Fashioning familiar space in the domestic travel writing of John Taylor the Water-Poet.
Some do disdain, and hold it in high scorn To know thatcht cottages where they were born Some cross the sea to see strange lands unknown And heer, like strangers, do not know their own. Nosce Teipsum, know thy selfe, and then Each one will know himselfe the worst of men. Many of foreign travels boast and vaunt, When they, of England, are most ignorant. But yearly I survey my country native, And, 'mongst 6 cases, live upon the dative. (Chandler 284-85)
Responding to the profound increase in the number of English travel ventures abroad during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Taylor expresses concern about the consequences of turning attention away from one's homeland. (1)
In Taylor's time, foreign travel was typically viewed as an enriching experience, both for individuals exposing themselves to a wealth of customs and practices (including the opportunity to learn foreign vernacular languages) and for the political and commercial interests of the state. (2) Taylor's lines, however, transform foreign travel into a potentially detrimental enterprise whereby English travelers abroad become strangers to their native land, physically and intellectually distant from home. Taylor, in turn, defends his annual domestic journeys as an opportunity for self-discovery. As such, "liv[ing] upon the dative" suggests the travels shape Taylor, much as the dative case acts upon and thus defines its subject. Indeed, to know one's country is to know oneself, but Taylor does not simply advocate this by exploiting clear-cut distinctions between self and other. Rather, he undertakes idiosyncratic domestic travel ventures and appropriates the discourse of travel writing dealing in exotic encounters abroad to establish a distinctly English authorial persona predicated upon notions of English civility and hospitable reception among readers, hosts, and others encountered in the course of his ventures. Whether distinguishing himself from English travelers abroad who have become strangers to their own land, crossing unsettled boundary lines such as the one dividing England and Scotland in the early seventeenth century, or encountering xenophobic English villagers who treat him as a threatening outsider, Taylor negotiates transitional spaces between the familiar and the foreign to promote himself and his textual output. (3)
While Taylor had journeyed abroad on several occasions (to Prague and Germany around 1617 and to Cadiz and other parts of Spain while serving in Elizabeth's navy several decades earlier), the Water-Poet distinguished himself throughout his writing career first and foremost as a domestic traveler. Over the course of nearly four decades, Taylor undertook frequent idiosyncratic travel ventures within the Atlantic Archipelago. (4) These include such noteworthy feats as walking penniless on a wager from Southwark to Edinburgh while relying entirely on the generosity of hosts along the way, rowing from London to Kent in a boat made of brown paper, and sailing a tiny wherry on the open sea to Salisbury.
Throughout these efforts and more generally in his career as a Thames waterman and an aspiring writer, Taylor staunchly supported an ideal of Englishness firmly bound to the monarchy and its commitment to conservative Anglican values. (5) While this loyalty to king and country is most overtly apparent in Taylor's civil war era pamphlets, in which he condemns Puritan detractors and voices his own unwavering support for the Royalist cause, Taylor's travel writing serves his strong nationalist commitment in less openly political ways. Some critics have suggested that Taylor's democratizing strategies of self-promotion stand in sharp contrast to his support of conservative Royalist and anti-populist values, particularly during the civil war period. (6) But Taylor's travel accounts and their specific marketing strategies seem directed toward a particular kind of reader, one firmly grounded in a cohesive English identity measured by the capacity to receive Taylor hospitably as a familiar English figure. (7) Such hospitality might entail hosting Taylor on the actual journey or else completing the textual transaction whether through purchasing the printed account, holding true to a wager, or following through with a subscription payment. In contrast, those hostile and unreceptive readers, patrons, and hosts who fail to support Taylor and his ventures are relegated to a position outside this body of readers and thus beyond the bounds of an idealized and cohesive notion of English civility.
In light of these priorities, Taylor is concerned with containing Englishness within a textual space that will secure his own authorial and cultural place as a familiar individual. As such, Taylor appropriates the discourses of alterity, including descriptions that emphasize opposition between familiar and exotic, self and other, domestic and foreign to construct himself as a recognizable figure for English readers and subjects. Foreign travel and the privileging of English interests abroad potentially threaten native English cohesiveness and community, as do such internally divisive elements as provincial parochialism and xenophobia. These factors are potentially at odds with Taylor's efforts to situate his textual and cultural identity within a clearly delineated English space.
Discussing early modern conceptions of nation formation, Kate Chedzgoy describes the process as an "imagining of the English polity as combining a boundedness which secures the nation's difference from what is foreign--overseas--with an internal homogeneity which has to be strenuously produced in the face of profound cultural and geographical differences within the nascent state" (42). (8) Taylor utilizes his travel writing to insist on this internal homogeneity, both in terms of national and authorial "boundedness." Yet Taylor is less directly concerned with the fashioning of nationhood than he is with appropriating the discourses of nation-formation and its insistence on "boundedness" to promote and secure a distinct cultural identity for himself. (9)
Also relevant here is Benedict Anderson's claim in Imagined Communities that key cultural changes in the sixteenth century including the break-up of western Europe after the fall of the Western Empire as well as the Protestant Reformation and its emphasis on "print-vernacular" play important roles in creating "a new form of imagined community, which in its basic morphology set the stage for a modern nation" (46). Situated in this distinct cultural and historical moment at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Taylor and his travel accounts reveal how much the project of fashioning both an authorial identity and a stable readership is bound up in this process of defining national space. In this case, Taylor's emphasis on a unified national identity serves the interests of a strongly cohesive and community-supported system of print production and consumption. By prioritizing the familiar, accessible, and cohesive in the production and circulation of his literary output, Taylor celebrates an ideal of national solidarity that will both serve his textual project and be served by it.
As such, Taylor's project resonates with Michel De Certeau's discussion in Heterologies of the ways in which notions of alterity define but at the same time problematize delineations of territory both textual and geographic. As De Certeau argues, to scrutinize "the status of the strange" is to "place into question both the text's power of composing and distributing places, its ability to be a narrative of space, and the necessity for it to define its relation to what it treats, in other words, to construct a place of its own" (67). In this equation, it is "the text's reworking of space that simultaneously produces the space of the text." Even as Taylor travels on the familiar soil of his own country, the very process of traveling, as Syed Manzurul Islam suggests, potentially results in "the peformative enactment of becoming other" (vii). Taylor counters this possibility and re-conceptualizes geographic and physical space by casting as distinctly "other" those forces that would undermine the project of defining familiar and cohesive space, including foreign travelers as well as English readers and subjects whose hostile or dismissive responses to Taylor threaten to compromise Taylor's own allegiance to a singular and cohesive authorial identity. Taylor's unusual travel ventures provide an ideal vehicle for the Water-Poet to affect this project of self-promotion in relation to a homogenous and bounded imagining of nation.
