keep--ing time, time, time, in a sort of Ru-nic



Poe had the hardest time of his life when he was at New York, living
in that little cottage at Fordham, where his poor wife died. He was
always borrowing money, from sheer necessity, to keep himself and his
wife from starvation. Once while in New York he was so hard pressed
that Mrs. Clemm went out to see if she could not get work for him. She
went to the office of Nathaniel P. Willis, who was the editor and
proprietor of _The Mirror_. Willis was then starting _The Evening
Mirror_, and said he would give Poe work. So the poet came; he had
his little desk in the corner, and did his work meekly and
regularly,--poor hack work for which he was paid very little.

Later he had an interest in a paper called _The Broadway Journal_.
When it was about to cease publication Poe bought it himself for fifty
dollars, giving a note which Horace Greeley endorsed and finally paid.

Once a young man wrote to Greeley, saying, "Doubtless among your
papers you have many autographs of the poet, Edgar Allan Poe," and
intimated that he should like to have one of them. Greeley wrote back
that he had just one autograph of Poe among his papers; it was
attached to a note for fifty dollars, and Greeley's own signature was
across the back. The young man might have it for just half its face

But after Poe bought _The Broadway Journal_ he had no money to carry
it on, and its publication was soon suspended.

He earned his livelihood mainly by writing stories or articles for
various magazines and papers, which paid him from $5 to $50 each. It
was a hand to mouth way of living, for he was often, often

In 1845, a volume entitled, "Tales. By Edgar A. Poe," was published by
Wiley and Putnam, and in the same year "The Raven and Other Poems"
appeared in book form from the same publishing house. Poe also
delivered lectures, and by way of criticism carried on what was called
the "Longfellow War." Though he considered Longfellow the greatest
American poet, he accused him of plagiarism, or stealing some of his
ideas, which was very unjust on the part of Poe. Hawthorne and Lowell
he praised highly.

After the death of his wife, Poe was very melancholy. He went to
lecture, and to visit friends in Providence, Rhode Island, and in
Lowell, Massachusetts, and afterward went south to Richmond, where he
planned to raise enough money by lecturing to start _The Stylus_.

He was hospitably entertained in Richmond, and became engaged to marry
his boyhood's first love, Miss Royster, now the widow, Mrs. Shelton.
Their marriage was to take place at once, and Poe started north to
close up his business in New York and bring Mrs. Clemm south. In
Baltimore it seems that he fell in with some politicians who were
conducting an election. They took him about from one polling place to
another to vote illegally; then some one drugged him, and left him on
a bench near a saloon. Here he was found by a printer, who notified
his friends, and they sent him to the hospital, where he died on the
7th of October, 1849. He was nearly forty-one years old.

Poe had a great and wonderful mind. In the latter part of his life he
gave much of his time to a book called "Eureka," which was intended to
explain the meaning of the universe. Of course he was not a
philosopher; but he wrote some things in that book which were destined
afterward to be accepted by such great men as Darwin and Huxley and
many others.

His life was so full of work and poverty, so crossed and crossed again
by unhappiness and hardship, that he never had time or strength of
mind to think out anything as he would otherwise have done. All his
work is fragmentary, broken bits on this subject or on that. He wrote
very few poems, not many stories, and only a little serious criticism.

But a Frenchman will tell you that Poe, among American poets and
writers, is the greatest; his writings have been translated into
nearly every European language. In England, too, he is spoken of as
our one great poet and critic, our first great story-writer, the
inventor of the artistic short story.

Poor, unhappy Poe! After his death a monument was to have been erected
over his grave; but by a strange fatality it was destroyed before it
was finished. Twenty-five years later admiring friends placed over his
remains the first monument to an American poet. No such memorial was
needed, however, for American hearts will never cease to thrill at the
weird, beautiful music of "Annabel Lee," "The Bells," and "The Raven."


[Illustration: _JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL_.]




James Russell Lowell was born on the 22d of February, 1819, in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Elmwood, the home of the Lowells, was to the
west of the village of Cambridge, quite near Mount Auburn cemetery.
When James Russell was a boy, Elmwood was practically in the country,
and was surrounded on nearly all sides by woods, meadows, and
pastures. The house stood on a triangular piece of land surrounded by
a very high and thick hedge, made up of all sorts of trees and shrubs,
such as pines, spruces, willows, and oaks, with smaller shrubs at the
bottom so as to form a thick wall of green. In front of the house were
some fine English elms, quite different from the American variety,
and from these the house got its name. It was a large, square,
old-fashioned wooden house, and though it had stood for over a hundred
years, it remained during Lowell's life in perfect condition.

The house was surrounded by a fine, well-kept lawn, and at the back
were pasture, orchard, and garden, while half a mile away lay Fresh
Pond, the haunt of herons and other shy birds and land creatures. From
the upper windows one could look out on beautiful Mount Auburn
cemetery, which was to the south, while to the east was a low hill
called Symonds's Hill, beyond which could be seen a bright stretch of
the Charles River.

Elmwood faced on a lane, between two roads. In his essay in "Fireside
Travels," entitled "Cambridge Thirty Years Ago," Lowell describes the
scene towards the village as it was in his childhood. Approaching
"from the west, by what was then called the New Road (it is called so
no longer, for we change our names whenever we can, to the great
detriment of all historical association), you would pause on the brow
of Symonds's Hill to enjoy a view singularly soothing and placid.
In front of you lay the town, tufted with elms, lindens, and
horse-chestnuts.... Over it rose the noisy belfry of the college, the
square brown tower of the church, and the slim yellow spire of the parish
meeting-house, by no means ungraceful, and then an invariable
characteristic of New England religious architecture. On your right
the Charles slipped smoothly through green and purple salt meadows,
darkened here and there with the blossoming black grass as with a
stranded cloud-shadow. Over these marshes, level as water but without
its glare, and with softer and more soothing gradations of
perspective, the eye was carried to a horizon of softly rounded hills.
To your left upon the Old Road you saw some half dozen dignified old
houses of the colonial time, all comfortably fronting southward." One
of these, the largest and most stately, was the Craigie House, famous
as the headquarters of Washington in 1776, and afterwards as the home
of Longfellow. And at the end of the New Road toward Cambridge was a
row of six fine willows, which had remained from the stockade built in
early days as a defense against the Indians.

And here is Harvard Square, where stand the buildings of the famous

"A few houses, chiefly old, stood around the bare Common, with ample
elbow-room, and old women, capped and spectacled, still peered through
the same windows from which they had watched Lord Percy's artillery
rumble by to Lexington, or caught a glimpse of the handsome Virginia
general who had come to wield our homespun Saxon chivalry. People
still lived who regretted the unhappy separation from the mother
island. . . The hooks were to be seen from which swung the hammocks of
Burgoyne's captive redcoats. If memory does not deceive me, women
still washed clothes in the town spring, clear as that of Bandusia.
Commencement had not ceased to be the great holiday of the Puritan
Commonwealth, and a fitting one it was--the festival of Santa
Scholastica, whose triumphal path one may conceive strewn with leaves
of spelling-books instead of bay."

James was the youngest of four brothers and two sisters, a handsome
boy, and his mother's darling. He always thought he inherited his love
of nature and poetic aspirations from her, whose family was from the
Orkneys--those islands at the extreme north of Scotland.

His father was a strikingly handsome man, gracious and of rare
personal qualities, and a faithful pastor over his flock. Often he
took his youngest son on long drives with him, when he went to
exchange pulpits with neighboring clergymen. Because of his wide
family connection, and his father's position, James saw not a little
of New England society as it was in those days, pure Yankee through
and through.



Young James was sent first to a dame school, as a private school for
very small children kept by a lady in her own house was called in
those days. But when he was eight or nine he was sent to a boarding
school near Elmwood--going, of course, only as a day scholar. This
school was kept by an Englishman named Wells, who had belonged to a
publishing firm in Boston which had failed. This teacher was very sharp
and severe, but he made all his boys learn Latin, as you may see by
reading the learned notes and introductions to the "Biglow Papers,"
supposed to have been written by "Parson Wilbur," but in reality by Lowell

We sometimes find it difficult to believe that a great man whom we
admire was ever an ordinary human being, with faults and errors like
our own. But when we do find natural, childish letters, or read
anecdotes of youthful naughtiness, we immediately feel like shaking
hands with the scapegrace, and a real liking for him begins.

Lowell was so reserved in after life, and so very correct and elegant
both in his writing and in his deportment, that when we come across
two letters written at about nine years of age, badly punctuated and
badly spelled, but displaying all the natural spirits of a boy, we
begin at once to feel at home with him and to have a genuine affection
for the man we had before only admired as a very great and learned
author. Here are the two letters just as they were written. It will be
a good exercise for you to rewrite them, correcting the spelling,
punctuation, and other faults.

Jan. 25, 1827.

My dear brother The dog and the colt went down to-day with our boy for
me and the colt went before and then the horse and slay and dog--I
went to a party and I danced a great deal and was very happy--I read
french stories--The colt plays very much--and follows the horse when
it is out. Your affectionate brother,

James R. Lowell.

I forgot to tell you that sister mary has not given me any present but
I have got three books

Nov. 2, 1828.

My Dear Brother,--I am now going to tell you melancholy news. I have
got the ague together with a gumbile. I presume you know that
September has got a lame leg, but he grows better every day and now is
very well but limps a little. We have a new scholar from round hill,
his name is Hooper and we expect another named Penn who I believe also
comes from there. The boys are all very well except Nemaise, who has
got another piece of glass in his leg and is waiting for the doctor to
take it out, and Samuel Storrow is also sick. I am going to have a new
suit of blue broadcloth clothes to wear every day and to play in.
Mother tells me I may have any sort of buttons I choose. I have not
done anything to the hut, but if you wish I will. I am now very happy;
but I should be more so if you were there. I hope you will answer my
letter if you do not I shall write you no more letters, when you write
my letters you must direct them all to me and not write half to mother
as generally do. Mother has given me the three volumes of tales of a

     Yours truly James R. Lowell.

You must excuse me for making so many mistakes. You must keep what I
have told you about my new clothes a secret if you don't I shall not
divulge any more secrets to you. I have got quite a library. The
Master has not taken his rattan out since the vacation. Your little
kitten is as well and as playful as ever and I hope you are to for I
am sure I love you as well as ever. Why is grass like a mouse you cant
guess that he he he ho ho ho ha ha ha hum hum hum.

Young Lowell's life was so very quiet and uneventful that we have very
little account of his boyhood and youth. We know, however, that he was
fond of books and was rather lazy, and did pretty much as he pleased.
A poem which in later years he dedicated to his friend Charles Eliot
Norton gives a very good picture of the life at Elmwood:

  The wind is roistering out of doors,
  My windows shake and my chimney roars;
  My Elmwood chimneys seem crooning to me,
  As of old, in their moody, minor key,
  And out of the past the hoarse wind blows,
  As I sit in my arm-chair and toast my toes.

  "Ho! ho! nine-and-forty," they seem to sing,
  "We saw you a little toddling thing.
  We knew you child and youth and man,
  A wonderful fellow to dream and plan,
  With a great thing always to come,--who knows?
  Well, well! 'tis some comfort to toast one's toes.

  "How many times have you sat at gaze
  Till the mouldering fire forgot to blaze,
  Shaping among the whimsical coals
  Fancies and figures and shining goals!
  What matters the ashes that cover those?
  While hickory lasts you can toast your toes.

  "O dream-ship builder! where are they all,
  Your grand three-deckers, deep-chested and tall,
  That should crush the waves under canvas piles,
  And anchor at last by the Fortunate Isles?
  There's gray in your beard, the years turn foes,
  While you muse in your arm-chair and toast your toes."

  I sit and dream that I hear, as of yore,
  My Elmwood chimneys' deep-throated roar;
  If much be gone, there is much remains;
  By the embers of loss I count my gains,
  You and yours with the best, till the old hope glows
  In the fanciful flame as I toast my toes.

Lowell entered Harvard College when he was but fifteen years old, very
nearly the youngest man in his class. In those days the college was
small, there were few teachers, and only about fifty students in a



Soon after he entered college, young Lowell made the acquaintance of a
senior, W.H. Shackford, to whom many of his published letters of
college life are addressed. Another intimate friend was George Bailey
Loring, who afterward became distinguished in politics. To one or
other of these men he was constantly writing of his literary
ambitions, always uppermost in his mind.

Josiah Quincy was president of Harvard when Lowell was there, and
afterward Lowell wrote an essay on "A Great Public Character," which
describes this distinguished president. In it he refers to college
life in a way that shows he thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Almost every one," he writes, "looks back regretfully to the days of
some Consul Plancus. Never were eyes so bright, never had wine so much
wit and good-fellowship in it, never were we ourselves so capable of
the various great things we have never done.... This is especially
true of college life, when we first assume the titles without the
responsibilities of manhood, and the president of our year is apt to
become our Plancus very early."

