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While the list of costs for masons detailed by the Board of Works extends to over a hundred different jobs, that for painters is a bit simpler. Government rates were listed in “Contract Prices 1734—1774” (WORK 5/148). The page for painters has a number of additions and marginal notations added over the years; those are ignored here and I just reproduce the basic list of activities.

The list is interesting both for the prices the government was willing to pay for different jobs in the 1730s, but also as detailing what kinds of work they expected painters to do.  The Office of Works was in charge of the royal residences and the types of painting work that were used for a palace were not necessarily a reflection of everyday practices.

The most senior position to do with painting was the office of Sergeant Painter, held by William Hogarth from 1757 until his death in 1764. The office had a nominal salary of just £10 a year, but Hogarth himself claimed that he made more than £200 a year from it, and he had a deputy to oversee the actual work carried out.

s d
Pearl Colour three times done in Oyl per Yard 0.8
Ditto twice done per yard in Oyl 0.6
Wainscot Stone Lead & Cream Colour thrice done in Oyl per Yd 0.8
Ditto twice done per Yard 0.6
Green thrice done in Oyl per Yard 1.0
Ditto twice done Per Yard 0.9
Marble Wallnutt tree &c thrice done in Oyl per Yard 1.8
Varnishing Wainscot per Yard 0.9
Gilding per foot Superficial 4.0
Sash Treatment thrice done on one Side, Each 1.3
Sash Squares ditto on one Side, Each 0.1½
Window lights thrice done on one Side, Each 0.4
Sash Frames twice done on one Side Each 0.10
Sash Squares ditto on one Side, Each 0.1
Window Lights twice done on one Side, Each 0.3
Window Barrs Shutter Barrs &c per barr 0.1
Casements on both Sides Each 0.3½
Cleaning old Painting per Yard 0.1
Painting in Size per Yard 0.3


Nathaniel Taylor (1618—1683)

Nathaniel Taylor’s brief emergence from obscurity came in 1653, when he was chosen to be a member of the short-lived Barebones Parliament.  His background is unclear, but it was sufficient to take him to Cambridge, where he studied at the Puritan Emmanuel College, matriculating in 1637. He followed that up with a stint at Gray’s Inn and became a barrister.  At some point he came into the orbit of the extensive Bridges family of Warwickshire and married Mary Bridges.

By 1652 he had moved to Cardington, just outside Bedford, where a daughter Elizabeth was baptized in March.  He was appointed a JP and sufficiently impressed the likes of William Dell and other radicals to be nominated as a representative for Bedfordshire in May 1653.  He doesn’t seem to have made much of a mark in parliament. He was appointed to a reasonable number of committees, in most cases presumably because of his legal expertise (there were a lot of committees and not many MPs) but does not appear to have gained any prominence.  He was counted as a radical politically, but those who counted considered him a pretty moderate radical by the standards of that parliament. After the parliament dissolved itself, he disappears again briefly, probably returning to Cardington where the house he was occupying was sold to his wife’s brother William Bridges in 1654.

Nathaniel Taylor was, however, clearly considered sound by Oliver Cromwell or his advisors.  In December 1655 he was elected Recorder of Colchester after a purge of the electorate by one of Cromwell’s Major-Generals to ensure the right candidates were chosen.  He was also presumably the Nathaniel Taylor chosen in November 1655 to be Clerk of the Commonwealth.  As Clerk of the Commonwealth he marched in the procession at Cromwell’s funeral.  Both of these appointments were contentious.  A long-running lawsuit by someone to whom the Clerkship had been promised finally resulted in Taylor’s dismissal in late 1659 or early 1660, and after the Restoration the entire Cromwellian slate of Colchester positions was purged.

Later, Taylor lived at St. Giles, Cripplegate in London. Taylor’s personal records are sparse.  As a radical during the interregnum, he may not have had much contact with the record-keeping of the Church of England.  He was known to be a member of George Cokayne’s Independent congregation, and left Cokayne a legacy in his will referring to him as “my loving friend”. Cokayne was, at least some of the time, a Fifth Monarchist so Taylor may have been more radical than is obvious.

Burke claims Taylor and his wife had “eighteen children…several died young.” Given the scarcity of sources for the period, it is impossible to verify this claim.  In his will, Taylor mentions three children only: a son John, a married daughter (Mrs.) Barnard, and a daughter Hannah.  Nathaniel Taylor apprenticed his son John to William Nutt of the Company of Mercers, and John prospered to become a very wealthy merchant. Hannah never married and lived until 1717 or 1718. Nathaniel Taylor died of a “feaver” in January 1683 and was buried at St. Giles Cripplegate.

Walpole on Pitt on Shakespeare

Horace Walpole’s Memoirs of George II provides a detailed, if biased and not always accurate, view of politics in the 1750s. In his description of the debates in parliament on the treaties preparatory to the Seven Years’ War, Walpole records William Pitt as saying that he “would quote poetry, for truth in verse was as good as if delivered in the dullest prose—

Corruption’s gilded hand

May put by justice.” (Vol ii, 111)

In the text, this quote is glossed as being from Measure for Measure. Presumably, this reference is due to Walpole’s editorializing, rather than coming directly from Pitt (the quote, but not the reference, is in Thackeray’s History of the Right Hon. William Pitt). The Yale Edition of the Memoirs adds a footnote that, “No lines like these occur in Measure for Measure, nor in any other work by Shakespeare”.

While the quotation is abbreviated and somewhat mangled, and does not come from Measure for Measure, it did start life as Shakespeare, and in context is a fairly powerful indictment of the treaties’ authors.

The source is Claudius’ soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 3 of Hamlet. The standard text reads:

In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but ’tis not so above;

What Pitt actually said can not be determined at this distance, but at least he can be absolved of manufacturing fictitious Shakespeare quotes.


Walpole, H. (1985). Memoirs of George II, 3 vols, John Brooke, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.