Promoting Self and Nation
Born in 1578 in Gloucester to unidentified parents (his father may have been a barber-surgeon), Taylor attended grammar school and later moved to the South Bank area of London where he apprenticed as a Thames waterman. The waterman's trade provided him with a number of opportunities to serve the interest of the state while promoting himself. The trade was not an illustrious one (comparable in many ways to modern taxi drivers), but Taylor took advantage of the social networking opportunities afforded by shuttling thousands of individuals across the river each year. Among these were a number of aristocrats to whom Taylor dedicated some of his published writings. (10) Taylor's nautical experience also enabled him to serve, along with many other watermen, in Elizabeth's navy as part of several post-Armada campaigns against Spain. These included expeditions to Cadiz in 1596 and to the Azores the following year. While Taylor never published accounts of these travels, they influenced his travel writing style and its emphasis on contrasting domestic familiarity with wondrous foreign exoticism. (11)
Taylor's networking skills as waterman also gained him the post of "Keeper of the Tower Bottles," a position concerned with regulating London wine importation that he held from 1605 to 1617 and for which privilege he was required to pay an annual fee. (12) In 1613, Taylor assumed the title of "King's Waterman," joining the ranks of forty watermen who served the court on ceremonial occasions and sometimes rowed for the royal family themselves. (13) During the previous year, Taylor had made his entry into a literary career with the publication of The Sculler, Rowing from Tiber to Thames, with his Boate laden with a hotch potch, or Gallimawfrey of Sonnets, Satyres, and Epigrames (1612). While Taylor published widely on subjects ranging from elegies on public figures and a biography of the Virgin Mary to satires, mock encomia, political tracts, and his famous "Thumb-bibles," the domestic travel narratives provide him with the most fruitful opportunities to celebrate and promote Englishness in the interest of fostering his own textual and cultural identity.
Like many travel writers whose manuscript diaries and published itinerary accounts reveal careful observations about the "situation, quality, and inhabitants" of the places visited, Taylor includes some details of towns and villages as well as inhabitants, history, and geography in his travel pamphlets. While Taylor frequently reminds readers that he is not following in the footsteps of "learned Camden, or laborious Speede" and that readers seeking descriptions of the country as a whole must turn to these and other chorographic writers and mapmakers, the domestic travel narratives nevertheless provide a distinct chorographic function that invigorates Taylor's celebration of nation. In Charting an Empire Lesley Cormack argues that the newly institutionalized study of geography in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries witnessed an emerging emphasis on chorography. The concern with domestic and local topographic space reinforces "England's development as an autonomous nation separate from Europe" and "worthy of its own detailed analysis and resulting loyalty" (187).
In the vein of works such as Speed's Theatre, Camden's Britannia, and Drayton's chorographic epic Poly-Olbion, domestic travel accounts such as Taylor's similarly underscore how cohesion among distinct regional and provincial spaces serves the interest of national solidarity. (14) To this end, Taylor's travel writing often celebrates and promotes England's vast cultural and natural resources. In some instances, this involves describing a village or other locale for the sake of praising generous hosts who fed and boarded Taylor during his visit. (15) In A Merry Wherry Ferry Voyage (1622), for example, Taylor provides a lengthy and celebratory description of the town of Hull in which he commends his generous hosts for their hospitality and good-will toward him:
So my most thankes I ever whil'st I live Will to the Major, and his Brethren give, But most of all, to shut up all together I give him thankes that did Commend me thither, Their Loves (like Humber) overflow'd the bankes, And though I Ebbe in worth, I'le flow in Thankes. (12)
By frequently praising generous hosts in print (including a certain Mr. J. J, whom he acknowledges in a gloss to this passage), Taylor could also reciprocate the hospitality by providing advertising exposure for the towns, inns, and alehouses that served the Water-Poet on his journeys.
In other instances, Taylor takes pains to describe noteworthy natural or cultural resources, further serving national interest by celebrating and promoting English (as well as Scottish) domestic industry. In The Praise of Hemp-Seed (1620), for example, Taylor vigorously extols the virtues of domestic hemp production, an industry promoted during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries for the homegrown production of rope, oil, and other manufactured goods. (16) In his journey to Scotland, he devotes several pages in prose as well as poetry to Sir George Bruce's impressive coal mines near Dunfermline, which extended "more then an English mile under the sea." (17) A few pages later, he describes the vast pine forests held by the Earl of Marr, commenting rather hyperbolically that "hee hath as many growing there, as would serve for masts (from this time to the end of the world) for all the Shippes, Carackes, Hoyes, Galleyes, Boates, Drumlers, Barkes, and Water-craftes, that are now, or can bee in the world these fourty yeeres" (136). In another travel venture, Taylor sailed from London to Salisbury in part to assess the feasibility of river travel in the vicinity. Taylor concludes the subsequent pamphlet, A New Discovery by Sea, with a wherry from London to Salisbury (1623), with a long sermon-like lecture to the Puritan ruling elite in Salisbury making a claim for the benefits of travel along inland waterways and appealing for navigational improvements to the river. He makes a similar case for improvements of inland waterways following a journey along the Thames Isis in 1631. In each of these cases, Taylor uses the domestic travel journey to make strong appeals for the viability of natural resources in the interest of both nation and authorial self-promotion. (18)
Yet Taylor's travel ventures were less concerned with serving the state than with promoting and invigorating his own authorial identity. Many of his travels involved wagers that enabled him to secure a patronage-like relationship with his reader that would distinguish the textual transaction from the nebulous and indiscriminate (as well as potentially vulnerable) realm of the general reading public. Something of a minor fad in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, wagering journeys were undertaken by a handful of English writers as a kind of publicity stunt concerned with marketing both one's celebrity status and the resulting published account. In 1589 Sir Robert Carey received an enormous sum of two thousand pounds for walking backwards from London to Berwick. The following year Richard Ferris rowed a tiny wherry with several companions over open water from London to Bristol. His published account, The Most Dangerous and Memorable Adventure of Richard Ferris (1590), was marketed to capitalize on the journey and the threefold wager established prior to the trip. Other noteworthy journeys include the early seventeenth century exploits of Barnard Calvard, mentioned in Taylor's pamphlet A Kicksey Winsey (1618), who traveled on land and sea from Southwark to Calais and back in a record fifteen hours on a five-fold wager. William Bush undertook one of the oddest journeys of the period, "in which hee past by ayre, land, and water: from Lamborne, a place in Bark-Shire, to the custome house key in London" (qtd. in Bradley and Bradley 57). The journey involved winching a wheeled boat to the top of Lambourn church tower and then launching the boat into the air, prior to trundling across the downs to the Thames at Steatley and then voyaging on the Thames to London.
