The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

VIII. Nineteenth-Century Drama

§ 10. Tom Taylor

The next playwright to show something of their calibre was Tom Taylor. Like his contemporaries, Taylor seldom trusted to his own invention for his plots. He collaborated with Charles Reade and others, and he took his stories from French drama, from the works of Dickens and from other English novelists; but, in Plot and Passion (1853), Still Waters Run Deep (1855), The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863) and other plays, he proved himself both a capable playwright, from the theatrical point of view, and a fairly keen observer of human passions. His construction is solid and careful; and he wrote, for the most part, without affectation or extravagance; so, though much of his dialogue seems stilted to the modern reader, it is not without some resemblance to nature; while his Arkwright’s Wife (1873) is a domestic drama almost “naturalistic” in language, achievement and spirit, though sensational in incident. Taylor’s best work lies in his series of historical dramas: The Fool’s Revenge (1869), which was founded upon Hugo’s Le Roi s’amuse; ’Twixt Axe and Crown (1870), founded upon a German play; Jeanne Darc (1871); Lady Clancarty (1874); and Anne Boleyn (1875). His treatment of history is fairly respectful; his language, whether in prose or verse, is more direct and forcible than that of some of his successors in this field; and Taylor fills in his historical outlines with warmth and movement. With Taylor, rather than with Boucicault, still less with Webster, should be classed Watts Phillips—and that in spite of such plays as Lost in London or The Woman in Mauve. The best examples of his work, such as Camilla’s Husband (1862), though leaning to the sensational side and ingeniously constructed according to the ideals of the contemporary theatre, have some flavour in them of human nature, which, added to the comparative simplicity of their dialogue, entitle Phillips to consideration. The Dead Heart (1859), which, possibly, owed something to A Tale of Two Cities is Phillips’s most famous play, because of its spectacular qualities; but, as dramatic art, it is not fairly representative of his ability.