Letters Between Two Poets: The Correspondence of Bayard Taylor and Sidney Lanier



IN the early part of July, 1876, Mr. Lanier was in Philadelphia for a few days, at the time when his first volume of poems (containing Corn, The Symphony, The Psalm of the West, In Absence, Acknowledgment, Betrayal, Special Pleading, To Charlotte Cushman, Rose-Morals, and To — with a Rose, with the dedicatory stanzas To Charlotte Cushman) was published by the Lippincotts. He was just recovering from a sharp attack of the disease which he was to fight continuously for the next five years, but the cheerful serenity brought him by his growing power in his art is written large over the hint of physical distress in the next letter: —

July, 1879.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — I write a mere note to say, in answer to your kind inquiry about my volume, that Mr. Peacock brought up a copy yesterday which had just been sent to the Bulletin office, from which I presume that the book is now published. I 've been here (at the Peacocks’) for several days, very ill, and have not seen the publishers in a long time, — which accounts for my lack of more precise knowledge. The book is called simply Poems By S. L. I ’ll have a copy sent you as soon as I get out. . . .
I found pleasure in learning from your letter that the Eve. Post had copied the sonnets. I can’t tell you with what ravishing freedom and calmness I find myself writing, in these days, nor how serene and sunny the poetic region seems to lie, in front, like broad upland fields and slopes. I write all the time, and sit down to the paper with the poems already done. I hope to have out another volume soon of work which will show a much quieter technique than this one. A modern French writer has spoken of the works of the great artists of the world as being like the high white clouds which sail calmly over a green valley on a summer day. This seems to me very beautiful. . . .

WEST CHESTER, PA., July 19, 1876.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — I ’m just crawling back into some sort of shambling activity after a very depressing illness ; and my congratulations on the success of your Ode will therefore not be considered by you as too late to enter in.
I found that General Hawley had been kind enough to send me an invitation to the platform ; but it did not arrive until some days after the event, having been sent to Baltimore, and forwarded from several other addresses, before finally reaching me. I hear, however, the most pleasant accounts of the complete success both of your matter and your manner on the “ stately day ” from Mr. Peacock. My retired position— we are boarding at a farmhouse about a mile from West Chester, Mr. Thompson’s — has rather taken me out of range of the newspapers, and I have seen no newspaper account of the ceremonies except the Pha. Bulletin’s. I sincerely hope that the malice which you thought likely might seize this opportunity to vent itself has recoiled before the calm and noble front of your Ode. I have not seen or heard any evidences of its activity. . . .

NEW YORK, July 21, 1876.
MY DEAR LANIER, - I ’m very glad to hear from you. Am really dead from heat and unending work, and can only thank you for your kind congratulations. The Ode made an impression which amazed me ; it is something worth living for. Of course all sneers are powerless now ; but they are on hand ! . . .
Fluidly, yet faithfully,
B. T.

MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — In spite of the rejected poem which your letter contained, I was glad — O Might of Friendship (for I fondly expected twenty - five dollars instead of this manuscript ! ) — to get your little message. I don’t at all know why they sent it to you: the poem contained my address plainly written on the last page. It was making you particeps criminis. In order that you may see the unrelieved blackness of their (i. e., Dr. Holland’s) guilt, I send you the poem and message accompanying, which you can read in some little by-time when you’ve nothing better to do.
As to the pen and ink and all toil, I’ve been almost suppressed by continual illness. I can’t tell you how much I sigh for some quiet evenings at the Century, where I might hear some of you talk about the matters I love, or merely sit and think in the atmosphere of the thinkers. I fancy one can almost come to know the dead thinkers too well : a certain mournfulness of longing seems sometimes to peep out from behind one’s joy in one’s Shakespeare and one’s Chaucer,— a sort of physical protest and yearning of the living eye for its like. Perhaps one’s friendship with the dead poets comes indeed to acquire something of the quality of worship, through the very mystery which withdraws them from us, and which allows no more messages from them, cry how we will, after that sudden and perilous Stoppage. I hope those are not illegitimate moods in which one sometimes desires to surround one’s self with a companionship less awful, and would rather have a friend than a god. . . .

September 23, 1876.
MY DEAR LANIER, — I’ve read your poem over several times, and am quite clear about it. The title, The Waving of the Corn, is slightly fantastic, rather than fanciful, and the word, or act, of waving is too weak for a refrain. The last stanza is quite unnecessary : it drops out of the tone of the three preceding ones, forces a moral where none is needed, and is in no sense poetical. Voitὰ tout! I don’t know that precisely these things decided Dr. Holland ; but I feel pretty sure that he would have accepted the poem had they not been. The rest is so sweet, tranquil, and beautiful that it has the best right to be, without a moral. Now, don’t take offense, but let me make the changes in your manuscript and send it with this, just to show you, not how I should have written it (our ways are not the same, you know), but how I think you should have written it. The feeling of peace and blissful pastoral seclusion is so exquisitely expressed that the poem should be restricted to that only. . . .

Ever faithfully,
I think I could get The Galaxy to take the poem.

