1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Taylor the Water Poet

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 2:393.



This John Taylor was born in the City of Glocester, went to School there, and having got into his Accidence, was bound an Apprentice to a Waterman in London, which, tho' a laborious employment, yet such was his prodigious geny to Poetry, that he wrote above 80 Books, of which many were in that Faculty, that made great sport in their time, and were most of them esteemed worthy to be remitted into a large folio. Had he learning bestowed on him according to his natural parts, which were excellent, "he might have equaled, if not excelled, many who claim a great share in the Temple of the Muses." Upon the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1642, he left London, retired to Oxon, (where he was much esteemed by the Court and poor remnant of Scholars for his facetious Company) kept a common Victualling-house, and did great Service for the royal Cause, by writing Pasquils against the Roundheads. After the Garrison of Oxon was surrendered, he retired to Westminster, kept a public house in Phenix Alley near Long-Acre, and continued constant in his loyalty to the King. After whose murder, he set up a sign over his door of a Mourning-Crown; but that being esteem'd malignant, he pulled it down, and hung up his own Picture, under which were these Verses written,

There's many a head stands for a sign,
The, gentle Reader, why not mine?

On the other side,

Though I deserve not, I desire
The Laurel wreath, the Poet's hire.

He died in the Year 1654, aged 74 Years, and was buried in the Yard belonging to the Church of S. Paul in Covent-Garden, as I have been informed by his Nephew a Painter of Oxford, who gave his Picture to the School Gallery there, where it now hangs, shewing him to have been of a quick and smart countenance. But all this of Taylor do I speak by the by.