ANN TAYLOR GILBERT (1782-1866)
Ann Taylor Gilbert, along with her sister Jane (1783-1824) and brother Isaac (1787-1865), were all successful engravers and writers. The daughter of Isaac Taylor (1759-1829), an engraver as well as Independent minister at Colchester and later at Ongar, Ann and her siblings were all trained as engravers by their father. They also all possessed strong literary interests and abilities. In 1798 Ann began to perform contract work for the London publisher, Darton & Harvey, contributing regularly to the Minor’s Pocket Book (using the noms de plume ‘Clara’ and ‘Maria’) and eventually becoming the editor. Ann and Jane were also employed in doing small prints for juvenile works printed in the Theological Magazine. The two sisters composed many hymns and several significant poems and prose works for children in the early decades of the nineteenth century (Jane was the author of ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’), including the poems for Original Poems for Infant Minds (2 vols, 1804, 1805). Ann married Joseph Gilbert, a Congregational minister, in December 1813, and moved to Masbrough, Yorkshire. Her autobiography records her life prior to and after her departure for Yorkshire. She struggled with being a writer and believed her sister to be the superior talent. In the 1830s, she wrote letters for the anti-slavery movement and in the 1840s wrote against the Corn Laws. In 1852 she composed a memoir for her husband. Among her other works are Rhymes for the Nursery (1806), Hymns for Infant Minds (1808), and Original Hymns for Sunday Schools (1812). She and Jane also contributed to Josiah Conder’s The Associate Minstrels (1810).
For more on Gilbert, see Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert (formerly Ann Taylor), ed. J. Gilbert, 3rd ed. (1878). For more on the Taylors, see Doris Mary Armitage, The Taylors of Ongar (Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1939), 47, 56, 204-05; and Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
"Among the deepest shades of night" (1812). Omniscience.
"As Mary sat at Jesus' feet" (1809). On repeating the Catechism.
"Father, my spirit owns" (1342). Resignation.
"God is in heaven! Can he hear?" God's care of Little Children.
"Good Daniel would not cease to pray" (1812). Prayer.
"Hark the sound of joy and gladness" (1842). Universal Peace.
"How long, sometimes a day appears" (1809). Time and Eternity.
"I faint, my soul doth faint" (1842). Contrition.
"I thank the goodness and the grace" (1809). Praise.
"Jesus, that condescending King" (1809). Coming to Jesus.
"Jesus was once despised and low" (1809). The Love of Jesus.
"Jesus Who lived above the sky" (1812). The Love of Jesus.
"Lo, at noon, 'tis sudden night" Good Friday.
"Lord, help us as we hear" Opening of Divine Service.
"Lord, what is life? 'tis like a flower [the bow]" (1809). Life.
"My Father, I thank Thee for sleep" (1809). Morning.
"O [How] happy they who safely housed" (1842). Death.
"Spared to another spring" (1827). Spring.
"The God of heaven is pleased to see" (1809). Brotherly Love.
"This year is just going away" (1810). New Year's Eve.
"Wearied with earthly toil and care" (1843). Sunday.
"When I listen to Thy word" Comfort of the Scripture.
"When little Samuel woke" (1809). About Samuel.
"Why should we weep for those who die" (1843). Death.
From Hymns for Infant Minds, 1886:
"Good David, whose Psalms have so often been sung" (1812). [Concerning David.]
"If Jesus Christ was sent" (1812). [Repentance.]
"King Solomon of old" (1812). [Concerning Solomon.]
Poetry Collections and Prose
Original Poems for Infant Minds, 1804
Before this collection was published, children's poetry was not a typical literary genre. In Original Poems, by Ann and Jane produced poems that contain notes of sweetness, humor, and also morality. Their “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” has not only been memorized but also enjoyed by many generations of small children. This collection of poetry seem to have been written for both instruction and entertainment, and paved the way for other authors of children's poetry such as Edward Lear.