October 6, 1870.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — I 've been absent in Baltimore, and this will explain my delay in writing to thank you for the evident trouble you were at in behalf of my poem. Your somewhat serious defense of Dr. Holland leads me to fear, a little, that you misunderstood my allusion to his “criminality, " etc., in rejecting the poem, — which I meant for the merest joke. A good deal of experience in these matters renders it quite impossible for me to have any feeling as to the judgment of any given person upon the merits of a poem, or its availability for magazine purposes ; for I have seen that these judgments depend upon two elements which are infinitely variable: the mood of the person judging, and the particular idea which he may have formed in his mind of that phantasm called the General Public. Certainly, nothing can be more striking than the perpetual reversal of such decrees by time and the popular tide ; and the day is quite past when I could be in the least disturbed by any contemporary judgment either as to the artistic quality or probable popularity of a poem.
I am thus didactically particular for the reason that you really seemed to think I was cherishing enmity against the — gentlemen, whereas the fact is that I feel greatly obliged to them for a general reception of my little offerings far more heartily than I could expect, in view of our wholly different ways of looking at things.
And as for your prefacing your own suggestions with “ Now don’t take offense, but,” etc., nothing could be more absurd : offense, indeed !

I find myself agreeing with two of your verbal criticisms on The Waving of the Corn (the “ haply undainty ” and the equivocal “faint”), and though not agreeing at all with your condemnation of the last stanza, I think I will strike it out, as likely to produce a disagreeable impression of moralizing. In reality it is a vigorous carrying out of the idea of personal tranquillity ; advancing beyond that to the conception of the larger tranquillity of Society.
It’s very good of you to offer to try The Galaxy; but I would n’t like the poem to win a place in print upon any influence save its own merits : and if this objection were disposed of, I could not bear to think of giving such trouble to so busy a man as I know you to be.
Pray tell me of Deucalion and Pyrrha. Have the world, the flesh, and the devil completely crowded the sweet typic Man and Woman to the wall ? I hope you manage to escape into their larger realm sometimes. . . .

October 22, 1870.
DEAR MR. TAYLOR, —I hope you 'll like these inclosed sonnets,1 from the November number of Lippincott’s, just out. I believe I think more of the two first than of anything I have done ; the last two are redactions of two earlier ones which I think you have seen in manuscript. . . .
Your friend, S. L.

November 15, 1870.
MY DEAR Lanier,— . . . It ’s very pleasant to get such good news (barring the illness) of your poetic activity. All poets have periods, and you are just passing from one into another. I have seen and felt this, but did not say so, because I was not sure whether you quite knew it yourself ; but now I may freely say that I comprehend the change, and rejoice in it for your sake. I am especially glad to hear that you are thinking already of a new volume : the technique is really an important matter, — as much so in verse as in sculpture.
I await the volume with real interest, although I probably know the whole of it already. But poems, somehow, have a different atmosphere when they are collected and placed side by side ; so I shall be sure to get new views of your achievements.
As for myself, the lectures are not overabundant. If I save enough during the whole winter to take me to the Sulphur Springs of Virginia for two months next summer, I must be satisfied. I am quite fagged and wearied, — incapable of poetry, hardly capable of my routine work on the Tribune. . . .
I am not naturally despondent, but it’s a little hard to keep cheerful when one is physically depressed. . . .
I have lately found a new friend in the Portland Press (apparently a woman), a critic of rare insight and sympathy. But I have also a word of cheer lor you : I see that you are finding quiet friends, genuine appreciators — therefore Sursum cor da ! All will be right in the end.

December 6, 1870.
MY DEAK MR. TAYLOR, — My physician has become alarmed at the gravity and persistence of my illness, and orders me immediately to Florida, denouncing death unless a warm climate is speedily reached. He might as well talk to the stars whose light has n’t yet reached us as try to persuade me that any conceivable combination of circumstances could induce me to die before I ’ve written and published my five additional volumes of poems ; nevertheless, it is decided that my wife is to leave here with me on Monday night next for Florida, and I ’m scratching this hasty note in the possibility that your nomadic habits might bring you to Philadelphia within that time, simply to ask that you won’t fail — if they should bring you here — to give me a final sight of you. .

TAMPA, FLA., January 11, 1877.
DEAR MU. TAYLOR, — What would I not give to transport you from your frozen sorrows instantly into the midst of the green leaves, the gold oranges, the glitter of great and tranquil waters, the liberal friendship of the sun, the heavenly conversation of robins and mocking-birds and larks, which fill my days with delight !
But if I commence in this strain I shall never have done ; and I am writing in full rebellion against the laws now in force over the land of Me, — which do not yet allow me to use the pen by reason of the infirmity of my lung ; yet I could not help sending you some little greeting for the New Year, with a violet and a rose, which please find herewithin. The violet is for purity, — and I wish that you may be pure all this year; and the rose is for love,—and 1 ’m sure I shall love you all the year.
We are quite out of the world, and know not its doings. The stage which brings our mail (twice a week only) takes three days to reach the railroad at Gainesville; and it is a matter of from nine days to any conceivable time for a letter to reach here from New York. Nevertheless, — nay, all the more therefor, —send me a line, that I may know how you fare, body and soul.
I received a check for fifteen dollars from Mr. Alden, Ed. Harper’s, for the poem you sent to him ; and I make little doubt that I owe its acceptance to the circumstance that you sent it. I hear of an International Review, but have not seen any copy of it: do you think it would care for anything like the inclosed? — a poem which I have endeavored to make burn as hotly as, yet with a less highly colored flame than, others of mine. If you do, pray direct the envelope; if not, address it to The Galaxy, unless you think that inadvisable: in which last event, keep the copy, if you like.
I had a very cordial letter from Mr. Eggleston about my volume of poems, which gave me pleasure.
I ’m sure you ’ll be glad to know that I improve decidedly ; I see no reason to doubt that I shall be soon at work again. In truth, I “bubble song” continually during these heavenly days, and it is as hard to keep me from the pen as a toper from his tipple. . . .

