Taylor, Tom

Original price was: $150.00.Current price is: $110.00.

ALS by the “An American Cousin” playwright, viewed by President Lincoln when assassinated, likely written while editor of Punch magazine (1874-80)




Type: Letter
Description: (1817-1880) English dramatist, critic, biographer, public servant, editor of Punch magazine. He had a brief academic career as professor of English literature and language at University College, London in the 1840s, then practiced law and became a civil servant. At the same time he became a journalist, a contributor to, and later editor of, Punch. Taylor began a theatre career, best known as a playwright, with up to 100 plays staged during his career; most fell into neglect after his death, but Our American Cousin (1858) was a great success in the 19th century, famous as the piece performed at Ford’s Theater in Abraham Lincoln’s presence on April 15 1865, when he was assassinated.

Taylor graduated Trinity College, Cambridge with a degree in classics and mathematics, elected a fellow of the College in 1842, MA degree 1843. He moved to London in late 1844 and for 2 years from 1855, pursued 3 careers simultaneously: a professor at Cambridge, studying to become a barrister, and beginning work as a writer. to the bar of the Middle Temple November 1846, he resigned his university post, and practiced law until appointed Board of Health asst. secretary, retiring on a pension in 1876. 

Soon after moving to London, he worked at the Morning Chronicle and the Daily News, was art critic for The Times and The Graphic for many years, and wrote Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1865). With his first contribution to Punch in 1844, he began a 36-year association with the magazine, ending with his death. During the 1840s he wrote on average 3 columns/month; in the 1850s & 60s his output doubled. His articles were generally humorous commentary or comic verses on politics, civic news, and manners of the day. In 1874 he became editor. 

He also established himself as a playwright, producing about 100 plays, the Lyceum Theatre staging at least 7 of his plays 1844-46, his 1st major success, the 1846 farce To Parents and Guardians. It was as a dramatist that Taylor achieved fame; in 35 years he wrote 70+ plays for the major London theatres.  Many of his plays were extremely popular, such as Masks and Faces, an extravaganza written with Charles Reade, produced November 1852. He also wrote a series of historical dramas (many in blank verse), incl. The Fool’s Revenge (1869), ‘Twixt Axe and  Crown (1870), Jeanne d’Arc (1871), Lady Clancarty (1874) and Anne Boleyn (1875). In 1871 he supplied the words to Arthur Sullivan’s dramatic cantata, On Shore and Sea.

Many of Taylor’s plays were extremely popular, several survived into the 20th century, though most are largely forgotten today. Our American Cousin (1858) is known chiefly as the play President Lincoln was attending when he was assassinated, revived many times during the 19th century with great success. 

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet (1833-1898) British artist and designer associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, worked with William Morris on decorative arts, founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. He was involved in the rejuvenation of stained glass art in Britain; his works include windows in St. Philip’s Cathedral & St. Martin in the Bull Ring in Birmingham, Holy Trinity Church in Chelsea, St. Peter and St. Paul Parish Church in Cromer, St. Martin’s Church in Brampton, Cumbria, St. Michael’s Church in Brighton, Trinity Church in Frome, All Saints, Jesus Lane in Cambridge, and St. Edmund Hall and Christ Church at Oxford. His stained glass works are also in St. Anne’s Church, Brown Edge, Staffordshire, Moorlands and St. Edward the Confessor Church at Cheddleton, Staffordshire. His early paintings show the inspiration of Rossetti but by the 1860s he had his own artistic “voice”. He was active as an illustrator, helping the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic to enter mainstream awareness. He designed books for the Kelmscott Press 1892-98. In 1877, he showed 8 oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery (new rival to the Royal Academy) including The Beguiling of Merlin and was heralded as a star of the new Aesthetic Movement. Burne-Jones worked in crafts, incl. designing ceramic tiles, jewelry, tapestries, and mosaics.

5 ¼ x 3 ½ ALS, no place, no date (likely 1874-80), to Edward Burne-Jones, in full: “Thanks. I think the lines are very good and hope to find room for them in Punch then – i.e. next – week. Yours very truly [signed]”. An uncommon autograph!

Condition: Very good, ink spot at top right, right margin a tad rough


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