Jane Taylor (23 September 1783 – 13 April 1824 / Colchester, England)
Biography of Jane Taylor
Jane Taylor, was an English poet and novelist. She wrote the words for the song Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in 1806 at age 23, while living in Shilling Street, Lavenham, Suffolk.
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."
Born in London, Jane Taylor and her family lived at Shilling Grange in Shilling Street Lavenham Suffolk where she wrote Twinkle Twinkle little star ,her house can still be seen, then later lived in Colchester, Essex, and Ongar. 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, Mrs. (Anne Martin) Taylor (1757–1830) wrote seven works of moral and religious advice, two of them fictionalized.
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. In Rhymes for the Nursery (1806) poems were not identified by author. The most famous work out of these was "The Star" more commonly known today as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" which was put to the tune of a French tune.
Christina Duff 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 Taylor. 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) is reminiscent of Maria Edgeworth, or perhaps even Jane Austen. 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. 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". She was buried at 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).
Legacy in Popular Culture
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." Alternate versions, pastiches, and parodies have abounded for centuries.
A character named Jane Taylor, who died in space at a young age, appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. It is speculated that the character was named for Taylor.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was parodied in a poem recited by the Dormouse in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Jane Taylor's Works:
Original Poems for Infant Minds by several young persons (1805)
Correspondence between a mother and her daughter at school (1817)
Her Essays in Rhyme (1816)
The Writings of Jane Taylor, In Five Volumes (1832)
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Down in a green and shady bed,
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head
As if to hide from view.
And yet it was a lovely flower,
Its colour bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.