January 21, 1877.
My DEAR LANIER, — I have been away, lecturing and snow-bound, cold and hungry, among the drifts of Central New York, and come back to find your most welcome letter, written on my birthday (though you did n’t know it !), with the smell of the violet and rose as fresh — for about five minutes — as when you gathered them. Something of the endless summer of Tampa came to me in your letter, and I am still full of the longing to be beside those blue waters and where “ im dunklen Laub die Gold-Orangen glülm.”
Last night I spent with Stedman and Dudley Buck, and we talked much of you. Buck played the accompaniment, and Mr. Brown (a barytone) sang your last song in Scribner’s, the Cleopatra Night ; so that I have heard it before you ! It is simply superb. . . .
I shall send your poem immediately to The Galaxy. The International Review is a mean concern, — publishes little poetry, pays its authors next to nothing, and has n’t much circulation. I know Church, of The Galaxy, and am free to ask him not only to publish the poem, but also to pay you properly. If I see him to-night at the Century, I can settle the matter in two minutes. If you have anything more, of a simple, melodious quality, send it to me, and I 'm much mistaken if I can’t get it into The Atlantic.
Your song in Scribner’s was much copied. In the New Library of Song, to which Bryant’s name is attached as editor, — though he does n’t edit it much, — your Cantata is published beside Whittier’s Hymn and my Ode. So pluck up heart, and don’t be discouraged ! We must all wait.
I wish I had time to send you the manuscripts of two late poems I have written, An Assyrian Chant and PeachBlossom. I have two or three more waiting for the lucky hour — but alas ! Ah me! Eheu ! Ay de mi ! I am ground to the dust with work and worry. I live from day to day, on the verge of physical prostration. Nothing saves me but eight to ten hours ot deathlike sleep every night. Of course everything must wait, — my Life of Goethe, my lyrical drama, everything that is solely and dearly mine. . . .

Ever affectionately,

February 5, 1877.
MY DEAR LANER,— I inclose Sheldun & Co.’s (Galaxy) check for $25, for your Beethoven. I tried hard to get $40 for it, but failed. I have also carefully read the proof, and was much tempted to change a word, —
The slanders told by sickly eyes, — but it seemed too great a liberty. However, I did make one or two necessary changes in punctuation. . . .
I wish you could have been here Saturday evening to hear Wagner’s Götterdämmerung— not that I liked it! I 'm through with my outside lecturing. We have soft airs and clear spring skies, and all my fatigues are falling of me like a snake’s old skin. I hope to come out (poetically) in new and shining scales. Send me a poem for The Atlantic! Pardon haste : we both greet you both.

TAMPA, FLA., February 7, 1877.
My DEAR MR. TAVLOR, — Your letter, bringing many pleasant words, came on my birthday ; which I consider a fair reciprocation for mine, written (as you tell me) on yours. My wife had managed to arrange my room, with the help of some cunning female friends, without my knowledge ; and when I awoke in the morning I found myself in the midst of a very brave array of flowers. During the day our apartment was further hung with wreaths of gray moss, bamboo vines, and fragrant spruce pine tassels to such a degree that I felt like a whole Sunday-school celebration all by myself ; and in the afternoon, among a lot of pleasant mail matter, came your letter.

I was never able to stay angry in my life ; and I should meet — without ever letting him know how much pain he had given me. ... It only increased the pain of the wound that it was given in this advisory way which would have made me seem very truculent to resent it; and there was nothing to do but get off into some brake of silence, like a deer with a shot in the flank, and lick mine own wound. This seems extravagant, but it is not, compared with the real suffering: it was such a fall for my vanity, to think that any human being could have dreamed me capable of such a thought, after having seen me twice !

Voilὰ tout. As for forgiveness : the summer and the silence here have been very medicinal to me : since I have been here I’ve thought over the few people that ever wrong’d me, and I don’t find in my heart the least speck of hard feeling against anybody in the world.

Pray keep the inclosed little poem, and send it anywhere you think it might be accepted. I should mention that Scribner’s, Harper’s, and Lippincott’s, each has a poem of mine on hand (and you ’ll care to hear that Scribner’s paid me twice as much as ever before for the last one, bought a couple of weeks ago). Don’t charge your mind with it; and pray don’t be at the trouble of writing any recommendations, or the like. I cannot bear to think of taking your time. . . .

Have you seen a somewhat elaborate notice of me in The Graphic, by Orpheus C. Kerr ?

I should like to see your Assyrian Chant, and specially Peachblossom. If you could only see the plum trees, the roses, the orange blossoms, here !

God bless you.

TAMPA, FLA., February 11, 1877.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — In the poem I’ve just sent you, — The Bee, — it occurs to me that I have carelessly used the pronoun " him ” referring to the bee, — forgetting that, although the worker bees were formerly thought to be sexless, they have recently been found to be imperfectly developed females. Pray let me trouble you, therefore, to substitute “ its ” for “ his ” in the sixteenth line from the beginning, —

Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily ;

and also “ it ” for “ him ” in the thirtysixth line from the beginning, —

Perceived it poising o’er a fresh new cup.

I am, too, in some little doubt about the words “ on his wings,” six lines further on from the last quoted, —

He hath a sense of pollen on his wings.

