1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Taylor Esq.

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 102 (July 1832) 89-90.



May ... in his 76th year, at his house in Great Russell-street, Bloomsbury, John Taylor, Esq. a gentleman upwards of fifty years concerned with the periodical press, and particularly well known for his numerous contributions to the theatres, in the form of poetical sketches, prologues, epilogues, and addresses.

Mr. Taylor was the grandson of the famous Chevalier John Taylor, oculist to the principal sovereigns of Europe, and son to John Taylor, the Chevalier's son and successor, who was for many years oculist to his Majesty George III. and in that capacity resided in Hatton Garden, where the subject of this memoir was born, and, along with his brother Jeremiah, held the office of joint oculist to his Majesty, until the death of Jeremiah, which is lamented in an elegiac tribute in Vol. II. of our author's poems, published in 1827.

Between the celebrated Chevalier and his son John there was much animosity, as appears by a life of the former, published by this son in 2 vols. 12mo. 1761, full of scurrilous anecdote, and now, we believe, very scarce. To either of these publications, the oldest friends of the late Mr. Taylor were never known to hear him allude in the most distant manner, and they may well be now allowed to depart into obscurity.

The late Mr. Taylor's attachment to the stage began early in life. He had personal knowledge of Garrick and some of his contemporaries. In 1795 he published a pleasing poem, entitled The Stage, in which is a fair and candid statement of the performers of the time. In the preface to this he informs us that "all the performers whose names are mentioned, except Quin, Mrs. Pritchard, and Mrs. Cibber, who died in the infancy of the author, he saw, and though he was young at the time, yet a constant opportunity of attending the theatres, enabled him to form such an estimate of their several merits as his memory faithfully retains." This was reprinted in 1827.

In 1811 he published Poems on several occasions, consisting of Sonnets, Miscellaneous Poems, Prologues and Epilogues, Tales and Imitations,'' &c. 12mo. all of which were reprinted in 1827, except the Caledonian Sonnet, which first appeared in 1810, and was written in ridicule of the "old ballad style of poetry" adopted by Sir Walter Scott, which, however, be never reprinted, and in his late collection he appears among that gentleman's admirers.

This last collection appeared in 1827, entitled Poems on various subjects," 2 vols. 8vo. published by subscription. The list of subscribers, with which the first volume commences, is extremely copious, containing the names of most of the eminent characters, political, dramatic, artists, &c. who are either mentioned in his poems, or were esteemed throughout life by Mr. Taylor. They all felt warmly for an old and faithful servant of the public, now brought into difficulties by the ill conduct of those who had imposed on his good nature.

He attached himself very early in life to the periodical press, and about sixty years ago was connected with the Morning Herald, when tinder the management of the Rev. Bate Dudley. Some years afterwards he became editor of the Sun, a daily evening paper, but was deprived of his property in that paper by the misconduct of a deceased partner. Of this and many other vicissitudes of his life, frequent notice is taken in the collection of his poems, which must excite the kindliest feelings in the memory of his surviving friends.

Besides his poem, entitled The Stage, these volumes contain above seventy prologues, epilogues, and other theatrical addresses, in the composition of which he had a singular felicity. These are followed by numerous sonnets, odes, episodes, miscellaneous effusions, imitations, and tales, among which latter are the well-known tales of Monsieur Tonson; Frank Hayman; Parsons the actor; and Lion; Othello, &c. Elegies and Epitaphs, Odes of Anacreon, &c. The great characteristics of his poems are ease, facetiousness, and good-humour, qualities very desirable in poetical compositions of this class, and which were well known to distinguish the author in private life. Many of his sonnets have much simplicity and tenderness, particularly where he adverts to the death of his first wife, whom he lost early in life, and whom he never forgot, although afterwards his happiness was increased by his union with the very amiable lady who survived him, and whom he acknowledges a tender and affectionate companion and nurse to him in all his afflictions. These bore hard upon him in the last two or three years of his life, when he began to feel the infirmities of age, and particularly loss of memory. He had begun to collect memoirs of his early life, but had made very small progress in the work, in the year preceding his death. It was very absurdly said, in a paltry account of him published it, 1816, that be was the author of the biographical memoirs which accompany Cadell and Davies's British Gallery of Portraits, not a line of which came from his pen.