Taylor, Tom, 1817-1880

Alternative names
Birth 1817-10-19
Death 1880-07-12
, English

Biographical notes:

English dramatist and editor of "Punch."

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to W.P. Frith, 1873 Jun. 2. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270574994

English-German dramatist.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Whitehall, to G. Webster, [no year] Mar. 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270579158

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Whitehall, Market Square, to Mr. Blewitt, [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270579154

Epithet: called 'John Roakes' dramatist and editor of 'Punch'

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001083.0x00036f

Tom Taylor was a British writer best known as a dramatist and later editor of the humor magazine Punch. Born in northeast England, he was educated at Glasgow University and Trinity College at Cambridge University, where he led an active and productive academic life. He worked as a journalist, served as professor of English at the University of London, and was called to the bar, eventually enjoying a long career at the Board of Health. During this time he had notable success as a playwright, often adapting existing works for the stage, and he wrote many of the period's most successful plays. He was a regular contributor to Punch from the 1840s until his death, becoming editor in 1874. Taylor is also remembered as the author of Our American Cousin, the play Abraham Lincoln was attending when he was assassinated.

From the description of Tom Taylor letters and engraved portrait, 1865-1878. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 173022991

See: "Dictionary of National Biography", v. XIX p. 472-474.

From the description of The ticket-of-leave man. 1863. (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 225847092

Taylor, an English playwright and editor of Punch magazine, was the author of the play Our American Cousin.

From the description of Papers, 1864, n.d. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 268659003

English writer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Lavender Sweep, Wandsworth, to Arthur Sullivan, 1878 June 27. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270126245

English dramatist and editor of Punch.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to Catherine Dickens, 1875 Oct. 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270576142

From the description of Letters, 1853-1879. (University of Iowa Libraries). WorldCat record id: 233120659

Dramatist and editor of "Punch."

From the description of Autograph letter signed : to Mr. Brookfield, [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270576138

Jack Reading

Jack Reading was born in 1916 in London. After gaining a degree in English from UCL he worked for a time as a bookseller, edited the World of Art magazine and served on the Miner's Welfare Committee. During the Second World War he went on to serve in the armed forces, rising through the ranks to become a Staff Sergeant and later gained a Commission, eventually leaving in 1946 as a Captain.

After being demobbed he returned to working in the mining industry, eventually working in its Social Welfare department. During this same period, in a voluntary capacity, Jack Reading pursued an interest in theatre and theatre history. He was a founder member of the Society for Theatre Research and the International Federation for Theatre Research. He served as a permanent member on the Executive Committee responsible for membership and performed similar duties for its sister organisation, the International Association of Libraries and Museums of Performing Arts.

In 1955, Jack Reading helped to spearhead a campaign for the establishment of a Theatre Museum in the UK and later became a trustee of the Theatre Museum Association. He gave his entire library of theatre material to the Templeman Library, University of Kent at Canterbury, where it forms the Reading-Rayner Collection.

Jack Reading died in August 2004 aged 88.

Tom Taylor

Perhaps the most popular playwright of the Victorian era, Tom Taylor was born in 1817 in what is now Sunderland, north-east England. Following his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, Taylor moved to London to embark on a career as a journalist, writing for the Morning Chronicle and the Daily News . He worked at Punch magazine until 1874, where he rose to the position of editor and wrote art criticism columns for The Times and The Graphic . He would also go on to publish and edit books on a number of British painters, namely Joshua Reynolds, Charles R. Leslie and Benjamin R. Haydon.

In addition to his journalism career, Taylor served as Professor of English Literature at University College London for a time and trained as a lawyer, being called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1846. In 1850 he was appointed assistant secretary at the Board of Health. During this period he also established himself as a dramatist, having early works and burlesques staged by Mary Anne and Robert Keeley, who were then managing the Lyceum Theatre London. His first major success, To Parents and Guardians was staged there in 1845.

During the 1850s he wrote or co-wrote over thirty comic works, notably those written with Charles Reade, including Masks and Faces in 1852, and Two Loves and a Life and The King's Rival in 1854. A self-confessed populist, his intention was to create plays his audiences would enjoy, and many of his works were adaptations of existing French plays, or dramatisations of the novels of Charles Dickens or other popular novels of the time.

He was also a prolific writer of dramatic works, with Our American Cousin arguably being his best known, being the play Abraham Lincoln was watching the night he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, Washington D.C in 1865.

Some of his most successful theatrical works included Plot and Passion (1853), Still Waters Run Deep (1855), The Ticket of Leave Man (1863), Arkwright's Wife (1873), and historical dramas such as Clancarty's Wife (1874) and The Fool's Revenge, which opened the Queen's Theatre in 1869.

Taylor is also known to have acted in several productions, and in 1879 played Adam in As You Like It at a memorial-fund performance in Manchester.

Taylor married Laura Barker in 1855, and together they had two children; Lucy and Wycliffe. An accomplished musical composer, Taylor's wife wrote the musical accompaniment to his 1971 work Joan of Arc . Tom Taylor died in 1880 and Laura Taylor died in 1905.

From the guide to the Tom Taylor Collection, c. 1950s - 1980s, (V&A Department of Theatre and Performance)


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  • Theater--History--19th century--Sources
  • Male authors, English--19th century--Correspondence
  • Criminals--Drama
  • English drama--19th century
  • Drama
  • Dramatists


  • Dramatists


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