Jeremy Taylor

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Taylor, Jeremy

The Anglican bishop and writer Jeremy Taylor (16131667), one of the key exemplars of pastoral care and a gifted writer, was born and educated in Cambridge, England. He was ranked by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as the equal of Shakespeare and Milton. Taylor was probably ordained in 1633, the year in which he took his master's degree; he became a fellow of Gonville and Caius College and, two years later, a fellow at All Souls in Oxford. Shortly after being appointed the rector of Uppingham in 1638, he became the chaplain to the king of England on Laud's nomination; Laud also seems to have retained him as his own chaplain.

Taylor joined the Royalist army as chaplain when civil war broke out in 1642, and he was briefly imprisoned twice. In 1645 he became private chaplain to Lord Carbery at his Golden Grove estate. There, Taylor produced his greatest works, including A Discourse of the Liberty of Prophesying (1647), a call for Christian toleration that probably alienated Charles I; The Golden Grove (1655), a collection of daily prayers; and the Unum Necessarium (1655), a work on sin and repentance. His two famous books of devotion, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living (1650) and The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying (1651), were intended to act as guides for those not served by local Anglican clergy because of the ejection of priests during the interregnum. At the Restoration in 1660, Taylor published his comprehensive manual of moral theology, the Ductor Dubitantium. That same year he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor; in 1661 he was appointed bishop of Dromore, in Ireland; and later vice-chancellor of Trinity College, in Dublin.

Although he seemed conventional in his relations with the royal and Episcopal authorities, Taylor aroused controversy because of his defense of Christian toleration and his allegedly Pelagian views on original sin and justification, both of which were attacked by the Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford. Holy Dying was written in the circumstances of the death of his wife, Phoebe, but was directed at a general audience as a self-help manual: "The first entire Body of Directions for sick and dying People, that I remember to have been publish'd in the Church of England." The importance of the text was not only in the quality of its prose but in the serenity of its ecumenical verdict: "Let it be enough that we secure our Interest of Heaven," Taylor wrote, "for every good Man hopes to be saved as he is a Christian, and not as he is a Lutheran, or of another Division." Taylor advocated daily self-examination by the Christian to avoid divine judgment, and especially the "extremely sad" condition of many "Strangers and Enemies to Christ." Thus, he concluded, "He that would die holily and happily, must in this World love Tears, Humility, Solitude, and Repentance" (Taylor, 2:1:3).

See also: Christian Death Rites, History of; Good Death, The; Moment of Death


Askew, Reginald. Muskets and Altars: Jeremy Taylor and the Last of the Anglicans. London: Mowbray, 1997.

Hughes, H. Trevor. The Piety of Jeremy Taylor. London: Macmillan, 1960.

Taylor, Jeremy. The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying. N.p., 1811.


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Anglican bishop, polemicist, and author of theological and devotional works; b. Cambridge, England, 1613;d. Lisburn, Ireland, Aug. 13, 1667. He was educated at Cambridge University, elected a fellow of Caius College, and ordained in 1633. Two years later, through the favor of Abp. William laud, he was given a fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, and a chaplaincy to King Charles I. He was a prominent preacher but was sometimes criticized as bookish and argumentative. He fell under a cloud of suspicion briefly because of his association with one of Queen Henrietta Maria's Franciscan chaplains, Christopher Davenport, but he disclaimed any leanings toward Catholicism. In a famous Gunpowder Plot sermon (Nov. 5, 1638) he equated recusancy and treason, insisted that Elizabeth's penal laws were mild, and said that the seal of confession was a cover for treason.

In 1638 Taylor was given a rectorship at Uppingham and later at Overstone; in 1644 he was with the Royalist army. He was captured, imprisoned, and released by the Roundheads in 1645, and after that episode retired into Wales to a private chaplaincy. He wrote extensively in Wales, but preached occasionally in London. He was imprisoned twice by the Commonwealth in 1655. He was a leading Royalist cleric and, with the Restoration in 1660, was nominated bishop of Down and Connor, and soon after, administrator of Dromore and vice chancellor of the University of Dublin. As a bishop in Ireland he was energetic in seeing that the law was used fully against both Catholics and Presbyterians, especially the clergy, and he wrote an abusive volume entitled Dissuasive from Popery (1664). He was not particularly happy as the bishop of areas in which there was so much religious contention, but he remained in residence and was a serious administrator.

His best-known theological work is Liberty of Prophesying (Theologica eclectica, 1646), and his best devotional works are Rule and Exercise of Holy Living (1650), which ran into dozens of printings, and Holy Dying (1651). His offensive polemics should be viewed with an eye to the politics of his day. Once suspect of "Roman leanings," men such as Taylor had to make it eminently clear to both Anglicans and Presbyterians that they were second to none in abhorring Catholicism. In his quieter works he advocated legal tolerance and careful justice for outlawed religious groups as "the way to win them." His devotional writings remain attractive in the style of his age, and his sermons, often argumentative and faintly rationalist, are in the classic literary mold.

Bibliography: Whole Works, ed. r. heber, 15 v. (London 1822), rev. ed. c. p. eden, 10 v. (London 184754). c. j. stranks, The Life and Writings of Jeremy Taylor (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge ; London 1952), a full-scale study with bibliog. of earlier studies. a. gordon, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 19:422429, bibliog. g. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1325.

[e. v. clark]

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Taylor, Jeremy (1613–67). Bishop of Down and Connor. Born in Cambridge, and educated at Gonville and Caius College, he was successively fellow of All Souls, Oxford (1635), rector of Uppingham (1638), and chaplain to Charles I. After joining the royalist army he was captured (1645), but after release lived in Carmarthenshire as chaplain to Lord Carberry where he wrote Liberty of Prophesying and the devotional works Holy Living and Holy Dying. After a spell in London ministering to episcopalians (1653–8) and as lecturer at Lisburn (Ireland) (1658), he became bishop of Down and Connor (1661). The presbyterians there would ‘talk with no bishop’ and Taylor ejected 36 ministers. His severity ensured the establishment of presbyterians as a separate ecclesiastical community. His plea to Sheldon for a move to England (1664) was unheeded and he died at Lisburn.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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Taylor, Jeremy (1613–67). Anglican bishop and writer, ‘the Shakespeare of the divines’ (Emerson). He was chaplain to Charles I, and rector of Uppingham (1638–42). When the king's cause failed, he used his exile in Carmarthenshire to write his plea for toleration, The Liberty of Prophesying (1647), his influential devotional works, The Life of Christ (1649), Holy Living (1650), Holy Dying (1651), Unum Necessarium (1655), and various sermons. He was appointed bishop of Down and Connor in 1660. He regarded his Ductor Dubitantium, a comprehensive study of moral theology, as his most important work.

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