Most notable among these wagering ventures was Kempes Nine Daies Wonder (1600), which detailed the former comic actor Will Kemp's Morris dance from London to Norwich based on a three-fold wager. Both the journey and the subsequent published pamphlet were designed to support Kemp's self-promotion as an enduring cultural celebrity. (19) In theory, the wagering agreement was meant to ensure a strong and cohesive bond between the author, the reader, and the material text, further reinforcing the author-traveler's status as a familiar figure. Circulating physically from one provincial destination to the next, such travelers actively participate in the process of textual circulation and promotion. In effect, they become living advertisements for their subsequent printed wares. However, in reality, Taylor and other wagering travelers faced hostile and unresponsive subscribers who failed to pay their return on the established wager or refused to purchase the printed pamphlet. As he rails against the numerous subscribers currently in debt to him in his 1618 pamphlet A Kicksey Winsey, Taylor reinforces the distinction between a unified national space and those forces that clearly oppose and stand outside this space. Describing the worst of his debtors as "Those that are as farre from honesty, as a Turke is from true Religion" (38), Taylor makes clear that delineating boundaries of cultural and territorial space is closely aligned to his establishing a distinctively familiar authorial identity and an economically viable readership.
Intellectual Alterity and the Taylor/Coryate Feud
Before focusing more specifically on Taylor's domestic travel ventures, it is productive to examine his well-known feud with the contemporary English traveler Thomas Coryate in order to outline Taylor's strategies for negotiating and delineating the boundaries of familiar English space in relation to author-formation. Born in Odcombe, Somerset and educated at Gloucester Hall, Oxford (without taking a degree), Coryate is the author of Coryat's Crudities (1611), in which he describes his largely ambulatory 1608 journey from England to France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries. The volume contains numerous panegyric and encomiastic verses penned by writers of high social and literary rank, including Ben Jonson, John Donne, Michael Drayton, and Inigo Jones. Although Coryate depended upon these dedicatory verses to finance the publication of the volume, he was disturbed by the insultingly mocking tone of many of the poems and attempted (unsuccessfully) to expunge them from the Crudities. (20) In his own "Laugh, and Be Fat" as well as numerous pamphlets including "Odcombs Complaint" and "The Eighth Wonder of the World; or, Coriats Escape from his Supposed Drowning," Taylor mocks his rival and criticizes the blatantly presumptuous strategy of securing encomiastic verses for self-promotion and advancement. Central to Taylor's purpose here is to contrast Coryate's perceived esoteric intellectualism with Taylor's own more populist and accessible style. Even though Coryate describes himself as "only a superficiall smatterer in learning" and is presented as such by the panegyrists who furnished parodic verses for the Crudities, Taylor insists upon a clear contrast between Coryate's pretenses and his own more humble position. In "The Eighth Wonder," for instance, Taylor asserts:
I know my Dactils, and my Spondees well; My true proportion, and my equall measure, What accent must be short, and what at leasure, To give my poesie the greater grace, Either in Pastorall or Comick straine, In Tragedy, or any other vaine I Know these like a Sculler, not a Scholler. (58)
While Taylor punningly portrays himself as a modest, laboring "sculler," Coryate's self-proclaimed identity as "scholar" in a more conventional sense is characterized by distance in every sense of the word. He is physically distant from English space as he travels through far away and exotic lands while intellectually distant as a result of his esoteric learning and knowledge of foreign languages. (21)
To reinforce the distinction between scholar and sculler, Taylor centers his critique on the accusation that Coryate's excessive learning (particularly his grasp of classical and eastern languages) will ultimately ostracize him from his native English readership and will threaten to translate Coryate into a foreign stranger. In "Odcombe's Complaint," Taylor reminds readers of Coryate's linguistic excesses as he imagines the implications of his rival's apparent drowning:
You Academick, Latine, Greeke Magisters, You off-springs of the three times treble Sisters, Write, study, teach, until your toungs have blisters. For, now the Haddocks, and the shifting Sharks, That feed on Coriat, will become great Clarks: The wri-mouth'd Place, & mumping Whiting-mops, Will in their mawes keep Greeke and Latine shops, The Pork-like Porpose, Thorn-back, and the Scate, Like studious Grecian Latinists will prate, And men with eating them, by inspiration, With these two toungs, shall fill each barbarous Nation. (61) (22)
Conceiving of the civilizing process within the imaginative space of a food chain, Taylor mockingly describes how Coryate's linguistic abilities will nourish the project of nation-building. This fanciful and exaggerated description enables Taylor to contrast his literary ambitions with those of Coryate. Unlike Coryate, whose esoteric learning and foreign wanderings distance him from the cohesive parameters of English space, Taylor celebrates distinct national boundaries as central to the process of fashioning his own familiar and home-grown identity. (23)
Building on this strategy of distinguishing his own domestic project from arguably more productive and compelling ventures abroad, Taylor presents two epitaphs written to commemorate Coryate following his supposed drowning. Both the "Epitaph in the Barmooda Tongue" and the "Epitaph in the Utopian Tongue" mock Coryate's esoteric linguistic abilities and recall the long list of dedications from patrons and scholars compiled in Coryate's Crudities, which include poetic commendations in fanciful and made up languages. More importantly, the epitaphs reinforce how Coryate has come to occupy a status of alterity through his travels abroad. Both the Barmooda and the Utopian epitaphs are written in fictitious languages, the former to be "pronounced with the accent of the grunting of a hogge" and the latter invoking a strange blend of Latinate and eastern diction. Taylor also includes a translation into English by "Caleb Quishquash, an Utopian borne, and principall Secretary to the Adelontado of Barmoodoes," a translation clearly unfaithful to either epitaph. Following the epitaphs, Taylor offers his services as translator: "If there be any Gentleman, or others that are desirous to be practitioners of the Barmoode and Utopian tongues: the Professor (being the Author hereof) dwelleth at the Old Swanne neere London Bridge, who will teach them (that are willing) to learne, with agility and facility" (59).
