October 27, 2010

Taylor: my future so bright

Only one thing could stall production of Bayard Taylor's book Northern Travels: Summer and Winter Pictures — his marriage. On October 27, 1857, Taylor married Marie Hanson. They honeymooned in London (where Taylor finalized the British edition of his book).

From London, Taylor hoped to make his way to Russia to secure new material for a future book of the travel essays which had become his signature. Like the rest of the country, however, he was suffering from financial setbacks. Instead, the couple went to Greece.

Travel defined both Taylor and his wife. They met (and got engaged) in Germany, where her father was an astronomer. Before marrying, he awaited approval from her mother, then living in Russia. He called their marriage (his second, after the death of his first wife Mary Agnew in 1850) "a step which makes us all so happy and my future so bright." They had a daughter, Lilian, a year later.

In his introduction to Northern Winters, Taylor explains his reason for traveling so extensively and writing about those travels:

My object in travel is neither scientific, statistical, nor politico-economical; but simply artistic, pictorial, — if possible, panoramic. I have attempted to draw, with a hand which, I hope, has acquired a little steadiness from long practice, the people and the scenery of northern Europe, to colour my sketches with the tints of the originals, and to invest each one with its native and characteristic atmosphere. In order to do this, I have adopted, as in other countries, a simple rule: to live, as near as possible, the life of the people among whom I travel.

After Taylor's death, Marie Hanson-Taylor edited his life and letters (under that hyphenated name, with help from Horace Scudder). She became the caretaker of Cedarcroft, the home they built in 1860. She was nicknamed "The Mistress of Cedarcroft" and lived there until her own death 47 years after that of her husband.

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