Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tayler, John James
TAYLER, JOHN JAMES (1797–1869), unitarian divine, eldest son of James Tayler (1765–1831) by his wife Elizabeth (1774–1847), daughter of John Venning of Walthamstow, was born at Church Row, Newington Butts, Surrey, on 15 Aug. 1797. His father, of Huguenot descent, was unitarian minister successively at Walthamstow, Southwark, and Nottingham. Tayler's father made him an excellent latinist. In September 1814 he entered Manchester College, York, under Charles Wellbeloved [q. v.] and John Kenrick [q. v.], removing in 1816 to Glasgow, where he graduated B.A. in 1818. He was classical tutor at York (1819–1820) as Kenrick's substitute, and on 4 Oct. 1820 became minister, in succession to William Hawkes (1759–1820), at Mosley Street Chapel, Manchester, where he was ordained on 20 April 1821. His declaration of faith was made with the characteristic qualification ‘so far as I have hitherto inquired.’ He sustained his ministry in Manchester for thirty-three years with great efficiency, removing his congregation (1 Sept. 1839) to a new chapel in Upper Brook Street, designed by Sir Charles Barry [q. v.], and the first specimen of Gothic architecture erected by unitarians. In 1834–5 he spent a year in Germany, making friendships with leading theologians which he renewed in subsequent visits. During the latter part of his ministry he frequently conducted an afternoon service in German. In 1840 Manchester College was removed from York to Manchester (its place of origin), under the name of Manchester New College, and Tayler became professor of ecclesiastical history, apparently the first instance of a separate chair for this department in a nonconformist college. His ‘Retrospect’ (1845) of English church history is admirably written, and more instructive than most sectional histories. In addition to the chair of ecclesiastical history he held a theological professorship from 1852. On the transfer of the college to London (1853) he became principal, and from 1857 conducted the whole of the theological department excepting religious philosophy and Hebrew. From 1853 he was a trustee of Dr. Williams's foundations. During 1859–60, after the death of Edward Tagart [q. v.], he was one of the ministers of Little Portland Street chapel, in conjunction with Dr. James Martineau. He visited Holland in 1867, and Transylvania in 1868. He had nothing of the dogmatic temper. Dr. Martineau, his colleague, has described him as ‘the English Schleiermacher,’ with less speculative skill, and a critical judgment less fanciful. The beauty and gentleness of his spirit and his transparent conscientiousness were the sources of his personal influence and charm. He died at Hampstead on 28 May 1869, and was buried in the Highgate cemetery. His portrait, by John Prescott Knight [q. v.], has been engraved. He married (6 Jan. 1825) Hannah (d. 16 Feb. 1862), daughter of Timothy Smith of Icknield.
Besides sermons and addresses, he published: 1. ‘Forms of Prayer,’ 1839, 8vo. 2. ‘A Retrospect of the Religious Life of England,’ 1845, 12mo; 1853, 8vo; 1876, 8vo (edited by Dr. Martineau). 3. ‘Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty,’ 1851, 12mo; 1855, 8vo; in German by J. Bernhard, Gotha, 1869, 8vo; second series, 1877, 8vo. 4. ‘An Attempt to ascertain the Character of the Fourth Gospel,’ 1867, 8vo; 1870, 8vo (edited by Dr. Martineau). He wrote memoirs of John Eddowes Bowman the elder [q. v.] and John Gooch Robberds [q. v.] He was one of the editors (1845–54) of the ‘Prospective Review,’ to which some of his best work was contributed; he wrote also in the ‘Theological Review’ and other periodicals.[Letters, with Life, by John Hamilton Thom [q. v.], 1872, including a list of reviews and other publications—102 in all; In Memoriam by Charles Beard, in Theological Review, 1869, pp. 420 sq.; In Memoriam, in Martineau's Essays, 1890, i. 381 sq.; Monthly Repository, 1831, pp. 561 sq.; Christian Reformer, 1855, pp. 66 sq.; Carpenter's Presbyterianism in Nottingham , p. 182; Roll of Students, Manchester College, 1868; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, p. 214; Evans's Record of Provincial Assembly, Lancashire and Cheshire, 1896, p. 128.]