While I know that the pollen used by the bee for food is carried in the “pollen baskets ” of the legs, I am not sure whether any of the pollen used in crop fertilization is carried on the wings ; my impression is that it mostly adheres to the body. Perhaps, therefore, it would he better to substitute for this line the following : —

Some sense of pollen every poet brings.
(Of pollen for to make thee fruitful, etc., etc.)

To how many sins one leadeth . . . is shown in all this trouble I’m giving you in consequence of failing to be strictly accurate at first.

I write in great haste, to save a mail.

TAMPA, FLA., February 25, 1877.
Mvy DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — Yours with The Galaxy check came safely, bringing me heaviness of purse and lightness of heart, — for both of which pray hold yourself thankful.
About the piece for the —, I am afflicted with doubts which I find myself unable to solve. Once, in my early pleiocene epoch, before the man had appeared in any of my formations to supplant the crude monsters of earlier periods, I sent Corn to Mr.—; and, upon his refusing it, I tried, some time afterwards, a couple of sonnets, accompanied by a note asking (poor green goose that I was ! As if an editor had time for such things ! — but I really knew no better) if he would not do me the favor to point out in these a certain “ mysticism " of which he had complained in Corn. This he did not answer ; only returning the two poor little sonnets with the usual printed refusal.
This looked so much like a pointed invitation to me to let him alone that I have never had the courage to trouble him since. I thought his treatment was very cold at that time and wrote so once to —, who had been friends of mine. Of course I now see how absurdly callow and unreasonable were my views then ; but this does not diminish the mortification with which I remember the ignominious termination of my efforts in that direction ; and while I do not retain the least spark of feeling against Mr. — I do not feel at all sure but he may remember me as an absurd person whom he was obliged to rebuff by silence. What would you do ? I’m sure I do not want to be finical. . . .
I have occasional backsets, due to the warm climate ; but there is now no doubt the lung is healing rapidly, and I am much better. I hope your project for the German lectures (which I saw announced in the Evening Post) has been successful. What a foolish noise is this about Dcirdré ! It is just a poor dull piece of orthodox verse. I do not find an idea in it, from beginning to end ; and the imitations of Homer’s ideas affect me unpleasantly. Moreover, the story is too little for an epic. There is n’t wind enough for so much canvas ; whereby the latter is pot-bellied, and bags absurdly.
My wife joins me in affectionate messages to you and Mrs. Taylor. I wish I could gossip a little, but mine infirmity of the pen arm saith, Forbear.

TAMPA, March 4, 1877.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — I earnestly hope you 'll like this : 2 it is written with a very full heart! I wanted to say all manner of fair things about you; but I was so intensely afraid of appearing to plaster you that I finally squeezed them all into one line, —

In soul and stature larger than thy kind;

which in truth has kept saying itself over within me ever since it was written, until I have come to take infinite satisfaction in it.

If you like this well enough to be willing that I should print it, pray give me a hint in what direction I had better send it ; I mean, where you would best like it to appear.

I have just seen the Beethoven in The Galaxy. A queer mistake in punctuation occurs when it says, —

When luminous lightnings blindly strike ;
The sailor praying on his knees
Along with him that’s cursing God, etc.

The semicolon marked is an error. The verb “ strike ” governs “ The sailor,” etc., in the following line : the luminous lightnings blindly strike (not only) the sailor praying, etc., but also the sailor cursing, etc. I speak of it as a queer error, because I am amused to see that a sort of dim sense may be evolved out of it even as it stands. On seeing the poem in print, I find it faulty : there’s too much matter in it ; it is like reading the dictionary, — the meanings presently become confused, not because of any lack of distinctness in each one, but simply because of the numerous and differing specifications of ideas.

Did you get a letter from me inclosing a poem called The Bee ?

But I must stop writing. God bless you.

NEW YORK, March 12, 1877.
(You know the address.)
MY DEAR LANTEB, — Drudgery, drudgery, drudgery ! What else can I say ? Does not that explain all ? Two courses of twelve lectures on German Literature, here and at Brooklyn, daily work on the Tribune, magazine articles (one dismally delayed), interruptions of all sorts, and just as much conscience as you may imagine pressing upon me to write to you and other friends ! The fact is, I am so weary, fagged, with sore spots under the collar bone, and all sorts of indescribable symptoms which betoken lessened vitality, that I must piteously beg you to grant me much allowance.
I got your second letter about The Bee just in time ; for I had meant to send it to — that very morning. What you said made me pause for a few days ; but I have at last decided to send it none the less, and it will go to-morrow morning !

I see no other place for it. The poem is very charming. I shall make the changes you desire, although je n’ en vois pas la nécessité. You see I admit your full right; hut not one man in 10,000,000 will know enough about bees to notice any scientific mistake. I must send you a long magazine article I have just written on Tennyson, to illustrate the fault of overattention to details. You are right about the Beethoven : it, is too crowded, and the ideas are not clearly expressed. I must say frankly (“ which I should not ”) that The Chestnut Tree is very fine: only do say something else instead of “ colie.” Three hundred years ago a poet could say that : not now. And I would not put, the stanzas in Italic : it is so far from the fashion of the day that people will think it equivalent to the author saying, “Mark how fine this is! ” We must yield something to the custom, just as we wear horrid stovepipe hats. I return it, because, as you will understand, I can 't offer it, anywhere ; yet I am sure Scribner would publish it. Why not change the title to The Chestnut Tree at (or of) Cedarcroft ? It seems a little less personal. The line you mention is fine, apart from mine own interest in it; too good as applied to me. Somehow, I feel as if such things might be said after a man is dead, —hardly while he is living. But that you feel impelled to say it now gives me a feeling of dissolving warmth about the heart. You must not think, my dear friend, simply because I recognize your genius and character, and the purity of the aims of both, that I confer any obligation on you! From you, and all like you, few as they are, I draw my own encouragement for that work of mine which I think may possibly live. . . .
Ever faithfully and affectionately your friend, BAYARD TAYLOR.

