Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coleridge, John Taylor

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COLERIDGE, Sir JOHN TAYLOR (1790–1876), judge, was the second son of Captain James Coleridge of Heath's Court, Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, by Frances Duke, daughter of Mr. Bernard F. Taylor, through whom he was connected with the Duke family of Otterton and Power Hayes. He was a grandson of the Rev. John Coleridge, father of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was born at Tiverton in 1790, and was educated first by his uncle, the Rev. George Coleridge, at Ottery St. Mary, then at Eton, where he was a colleger, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was elected a scholar in April 1809. His tutor here was George Leigh Cooke, on whose advice, to his subsequent regret, he discontinued entirely the study of mathematics. Keble, his senior in standing but junior in years, lived in a garret on the same staircase, and was his intimate friend. He graduated a B.A. in Easter term 1812, after a brilliant university career. He took a first class in the final classical schools, and gained the chancellor's prize for Latin verse upon the subject of the Egyptian pyramids in 1810. He was elected to a fellowship at Exeter College, and gained the Vinerian scholarship, and in 1813 took both bachelors' prizes for English and Latin essays on the subjects respectively of 'Etymology' and 'The Influence of the Roman Censorship on the Morals of Rome,' a feat which, besides himself, only Keble and Milman have achieved. In 1814, on the opening of the continent, he travelled to Geneva with Charles Dyson and Nathaniel and Noel Ellison. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1819, but, with the literary bent and influence natural in a nephew of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he directed his attention for some time to literature. He was a frequent contributor to the 'Quarterly Review,' and during the interregnum in 1834, between the retirement of Gifford and the appointment of Lockhart, he acted as editor for three or four months. He was a friend of Wordsworth and of Arnold and of Pusey and Newman, and afterwards contributed to Dean Stanley's ' Life of Arnold' the letter describing Corpus Christi College as it was when Arnold was there. He was also the author of a 'Life of Keble' (1869), which, owing to serious illness, was long delayed, and of the best edition of Blackstone's 'Commentaries' (1825). He published a lecture, delivered at the Athenæum, Tiverton, in 1860, on 'Public School Education,' which reached a third edition in 1861; a letter, dated 21 March 1871, to Canon Liddon, entitled 'Remarks on some parts of the Report of the Judicial Committee in Elphinstone v. Purchas;' and an introduction to Miss James's 'City which hath Foundations,' also in 1871. Though never a great, he was always a sound lawyer, and in 1832 became serjeant-at-law and recorder of Exeter. In 1835, when a seat in the king's bench became vacant by the death of Mr. Justice Taunton, it was offered to and declined by Mr. Bickersteth, and then to Coleridge, although men so distinguished as Serjeant Stephen, Serjeant Spankie, and Mr. Wightman, the 'devil' to the attorney-general, were also mentioned for the post. In his judgments his literary tastes and classical knowledge appear rather than deep learning. He was a member of the court before which the mandamus to the Archbishop of Canterbury to proceed with the confirmation of Dr. Hampden as bishop of Hereford was applied for 14 Dec. 1848, and his known tractarian views raised the hopes of that party. The rule for the mandamus was discharged on 1 Feb. 1849. After sitting on the bench twenty-three years, he retired, and was sworn of the privy council, where his knowledge of ecclesiastical law proved of great service. His fairness of temper often caused him to be selected as an arbitrator. In politics he was a tory. He was appointed in 1834 a member of the Inns of Court Commission, in 1858 of the Law Courts Commission, and also of the Oxford University and Education Commissions. In 1852 he received the degree of doctor of civil law at Oxford. He married in 1818 Mary, second daughter of the Rev. Gibb Buchanan, D.D., vicar of Northfleet in Kent, and rector of Woodmansterne, Surrey, by whom he had two sons, John Duke, afterwards lord chief justice, and Henry James, who took orders; and a daughter, Alethea, who married the Rev. J. Mackarness, afterwards bishop of Oxford. He was handsome in person and courtly in manner. He died at Heath's Court, Ottery St. Mary, on 11 Feb. 1876, and was buried in the family vault there on 17 Feb.

[Times, 12 Feb. 1876; Law Mag. xiii. 278; Law Journal, 19 Feb. 1876; Greville Memoirs, 2nd ser. iii. 116.]

J. A. H.