Taylor, Emily, 1795—1872
by Benjamin Colbert
Emily Taylor was born on 8 April 1795 at Banham, Norfolk, the second daughter and youngest child of Samuel Taylor (c. 1747-1841), farmer, and Jane Taylor (1762-1795). Her mother died shortly after Emily Taylor’s birth, and two of her father's sisters from Ireland joined the household to look after the children.
Emily Taylor had the run of her father’s library and showed an early precociousness in reading and music, but her inner ear was damaged by scarlet fever contracted at the age of seven, and she remained partly deaf after she recovered. This disability, perhaps, brought her closer to her second cousin, Harriet Martineau (1802-1876; ODNB), who was also partly deaf and grew up nearby, although Emily Taylor’s junior by seven years.
In 1811, her father moved the family to nearby New Buckenham. Largely through her own efforts, but with help from her friend Sarah Glover, Emily Taylor established here the parish’s first Lancastrian school, specializing in teaching music; many of her pupils afterwards became music teachers, accordingly. Taylor retained an interest in children’s education throughout her life, not least in her prolific writings for children. Her earliest books, Letters to a Child, on the Subject of Maritime Discovery (1820) and Letters to a Very Little Girl (1821), charted this course, although she also published books for wider audiences, including The Vision of Las Casas, and Other Poems (1825), A Memoir of Sir Thomas More (1834), and Help to the Schoolmistress, or Village Teaching (1839). Irish Travels (1839), designed for children, bespeaks her wide ranging reading, in which travel writing played an important role. She wrote frequently for periodicals.
In her middle age, Taylor converted from the Unitarianism of her father to the Church of England, but while piety continued to characterise her writings, she did not involve herself in doctrinal disputes (Taylor). In 1842, she moved to London, where she continued to be an active administrator in schools, including Lady Noel Byron’s Schools, and, from 1858, the West Central Collegiate School in Southampton Row, where she was Secretary. Her later publications included Memories of Some Contemporary Poets: with Selections from Their Writings (1868).
She died on 11 March 1872 at London.
Gordon, Alexander, and Eric Metcalfe. 'Taylor, Edgar (1793–1839), lawyer and author'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 28 Sept. 2006. Oxford University Press. Web. 6 Dec. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27024
‘The Late Miss Emily Taylor’. The Spectator 45 (13 Apr. 1872): 465. Print.
‘Memoir of the Late Mr. Samuel Taylor, of New Buckenham, Norfolk’. British Farmer’s Mag., n.s. 5.17 (Apr. 1841): 116-44. Print.
Sketch of Emily Taylor, by a Friend. N.p: Printed for Private Circulation, . Print.
Taylor, Emily. Letter to Miss Simpson, n.d. [after 1841]. Add MS. 41567, ff. 57-59. British Lib., London.
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