Taylor, Jeremy (1613–67), Church of Ireland bishop of Down and Connor, was born in Cambridge, England, third son and fourth among six children of Nathaniel Taylor, barber, and his wife Mary Dean; he was baptised 15 August 1613.
Education and early career Having attended the Perse School in Cambridge, he was admitted to Gonville and Caius College as a sizar on 18 August 1626. Elected a Perse scholar (1628), he graduated BA (1631) and MA (1634). It seems that he was ordained in 1633, the year of his election to a Perse fellowship at Caius, where he was appointed praelector rhetoricus in 1634. He did not remain in Cambridge for long. Having preached to acclaim in St Paul's cathedral in London, he came to the attention of William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of Oxford University, whose patronage saw him admitted as MA (Oxon.) in October 1635 and as a fellow of All Souls, despite opposition from its warden, Gilbert Sheldon. From now onwards he was closely identified with Laud's party in the church. There were even accusations of crypto-catholicism, which may have led Taylor to deliver on 5 November 1638 a forceful denunciation of the treasonous character of popery at the annual commemoration in Oxford of the gunpowder plot. Appointed (March 1638) as rector of Uppingham in Rutland, he gave himself wholeheartedly to his pastoral duties and, like the good Laudian he was, acquired ornaments and vestments and received episcopal licence to erect an organ and employ an organist.
Civil war and interregnum With the outbreak of civil war in England in the summer of 1642, Taylor left Uppingham and joined the king at Nottingham and became one of his chaplains, moving to Oxford with the royal court in the autumn. By royal mandate he was admitted DD at Oxford in November, very likely in recognition of his recently published Of the sacred order and offices of episcopacy, by divine institution, apostolicall tradition, & catholicke practice. The following year he was appointed to a living in Northamptonshire, but there is no evidence that he took it up. He appears to have served as a chaplain in the royalist army, which may explain his imprisonment in Cardigan castle following the defeat of a royalist force in January 1645. Released within a few months, he found employment as a teacher in a school founded by an ejected anglican minister in Carmarthenshire, not far from Golden Grove, the residence of the Welsh peer Lord Carbery, a former royalist commander, who appointed Taylor as chaplain to his family. Taylor was based in Wales till 1657 and lived first at Golden Grove, which provided him with the peace he needed to resume his scholarly life. He remained there till he moved, at some stage in the early 1650s, to Mandiman in Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, following his second marriage. From 1653 he began to visit London more frequently to arrange for the publication of his books, and there he widened the circle of his friends, who now included the virtuoso John Evelyn, and found opportunity to preach to sympathetic congregations. The authorities regarded him with suspicion and he appears to have been imprisoned on at least two occasions, the more serious being a five-month incarceration in Chepstow castle (1655), possibly in the aftermath of a royalist uprising in the spring. In 1657 he decided to leave Wales and settle in London.
Lord Conway's household 1658–60 It was in London that he met his future patron Edward Conway (qv), 3rd Viscount Conway and Killultagh, and his learned wife Anne Conway (qv). When Conway offered him a lectureship at Lisnagarvey, Co. Antrim, he turned it down; but soon poverty and his wife's pregnancy changed his mind about settling in Ireland, and Conway appointed him chaplain to his household at Portmore. At first the authorities refused him permission to travel, but the influential Conway procured a pass from the lord protector, Oliver Cromwell (qv). While Conway did not travel to Ireland till 1661, his brother-in-law George Rawdon (qv) looked after the practical needs of Taylor and his family, who stayed with Rawdon for a time at his home in Lisnagarvey. Taylor seems to have been in Ireland from July 1658. He did not hold any incumbency but took services, preached, and above all else worked on the final stages of Ductor dubitantium, his manual for resolving moral dilemmas, which he intended as a protestant replacement for the Roman catholic manuals of casuistry which it emulated. Presbyterians disliked his presence in Antrim, and in June 1659 an Independent minister reported him to the authorities for using the sign of the cross when administering baptism. This might have led to prosecution and imprisonment but, by the time he answered a summons to Dublin, the December coup d’état had removed any threat of further proceedings.
