Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, Henry (1711-1785)

TAYLOR, HENRY (1711–1785), theological writer, third son of William Taylor (1673–1750), by his wife Anna, daughter of Edward Crispe, was born at South Weald, Essex, in May 1711. His father, a London merchant having property in Essex, had the repute of a wit, and wrote facetious verse (Knox, Elegant Extracts, 1801, p. 770). Taylor was at school at Hackney with John Hoadly (1711–1776) [q. v.] under Henry Newcome, grandson of Henry Newcome [q. v.] Entering at Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1727, he matriculated in 1729, commenced B.A. in 1731, was elected fellow in 1733, and proceeded M.A. in 1735. He was ordained deacon in 1733, and priest in 1735 by Benjamin Hoadly. In 1736 he was curate at Rivenhall, Essex. In 1737 he was instituted to the rectory of Wheatfield, Oxfordshire; this he held for a minor. In 1744 Bishop Hoadly gave him the rectory of Baughurst, Hampshire, which he held with Wheatfield. In 1745 he was presented to the vicarage of Portsmouth, resigning Baughurst. He was appointed (1748) chaplain to James Dalrymple, third earl of Stair. In 1753 he was instituted to the rectory of Ovington, Hampshire, resigning Wheatfield. In 1755 he was instituted to the rectory of Crawley, Hampshire, which he held with Portsmouth, resigning Ovington. Like his father, he was noted as a wit and a writer of humorous epigram. His graceful verses on wedlock, ‘Paradise Regain'd,’ are in Dodsley's ‘Collection’ (1758, vi. 126).

Taylor was among the last of the Anglican divines of the Clarkean school; but he outran his master, openly espousing the Apollinarian heresy. This he did in a series of letters (1771–1777) purporting to be the ‘Apology’ of Ben Mordecai for embracing Christianity. Though anonymous, the work was known as Taylor's, and was acknowledged in the second enlarged edition of 1784. It abounds in learning and in argument, but is very discursive. The seventh letter, on miracles, was separately reprinted by his son William. In 1772 Taylor was one of the clergy petitioning for relief from subscription [see Stone, Francis]. He omitted the Athanasian creed, but otherwise conformed to the requirements of his position.

Taylor died at Titchfield, Hampshire, on 27 April 1785, and was buried on 3 May in the chancel of Crawley Church. He married (16 June 1740) Christian (d. 23 July 1769), fourth daughter of Francis Fox [q. v.] By her he had eight children. His son William was grandfather of Peter Alfred Taylor [q. v.]

Besides ‘The Apology of Ben Mordecai,’ he published:

  1. ‘An Essay on the Beauty of the Divine Œconomy,’ 1760, 8vo (based on a visitation sermon, 18 Sept. 1759).
  2. ‘A Full Answer to a … View of the Internal Evidences,’ 1777, 8vo (anon., against Soame Jenyns [q. v.]).
  3. ‘Thoughts on the … Grand Apostacy, with Reflections on … Gibbon's History,’ 1781, 8vo (expresses millenarian views).
  4. ‘Farther Thoughts on the … Grand Apostacy,’ 1783, 8vo. Posthumous was
  5. ‘Considerations on … Creeds,’ 1788, 8vo (edited by his son Henry; an appended letter on the ‘Immortality of the Soul’ is by his son William).

The British Museum has an interleaved Hebrew Bible, Amsterdam, 1667, 4 vols. 8vo (1942. e. 2–5), which formerly belonged to Bishop Ken, and has notes by both Ken and Taylor. Specimens of Taylor's unpublished verses, with many of his letters, are given in ‘Some Account of the Taylor Family’ (1875), which also contains portraits.

[Brief Account, by Stone, in Monthly Repository, 1813 pp. 285 sq., 1817 p. 625, 1818 p. 16; Memoir, by Price, in Christian Reformer, 1849, pp. 65 sq., 235 sq.; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, 1812 i. 663, iii. 124, 1814 viii. 428; Gent. Mag. May 1785 p. 402, 1822 i. 286; Priestley's Works, ed. Rutt, vii. 472, 481; Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biography, 1850, iii. 604; Luard's Graduati Cantabr. 1873; Cole's manuscript Athenæ Cantabr.; information from the Revs. Canon Fraser (South Weald), W. J. Smith (Crawley), E. P. Grant (Portsmouth), F. Borradaile (Spridlington), and E. Buckle (Banstead).]

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