Jump to content

Earliest Caricature of Shakespeare by John Taylor, the 'Water-Poet'

Recommended Posts

And this brings me to the whole pith of this work. For I have assumed and, in fact, absolutely believe Taylor knew Shakespeare personally. And when the first folio came out, in 1623, he was so disgusted with the Droeshout picture of Shakespeare that he made a caricature of it.

Basil Brown, Supposed caricatures of the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare, with fac-simile of the rare print taken from a very scarce tract of an Elizabethan poet, 1911

Caricature of Droeshout.pdf   



Screen Shot 2022-12-25 at 9.47.15 am.png



Screen Shot 2022-12-25 at 9.59.01 am.png


Screen Shot 2022-12-25 at 9.59.30 am.png


Edited by Eric Roberts
  • Wow! 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

1. In the Watermen's Suit, John Taylor asked Francis Bacon to intercede for the Watermen in their legal case. You can read about it here: John Taylor, "The True Case of the Watermen's Suit Concerning Players," Works of John Taylor, the Water Poet, https://archive.org/stream/worksofjohntaylo00tayl/worksofjohntaylo00tayl_djvu.txt (search "Bacon" or "Watermen's Suit").


2. As to Taylor,  I found this here on SirBacon:


As further proof of the unreliability of title-page names we have these lines of John Taylor, the water poet:

Thou brag' st what fame thou got'st upon the stage

Upon St. George's day last, sir; you gave

To eight Knights of the Garter (like a knave)

Eight manuscripts (or books) all fairly writ,

Informing them they were your mother wit

And you compil'd them; then you were regarded.

All this is true and this I dare maintain

The matter came from out a learned brain.

These lines are quoted in Ordish's Early London Theatres (1894). Is it possible that John Taylor had Shakespearee in mind as the pretender, and Bacon as the "learned brain"?

from R. L. Eagle, "Literary Concealments," Baconiana, Oct. 1964, https://sirbacon.org/eagleliteraryconcealments.htm.

3. Taylor served under Essex at Cadiz. He had some grammar school education but dropped out because he couldn't manage the Latin. He was a friend of Thomas Bushell who was a secretary/servant of Bacon's. "His first job, other than rowing, was as a ‘bottleman’ at the Tower of London, rowing out to wine-carrying vessels and bringing back to the Tower governor his ‘fee’ of two large bottles per cargo." (first par., Jonathan Green, "Green's Heroes of Slang," reference below). I wonder if he might have been involved in the escape of the Jesuit priest John Gerard from the Tower which occurred after Coke and co. had left and Francis Bacon had gone back to see him privately. There was a boat waiting on the water, and Girard weakly made his way down a rope from the Tower to the boat.  See John Gerard, The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest. https://ignatius.com/the-autobiography-of-a-hunted-priest-ahupp/.

4. In looking up info on Taylor, I found this wonderful article by Constance Pott, "Francis Bacon's Friends and Associates," on SirBacon: https://sirbacon.org/fbfriendsassociates.htm (mentions the "Taylor family").

I think there's a high probability that Taylor knew or strongly suspected who the real Shakespeare was.

5. A few more references (as usual, most do not mention Bacon's name):

https://www.bartleby.com/lit-hub/volume-iv-english-prose-and-poetry-sir-thomas-north-to-michael-drayton/12-john-taylor-the-thames-waterman/ (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.XVIII. The Book-Trade, 1557–1625§ 12. John Taylor, the Thames waterman).

http://thedabbler.co.uk/2011/08/greens-heroes-of-slang-5-john-taylor-the-water-poet/ (Johathan Green, "Green's Heroes of Slang: 5. John Taylor the Water Poet," Aug. 18, 2011).

Willard Thorp, "John Taylor, Water Poet," Texas Review,Vol. 8, No. 1 (OCTOBER, 1922), pp. 32-41, https://www.jstor.org/stable/43465459 (I could not log in today, so did not read it).

  • Like 1
  • Wow! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...