Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, John (1757-1832)

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TAYLOR, JOHN (1757–1832), miscellaneous writer, eldest son of John Taylor (1724–1787), the younger, oculist, by his wife Ann Price, was born at Highgate on 9 Aug. 1757. John Taylor (1703–1772) [q. v.], the itinerant oculist, was his grandfather. He acquired a slender education under Dr. Crawford in Hatton Garden and at a school at Ponder's End, Middlesex. He at first followed the family profession, and was appointed jointly with his brother, Jeremiah Taylor, M.R.C.S., oculist to George III. But an absorbing devotion to the stage, added to great facility for verse-making, gradually attracted him to journalism. He was for some years dramatic critic to the ‘Morning Post,’ and about 1787 he succeeded William Jackson (1737–1795) [q. v.] as its editor. Subsequently he purchased the ‘True Briton,’ and lastly became in 1813 proprietor of the ‘Sun,’ a violent tory paper. The editor, William Jerdan [q. v.], owned a share in the ‘Sun,’ but a quarrel led to two or three years' litigation, and Jerdan was bought out by Taylor in 1817. In 1825 Taylor sold the paper to Murdo Young, who changed its politics.

At the Turk's Head coffee-house and the ‘Keep the Line’ club Taylor consorted with all the convivial spirits of the day. He wrote innumerable addresses, prologues, and epilogues for the stage, and was familiar, according to Jerdan, with ‘all the quidnuncs, playgoers, performers, artists, and literati in the moving ranks of everyday society.’ According to his own account he made suggestions to Boswell, who met him on the eve of publication of his ‘Life of Johnson.’ Wordsworth sent him his poems. In his later years he wrote from memory ‘Records of my Life’ (2 vols., London, 1832, 8vo), full of redundant gossip and stories mostly discreditable to the persons named. Portions are reprinted in ‘Personal Reminiscences’ (the Bric-a-Brac series, vol. viii. New York, 1875, 8vo). He died in Great Russell Street in May 1832. He was twice married.

A portrait, published by Bull in 1832, is in the ‘Records;’ another, engraved by Daniell from a painting by Dance, is mentioned by Evans (Cat. of Engraved Portraits, ii. 383). A third was painted by A. J. Oliver (Cat. Third Loan Exhib. No. 368).

Taylor is best known by his ‘Monsieur Tonson,’ a dramatic poem suggested by a prank of Thomas King (1730–1805) [q. v.] the actor. An elaborated dramatic version by William Thomas Moncrieff (1794–1857) [q. v.] was read or rehearsed on 8 Sept. 1821, but never played, at Drury Lane (Genest, Hist. of the Stage, ix. 96). The poem, however, recited by John Fawcett at the Freemasons' Tavern, drew crowds—a striking tribute to the actor's powers of elocution. It was illustrated by Richard Cruikshank, London, 1830, 12mo; and was republished in vol. ii. of ‘Facetiæ, or Jeux d'Esprit,’ illustrated by Cruikshank, 1830 (an earlier edition, Glasgow [1800], 12mo).

Other works by Taylor are:

  1. ‘Statement of Transactions respecting the King's Theatre at the Haymarket,’ 1791, 8vo.
  2. ‘Verses on Various Occasions,’ London, 1795, 8vo, including ‘The Stage,’ addressed to living actors, here reprinted.
  3. ‘The Caledonian Comet,’ London, 1810, 8vo, with allusions to contemporary poets; reprinted in
  4. ‘Poems on Several Occasions,’ 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1811, 12mo.
  5. ‘Poems on Various Subjects,’ 2 vols., London, 1827, 8vo, chiefly addressed to his friends and acquaintance.

[Taylor's Records of my Life, 1832; Gent. Mag. 1832, ii. 89, 90, 542–6; Fox-Bourne's English Newspapers, i. 224, 368, ii. 26–7; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 96, xii. 328, 3rd ser. i. 63, 81; Jerdan's Autobiogr. ii. 52–160; Addit. MSS. 20082 ff. 131–51 (letters to Thomas Hill of the Monthly Mirror), 27899 f. 194 (an address for the opening of Drury Lane Theatre), 29233 f. 375.]

C. F. S.