ANN (1782-1866), afterwards Mrs. Gilbert, and JANE TAYLOR 0783-1824), English writers for children, daughters of Isaac Taylor (1759-1829), were born in London on the 30th of January 1782 and the 23rd of September 1783 respectively. In 1786 the Taylors went to live at Lavenham in Suffolk, and ten years later removed to Colchester. Jane was a lively and entertaining child, and composed plays and poems at a very early age. Their father and mother held advanced views on education, and under their guidance the girls were instructed not only in their father's art of engraving, but in the principles of fortification. Their poems were written in short intervals in the round of each day's occupations. Ann introduced herself to the publishers Darton and Harvey by a rhymed answer to a puzzle in the Minor's Pocket Book for 1799, and Jane made her first appearance in print in the same periodical with "The Beggar Boy." The publishers then wrote to Isaac Taylor asking for more verses for children from his family, and the result was Original Poems for Infant Minds (2 vols., 1804-5), by "several young persons," of whom Ann and Jane were the largest contributors. The book had an immediate and lasting success. It went through numerous editions, and was translated into German, Dutch and Russian. Ann and Jane Taylor wrote directly for children, and viewed events and morals from the nursery standpoint. They had many imitators, but few serious rivals in their own kind, except perhaps Mrs Elizabeth Turner. They followed up this success with Rhymes for the Nursery (1806), Hymns for Infant Minds (1808, 2nd ed. 1810), a less-known collection, Signor Topsy. Turvy's Wonderful Magic Lantern; or, The World Turned Upside Down (1810), and Original Hymns for Sunday School (1812). In 1813 Ann married a Congregational minister, the Rev. Josiah Gilbert, and Jane went to live at Ilfracombe with her brother Isaac. In 1816 Jane returned to Ongar, where the family had been settled for some years, and died there on the 13th of April 182 4. Mrs Gilbert died at Nottingham on the 10th of December 1866. Both sisters wrote after their separation, but none of their later works had the same vogue. Jane showed more wit and vivacity than her sister, notably in the Contributions of Q. Q. (2 vols., 1824), and in Display, a Tale for Young People (1815); but, though she was generally supposed to be the chief writer of the two, some of the most famous pieces in their joint works, such as "I thank the goodness and the grace," "Meddlesome Matty," "The Notorious Glutton," &c., are by Ann.
The best edition of the Poetical Works of the sisters is that of 1877. There is an excellent edition (1903) of the Original Poems and Others, by Ann and Jane Taylor and Adelaide O'Keeffe, edited by E. V. Lucas, with illustrations by F. D. Bedford.
Abundant information about Ann and Jane Taylor is to be found in: Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert (2 vols., 1874), edited by her son Josiah Gilbert; Isaac Taylor, Memoirs ... of Jane Taylor (2 vols., 1825), and the collection by the same editor entitled The Family Pen: Memorials ... of the Taylor Family of Ongar, vol. ii. (1867).
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