‘Nonsence is Rebellion’: John Taylor’s Nonsence upon Sence, or Sence, upon Nonsence (1651–1654) and the English Civil War

Emily Cock


This article examines the political content of John Taylor’s Nonsence upon Sence, or Sence Upon Nonsence: Chuse you either, or neither (1651–1654), challenging the customary dismissal of this poem as light-hearted nonsense verse. Taylor was a staunch Royalist who had openly criticised the divisions of the English Civil War, and the proliferation of religious separatists; I argue that Nonsence continues this project under a mask of playful ambiguity. The literary disorder created in this text, which Taylor calls ‘nonsence’, is made to mirror the social, religious and political fragmentation of post-war London, as sentences and words are broken down and rearranged in unfamiliar and disturbing ways. The paper serves not only as a stylistic assessment of Taylor’s satire as a reflection of the political and social instability of the time, but to historicise his engagement with nonsense and place within that literary tradition.


John Taylor; nonsense; Royalism; English Civil War

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