April 15, 1877.
MY DEAR LANIER, — I am very glad to get yours of March 29th, from which I infer (though you don’t say so) that you must be better. Since my two lecture courses are over and I have stopped magazine work, I am getting fresher and stronger, and have decided to go to Cedarcroft instead of Florida! . . .
— returned The Bee along with my Assyrian Night Song, having no mind for either. But for this fact I should regret having sent yours. I have several times half resolved never to send him another poem ; but now I wholly resolve. He has personal whim in place of clear critical judgment. I shall next try— with a better hope of success.
Pray let me know what your plans are, — especially what your physical condition is, — where you expect to pass the summer, etc. I must go to Cornell University for ten days in May ; shall work here until July 1st, then take a holiday for July and August, spending the former month at the White Sulphur, A irginia. My overwork comes solely from the necessity of providing means for this necessary summer rest. But now the end is secured, and I shall take life more easily. . . .

BRUNSWICK. GA., April 20, 1871.
DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — Pray don 't trouble to send The Bee to —. I have n’t the least idea of letting you act as poem-broker for me any longer. I 'm now getting well enough to write a little, and May (that’s my wife) is becoming a capital secretary.
If you should not have sent off The Bee before this reaches you, I “ll trouble you to inclose it to me. I 've kept no copy, and am not sure that I remember it exactly.
Have you happened to see the illustrations to an extravaganza of mine 1 (a sort of story which one “ makes up as he goes along, to a lot of importunate youngsters) in the May number of St. Nicholas ? They seem to me, who am but little of a critic, however, in such matters, to be very charming. Mrs. Dodge appears not to have received the proof sheets, which I returned from Tampa, in time ; for in them I carefully corrected some very disagreeable repetitions and faults of punctuation which appear in the publication.
I believe there is a little scrap of a poem of mine in Scribner’s for May, but I have n’t seen it.
I take real delight in thinking of you at Cedarcroft among the leaves. How fares my Master, the Chestnut-tree ? If you only had there the infinite sweetness of spring which is now in full leaf and overflowing song all about us here ! I have at command a springy mare, with ankles like a Spanish girl’s, upon whose back I go darting through the green overgrown woodpaths like a thrasher about his thicket. The whole air seems full of fecundity: as I ride, I 'm like one of those insects that are fertilized on the wing, — every leaf that I brush against breeds a poem. God help the world, when this now hatching brood of my Ephemeræ shall take flight and darken the air. . . .
Tell Mrs. Taylor I wish we could send her a rose from the little garden of the house where we sojourn ; though we don’t dare to pick one often, by reason that a mocking-bird is sitting on her eggs in the spirea bush, and we shrink from disturbing the tranquillity of her mind at this interesting period.
Your friend, S. L.

May 9, 1877.
MY DEAR LANIER, — I return your Bee with a sense of discouragement at my inability to find a place for it. I went to Harpers’ meaning to read it aloud to Alden, but did n’t find him. I thought I could thus make more impression, and get a prompt decision. I read it the other day to Boker, who was here, and he said the — does n’t have more than two as good poems in a year. . . .
In your last letters you say very little about your physical condition. I should like to hear that you are getting back strength, and overcoming, no matter how slowly, the persistent trouble. To be sure, your hint of poetic activity is an encouraging sign, and I hope it has its source in more vigorous blood.
As for me, I do nothing but “ loaf and invite my soul,” when I am not at work. My soul does n’t respond to the invitation, as yet. . . .
Ever faithfully,

MACON, GA., May 25, 1877.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — Yours with The Bee — my poor little bee, my humblest of bumble-bees — came to me here.
Within two weeks from now I hope to see you, and the anticipation gives me a great deal of pleasure. I seem to be fairly on the high road to health, — almost within the boundaries, indeed, of that most lovely state, — and am quite agog with all manner of matters, about many of which I desire greatly to talk with you.
The talk here is of the advance of corn, and of the failure of our City Bank ; and, so far as concerns any man I have yet conversed with, there is absolutely nothing in heaven or earth or the waters under the earth but corn and the City Bank. Perhaps if I had several thousand bushels of the former, or a large deposit in the latter, these topics might interest me more. But I have n’t; and when I think how I shall enjoy tackling you about something or other, say Emerson, whom I have been reading all the winter, and who gives me immeasurable delight because he does not propound to me disagreeable systems and hideous creeds, but simply walks along high and bright ways where one loves to go with him, — then I am ready to praise God for the circumstance that if corn were a dollar a bushel I could not, with my present finances, buy a lunch for my pony. .

MY DEAR LANIER, — just back from giving six lectures at Cornell University, and your letter from Macon awaits me. It is most welcome, for at last you give me a word about your physical state, and a good word it is.

I can’t write much, for there is a pile of unanswered letters at ray left hand. We shall be here until July 1st; then we go directly to the White Sulphur Springs for a month, and shall divide August between Cedarcroft and a visit to some friends at Newport. I long with inexpressible longing for the release from work ; for although somewhat of the work seems to tell, — to give me a slight increase of influence in literary circles, — it is not what I would choose to do, were I free.

