Taylor, John

, a learned critic and philologist, was born at Shrewsbury, and baptised at St; Alkmund’s church June 22, 1704. His father followed the humble occupation of a barber, and his son wasdesigned for the same business but a strong passion for letters, which early displayed itself, being providentially fostered by the generous patronage of a neighbouring gentleman, enabled young Taylor to fill a far higher station in society than that to which he was entitled by his birth. The steps which led to this happy change in his situation are worthy of notice. Taylor, the father, being accustomed to attend Edward Owen, of Condover, esq. in his capacity of a barber, that gentleman used to inquire occasionally into the state of his family, for what trade he designed his son, &c. These inquiries never failed to produce a lamentation from the old man, of the untoward disposition of his son Jack, “whom,| said he, “I cannot get to dress a wig or shave a beard, so perpetually is he poring over books.” Such complaints, often repeated, at length awakened the attention of Mr. Owen, who determined to send him to the university, chiefly at his own expence. St. John’s in Cambridge, which has an intimate connection with the free-school of Shrewsbury, naturally presented itself as the place of his academical education; and Mr. Taylor was doubtless assisted by one of the exhibitions founded in the college for the youth of that school. Under this patronage he pursued his studies in the university*, and regularly took his degrees, that of B. A. in 1727, and of M. A. in 1731, and in the preceding year was chosen fellow. Thus employed in his favourite occupations, the periods of his return into his native country were the only times which threw a transient clouJ over the happy tenor of his life. On such occasions he was expected to visit his patron, and to partake of the noisy scenes of riotous jollity exhibited in the hospitable mansion of a country gentleman of those days. The gratitude of young Taylor taught him the propriety of making these sacrifices of his own comfort; but it could not prevent him from sometimes whispering his complaints into the ears of his intimate friends. A difference of political opinion afforded a more serious ground of difference. A great majority of the gentry of Shropshire was at that period strenuous in their good wishes for the abdicated family. Though educated at Cambridge, Taylor retained his attachment to toryism, but did not adopt all its excesses; and he at length forfeited the favour of his patron, without the hopes of reconciliation, hy refusing to drink a Jacobite toast on his bare knees, as was then the custom. This refusal effectually precluded him from all hopes of sharing in the great ecclesiastical patronage at that time enjoyed by the Condover family, and inclined him, perhaps, to abandon the clerical profession for the practice of a civilian. But however painful to his feelings this quarrel with his benefactor might prove, he had the consolation to reflect that it could not now deprive him of the prospect of an easy competence. His character as a scholar was established in the university; he was become a fellow and tutor of his conege; and on the 30th of Jan. 1730, he was appointed


In the —Gent. Mag. 1779, p. 250, is a copy of Latin verses on the death of a Mr. Eyles, a fellow of St. John’s, “made by a pretty modest lad one Taylor, a junior Soph.

| to deliver the Latin oration then annually pronounced in St. Mary’s before the university on that solemn anniversary; and at the following commencement he was selected to speak the music speech, both of which were printed. This last performance, of which but two instances occur in the last century, viz. 1714 and 1730, was supposed to require an equal share of learning and genius: for, besides a short compliment in Latin to the heads of the university, the orator was expected to produce a humourous copy of English verses on the fashionable topics of the day, for the entertainment of the female part of his audience: and in the execution of this office (derived like the Terras filius of Oxford, from the coarse festivities of a grosser age) sometimes indulged a licentiousness which surprises one on perusal. The music speech of Mr. Taylor is sufficiently free; and, though it does some credit to his poetical talents, is not very civil to his contemporaries of Oxford, (whom he openly taxes with retaining their fellowships and wives at the expence of their oaths) or to the members of Trinity college, in his own university, whom he ironically represents as the only members of Cambridge who could wipe off the stigma of impoliteness imputed to them by the sister university. This speech was printed by his young friend and fellow collegian Mr. Bowyer, and the publication concludes with an ode designed to have been set to music. These were not the only effusions of Mr. Taylor’s muse, for in the Gent. Mag. 1779, p. 365, are some verses by him on the marriage of Lady Margaret Harley to the duke of Portland, and others reprinted by Mr. Nichols.

