Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, Edward
TAYLOR, EDWARD (1784–1863), Gresham professor of music, son of John Taylor (1750–1826) [q. v.], hymn-writer, was born at Norwich on 22 Jan. 1784. He came of an old unitarian family. His great-grandfather was John Taylor (1694–1761) [q. v.] of Norwich. From 1808 to 1815 Edward Taylor was in business as an ironmonger at the corner of Rampant Horse Street, Norwich. He was sheriff of Norwich in 1819. In 1825 he removed to London and joined his brother Philip Taylor [q. v.] and his cousin, John Martineau, as civil engineers at York Place, City Road. Want of success in the business led him to enter the musical profession in 1827, when he was forty-three years old. His early musical education had been somewhat desultory and irregular. He had taken lessons from John Christmas Beckwith [q. v.], organist of Norwich Cathedral, and on the flute and oboe from William Fish [q. v.], a well-known local musician. For the first triennial Norwich musical festival of 1824 he trained the chorus, engaged the band and singers, and made out the entire programme. His earliest successes were as a vocalist. He had a fine rich bass voice and commanding presence. He sang at the festival of 1827, and conducted those of 1839 and 1842. For the festival of 1830 he translated Spohr's ‘Last Judgment,’ which was then performed for the first time in England. He was on very friendly terms with Spohr, who was his guest at 3 Regent Square, King's Cross, in 1839 and 1847. He visited Spohr at Cassel in 1840. In addition to the ‘Last Judgment’ he translated Spohr's ‘Crucifixion,’ or ‘Calvary’ (1836), ‘Fall of Babylon’ (1842), and ‘Christian's Prayer,’ all of which were produced at Norwich festivals. On 24 Oct. 1837, on the death of Richard John Samuel Stevens [q. v.], Taylor was appointed Gresham professor of music, a post which he held till his death. In January 1838 Taylor gave his first three lectures, which were published in the same year. He gave frequent lectures with great success in different parts of the country, and one on ‘Madrigals’ which he delivered at Bristol in 1837 resulted in the formation of the Bristol Madrigal Society, which still flourishes. From 1829 to 1843 he was musical critic of the ‘Spectator.’ He died at his house, Gresham Cottage, Cornlands Road, Brentwood, Essex, on 12 March 1863, and was buried in the old dissenting burial-ground, King's Road, Brentwood.
In addition to the translations already mentioned, his works include a few songs, words of songs, and adaptations. He translated Schneider's ‘Deluge,’ Mozart's ‘Requiem Mass’ under the title of ‘Redemption’ (1845), and Haydn's ‘Seasons.’ ‘The Vocal School of Italy in the Sixteenth Century’ comprised a selection of madrigals and anthems by the best Italian masters, adapted to English words (1839). ‘The Cathedral Service, its Glory, its Decline, and its Designed Extinction,’ appeared (in two articles) anonymously in the ‘British and Foreign Review’ for 1844, and were republished (also anonymously) in 1845. In conjunction with James Turle [q. v.] he edited ‘The People's Music Book,’ and, for the Musical Antiquarian Society, Purcell's ‘King Arthur.’ The following manuscripts by him are in the library of the Royal College of Music: Lectures on music (several), written and delivered by Edward Taylor at Gresham College and elsewhere; ‘Musical Illustrations to several Courses of Lectures’ (24 vols. and separate parts), mostly in Taylor's autograph; and an ‘Ode for the opening of Gresham College’ (2 Nov. 1843), in score, written and composed by him.[Thomas Damant Eaton's Musical Criticism and Biography, 1872, p. 210 (a reprint of two articles from the Norfolk News of 28 March and 4 April 1863); Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians; Catalogue of the Library of the Sacred Harmonic Society, 1872, and Supplement to the same, 1882 (the library is now the property of the Royal College of Music); Spohr's Autobiography (Engl. transl. ii. 215, 288); private information.]