The World of John Taylor the Water-poet, 1578-1653

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This is the first full study of a self-educated popular writer who carved out a pioneering role for himself as a `media celebrity' and became a national institution. Taylor chronicled his adventurous life and passed judgement on his age in a stream of shrewd and witty pamphlets, poems, andessays. His writings allow us to piece together the world of a London waterman over the space of forty years, from the reign of James I to the aftermath of the civil war. His ready wit, restless ambition and bonhomie soon made him a well-known figure in the Jacobean literary world and at the royalcourt. Claiming the fictitious office of `the King's Water-Poet', he fashioned a way of life that straddled the elite and popular worlds. Taylor published his thoughts - always trenchant - on everything from politics to needlework, from poetry to inland navigation, from religion and socialcriticism to bawdy jests. He was a more complex and contradictory figure than is often asumed: both hedonist and moralist, a cavalier and staunch Anglican with a puritanical taste for sermons and for armed struggle against the popish antichrist. He embodies many of the contradictions of a worldthat was soon to be, all to literally, at war with itself.

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About the author (1994)

Bernard Capp, Reader in History, University of Warwick.

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