In March 1732, he was appointed librarian, which office he held but a short time, being in 1734 appointed registrar of the university. From this time Cambridge became his principal residence, but he was in London in 1739, at which time his celebrated edition of “Lysias” appeared.*


On this subject Mr. Clarke writes thus to Mr. Bowyer: “I am glad Mr. Taylor is got into your press: it will make his Lysias more correct. I hope you will not let him print too great a number of copies. It will encourage a young editor, to have his first attempt rise upon his hands. I fancy you have got him in the press for life, if he has any tolerable success there; he is too busy a man to be idle.” It was published under the title of “Ly siæ Orationes & Fragmenta, Græcè & Latinè. Ad fidem Codd. Manuscriptorum recensuit, Notis criticis, Interpretatione nova, cæteroque apparatu necessario donavir Joannes Taylor, A. M. Coll. D. Joan. Cantab. Soc. Acaderniæ olim a Bibliothecis, hodie a Commentariis. Accedunt Cl. Jer. Marklandi, Col. D. Pet. Soc. Conjecturæ. Londini, ex Officinâ Julielmi Bowyer, in aedibus olim Carmeliticis, 1739.” Of this work, which is now


become scarce, no more than 500 copies were printed on demy paper, 75 on royal paper, and 25 on a fine writing royal. The doctor always entertained a fond hope of reprinting it, like his Demosthenes, with an equal quantity of notes to both pages. It was in part republished at Cambridge, 1740, in 8vo, under the title of “Lysiæ Atheniensis Orntiones Græeè & Latinè, ex Interpretatione & cum brevibus Notis Joannis Taylori in usum studiosæ Juveututis.” At the end of this volume were advertised, as just published, “Proposals for printing by subscription, a new and correct edition of Demosthenes and Æschines, by John Taylor, A. M. fellow of St. John’s college, and registrar of the university of Cambridge.”—N. B. On or before the 24th day of December next, will be published, (and delivered to subscribers if desired) ` Oratio contra Leptinem,‘ which begins the third volume of the above-mentioned work."

| This edition, which evinces his intimate knowledge of the Greek language and of Attic law, is executed, as to the external embellishments of type and paper, in a manner which reflects great credit on the press of Mr. Bowyer, from which it proceeded. Mr. Taylor’s subsequent publications issued from the university press of Cambridge. In 1740 he took his degree of LL. D. The subject which he chose for his act, is curious, and worthy of our author. A. Gellius had related, on the authority of the ancient jurists, that by the laws of the ten tables the body of the insolvent debtor was cut in pieces and distributed among his creditors. Dr. Taylor undertook to set this in a new light, and to shew that it was the property and not person of the debtor that was liable to this division; and if he did not succeed in producing complete conviction, his treatise was at least calculated to increase the opinion already entertained of his erudition and ingenuity. It was published in 1742, under the title of “Commentarius ad legem decemviralem de inope debitore in partes dissecando,” with an appendix of curious papers. Although he was admitted of Doctors Commons in this year 1742, it does not appear that he practised as a civilian, but about this time there was a design to employ his talents in a civil station, as under-secretary of state to lord Granville.

In the following year the learning and critical abilities of Dr. Taylor were again called forth. The late earl of Sandwich, on his return from a voyage to the Greek islands, of which his own account has been published since his death, and which shews him to have been a nobleman of considerable learning, brought with him a marble from Delos. That island, “which lay in the very centre of the then trading world,” (to use the words of our learned countryman, Mr. Clarke,) “was soon seized by the Athenians and applied to the purposes of a commercial repository: and this subtle | and enterprizing people, to encrease the sacreclness and inviolability of its character, celebrated a solemn festival there once in every olympiad.” The marble in question contained a particular of all the revenues and appointments set apart for that purpose. From the known skill of Dr. Taylor on all points of Grecian antiquity it was submitted to his inspection, and was published by him in 1743, under the title of “Marmor Sandvicense cum commentario et notis;” and never probably was an ancient inscription more ably or satisfactorily elucidated. In the same year he also published the only remaining oration of Lycurgus, and one of Demosthenes, in a small octavo volume, with an inscription to his friend Mr. Charles Yorke.