In another of his essays he tells one of the standing college jokes,
which is worth repeating. The students would go into one of the
grocery stores of the town, whose proprietor was familiarly called
"The Deacon."

"Have you any sour apples, Deacon?" the first student to enter would

"Well, no, I haven't any just now that are exactly sour," he would
answer; "but there's the bellflower apple, and folks that like a sour
apple generally like that."

Enter the second student. "Have you any sweet apples, Deacon?"

"Well, no, I haven't any now that are exactly sweet; but there's the
bellflower apple, and folks that like a sweet apple generally like

"There is not even a tradition of any one's ever having turned the
wary Deacon's flank," says

Lowell, "and his Laodicean apples persisted to the end, neither one
thing nor another."

It did not take young Lowell long to find out that he had a weakness
for poetry (as his seniors sometimes spoke of it). Writing to his
friend Loring, probably at the beginning of the Christmas vacation,
1836, he says, "Here I am alone in Bob's room with a blazing fire, in
an atmosphere of 'poesy' and soft coal smoke. Pope, Dante, a few of
the older English poets, Byron, and last, not least, some of my own
compositions, lie around me. Mark my modesty. I don't put myself in
the same line with the rest, you see.... Been quite 'grouty' all the
vacation, 'black as Erebus.' Discovered two points of very striking
resemblance between myself and Lord Byron; and if you will put me in
mind of it, I will propound next term, or in some other letter,
'Vanity, thy name is Lowell!'"

And again, in a letter to his mother, he says, "I am engaged in
several poetic effusions, one of which I dedicated to you, who have
always been the patron and encourager of my youthful muse.
If you wish to see me as much as I do you, I shall be satisfied."

This is Mrs. Lowell's answer to the last wish. She and Dr. Lowell were
then making a visit to Europe: "Babie Jamie: Your poetry was very
pleasing to me, and I am glad to have a letter, but not to remind me
of you, for you are seldom long out of my head.... Don't leave your
whistling, which used to cheer me so much. I frequently listen to it
here, though far from you." In later years Lowell would often tell how
he used to whistle as he came near home from school, in order to let
his mother know he was coming, and she seldom failed to be sitting at
her window to welcome him.

Early in 1837 Lowell was elected to the Hasty Pudding Club. "At the
very first meeting I attended," he writes to his friend, Shackford, "I
was chosen secretary, which is considered the most honorable office in
the club, as the records are kept in _verse (mind,_ I do not say
_poetry_). This first brought my rhyming powers into notice, and since
that I have been chosen to deliver the next anniversary poem by a vote
of twenty out of twenty-four."

Not long afterward he writes to his friend Loring, "I have written
about a hundred lines of my poem (?), and I suspect it is going to be
pretty good. At least, some parts of it will take." And after a few
lines he goes on, "I am as busy as a bee--almost. I study and read and
write all the time." A little later he writes a letter to Loring in
Scotch dialect verse.

This was not the sort of work, however, that the college authorities
expected of him. He was lazy and got behind his classes, so that near
the end of his course he was rusticated, or suspended from college for
some weeks. He had been chosen class poet, but on account of his
suspension he could not read his poem, though it was printed.

He was sent to Concord during this interval to carry on his studies
under the minister of the town. Here he found it pretty dull, though
Emerson and Thoreau were there. But he did not then care for either
one of them. In one of his letters he said, "I feel like a fool. I
must go down and see Emerson and if he doesn't make me feel more like
one, it won't be for want of sympathy. He is a good-natured man in
spite of his doctrines."

Of Thoreau he said, "I met (him) last night, and it is exquisitely
amusing to see how he imitates Emerson's tone and manner. With my eyes
shut I shouldn't know them apart."

In the autumn he came back to Cambridge and took his degree of
Bachelor of Arts with his class.



While at Concord, Lowell wrote to his friend Loring, as though
explaining himself.

"Everybody almost is calling me 'indolent.' 'Blind dependent on my own
powers' and 'on fate.' Confound everybody! since everybody confounds
me. Everybody seems to see but one side of my character, and that the
worst. As for my dependence on my own powers, 'tis all fudge. As for
fate, I believe that in every man's breast are the stars of his
fortune, which, if he choose, he may rule as easily as does the child
the mimic constellations in the orrery he plays with. I acknowledge,
too, that I have been something of a dreamer, and have sacrificed,
perchance, too assiduously on that altar to the 'unknown God,' which
the Divinity has builded not with hands in the bosom of every decent
man, sometimes blazing out clear with flame, like Abel's sacrifice,
heaven-seeking; sometimes smothered with greenwood and earthward, like
that of Cain. Lazy quota! I haven't dug, 'tis true, but I have done as
well, and 'since my free soul was mistress of her choice, and could of
books distinguish her election,' I have chosen what reading I pleased
and what friends I pleased, sometimes scholars and sometimes not."

Once out of college he had to take up some profession. Had poetry been
a profession, he would have taken that; but such a choice at that time
would have been considered sheer folly. He did not consider that he
had any "call" to be a minister, still less a doctor. As there was
nothing else left, he began the study of law. It is truly amusing to
see how he manages to "wriggle along" until he takes his degree of
LL.B. and is admitted to the bar.

First, he announces that he is "reading Blackstone with as good a
grace and as few wry faces as he may." Only a few days later he
declares, "A very great change has come o'er the spirit of my dreams.
I have renounced the law." He is going to be a business man, and sets
about looking for a place, in a store. He is going to give up all
thoughts of literary pursuits and devote himself to money-making. He
also says, "I have been thinking seriously of the ministry, but
then--I have also thought of medicine, but then--still worse!"

A few days pass by. He goes into Boston and hears Webster speak in a
case before the United States Court. "I had not been there an hour
before I determined to continue in my profession and study as well as
I could."

Still, it was hard work to keep at his law studies. He is soon writing
to his friend George Loring, "I sometimes think that I have it in me,
and shall one day do somewhat; meantime I am schooling myself and
shaping my theory of poesy."

Six weeks later: "I have written a great deal of _pottery_ lately. I
have quitted the law forever." Then he inquires if he can make any
money by lecturing at Andover. He already has an engagement to lecture
at Concord, where he has hopes to "astonish them a little."

A fortnight later we find him in a "miserable state. The more I think
of business the more really unhappy do I feel, and think more and more
of studying law." What he really wants to do all the time is to write
poetry. "I don't know how it is," he says, "but sometimes I actually
_need_ to write somewhat in verse." Sunday is his work day in the
"pottery business."

As for the law, it is settled at last. He writes to his friend,
"Rejoice with me, for to-morrow I shall be free. Without saying a word
to any one, I shall quietly proceed to Dane Law College to recitation.
Now shall I be happy again as far as that is concerned."

A fortnight later he declares, "I begin to like the law, and therefore
it is quite interesting. I am determined that I _will_ like it and
therefore I _do_."

In the summer of 1840 he completed his studies and was admitted to the
bar. A little later he opened an office in Boston. Misfortune had
overtaken his father, and his personal property had been nearly swept
away. It was now necessary for the young man to earn his own living.
His friends were therefore glad that he had his profession to depend



Lowell always had a presentiment that he should never practice law. He
was always dreaming of becoming independent in some other way. "Above
all things," he declares, "should I love to sit down and do something
literary for the rest of my natural life."

He did not then think of marrying, and it does not require much to
support a single man. Though he opened a law office in Boston, it does
not appear that he did any business. He wrote a story entitled "My
First Client," but one of his biographers unkindly suggests that this
may have been purely imaginary.

All through his letters we see his ambitious yearning. "George," says
he in one place, "before I die your heart shall be gladdened by seeing
your wayward, vain, and too often selfish friend do something that
shall make his name honored. As Sheridan once said, 'It's _in_ me,
and' (we'll skip the oath) 'it shall come _out_!'"

His bachelor dreams were soon dissipated, however. He went to visit a
friend of his, W.A. White, and there met the young man's sister Maria.
He thought her a very pleasant and pleasing young lady, and he
discovered that she knew a great deal of poetry. She could repeat more
verse than any other one of his acquaintances, though he laments that
she was more familiar with modern poets than with the "pure
wellsprings of English poesy."

The friendship grew apace. In the same fall that he began the
pretended practice of law he became engaged to her, and she caused a
fresh and voluminous outpouring of verse. His productions were printed
in various periodicals, such as the _Knickerbocker Magazine_, to which
Longfellow had contributed, and the _Southern Literary Messenger_,
which Poe once edited.

Miss White was a most charming and interesting young lady. She was
herself a poet, and had a delicate intellectual sympathy that enabled
her to enter into her lover's ambitions, and assist him even in the
minutest details of his work.

It is fair to suppose that Lowell's friends brought every possible
pressure to bear upon him to make him give up poetry and _dig_ at the
law. His father's financial losses had left him without an inherited
income; he was engaged to a beautiful girl and anxious to be married;
in some way he must earn his living, and if possible do more. Such was
not the effect, however. He devoted himself to poetry with an almost
feverish activity. He has made up his mind that he will do something
great; for only so can he hope possibly to make literature a paying

It was Maria who inspired most of his verse at this time. One of his
best poems even to this day was written directly for her. It is called
"Irene'." It may be taken as the best possible description of his lady

  Hers is a spirit deep, and crystal-clear;
    Calm beneath her earnest face it lies,
  Free without boldness, meek without a fear,
    Quicker to look than speak its sympathies;
  Far down into her large and patient eyes
    I gaze, deep-drinking of the infinite,
  As, in the mid-watch of a clear, still night,
    I look into the fathomless blue skies.

As the struggle between money and law on the one side and literature
on the other still went on, he expressed his feelings on the subject
to his friend Loring in the following stanza, which puts the whole
argument into a nutshell:

  They tell me I must study law.
  They say that I have dreamed and dreamed too long,
    That I must rouse and seek for fame and gold;
  That I must scorn this idle gift of song,

  And mingle with the vain and proud and cold.
      Is, then, this petty strife
      The end and aim of life,
  All that is worth the living for below?
  _O God! then call me hence, for I would gladly go_!

Thus he had finally come to the conclusion that he would rather die
than give up literature.

"Irené" won the good opinion of many. The young poet, though but
twenty-one, felt that he was beginning to be a lion. His next definite
step was to publish a volume of verses. Says he, "I shall print my
volume. Maria wishes me to do it, and that is enough."

So his first volume, "A Year's Life," was published, with the motto in
German, "I have lived and loved."

The young poet's friends were very much opposed to this publication,
for the reason that a rising young lawyer is not helped on in his
profession at all by being known as a poet. Who would employ a _poet_
to defend his business in a court room? No one! A hard-headed business
man is wanted. Walter Scott was a lawyer of much such a temperament as
Lowell's, and when he put forth a similar volume he suffered as it was
certain that Lowell would suffer. But it is probable that Lowell was
now fully determined to give up law altogether.

"I know," he declares passionately, "that God has given me powers such
as are not given to all, and I will not 'hide my talent in mean clay.'
I do not care what others may think of me or of my book, because if I
am worth anything I shall one day show it. I do not fear criticism as
much as I love truth. Nay, I do not fear it at all. In short, I am
happy. Maria fills my ideal and I satisfy her. And I mean to live as
one beloved by such a woman should live. She is every way noble.
People have called 'Irene' a beautiful piece of poetry. And so it is.
It owes all its beauty to her."

It is very plain that she was on the side of the poet, not of the
worldly-minded persons who advocated the law, business, money-making.
She did not dread the prospect of being a poor man's wife. To be the
wife of a poet, a man of courage and ambition and nobleness of heart,
was far more to her. The turning point in Lowell's life was past; and
he had been led to that turning point by the little woman who was soon
to become his wife.



As far as is known, Lowell never earned a dollar by the law. He soon
began to pick up a five or a ten dollar bill here and there by writing
for current periodicals. His book brought him some reputation, but not
much. A few hundred copies were sold, and most of the reviews and
criticisms were favorable. He received a slating from the _Morning
Post_ in Boston, however, just as an inkling of what a literary man
might expect.

Three years of hard literary work now followed. Lowell wrote
assiduously and heroically, getting what happiness he could in the
meantime out of his love. He was young and strong, and life was not a
burden. He tells us of having spent an evening at the house of a
friend "where Maria is making sunshine just now," and he declared that
he had been exceedingly funny. He had in the course of the evening
recited "near upon five hundred extempore macaronic verses; composed
and executed an oratorio and opera" upon a piano without strings,
namely the center-table; drawn "an entirely original view of Nantasket
Beach"; made a temperance address; and given vent to "innumerable
jests, jokes, puns, oddities, quiddities and nothings," interrupted by
his own laughter and that of his hearers. Besides this, he had eaten
"an indefinite number of raisins, chestnuts(!), etc., etc., etc.,
etc., etc."

