Ann Taylor (afterwards Gilbert), "The Little Negro" (1806)


Ah! the poor little blackamoor, see there he goes,
And the blood gushes out from his half frozen toes,
And his legs are so thin you may see the very bones,
As he goes shiver, shiver, on the sharp cutting stones.

He was once a negro boy, and a merry boy was he,
Playing outlandish plays, by the tall palm tree;
Or bathing in the river, like a brisk water rat,
And at night sleeping sound, on a little bit of mat.

But there came some wicked people, and they stole him far away,
And then good bye to palm-tree tall, and merry merry play;
For they took him from his house and home, and ev'ry body dear,
And now, poor little negro boy, he's come a begging here.

And fie upon the wicked folks who did this cruel thing!
I wish some mighty nobleman would go and tell the king;
For to steal him from his house and home must be a crying sin,
Though he was a little negro boy, and had a sooty skin.

[signed "Ann"]

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Ann Taylor, afterwards Gilbert, (1782-1866), was the eldest daughter of Ann Martin Taylor and Isaac Taylor, the engraver. She was born in Islington on 30 January 1782, but grew up in Lavenham, Suffolk, where her father was a minister to a non-conformist congregation in Clochester. Isaac Taylor educated his children at home, including teaching them engraving so that they might support themselves. Ann was first published when she won first prize for her answer to a puzzle in the Minor's Pocket Book for 1798. She later became a contributor and editor. In 1804, Darton and Harvey, the publishers of this same Pocket Book, published Original Poems for Infant Minds, a collection of poems by Ann and her sister, Jane. The sisters were published again in 1806, Rhymes for the Nursery, and in 1810, Hymns for Infant Minds. In 1811, the Taylor family moved to Ongar, Essex, where both parents and children became known for their published works as the "Taylors of Ongar." Ann turned to writing articles, including a criticism of Hannah More's Christian Morals. In 1812, Ann received a letter from Rev. Josiah Gilbert, who wanted to meet her based on the merits of her writing. A year later, the two married on 24 December 1813. The Gilberts moved from Rotherham to Hull before finally settling in Nottingham in 1825. Having a family impeded Ann's writing, although she did publish after her marriage. These publications included some pamphlets on abolition and a contribution to The Bow in The Cloud (1834), a four hundred-page volume of anti-slavery verse and prose edited and compiled by Mary Anne Rawson. After her husband died in 1852, Ann continued to live in Nottingham until her own death on 20 December 1866. The Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs. Gilbert (formerly Ann Taylor), edited by Josiah Gilbert, was published posthumously in 1874. It is an autobiography that she wrote later in life, covering the period up until her marriage. Her son finished the rest as a biography based on her letters. Ann and Jane Taylor were among, if not the first, well-known and widely read children's poets.

"The Little Negro" was published in Rhymes for the Nursery, a volume of cautionary, yet also cheerful, verse.

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Bibliographical note

Taylor, Ann, "The Little Negro," Rhymes for the Nursery (London: Darton and Harvey, 1806), pp. 72-3.
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This hypertext was created on October 31, 1999 by Amy C. Crowley with the help of Alan Richardson.