This volume is printed on the same type with, and was intended as a specimen of, his projected edition of all the works of that great orator; a task which “either the course of his studies, or the general consent of the public, had,” he says, “imposed upon him.” While he was engaged in this laborious undertaking he received an accession of dignity and emolument; being in the beginning of 174-4 appointed by the bishop of Lincoln, Dr. John Thomas, to the office of chancellor of that extensive diocese, in the room of Mr. Reynolds. For his introduction to this prelate he was indebted to the kindness of his great patron lord Granville, as we learn from the dedication of the third volume of his Demosthenes, which came out in the spring of 1748, the publication of the first volume being postponed, that the life of the great orator and the other prolegomena might appear With more correctness.

In April 1751, Dr Taylor succeeded the rev. Christopher Anstey, D. D. in the rectory of Lawford in Essex, a living belonging to St. John’s college, and the only parochial cure he ever enjoyed; and in Jan. 1753, he became archdeacon of Buckingham. After he took orders he was esteemed a very eminent and successful preacher; but he has only two occasional sermons in print. When the late marquis of Bath and his brother were sent to St. John’s, they were placed under the care of our author by his patron lord Granville, maternal grandfather of these two young noblemen. This charge led to his work on the “Elements of Civil Law,1755, in 4to, and which was formed from the papers drawn up by him to instruct his noble pupils in the origin of natural law, the rudiments of civil life, and of social duties. If the work, as published, partakes | somewhat too much of the desultory character of such loose papers; if its reasoning is occasionally confused, and its digressions sometimes irrelevant, it is impossible to deny it the prgise of vast reading and extensive information on various subjects or polite learning and recondite antiquity. It quickly came to a second edition, and has also been published in an abridged form. It did not however escape without some severe animadversions.

The learned world at Cambridge was at that time divided into two parties: the polite scholars and the philologists. The former, at the head of which were Gray, Mason, &c. superciliously confined all merit to their own circle, and looked down with fastidious contempt on the rest of the world. It is needless to observe that Dr. Taylor belonged to the latter class. Dr. Kurd, a member of the former, a writer of celebrity, and eminent for his attachment to Warburton, of whose “school” he was a distinguished disciple, in a most unjustifiable pamphlet, published the same year, 1755, and directed against the amiable and modest Jortin ,*


The offence of Jortin was similar to that of Taylor. He had dared to dissent from Warburton’s strange, and now exploded hypothesis on the descent of Æneas in the 6th Æneid.

steps out of his way to express his contempt of Taylor, which was but the prelude to a more severe attack from Warburton himself. Our author

The real offence said to hare been given by Taylor was an opinion vhich he had thrown out in company derogatory to the character of Warburton as a scholar: this reached the ears of the other, who with a frankness peculiar to himself, interrogated our critic on the subject. Dr. Taylor is reported to have replied that he did not recollect ever saying that Dr. Warburton was no scholar, but that indeed he had always thought so.

in his Elements bad expressed his opinioa that the persecutions which the first Christians experienced from the Roman emperors proceeded not from any peculiar disapprobation of their tenets, but from a jealousy entertained of their nocturnal assemblies. In expressing this opinion, Taylor did not mention, and perhaps did not even think of Warburton: but as the latter in his Divine Legation had derived these persecutions from another source, the absurdities of Pagan religion and the iniquities of Pagan politics; the holding, and much more the publishing, of a contrary notion by any contemporary was too great an offence for that haughty dogmatist to pass with impunity. His prefaces and notes were, as was wittily observed of him, the established places of execution for the punishment of all who did not implicitly | adopt liis sentiments, and having occasion soon after (in 1758) to publish a new edition of that celebrated work, he seized that opportunity to chastise Taylor, with all the virulence, wit, and ingenuity of distortion, which he could command.