In 1842 Lowell and Cobert G. Carter, who was about the same sort of a
business man as the poet himself, started a periodical which they
called the _Pioneer_. They had no capital; but they did have literary
connections, and they were able to get together for the three numbers
they published a larger number of contributions from distinguished
contributors than has often fallen to the lot of any American
periodical. It is true that these men were not as famous in those days
as they have since become; still, their names were known and their
reputations were rapidly growing. The best known were Poe, Hawthorne,
Longfellow, Whittier and Emerson; but there were not a few others
whose names are well known to-day. The magazine had a high literary
character, and was well worthy of the future greatness of the
contributors. Unfortunately, it takes something more than literary
excellence to make a successful magazine. Sometimes the literary
quality is too high for the public to appreciate. This was true of the
_Pioneer_. A magazine also requires a large capital and commercial
ability in the business office. It is not at all strange that the
venture did not succeed. It could not have done so. Three numbers only
were issued, and those three left behind them a debt which the young
publishers were unable to pay until some time after.

At the same time that Lowell was having trouble with his magazine, he
found his eyes becoming affected, and he was obliged to spend the
greater part of the winter of 1842-43 in New York to undergo
treatment. Here he made many new literary acquaintances, among others
that of Charles F. Briggs, who started the _Broadway Journal_ with the
assistance of Poe. In the meantime, he kept on writing poetry with
more vigor than ever, and in 1843 published a second volume of verse,
containing his best work since "A Year's Life" appeared.

His contributions to the periodicals included much prose as well as
poetry. Among other things, he wrote a series of "Conversations on
some of the Old Poets," which was published in a volume the same year
that the second book of poems came out. It consisted mainly of essays
on Chaucer, Chapman, Ford, and the old dramatists. He never cared to
reprint this first excursion into the realm of literary criticism; but
it opened up a field which he was to work with distinction in after

Lowell's prose is delicate, airy, and fanciful, but at the same time
keenly critical and sharp in its thought. "Fireside Travels" and "From
My Study Window" are books which are known all over the world and
which are everywhere voted "delightful".



In December, 1844, Lowell felt that his income from his literary work,
though very small and precarious, was sufficient to justify him in
marrying, and accordingly he was united to Miss White. She was
delicate in health, and after their marriage the couple went to
Philadelphia, where they spent the winter in lodgings. Lowell became a
regular contributor to the _Freeman_, an antislavery paper once edited
by Whittier. From this he derived a very small but steady income; and
the next year he was engaged to write every week for the _Anti-Slavery
Standard_ on a yearly salary of five hundred dollars. This connection
he maintained for the next four years.

In June, 1846, the editor of the _Boston Courier_, a weekly paper well
known in the "Hub" for its literary character even to this day,
received a strange communication. It was a letter signed "Ezekiel
Biglow," enclosing a poem written by his son Hosea. This is the way
the letter began:

Jaylem, June, 1846.

Mister Eddyter:--Our Hosea wuz down to Boston last week, and he see a
cruetin Sarjunt a struttin round as popler as a hen with 1 chicking,
with 2 fellers a drummin and fifin arter him like all nater, the
sarjunt he thout Hosea hedn't gut his i teeth cut cos he looked a
kindo's though he 'd jest cum down, so he cal'lated to hook him in,
but Hosy woodn't take none o his sarse for all he hed much as 20
Rooster's tales stuck onto his hat and eenamost enuf brass a bobbin up
and down on his shoulders and figureed onto his coat and trousis, let
alone wut nater hed sot in his featers, to make a 6 pounder out on.

The letter was rather a long one, and closed thus. Referring to the
verses enclosed, the writer says:--

If you print em I wish you'd jest let folks know who hosy's father is,
cos my ant Kesiah used to say it's nater to be curus ses she, she aint
livin though and he's a likely kind o lad.

Ezekiel Biglow.

The poem itself began with this stanza:

  Thrash away, you'll _hev_ to rattle
    On them kittle-drums o' yourn,--
  'Taint a knowin' kind o' cattle
    Thet is ketched with mouldy corn;
  Put in stiff, you fifer feller,
    Let folks see how spry you be,--
  Guess you'll toot till you are yeller
    'Fore you git ahold o' me!

The letter and the poem were printed together in the _Courier_, and
immediately were the talk of the town. You will remember that in 1846
the war with Mexico was just beginning, and many people were opposed
to it as the work of "jingo" politicians, controlled in some degree by
the slavery power. Southern slaveholders wished to increase the
territory of the United States in such a way as to enlarge the
territory where slavery would be lawful. The antislavery people of New
England were violently opposed to the war, and this poem by the Yankee
Hosea Biglow immediately became popular, because it put in a humorous,
common-sense way what everybody else had been saying with deadly

Charles Sumner saw the common sense of the poem, but didn't see the
fun in the bad spelling. Said he, "This Yankee poet has the true
spirit. He puts the case admirably. I wish, however, he could have
used good English." Evidently Sumner did not suspect that so cultured
and polished a poet as James Russell Lowell was the author of a stanza
like this:

  'Wut 's the use o' meetin'-goin'
    Every Sabbath, wet or dry,
  Ef it's right to go amowin'
    Feller-men like oats and rye?
  I dunno but wut it's pooty
    Trainin' round in bobtail coats.--
  But it's curus Christian dooty,
    This 'ere cuttin' folks's throats.

The fact is, however, Lowell had written all this, even the letter
with bad spelling purporting to come from Ezekiel Biglow. He was
deeply interested in the antislavery cause, in good politics and sound
principles; yet he saw that it would be useless for him to get up and
preach against what he did not like. There were plenty of other
earnest, serious-minded men like Garrison and Whittier who were
fighting against the evil in the straightforward, blunt way. Lowell
was as interested as they in having the wrongs righted; but he was
more cool-headed than the rest. He considered the matter. A joke, he
said to himself, will carry the crowd ten times as quickly as a
serious protest; and people will listen to one of their own number, a
common, every-day, sensible fellow with a spark of wit in him, where
they would go away bored by polished and cultured writing full of
Latin quotations. This is how he came to begin the Biglow papers.
Their instant success proved that he was quite right.

Of course it was not long before shrewd people began to see that this
fine humor, with its home-thrusts, was not in reality written by a
country bumpkin. Through the rough dialect and homely way of stating
the case, there shone the fine intellect of a cultivated and skillful
writer. The _Post_ guessed that James Russell Lowell was the real
author. This was regarded only as a rumor, however, and many people
scouted the idea that a young poet, whose books sold only in small
numbers and were known only to literary people, could have written
anything as good as this.

"I have heard it demonstrated in the pauses of a concert," wrote
Lowell afterward, "that I was utterly incompetent to have written
anything of the kind."

It was early in this same summer of 1846 that Lowell made his contract
to write regularly for the _Anti-Slavery Standard_; and he soon began
sending the "Biglow" poems to that paper instead of to the _Courier_.

The most popular of the whole series of poems by Hosea Biglow was the
one on John P. Robinson. Robinson was a worthy gentleman who happened
to come out publicly on the side of a political wire-puller.
Immediately Hosea caught up his name and wrote a comic poem on voting
for a bad candidate for office. Looked at in that light, the poem
applies just as well to political candidates to-day as it did then.
Here are a few stanzas of the poem. You will want to turn to "Lowell's
Poetical Works" and read the whole piece.


  Guvener B. is a sensible man;
    He stays to his home an' looks arter his folks;
  He draws his furrer ez straight ez he can,
    An' into nobody's tater-patch pokes;
      But John P.
      Robinson he
      Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.

  My! aint it terrible? Wut shall we du?
    We can't never choose him o' course--thet's flat;
  Guess we shall hev to come round, (don't you?)
    An' go in fer thunder an' guns, an' all that,
      Fer John P.
      Robinson he
  Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.

  Gineral C. is a dreffle smart man:
    He's ben on all sides thet give places or pelf;
  But consistency still wuz a part of his plan--
    He's been true to _one_ party--an' thet is himself;
      So John P.
      Robinson he
      Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.

  Gineral C. he goes in fer the war;
    He don't vally principle more'n an old cud;
  Wut did God make us raytional creeturs fer,
    But glory an' gunpowder, plunder an' blood?
      So John P.
      Robinson he
      Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.

  The side of our country must ollers be took,
    An' President Polk, you know, _he_ is our country.
  An' the angel that writes all our sins in a book
    Puts the _debit_ to him, an' to us the _per contry_;
        And John P.
        Robinson he
        Sez this is his view o' the thing to a T.

There is a story that Mr. Robinson couldn't go anywhere after this
poem was published without hearing some one humming or reciting,

  Fer John P.
  Robinson he
  Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.

School children shouted it everywhere, people on the street repeated
it as they met, and the funny rhyme was heard even in polite
drawing-rooms, amid roars of laughter. Mr. Robinson went abroad, but
scarcely had he landed in Liverpool before he heard a child crooning
over to himself,

  Fer John P.
  Robinson he
  Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.

In Genoa, Italy, it was a parody, telling what John P.--Robinson
he--would do down in Judee.



In the course of time the "Biglow Papers" were published in book form.
Not only was Lowell's name not yet connected publicly with the Yankee
humor, but the poems were provided with an elaborate introduction,
notes and comments, by the learned pastor of the church at Jaalam,
Homer Wilbur. His notes and introduction are filled with Latin
quotations, and he appears as much a scholar as Hosea Biglow does a
natural. He says he tried to teach Hosea better English, but decided
to let him work out his own ideas in his own way. Still, he endorses
Hosea's principles, and is in every way thoroughly his friend.

This Parson Wilbur is almost as much of a character in the book as
Hosea himself, and his prose, printed at the beginning and end of each
poem in small type, is almost as clear and effective and interesting
as Hosea's poems. We are always tempted to skip anything printed in
small type, and placed in brackets; but in this case that would be a
great mistake.

Speaking of "What Mr. Robinson Thinks," Parson Wilbur says, "A bad
principle is comparatively harmless while it continues to be an
abstraction, nor can the general mind comprehend it fully till it is
printed in that large type which all men can read at sight, namely the
life and character, the sayings and doings, of particular persons....

"Meanwhile, let us not forget that the aim of the true satirist is not
to be severe upon persons, but only upon falsehood, and as Truth and
Falsehood start from the same point, and sometimes even go along
together for a little way, his business is to follow the path of the
latter after it diverges, and to show her floundering in the bog at
the end of it. Truth is quite beyond the reach of satire. There is so
brave a simplicity in her, that she can no more be made ridiculous
than an oak or a pine. The danger of the satirist is, that continual
use may deaden his sensibility to the force of language. He becomes
more and more liable to strike harder than he knows or intends. He may
put on his boxing gloves, and yet forget that the older they grow, the
more plainly may the knuckles inside be felt. Moreover, in the heat of
contest, the eye is insensibly drawn to the crown of victory, whose
tawdry tinsel glitters through the dust of the ring which obscures
Truth's wreath of simple leaves."

There is another very interesting passage which is said to be an
extract from one of the Parson's sermons, describing the modern

"Wonderful, to him that has eyes to see it rightly, is the newspaper.
To me, for example, sitting on the critical front bench of the pit, in
my study here in Jaalam, the advent of my weekly journal is as that of
a strolling theater, or rather of a puppet-show, on whose stage,
narrow as it is, the tragedy, comedy, and farce of life are played in
little. Behold the huge earth sent to me hebdomidally in a brown paper

You see that what he says is very learned in its choice of words; but
if you read it carefully you will find it interesting.

But after all, Parson Wilbur is a humorous character, though he has
his sense, too. At the end of his introduction are some fragmentary
notes which are intended as a general satire on editors of books. He
goes on at some length to say that he thought he ought to have his
picture printed in the book which he professes to be editing. But he
has only two likenesses, one a black profile, the other a painting in
which he is made cross-eyed. He speaks of it as "strabismus," which
sounds very learned of course, and he goes on to explain that in
actual fact this is not a bad thing, for he can preach very directly
at his congregation, and no one will think the preacher has him
particularly in his eye. He also says Mrs. Wilbur objected to having a
cross-eyed picture reproduced, and he is therefore driven to take the
position of those great people who refuse to have their features
copied at all. Then he puts in a lot of absurd genealogical notes.

At the beginning of the book there are also a number of imaginary
notices of "the independent press." Of course there are no such papers
as those mentioned, and the praise and the blame are alike satirical.

In the original volume of "Biglow Papers," part of a page at the end
of these "Notices of the Press" remained unfilled, and the printer
asked Lowell if he could not send in something to occupy that space.
As poetry came easiest, Lowell wrote a number of stanzas about
"Zekle's Courtin'." There were only six stanzas in the original
edition. Lowell wrote more, but told the printer to break off when the
page was filled. This the printer did, and the stanzas which were not
put in type were lost, as Lowell had kept no copy. This piece became
so popular that friends urged the poet to finish the story, and he
wrote a few more stanzas. Then he wrote still others. In the course of
time it developed into the long poem printed with the second series of
"Biglow Papers," under the title of "The Courtin'."

