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Taylor, Ann Martin (1757–1830)

Taylor, Ann Martin (1757–1830)

English writer. Name variations: Ann Martin. Born on June 20, 1757, in Kensington, England; died on June 4, 1830, in Ongar, England; married Reverend Isaac Taylor, in 1781; children: Ann Taylor (1782–1866); Jane Taylor (1783–1824); Isaac Taylor (b. 1787); Jefferys Taylor (b. 1792); Jemima Taylor (b. 1798); six who died young.

Ann Taylor, who is best known as the author of conduct books, was born in 1757 in Kensington to a middle-class family of converts to Methodism. Her intellectual gifts were encouraged by her schoolteachers and her parents, but her father's death in 1763 and her mother's two remarriages nearly ended her education. However, in 1781 she married Isaac Taylor, an engraver and book illustrator who was soon to become ordained as a Congregational minister, with whom she shared a love of learning. They had eleven children, of whom five survived to adulthood, all of them eventually to achieve fame as writers of religious and children's books. As their family grew, the Taylors were forced to move often—from London to Suffolk to Colchester—as the worsening economic situation in England decreased the amount of engraving work available. In 1811, they finally settled in Ongar where Isaac became pastor to the Methodist community there. Between them Ann and Isaac provided an excellent education to their large family, devising an original method of teaching which used materials they wrote themselves. When the children were away from home, Ann wrote to them often with advice on proper conduct and proper religious observance.

Although she believed that it was improper for women to be published authors, since a woman should devote herself to the care of her family, she allowed her two eldest daughters Ann and Jane Taylor to submit moral stories and poetry to a Quaker publisher. Their phenomenal literary success encouraged Ann to submit her letters of advice to the same publisher, hoping that her work could prove beneficial to other parents. In 1814, the letters were published to critical acclaim as Maternal Solicitude, with a preface by her daughter Ann. She also collaborated with Jane on Correspondence between a Mother and Her Daughter at School, a collection of fictional letters addressing moral conduct for young women. The popularity of this work led to Practical Hints to Young Females (1815) and The Present of a Mistress to a Young Servant, concerning the proper relationship between a middle-class woman and her servants and the management of an efficient household.

Despite her continuing poor health, in 1819 Ann published a fictional work, The Family Mansion. It was billed as "a tale" to distinguish it from a novel, since Ann believed novels to be frivolous and useless for the instruction of young people. Her second full-length work of fiction, like the first a bestseller, was Retrospection (1821).

Ann's last book was Itinerary of a Traveller in the Wilderness, a series of essays meditating on preparation for death and the afterlife. It appeared in 1825, after which she ceased to write because of her failing health. Isaac Taylor died in 1829; Ann survived him by less than a year, dying in 1830 at age 73. Many of her books remained in publication for more than 50 years after her death.

sources:

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Stewart, Christina D. The Taylors of Ongar: An Analytical Bio-bibliography. NY: Garland, 1975.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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