While these epitaphs can be seen as another instance of "faking" that accompanies the faking of Coryate's death, they play a more important role not only in the text, but also in Taylor's self-definition within his cultural surroundings. (24) While the exotic epitaphs mark Coryate's distance from domestic and familiar space as a result of his foreign travels and esoteric language-learning, Taylor in contrast aligns himself with the familiar and known. As self-professed translator, Taylor undertakes the somewhat dubious challenge of transforming these strange tongues into familiar English vernacular. Furthermore, by taking pains to detail his own Southwark address ("at the Old Swanne neere London Bridge"), Taylor situates himself within the space of the familiar by locating his place of residence on the London map. Within this urban context Taylor confidently voices his own authority as translator (albeit a fake one), an occupation that negotiates the boundaries between the familiar and the unknown or unknowable. Thus, in addition to mocking Coryate's linguistic pretensions, Taylor's epitaphs work to recuperate stable boundaries between the familiar and strange by ultimately asserting the authority of a unified and cohesive national identity here predicated upon vernacular as opposed to foreign language. Once again, this gesture proves central to Taylor's negotiation of geographic boundaries that subsequently defines his own place as a stable textual and cultural figure.
Given Taylor's tendency to mock Coryate, it is perhaps surprising to find some of Coryate's travel writings published with the elegies and literary rebuttals in Taylor's All the Works of John Taylor the Water-Poet (1630). Among these are a letter written by Coryate from Agra to his mother in England as well as a copy of the speech that Coryate presented to the Great Mogul in both Persian and an English translation. The presence of these texts in Taylor's own All the Works is somewhat enigmatic, given the nature of the feud between the two writers. (25) Although some scholars have suggested that the inclusion of Coryate's writing in Taylor's published work is a sign of the Water-Poet's "indebtedness to Coryate for instigating his career," (26) this gesture provides yet another opportunity for Taylor to highlight Coryate's distance from a cohesive, homogenous, and accessible English identity. By presenting Coryate's speech in Persian, Taylor reminds readers not only of Coryate's esoteric language skills but also of the possibility that Coryate himself has "gone native," translated quite literally on the page by embracing the practices and identity of a foreign "other." Introducing Coryate's writing with a poem entitled "A Little Remembrance of His Variety of Tongues, and Politicke forme of Travell," Taylor prompts readers to consider this possibility as he describes Coryate's abilities with languages:
A very Babel of confused Tongues, Unto thy little Microcosme belongs, That to what place soever thou doest walke, Thou wilt lose nothing through the want of talke. For thou canst kisse thy hand, and make a legge, And wisely canst in any language begge." (82)
While the poem concludes by celebrating Coryate's ability to criticize the "errors" of the Muslim faith (in an encounter with a "Mahometan" who had addressed Coryate as an infidel), Taylor nevertheless capitalizes on Coryate's perceived distance from England and the subsequent vulnerability of this position.
In "The Author of the Verse, takes leave of the Author of the Prose, desiring rather to see him, then to heare from him," Taylor concludes his Coryate feud pamphlets by reiterating this concern with Coryate's physical and intellectual distance. While the sincerity of Taylor's tone is open to question, the Water-Poet appears conciliatory as he looks forward to Coryate's eventual return: "Let Eolus and Neptune be combined / With Sea auspicious, and officious winde; / In thy returne with speed to blow thee backe, / That we may laugh, lie downe, and mourne in Sacke" (91). Even here, Taylor emphasizes the distinction between his own position firmly situated at home in England and Coryate's unrelenting distance from that space. Taken together the mock encomia in "Laugh and Be Fat" as well as the pamphlets on Coryate's supposed drowning and Coryate's own letters and speeches contrast Taylor's cohesive, familiar, and urbane identity with Coryate's intellectually and physically remote position. In turn, Taylor's treatment of Coryate resonates with a broader critique of the English humanist traveler abroad who loses sight of self and homeland as a result of embracing foreign practices, beliefs, and customs. (27)
Translating the Other
Taylor's project of defining a distinctly domestic and familiar identity extends beyond his feud with Coryate to his own travel writing. To identify the ways in which Taylor appropriates the discourses of alterity to shape his own identity as a familiar English writer, it is instructive to examine several instances from Taylor's accounts of his journeys around England and its environs, both on waterways and on land. The Pennyles Pilgrimage (1618) relates the journey that the author made on foot from his home in Southwark to Edinburgh. The title refers to the fact that Taylor carried no money with him, and neither begged nor asked favors, instead relying on the goodwill of those he encountered along the way to lodge and feed him. While neither the wager to travel penniless nor the idea of walking long distances on foot is in itself wondrous, what is crucial here is how Taylor negotiates boundaries of difference in his literary project of recounting the journey. (28)
Describing an encounter with English villagers in the town of Daventry along the way, Taylor explains how the locals received this unusual perambulatory traveler:
The Chamberlaines with admiration all, Were fild with wonder, more then wonderfull, As if some Monster sent from the Mogull, Some Elephant from Africke, I had beene, Or some strange beast from th'Amazonian Queene. (124)
The hostile gaze of the Daventry townsfolk threatens to transform him into a foreign and monstrous entity. This exaggerated language allows Taylor to exploit the success of travel narratives dealing in exotic encounters abroad. More importantly, though, being recognized as specifically non-English and non-human enables Taylor to comment on English hospitality and its absence while paradoxically asserting his own allegiance to a cohesive English identity in contrast to those hostile and xenophobic inhabitants who would view him as distinctly "other" and thus proclaim their own distance from a unified national space.
