June 12, 2012

Taylor: share also in those adventures

"I am over head and ears on my Journey to Central Africa," Bayard Taylor wrote to his publisher James T. Fields on June 12, 1854. He also promised that the book would include "a map and fifteen to twenty illustrations, and I am obliged to be my own illustrator." True to his word, Taylor's book was illustrated by himself (including the image of his companion Achmet, seen here).

In his preface to the over 500-page book, Taylor called it "the record of a journey... over fresh fields, by paths which comparatively few had trodden before me." It was not a book featuring serious study, but entertainment, he said, showing the "rich, adventurous life" he led in an effort to restore himself after being "exhausted by severe mental labor." His travels took him to Egypt, Ethiopia, and beyond. Most importantly, Taylor lived, as he described, as an Arab; the day after his letter to Fields, he reported that he had been photographed in traditional dress, an image which was later turned into an engraving (see image at left).

Though Taylor had already traveled extensively around the globe, he was smitten with Africa from the very beginning: "For no amount of experience can deprive the traveller of that happy feeling of novelty which marks his first day on the soil of a new continent. I gave myself up wholly to its inebriation." The book concludes with Taylor leaving Cairo:

I took the steamer for Alexandria, and two or three days afterwards sailed for fresh adventures in another Continent. If the reader, who has been my companion during the journey which is now closed, should experience no more fatigue than I did, we may hereafter share also in those adventures.

No comments:

Post a Comment