As you say “ two weeks from now,” I count on seeing you here soon. I shall be very glad to see you taking my thin claret and cheap cigars again, and to talk over your new plans, — for I suppose they are new. I also need a change in my way of living, and a few possibilities have lately turned up. We all need to live at least, twenty-five years longer, to get our reward. But mine, as yet, is only half earned : all I care for is leisureto labor. . . .

PHILADELPHILA, PA., July 9, 1877.
My DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — I am merely writing a line to inclose the two slips which you will find herein, and which I thought might interest you apropos of what you were telling me the other day. The Philadelphia Ledger, from which the slip of July 7th is cut, is so reliable in these matters that I suppose there can be no doubt of the substantial fact as therein stated ; though it seems wonderful that the originators of such a movement should not have been immediately struck with the propriety of sending the translator of Goethe to Germany instead of to Russia or to Belgium.
But isn’t Russia or Belgium a somewhat queer alternative, — something like offering a man either the presidency of the United States or the postmastership of Kennett Square ?
I send you to-day a Boston magazine containing a portrait of me which I think will amuse you, particularly the smutched one accompanying the biographical sketch inside. This, this is Fame: to have your “ visnomy ” transformed into that ol a keen ldue-nosed New England manufacturer of shoe pegs.
I have not often seen anything more tragic than ray wife’s indignation over this woodcut; nor have I succeeded in allaying her resentment by my sympathetic assurance that I think it the unkindest cut of all.
My wife joins me in friendly messages to you both. With earnest wishes that you may be drawing strength from the dear mountains, as it were from the very breasts and big nipples of our Mother Earth,
Faithfully your friend,
S. L.

CHADD’S FORD, PA., August 20, 1877.
DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — ... I should have been inclined to think you a very shabby Colossus indeed, — to stay away for a week when there were so many Rhodes from here to Kenneth, — if I had not gathered from your brief note that you were either very busy or very worried, or both. I do hope you are now more at ease from whatever may have troubled you.
In truth, I particularly longed for one whole free day about this lovely house with you. Do you know the place, — old Mr. George Brinton’s ? To the west is a vista running for miles along the Brandywine: it’s so fine that you can fancy, every sunset, that the sun has gone that way on purpose to see the country over there. A long green hill in front of the bouse slopes down to the river; and within a few feet is a wild ravine, through which a stream runs down to the great rock-built milldam.
Tell me how fare our friends Proand Epi-metheus, as also Deucalion and Pyrrha, with attendant Spirits and Voices. As for me, all this loveliness of wood, earth, and water makes me feel as if I could do the whole universe into poetry ; but I don’t want to write anything large for a year or so : and thus I content myself with throwing off a sort of spray of little songs, whereof the magazines now have several. . . .
Faithfully yours,

BALTIMORE, MD., Ortober 6, 1877.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR. - I have been in the unsettled state of a bear who goes poking about the logs and coverts in search of a place to hibernate ; and this nomadic condition has kept me from answering your letter. I had thought of being in Washington during the winter. There was some prospect that either a small consulate or some minor place in one of the Departments would be given me. But, from what I can gather, places of this sort, are rarely obtained except by personal application and persistence. Of course I cannot come down to that, and so have let the matter go. If anything should be offered I will cheerfully take it, but I will do no urging or solicitation of any sort. . . .
The editors of The Galaxy write me that a poem of mine, called A Dream of the Age : To Richard Wagner, will appear in the November number. As it is about time for that to be in print, — and as they are sometimes slow in remitting when I write, — will you take the trouble to call at Sheldon’s (I think it is 8 Murray St.) and get the check and send it to me ? The poem is about seventyfive or eighty lines, if I am not mistaken. I would n’t bother you with this, but I really need the money. . . .
My Bee is in the October Lippincott’s. Tell me what you are doing with Deucalion. Have you seen a poem by Swinburne, of which the refrain is, “ Villon, our sad mad had glad brother’s name ” ? Sad mad bad glad is not intended for a joke. It ’s a wild panegyric of Villon. Will you squelch the Atlantic contributor who is unhappy about Goethe?
With cordial messages to Mrs. Taylor,
Your friend, SIDNEY L.

33 DENMEAD ST., BALTIMORE, MD., January 6, 1878.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — When I tell you that since I saw you I have searched the city of Baltimore for a dwelling suitable to my little flock, have found one, have cajoled the landlord into a hundred repairs and betterments, have painted, whitewashed, weather-stripped, and new-locked-and-bolted the entire establishment, have furnished it with all manner of odds and ends purchased from all manner of cheap Johns, have got in my coal and my wood, have provided a lot of oatmeal and hominy against the wolf, have hired a cook and general domestic, have arranged with the daily milkman and all his peripatetic tribe, have done at least a million and sixteen other things, and have finally moved in and settled, you will understand why both Christmas and New Year passed without greetings from me to you. Though it has been a desperate piece of work, it seems a mere bagatelle when looked back upon from the serene delight with which we all find ourselves at last in something like a home. I think I could wander about the house — we have nine rooms ! —for a month, with my hands in my pockets, in supreme content with treading upon my own carpets and gazing at my own furniture. When I am on the street, there is a certain burgherlike heaviness in my tread ; why should I skip along like a bladdery Bohemian ? I am a man of substance. I am liable, look you, for water rates, gas bills, and other important disbursements incident to the possession of two gowns and everything handsome about me.
Let me have some news of yourself, — “yourself” being a term which of course includes Mrs. Taylor and the poem.
I send you part of a Christmas poem 3 which I wrote specially for the purpose of giving an engraver a good chance for four fine woodcuts. Don’t you think a sheep painter could make four lovely pictures by carrying into detail the mere hints given in the poem ? . . .
Accept my loving wish for the New Year, —that it maybe full of new creations from your hand ; for this, to the artist, is supreme happiness.

