Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER V.
THE PROSE WRITERS OF THE RESTORATION.
BISHOP JEREMY TAYLOR—DR. ROBERT SOUTH-DR. ISAAC

BARROW-BISHOP BEVERIDGE-DR. RALPH CUDWORTH
- BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE — John BUNYAN — THOMAS
HOBBES— ABRAHAM COWLEY—IZAAK WALTON — JOHN
DRYDEN- SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE—THOMAS RYMER-
DR. HENRY MORE— VALENTINE GREATRAKES—DR.
THEOPHILUS GALE-JAMES HARRINGTON—SIR ROBERT
FILMER, BISHOP CUMBERLAND — BISHOP WILKINS —
BISHOP SPRAT—EARL OF CLARENDON—Bishop BURNET
-ANTHONY À WOODSIR WILLIAM DUGDALE-ELIAS
ASHMOLE— ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON — BISHOP KEN
RICHARD BAXTER — GEORGE Fox — WILLIAM PENN-
SIR ROGER L'ESTRANGE-ROBERT BOYLE-John Ray
- THOMAS SYDENHAM — SIR ISAAC NEWTON — SIR

THOMAS BROWNE. CHARLES II. had been seven years on the throne when Jeremy Taylor died. Chronologically, therefore, we may claim the English Chrysostom as one of the Prose Writers of the Restoration ; but, with a single exception, his great works had all been written in the reign of Charles I., or during the Commonwealth, and in style they are related to those of the Elizabethan rather than to those of the Caroline school. The exception is his great treatise on casuistical divinity, the “ Ductor Dubitantium” on which he himself based his hopes of fame. This was issued in the year of the Restoration; and in the same year he published his tractate on the Lord's Supper, entitled, “ The Worthy Communicant,” and received his episcopal preferment. His sermon, “ Via Intelligentiæ,” was published in 1662. Also, the three sermons which he dedi. cated to the Duchess of Ormond; and the “Dissuasive from Popery," which he wrote at the request of the Irish Bishops. On the strength of these post-Restoration publications, we include the great bishop in our list of “Worthies," thankful that the lustre of his name lights up the dark pages of Charles's reign.

sermon

Jeremy Taylor, who, by the consent of all, ranks as the greatest orator the English Church has produced, was the son of a Cambridge barber, or barber-surgeon, and first saw the light in his father's house about the 13th of August, 1613. He came of a reputable family, which for generations had held lands in Gloucestershire, but had been reduced to honourable poverty after the martyrdom of Dr. Rowland Taylor, * the courageous and learned rector of Hadleigh, by the confiscation of his estates.

The barber, or barber-surgeon, had education enough to be able to ground his son, as the son informs us, “in grammar and the mathematics.” At the early age of three he had begun to attend Parse's Grammar School, then recently founded; and it was probably some indications of more than ordinary capacity which led his father to enter him, when only thirteen years of age, at Caius College, in the University of his native town, as a “poor scholar.” It is pleasant to remember that he was the contemporary of John Milton, who entered Christ's College in 1625, and it is not an unreasonable conjecture that sympathy of tastes and intellectual power united in friendly relations the future author of “Holy Living and Dying” and the future poet of the “Paradise Lost.” “ Though in after life,” remarks Prebendary Humphreys, “a wide gulf was interposed between the poet and the divine, the one becoming secretary to the Protector, the other chaplain to the King, at this

* In the third year of Queen Mary."

time they might be friendly opponents in the dreary exercises of the schools; they might well be companions in lighter and more congenial studies; they might go up to the house of God together; they might be compared for their poetical temperament, for their love of ancient learning, for the beauty of their souls, and for their outward comeliness.” During his University career Taylor must also have heard of George Herbert, the “sweet singer” of “The Temple;” nor is it unlikely that he was familiar with the name of Oliver Cromwell, then an undergraduate of Sidney Sussex College.

