Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, John (1704-1766)

TAYLOR, JOHN (1704–1766), classical scholar, was born on 22 June 1704 at Shrewsbury, where his father, John Taylor, was a barber. Through the good offices of Edward Owen of Condover, Taylor was sent from Shrewsbury school to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted sizar on 7 June 1721. He graduated B.A. in 1724, and proceeded M.A. in 1728 (Grad. Cant.) On 25 March 1729 he was admitted fellow of St. John's, where he filled the office of tutor. In 1730 he delivered the Latin oration in Great St. Mary's on the anniversary of King Charles the Martyr (Gent. Mag. 1778, ii. 512). In 1732 he was appointed university librarian, and in 1734 registrar. He took the degree of LL.D. in 1741, taking up law in order to qualify himself to retain his fellowship without ordination. In 1744 he became chancellor of the diocese of Lincoln, having been introduced to the bishop by Lord Carteret, to whose grandsons he had been tutor, and who had thought of making him under-secretary of state.

After considerable hesitation Taylor took orders, and received the college living of Lawford, Essex, in 1751. In 1753 he became archdeacon of Buckingham, and in 1757 canon of St. Paul's on Richard Terrick's promotion to the see of Peterborough. In 1758 he resigned the registrarship, and left Cambridge to live in London. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Antiquarian Society in 1759, and became director of the latter. He died in Amen Corner, 4 April 1766, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. He bequeathed to Shrewsbury school his library, and a fund to found an exhibition to St. John's College. His manuscripts and books, with marginal notes in manuscript, he left to Anthony Askew [q. v.], his executor. Askew handed over the manuscript notes on Demosthenes to Reiske (Reiske, Introduction to Demosthenes), who deals somewhat severely with their author. The books were mostly purchased at Askew's death for the university libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, and for the British Museum.

In 1732 Taylor issued the prospectus of his edition of Lysias, but the work did not appear till 1739. It embodies Markland's conjectures. In 1741 he published an edition of ‘Demosthenes contra Leptinem,’ intended as a specimen of a projected complete edition of Demosthenes and Æschines. The third volume of the work appeared, with a dedication to his patron Carteret, in 1748, and the second volume in 1757. The first is represented only by the notes that Askew gave to Reiske. The excellence of Taylor's editions of the Greek orators is now generally acknowledged, and they rank with the best productions of English scholars.

In addition to the above works Taylor published: 1. ‘Commentarius ad legem decemviralem de inope debitore in partes dissecando,’ 1742. 2. ‘Demosthenes contra Midiam and Lycurgus contra Leocratem,’ 1743. 3. ‘Marmor Sandvicense,’ 1744. This is an explanation of the marble brought from Athens to England by Lord Sandwich in 1739. It was the first inscription discovered that contained any account of the contributions levied by Athens upon her allies. The marble was presented to Trinity College, Cambridge. 4. ‘Elements of the Civil Law,’ 1755, a work made up from papers that he had written for Carteret's grandsons; new edit. 1769; abridged under the title ‘Summary of Roman Law,’ 1773. Warburton severely attacked it on its first publication in the ‘Divine Legation,’ 1755. The cause was a difference of opinion concerning the reason of the persecutions of the early Christians. Taylor made no reply, but in 1758 an anonymous pamphlet appeared entitled ‘Impartial Remarks on the Preface of Dr. Warburton,’ in which some attempt at retaliation was made. Taylor also published sermons and contributed to the transactions of the Royal Society (Nos. xliv. 344, xlvi. 649, liii. 133). He was joint editor of the London edition of R. Stephens's ‘Latin Thesaurus,’ contributed to Foster's ‘Essay on Accent and Quantity,’ and began an appendix to ‘Suidas.’

[Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vi. 490; Gent. Mag. 1778 ii. 456, 1804 ii. 646; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, passim; Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. Hill, iii. 318.]

E. C. M.