Even when he arrives in Scotland, itself distinct from the domestic space of England during this period, Taylor takes pains to comment on distinctions between foreign and domestic. Upon crossing the border, he emphasizes the sameness between his sought-after destination and his native soil:
I being come to this long-look'd for land, Did marke, remarke, note, renote, viewed and scand: And I saw nothing that could change my will, But that I thought my self in England still. (127)
On one level, Taylor's words about Scotland's resemblance to England remind readers of James I's legitimacy upon the English throne (and, in fact, Taylor's journey to Scotland followed in the footsteps of both James's symbolic expedition to Scotland the previous year and Ben Jonson's recent journey). This element is confirmed shortly after, as Taylor remarks: "The Kingdomes are so neerely joyn'd and fix't, / There scarcely went a paire of Sheares betwixt" (127). Yet, in reiterating that the hostile and unfamiliar ultimately threatens a stable and cohesive identity, Taylor ensures familiarity only by seeming "other" as he arrives in Edinburgh:
viewing and circumviewing every mans face I met, as if I meant to draw his picture ... and presently fixing mine eyes upon a Gentleman-like object, I looked on him, as if I would survay something through him, and make him my perspective: and hee much musing at my gazing, and I much gazing at his musing, at last crost the way and made toward me. (129; my emphasis)
While Taylor's gaze imposes difference upon its object, he becomes singled out as "other" in the process of gazing. In this unusual episode that prefigures the self-conscious anxieties of modern tourists, Taylor calls attention to the way in which looking like a disoriented and confused outsider can ensure hospitable reception by the locals. As the Edinburgh citizen proceeds to take Taylor under his wing and furnish him with food and lodging, Taylor illustrates how temporarily seeming "other" paradoxically reinforces the sameness between Scotland and England, at least to the extent that both conform to the same standard of civility and hospitality. (29)
Taylor's efforts at delineating boundaries of cultural and authorial space are further showcased in his subsequent description of traveling in the Scottish Highlands. In one particularly pronounced instance, he recounts how he was repeatedly bitten by mosquitoes while lodging in the house of "Irish" (Gaelic) folk near Montrose:
I sup'd and went to bed, where I had not laine long, but I was enforced to rise, I was so stung with Irish Musketaes, a creature that hath sixe legs, and lives like a monster altogether upon mans flesh, they doe inhabite and breed most in sluttish houses, and this house was none of the cleanlest, the beast is much like a louse in England, both in shape and nature; in a word, they were to me the A. and the Z. the Prologue and the Epilogue, the first and the last that I had in all my travels from Endenborough; and had not this High-land Irish house helped me at a pinch, I should have sworne that all Scotland had not beene so kind as to have bestowed a Louse upon me; but with a shift that I had, I shifted off my Canibals, and was never more troubled with them. (134)
In addition to categorizing Irish/Gaelic highlanders as distinctly othered as a result of their cool and somewhat unfriendly reception, Taylor's account transposes Scotland and its monstrous inhabitants into the realm of the cannibalistic and the exotic. At the same time, he reminds readers that the indigenous mosquitoes are really no different from the English louse. Ultimately more concerned with the similarities than the differences between Scotland and England (again reverberating with James I's ultimately unsuccessful efforts at national unity), Taylor nevertheless employs the language of the exotic and unfamiliar to contrast national cohesion with those outside forces that potentially threaten it.
Negotiating the "status of the strange" to claim a cohesive authorial and cultural identity plays a key role in many of the Water-Poet's travel writings. In another instance, Taylor provides an account of his 1622 voyage in a small wherry from London to York in A Very Merry WherryFerry Voyage. While the journey itself is of limited value as a wondrous endeavor, Taylor again capitalizes upon the discourses of alterity in his account to emphasize how the journey and its printed report have been mistakenly perceived as marvelous. Central to this process is the description of Taylor's reception by the villagers of Cromer in Norfolk, who apparently mistook Taylor and his crew for foreign pirates as their small wherry struggled to come ashore during a storm:
For why Some Women, and some Children there That saw us land, were all possest with fear: And much amaz'd, ran crying up and downe, The Enemies were come to take the Towne. Some said that we were Pirats, some said Theeves, And what the women sayes, the men beleeves. (9)
The unusual prospect of sailing a small wherry in a storm marks Taylor as an other to be "amaz'd" at, but it is the account itself that solidifies this identity:
People came in clusters And had mine Host tooke pence apiece of those Who came to gaze on me, I doe suppose, No Jack an Apes, Baboone, or Crocodile E'r got more mony in so small a while. (9)
As in The Pennyles Pilgrimage, the inhospitable gaze of the on-lookers transforms Taylor into a distinct and in this case monstrous "other," thereby placing in doubt his status as a fellow Englishman. But Taylor takes this blurring of boundaries a step further in this case. As a result of misreading Taylor and his crew (an error that subsequently incites the town to physical violence against the strange visitors), the villagers become for their barbarity "Men of Gotham," (30) "Turks and Mores," and "Mungrells." Making the close proximity between the riotous villagers and foreign foes even more pronounced, Taylor explains that "The dreadfull names of Talbot, or of Drake, / Ne'r made the foes of England more to quake / Then I made Cromer; for their feare and dolor, / Each man might smel out by his neighbors Collor" (10). Within the narrative space, Taylor aligns himself with prominent world explorers in response to the villagers, who as a result of their uncivil barbarity become threatening foreign foes. Once again, Taylor appropriates the discourses of alterity to reiterate his own close proximity to cohesive national space in contrast to the xenophobic parochialism of the Cromer villagers.
Yet, Taylor's subsequent gesture of proving his identity to the villagers seems most compelling in terms of defining his own textual place. After attempting to ward off the enraged townspeople for some time, Taylor presents some of them with copies of his writing in an effort to confirm his identity: "I freely op'd my Trunke, and bade them view, / I shew'd them Bookes of Chronicles and Kings, / Some Prose, some Verse, and idle Sonnettings / I shew'd them all my Letters to the full" (9). Consistent with their misreading of Taylor, the villagers initially insist that the texts must be counterfeit but eventually recognize Taylor after identifying some of his familiar writings: "They quickly understood me what I was: / And though they knew me not in prose and looks, / They had read of me in my verse and bookes" (10).