An attack so insolent and unprovoked could not injure the established character of Dr. Taylor, or ruffle his temper, and he wisely abstained from taking any notice of it. There appeared however in 1758 a pamphlet, entitled “Impartial Remarks upon the preface of Dr. Warhurton, in which he has taken uncommon liberties with the character of Dr. Taylor;” but it is said to be a poor performance, the only information which it contains being the anecdote in the preceding note as to the real origin of the dispute. Taylor seems at this time to have been better employed than in controversy, as the second volume of his “Demosthenes” appeared in May 1757, and in the following July he was made a canon residentiary of St. Paul’s. For this appointment, which was the summit of his preferment, he was indebted to his steady and active patron lord Granville, who was now a member of administration. In consequence of this dignity, he resigned the office of registrar, in 1758, and quitted Cambridge to reside in London. Here he still proceeded to collect and arrange the materials for the first volume of his Demosthenes,*


The two volumes of Demosthenes are now sold as the first and second. The booksellers have supplied new title pages, and converted the third volume into the first.

but the expectations of the learned were frustrated by his death, which took place on the 14th day of April, 1766, at his house in Amen Corner, Paternoster Row. He was buried in the vault under St. Paul’s, under the litany desk, where is an epitaph.

Dr. Taylor used to spend part of his summers in his native county, taking for that purpose a ready-furnished house, in which he might enjoy the society of his friends. For several years he rented the curate’s house at Edgemond, his equipage in the mean time standing at livery in the neighbouring town of Newport.

As Dr. Taylor had been for many years in the receipt of an ample, and even splendid income, it might have been expected that he should die in affluent circumstances. But this was by no means the case. He lived in a handsome style, and expended a large sum of money in books. His | library at the time of his death was large and valuable. This, with the residue of his fortune, for the support of an exhibition at St. John’s, he bequeathed to the school where he had received his education reserving, however, to his friend and physician Dr. Askew all his Mss. *


Those on philological subjects were sold to the university of Cambridge, on Dr. Askew’s death. Besides these, our author had many papers on subjects of English antiquity. In his Civil Law, p. 357, he mentions a plentiful collection which he had by him, of modern customs derived from Grecian and Roman antiquity, some singular instances of which he has there adduced. Various particulars respecting his Mss. are in Mr. Nichols’s “Anecdotes.

and such of his printed books as contained his marginal annotations. The use which Askew made of this bequest has been severely censured. The latter clause was enforced with the utmost rigour, so as to include a vast number of books, which the testator intended to form part of his donation to the schools; and Dr. Askew is thought to have been still more reprehensible in putting into Reiske’s hands the indigested and unfinished mass of papers belonging to Taylor’s proposed first volume, who printed them just as he had received them, and then attacked the critical skill of their author.

In private life, Dr. Taylor’s character was extremely amiable: his temper remarkably social, and his talents fitted to adorn and gladden society. The even tenour of his employments furnished him with an uninterrupted flow of spirits. Though he was so studiously devoted to letters, —though as an intimate friend and fellow-collegian of his informs us, “if you called on him in college after dinner, you were sure to find him sitting at an old oval walnut table, covered with books,—yet when you began to make apologies for disturbing a person so well employed, he immediately told you to advance, and called out,John, John, bring pipes and glasses,“and instantly appeared as cheerful and good-humoured as if he had not been at all engaged or interrupted. Suppose now you had staid as long as you would, and been entertained by him most agreeably, you took your leave and got halt-way down the stairs, but recollecting somewhat that you had to say to him, you go in again; the bottles and glasses were gone, the books had expanded themselves so as to re-occupy the whole table, and he was just as much buried in them as when you first came in.

He loved a game at cards, and we are told that he | played well. He was also an excellent relater of a story, of which he had a large and entertaining collection; but like most story-tellers was somewhat too apt to repeat them. His friend, the facetious and good-humoured Henry Hubbard of Ernanuel, with whom he greatly associated, would sometimes, in the evenings which they used to pass alone together, use the freedom of jocosely remonstrating with him upon the subject, and when the Doctor began one of his anecdotes, would cry out, “Ah, dear Doctor, pray do not let us have that story any more, I have heard it so often;” to which Taylor often humourously replied, *’ Come Harry, let me tell it this once more," and would then go on with his narration. Many other curious anecdotes of Dr. Taylor, with much of his correspondence, may be seen in Mr. Nichols’s third volume along with the lives of many of his learned contemporaries. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.—History of Shrewsbury, 1810, 12mo, a very well written article, which we have generally followed in the preceding account.