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Taylor, Tom

TAYLOR, TOM (1817-1880), English dramatist and editor of Punch, was born at Bishop Wearmouth, near Sunderland, on the 19th of October 1817. After attending school there,- and studying for two sessions at Glasgow University, he in 1837 entered Trinity College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow. Subsequently he held for two years the professorship of English literature at University College, London. He was called to the bar (Middle Temple) in November 1846, and went on the northern circuit until, in 1850, he became assistant secretary of the Board of Health. On the reconstruction of the Board in 1854 he was made secretary, and on its abolition his services were transferred to a department of the Home Office, retiring on a pension in 1876. In his very early years Tom Taylor had shown a predilection for the drama, and had been in the habit of performing dramatic pieces with a number of children in a loft over a brewer's stable. Four burlesques of his were produced at the Lyceum in 1844. He made his first hit with To Parents and Guardians, brought out at the Lyceum in 1845. He also wrote some burlesques in conjunction with Albert Smith and Charles Kenny, and collaborated with Charles Reade in Masks and Faces (1852). Before the close of his life his dramatic pieces numbered over 100, amongst the best known of which are Our American Cousin (1858), produced by Laura Keene in New York, in which Sothern created the part of Lord Dundreary; Still Waters Run Deep (1855); Victims (1857); the Contested Election (1859); the Overland Route (1860); the Ticket of Leave Man (1863); Anne Boleyn (1875); and Joan of Arc (1871). He was perhaps the most popular dramatist of his time; but, if his chief concern was the construction of a popular acting play, the characters in his dramas are clearly and consistently drawn, and the dialogue is natural, nervous and pointed. In his blank verse historical dramas, Anne Boleyn andJoan of Arc, he was not so successful.

Taylor had begun his career as a journalist when he first came to London. He very soon became connected with the Morning Chronicle and the Daily News, for which he wrote leaders. He was on the staff of Punch until 1874, when he succeeded Shirley Brooks as editor. He occasionally appeared with success in amateur theatricals, more especially in the character of Adam in As You Like It and of Jasper in A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing. He had some talent for painting, and for many years was art critic to The Times and the Graphic. He died at Lavender Sweep, Wandsworth, on the 12th of July 1880.

Apart from the drama, Tom Taylor's chief contributions to literature are his biographies of painters, viz., Autobiography of B. R. Haydon (1853); Autobiography and Correspondence of C. R. Leslie, R.A. (1860); and Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1865), which had been left in a very incomplete state by Leslie. His Historical Dramas appeared in one volume in 1877. He also edited, with a memorial preface, Pen Sketches from a Vanished Hand, selected from Papers of the late Mortimer Collins.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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