Taverner, William (DNB00)

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TAVERNER, WILLIAM (d. 1731), dramatist, was son of Jeremiah Taverner, portrait-painter, who practised early in the eighteenth century. A portrait of Jeremiah Taverner was reproduced in mezzotint by J. Smith (Redgrave, Dictionary of Artists). William Taverner, the son, was bred to the civil law, which he practised at Doctors' Commons. He became a procurator-general of the court of arches of Canterbury, but he is best known by the plays which he produced. The first of these was ‘The Faithful Bride of Granada,’ acted at Drury Lane in 1704, and published in the same year. It was followed by ‘The Maid the Mistress,’ brought out at Drury Lane on 5 June 1708 (Genest, Account of the English Stage, ii. 403), and ‘The Female Advocates, or the Frantic Stock-jobber,’ acted only once, at Drury Lane, on 6 Jan. 1712–13. This latter comedy was in part copied from ‘The Lunatic,’ an anonymous piece of 1705, which was not acted (ib. ii. 334, 507).

Taverner's best play, ‘The Artful Husband,’ was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 11 Feb. 1716–17, when it ran for fifteen nights. The applause he obtained is said to have made Taverner very vain. The play was acted again in May 1721, and was afterwards adapted by the elder George Colman (1732–1794) [q. v.] (‘The Female Chevalier,’ 1778) and William Macready, the father of William Charles Macready [q. v.] (‘The Bank Note,’ 1795). Taverner himself borrowed from Shirley's ‘Lady of Pleasure’ and from ‘The Counterfeit Bridegroom’ (1677), an adaptation of Middleton's ‘No Wit, No Help, like a Woman's’ (ib. ii. 609). It was reported, too, that he was assisted by Dr. Joseph Browne (fl. 1706) [q. v.] In its printed form the play ran through three editions; in the preface Taverner complains of the injustice of the patentee of the theatre (John Rich [q. v.]) towards authors. Notwithstanding this complaint, on 3 Dec. 1717 appeared at Lincoln's Inn Fields a companion comedy, ‘The Artful Wife,’ printed with the date 1718 on the title-page (ib. ii. 625), and on 28 Feb. 1719 a piece called ‘'Tis well if it takes,’ which ran for five nights (ib. ii. 652). Other pieces attributed to Taverner are ‘Presumptuous Love,’ printed, without date, in 1716 (Brit. Mus. Cat.), and ‘Everybody Mistaken,’ brought out at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 10 March 1716, and acted thrice (Genest, ii. 585). This play includes a masque on the story of Ixion, which is sometimes spoken of as a separate work.

Taverner died on 8 Jan. 1730–1 at his house in Doctors' Commons, and was described as ‘remarkably honest in his business’ (Gent. Mag. 1731, p. 33; Political State of Great Britain, 1731, p. 100). His widow, Alathea Taverner, took out letters of administration at the prerogative court of Canterbury on 6 Feb. 1731. Taverner's plays are for the most part comedies of intrigue, of little merit; he is entirely passed over by Lowndes and other bibliographers.

William Taverner (1703–1772), son of the above, with whom he is sometimes confused, was born in 1703, and was articled to his father on 5 April 1720. Like his father, he became a procurator-general of the arches court of Canterbury. He devoted his leisure to art, and Redgrave says: ‘His drawings are chiefly in body colour, imitating the Italian masters, mostly woody scenes, and, though clever, do not by any means maintain the great reputation which he enjoyed in his own day.’ He died on 20 Oct. 1772; and a writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (p. 496) called him ‘one of the best landscape-painters England ever produced,’ and said that, as he painted only for amusement, his paintings were very rare, and would fetch a high price. Taverner gave instructions for a will shortly before his death, and on personal evidence the will was proved in November 1772 (P.C.C. 425, Taverner). No relatives are mentioned, but 2,900l. was left in trust for his servant, Sarah Davis. Taverner's pictures and books were to be sold.

[Works cited; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica; Whincop's Scanderbeg; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. iv. 689; Jacob's Lives of the Poets, i. 256; information kindly furnished by G. H. Rodman, esq.]

G. A. A.