William Taylor of Norwich (1765 –1836)
William Taylor was a prolific critic and scholar based in Norwich.
As as an important centre of trade to the continent, at the height of its influence in the seventeenth century Norwich was the second most populated city in England after London. By the late eighteenth century its economic influence had waned, but it had nevertheless become a remarkable centre of provincial culture. This period allowed more marginalised figures to pursue literary careers in the provinces. The well-travelled Unitarian minister and elocutionist William Enfield wrote “There is no place in England that a man of letters may pass his days more happily than in Norwich” in a letter to a fellow Unitarian John Taylor. After teaching at Dissenting Academies in Liverpool and Warrington Enfield moved to supervise Norwich’s Octagon Chapel in 1785. It was here that a remarkable circle of poets, dramatists, novelists, critics and essayists thrived, among whom was William Taylor who provides this project with its title Biographicon. Norwich has also long been a centre of theatrical activity. Coleridge commented in a 1790s letter that the Norwich Company were “the first provincial Actors in the Kingdom.” It was a breakaway group of Norwich players led by Thomas Kerregan that founded the Northern Circuit or ‘Walk’ linking the theatres of York and Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1720s.
Image by John Sell Cotman, Norwich Market-Place, c.1809 © Tate