January 20, 1878.
MY DEAR LANIER, — I was wondering what had become of you, when your letter arrived. It was pleasant to find you so active and well contented in your new home, and I relished your delight in it, having had exactly the same sensation here, three years ago, after living so long in trunks and satchels.
The Baltimore papers have no literary criticism. — not a particle. Can’t you persuade the best of them to try the experiment with you ? There ’s such a stay in having regular work of some kind. I think your New Year poem charmingly quaint and fanciful ; and so do several persons to whom I have shown it. I wanted to get it into the Weekly Tribune, and the editor only declined because New Year was ten days past, and there was a stock of poetry impatiently waiting. . . .

BALTIMORE, MR, February 3, 1878.
MY DEAR FRIEND, — I was sorry to miss you and Mrs. Taylor when I called on Monday. My cold had taken such possession of me on Sunday evening that I found it prudent to keep my room. I delivered your books to the servant. I read through the three volumes on Sunday ; and upon a sober comparison I think Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass worth at least a million of Among My Books and Atalanta in Calydon. In the two latter I could not find anything which has not been much better said before ; but Leaves of Grass was a real refreshment to me, —like rude salt spray in your face, — in spite of its enormous fundamental error that a thing is good because it is natural, and in spite of the world-wide difference between my own conceptions of art and its author’s.
I did not find a fitting moment to mention to you a matter in which I am much interested. I have an unconquerable longing to stop all work for a few months except the study of botany, French and German, and the completion of a long poem which I have been meditating. In order to do this, I hoped it might be possible to utilize a tract of timberland, containing about a thousand acres, which I own in Georgia. I have somewhere heard that there was an association or institution of some sort in New York for helping literary people ; and it occurred to me that such a corporation might take my lands in pledge for a loan of live or six hundred dollars. I should want it for twelve months. The lands lie immediately on a railroad which runs to Savannah, and whose main business is the transportation of lumber and timber to that port. They are in a portion of the state which is now attracting much attention from the North Carolina turpentine distillers and lumbermen, and which has recently developed great capacities for sheep-raising. They are also valuable for agricultural purposes, after all the timber is cut off.
Tell me if any such institution exists. I asked Mr. Bryant about it while in New York : he did not know of it at all. He added that if he were now as prosperous as he was five or six years ago, be would have offered to advance the money himself on the lands, — which was a very kind thought.
Don’t give yourself the least concern about this. Of course it is n’t at all probable that any such association exists, if Mr. Bryant does not know of it; and I don’t suppose I would mention it to you at all except for the anxiety with which I long to draw my breath after a hard light, and to get the ends of my thoughts together, as Carlyle says.
I hope Mrs. Taylor is quite recovered from her cold. As for you, you range over such an enormous compass both of literary and terrestrial ground that I would not be at all surprised to hear at any moment that you were off for

The long wash of Australian seas,

in order to deliver a lecture at Sydney upon Limoges Enamel, thence to Cape Town for the purpose of reading a dissertation on the Elohistic Division of the Book of Genesis, thence home by way of Reikiavik (I deny any obligation to spell this dreadful word correctly), where you were to recite an original poem (in Icelandic) on the Relation of Balder to Pegasus.
Your friend, SIDNEY L.

The succeeding letter is a congratulatory one from the same hand : —

February 11, 1875.
MY DEAR FRIEND. —It is long since I have had a keener pleasure than the announcement of your nomination 4 brings me. I have just read it; and without having time for more than a word I devote that to the practical question,— can I be of any service in the matter of the confirmation by the Senate ? Will there be any opposition at all there ? The Senator from Alabama is a dear friend of mine, and I can ask anything of him ; besides, the Senators from Georgia and one from Mississippi — Mr. Lamar — are all gentlemen with whom my relations are very friendly. If there is the least likelihood of necessity for arraying your friends, please let me know, so that I may have the pleasure of telling these Senators what I know about you.
God speed your final appointment. Is n’t it simply too delightful ? I could kiss Mr. Hayes, in behalf of the Fitness of Things, —which was never more graciously worshiped than by this same nomination.
My wife joins me in hearty congratulations to you both.
Your friend, SIDNEY L.

February 10, 1878.
MY DEAR LANIER, — There ’s a rewarding as well as an avenging fate! What a payment for all my years of patient and unrecognized labor ! But you know just what the appointment is to me. It came as a surprise, after all; and a greater amazement is the wonderful and generous response to it from press and people. I feel as if buried under a huge warm wave of congratulation.
I heard indirectly, yesterday, that the Southern Senators are delighted, and will not fail to vote for confirmation. Still, if you could say a word to Lamar, it might be a further assurance ; as a Southern man, your indorsement would certainly strengthen me. But pray don’t go to any special trouble, for Bryant and Reid think the confirmation certain. I can only write a word to-day, for there is no end to the kindly telegrams and letters, and I wish to answer them all. . . .

