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Preface

By N. P. Willis


The book which follows, requires little or no introduction. It tells its own story, and tells it well. The interest in it, which induces the writer of this preface to be its usher to the public, is simply that of his having chanced to be among the first appreciators of the author's talent--an appreciation that has since been so more than justified, that the writer is proud to call the author of this book his friend, and bespeak attention to the peculiar energies he has displayed in travel and authorship. Mr. Taylor's poetical productions while he was still a printer's apprentice, made a strong impression on the writer's mind, and he gave them their due of praise accordingly in the newspaper of which he was then Editor. Some correspondence ensued, and other fine pieces of writing strengthened the admiration thus awakened, and when the young poet-mechanic came to the city, and modestly announced the bold determination of visiting foreign lands--with means, if they could be got, but with reliance on manual labor if they could not--the writer, understanding the man, and seeing how capable he was of carrying out his manly and enthusiastic scheme, and that it would work uncorruptingly for the improvement of his mind and character, counselled him to go. He went--his book tells how successfully for all his purposes. He has returned, after two years' absence, with large knowledge of the world, of men and of manners, with a pure, invigorated and healthy mind, having passed all this time abroad, and seen and accomplished more than most travelers, at the cost of only $500, and this sum earned on the road. This, in the writer's opinion, is a fine instance of character and energy. The book, which records the difficulties and struggles of a printer's apprentice achieving this, must be interesting to Americans. The pride of the country is in its self-made men.

What Mr. Taylor is, or what he is yet to become, cannot well be touched upon here, but that it will yet be written, and on a bright page, is, of course, his own confident hope and the writer's confident expectation. The book, which is the record of his progress thus far, is now cordially commended to the public, and it will be read, perhaps, more understandingly after a perusal of the following outline sketch of the difficulties the author had to contend with--a letter written in reply to a note from the writer asking for some of the particulars of his start and progress:


To Mr. Willis:--

MY DEAR SIR,

Nearly three years ago (in the beginning of 1844) the time for accomplishing my long cherished desire of visiting Europe, seemed to arrive. A cousin, who had long intended going abroad, was to leave in a few months, and although I was then surrounded by the most unfavorable circumstances, I determined to accompany him, at whatever hazard. I had still two years of my apprenticeship to serve out; I was entirely without means, and my project was strongly opposed by my friends, as something too visionary to be practicable. A short time before, Mr. Griswold advised me to publish a small volume of youthful effusions, a few of which had appeared in Graham's Magazine, which he then edited; the idea struck me, that by so doing, I might, if they should be favorably noticed, obtain a newspaper correspondence which would enable me to make the start.

The volume was published; a sufficient number was sold among my friends to defray all expenses, and it was charitably noticed by the Philadelphia press. Some literary friends, to whom I confided my design, promised to aid me with their influence. Trusting to this, I made arrangements for leaving the printing-office, which I succeeded in doing, by making a certain compensation for the remainder of my time. I was now fully confident of success, feeling satisfied, that a strong will would always make itself a way. After many applications to different editors and as many disappointments, I finally succeeded, about two weeks before our departure, in making a partial engagement. Mr. Chandler of the United States Gazette and Mr. Patterson of the Saturday Evening Post, paid me fifty dollars, each, in advance for twelve letters, to be sent from Europe, with the probability of accepting more, if these should be satisfactory. This, with a sum which I received from Mr. Graham for poems published in his Magazine, put me in possession of about a hundred and forty dollars, with which I determined to start, trusting to future remuneration for letters, or if that should fail, to my skill as a compositor, for I supposed I could at the worst, work my way through Europe, like the German hand werker. Thus, with another companion, we left home, an enthusiastic and hopeful trio.

I need not trace our wanderings at length. After eight months of suspense, during which time my small means were entirely exhausted, I received a letter from Mr. Patterson, continuing the engagement for the remainder of my stay, with a remittance of one hundred dollars from himself and Mr. Graham. Other remittances, received from time to time, enabled me to stay abroad two years, during which I traveled on foot upwards of three thousand miles in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. I was obliged, however, to use the strictest economy--to live on pilgrim fare, and do penance in rain and cold. My means several times entirely failed; but I was always relieved from serious difficulty through unlooked-for friends, or some unexpected turn of fortune. At Rome, owing to the expenses and embarrassments of traveling in Italy, I was obliged to give up my original design of proceeding on foot to Naples and across the peninsula to Otranto, sailing thence to Corfu and making a pedestrian journey through Albania and Greece. But the main object of my pilgrimage is accomplished; I visited the principal places of interest in Europe, enjoyed her grandest scenery and the marvels of ancient and modern art, became familiar with other languages, other customs and other institutions, and returned home, after two years' absence, willing now, with satisfied curiosity, to resume life in America.

Yours, most sincerely,
J. BAYARD TAYLOR.


Bayard Taylor