This is the way it runs in the first version; but you will want to
read it also in its complete form:

  Zekle crep' up quite unbeknown,
    An' peeked in thru the winder,
  An' there sot Huldy all alone,
    'ith no one nigh to hender.

  He kin' o' l'itered on the mat,
    Some doubtfle o' the sekle,
  His heart kep' goin' pitypat,
    But hern went pity Zekle.

  He stood a spell on one foot fust,
    Then stood a spell on tother,
  An' on which one he felt the wust
    He could n't ha' told ye, nuther.

  Sez he, "I'd better call agin;"
    Sez she, "Think likely, _Mister_;"
  The last word pricked him like a pin,
    An'--wal, he up and kist her.

When in the course of the publication of the second series of "Biglow
Papers," twenty years after the first, it was announced that Parson
Wilbur was dead, people who had read the first series felt very much
as though they had lost a personal friend. The public had learned to
love the pedantic, vain old man as if he were a real human being.
Lowell had created in him a great character of fiction, almost as if
he were a novelist instead of a poet.



Lowell's next attempt in the satirical and humorous line was a long
poem written somewhat after the style of the old Latin fable writers,
and hence called "A Fable for Critics." It was written in double
rhymes, for the most part, which are very hard to make, and not
altogether easy to read; but they help the humorous impression.

This poem was published anonymously, and in it the author hits off all
the prominent authors of the day, speaking as the god Apollo. Of
course he did not attach his name to it, and as it appeared
anonymously he felt that he could say what he liked--in other words,
tell the truth about his friends and acquaintances, or at least give
his opinion of them. Incidentally, he pokes fun at the literary fads
of the day.

Among other things, to give the impression that he was not the author
of the poem, he puts in a free criticism of himself:

  There is Lowell, who's striving Parnassus to climb
  With a whole bale of _isms_ tied together with rhyme.
  He might get on alone, spite of brambles and boulders,
  But he can't with that bundle he has on his shoulders.
  The top of the hill he will never come nigh reaching
  Till he learns the distinction 'twixt singing and preaching;
  His lyre has some chords that would ring pretty well,
  But he'd rather by half make a drum of the shell,
  And rattle away till he's old as Mathusalem,
  At the head of a march to the last new Jerusalem.

Evidently he thought that he paid too much attention to politics, as
in the "Biglow Papers," and to lecturing, and various side issues,
when he ought to be cultivating pure poetry more assiduously; or
rather, he would have liked to be a simple poet and do nothing else,
not even earn a living.

The way he characterizes in this poem the great writers whom we know
is both amusing and interesting, and he generally tells the truth. For
instance, he writes--

  There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
  Three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge.

The best of his criticisms are not satirical, but true and appreciative.
Thus, Hawthorne:

  There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare
  That you hardly at first see the strength that is there;
  A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,
  So earnest, so graceful, so lithe, and so fleet,
  Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet.

His reference to Whittier, too, is a noble tribute by one poet to

  There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart
  Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
  And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect,
  Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect.

Bryant was the oldest of the American poets, and the generation to
which Lowell belonged had been taught to look up to him as the head of
American poetical literature. Of course the younger poets felt that
they ought to receive a share of the homage, and perhaps they were a
little jealous of Bryant.

  There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
  As a smooth, silent iceberg that never is ignified,
  Save when by reflection 't is kindled o' nights
  With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.

This is not at all complimentary, it would seem, but a little farther
along Lowell makes up for it in part by saying--

  But, my dear little bardlings, don't prick up your ears,
  Nor suppose I would rank you and Bryant as peers;
  If I call him an iceberg I don't mean to say,
  There is nothing in that which is grand in its way;
  He is almost the one of your poets that knows
  How much grace, strength, and dignity lie in Repose.

You will remember that in one of his college letters, written while he
was at Concord because rusticated, Lowell did not seem to care for
Emerson. He afterward became his great admirer, and in this fable
leads off with Emerson, saying:

  There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
  Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
  Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
  Is some of it pr--No, 'tis not even prose.

Irving and Holmes are two more of his favorites. Of the first he says:

  What! Irving? Thrice welcome, warm heart and fine brain,
  You bring back the happiest spirit from Spain,
  And the gravest sweet humor, that ever were there
  Since Cervantes met death in his gentle despair.

Holmes he happily hits off thus:

  There's Holmes, who is matchless among you for wit;
  A Leyden jar always full charged, from which flit
  The electrical tingles of hit after hit.
  His are just the fine hands, too, to weave you a lyric
  Full of fancy, fun, feeling, or spiced with satiric;
  In a measure so kindly, you doubt if the toes
  That are trodden upon are your own or your foe's.

And he ends by saying:

  Nature fits all her children with something to do;
  He who would write and can't write, can surely review,
  Can set up a small booth as critic and sell us his
  Petty conceit and his pettier jealousies.

Lowell was a good critic, and clearly saw the merit of the really
great writers of his time. We have quoted his characterizations of
those he admires. His keen thrusts at those who are not half as great
as they would have us believe are both amusing and true, and no doubt
made their victims smart sharply enough, for instance that--

  One person whose portrait just gave the least hint
  Its original had a most horrible squint.



While Lowell was becoming famous indirectly as the anonymous author of
the "Biglow Papers" and "A Fable for Critics," he was writing and
publishing over his own name sweet, simple lines that came straight
from his heart and which will no doubt be remembered when the uncouth
Yankee dialect of Hosea Biglow and the hard rhymes of the "Fable" are
forgotten. The simpler a true poet is the more beautiful and really
poetic he is likely to be. The simplest thing Lowell ever wrote was
"The First Snow-Fall," composed in 1847 after the death of his little
daughter Blanche, with the sorrow for whose loss was mingled the joy
at the coming of another child.


  The snow had begun in the gloaming,
    And busily all the night
  Had been heaping field and highway
    With a silence deep and white.

  I stood and watched by the window
    The noiseless work of the sky,
  And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
    Like brown leaves whirling by.

  I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
    Where a little headstone stood;
  How the flakes were folding it gently,
    As did robins the babes in the wood.

  Up spoke our own little Mabel,
    Saying, "Father, who makes it snow?"
  And I told of the good All-father
    Who cares for us here below.

  Again I looked at the snow-fall,
    And thought of the leaden sky
  That arched o'er our first great sorrow,
    When that mound was heaped so high.

  I remembered the gradual patience
    That fell from that cloud like snow,
  Flake by flake, healing and hiding
    The scar that renewed our woe.

  And again to the child I whispered,
    "The snow that husheth all,
  Darling, the merciful Father
    Alone can make it fall!"

  Then with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
    And she, kissing back, could not know
  That my kiss was given to her sister,
    Folded close under deepening snow.

Lowell's greatest poem, "The Vision of Sir Launfal," was written in
the same simple, beautiful spirit of "The First Snow-Fall," and that
is why we all like to read it over and over again. "Sir Launfal" was a
favorite with Mrs. Lowell from the beginning. She probably knew better
that it was a great poem than the poet himself did.

The "Prelude" to the first part is beautiful because it contains so
much that cannot but touch the heart of every one, however he may
dislike poetry. A great poem like this cannot be read hastily, nor
must we stop with reading it once. Great poetry must be read so many
times that it is committed entirely to memory before we begin to reach
the end of the beauties in it. Each time we reread we see new
beauties, we feel new thrills.

  Over his keys the musing organist,
    Beginning doubtfully and far away,
  First lets his fingers wander as they list,
    And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay;
  Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
    Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme,
  First guessed by faint auroral flashes sent
    Along the wavering vista of his dream.

The first time you read this passage it may mean little to you; but as
you read again and again you gradually picture in your mind a grand
cathedral, just filling with people for the morning worship. The
organist begins with a few light notes, fanciful, merely suggestive;
then louder and louder swells the strain; the music begins to bring up
before your mind pictures of waterfalls, cities, men and women with
passionate hearts; at last, in the grand flood of the music, you
forget yourself, the world around you, the church, the thronging
congregation, everything.

After this pretty and suggestive prelude, describing the musician, we
read such passages as this, which suggest the theme as by a "faint
auroral flash":

  And what is so rare as a day in June?
    Then, if ever, come perfect days;
  Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
    And over it softly her warm ear lays.

A little farther along the music seems to broaden and deepen:

  Now is the high-tide of the year,
    And whatever of life hath ebbed away
  Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
    Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
  Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
    We are happy now because God wills it.

You must read the rest of the poem for yourself, ever remembering that
to read poetry so that you understand it and love it means that you
yourself are a poet at heart; and if you come to love a great poem you
may be proud of your achievement.



There was a touching and very warm affection between Longfellow and
Lowell. Mrs. Lowell says of it, "I have never seen such a beautiful
friendship between men of such distinct personalities, though closely
linked together by mutual tastes and affections. They criticise and
praise each other's performances with frankness not to be surpassed,
and seem to have attained that happy height of faith where no
misunderstanding, no jealousy, no reserve exists." Often in his diary
Longfellow speaks of "walking to see Lowell," who was either "musing
before his fire in his study," or occupied in his "celestial study,
with its pleasant prospect through the small square windows."

Longfellow was some dozen years the elder; and when the time came that
he wished to retire from the professorship of belles-lettres in
Harvard College, he was very desirous that Lowell should take the
place. There were others who wanted it; but it was arranged that
Lowell should become Longfellow's successor. Lowell had never before
been a professor and he did not particularly like the work. In 1867 he
speaks of "beginning my annual dissatisfaction of lecturing next
week." Still, he was popular with the students and highly successful
because of his fine gift of literary criticism. Here, for instance, is
his definition of poetry: "Poetry, as I understand it, is the
recognition of something new and true in thought or feeling, the
recollection of some profound experience, the conception of some
heroic action, the creation of something beautiful and pathetic."

In his diary Longfellow sometimes refers to Mrs. Lowell, "slender and
pale as a lily"; and once when he and Charles Sumner had gone to see
Lowell and found that he was not at home, Longfellow adds, "but we saw
his gentle wife, who, I fear, is not long for this world."

His words were prophetic. She gradually failed in strength. Of their
four children, three died while mere babes. In 1853 Mrs. Lowell
herself died.

The appointment to Longfellow's professorship did not come until a
little over a year after the death of Mrs. Lowell. During her life Mr.
Lowell's income was very small and irregular, a few hundred dollars a
year in payment of royalties on his books and for articles and poems
contributed to various periodicals. With his appointment to the
Harvard professorship he became financially independent for the first
time. To prepare for it he went abroad, spending most of his time at

He returned sooner than he expected, and for a reason that very well
illustrates his business habits. When he set out he had a limited
amount of money. This he placed with London bankers, arranging to draw
on them for such sums as he might need from time to time. He asked
that when he had drawn down to a certain sum the bankers should notify
him, and then he would immediately prepare to return home. He settled
down, and thought that he was getting on moderately well and had a
considerable sum still to draw. What was his surprise when he was
notified by his bankers that he had drawn his account down to the
amount he had mentioned! As there was nothing better for him to do, he
packed his trunk and went home.

Some years after that, he received a letter from these London bankers
informing him that an error had been made in his account, and that a
draft for a hundred pounds sterling (five hundred dollars) which had
been drawn by some other person named Lowell had by mistake been
charged to his account. This money, with compound interest, was now at
his disposal. The bankers suggested, however, that if he was not in
immediate need of the money, they would use it for an admirable
investment they knew of which might considerably increase it within a
year. At the end of a year he received a draft for seven hundred
pounds. This he used to refurnish Elmwood. "Now, you, who are always
preaching figures and Poor Richard, and business habits," said he, in
telling the story to some friends, "what do you say to that? If I had
kept an account and known how it stood, _I should have spent that
money_ and you would not now be sitting in those easy chairs, or
walking on Wilton carpet. No; hang accounts and figures!"

In 1857 the _Atlantic Monthly_ was started, and Lowell was made
editor, with a salary of three thousand dollars a year, of course in
addition to his salary as a Harvard professor. Though he was the
editor, he recognized that the success of the magazine would be made
by Holmes. Said he, "You see, the doctor is like a bright mountain
stream that has been dammed up among the hills and is waiting for an
outlet into the Atlantic. You will find that he has a wonderful store
of thought--serious, comic, pathetic, and poetic,--of comparisons,
figures, and illustrations. I have seen nothing of his preparation,
but I imagine he is ready. It will be something wholly new, and his
reputation as a prose writer will date from this magazine." When you
recollect the success of the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" you
cannot help remarking that Lowell was a veritable prophet.

President Hayes, soon after his inauguration, offered Lowell an
appointment as minister to Austria, but Lowell declined. When he was
asked if he would accept an appointment as minister to Spain, he
consented, and thither he went in the early part of President Hayes'
administration. After a time he was transferred to London, where he
became a striking diplomatic figure.