Of particular interest here is the clear distinction being drawn between the incivility of the townsfolk in their initial reception and the transformation that occurs as a result of Taylor's own books. Just as Taylor's travels prioritize an ideal national identity as well as audience, his texts serve the very purpose of domesticating a hostile public that would otherwise fall short of Taylor's own standard of English civility. Being recognized for his books and verse underscores Taylor's familiarity within textual and chorographic space. To be known for his writing validates Taylor's identity as a familiar figure circulating both physically and textually among the people of Cromer. Given that Taylor often used his travels as an opportunity to distribute copies of his printed works within the provinces, this emphasis on familiarity serves a decidedly commercial purpose. At the same time, however, Taylor's textual pursuits call into question the stability of this identity. Rendered monstrous by the hostile reception of the onlookers, Taylor is likened to a "Jack an Apes, Baboone, or Crocodile," thereby imposing wonder upon both his text and his journey. Much like the exotic animals that draw crowds of spectators eager to pay for the unusual sight, Taylor secures the attention of readers and viewers alike by virtue of his eccentric journey and its published account. Once again, the incivility of the onlookers transforms Taylor into a monstrous figure, thereby reinforcing the villagers' barbaric xenophobia in contrast to Taylor's own position within the confines of unified space as a familiar English writer.
In the sailing voyage to Salisbury entitled A New Discovery by Sea, with a wherry from London to Salisbury (1623), Taylor describes another noteworthy encounter that complicates distinctions of geographic place to ensure his own familiarity. Taylor's account of the features and towns along the coast of southern England is interrupted by an encounter with a strange "meareman" wading in the sea. After describing the crew's fear at this wondrous sight, Taylor explains how he took courage and spoke to the creature in language that sounds reminiscent of Stephano and Trinculo's encounter with Caliban in II.ii of The Tempest:
Man, monster, fiend or fish, what-e'r thou be, That travelest here in Neptunes Monarchy, I charge thee by his dreadful three-tin'd Mace, Thou hurt not me or mine, in any case, And if thou bee'st produced of Mortall kinde, Shewe us some course, how we the way may finde To deeper water, from these sands so shallow, In which thou seest our Ship thus wash and wallow.
As in the case of Trinculo and Stephano, Taylor's amazement is both tempered and heightened by the realization that this creature possesses language:
With that (he shrugging up his shoulders strong) Spake (like a Christian) in the Kentish tongue, Quoth he, Kinde sir, I am a Fisherman, Who many yeeres my living thus have wan By wading in these sandy troublous waters For Shrimps, Wilks, Cockles, and such usefull matters, And I will lead you, (with a course I keepe) From out these dangerous shallowes to the deepe. (22)
This misreading of the Kentish fisherman for a merman enables Taylor to exploit the wondrous in his narrative, making what would otherwise be a rather banal encounter with a coastal fisherman into something exotic, marvelous, and exciting, and thus mirroring travel accounts involving more exotic locales such as the New World or the Far East.
Again, however, the issue of hospitable reception proves central. In this case, the fisherman's initial unresponsive silence marks him as a wondrous and potentially hostile "monster" through Taylor's narrative lens. Only after he proves capable of speech and willingly provides Taylor with directions out of the dangerous Goodwin Sands does he take on a familiar identity as a Kentish and "Christian" fisherman. Much like the episodes at Daventry and Cromer, xenophobia and hostility are aligned with foreign and monstrous barbarity and threaten to mark Taylor himself as a transient vagrant. (31) In contrast, hospitality and generosity correlate with English civility and nationalistic pride, thereby working to authorize Taylor's cultural and textual place.
Conclusion: Paper Travails
Throughout Taylor's literary career, domestic travel ventures play an important role in defining the Water-Poet's authorial and textual identity. As a cultural amphibian at once pursuing literary ambitions and laboring as a sculler, Taylor is highly conscious of the ways in which his textual travails secure his status as a familiar, homegrown Englishman in print. Remarking on the interplay between textual and geographic travel, Julian Yates identifies the various meanings of the word "travel" in early modern English:
[L]abor, toil, suffering, childbirth, and journey. The text takes this conjoining of labor and transport as a key to representing the relation between the human body as it "travels" or "labors," and the transformation of that labor or travel into a text, manufactured object, or person that then travels through the world as a seemingly autonomous agent. (104)
Circumscribed within the bounds of familiar English space, Taylor's domestic travel ventures capitalize upon the intersecting realms of geographic and textual travel/travail to etch out a distinct cultural position. (32) While the potentially mundane prospect of journeying across familiar domestic territory threatens to render such travels (and travails) unremarkable, Taylor exploits the unfamiliar and unprecedented in his modes of journeying and subsequent accounts and in the process claims distinct proprietary spaces both textual and geographic.
Taylor's emphasis on negotiating the stakes of the familiar within both textual and geographic space, while perceptible in all of his domestic travel accounts, is presented in particularly compelling ways in his account of a 1619 rowing journey in a boat made of brown paper. After a lengthy discussion of hemp as a basis for paper making, the Water-Poet concludes his pamphlet The Praise of Hemp-seed (1620) by describing his wagering voyage from London to Queenborough, Kent with his friend Roger Bird upon a brown paper boat rowed with oars made of dried fish. Although the paper boat threatens to disintegrate en route, the two travelers reach their destination by holding on to inflatable bladders that had contained their depleted wine supply. Upon arrival, Taylor and his companion donate the devastated boat to the city mayor as a memento for their adventures. Villagers eager for souvenirs of the event ultimately rip the boat to shreds, and Taylor returns home to collect previously secured payments from subscribers and to commemorate the journey in the published pamphlet.