Bishop of Down and Connor He remained at Portmore till April 1660, when the restoration of the monarchy seemed certain, and then travelled to London. Offered the bishopric of Down and Connor before the end of June and formally nominated on 6 August, he was among the twelve bishops consecrated in St Patrick's cathedral on 27 January 1661 at a special ceremony at which he was asked to preach the sermon.
Taylor might well have expected appointment to an English diocese; his academic background was impeccable and his scholarly reputation well established. But there were a number of reasons for not including him on the English bench: Gilbert Sheldon (bishop of London 1660–63 and archbishop of Canterbury 1663–77) had doubts about his personality and temperament; his theology was suspect not just to presbyterians but to fellow Laudian survivors who had been dismayed by his effective rejection of the traditional doctrine of original sin in Unum necessarium (1655); and his strident if highly intelligent defence of episcopacy and liturgy since the early 1640s made him seem an improbable exponent of that comprehensive church settlement which government policy favoured in 1660. But those who determined the character of the Irish episcopate in 1660 had little interest in a comprehensive church settlement. Nine of the twelve new bishops had been anglican sufferers during the commonwealth, and the appointment of two of them to dioceses with large and assertively presbyterian populations – Taylor to Down and Connor and George Wilde (1610–65) to Derry – suggests a deliberate act of policy; the primate, John Bramhall (qv), would refer in April 1661 to the work for which Taylor was sent to Down and Connor as ‘the reformation of that schismatical part of the country’ (Carte MSS 221, f. 170).
Of the seventy-odd presbyterian ministers claiming rights as incumbents at the start of 1660, at least half of them were in Taylor's diocese. Even before his consecration he was made aware of their hostility to his appointment and their accusations of Socinianism and Arminianism; a meeting of ministers at Newtown in early December 1660 resolved to preach against episcopacy and the Book of Common Prayer. Within two months of his consecration Taylor held a diocesan synod, to which only two presbyterian ministers came, allowing Taylor to declare thirty-six livings vacant and ready to be filled by episcopally ordained clergy. In time five presbyterian ministers submitted to ordination by Taylor, but the mutual hostility of bishop and ejected ministers remained unabated to his death and did not make Taylor's tenure of Down and Connor any easier. As early as April 1661 the death of the aged Bishop Henry Leslie (qv) of Meath offered the prospect of early release, with Bishop Michael Boyle (qv) of Cork urging Taylor's translation. Bramhall admitted that Taylor could not be refused Meath if he insisted on it, but hoped that Taylor would stay where he was if his financial situation were improved by having the diocese of Dromore placed under his administration, an offer Taylor accepted.
He remained an active bishop in his diocese till his death, travelling widely and conducting visitations in 1665 and 1666, as well as attending to the ecclesiastical courts. He became despondent in 1664 when Lord and Lady Conway, who clearly provided congenial company, decided to return to England, and he hoped that at the least an opportunity to visit England would soon arise. In May he unsuccessfully solicited Gilbert Sheldon for translation to an English diocese.
Public affairs His diocese apart, Taylor's role on the national scene was initially prominent. In 1660 he was appointed vice-chancellor of Dublin University on the recommendation of its chancellor, the duke of Ormond (qv), and soon after he arrived back in Ireland he made it clear at a visitation of the college that it would be expected to conform itself to ‘the laws of the church’. In 1661 he travelled frequently to Dublin to attend to his public duties. Appointed to the Irish privy council in February 1661, he preached at the opening of parliament on 8 May and was a regular attender in the house of lords, where he chaired a committee of the whole house on parliament's declaration on episcopal government and the liturgy (which required all subjects to conform themselves to the established church). At the same time he took an active part in the Church of Ireland's convocation and sat on a committee to review and revise the canons of 1634, which continued into the 1662 session but seems not to have reported. But in 1662 he attended parliament spasmodically and convocation only twice. The previous November he had told John Evelyn that ‘I cannot yet have leisure to think much of my old employment. But I hope I have brought my affairs almost to a consistence, and then I may return again’ (quoted in Bolton, 272). In 1662 he was clearly making time for writing.
