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Stories Before 1850. 0231: Anne and Jane Taylor, Correspondence between a mother and her daughter at School

Author: Taylor, Anne, and Taylor, Jane
Title: Correspondence between a mother and her daughter at School. By Mrs. Taylor, author of 'Maternal Solitude,' etc. and Jane Taylor, author of 'Display,' etc. Sixth edition
Cat. Number: 0231
Date: 1821
1st Edition: 1817
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Taylor and Hessey, 93, Fleet Street
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., 164pp.
Size: 16 x 10 cm
Illustrations: Engraved frontispiece

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0231

Introductory essay

The Taylors of Ongar were amongst the most famous and prolific children's authors and illustrators of the early nineteenth century. Isaac Taylor, a Dissenting minister, engraver and author, was responsible for many children's books, most famously his 'Scenes of...' series (Scenes of Africa, Scenes of Europe and Scenes of Commerce are in the Hockliffe Collection: 1054, 1055 and 1056). His sons, Isaac and Jefferys wrote The Natural History of Enthusiasm (1829) and Aesop in Rhyme (1820) respectively, and Isaac the younger became well-known as an engraver. However, it was the two daughters of the family who became most celebrated as children's authors. The first major work of Ann (1782-1866) and Jane (1783-1824) had been published in 1804-1805. This was Original Poems, for Infant Minds (0851-0853), a commission from William Darton. It was the first genuinely successful collection of poems for children since Isaac Watt's Divine Songs had appeared in 1715 (0462-0465). It remained in print long into the century. The Taylor sisters went on to produce many other equally successful works, all for children. (It has been suggested that the Taylors were the first authors of a children's classic who wrote only for children.) Rural Scenes; or, A Peep Into the Country appeared in 1805 (0985), then Rhymes for the Nursery in 1806, including 'Twinkle twinkle little star' along with many early cautionary tales (0855-0856), and Ann published Wedding Among the Flowers in 1808, a poem in the style of Roscoe's Butterfly's Ball. Both sisters contributed to Signor Topsy-Turvey's Wonderful Magic Lantern (0777) (1810), and to Hymns for Infant Minds (also 1810: 0445-0447), and to City Scenes; or, A Peep into London (1809: 1058). Ann married Joseph Gilbert, a Congregationalist minister, in 1813, and she moved away from her family to Nottingham. For a time this brought at end to her writing career. Jane remained unmarried and continued to write, but she died early at the age of 41. For more on the Taylor sisters see Overmeir 1996 and Carpenter and Prichard, 1984.

Correspondence Between a Mother and her Daughter at School is co-authored by Jane Taylor and her mother Ann Taylor, née Martin (1757-1830). Mrs. Taylor was the author of many conduct books which were apparently born out of the letters she wrote and received from her children while they were away from home. Titles like Maternal Solicitude for a Daughter's best interests (1813), Practical Hints to Young Females (1815) and Reciprocal Duties of Parents and Children all achieved a substantial measure of success, as multiple editions testify. Correspondence Between a Mother and her Daughter itself reached a seventh edition within ten years of its first publication.

The book starts with a letter from the fifteen year old Laura who is writing home from school, having just arrived for the first time. From here on in, the letters of Laura and the responses of her mother alternate. While Laura's mother's letters are intended to convey some practical advice, but mostly religious and moral precepts and behavioural strictures, Laura's letters are much lighter in tone, and are intended to convey some of the excitement and anxiety, tribulations and adventures, of school life. Some have the character of later school stories as Laura discusses her friends and rivalries. 'Letter XXI' (starts p.132), for example, deals with Laura's jealousy when a new girl arrives and usurps Laura's place as the intimate of Grace Dacre, Laura's best friend (pictured in the frontispiece). Laura's letters are certainly more entertaining than her mothers, and though sometimes having the character of a confession of her sins, they are less overtly moral. This is doubtless what prompted the authors to apologise for them in their 'Advertisement', admitting that they were inserted 'to render the work somewhat more amusing to the young reader' and hoping that it would be apparent that 'it was not with a view to her amusement only that they were written.' (p.iii)

Overmeir, Judith A., 'Ann Taylor and Jane Taylor', pp.292-96 in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol.163: 'British Children's Writers 1800-1880', ed. Meena Khorana, Detroit, MI.: Gale Research Inc., 1996

Carpenter, Humphrey & Pritchard, Mari, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Oxford: OUP, 1984