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

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TAYLOR, JOHN SYDNEY (1795–1841), journalist, was born in Dublin in 1795. He was descended through his father, John M'Kinley, who assumed the name of Taylor, from Captain David M'Kinley, who led the advance of King William's troops at the Boyne, while his mother was a descendant of Patrick Sarsfield, titular earl of Lucan [q. v.] Taylor was educated at Samuel White's academy in Dublin, the school of Richard Sheridan and Thomas Moore, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered in 1809. He obtained a scholarship in 1812, graduated in 1814, and was a prominent member of the college historical (debating) society. In 1824 Taylor was called to the English bar by the society of the Middle Temple, and settled in London, where, in conjunction with Thomas Crofton Croker [q. v.], he had, while a student, edited a weekly paper called 'The Talisman' (1820). Shortly after his call he became connected with the 'Morning Chronicle,' and later with the 'Morning Herald,' of which he was for a time the editor. Under his management the journal became conspicuous as the organ of Clarkson and the humanitarian party. 'His efforts as a journalist mainly tended to prepare the amelioration which has since been happily effected in our criminal jurisprudence' (Wills, Lives of Illustrious Irishmen, vi. 351). Resigning his editorial post to attend to his profession, he quickly took an important position at the bar, obtaining considerable repute by his successful conduct of the well-known Roscommon peerage case in 1828, when he established the claim of Michael James Robert Dillon to the dormant peerage. He also proved the madness of Edward Oxford who was charged with shooting at the queen. Taylor was a close college intimate of Charles Wolfe [q. v.], the author of the lines on the death of Sir John Moore, and in a letter addressed to the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ 27 Oct. 1824, first established Wolfe's claim to the authorship of the poem.

Taylor died on 10 Dec. 1841. A public subscription provided a monument above his grave at Kensal Green and the publication of selections from his writings. Taylor married, in 1827, Miss Hull, niece of James Perry [q. v.], proprietor of the ‘Morning Chronicle.’ Besides his fugitive contributions to the daily and periodical press, Taylor published 1. ‘Anti-Draco, or Reasons for abolishing the Punishment of Death in Cases of Forgery,’ 1830. 2. ‘A Comparative View of the Punishments annexed to Crime in the United States and in England,’ 1831.

[Selections from the Writings of J. Sydney Taylor, with a brief Sketch of his Life, London, 1843; Taylor's Hist. of the University of Dublin, pp. 501–17; Remains of the Rev. Samuel O'Sullivan, ii. 292–326; Dublin Univ. Mag. February 1842.]

C. L. F.