1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Taylor the Water Poet

Robert Carruthers, in Chambers's Cyclopaedia of English Literature, 3rd ed. (1876; 1879) 2:68.



One of the most voluminous of city rhymsters and chroniclers was JOHN TAYLOR (circa 1580-1654), a London waterman, who styled himself "The King's Majesty's Water Poet." Taylor was a native of Gloucester, and having served an apprenticeship to a waterman in London, continued to play on the Thames, besides keeping a public-house. The most memorable incident in his career was travelling on foot from London to Edinburgh, "not carrying any money to or fro, neither begging, borrowing, or asking meat, drink, or lodging." He took with him, however, a servant on horseback, who carried some provisions and provender, and having met Ben Jonson at Leith, he received from Ben a present of "a piece of gold of two and twenty shillings to drink his health in England." Of this journey Taylor wrote an account, entitled The Penniless Pilgrimage, or the Moneyless Perambulation of John Taylor, alias the King's Majesty's Water Poet, &c. 1618. This tract is partly in prose and partly in verse.