Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, William Cooke

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TAYLOR, WILLIAM COOKE (1800–1849), miscellaneous writer, born at Youghal, Ireland, on 16 April 1800, was the son of Richard Taylor (a manufacturer, and a member of a family resident at Youghal from the time of the settlement by Oliver Cromwell). His mother was Mary Cooke, a descendant of John Cook [q. v.] the regicide. He was educated by Robert Bell, D.D., at a school in his native town, and then sent to Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered on 13 Jan. 1817. At the beginning of 1820 he removed his name from the lists, but replaced it in June 1821 to stand for a scholarship. He was unsuccessful in the competition, and returned to Youghal as an assistant at his old school.

After a short time Taylor returned to the university, and graduated B.A. in 1825. While at college he won prizes for compositions in prose and poetry, and in 1825 and 1826 he gained several of the primate's prizes for Hebrew. His first essays in print were some contributions, carefully concealed in after years, to a paper at Cork. His first book was ‘A Classical Geography for use of Youghal School.’ He then edited several of the catechisms of William Pinnock [q. v.], including ‘The Epitome of Classical Geography,’ 1827; ‘The Catechism of the Christian Religion,’ 1828; ‘The Ancient and Modern History of the Jews,’ 1829; and the various histories which had been compiled by Oliver Goldsmith.

In 1829 Taylor settled in London, bringing with him inexhaustible energy and much knowledge which he knew how to turn to account. All his books are marked by candour and sobriety of mind, and the information is conveyed in an interesting style. He at once became a contributor to the ‘Athenæum,’ and remained a leading member of its staff until his death. For many years after 1829 he produced a vast number of books, both original and translated. As a tribute to the excellence of his works the university of Dublin on 7 July 1835 conferred on him the degree of LL.D. and remitted the fees.

Taylor was a whig in politics, an enthusiastic member of Trinity College, Dublin, and an ardent advocate for a system of national education in Ireland. His zeal in that cause was much appreciated by Archbishop Whately, who became his patron and friend. After the commercial crisis of 1842 he went to Lancashire to study its industries and the life of its operatives. He became thoroughly imbued with the principles of free-trade (Morley, Life of Cobden, ii. 52), and was appointed editor of the ‘League’ on its establishment in London. Under the disguise of ‘Censor’ he published in 1842 a tract, ‘The Quarterly Reviewer reviewed, or Notices of an Article entitled “Anti-Cornlaw Agitation.”’ In 1846 he made a tour to Paris and the country districts of France, with a view of studying the system of education which had been established in that country. Public opinion marked him out as the first president of Queen's College at Cork, but the post was given to another.

On the foundation of the British Association in 1831 Taylor became one of its leading members, and was usually on the committee of statistical information. Through the recommendation of Charles Pelham Villiers [q. v.], his warm friend, he was employed from 1847 by Villiers's brother, Lord Clarendon, then viceroy of Ireland, as statistical writer for the government; and he contributed to the ‘Evening Post,’ then the organ for the Irish executive. ‘He applied his pen to party pamphlets,’ and a number of pseudonymous tracts were written by him. Among them was ‘Reminiscences of Daniel O'Connell. By a Munster Farmer’ (Daily News, 14 Sept. 1849, p. 5). Carlyle met him in Dublin in 1849, but his picture of Taylor is in the sage's most depreciating manner, and need not be accepted as literally correct. A few days later, 12 Sept. 1849, he died at 20 Herbert Street, Dublin, of cholera, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. He married at Cork, in September 1836, Marianne, only daughter of John Taylor of Youghal; she survived him with three daughters and one son, Mr. Richard Whately Cooke-Taylor of Glasgow.

