Ann Taylor Poems

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Ann Taylor
Ann Taylor (June 30, 1782 - December 20, 1866), later Mrs Joseph Gilbert, was, in her youth, a writer of verse for children that achieved enormous and long-lasting popularity; she was also in the years immediately preceding her marriage an astringent literary critic of growing reputation. She is, however, now best known as the elder sister and collaborator of Jane Taylor. The Taylor sisters were part of an extensive literary family. Ann was born in Islington and lived with her family at first in London and later in Lavenham in Suffolk, in Colchester and, briefly, in Ongar. The sisters' father, Isaac Taylor, was, like his father, an engraver of considerable distinction and later became an educational pioneer and Independent minister and wrote a number of very successful instructional books for the young. Their mother, Mrs. (Ann Martin) Taylor (1757-1830) wrote seven works of moral and religious advice - in many respects, strikingly liberal for their time - two of them fictionalized. Ann's and Jane's brothers, Isaac and Jefferys, also wrote, the former being one of the most learned men of his day, a theologian of international reputation, but also the inventor of a patent beer tap in use throughout Britain for many years. The Revd Isaac Taylor's elder brother Charles edited The Literary Panorama, for which he also wrote extensively on many topics from art to politics, and produced, anonymously, a massive annotated translation of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible, which remained a model for biblical scholarship for several decades; his younger brother Josiah was an influential and successful publisher, chiefly of works on archtecture and design. The sisters, and their authorship of various works, have often been confused and usually to Jane's advantage. This is in part because their early works for children were published together and without attribution, but also because Jane, by dying young at the height of her powers, unwittingly attracted early posthumous eulogies, including what is almost a hagiography by her brother Isaac, and much of Ann's work came to be ascribed to Jane, a borrowing which, Ann ruefully remarked, she could ill afford and which Jane certainly did not require. It is true that Jane achieved much more than Ann as a writer of poetry for an adult readership - though Ann's poem The Maniac's Song, published in the Associate Minstrels (1810), was probably the finest short poem by either sister, and it has even been postulated that it was an inspiration for Keats's La Belle Dame sans Merci (Lynette Felber: Ann Taylor's "The Maniac's Song": an unacknowledged source for Keats's "La Belle Dame sans Merci" (ANQ, Vol 17, Issue 1 (2004)). However, Ann also deserves to be remembered as a writer of prose, as evidenced particularly by her autobiography and by the many letters of hers that survive; her style is strong and vivid and, when she is not too preoccupied with moral and religious themes - like her sister Jane, she tended to undue pessimism about her own spiritual worth - it is often shot through with a pleasing, and sometimes acerbic, wit. The Autobiography also provides much detailed and fascinating information about the life of a moderately prosperous dissenting family in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Ann Taylor's son, Josiah Gilbert, wrote: 'two little poems–"My Mother," and "Twinkle, twinkle, little Star," are perhaps, more frequently quoted than any; the first, a lyric of life, was by Ann, the second, of nature, by Jane; and they illustrate this difference between the sisters.' Both poems attracted the compliment of frequent parody throughout the 19th century. The logician Augustus de Morgan asserted(somewhat extravagantly!) that My Mother was "one of the most beautiful lyrics in the English language, or any other language" and (and not knowing that Ann Gilbert was still alive) called upon Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, to supply a less heterodox version of the final stanza, which seemed to de Morgan unworthy of the rest (Athenaeum, 12 May 1866; see also AOMMG, vol 1, pp.228-231). See The Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert, Formerly Ann Taylor, by Ann Gilbert (1782-1866), edited by Josiah Gilbert. Henry S. King & Co. 65 Cornhill, London, 1874. Original Poems for Infant Minds by several young persons (i.e. Ann and Jane and others) was first issued in two volumes in 1804 and 1805. Rhymes for the Nursery followed in 1806, and Hymns for Infant Minds in 1808. In Original Poems for Infant Minds (1805) primarily written by Ann and Jane Taylor and Adelaide O'Keeffe, the authors were identified for each poem. In Rhymes for the Nursery (1806) poems were not identified by author. Attributions for the sisters' poems can be found in an exceptional Taylor resource: The Taylors of Ongar: An Analytical Bio-Bibliography by Christina Duff Stewart, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York & London, 1975. Stewart identifies authorship of Rhymes for the Nursery, based on a copy belonging to Canon Isaac Taylor, which was annotated to indicate the respective authorship of Ann and Jane. Canon Isaac was the nephew of Jane and Ann; a son of their brother, Isaac Taylor of Stanford Rivers. Stewart also confirms attributions of Original Poems based on publisher's records. On December 24, 1813, Ann married the Revd Joseph Gilbert, an Independent (later Congregational) minister and theologian, and left Ongar to make a new home far from her family, at Masborough near Rotherham. A widower of thirty-three, Gilbert had proposed to Ann before he had even met her, forming a sound estimation of her character and intelligence from her writings, particularly as a trenchant critic in the Eclectic Review. Gilbert was, at the time of their marriage, the Classical Tutor at Rotherham Independent College - these colleges were the nearest thing to a university open to dissenters at this time - and simultaneously Pastor of the Nether Chapel in Sheffield. In 1817, he moved to the pastorate of the Fish Street Chapel in Hull and then, in 1823, to Nottingham; here, after a brief co-pastorate with his former pupil Richard Cecil at the St James Street Chapel, the Friar Lane Chapel was built for him, and he remained its Pastor for the rest of his life, becoming a much respected citizen and Freeman of the City. Kept busy with the duties of wife and later mother, Ann Gilbert still managed to write poems, hymns, essays, and letters. Her interest in public matters, such as atheism, prison reform, and the anti-slavery movement, often spurred her to take up her pen, and the results of those scattered moments found a way into print. Oddly for one of such independence of mind and strongly held and usually liberal opinions, she was firmly opposed to the female suffrage. The Revd Joseph Gilbert died on December 12, 1852. Even in the midst of packing up, finding a new home (designed for her by her son, Charles, who was an architect) and moving, Ann found time to write a short memoir of her husband. Nor did she spend the rest of her long life in gentle retirement. As well as actively supporting the members of her large family, through visits and a constant stream of letters - family was always of central concern to the Taylors - she travelled widely in many parts of Britain, taking in her stride as an old lady travelling conditions that might have daunted one much younger. Ann Gilbert (nee Taylor) died on December 20, 1866 and was buried next to her husband in the General Cemetery at Nottingham, though the inscription recording this on that vast Gothic sarcophagus has sadly disappeared.

the baby's dance
DANCE little baby, dance up high,
Never mind baby, mother is by ;
Crow and caper, caper an... [read poem]
the star
TWINKLE, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,... [read poem]
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