The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 19, 2011

December 19, 1878

Bayard Taylor (January 11, 1825  to December 19, 1878), essayist and diplomat,  is a forgotten name today but in his time he was ranked among the highest literary lights in American culture. He is listed in this title of Sherwin Cody's, from which we draw some interesting details about Taylor's life: Four famous American writers: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, James Russell Lowell, Bayard Taylor; a book for young Americans (1899).

Bayard Taylor traveled widely and in 1846 published Views Afoot, or Europe seen with Knapsack and Staff. He later represented the United States at embassies in St. Petersburg and Berlin.

Cody quotes Bayard Taylor about his encounters with fauna:

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."...
[Another story is told 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,...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." ...

Such is the gentle man whose gossip reeks of American literature, as he writes letters with such details as these:

 "Reached Boston Sunday morning, galloped out to Cambridge, and spent the evening with Lowell;... got up early on Tuesday .... and rambled over the Merrimac hills with Whittier;...; back in the afternoon to Cambridge, where I smoked a cigar with Lowell, and then stayed all night at Longfellow's."

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