This is the first full study of a self-educated popular writer who carved out a pioneering role for himself as a 'media celebrity' and became a national institution. Taylor chronicled his adventurous life and passed judgement on his age in a stream of shrewd and witty pamphlets, poems, and essays. His writings allow us to piece together the world of a London waterman over the space of forty years, from the reign of James I to the aftermath of the civil war. His ready wit, restless ambition and bonhomie soon made him a well-known figure in the Jacobean literary world and at the royal court. Claiming the fictitious office of 'the King's Water-Poet', he fashioned a way of life that straddled the elite and popular worlds. Taylor published his thoughts - always trenchant - on everything from politics to needlework, from poetry to inland navigation, from religion and social criticism to bawdy jests. He was a more complex and contradictory figure than is often asumed: both hedonist and moralist, a cavalier and staunch Anglican with a puritanical taste for sermons and for armed struggle against the popish antichrist.He embodies many of the contradictions of a world that was soon to be, all to literally, at war with itself.