As a noteworthy and unusual publicity stunt, the episode is not much different from the other travel ventures discussed above. However, Taylor underscores the vulnerability of his ventures to abuse as he recounts how the paper boat was torn apart by the community after being presented to the mayor and put on display:
The Country people tore our tatter'd wherry In mammocks peecemeale in a thousand scraps, Wearing the reliques in their hats and caps. That never traytors corps could more bescatter'd By greedy Ravens, then our poore boat was tatter'd." (74)
The image of villagers wildly tearing up the boat highlights Taylor's own fears about the reception of his writing by critical and hostile readers. By tearing up the boat, the villagers undermine the veracity of Taylor's endeavor since the paper scraps would provide scant evidence of the boat's and the journey's existence. Where Taylor's paper boat would have stood as a monument to commemorate the journey, the torn up scraps threaten to erase the voyage from local memory. (33) Taylor's published account must stand in for that memory, but the text itself is vulnerable in the hands of scrutinizing or inhospitable readers. Describing the damaged boat as a "traitor's corpse" and likening its torn remains to "reliques," Taylor highlights the townspeople's hostile reception and its detrimental impact on Taylor's venture. Specifically, such language underscores the villagers' alleged xenophobia (Taylor and his boat, though English, are perceived as treasonous) and parochialism, here registering as Catholic recusancy in the depiction of the villagers salvaging "reliques" of the ill-fated boat. Even the scraps themselves signify how the villagers potentially disrupt Taylor's textual marketing and distribution practices. Distinct from the paper bills representing the future financial transaction between the author and those sponsors who have offered wagers in advance, the paper scraps are devoid of any prospect for economic opportunity and register only the hostility and antagonism of the villagers.
As such, hostility, whether in the form of provincial villagers or critical and unsupportive readers, threatens the livelihood of Taylor's efforts at self-promotion and self-definition. The paper boat and the printed text are equally vulnerable, especially given the interrelationship between the actual journey and the subsequent published account. To counter such vulnerabilities, Taylor appropriates the discourses of alterity to confirm notions of Englishness and national pride that facilitate his own authorial fashioning as a distinct and autonomous figure. Thus, Taylor negotiates potentially unstable boundaries between the domestic and the foreign, the strange and the familiar, and the hostile and the hospitable to reinforce and celebrate his uniquely recognizable identity as England's own Water-Poet.
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A most pleasant and merie nevv comedie, intituled, A knacke to knowe a knaue. London: Richard Iones, 1594.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all signatures referring to Taylor's writings published before 1630 correspond to the Scolar Press facsimile edition of All the Works of John Taylor the Water-Poet (1630). Orthographic features including long s, i/y, i/j and u/v have been modernized, but original spelling has otherwise been maintained.
(1) In his Principall Navigations (1589), for example, Richard Hakluyt compiled numerous accounts of medieval and early modern travelers, explorers, and venturers abroad. A growing body of other travel writing circulated in books and pamphlets during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Along with the explosion of printed materials dealing with global exploration and expansion, the period saw the formation of a number of important mercantile companies that would propel English colonial expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These include the Muscovy Company (1551), the Levant Company (1581), the Virginia Company (1606), the East India Company (1608), and later the Royal African Company (1660) and the Hudson Bay Company (1670) among others.
(2) On the rise of English humanist travelers abroad, see Chaney; see also studies by Bartlett; Stoye; and C. Howard.
(3) McRae similarly situates Taylor's domestic travel writing within the context of authorial and textual self-fashioning. However, where McRae focuses on how Taylor distinguishes his travel ventures and strategies from those of other (primarily domestic) authors of travel itineraries, this essay concerns Taylor's appropriation of discourses dealing in exotic encounters abroad as a way to negotiate boundaries between the familiar and the strange, the domestic and the foreign, and the self and the other. The present essay also offers a response to McRae's claim that Taylor "profoundly distrusted" foreign travel writing and its "associated discourse of exoticism, with its reliance on the evocation of wonder" (96). Taylor appropriates rather than rejects the discourses of exoticism and wonder to serve his textual and authorial fashioning.
(4) In recent years, some literary scholars and historians have come to use the term "Atlantic Archipelago" to refer to the geographic territory that comprises the British Isles and environs. By shifting the focus from the political to the topographic, the term avoids some of the problems inherent in designations such as "Great Britain and Ireland" that may be historically inappropriate as well as perpetually controversial. For a fuller discussion of this term and its implications, see Schwyzer and Mealor.
(5) For a discussion of Taylor's authorial self-fashioning in relation to these later writings, see the latter sections of Ellinghausen's "The Individualist Project"; see also Mardock.
(6) See, for example, Ellinghausen, Labor and Writing. Ellinghausen claims that Taylor's staunch support of Stuart conservatism later in his career stands in contradistinction to the more populist and democratic marketing strategies that Taylor earlier embraced.
(7) On English hospitality and the persistence of English xenophobia during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Heal; Palmer.
(8) Suranyi pinpoints two key factors in the development of early modern English nationhood: "a growing ethic of republicanism and the endeavor to define the nation against outsiders.... They both enabled, in different ways, ordinary English men, and perhaps English women, to see themselves as part of a unified, but bounded, multitude with shared interests, values, and experiences" (42-43).
(9) On the cultural construction of nationhood, particularly the idea that nation formation is largely predicated upon imagined national coherence involving individual and collective perceptions of common history, subjecthood, sovereignty, law, geography and other shared cultural territory, see especially Anderson. For studies focusing more closely on English nation-fashioning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Helgerson; McEachem; and J. Howard. Each demonstrates how valences of race, religion, class, gender and other factors of difference shape national identity in early modern England. On the cultural construction of space, see LeFebvre.
(10) Taylor made a number of (mostly unsuccessful) efforts to secure aristocratic patronage as evidenced by certain opening dedicatory addresses. These include dedications to Sir Robert Douglas, Sir Rowland Cotton (both members of Prince Henry's household) as well as Buckingham, the duke of Richmond, the earl of Nottingham, and William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke among a number of others. However, many more pamphlets are addressed to a broader and more general readership that might suggest frustration with his patronage efforts. Examples include to "Every Body" in "Taylor's Motto"; to "Most Mightie, Catholicke (or Universall) Monsieur Multitude" in "Taylor's Water-worke" (1614); to "any Reader He or Shee, / It makes no matter what they be" in "An Errant Thiefe" (1625); and even "To the World" in All the Works.
