AUTHOR OF ‘THE FIRST GAY NOVEL’ TO BE PUBLISHED IN AMERICA — BAYARD TAYLOR — PENS A FABULOUS EARLY ILLUSIONARY LETTER: “NOW, THAT YOU YOURSELF WEAR THE FETTERS MATRIMONIAL, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DREAM ME INTO THEM SO EASILY.”
TAYLOR, BAYARD. (1825-1878) American poet, literary critic, translator, and travel author; his most lasting literary contribution being his notable translation of Faust. Exceptional and early Autograph Letter Signed “J. Bayard Taylor”. [Taylor was christened ‘James Bayard Taylor’ at birth, thus the “J” in his signature]. Integral stamp-less cover with address leaf in Taylor’s hand and ‘Phoenixville, Pa’. postal cancellations. Two full pages, quarto. Phoenixville, June 16, 1847. To Taylor’s early friend and apprentice in the printing trade, Edward Paxson, (1824-1905), later Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Taylor, expounding upon his intimate dreams, begins:
“Dear Paxson: Your interesting and astonishing epistle was received a little while ago, and I hasten to answer by a return of mail. Your after dinner dream as recounted in the aforesaid letter was perused with the most intense interest, and I lose no time in relieving your suspense and anxiety by informing you, that, like all other visions, it is but a “baseless fabric,”- no such individual as you portrayed being known to me, and no likelihood of any ever standing in such relation to me. Now, that you yourself wear the fetters matrimonial, you are not going to dream me into them so easily. But I had a dream, which was notall a dream. After perusing your letter, I sat musing, with my head upon my hand, over many things to which your words naturally gave rise. And anon I sank into a pleasant slumber, in which, as it seemed to me, I was transported, in spirit and body, to Newtown, Bucks Co. Pa. and stood before the house of the editor of the Newtown Journal… But whether it was at present, or in the future, I know not, for in my dreams we take little note of time or space. Be that as it may, I entered the house, and was soon ushered into the presence of my former fellow apprentice. But here, alas! A sad spectacle presented itself. Seated at a table, one end of which was heaped upon with newspapers, manuscripts, while the other was occupied with pies, loaves of bread, and other bakeables in the dough, sat the gentlemen designated, with one hand rammed convulsively among his hair, in a desperate effort to finish the first paragraph of an article on Domestic Happiness. A pair of small, greasy hands was busy pulling at his white vest and pantaloons, and a second pair were engaged in dragging across the floor by its tail, a cat, which uttered the most piercing lamentations. I was so much struck with the sight that I stood still not knowing whether to laugh or to offer my commiseration – and to conflict between these two opinions awoke me, I reflected with joy on my own fortunate freedom, and concluded to take my dream as a warning. Now if this dream should be a dreadful reality, do not, I beg of you, repeat your vision concerning me, lest I should live in mortal fear of its fulfillment… I hope to see you before many months, and see what changes four years have made in your well remembered phiz. You would find it extremely plesant [sic], this season of the year, to visit our growing village, and this –fair and fertile section of the country. We will insure you a hearty welcome, whenever you chose to come. In the meantime, with my kind regards to Mrs. Paxson, I remain, Sincerely yours, J Baynard Taylor. Let me hear from you again soon.”
Taylor later published: Joseph and His Friend: a Story of Pennsylvania, what has been deemed “the first gay novel” to be published in America. This early letter, and its content, are worthy of further study. Just an exceptional item, and quite rare thus. Very fine condition.