He was one of the most popular and polished gentlemen ever sent as
ambassador to a European nation, and as such his presence at the Court
of Saint James was highly appreciated by the English people. When, in
1884, on the election of Cleveland to the presidency, he prepared to
leave London, many glowing tributes were paid him by the English
press, but none was more hearty than this, printed in _Punch_:

  Send you away? No, Lowell, no.
    That phrase, indeed, is scarce well chosen.
  We're glad, of course, to have you go
    More like a brother than a cousin;
  True, we must "speed the parting guest,"
    If such a guest from us _must_ sever;
  But what we all should like the best
    Would be to keep you here forever.

  You've won our hearts; your words, your ways,
    Are what we like. Without desiring
  To sicken you with fulsome praise,
    We think you've seen no signs of tiring.
  Of graceful speech, of pleasant lore,
    How much to you the English mind owes!
  We're sad to think we'll see no more
    Of you--save through your Study Windows.

  Well, well, the best of friends must part;
    That's commonplace, like Gray, but true, sir.
  Commend us to the Yankee heart;
    If you can come again, why, _do_, sir.
  What Biglow calls our "English sarse,"
    Is not _all_ tarts and bitters, is it?
  Farewell!--if from us you must pass,
    But try, _do_ try, another visit!

After his return from England, Mr. Lowell did comparatively little
literary work. Some years before this, he had married the lady who was
educating his only daughter. He now spent the most of his time at
Elmwood among his books and in the society of his friends. In 1888 a
volume of his later poems appeared, bearing the title of "Heartsease
and Rue." About the same time "Democracy," a collection of the
addresses which he had delivered in England, was published. But
neither of these volumes added materially to his fame.

On the twelfth of August, 1891, the famous poet, essayist, and man of
affairs died. He was nearly seventy-three years of age.

       *       *       *       *       *

[NOTE.--The thanks of the publishers are due Messrs. Harper & Brothers
for permission to use extracts from "Letters of James Russell Lowell,
edited by Charles Eliot Norton," and to Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin &
Co. for permission to use extracts from the Poetical Works of Lowell.]


[Illustration: BAYARD TAYLOR.]




Bayard Taylor was born in the country village of Kennett Square,
Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jan. 11, 1825, "the year when the first
locomotive successfully performed its trial trip. I am, therefore," he
says, "just as old as the railroad." He was descended from Robert
Taylor, a rich Friend, or Quaker, who had come to Pennsylvania with
William Penn in 1681, and settled near Brandywine Creek. Bayard's
grandfather married a Lutheran of pure German blood, and on that
account was expelled from the Society of Friends, which at that time
had very strict rules regarding the marriage of its members. Although
the family still used the peculiar speech of the Quakers, and clung to
the Quaker principles of peace and order, none of them ever returned
to the society.

When Bayard was four years old, the family moved to a farm about a
mile from the village. There they lived, until, years afterward, the
successful traveler and poet bought an estate near by and built a
magnificent house upon it, into which he received his father and
mother and brothers and sisters, with that open-hearted generosity and
hospitality which was so much a part of his nature.

He was the fourth child of his parents; but the three older children
had died in infancy, and he remained as the eldest of the family.

Chester County, Pennsylvania, has always been a rich farming region,
peopled by solid, well-to-do farmers, many of whom are Quakers. Here
the northern elms toss their arms to the southern cypresses, as the
poet has it; the two climates seem to meet and mingle, in a sort of
calm, neutral zone, and the vegetation of the North is united with the
vegetation of the South, to produce a peculiar richness and variety.

In such surroundings the boy grew up, a farmer's lad, and learned that
love of nature which was a part of his being till the day he died.
"The child," says he, "that has tumbled into a newly plowed furrow
never forgets the smell of the fresh earth.... Almost my first
recollection is of a swamp, into which I went barelegged at morning,
and out of which I came, when driven by hunger, with long stockings of
black mud, and a mask of the same. If the child was missed from the
house, the first thing that suggested itself was to climb upon a mound
which overlooked the swamp. Somewhere among the tufts of rushes and
the bladed leaves of the calamus, a little brown ball was sure to be
seen moving, now dipping out of sight, now rising again, like a bit of
drift on the rippling green. It was my head. The treasures I there
collected were black terrapins with orange spots, baby frogs the size
of a chestnut, thrush's eggs, and stems of purple phlox."

He loved his home with a passionate intensity; but he also had
yearnings for the unknown world beyond the horizon. "I remember," says
he, "as distinctly as if it were yesterday the first time this passion
was gratified. Looking out of the garret window, on a bright May
morning, I discovered a row of slats which had been nailed over the
shingles for the convenience of the carpenters in roofing the house,
and had not been removed. Here was, at least, a chance to reach the
comb of the steep roof, and take my first look abroad into the world!
Not without some trepidation I ventured out, and was soon seated
astride of the sharp ridge. Unknown forests, new fields and houses,
appeared to my triumphant view. The prospect, though it did not extend
more than four miles in any direction, was boundless. Away in the
northwest, glimmering through the trees, was a white object, probably
the front of a distant barn; but I shouted to the astonished servant
girl, who had just discovered me from the garden below, 'I see the
Falls of Niagara!'"

He was a sensitive child and had a horror of dirty hands, "and," says
he, "my first employments--picking stones and weeding corn--were
rather a torture to this superfine taste." In his mother, however, he
had a friend who understood and protected him. So his life on the farm
was as happy as it well could be, in spite of its roughness. He
himself has described it with a zest which no one else could lend it.
"Almost every field had its walnut tree, melons were planted among the
corn, and the meadow which lay between never exhausted its store of
wonders. Besides, there were eggs to hide at Easter; cherries and
strawberries in May; fruit all summer; fishing parties by torchlight;
lobelia and sumac to be gathered, dried and sold for pocket money; and
in the fall, chestnuts, persimmons, wild grapes, cider, and the grand
butchering after frost came, so that all the pleasures I knew were
incidental to a farmer's life. The books I read came from the village
library, and the task of helping to 'fodder' on the dark winter
evenings was lightened by the anticipation of sitting down to
'Gibbon's Rome' or 'Thaddeus of Warsaw' afterwards."

He was fond of reading, and especially fond of poetry, and his wife in
her biography says: "In the evening after he had gone to bed, his
mother would hear him repeating poem after poem to his brother, who
slept in the same room with him."



Bayard had the advantage of regular attendance at the country schools
near his father's home, with two or three years at the local academy;
but his father could not afford to send him to college. He enjoyed his
school life, and in after years wrote to one of his early Quaker
teachers thus:

"I have never forgotten the days I spent in the little log schoolhouse
and the chestnut grove behind it, and I have always thought that some
of the poetry I then copied from thy manuscript books has kept an
influence over all my life since. There was one verse in particular
which has cheered and encouraged me a thousand times when prospects
seemed rather gloomy. It ran thus:

  'O, why should we seek to anticipate sorrow
    By throwing the flowers of the present away,
  And gathering the dark-rolling, cloudy to-morrow
    To darken the generous sun of to-day?'

Thou seest I have good reason to remember those old times, and to be
grateful to thee for encouraging instead of checking the first
developments of my mind."

You may easily guess from this letter that Bayard's school life was
very sedate and Quakerish. Nearly all the people in Kennett Square
were Quakers, and though Bayard's father and mother were not, they had
all the Quaker habits. Among other things, he was taught the
wickedness of all kinds of swearing. His mother "talked so earnestly
on this point that his mind became full of it; his observation and
imagination were centered upon oaths, until at last he was so
fascinated that he became filled with an uncontrollable desire to
swear. So he went out into a field, beyond hearing, and there
delivered himself of all the oaths he had ever heard or could invent,
and in as loud a voice as possible." After this he felt quite
satisfied to swear no more.

When Bayard was about twelve years old, his father was elected sheriff
of the county and went to live at West Chester for three years. The
young lad was sent to Bolmar's Academy at that place; and when the
family went back to the farm he was sent to the academy at Unionville,
three or four miles from his home. Here, at the age of sixteen, he
finished his regular schooling. During the last two years he studied
Latin and French, and during the last year Spanish. His Latin and
French he continued by private study for three years longer.

He now went back to work on the farm for a season, and, as he says,
"first felt the delight and refreshment of labor in the open air. I
was then able to take the plow handle, and I still remember the pride
I felt when my furrows were pronounced even and well turned. Although
it was already decided that I should not make farming the business of
my life, I thrust into my plans a slender wedge of hope that I might
one day own a bit of ground, for the luxury of having, if not the
profit of cultivating, it. The aroma of the sweet soil had tinctured
my blood; the black mud of the swamp still stuck to my feet."

After a few weeks of farm life he was apprenticed to a printer in West
Chester for a term of four years.



It is the will and the spirit that makes every life seem happy or the
reverse. If Bayard Taylor had remained a farmer in Kennett Square all
his life, he would not have looked back on his early experiences with
so much pleasure as he did. Indeed, we may safely say that he would
not have liked his life so well at the time had it not been for his
buoyant and hopeful nature, which made him feel that he was destined
for higher and better things, for a world beyond the horizon.

Already he was a poet, with all a poet's aspirations and eagerness. A
year before he left the academy his first printed poem appeared in the
_Saturday Evening Post_ of Philadelphia. It is not wonderful as
poetry. Yet we read it with interest, because it shows so plainly the
earnest and ambitious, yet cheerful, nature of the boy. He did not
merely sit and hope; he was determined to _win his way_. It is
entitled, "Soliloquy of a Young Poet."

    A dream!--a fleeting dream!
  Childhood has passed, with all its joy and song,
  And my life's frail bark on youth's impetuous stream
    Is swiftly borne along.

    High hopes spring up within;
  Hopes of the future--thoughts of glory--fame,
  Which prompt my mind to toil, and bid me win
    That dream--a deathless name.

       *       *       *       *       *

    I know it all is vain,
  That earthly honors ever must decay,
  That all the laurels bought by toil and pain
    Must pass with earth away.

    But still my spirit high,
  Longing for fame won by the immortal mind--
  On fancy's pinion fain would scale the sky,
    And leave dull earth behind.

    Yes, I would write my name
  With the star's burning ray on heaven's broad scroll,
  That I might still the restless thirst for fame
    Which fills my soul.

Bayard Taylor was not a great genius, and he did not succeed in
winning quite all of that high fame for which he struggled throughout
his life. He never expected to have earth's blessings showered upon
him without working for them; and the fact that he failed somewhat in
his highest ambition--to be a far-famed poet--makes his life seem
nearer to our own. We call him a great man because he did well what
came to him to do, working hard all his life. In this we can all
follow his example.



"The Village Record" (to the proprietor of which Bayard was
apprenticed) was printed upon an old-fashioned hand press, and it was
the business of the apprentices to set the type, help make up the
paper, pull the forms, and send the weekly issues off to the

The mechanical work was soon learned, and the young apprentice
found considerable time for reading. He now began that work of
self-education which he carried on through his whole life. Already,
before he left the academy, he had become acquainted with the works of
Charles Dickens, and had secured the great man's autograph. "I went to
the Academy," says he, "where I received a letter that had come on
Saturday. It was from Hartford; I knew instantly it was from Dickens.
It was double, and sealed neatly with a seal bearing the initials C.D.
In the inside was a sheet of satin notepaper, on which was written,
'Faithfully yours, Charles Dickens, City Hotel, Hartford, Feb. 10,
1842'; and below, 'with the compliments of Mr. Dickens.' I can long
recollect the thrill of pleasure I experienced on seeing the autograph
of one whose writings I so ardently admired, and to whom, in spirit, I
felt myself attached; and it was not without a feeling of ambition
that I looked upon it that as he, a humble clerk, had risen to be the
guest of a mighty nation, so I, a humble pedagogue [he was then pupil
teacher at the Academy], might by unremitted and arduous intellectual
and moral exertion become a light, a star, among the names of my
country. May it be!"

When he went to work at West Chester his reading was chiefly poetry
and travel. The result of his "fireside travels" we shall soon see.
The way in which he read poetry may be gathered from the following
extract from a letter to one of his comrades:

"By the way, what do you think of Bryant as a poet, and especially of
'Thanatopsis? For my part, my admiration knows no bounds. There is an
all-pervading love of nature, a calm and quiet but still deep sense of
everything beautiful. And then the high and lofty feeling which
mingles with the whole! It seems to me when I read his poetry that our
hearts are united, and that I can feel every throb of his answered
back by mine. This is what makes a poet immortal. There are but few
who make me feel so thrillingly their glowing thoughts as Bryant,
Longfellow, Whittier, and Lowell (all Americans, you know), and these
I _love_. It is strange, the sway a master mind has over those who
have felt his power."

Another poet of whom he was an enthusiastic admirer was Tennyson. He
had read a criticism by Poe. "I still remember," he wrote afterward,
"the eagerness with which as a boy of seventeen, after reading his
paper, I sought for the volume; and I remember also the strange sense
of mental dazzle and bewilderment I experienced on the first perusal
of it. I can only compare it to the first sight of a sunlit landscape
through a prism; every object has a rainbow outline. One is fascinated
to look again and again, though the eyes ache."

