Jane Taylor (poet)

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Jane Taylor
Born (1783-09-23)23 September 1783
London, England
Died 13 April 1824(1824-04-13) (aged 40)
Occupation Poet
Literary movement Romanticism

Jane Taylor (23 September 1783 – 13 April 1824) was an English poet and novelist. She wrote the words for the song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".

The poem is now known worldwide, but its authorship is generally forgotten. It was first published under the title "The Star" in Rhymes for the Nursery, a collection of poems by Taylor and her older sister Ann (later Mrs. Gilbert). The sisters, and their authorship of various works, have often been confused, in part because their early works were published together.

Ann Taylor's son, Josiah Gilbert, wrote in her biography, "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."[1]


Early life[edit]

Born in London, Jane Taylor lived with her family at Shilling Grange in Shilling Street, Lavenham, Suffolk,her house can still be seen. Later (1796–1810) she lived in Colchester – it is a majority belief between local historians, that the rhyme was written in Colchester[2] – although Ongar still makes a claim, both in Essex. The Taylor sisters were part of an extensive literary family. Their father, Isaac Taylor of Ongar, was an engraver and later a dissenting minister. Their mother, Ann Taylor (née Martin) (1757–1830), wrote seven works of moral and religious advice, two of them fictionalised.[3]

Literary career[edit]

The poem, Original Poems for Infant Minds by several young persons (i.e. Ann and Jane Taylor 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, but they were not for Rhymes for the Nursery (1806). The most famous piece in these was "The Star" more commonly known today as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", which was set to a French tune.

Christina Duff Stewart identifies authorship in Rhymes for the Nursery based on a copy belonging to Canon Isaac Taylor, who noted the pieces by Ann and Jane Taylor.[4] Canon Isaac was Taylor's nephew, a son of her brother Isaac Taylor of Stanford Rivers. Stewart also confirms attributions of Original Poems based on the publisher's records.

Taylor's novel Display (1814), reminiscent of Maria Edgeworth or perhaps even Jane Austen, went through at least nine editions up to 1820. Her Essays in Rhyme appeared in 1816, and contained some significant poetry. In the fictional Correspondence between a Mother and Her Daughter at School (1817) Taylor collaborated with her mother. The Family Mansion. A Tale appeared in 1819, and Practical Hints to Young Females previous to 1822.[5] Throughout her life, Taylor wrote many essays, plays, stories, poems, and letters which were never published.


Jane Taylor died of breast cancer at the age of 40, her mind still "teeming with unfulfilled projects".[citation needed]. She was buried in Ongar churchyard.

After her death, her brother Isaac collected many of her works and included a biography of her in The Writings of Jane Taylor, In Five Volumes (1832).

Popular culture references[edit]

  • Taylor's most famous work, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," is almost always uncredited; "its opening stanza persists as if it were folklore, the name of its creator almost entirely forgotten."[6] Alternate versions, pastiches, and parodies have abounded for centuries. See main article.
  • "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was parodied in a poem recited by the Hatter in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865).


  1. ^ "The Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert, Formerly Ann Taylor". Retrieved 17 April 2007. 
  2. ^ Dutch Quarter
  3. ^ ODNB entry for Taylor, Ann (1757–1830), by Robin Taylor Gilbert Retrieved 27 May 2013. Pay-walled.
  4. ^ Stewart, Christina Duff (1975). The Taylors of Ongar: An Analytical Bio-Bibliography. New York & London: Garland Publishing. 
  5. ^ Women Writers IV. R–Z. Catalogue of Jarndyce, Antiquarian Booksellers, London, Summer 2012.
  6. ^ Paula R. Feldman, ed: British women poets of the Romantic era: an anthology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 712. ISBN 080185430X


External links[edit]