Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cayley, Cornelius

CAYLEY, CORNELIUS (1729–1780?), religious writer, was born in 1729 at Hull. At nineteen Lord Scarborough introduced him to a place at court as clerk in the treasury of the Prince of Wales. With a view to promotion he learnt foreign languages and practised music and dancing, and after a time made application to go as under-secretary to the ambassador to Paris; but superior interest procured the place for another. After this disappointment he attempted to indulge in the gaieties of London life; but a strongly religious temperament led him into other pursuits. He became acquainted with James Hervey, author of the ‘Meditations,’ and through him he visited the Tabernacle in Moorfields. There for a time he was in constant attendance, read religious books of the old puritan sort, and soon took to preaching about London. He printed a little treatise on ‘The Doctrine of Jesus Christ,’ for presentation. For a time he made his home in the house of Lady Cornelia Piers at Mill Hill, where he preached to very select company. His autumn vacations were usually spent in travelling through the country and preaching wherever opportunity offered. He still held his place at the treasury, until he was told that he must give up preaching, when he resigned his post to devote himself entirely to religious work. He then settled for a time at Norwich, which he left in 1761. While there, in 1756, he composed a Christmas anthem, which was frequently sung to a fine piece of cathedral music, and he published a letter in answer to Mr. Potter, a clergyman of Reymerston, who had printed a sermon against the methodists. In the autumn of 1772 Cayley started on a tour through Holland, Flanders, and France. He wrote an account of his travels on the way: it was printed in parts in the ‘Leeds Weekly Newspaper,’ and afterwards printed separately in a 12mo volume. On arriving at Dover he set off for his ‘little retirement near Leeds.’ There, in 1778, he published the third edition of his ‘Life’ (originally published at Norwich in 1757–8), with enlargements, but with little further account of himself after 1761. A portrait of ‘Cornelius Cayley, minister of the gospel,’ drawn by Swanfelder and engraved by I. Taylor, is prefixed to this third edition. The book has been reprinted four times in the present century, so recently as 1862 and again in 1863. Cayley also published: 1. ‘The Seraphical Young Shepherd and a Small Bunch of Violets,’ 1762, 2nd edit. 1769. 2. ‘The Amethyst; or some Beams of Eternal Light,’ 1763. 3. ‘The Day-Star of Glory rising in the Hearts of the Saints,’ 1769. 4. ‘The Olive Branch of Peace and the Shulamite: a poem,’ 1771. 5. ‘An Evangelical Dialogue,’ 1780, and various other small things. He also wrote largely on the ‘Mystery of the Two Adams,’ but the manuscript has not been traced, nor any further account of the author after 1780.

[Life of Cornelius Cayley, written by himself, 3rd edit. Leeds, 1778; Cayley's Tour through Holland, Flanders, and part of France, 2nd edit. Leeds, 1777.]

J. H. T.