He contributed several poems to the _Saturday Evening Post_, and then
wrote to Rufus W. Griswold, who, besides being connected with the
_Post_, was the editor of _Graham's Magazine_, the leading literary
periodical at that time. Those of us who know the life of Poe remember
Griswold as the man who pretended to be his friend, but who after
Poe's death wrote his life, filling it with all the scandalous
falsehoods he could hear of or invent. To Bayard Taylor, however, he
seems to have been a helpful friend.

"I have met with strange things since I wrote last," writes Taylor to
a school friend in March, 1843. "Last November I wrote to Mr.
Griswold, sending a poem to be inserted in the _Post_. However, I said
that it was my highest ambition to appear in _Grahams Magazine_. Some
time ago I got an answer. He said he had read my lines 'To the
Brandywine,' which appeared in the _Post_, with much pleasure, and
would have put them in the magazine if he had seen them in time. He
said the poem I sent him would appear in April in the magazine, and
requested me to contribute often and to call on him when I came to
town. I never was more surprised in my life."

He went to Philadelphia the next autumn, and consulted Griswold
regarding a poetic romance he had written--about a thousand lines in
length--and Griswold advised him to publish it in a volume with other
poems. He wrote to a friend to inquire how much the printing and
binding would cost, and finding that the expense would not be very
great, he concluded to ask his friends to subscribe for the volume.
When he had received enough subscriptions to pay the cost of
publication, he brought the volume out. It was entitled "Ximena; or,
The Battle of the Sierra Morena, and Other Poems. By James Bayard
Taylor." (The James was added by mistake by Griswold.) It was
dedicated "To Rufus W. Griswold, as an expression of gratitude for the
kind encouragement he has shown the author."

The poems contained in this volume were never republished in after
years. The book was fairly successful, and was distinctly a step
upward; but it did not fill the young writer with undue conceit. In
writing to a friend of his ambition at this time, he says: "It is
useless to deny that I have cherished hopes of occupying at some
future day a respectable station among our country's poets. I believe
all poets are possessed in a greater or less degree of ambition; it is
inseparable from the nature of poetry. And though I may be mistaken, I
think this ambition is never given without a mind of sufficient power
to sustain it, and to achieve its lofty object. Although I am desirous
of the world's honors, yet with all the sincerity I possess I declare
that my highest hope is to do good; to raise the hopes of the
desponding; to soothe the sorrows of the afflicted. I believe that
poetry owns as its true sphere the happiness of mankind."

What could be nobler and more sensible than that! Even his earliest
poetry has in it no false, slipshod sentiment. Its subject is nature
and heroic incident, and is indeed a faithful attempt to carry out the
aim so well stated above. Some have doubted whether Bayard Taylor
really had the power which he says he thinks is given to all who have
the ambition which he felt. But none can fail to admire the spirit in
which he worked, and to feel satisfied with the results, whatever they
may be.



It was not as a poet, however, that Bayard Taylor was to win his first
fame. At the age of nineteen, when he had but half completed his four
years' term of apprenticeship, he made up his mind to go to Europe. He
had no money; but that did not appear to him an insurmountable
obstacle. He thought he could work his way by writing letters for the
newspapers. So he went up to Philadelphia and visited all the editors.
For three days he went about; but all in vain. The editors gave him
little encouragement. He was on the point of going home, but with no
thought of giving up his project.

At last two different editors offered him each fifty dollars in
advance for twelve letters, and the proprietor of _Graham's Magazine_
paid him forty dollars for some poems. So he went back to Kennett
Square the jubilant possessor of a hundred and forty dollars.

He succeeded in buying his release from the articles of
apprenticeship, and immediately prepared to set out on foot for New
York, where he and two others were to take ship for England. That was
the beginning of a career of travel which lasted many years, and
brought him both fame and money.

In a delightful essay on "The First Journey I Ever Made," he says that
while other great travelers have felt in childhood an inborn
propensity to go out into the world to see the regions beyond, he had
the intensest desire to climb upward--so that without shifting his
horizon, he could yet extend it, and take in a far wider sweep of
vision. "I envied every bird," he goes on, "that sat singing on the
topmost bough of the great, century-old cherry tree; the weathercock
on our barn seemed to me to whirl in a higher region of the air; and
to rise from the earth in a balloon was a bliss which I would almost
have given my life to enjoy." His desire to ascend soon took the
practical form of wishing to climb a mountain. By great economy he
saved up fifteen dollars, and with a companion who had twenty-seven
dollars (enormous wealth!) he set out for a walking tour to the
Catskills, with the hope of going even so far as the Connecticut

No doubt the feelings he experienced in setting out on that excursion,
at the end of his first year as an apprentice, would apply equally
well to the greater journey he was to attempt a year later.

"The steamboat from Philadelphia deposited me at Bordentown, on the
forenoon of a warm, clear day. I buckled on my knapsack, inquired the
road to Amboy, and struck off, resolutely, with the feelings of an
explorer on the threshold of great discoveries. The sun shone
brightly, the woods were green, and the meadows were gay with phlox
and buttercups. Walking was the natural impulse of the muscles; and
the glorious visions which the next few days would unfold to me, drew
me onward with a powerful fascination. Thus, mile after mile went by;
and early in the afternoon I reached Hightstown, very hot and hungry,
and a little footsore. Twenty-five cents only had been expended thus
far--and was I now to dine for half a dollar? The thought was banished
as rapidly as it came, and six cakes, of remarkable toughness and
heaviness, put an effectual stop to any further promptings of appetite
that day.

"The miles now became longer, and the rosy color of my anticipations
faded a little. The sandy level of the country fatigued my eyes; the
only novel objects I had yet discovered were the sweep-poles of the
wells....The hot afternoon was drawing to a close, and I was wearily
looking out for Spotswood, when a little incident occurred, the memory
of which has ever since been as refreshing to me as the act in itself
was at the time.

"I stopped to get a drink from a well in front of a neat little
farmhouse. While I was awkwardly preparing to let down the bucket, a
kind, sweet voice suddenly said: 'Let me do it for you.' I looked up,
and saw before me a girl of sixteen, with blue eyes, wavy auburn hair,
and slender form--not strikingly handsome, but with a shy, pretty
face, which blushed the least bit in the world, as she met my gaze.

"Without waiting for my answer, she seized the pole and soon drew up
the dripping bucket, which she placed upon the curb. 'I will get you a
glass,' she then said, and darted into the house--reappearing
presently with a tumbler in one hand and a plate of crisp tea-cakes in
the other. She stood beside me while I drank, and then extended the
plate with a gesture more inviting than any words would have been. I
had had enough of cake for one day; but I took one, nevertheless, and
put a second in my pocket, at her kind persuasion.

"This was the first of many kindnesses which I have experienced from
strangers all over the wide world; and there are few, if any, which I
shall remember longer.

"At sunset I had walked about twenty-two miles, and had taken to the
railroad track by way of change, when I came upon a freight train,
which had stopped on account of some slight accident.

"'Where are you going?' inquired the engineer.

"'To Amboy.'

"'Take you there for a quarter!'

"It was too tempting; so I climbed upon the tender and rested my weary
legs, while the pines and drifted sands flew by us an hour or more--
and I had crossed New Jersey!"

This little description may be taken as a type of the way in which he
traveled and the way in which he described his travels--a way that
almost immediately made him famous, and caused the public to call for
volume after volume from his pen.



A journey to Europe was not the common thing in those days that it has
since become, and no American had then thought of tramping over
historic scenes with little or no money. So this journey, projected
and carried out by Bayard Taylor, was really an original and daring
undertaking. It was all the more remarkable from the fact that the
people of the community where he had been born and brought up had
scarcely ever gone farther from their homesteads than Philadelphia.

In New York he visited all the editors with an introduction from
Nathaniel P. Willis; but none of them gave him any encouragement,
except Horace Greeley, the famous editor of the _Tribune_. Here is
Bayard Taylor's own description of the interview: "When I first called
upon this gentleman, whose friendship it is now my pride to claim, he
addressed me with that honest bluntness which is habitual to him: 'I
am sick of descriptive letters, and will have no more of them. But I
should like some sketches of German life and society, after you have
been there and know something about it. If the letters are good, you
shall be paid for them, but don't write until you know something.'
This I faithfully promised, and kept my promise so well that I am
afraid the eighteen letters which I afterward sent from Germany, and
which were published in the _Tribune_, were dull in proportion as they
were wise."

The journey was indeed to Taylor a serious thing. "It did not and does
not seem like a pleasure excursion," he writes; "it is a duty, a

On the 1st of July, 1844, Taylor and his two companions embarked on
the ship "Oxford," bound for Liverpool. They had taken a second-cabin
passage, the second cabin being a small place amidships, flanked with
bales of cotton and fitted with temporary and rough planks. They paid
ten dollars each for the passage, but were obliged to find their own
bedding and provisions. These latter the ship's cook would prepare for
them for a small compensation. All expenses included, they found they
could reach Liverpool for twenty-four dollars apiece.

At last they were actually afloat. "As the blue hills of Neversink
faded away, and sank with the sun behind the ocean, and I felt the
first swells of the Atlantic," he writes, "and the premonitions of
seasickness, my heart failed me for the first and last time. The
irrevocable step was taken; there was no possibility of retreat, and a
vague sense of doubt and alarm possessed me. Had I known anything of
the world, this feeling would have been more than momentary; but to my
ignorance and enthusiasm all things seemed possible, and the
thoughtless and happy confidence of youth soon returned."

The experiences of the next two years he has also told briefly and
tersely. "After landing in Liverpool," he says, "I spent three weeks
in a walk through Scotland and the north of England, and then traveled
through Belgium, and up the Rhine to Heidelberg, where I arrived in
September, 1844. The winter of 1844-45 I spent in Frankfurt on the
Main [in the family in which N.P. Willis's brother Richard was
boarding], and by May I was so good a German that I was often not
suspected of being a foreigner. I started off again on foot, a
knapsack on my back, and visited the Brocken, Leipsic, Dresden,
Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich, returning to Frankfurt in July.
A further walk over the Alps and through Northern Italy took me to
Florence, where I spent four months learning Italian. Thence I
wandered, still on foot, to Rome and Civita Vecchia, where I bought a
ticket as deck-passenger to Marseilles, and then tramped on to Paris
through the cold winter rains. I arrived there in February, 1846, and
returned to America after a stay of three months in Paris and London.
I had been abroad two years, and had supported myself entirely during
the whole time by my literary correspondence. The remuneration which I
received was in all $500, and only by continual economy and occasional
self-denial was I able to carry out my plan. I saw almost nothing of
intelligent European society; my wanderings led me among the common
people. But literature and art were nevertheless open to me, and a new
day had dawned in my life."



Making a journey without money, without knowing the language of the
people, and without any experience in travel is not at all the sort of
thing it seems to one who has not gone through its toils, but only
sees the glow and glamour of success. We cannot pass on without giving
some of the details of commonplace hardship which Bayard Taylor
endured on this first European journey.

Taylor knew a little book French, but neither he nor either of his
companions could speak it or understand it when spoken, and they knew
nothing at all of German. When they reached Frankfurt they tried to
inquire the way to the house of the American consul. At first they
were not at all able to make themselves understood; but finally they
found a man who could speak a little French and who told them that the
consul resided in "Bellevue" street. It was in reality "Shone
Aussicht," which is the German for beautiful view, as Bellevue is the
French. But the young travelers knew nothing of this. They went in
search of "Bellevue" street, and though they wandered over the greater
part of the town and suburbs, they did not find it. At last they
decided to try all the streets which had a beautiful view, and in this
way soon found the consul's house.

Not only did they have very little money in any case, but they were
frequently obliged to wait months for remittances. While in Italy,
Taylor's funds ran so low, and he became so discouraged, that he gave
up going to Greece, as he had at first planned. He was expecting a
draft for a hundred dollars; but that would barely pay his debts. "My
clothes," he writes to one of his companions, "are as bad as yours
were when you got to Heidelberg, nearly dropping from me; and I cannot
get them mended. What is worse, they must last till I get to Paris."
Later he speaks of spending three dollars for a pair of trousers, as
those he wore would not hold together any longer. In despair, he
exclaims, "It is really a horrible condition. If there ever were any
young men who made the tour of Europe under such difficulties and
embarrassments as we, I should like to see them."