March 4, 1878.
MY DEAR FRIEND, — The inclosed letter from Mr. Lamar came this morning. Its expressions are so cordial towards you that I thought you might care to see it.
With new delight each day I regard the prospect before you. I shall begin to love Mr. Hayes ! A man who appoints you Minister to Germany and who vetoes the Silver Bill ... is a man who goes near to redeem the time.
But I cannot now do more than send you a violet. I hn making some desperate efforts to get steady work, of any kind : for I find I cannot at all maintain our supplies of daily bread by poetry alone. So far I have failed in getting any constant work, but I keep trying for it, and I do not doubt it will come.
My wife sends hearty messages to you and Mrs. Taylor. As for me, you know how I am always your grateful and affectionate >S. L.

March 25, 1878.
MY DEAR MR. TAYLOR, — Some time when you 're riding in a street car, and haven’t anything important to think about, — or rather, don’t want to think of anything important, — won’t you be kind enough to read this sonnet
1 (if you can) and find out if it is quite too absurd ? Of course it is merely meant to please a friend here, — a woman who plays Beethoven with the large conception of a man, and yet nurses her child all day with a noble simplicity of devotion such as I have rarely seen ; being withal, in point of pure technique, the greatest piano-player I ever heard.
I have been studying German in the wee minutes allowed by other occupations, without a teacher, and don’t want you to think I would with malice prepense try to write a poem in that tongue.
I mark a thousand pleasant things about you in the newspapers, and rejoice heartily in them all. God speed you in your whole work.
Your friend, S. L.

There is here a gap of over six months in the correspondence, Mr. Taylor having left the United States to enter upon his duties as Minister to Germany. The last letter of the series is from Mr. Lanier : —

180 ST. PAUL ST., BALTIMORE, MD., October 20, 1878.
MY DEAREST MINISTER, — always a minister of grace to me, — I have long forborne to write you, because I knew your whole mind would be occupied with a thousand new cares, and I could not bear to add the burden of a letter thereto. But you must be getting easy in the new saddle by this ; and somehow I feel that I can’t wait longer before sending you a little love letter that shall at least carry my longing over the big seas to you. Not long ago I was in New York for some days ; but you were in Germany, and the city seemed depopulated. There were multitudes of what Walt Whitman calls Little plentifill manikins skipping about in collars and tailed coats; but my Man, my haeleᶞa leofost (as it is in Bedwulf), was wanting, and I wandered disconsolately towards 142 E. 18th St., — where I used so often and so ruthlessly to break in upon your labors, — as if I could wish you back into your chair, rolling out the prophecy of Deucalion. Even the Westminster Hotel had new proprietors, and I felt a sense of intentional irony in its having changed from the European to the American plan, — as if for pure spite because you had left America and gone to Europe. My dear, when are you coming back ?
A short time ago, I found in a secondhand bookstall a copy of Sir Henry Wotton’s works and letters printed in 1685, and bought it — with about all the money I had ; for a joke of old Sir Henry’s on a minister carried my mind to you. Having been asked (he narrates the story himself, being then on a ministerial journey through Germany) to write in an album, he chose to define a Minister, and said, a Minister is a man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.
I have seen your Deucalion announced, but nothing more. Indeed, I have been so buried in study for the past six months that I know not news nor gossip of any kind. Such days and nights of glory as I have had ! I have been studying Early English, Middle English, and Elizabethan poetry, from Beówulf to Ben Jonson ; and the world seems twice as large. I inclose a programme of lectures I am going to give before a class of subscribers at the Peabody Institute this winter, from which you will see the drift of my work.
You will also care to know that Scribner’s has accepted three papers of mine on The Physics of Poetry, in which I have succeeded in developing a complete system of prosody for all languages from the physical constitution of sound. It has given me indescribable pleasure to be able, through the principles therein announced, to put formal poetry on a scientific basis which renders all its processes perfectly secure.
If you should see an Appletons’ Journal for the current month, — November, — you may be interested in an experiment of mine therein with logacedic dactyls, called The Revenge of Hamish. Another freer treatment of the same rhythm by me will appear in a book to be issued by Roberts Brothers in the No Name Series (called the Masque of Poets), under the heading The Marshes of Glynn, — though all this last is as yet a secret, and not to be spoken of till the book shall have been out and been cast to the critics for a while. I hope to find a publisher for my book on English prosody5 next spring; also for my historical and critical account, in two volumes, of The English Sonnet - Makers from Surrey to Shakspere; and I am in treaty with Scribner’s Sons for a Boy’s Froissart which I have proposed to them, and which they like the idea of, so far. By next autumn I trust I will have a volume of poetry (The Songs of Aldhelm) in print, which is now in a pigeon-hole of my desk half jotted down. During the coming week I go to Washington and Philadelphia, to arrange, if possible, for delivering my course of lectures before classes in those cities.
There ! I have reported progress up to date. Who better than you — who looked so kindly upon my poor little beginning— has the right to know how far I ’ve gone ? . . .
God bless you and keep you ever in such fair ways as follow the fair wishes of
Your faithful SIDNEY L.
Mr. Taylor died at Berlin a few weeks after this letter reached him.

Henry Wysham Lanier.

  1. Acknowledgment.
  2. Under the Cedarcroft Chestnut.
  3. A Fairy Talc for Grown People.
  4. The Hard Times in Elf-Land.
  5. As Minister to Germany.
  6. To Nannette Falk-Auerbach.
  7. The Science of English Verse.