Bayard, Elise Justine

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BAYARD, Elise Justine

Born circa 1815, Fishkill, New York; died circa 1850

Wrote under: E. B.C., E. J. B.

Daughter of Robert Bayard; married Fulton Cutting

Evidently of French extraction, Elise Justine Bayard attained a brief local reputation through poems published in the New York Knickerbocker magazine. Little seemed to be known of her life, but she appeared a promising new writer to Sarah Josepha Hale, who included her in a section of comments on young authors in Woman's Record (1853). Hale admired Bayard's poems and implied that although there was no collection of Bayard's works, her writing warranted one.

Bayard's poetry seems unremarkable today. She generally treats common subjects—mothers, children, lovers, time, history, death—but her techniques produce either standard, formal, even mechanical verse (as in "Funeral Chant for the Old Year," reprinted in the Duyckincks' Cyclopedia of American Literature), or startlingly raw efforts in simple rhymed couplets distributed in irregular stanzas (as in "Henri de la Roche Jacqueline," one of her earliest poems, which appeared in the Knickerbocker in September 1834).

The quantity of Bayard's work is difficult to assess; much of it is apparently unsigned or merely initialed. She seems to have married early, for many poems almost definitely attributable to her are signed "E. B. C." one of which is "Henri," but because of its reference to the chevalier Bayard in stanza 1, we can guess its author with some safety. Other poems similar in subject—the romantic heroes and heroines of the past—are probably hers, as well, such as "Maria da Gloria" (Knickerbocker, September 1835) and "Napoleon" (Knickerbocker, Oct. 1837). Bayard also continued to use her maiden initials, however; for example, "Error," a late poem published in the weekly Literary World (16 October 1847), is signed "E. J. Bayard."

The nature of the periodicals in which her only known works appear suggests why such a relatively minor figure should receive attention. A short and vague biography is included in the Duyckincks' Cyclopedia probably because the Duyckinck brothers also edited Literary World (1847-53). The Knickerbocker (1833-65), a more significant magazine, similarly dedicated to literature and to the fine arts, must also have valued Bayard's works, for it was one of the few magazines of the day to compensate writers. It published substantial critical essays as well as contemporary verse; for example, Thomas Cole was among its contributors of both poems and prose. And since the artistic circles of New York before the Civil War included few women (among them Susan Fenimore Cooper and Mary E. Field), Bayard's presence seems worth noting.

Other Works:

Miscellaneous poems attributable to Elise Justine Bayard may be found in the Knickerbocker (1834-1850) and Literary World (1847-1855).


Reference Works:

Cyclopedia of American Literature, E. A. and G. L. Duyckinck (1875). Woman's Record, S. J. Hale (1853).