But all this only urged him to greater efforts. "I tell you what,
Frank," he writes almost in his next letter, "I am getting a real rage
in me to carve out my own fortune, and not a poor one, either.
Sometimes I almost desire that difficulties should be thrown in my
way, for the sake of the additional strength gained in surmounting

These words were written from Italy; but yet harder things were in
store for him. "I reached London for the second time about the middle
of March, 1846," he writes in his paper on "A Young Author's Life in
London," "after a dismal walk through Normandy and a stormy passage
across the Channel. I stood upon London Bridge, in the raw mist and
the falling twilight, with a franc and a half in my pocket, and
deliberated what I should do. Weak from sea-sickness, hungry, chilled,
and without a single acquaintance in the great city, my situation was
about as hopeless as it is possible to conceive. Successful authors in
their libraries, sitting in cushioned chairs and dipping their pens
into silver inkstands, may write about money with a beautiful scorn,
and chant the praise of Poverty--the 'good goddess of Poverty,' as
George Sand, making 50,000 francs a year, enthusiastically terms
her;--but there is no condition in which the Real is so utterly at
variance with the Ideal, as to be actually out of money, and hungry, with
nothing to pawn and no friend to borrow from. Have you ever known it,
my friend? If not, I could wish that you might have the experience for
twenty-four hours, only once in your life."

On this occasion Bayard Taylor went to a chop-house where he could get
a wretched bed for a shilling. The next morning he took a sixpenny
breakfast, and started out to look for work. By good fortune he met
Putnam, the American publisher, who lent him a sovereign (five
dollars) and gave him work that would enable him to earn his living
until he could get money from America for his return passage.



At the very first school which Bayard Taylor attended there was a
little Quaker girl who would whisper with a blush to her teacher, "May
I sit beside Bayard?" Her name was Mary Agnew. As schoolmates and
neighbors the two children grew up together; and in time Bayard began
to confide to his diary his dream of happiness with her. Toward this
object, all his thoughts and plans were gradually directed.

Mary Agnew's father did not countenance this neighbor lover, however,
and when Bayard set out for Europe he was not allowed to write to her.
He sent messages through his mother, and occasionally heard from the
young girl in the same way. On his return, however, he grew more bold,
and soon became openly engaged to her. The romance is a sadly
beautiful one; for this fair girl who was his inspiration during the
years of his hardest struggles, finally fell into a decline and died
just as he was beginning to earn the money that would have made them
happy together.

"I remember him," says a neighbor, speaking of the two at this time,
"as a bright, blushing, diffident youth, just entering manhood; and
with him I always associate that gentle and beautiful girl, with
matchless eyes, who inspired many of his early lyrics, and whose death
filled the nest of love with snow."

Mary Agnew reminds us of Poe's beautiful Virginia Clemm, his "Annabel
Lee." Grace Greenwood wrote of her as "a dark-eyed young girl with the
rose yet unblighted on cheek and lip, with soft brown, wavy hair,
which, when blown by the wind, looked like the hair oft given to
angels by the old masters, producing a sort of halo-like effect about
a lovely head."

And Taylor at this time was evidently her match in looks as well as
spirit. A German friend describes him thus: "He was a tall, slender,
blooming young man, the very image of youthful beauty and purity. His
intellectual head was surrounded by dark hair; the glance of his eyes
was so modest, and yet so clear and lucid, that you seemed to look
right into his heart."

On his return from Europe, young Taylor found that his letters to the
newspapers had attracted some attention, perhaps largely owing to the
fact that one who was almost a boy had made the journey on foot, with
little or no money. At the same time he had told his story in a
simple, straightforward way, which proved him to be a good reporter.
Friends advised him to gather the letters into a volume, which he did
under the title, "Views Afoot; or Europe Seen with Knapsack and
Staff." Within a year six editions were sold, and the sale continued
large for a number of years.

Yet this success, quick as it was, did not solve all his difficulties
at once. He was anxious to earn a good living as soon as possible,
that he might marry Mary Agnew. After looking the field over, he and a
friend bought a weekly paper published in Phoenixville, a lively
manufacturing town in the same county as his home. This, with the aid
of his friend, he edited and managed for a year. He not only failed to
make money, but accumulated debts which he was three years in paying
off. At the same time he found that he could no longer endure a narrow
country life. He tried to give his paper a literary tone; but the
people did not want a literary paper. They cared more for local news
and gossip, which he hated.

The old ambition and aspiration to be and to do something really worth
doing was still uppermost with him. In a letter to Mary Agnew he says:
"Sometimes I feel as if there were a Providence watching over me, and
as if an unseen and uncontrollable hand guided my actions. I have
often dim, vague forebodings that an eventful destiny is in store for
me; that I have vast duties yet to accomplish, and a wider sphere of
action than that which I now occupy. These thoughts may be vain; they
spring only from the ceaseless impulses of an upward-aspiring spirit;
but if they _are_ real, and to be fulfilled, I shall the more need thy
love and the gladness of thy dear presence."

He wrote to his friends in New York about getting work there, but they
did not encourage him much. Horace Greeley bluntly advised him to stay
where he was. The editor of the _Literary World,_ however, offered him
employment at five dollars a week. He thereupon sold out his interest
in his country paper at a loss, and went to try his fortunes in New
York. Before he had been there many weeks, Horace Greeley offered him
a position on the _Tribune_ at twelve dollars a week. The connection
thus begun lasted for the rest of his life. It was as the _Tribunes_
correspondent that he traveled all over the world. He was soon able to
buy stock in the _Tribune_ company, and this was the foundation of his
future fortune.

He had many literary and other distinguished friends in New York. And
during these first few years he worked very hard indeed, hoping soon
to earn enough money to provide for Mary Agnew. In 1850, after three
years in New York, he was able to set the date of their marriage. But
it was postponed from time to time on account of her illness. At last
he knew that she could never be well again; yet in any case he wished
the marriage ceremony performed. They were accordingly married October
24, 1850; and two months later she was dead.



It had been Bayard Taylor's boyhood ambition to become a great poet;
but it seemed as if fate meant him for a great traveler. He was sorry
that this was so: yet he was fond of travel, and never refused any
opportunity to visit other lands. In 1849, when the California gold
fever was at its height, he was sent by the _Tribune_ to the Pacific

"I went," he says, "by way of the Isthmus of Panama--the route had
just been opened--reached San Francisco in August, and spent five
months in the midst of the rough, half-savage life of a new country. I
lived almost entirely in the open air, sleeping on the ground with my
saddle for a pillow, and sharing the hardships of the gold diggers,
without taking part in their labors."

On his return he gathered his letters into a volume entitled
"Eldorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire: comprising a voyage to
California, via Panama; Life in San Francisco and Monterey; Pictures
of the Gold Region, and Experiences of Mexican Travel."

He now began to feel the strength and confidence of success; his brain
was seething with new ideas, and he felt as if he could do that which
would realize the destiny of which he had dreamed. But sorrow was
already at his door. His hopes were for the time broken and thrown
back by the death of Mary Agnew.

In the summer of 1851 he found himself worn out and depressed. His
health was shattered and his mind was overpowered. But a change and
rest were at hand. The editors of the _Tribune_ suggested his going to
Egypt and the Holy Land. In the autumn he set out, and spent the
winter in ascending the Nile to Khartoum. He even went up the White
Nile to the country of the Shillooks, a region then scarcely known to
white men.

Bayard Taylor fancied that he had two natures, one a southern nature
and one a northern nature. Of course the northern nature was his
regular and ordinary one. In one of his later journeys, when he had
entered Spain from France and was sitting down to a breakfast of red
mullet and oranges fresh from the trees, "straightway," he says, "I
took off my northern nature as a garment, folded it and packed it
neatly away in my knapsack, and took out in its stead the light,
beribboned and bespangled southern nature, which I had not worn for
eight or nine years."

He donned this southern nature for the first time on his trip to
California by way of Panama. Horace Greeley especially commended his
letter from Panama. But it was during his journey in Egypt that he
became most saturated with the south, and composed his "Poems of the
Orient"--perhaps the best he ever wrote. He had not been in Alexandria
a day and a half before he wrote to his mother that he had never known
such a delicious climate. "The very air is a luxury to breathe," he
said. "I am going to don the red cap and sash," he wrote from Cairo,
"and sport a saber at my side. To-day I had my hair all cut within a
quarter of an inch of the skin, and when I look in the glass I see a
strange individual. Think of me as having no hair, a long beard, and a
copper-colored face." So much like a native did he become that when he
entered the bank in Constantinople for his letters and money, they
addressed him in Turkish.

He made the journey up the Nile on a boat with a wealthy German
landowner, a Mr. Bufleb, who became to him like a brother, though he
was nearly twice the age of Taylor. Some years later the young man
married Mrs. Bufleb's niece.

When he reached Constantinople he received a letter from the managers
of the _Tribune_ suggesting that he go across Asia to Hong-Kong,
China, and join the expedition of Commodore Perry to Japan. As the
expedition would not reach Hong-Kong for some months, however, he had
time to visit his German friend and go on to London. From London he
returned through Spain and went by way of the Suez, Bombay, and
Calcutta to China, stopping on the way to view the Himalayas.

Commodore Perry made the young journalist "master's mate," and gave
him a place on the flagship. This was necessary, because no one not a
member of the navy was allowed to accompany the expedition.

There is not space to detail the wonderful sights he saw or the
interesting experiences he had. He reached New York, December 20,
1853, after an absence of more than two years, and found that in his
absence he had become almost famous. His letters in the _Tribune_ had
been read all over the country, and everybody wanted to know more of
the "great American traveler."

He at once prepared for the press three books. They were "A Journey to
Central Africa; or, Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the Negro
Kingdoms of the Nile "; "The Land of the Saracens; or, Pictures of
Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain"; and "A Visit to India,
China, and Japan in the Year 1853."

He had hundreds of calls to lecture; and thereafter for several years
he made lecturing his principal business. From his books and his
lectures he received large sums of money, so that before he was thirty
he had accumulated a modest fortune.

In 1856 Bayard Taylor took his two sisters and his youngest brother to
Europe. He left them in Germany, while he himself carried out a plan
long in his mind, of visiting northern Sweden and Lapland in winter.
The following summer he visited Norway, and later published the
results of these journeys in "Northern Travel."

While in Germany, after his trip to Sweden, he became engaged to Marie
Hansen, daughter of Prof. Peter A. Hansen, the noted astronomer and
founder of Erfurt Observatory. They were married in the following
autumn, October 27, 1857.

He now hurried home with his wife and prepared to build a house and
lay out the country estate which he called Cedarcroft. The land had
belonged to one of his ancestors, and he was very proud of his fine
country house; but he found it a rather expensive enjoyment.



We have seen how in youth Bayard Taylor conceived the ambition to be
known as one of his country's great poets. He saw his books of travel
sell by the hundred thousand; but while this brought him money and
notoriety, he clung still to his poetry. He even felt annoyed when he
heard himself spoken of as "the great American traveler" instead of
the great American poet. The truth is, he had not been able to give to
poetry the time or energy he could have wished; and he afterwards
worked with desperate energy to recover those lost poetic

Yet in his busiest days he was always writing verses, which in the
minds of excellent judges are the best he ever did. From time to time
he published volumes of poetry, and with certain of his intimate
friends he always maintained himself on the footing of a poet.

We remember the publication of his first volume, entitled "Ximena,"
which he never cared to reprint in his collected works. During his
first European trip he wrote a great deal. Some of his shorter poems
he afterwards published under the title "Rhymes of Travel." The fate
of a longer poem we must hear in his own words.

"I had in my knapsack," he says, "a manuscript poem of some twelve
hundred lines, called 'The Liberated Titan,'--the idea of which I
fancied to be something entirely new in literature. Perhaps it was. I
did not doubt for a moment that any London publisher would gladly
accept it, and I imagined that its appearance would create not a
little sensation. Mr. Murray gave the poem to his literary adviser,
who kept it about a month, and then returned it with a polite message.
I was advised to try Moxon; but, by this time, I had sobered down
considerably, and did not wish to risk a second rejection.

"I therefore solaced myself by reading the immortal poem at night, in
my bare chamber, looking occasionally down into the graveyard, and
thinking of mute, inglorious Miltons.

"The curious reader may ask how I escaped the catastrophe of
publishing the poem at last. That is a piece of good fortune for which
I am indebted to the Rev. Dr. Bushnell, of Hartford. We were
fellow-passengers on board the same ship to America, a few weeks later,
and I had sufficient confidence in his taste to show him the poem. His
verdict was charitable; but he asserted that no poem of that length
should be given to the world before it had received the most thorough
study and finish--and exacted from me a promise not to publish it
within a year. At the end of that time I renewed the promise to myself
for a thousand years."

Of other poems written at that time he thought better. In the preface
to his volume he says of them,--"They are faithful records of my
feelings at the time, often noted down hastily by the wayside, and
aspiring to no higher place than the memory of some pilgrim who may,
under like circumstances, look upon the same scenes. An ivy leaf from
a tower where a hero of old history may have dwelt, or the simplest
weed growing over the dust that once held a great soul, is reverently
kept for memories it inherited through the chance fortune of the
wind-sown seed; and I would fain hope that these rhymes may bear with
them a like simple claim to reception, from those who have given me their
company through the story of my wanderings."