Original Poems received positive reviews from 18th and 19th poets:
Robert Southey - "The 'Original Poems' of your friends and associates have long been in my children's library, and equally favourites with them and with me. There is a cast of feeling in them which made me suppose the authors to be Quakers, a society with which I am almost, yet not wholly in communion. Whoever these ladies are, they have well and wisely employed their talents, and I am glad to have this opportunity of conveying my thanks to them through you, for the good which they are doing, and will long continue to do."
Maria Edgeworth - "In a book called 'Original Poems for Children,' there is a pretty little poem, 'The Chatterbox,' which one of my little sisters, on hearing your letter, recollected. It is signed Ann T–. Perhaps, madam, it may be written by you; and it will give you pleasure to hear that it is a favourite with four good talkers of nine, six, five, and four years old."
Hymns for Infant Minds, 1809
Hymns for Infant Minds is a collection of Evangelical hymns that deal with the constructions of the child. The collection was inspired by the hymns of Isaac Watts, an 18th century English minister and hymn writer. The Taylors' goal with the collection was to "adapt Evangelical truths to the wants and feelings of childhood." The collection contains hymns written from various viewpoints and are simply written to suit a child's mind. This collection of hymns was extremely popular, and Ann Taylor notes that a third edition of this hymn was published by the year 1811.
Reviews of this collection:
James Arnold Whatley - "The knowledge and love of Christ can nowhere be more readily gained by young children, than from the hymns of this most admirable woman."
Archbishop Richard Whatley - "A well-known little book, entitled 'Hymns for Infant Minds,' contains, Nos. 14, 15, a better practical description of Christian humility, and its opposite, than I ever met with in so small a compass. Though very intelligible and touching to a mere child, a man of the most mature understanding, if not quite destitute of the virtue in question, may be the wiser and better for it."
Autobiography and Other Memorials (ed. Josiah Gilbert), 1874
This autobiography was written by Ann Taylor Gilbert and completed by her son. The text contains two volumes and it was published after her death in 1866. The text begins with the an account of her grandfather's life, and ends after her death. Ann acknowledges that she began her text with the help of family stories and history in order to establish her family background that occurred before her birth. The autobiography is extremely detailed, as it meticulously describes Ann's early life all the way up to adulthood. Readers gain insight into Ann's spirituality, and her dealings in social issues such as slavery and women's rights. Not only does the autobiography give the reader the ability to experience Ann's life, but also the opportunity to discover the lifestyle of those in 18th and 19th century England. As The London Quarterly Review notes, "it deserves to be widely known, and very especially to be read by all who desire to fashion their lives after a rare patter of 'plain living and high thinking.'"
Signor Topsy-Turvy’s Wonderful Magic Lantern, or, The world turned upside down, was published in 1810, is a more sophisticated version of the ‘world-turned-upside-down’ texts which would have been familiar to 18th- and early 19th-century readers (both children and adults), from chapbooks and other forms of cheap, popular literature. These described and illustrated unlikely ‘topsy-turvy’ occurrences such as a fish hooking a fisherman, or a horse being pulled along by a man in harness. Ann and Jane Taylor were commissioned to ‘revise and improve’ the original stories.
Rural Scenes, or A Peep Into the Country, is a collection of poetry and prose written by Ann Taylor Gilbert and her sister Jane Taylor. It was published anonymously in London in 1806, and contains 105 engraved illustrations on about 30 pages. The collection provides an entertaining and insightful look into rural life in London in the early nineteenth century.
The collection was written for both entertainment and instruction, and the text often contrasts hardworking country virtues with the moral laxity of urban life. The engravings create an idyllic country scene, but the images are often paired with more serious texts of instruction.
Sketches from a Youthful Circle
Rhymes for the Nursery
City Scenes or A Peep Into London: For Children
My Father to Which is Added, my Mother
A Biographical Sketch of the Rev. Joseph Gilbert. By his Widow. With recollections of the discourses of his closing years, from notes at the time, by one of his sons [Josiah Gilbert]
This page assisted by Anna Stone, Georgia Southern University