January 24th, 2009

Edmund and Bayard

One of the consequences of my academic interests over the years has been my carrying around some little interest in people who were once well known but are now largely forgotten. Two of those people are Bayard Taylor and Edmund Clarence Stedman. Taylor was mostly seen as a travel writer and poet. He died in 1878. I have several of his books and a couple of his autographed inscriptions.

Well, another of those people is Edmund Clarence Stedman. Stedman was quite prominent as poet and essayist and editor. He was one of the co-editors of the beautiful collected Poe edition published by Stone & Kimball in 1895. Died in 1908.

Anyway, this week I picked up a beautiful leather bound edition of Stedman's poetry, published in 1873. Heavy leather, beautifully gilt edges. And it has a lovely inscription to Bayard Taylor. This is what he wrote:

My Dear Bayard Taylor:
'Tis nine years this day since you gave me a copy, bound like this, of your collected poems. My volume is no just return for the 'advance', but I trust you will find that it includes items of simple interest, etc., -- and our, my constantly =growing=dearer old friend,
Ever your affectionate

I really like this affectionate inscription, which has an air of seriousness to it that one seldom finds in places like this. It seemed to me to leave open the question of the nature of their strong friendship.

Then this morning I did some hunting to refresh my mind about the two writers. I discovered, much surprised, that Taylor is often given credit for writing the first Gay novel in American history.

It made me think. I hope their friendship was as affectionate as Stedman indicates. The awkward hunting for the right word in the final phrase now seems very endearing to me, potentially.