Soon after he went to New York he began a series of Californian
ballads, which were published anonymously in the _Literary World_, and
attracted considerable attention. They appeared before he had made his
trip to California; but while on that trip he wrote still others. At
the same time he began several more ambitious poems, among them
"Hylas," and just before he set out for Egypt he had another volume of
poems ready for the press. It was entitled "A Book of Romances, Lyrics
and Songs," and was published in Boston just after he set out on his
Eastern journey. But while his volumes of travel sold edition after
edition his volumes of verse scarcely paid expenses.

The previous year, however,--1850,--he had had a bit of success which
caused him no end of annoyance. Jenny Lind had been brought to America
to sing, and her manager had offered a prize of $200 for the best song
that might be written for her. "Bayard Taylor came to me one
afternoon early in September," says Mr. R.H. Stoddard, "and confided
to me the fact that he was to be declared the winner of this perilous
prize, and that he foresaw a row. They will say it was given to me
because Putnam, who is my publisher, is one of the committee, and
because Ripley, who is my associate on the _Tribune_, is another.'"

Mr. Stoddard kindly suggested to him that if he feared the results, he
might substitute his (Stoddard's) name for the real one, and take the
money while Stoddard got the abuse. He did not choose to do this,
however, and the indignation of the seven or eight hundred
disappointed contributors was unbounded. Taylor bore their abuse well
enough, but he was heartily ashamed of the reputation which the poem
brought him.



During the months he spent in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor, Bayard
Taylor wrote his "Poems of the Orient," of which Mr. Stoddard says, "I
thought, and I think so still when I read these spirited and
picturesque poems, that Bayard Taylor had captured the poetic secret
of the East as no English-writing poet but Byron had. He knew the East
as no one can possibly know it from books."

Certainly these poems of the East have a haunting ring that can never
be forgotten. What more stirring than this Bedouin love song!

  From the desert I come to thee
    On a stallion shod with fire;
  And the winds are left behind

    In the speed of my desire.
  Under thy window I stand,
    And the midnight hears my cry:
  I love thee, I love but thee,
    With a love that shall not die,
             _Till the sun grows cold,
                And the stars are old,
                And the leaves of the Judgment
                         Book unfold_!

Or what more grand and affectionate than this from "Hassan to his

  Come, my beauty! come, my desert darling!
    On my shoulder lay thy glossy head!
  Fear not, though the barley-sack be empty,
    Here's the half of Hassan's scanty bread.

  Thou shalt have thy share of dates, my beauty!
    And thou know'st my water-skin is free;
  Drink and welcome, for the wells are distant,
    And my strength and safety lie in thee.

  Bend thy forehead now, to take my kisses!
    Lift in love thy dark and splendid eye:
  Thou art glad when Hassan mounts the saddle,--
    Thou art proud he owns thee: so am I.

  Let the Sultan bring his boasted horses,
    Prancing with their diamond-studded reins;
  They, my darling, shall not match thy fleetness
    When they course with thee the desert plains!

  Let the Sultan bring his famous horses,
    Let him bring his golden swords to me,--
  Bring his slaves, his eunuchs, and his harem;
    He would offer them in vain for thee.

  We have seen Damascus, O my beauty!
    And the splendor of the Pashas there:
  What's their pomp and riches? Why, I would not
    Take them for a handful of thy hair!

Another stirring poem of the East is "Tyre."

  The wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
  The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre,--
  Beats on the fallen columns and round the headlands roars,
  And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
  And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire:
  "Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"

In his "L'Envoi" at the end of these poems, Bayard Taylor gives us a
hint of his meaning when he spoke of his "southern nature" as
distinguished from his "northern nature."

  I found, among those Children of the Sun,
    The cipher of my nature,--the release
  Of baffled powers, which else had never won
    That free fulfillment, whose reward is peace.

  For not to any race or any clime
    Is the complete sphere of life revealed;
  He who would make his own that round sublime,
    Must pitch his tent on many a distant field.

  Upon his home a dawning lustre beams,
    But through the world he walks to open day,
  Gathering from every land the prismal gleams,
    Which, when united, form the perfect ray.



A biography of Bayard Taylor would not be complete without some
account of his friendships. He was always on the best of terms with
all living beings, and this subtle attraction of his nature was an
important part of his greatness.

In "Views Afoot" he tells of a charming little incident which is
enough in itself to make us love the man. It occurred in Florence,
Italy, where he was a stranger, a foreigner; and this makes the
incident in itself seem the more wonderful. "I know of nothing," he
writes, "that has given me a more sweet and tender delight than the
greeting of a little child, who, leaving his noisy playmates, ran
across the street to me, and taking my hand, which he could barely
clasp in both his soft little ones, looked up in my face with an
expression so winning and affectionate that I loved him at once."

We recall the girl with the tea-cakes whom he met on his first journey
while tramping across New Jersey. There was also something of human
love and fellowship in his familiarity with wild animals in Egypt. In
a free, joyous letter to his betrothed, Mary Agnew, he tells a curious
incident of a similar kind, which occurred while he was editing the
paper at Phoenixville. "On Sunday," says he, "I took [Schiller's] 'Don
Carlos' with me in our boat, and rowed myself out of sight of the
village into the solitude of the autumn woods. The sky was blue and
bright as that of Eden, and the bright trees waved over me like
gorgeous banners from the hilltops. I sat on a sunny slope and read
for hours; it was a rare enjoyment! As I moved to rise I found a
snake, which had crept up to me for warmth, and was coiled up quietly
under my arm. I was somewhat startled, but the reptile slid
noiselessly away, and I could not harm it."

A pretty story is told of Taylor by one who called on him when he was
on one of his lecture tours. He was a stranger in the house of
strangers, and no doubt as much a stranger to the cat as to any of the
people; but it did not take him long to slip into easy intercourse
with men or animals. "I had listened for some time to his intelligent
descriptions, enunciated with extreme modesty in the modulated tones
of his pleasing voice, when Tom, a large Maltese cat, entered the
room. At Mr. Taylor's invitation Tom approached him, and as he stroked
the fur of the handsome cat, a sort of magnetism seemed to be imparted
to the family pet, for he rolled over at the feet of his new-made
friend, and seemed delighted with the beginning of the interview. In
the most natural manner possible, Mr. Taylor slid off, as it were,
from the sofa on which he had been sitting, and assumed the position
of a Turk on the rug before the sofa, playing with delighted Tom in
the most buoyant manner, still continuing his conversation, but
changing the subject, for the nonce, to that of cats, and narrating
many stories respecting the weird and wise conduct of these animals,
which are at once loved and feared by the human race."

He even felt a sort of personal tenderness for the old trees on his
place at Kennett. He said that friends were telling him to cut this
tree and cut that. To him this would have been almost a sacrilege. The
trees seemed to depend on him for _protection_, and they should have
it. Writing from this country home which he had built, he says, "The
birds know me already, and I have learned to imitate the partridge and
rain-dove, so that I can lure them to me."

And Bayard Taylor was the accepted friend of nearly all the
distinguished men of letters of his time. He knew Longfellow, Lowell,
Whittier, and Holmes in Boston, and even in his early years, when he
first went to New York to work, he was able to pay them such flying
visits as he describes in the following to Mary Agnew: "Reached Boston
Sunday morning, galloped out to Cambridge, and spent the evening with
Lowell; went on Monday to the pine woods of Abingdon to report
Webster's speech, and dispatched it to the _Tribune_; got up early on
Tuesday and galloped to Brookline to see Colonel Perkins; then off in
the cars to Amesbury, and rambled over the Merrimac hills with
Whittier; then Wednesday morning to Lynn, where I stopped a while at
Helen Irving's; back in the afternoon to Cambridge, where I smoked a
cigar with Lowell, and then stayed all night at Longfellow's."

In New York his enjoyment of his friends, whom he met often and
familiarly, was of the keenest. Says Mr. R. H. Stoddard, "I recall
many nights which Bayard Taylor spent in our rooms.... Great was our
merriment; for if we did not always sink the shop, we kept it solely
for our own amusement. Fitz-James O'Brien was a frequent guest, and an
eager partaker of our merriment, which sometimes resolved itself into
the writing of burlesque poems. We sat around a table, and whenever
the whim seized us, we each wrote down themes on little pieces of
paper, and putting them into a hat or box we drew out one at random,
and then scribbled away for dear life. We put no restriction upon
ourselves: we could be grave or gay, or idiotic even; but we must be
rapid, for half the fun was in noting who first sang out, 'Finished!'"

The reader will remember Taylor's joy when a boy at receiving the
autograph of Dickens. The time was coming when he should be on terms
almost of intimacy with all the leading poets and writers of London.
"I spent two days with Tennyson in June," he writes to a literary
friend in 1857, "and you take my word for it, he is a noble fellow,
every inch of him. He is as tall as I am, with a head which Read
capitally calls that of a dilapidated Jove, long black hair, splendid
dark eyes, and a full mustache and beard. The portraits don't look a
bit like him; they are handsomer, perhaps, but haven't half the
splendid character of his face. We smoked many a pipe together, and
talked of poetry, religion, politics, and geology.... Our intercourse
was most cordial and unrestrained, and he asked me, at parting, to be
sure and visit him every time I came to England."

A similar tale might be told of his relations with Thackeray and a
score of others.

But an account of his friendships would not be complete without a
reference to Mr. Bufleb, whom he met on his journey up the Nile.
Taylor writes to his mother from Nubia: "I want to speak of the friend
from whom I have just parted, because I am very much moved by his
kindness, and the knowledge may be grateful to you. His friendship for
me is something wonderful, and it seems like a special Providence that
in Egypt, where I anticipated the want of all near sympathy and
kindness, I should find it in such abundant measure. He is a man of
totally different experience from myself: accustomed all his life to
wealth, to luxury, and to the exercise of authority. He was even
prejudiced against America and the Americans, and he confessed to me
that he was by nature stubborn and selfish. Yet few persons have ever
placed such unbounded confidence in me, or treated me with such
devotion and generosity.... For two days before our parting he could
scarcely eat or sleep, and when the time drew near he was so pale and
agitated that I almost feared to leave him. I have rarely been so
moved as when I saw a strong, proud man exhibit such an attachment for
me.... I told him all my history, and showed him the portrait I have
with me [that of Mary Agnew]. He went out of the cabin after looking
at it, and when he returned I saw that he had been weeping."

Surely, there must have been something peculiarly noble and sweet in
Bayard Taylor's nature to have drawn to him so powerfully a man of
another nation and another race. The friendship was lasting, and
Taylor spent many happy weeks at Mr. Bufleb's home in Gotha, Germany.
The latter even bought a little house and garden adjoining his own
estate, which was for the special use of his friend, and he closes the
letter which describes it by saying: "You see how I have written to
you, my dear Taylor. In spite of our long separation and remoteness
from each other, your heart I know could never tell you of any change
in my feelings and thoughts. On the contrary, this _rapport_ which we
enjoy has for me a profound meaning; whilst you were dedicating your
glorious work on Central Africa to me, I was setting in order for you
the most cherished part of my possessions."



With the building of Cedarcroft, and the publication of his "Poet's
Journal," Bayard Taylor's fame and fortune reached their height. The
Civil War was now on the point of breaking out. He entered into the
Northern cause with ardor, and even sold a share of _Tribune_ stock to
raise a thousand dollars with which to fit out his brother Frederick
and provide arms for his neighbors to defend their homes.

But the war put an end to his lectures, and cut off other sources of
his income. In 1862 he was appointed secretary of legation at the
court of St. Petersburg, and not long after was left there as _charge
d'affaires_. The cause of the Union had received some heavy reverses,
and France had invited England and Russia to join her in intervening
between the combatants. But, perhaps owing to Bayard Taylor's
diplomatic skill, Russia refused to take part in such an enterprise
without the express desire of the United States.

About this time, also, Taylor began to write a series of novels, in
the hope of bettering his fortunes thereby. The books brought him some
reputation, but to-day "Hannah Thurston" and "John Godfrey's Fortunes"
are seldom read.

A more important undertaking was his translation of "Faust," which was
accepted abroad as a monument of his scholarship, and remains to-day
one of the best translations into English of the great Goethe's most
famous work.

Other books of travel were written and published, and various fresh
volumes of poems. During this period of his life he produced most of
his longer descriptive and philosophic poems, such as "The Picture of
St. John," "Lars," and "Prince Deukalion"; but his songs and ballads
have proved more popular than these, though he threw into them all his
energy and ambition.

On July 4, 1876, he delivered his stately National Ode at the
Philadelphia Centennial, and the same year he returned to his desk at
the _Tribune_ office. But failing health compelled him to give up this
drudgery, and in the following year he was nominated United States
minister to Berlin. A grand banquet at which Bryant presided was given
him in New York, on April 4, the eve of his departure; but before the
year was finished he died in Berlin--December 19, 1878.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Four Famous American Writers: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, - James Russell Lowell, Bayard Taylor - A Book for Young Americans" ***

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