Jane Taylor (23 September 1783 – 13 April 1824) was an English children’s writer whose best-known work, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, first published in 1806, is one of the most familiar poems in the English language.
Jane was born in Red Lion Street, Holborn, London, the second of the eleven children of the Reverend Isaac Taylor (1759–1829), engraver, writer and nonconformist minister,[a]A nonconformist is a member of any Protestant religion other than the established Church of England. and his wife Ann Taylor, née Martin (1757–1830), who was herself a children’s writer. The family left London for Lavenham, Suffolk in 1786, and ten years later moved to Colchester, Essex where her father presided over a nonconformist church. When his engraving business began to struggle financially he trained his eldest children, including Jane, as engravers, to replace his apprentices.
In 1798 Jane with her elder sister Ann and other local girls formed what they called the Umbelliferous Society,[b]“The circle was called umbelliferous to indicate that many buds and blossoms might flourish from the one productive stem.” a literary circle requiring them to produce an original work of poetry or prose every month. Ann began sending contributions to the Minor’s Pocket Book, and in 1804 Jane followed her sister’s lead by publishing her first poem in the same periodical, “The Beggar Boy”. As a result the publishers Darton and Harvey invited the sisters to contribute to Original Poems (1804–1805), most of the entries in which were written by Jane and Ann.
The sisters went on to collaborate on many other works, including the “enormously popular” Hymns for Infant Minds (1810), for which Jane did the engravings, and other family members also contributed poems and engraving. During the winter of 1812–1813 Jane’s brother Isaac relocated to Ilfracombe in Devon on account of poor health, and Ann and Jane accompanied him. But the sisters’ collaboration ended in 1813, when Ann moved to Yorkshire to marry the Congregational minister Joseph Gilbert (1779–1852).
Jane continued with her writing, and never married. She died of breast cancer on 13 April 1824, attended by her parents at their home in Ware Lane, Ongar, and was buried beside her father’s chapel there.