The original works of Taylor included: 1. ‘Historical Miscellany: illustrations of most important periods in history,’ 1829. 2. ‘History of France and Normandy,’ 1830; 3rd edit. 1844, and at Philadelphia, 1848. 3. ‘History of the Civil Wars in Ireland,’ 1831. This forms volumes lxxiii. and lxxiv. of ‘Constable's Miscellany.’ It was republished at New York in 1833, with additions by William Sampson, and again in 1844. 4. ‘Readings in Biography,’ 1833, signed ‘W.C.T.’ 5. ‘Outlines of Sacred History,’ 1833, signed ‘W.C.T.;’ many editions. 6. ‘History of Mohammedanism,’ 1834; several editions and a German translation at Leipzig in 1837. 7. ‘History and Overthrow of the Roman Empire,’ 1836. 8. ‘Students' Manual of Ancient History,’ 1836; many editions. 9. ‘Students' Manual of Modern History,’ 1838; many editions, and, after revision by C. D. Yonge and Sir G. W. Cox, it was reissued in 1880; an American edition of this work and of No. 8 was published by the Rev. Caleb Sprague Henry at New York in 1847. 10. ‘Chapters on Coronations,’ 1838, signed ‘T.’ 11. ‘Illustrations of the Bible, from the Monuments of Egypt,’ 1838; partly appeared in the ‘Athenæum.’ 12. ‘Naturall History of Society in the Barbarous and Civilised State,’ 1840, 2 vols.; New York, 1841, 2 vols.; dedicated to Archbishop Whately, who had ‘suggested, encouraged, and to a great degree directed it.’ 13. ‘The Bishop: a Series of Letters to a newly created Prelate’ (anon.), 1841; often quoted by Whately. 14. ‘Account of the Electro-magnet Engine,’ 1841. 15. ‘Notes of a Tour in the Manufacturing Districts of Lancashire: Letters to the Archbishop of Dublin,’ 1842; 2d edit. 1842. 16. ‘An Illustrated Itinerary of the County of Lancaster,’ 1842; Taylor wrote several portions of this volume. 17. ‘Romantic Biography of the Age of Elizabeth,’ 1842, 2 vols.; reprinted at Philadelphia. 18. ‘Popular History of British India,’ 1842; 2nd and 3rd edits. (1851 and 1857) as ‘Ancient and Modern India,’ revised and continued by P. J. MacKenna. 19. ‘Revolutions, Insurrections, and Conspiracies of Europe,’ 1843, 2 vols.; dedicated to Whately. 20. ‘Handbook of Silk, Cotton, and Woollen Manufactures,’ 1843. 21. ‘Factories and the Factory System,’ 1844. 22. ‘History of Christianity to its Legal Establishment in the Roman Empire,’ 1844; undertaken at suggestion of Charles Dickinson, D.D., bishop of Meath, and revised by him ‘in all but the last few pages.’ 23. ‘Modern British Plutarch,’ 1846; the preface alludes to the death of his child. 24. ‘National Portrait Gallery’ [1846–8], 4 vols. 25. ‘Life and Times of Sir Robert Peel’ [1846–8], 3 vols.; a supplementary volume to Peel's death was afterwards written by Charles Mackay, LL.D. 26. ‘Notes of a Visit to the Model Schools in Dublin,’ 1847. 27. ‘Memoirs of the House of Orleans,’ 1849, 3 vols.; Lockhart says that Louis-Philippe was so irritated by the references to his career in this work that he talked of prosecuting the publisher; Taylor, adds Lockhart in his reckless style, was ‘cleverish—but a wild, unconscientious, ignorant, scrambling Paddy’ (Lang, Lockhart, ii. 327–8). 28. ‘The World as it is,’ a new and comprehensive system of modern geography [1849–53], 3 vols.; the first two volumes were compiled by Taylor and Charles Mackay.

Taylor edited an edition of ‘Cicero de Officiis, Cato major, Lælius,’ &c., 1830; a ‘Greek-English Lexicon,’ translated from the ‘Greek-Latin Lexicon’ of John Dawson, 1831, new edit. 1861; ‘Memoirs of W. Sampson,’ written by himself, vol. xxxiii. of ‘Autobiographies,’ 1832; ‘Cabinet of Friendship,’ a tribute to the memory of the late John Aitken [q. v.]; ‘Ireland, Social, Political, and Religious,’ by Gustave de Beaumont, 1839; ‘Gulliver's Travels,’ by Dean Swift, 1840; ‘Bacon's Essays and Advancement of Learning,’ 1840; ‘Iliads of Homer,’ translated by George Chapman, 1843. He condensed and translated as ‘by a biblical student’ the ‘Travelling Sketches in Egypt and Sinai of Alexandre Dumas;’ united with Edward Smedley [q. v.] and two others in compiling for the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana’ a history of ‘The Occult Sciences,’ and supplied additional notes to Robbins's translation of Hengstenberg's ‘Egypt and the Books of Moses.’ J. W. Parker on his advice undertook the publication of J. S. Mill's ‘Logic.’

[Bentley's Miscellany, November 1849, pp. 498–503; Bain's J. S. Mill, p. 66; Dilke's Papers of a Critic, i. 31; Gent. Mag. 1850, i. 94–6; Athenæum, 1850, p. 60; Halkett and Laing's Anon. Lit. i. 238, 357, iii. 2063; information from Mr. R. W. Cooke-Taylor.]

W. P. C.