and others of their family
Death of Isaac Taylor
Eclectic Review, July, 1865
On Wednesday 1st, after many weeks of great suffering, borne with Christian resignation, the author of Natural History of Enthusiasm closed a long career of usefulness at the advanced age of 77.
Originally trained as an artist, Isaac Taylor at an early age abandoned his profession for that literary career in which so many members of his family had attained distinction. His father, the Rev Isaac Taylor, or Ongar; his uncle Charles Taylor, the learned editor of Calmet; his sisters, Ann and Jane Taylor, the joint authors of Original Poems and Hymns for Infant Minds; his mother, Ann Taylor, and his brother, Jefferys Taylor, have all written works which have attained a wide popularity.
In 1818 Mr Isaac Taylor first became a contributor to the Eclectic Review, in conjunction with Robert Hall, John Foster and Josiah Conder. His first independent literary venture was a small volume entitled Elements of Thought, published in 1822. This was succeeded by a translation of the Characters of Theorphrastus, with clever original illustrations, etched by the author; by the History of the Transmission of Ancient Books to Modern Times, the Process of Historical Proof, the Memoirs and Correspondence of Jane Taylor, and by a new translation of Herodotus. None of these early literary ventures had achieved any very eminent success. Mr Taylor at last discovered the true vein in which his genius lay. In 1829 the Natural History of Enthusiasm was published anonymously. Coming out at a time of great political and religious ferment, and offering a philosophy of the problems of the day, the book was received with extraordinary fervour by the public, and rapidly ran through eight or nine editions. With the object of giving continuity to the philosophical and religious theories which he has advanced in the History of Enthusiasm, Mr Taylor in the course of the next seven years published that series of works on which his fame must rest, Fanaticism, Spiritual Despotism, Saturday Evening, and the Physical Theory of Another Life, works which have all had and continue to command and extensive sale.
The publication of the last of these works led to the reluctant surrender of the author's incognito. The unknown writer received an urgent request from the late Dr Chalmers to stand for the chair of Logic in the University of Edinburgh in opposition to the late Sir William Hamilton, who was elected by a small majority.
In 1838 Mr Taylor gave to the world the thoughts which had suggested themselves while a large family was growing up around him in his country seclusion at Stanford Rivers. This work, Home Education, has had an extensive popularity, and has induced many parents to endeavour to promote the enjoyments of children — to educate rather than to instruct.
In the following year Mr Taylor was induced to take part with the Rev Robert Traill in bringing out a new translation of Josephus. This costly and magnificent work was accompanied with numerous illustrations engraved by some most ingenious and elaborate machinery, the invention of which had been the amusement of Mr Taylor's leisure hours. The inopportune death of Dr Traill at the eve of the publication of this work brought upon Mr Taylor ruinous pecuniary responsibilities, from which for many years he was unable to extricate himself. The engraving machine was patented in England, Scotland and America, and, though, productive of small benefit to the inventor, has realised large returns in the hands of others.
About this period the Tracts for the Times were creating an unexampled excitement in the religious world. Mr Taylor had long made himself familiar with the whole range of patristic literature; he felt that the writers of the Tracts were giving an essentially perverted view of the tendencies, doctrinal and ritual, of the early Church. As a layman, standing clear of any secular embarassments of an ecclesiastical kind, Mr Taylor felt himself impelled to come forward and state the results to which his independent and unbiased study of the Fathers had led him. This he did in a work entitled Ancient Christianity, a work which was virulently attacked, and as warmly defended, by the respective partisans in the great controversy which was then shaking the English Church. Some of the leaders of the succession which ensued have acknowledged that the facts and reasonings of this work did more than anything else to drive them over to Rome.
After an interval of seven years, Mr Taylor published essays, partly philosophical, partly historical, on the lives of Loyola and Wesley. Shortly afterwards a volume on the Christian argument was published anonymously at Cambridge, entitled the Restoration of Belief. Two volumes of essays — Logic and Theology, and Ultimate Civilisation — a series of lectures, originally delivered in Edinburgh, on The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, and a series of autobiographical papers published in the last year in Good Words were the last occupations of his declining years. To the end his mind retained all its power. He leaves, we believe, a large family.
A work by his eldest son, the Rev Isaac Taylor, entitled Words and Places, we recently had occasion to notice very favourably in these columns.