صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

classic form, but in the then comparatively new literatures of Italy and France; the fluent sweetness of his style is, in its way, unsurpassed, and this honied eloquence does but reflect the gentleness of a temper which passed unsoured, if not unruffled, through the terrible strife of the Civil War and the harshness of Puritan rule.

Jeremy Taylor was born at Cambridge, and baptized in Trinity Church in that town on the 15th of August, 1613. Of the date of his birth there is no certain evidence. It has generally been assumed that he was baptized in infancy, but if we suppose that he was two years old at the time of his baptism we obtain a date which harmonises better with the indications afforded by his later life; for when he was entered at Caius College in August, 1626, he was described as having completed his fifteenth year; and further, if we suppose him to have been born in 1611, he would be nearly of the canonical age at the date when he is said to have been ordained, instead of being under twenty, an age at which holy orders have very rarely been conferred. He was the son of a barber in the town, probably a respectable tradesman, as we find him church warden of his parish in 1621 ; and there is no difficulty in supposing that, in those days of love-locks and daintily trimmed beards, one of that occupation would occupy as high a position among the other tradesmen of the town as his successors do now. He is said to have been descended from the famous Dr. Rowland Taylor, who left his blood' at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, for the defence of the Protestant faith. The young Jeremy was one of the earliest alumni of the Perse Grammar School in Cambridge, which was founded in 1615, and he became a sizar at Caius College in 1626. John Milton had taken up his abode in Christ's College only one year before. The two poets--for we must not refuse to Taylor the name of poet-were, no doubt, to use Milton's vigorous expression, deluded with ragged notions and brabblements, and dragged to an asinine feast of sow-thistles and brambles ;' that is, they had to pass through the tedious forms of scholastic logic which were still in vogue in the schools; but we may well believe that the pliant intellect of Taylor submitted to this training with far greater ease and readiness than Milton's fiery self-will; in fact, his works show that his mind had great affinity with such intellects as Aquinas and Scotus, though he also traversed fields foreign to them.

Wranglers' and senior optimes' as yet were not, and we have no record of the student's success in the schools, but it is hardly doubtful that a mind so fertile in arguments and objections would be a most formidable adversary in the wit-combats


[ocr errors]

of those days. He took his bachelor's degree in 1630, and, as his friend Rust tells us, as soon as he was graduate he was chosen fellow. His fellowship was probably on the Perse foundation, and of small value. Soon after taking his M.A. degree, which he did in the usual course in 1634,* he was ordained, being then, if he was born in 1611, twenty-three years of age. From the time of his ordination his life was one of frequent change and no little trouble. The patronage of Archbishop Laud procured him a fellowship at All Souls', which he enjoyed but a couple of years ; then we find him for a few years Vicar of Uppingham, then ejected, and following the royal army; and at last, about 1644, settled in a Welsh village on the banks of the Towy, in Carmarthenshire, where he supported himself by keeping a school. In these years he had been himself taken prisoner; sickness and death had been busy in his family; he had lost his wife and a son, and was married again to Joanna Bridges, said to have been a natural daughter of Charles I.f For some years he led a life of poverty and seclusion; yet, if he was poor and in trouble, he was not friendless : he was constantly befriended by Lord Carbery and his family, whose beautiful seat, Golden Grove, was hard by the village where he dwelt. And he dwelt there, we believe, contentedly: if he had fallen into the hands of 'publicans and sequestrators,' he had still a loving wife and many friends to pity him, and some to relieve him; he had still his merry countenance, his cheerful spirit, and his good conscience; he could walk in his neighbour's pleasant fields and see the variety of natural beauties; and if, with all this, he chose to 'sit down upon his handful of thorns,' he was fit to bear · Nero company in his funeral sorrow for the loss of one of Poppæa's hairs, or help to mourn for Lesbia's sparrow.'! In truth, his situation contrasted favourably with that of many of the royalists who were driven from house and home, and he repeatedly expresses his gratitude to Lord Carbery and his amiable wife for their patronage and protection.

It was in his Welsh retreat that the genius of Taylor was matured: there he wrote the Liberty of Prophesying,' the • Holy Living' and Holy Dying,' the “Great Exemplar, or Life of Christ, and many of those great sermons with which his name is always associated. If these latter were de

* Holy Dying,' ch. iii. sec. 4. † On the single authority of the MS. of Mr. Jones, a descendant of Taylor's whose papers were used by Heber; see Life,' p. xxxv. f. Holy Living,' ch. ii. sec. 6.


I 2

livered as they were written, however they may have charmed the ears of Lord Carbery's cultivated family, they must have astonished beyond measure the Welsh villagers who formed the rest of the auditory, though it is not impossible that they, too, may have been attracted by the preacher's sweet voice and impressive manner, even without understanding his words. The collection of prayers to which Taylor gave the name of • Golden Grove,' led to his imprisonment. Contrary to his wont, he had mingled with his panegyric on the Church of England an invective against Puritan preachers, and the authorities were perhaps rendered suspicious by the dedication to so well-known a royalist as Lord Carbery. We learn from a letter of John Evelyn's that he was in prison in February, 1654-5;* but in April of the same year we find him at large and preaching in the little church of St. Gregory, by St. Paul's, where the use of the Common Prayer was still permitted. He returned to Wales, but in April, 1656, we find him dining with Evelyn at Says Court, in company with Boyle and Wilkins. In July he is again in Wales, mucli troubled by his narrow circumstances-a trouble which, to his honour be it said, Evelyn lightened so far as lay in his power tand longing for the society and the libraries which were to be found in the voysinage' of London. His home in Wales was very sorrowful, for he had just lost a little boy, “that lately made him very glad ;' and again, in February, 1656-7, he speaks of small-pox and fever having broken out in his household, and of having buried 'two sweet hopeful boys.' He had then but one son left, and perhaps began to desire to leave a scene associated with so much grief. He seems generally to have visited London once in the year, and always found friends to welcome him, especially Evelyn, the Mæcenas-or ought we rather to say, the Gaius ?-of distressed churchmen of those days. On one of these visits he was sent to the Tower, because his publisher had prefixed to his Collection of Offices' an engraving of our Lord in the attitude of prayer-a representation which some of the authorities in those days held to be idolatrous. His imprisonment, however, did not last long; in the spring of 1658, we find him at liberty in London. There Lord Conway, a great Irish landowner, offered him a lectureship at Lisburn, in the neighbourhood of his own estates, the tenantry on which he hoped would be benefited by the ministrations of so excellent a man. Of Lord Conway's kindness and Taylor's gratitude we have evidence in the letter given below, which is now printed for the first time from the autograph in the possession of Mr. Murray :· MY VERY GOOD LORD,

