Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, Thomas (1618-1682)

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TAYLOR, THOMAS (1618–1682), quaker, was born near Skipton in Craven, on the borders of Yorkshire and Westmoreland, in 1618. He was educated at Oxford, but cannot be certainly identified with the Thomas Taylor, a native of Ravenstonedale, mentioned in Foster's ‘Alumni’ (early ser. iv. 1458, 1463). He was licensed to preach and became lecturer at Richmond, Yorkshire. He afterwards held a living in Westmoreland, near Kendal, and preached in neighbouring places. A strong puritan, he refused to baptize his own children, and in 1650 held a conference or dispute on baptism with three neighbouring ministers in Kendal church. Two years later he went at Judge Fell's invitation to meet George Fox at Swarthmore Hall. In reply to Fox's questions he owned he had never been ‘called’ to preach as the apostles were. The same day he accompanied Fox to Newton in Lancashire, and preached in the churchyard to the rector of Underbarrow and other persons.

Although he had a wife and six children, he resigned his benefice and preached no more for pay. His wife also became a quaker, and was assisted by Margaret Fell [q. v.], while Taylor commenced itinerant preaching. In September 1653 he was taken prisoner at Appleby for speaking in the church. He was released in 1655, but was again in Appleby gaol from August 1657 to August 1658 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, p. 164), and was imprisoned at York, Leicester, and Coventry. At the Stafford assizes (1662) he had sentence of præmunire passed, under which he remained prisoner more than ten years. His wife hired a house near, and he was allowed to write books and teach children, but he was not released until the general pardon granted by Charles II in March 1672. Taylor was fined 20l. for preaching to two or three friends in a house at Keele, Staffordshire, in 1679, and was again in prison in Stafford gaol that year. He died at Stafford on 18 March 1682 in his sixty-fifth year; his wife Margaret in December following. Taylor was a man of some learning and a student of Jacob Boehme. Both before and after his conversion to quakerism he avowed intense hatred of bells, bonfires, maypoles, dancing, and other amusements. His collected works, entitled ‘Truth's Innocency and Simplicity shining through the Conversion,’ London, 1697, 4to, consist chiefly of reprinted addresses, warnings, and exhortations. They include ‘Ignorance and Error reproved,’ 1662, 4to, in answer to John Reynolds, also ‘Baxter's Book entitled the Cure of Church Divisions Answered and Confuted, and He proved a Phisitian of no Value,’ London, 1697.

Christopher Taylor (d. 1686), quaker schoolmaster, brother of the above, said to have been born near Skipton, Yorkshire, might be the Christopher, son of Thomas of Ravenstonedale, who matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, on 22 March 1633, aged 18, and who graduated B.A. 1636 (Bloxam, i. 37). He certainly received a classical education at Oxford, and became a puritan minister. In 1652 he was converted by George Fox to quakerism. Soon afterwards he was imprisoned for two years for arguing with Ambrose Rowlands, vicar of Appleby, in the churchyard, about pluralities. In July 1655 he wrote from Appleby gaol ‘A Warning to this Nation,’ London, 1655, 4to, and ‘The Whirlwind of the Lord,’ 1655, 4to; reprinted 1656.

Before 1670 Taylor started a school at Waltham Abbey, Essex, assisted by his wife and by John Matern, a German quaker. On 1 July 1670 Taylor was summoned to appear at Chelmsford quarter sessions for teaching school without a license. He was reported in 1676 as holding a conventicle at Solomon ‘Eagle's’ (Eccles) [q. v.] house at Plaistow (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vii. p. 16). The school was moved in 1679 to Edmonton, where John and Edward Penington [see under Penington, Isaac, (1616–1679)] were among Taylor's scholars. Three years later (1682) Taylor resigned it to George Keith [q. v.], and followed William Penn to Pennsylvania. He represented Bucks county in the first assembly of the province, was a member of the council of state until his death, registrar-general of the colony, and a justice of peace. He died at Philadelphia in 1686; his wife Frances, a minister, the same year.

Beside the works mentioned he wrote: 1. ‘A Faithful and True Witness to the Light,’ London, 1675, 4to. 2. ‘An Epistle to Friends in Truth,’ London, 1675, 4to. 3. ‘The Counterfeit Convert Discovered,’ 1676, 4to, in answer to William Haworth's ‘Antidote,’ 1676. 4. ‘Institutiones Pietatis, with the chief Principles of the Latin Tongue,’ 1676, 8vo. 5. ‘Compendium Trium Linguarum’ (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), London, 1679, 8vo, part by John Matern. 6. ‘Testimony to the Lord's Power in Children,’ 1679, 4to; reprinted same year with additional letters. 7. ‘An Epistle of Caution,’ London, 1681, 4to; and 8. ‘Something in Answer,’ &c., both in answer to an attack by William Rogers, the quaker sectary, in his notorious book ‘The Christian Quaker,’ 1680–2. ‘An Account of a Divine Visitation,’ &c., among Taylor's pupils at Waltham Abbey was published at Philadelphia, 1797, 8vo; republished London, 1799, 12mo.

[Thomas Taylor's Collected Works; Testimonies by Fox and Barrow, who knew Taylor from childhood; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, i. 76; Besse's Sufferings, i. 206, 308, 309, 651, 652, 653, 746; Fox's Journal, ed. 1891, i. 127, 128, 369, 371, 469, ii. 105; Gough's Hist. of Quakers, ii. 554; Webb's Fells of Swarthmore, pp. 48, 61; Smith's Cat. of Friends' Books, ii. 693–703; Registers and Swarthmore Manuscripts at Devonshire House, where fifteen letters from Thomas Taylor are preserved. For Christopher Taylor see also Whiting's Memoirs, pp. 352–5; Proud's Hist. of Pennsylvania, i. 235, 236 sq.; Mem. concerning Deceased Friends, York, 1824; Appleton's Cyclopædia of Amer. Biogr. vi. 42; Pennsylv. Mag. vii. 355, x. 193, 405; Beck and Ball's Lond. Friends' Meetings, pp. 132, 301, 360.]

C. F. S.