Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, James (1813-1892)

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TAYLOR, JAMES (1813–1892), divine and author, was born in Greenlaw, Berwickshire, on 18 March 1813. From the parochial school of his native district he passed to the university of Edinburgh, and afterwards to the theological hall of the united secession church with a view to the ministry. On 29 May 1839 he was ordained minister of the united secession church in St. Andrews. He graduated M.A. at Edinburgh University on 20 April 1843.

On 26 Feb. 1846 Taylor was translated to Regent Place Church, Glasgow, and on 11 July 1848, with the greater portion of the members, he left for the new church erected in Renfield Street. Resigning his charge in 1872, he was appointed secretary to the new education board for Scotland. In his new office he laboured with discretion and energy, and when the Scottish board of education ceased to exist in 1885 he had the satisfaction of witnessing in Scotland the universal prevalence of popularly elected educational authorities—a result largely due to his own persistent advocacy in synod, in public meeting, and in the lobby of the House of Commons.

The rest of his days were spent in Edinburgh in literary work. He died at Corstorphine, near Edinburgh, on 16 March 1892.

He received the degrees of D.D. from St. Andrews University in 1849 and of LL.D. from Edinburgh University in 1892. He was an effective preacher, a forcible debater, and a clear and accurate historian. Lord Beaconsfield, in his humorous mention in ‘Lothair’ of the united presbyterian church of Scotland as being founded in recent times by two jesuits, made sarcastic reference to Taylor as one who had a wide knowledge of the statesmen and statecraft of his time and urged his views on members of parliament and other leaders in church and state with unflagging pertinacity.

Besides numerous articles in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ ‘Imperial Dictionary of Biography,’ ‘United Presbyterian Magazine,’ and individual sermons and pamphlets, Taylor published:

  1. ‘The Pictorial History of Scotland,’ London, 1852–9, 2 vols. 8vo; enlarged edition, 1884–8, 6 vols. 4to.
  2. ‘The Scottish Covenanters,’ London, 1881, 8vo.
  3. ‘The Age we live in: a History of the Nineteenth Century,’ Glasgow, 1884, 8vo.
  4. ‘Curling, the ancient Scottish Game,’ Edinburgh, 1884, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1887.
  5. ‘The Great Historic Families of Scotland,’ London, 1887, 2 vols. 4to; 2nd edit. 1891–4.

He also enlarged and continued Tytler's ‘History of Scotland,’ 1845 8vo, 1851 8vo, 1863 12mo; abridged Kitto's ‘Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature,’ 1849, 8vo; and edited ‘The Family History of England,’ London, 1870–5, 6 vols. 4to.

[Personal knowledge and newspaper notices.]

T. B. J.