* Heber's Life,' pp. xxxix. cclxxiii. † See Taylor's letter of May, 1657, in . Life,' p. lxiv.

April 17, 1658. ' I have till now deferred to write to your Lordship, because I could not sooner give an account of the time when I could attend your Lordship at Ragley ; but now that my wife is well laid and in a hopeful condition, I hope I shall not be hindered to begin my journey to my Lady Chaworth on the 26th of this month, and from thence by the grace of God I will be coming the third of May towards Ragley, unless your affairs call your Lordship from thence before that time; but if they are like to do so, and I have intimation of it from your Lordship, I will begin my journey that way and from thence go on to Nottinghamshire. My Lord, I suppose by the first return of the carrier you will receive those pieces of Thom. Nash which I received by your Lordship’s command to put into order and to make as complete as I could. Upon the view of them, and comparing them with what I had, I found I had but one to add, which I have caused to be bound up with the rest : but I have as yet failed of getting that piece of Castalio against Beza which your Lordship wished to have, but I shall make a greater search as soon as it please God I am well; for I write this to your Lordship in my bed, being afflicted with a very great cold, and some fears of an ague ; but those fears are going off, because I see my illness settling into a cold. . . . And now, my Lord, having given your Lordship an account of these little impertinencies, my great business, which I shall ever be doing but shall never finish, is to give your Lordship the greatest thanks in a just acknowledgement and publication of your greatest, your freest, your noblest obligations passed upon me; for the day scarce renews so often as your Lordship’s favours to me. My Lord, I have from the hand of your excellent Lady received 301.: for your Ladyship not only provides an excellent country for me, but å viaticum, and manna in the way, that the favour may be as much without charge to me as it is without merit on my part. Truly, my Lord, if your Lordship had done to me as many other worthy persons have, that is, a single favour, or a little one, or something that I had merited, or something for which I might be admitted to pay an equal service, or anything which is not without example, or could possibly be without envy to me, I could have spoken such things as might bave given true and proper significations of my thankfulness; but in earnest, my Lord, since I have understood the greatness of the favour you have done and intended to me—if I had not been also acquainted with the very great nobleness of your disposition, I should have had more wonder than belief; but now, my Lord, I am satisfied with this, that although this conjugation of favours is too great for me to have hoped for from one person, yet it was not too great for your Lordship to give; and I see that in all times, especially in the worst, God is pleased to appoint some heroical examples of virtue, that such extraordinary precedents might highly reprove and in some measure restore the almost lost


[ocr errors]

worthiness of mankind. My Lord, you read my heart, which with
the greatest simplicity and ingenuity sends forth some of its per-
petual thoughts; but if I can have my option, I shall not receive this
heap of favours with so great joyfulness as I shall with earnestness
beg this greater favour, that it may be in some measure put into my
power to express how much I love how much I honour, how willingly
I would serve so excellent, so dear a person. My good Lord, I am,

Your Lordship’s most humble,
' most obliged, and most affectionate servant,

'I pray, my good Lord, present my humble service to your ex-
cellent and pious mother, and to good Mr. Whitby.'

From this interesting document we learn for the first time that Taylor was acquainted with the family of Chaworth of Annesley, so well known in later times from their connexion with another man of very different stamp of genius. It gives us a glimpse of Taylor's book-hunting habits, when we find that his patron employed him to complete his collection of Tom Nash's works—which, though not by any means of a theological character, were already in his own library-and to procure him a copy of Castalio against Beza. The latter was probably of Taylor's own recommending ; for he sympathised with him both in his anti-Calvinistic theology and in his desire for freedom of religion. There is no denying that his expressions of gratitude to Lord Conway are, to our notions, hyperbolical and unsuited to the dignity of a great divine. Such expressions are quite in the manner of the time; yet Lord Conway seems to have been a little annoyed at their exuberance, for his manly reply contains something very like a reproof.

This letter makes certain what Heber had already conjectured, that Taylor's letter of May 12, 1658, in which he declines a lectureship offered him by a friend of Evelyn's, on the condition of alternating with a presbyterian, like Castor and Pollux, the one up and the other down,' does not refer to Lord Conway's chaplaincy.

In Lord Conway he had one of the kindest and most considerate of patrons, who did the best to smooth the way for him in his difficulties. Besides giving him the benefit of his own influence, he procured for him introductions to some of the most considerable persons in Ireland, and Dr. Petty, * who had been employed in the survey of Ireland and knew the country well, “promised to provide him a purchase of land at great advantage.'' Moreover, iny Lord Protector, who was perhaps not sorry to have so distin

* Afterwards Sir William Petty, author of the Political Anatomy of Ireland,' and founder of the English settlement at Kenmare,


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« السابقةمتابعة »