(11) While Taylor did not write about his naval experiences abroad, he does relate one wondrous anecdote about his journey to the Azores on Queen Elizabeth's ship, The Rainbow. Deciding to go ashore on the isle of Flores, Taylor and several companions were stranded in a storm for five days with limited food and water. At one point, Taylor discovered a cave in which were stashed fifteen loaves of bread that sustained them until they were able to return safely to the ship. For the account, see The Pennyles Pilgrimage (1618) and John Taylors Wandering (1649). The Flores episode, typical of early modern travel writing in its emphasis on the wondrous and exotic, influenced the imaginative scope of Taylor's domestic travel writing as well.
(12) For more information on Taylor's services to the state, see Capp's entry for "John Taylor 1578-1653" in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). See also the introduction in Chandler's Travels.
(13) As his career continued, Taylor became increasingly active in the affairs of the Watermen's Company. He was a vocal spokesman in the efforts to limit the spread of hackney coaches, which were threatening to put Thames watermen out of business because of their faster service and lower fares. Later, as a senior company member in the 1630s, Taylor defended the Watermen against charges of corruption and attempted to ward off efforts to re-structure the company management as an oligarchy. For a detailed account of these activities, see Capp, The World of John Taylor.
(14) See Holland's translation of Camden's Britannia; Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine; and Drayton's Poly-Olbion.
(15) In his discussion of early modern English progress pageants, Palmer describes subsequent published accounts of such pageants as providing "a cartography of civil obedience" (123). Taylor's praise of generous hosts in his domestic travel writing serves a similar purpose as a "cartography" of loyally obedient supporters and readers.
(16) Similarly, Drayton praises hemp on several occasions in Poly-Olbion, including early in the second song.
(17) Using "English" miles to describe Scottish distances is telling since part of Taylor's project involves highlighting the perceived unity between Scotland and England.
(18) Not only in his travel writing does Taylor advocate for English goods and resources. In "Drinke and Welcome," he makes a strong case for "the potency, vertue, and operation of our English ALE" as an alternative to beer, which contained hops imported from foreign countries including Germany and the Low Countries. In "The Nipping and Snipping of Abuses," Taylor seconds the antitobacco appeal made in King J ames's "Counterblast Against Tobacco" (1604) by focusing in particular on tobacco's threat as a foreign import.
(19) Ben Jonson's epigram "On the Famous Voyage" mockingly references the wagering journey tradition. As Jonson describes the boat trip taken by Sir Christopher Heydon and Thomas Shelton up the polluted Fleet Ditch from Bridewell to Holbom, he links the journey directly to earlier wagering journeys (referencing Ferris, Kemp, and others) as the speaker remarks on the unrivaled wagers offered for the venture.
(20) In his later publication, Coryates Crambe (1611), Coryate takes the opportunity to respond to those who had misrepresented him as a fool and an "ass" in their dedicatory addresses to the Crudities.
(21) Moreover, Taylor repeatedly calls attention to the provincialism of Coryate's Odcombe identity and contrasts this with his own urbane position as a citizen of both London and a cohesive England. For a useful discussion of Coryate's provincialism in relation to Taylor's urbane London identity, see Ord.
(22) For a fascinating discussion of Coryate and Coryate's Crudities in relation to the metaphorics of eating and digestion, see Craik, "Reading Coryate's Crudities."
(23) In a later pamphlet, An Arrant Thiefe (1622), Taylor further reinforces the distinction between his modest literary pursuits and those of learned poets he mockingly describes as "Pot poets, that have skill to steale translations, / And (into English) filch strange tongues and nations" (119).
(24) On the argument that the epitaphs parallel Taylor's faking of Coryate's death, see Skretkowicz.
(25) This is not the only time that Taylor includes an adversary's writing in his volume. In his feud with the actor and court "rhymer" William Fennor, Taylor reprints "Fennor's Defense" as a prelude to his own pamphlet, "A Cast Over the Water" in which he attacks Fennor for failing to appear at a publicly staged rhyming contest in which the two were supposed to compete.
(26) For this argument, see especially Gates.
(27) Taylor may be indirectly indebted to Thomas Nashe for the latter writer's decidedly anti-humanist take on English travelers abroad exemplified by Jack Wilton in The Unfortunate Traveler (1594). For Nashe's anti-humanist characterizations, see especially Turner.
(28) Taylor based his journey to Scotland on both King James's recent trip and that of Ben Jonson, who had departed from London on a similar perambulatory journey just a few months earlier (Taylor and Jonson would meet briefly in Leith near Edinburgh as Taylor describes in his account). Taylor makes clear that he undertook the project neither "in malice, or mockage of Master Benjamin Jonson" and praises Jonson "to whom I am so much obliged for many undeserved courtesies that I have received from him" (121).
(29) For a theoretical discussion of the post-Renaissance idea of the "tourist gaze" (which Taylor's Edinburgh description might very well anticipate), see Urry, who discusses the broader theoretical ramifications of such encounters between self and other.
(30) Although English, the inhabitants of the village of Gotham were proverbially represented as a wild and uncivil people. See for example Boorde; see also A most pleasant and merie nevv comedie.
(31) On the issue of vagrancy and transient identity in early modern England, see especially Beier; Fumerton; and Dionne and Mentz.
(32) Taylor often highlights the interplay between "travel" and "travail" in his writing. For instance, in A Late Weary, Merry Voyage, he offers the following defense of travelers:
At Travelers, let no man carpe or cavill, Our Mothers (at our births) were all in travell. And from our birth unto our buriall, In diverse function we do travell All. The Footmans feet, the Statesmans working braine, In travell, labour, and continuall paine Do spend themselves, and all their courses bend For private ends (to no end) till they end. (Chandler, Travels 246-47)
(33) For an insightful discussion of visual evidence in relation to local tradition and memory, see Fox. Fox writes, "The survival of visual evidence [in early modern England] was often crucial to the preservation of local tradition. By the same token, it was equally the case that historical memory was likely to die out if the landmarks or monuments which kept it in mind were once destroyed or allowed to crumble" (219). On several voyages, Taylor attempts to sell his boats as self--conscious monuments commemorating his feats. In one instance, he offers the boat for a price to the Lord Mayor of York with the following rationale: "For why should not my Boat be as good a monument, as Tom Coriats everlasting over-trampling land-conquering Shooes[?]" While the Lord Mayor declines the offer, Taylor manages to sell the boat to a local citizen.
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|Publication:||Explorations in Renaissance Culture|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2009|
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