The course of study then in vogue at Cambridge was not adapted to develop Taylor's imaginative faculties. His Alma Mater did not nourish him with satisfying food; she was still teaching that old scholastic philosophy which Bacon censured for its “unprofitable subtlety and curiosity," while Millar characterised its “ragged notions and brabblements” as “an asinine feast of sow-thistles and brambles.” Duns Scotus and Avicenna still perplexed their students with intricate speculations and vain hypotheses. To a genius so subtle as Taylor's it was easy, perhaps, to detect some grains of gold even in sandy wastes of Ockham, Lauretus, and Suarez; but we can fancy with what delight he turned from this disappointing pursuit to the study of the great masters of the Greek and Roman literature.

In 1631 Taylor took his Bachelor's degree, and soon afterwards was elected to a Fellowship. Before proceeding to his degree of M.A. be received holy orders, though, like the illustrious Usher, he wanted two years of the canonical age of twenty-three. He quickly became celebrated for his pulpit eloquence ; but his future career seems to have been decided by one of those

opportunities which always occur to men capable of making use of them. At the request of a college friend he preached for him in St. Paul's Cathedral; where by his “florid and youthful beauty, his sweet and pleasant air, and his sublime and learned discourses,” he at once secured the attention of the public. They took him, says Bishop Rust, for some young angel, newly descended from the visions of glory. The repute of his great excellence as a preacher soon spread to Lambeth; and Archbishop Laud, who, whatever his faults and failings, was always quick in the detection and recognition of merit, summoned him to preach before him. The singular promise of the brilliant young genius he at once acknowledged; and thinking it more to the advantage of the world that such mighty parts should be afforded better opportunities of study and improvement than a course of constant preaching would allow of, he secured for him the nomination to a fellowship of All Souls, Oxford-a distinction of no ordinary kind, which carried with it, moreover, a considerable income. During his residence at Oxford the sweet courtesy of his manners and the wide range of his powers made him the object of general esteem and admiration (1635-7). In 1637, Bishop Juxon, at the instigation of the Primate, promoted the splendid young divine to the rectory of Uppingham, in Rutlandshire. In the following year, he was selected to preach at St. Mary's, in that famous pulpit since occupied by so many illustrious men; and in connection with the sermon which he preached on that occasion old Anthony à Wood tells a strange story of Taylor's intended secession to the Roman Church, affirming that the Vice-Chancellor interpolated certain passages in the sermon with the view of inducing the Romanists to

reject his advances. As if Taylor would have adopted such interpolations ! The whole fabrication was suggested probably by Taylor's intimacy with the learned Franciscan, À Sancta Clara, the queen’s chaplain. In Jeremy Taylor's writings ample evidence exists of his strong repudiation of the erroneous doctrines of Rome; and that he did not favour the Roman discipline was demonstrated by his marriage, on the 27th of May, 1639, to Phæbe Landisdale. By this lady he had three sons, one of whom, William, died in May, 1642, and was soon afterwards followed to the grave by his mother.

At Uppingham, Jeremy Taylor spent five years in peaceful seclusion, until the storm and stress of civil war broke over the country. He must have felt very keenly the committal of his friend and patron, Archbishop Laud, to the Tower (in 1640), and he no doubt accepted it as a sign and a warning of sorrowful days darkening over the afflicted Church. He did not hesitate as to the side it was his duty to support; and when, after the final rupture between Charles and his Parliament, the King retired to Oxford, Taylor hastened thither to join him, and was appointed his domestic chaplain. It was by the royal command that he published, in 1642, his first work, “ Episcopacy Asserted,” in which he presents with great force and clearness the arguments in favour of the episcopal government of the Church. Charles rewarded the author with the diploma of Doctor of Divinity. His learned manifesto aroused much enthusiasm among Churchmen; being “ backed and encouraged by many petitions to His Majesty, and both Houses of Parliament, not only from the two Universities whom it most .concerned, but from several counties of the Kingdom.

« ZurückWeiter »