Final years Taylor's health was never robust, and in 1665 he was unable to attend parliament, which had resumed in October. The nature of his illness is not clear but involved a ‘stiffness of his arms which he cannot lift up to his head’. Though his improvement was gradual he managed to attend the final months of the parliamentary session in spring 1666 and conduct a visitation of his diocese. In August 1667 he contracted a fever, when visting the sick, and died after ten days illness on 13 August 1667 at his home in Lisburn.
Family On Taylor's death Archbishop James Margetson (qv) of Armagh told Ormond that he left behind him ‘a sad and (beyond my belief) an indigent family’. Taylor had been twice married. While rector of Uppingham he married Phoebe Langsdale (d. 1651), the sister of one of his pupils at Caius. They had several children, including at least four sons (three of whom died in infancy) and two daughters, one of whom, Mary, married Francis Marsh (qv), dean of Armagh and later archbishop of Dublin. At some stage in the early 1650s, when he was based in Wales, he married Joanna Bridges and lived with her at Mandiman, near Llangadog, a property they did not actually own till 1660 (Hughes, 9). They had at least two children, a son who died in childhood and a daughter Joanna who married Edward Harrison (1644–1700), later MP for Lisburn (1692, 1695–9).
Reputation The duke of Ormond regarded Taylor's death as ‘a great and unseasonable loss to this church’ (Carte MSS 45, f. 218), a view not shared universally by anglican clergy, including a fellow Laudian, Archbishop Sheldon of Canterbury, who wrote on hearing of his death: ‘though we have lost a very learned man in the bishop of Down yet I am glad he left no more trouble behind him. He was of a very dangerous temper, apt to break out into extravagances, and I have had till of late years much to do with him to keep him in order and to find diversions for him. Now those fears are at an end’ (Sheldon to Ormond, Carte MSS 45, f. 222). Sheldon had tried to block his admission to All Souls in 1635, had strongly disapproved of his Unum necessarium in 1655, and had successfully prevented his appointment to an English diocese after the restoration. Taylor's capacity for controversy made him suspect if not dangerous. He never shirked controversy, be it with Roman catholics or presbyterian ministers. To the latter he refused those principles of religious liberty he had enunciated in 1648 in The liberty of prophesying, when the future of episcopalian protestantism had seemed doomed. His A dissuasive from popery to the people of Ireland, published in 1664, drew a robust response from Roman catholic pamphleteers, one of whom questioned his scholarly integrity ‘to give the admirers of Dr Taylor . . . some cause to lessen their great opinion of him’ (A letter to a friend, touching Dr Jeremy Taylor's Dissuasive from popery, discovering above an hundred and fifty false, or wretched quotations in it (1665)). And there were indeed many contemporaries who held Taylor in the highest regard, most especially for his religious or devotional writing, with its emphasis on prayer, ritual, and liturgy. His life of Christ, The great exemplar (1649), combines biography and prayerful meditation, while his two great manuals of piety, both written in seclusion in Wales, Rule and exercises of holy living (1650) and Rule and exercises of holy dying (1651), were reprinted in his own lifetime and for long afterwards. Holy living appeared in at least fourteen editions to 1700, remained popular in the first two decades of the eighteenth century, and again from the 1790s into the later nineteenth century, with at least four editions appearing in the twentieth century, one of them (1928) translated into Welsh. In the late twentieth century Archbishop H. R. McAdoo (qv), joint chairman of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission, published The eucharistic theology of Jeremy Taylor today (1988), and later wrote of how ‘Taylor's modernity, his strange capacity of being at times ahead of his times, keeps surprising us at different levels of his output. Truly, he is a limitless man’ (McAdoo, Jeremy Taylor. Anglican theologian, 30). Thomas K. Carroll (d. 2005), the Roman catholic theologian and ecumenist, published Jeremy Taylor: selected works (New York, 1990) and Wisdom and wasteland: Jeremy Taylor in his prose and preaching today (Dublin, 2001). All Taylor's works were edited by R. Heber and published in fifteen volumes as The whole works of the Right Reverend Jeremy Taylor (1828), an edition which was later revised and corrected by C. P. Eden in ten volumes (1847–54). A portrait in oils by Eddis in Caius College, Cambridge, is after the three-quarter-length portrait in All Souls College, Oxford. There is a line engraving by W. Faithorne in both the NGI and the National Portrait Gallery, London.