1680 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Taylor the Water Poet

John Aubrey, in Brief Lives, 1669-1696; ed. Clark (1898) 2:252-54.



John Tayler, the water-poet: — his Workes are a fair folio, printed, London, 1630.

< He > was born in the citie of Glocester: — ... Tayler, a painter, was his brother, who told me thus 23 yeares since (he lives yet at Oxon): and his picture hung in the Schooles gallery.

He came to London and bound himselfe to a water-man, in which capacity he wrote his poems. I have heard Josias Howe, M.A., say that he will choose out 6 verses (quaere) there as good as you will find in any other.

He was very facetious and diverting company; and for stories and lively telling them, few could out-doe him.

Anno 1643, at the Act time, I sawe him at Oxon. I guesse he was then neer 50. I remember he was of middle stature, had a good quick looke, a black velvet, a plush-gippe and silver shoulder-belt; was much made of by the scholars, and was often with Josias Howe at Trinity College.

He had heretofore in the long peace severall figgaries, e.g. he came from London to Salisbury in his skuller. He went so to Calais. He went to Scotland (I think round Great Britaine) "littus legens" in his skuller.

Ever since the begining of the civill warres he lived in Turne-stile-alley in Long Acre, about the middle on the east side over against the Goate (now), where he sold ale. His conversation was incomparable for three or four morning's draughts. But afterwards you were entertained with "crambe bis cocta." His signe was his owne head, and very like him, which about 22 yeares since was removed to the alehowse, the corner howse opposite to Clarendon howse. Under his picture are these verses; on one side:—

There's many a head stands for a signe.
Then, gentle reader, why not mine?

On the other:—

Though I deserve not, I desire
The laurell wreath, the poet's hire.

The picture is now almost worne out.

Obiit ... (about 25 years since): sepult. in the churchyard of St. Martin's-in-the-fields.

John Taylor, water poet, quare his obiit. Quaere his brother the paynter at Oxon. A[thony] W[ood] respondet that he has notes from the paynter who is dead.