Taylor, Jeremy

The Anglican bishop and writer Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667), one of the key exemplars of pastoral care and a gifted writer, was born and educated in Cambridge, England. He was ranked by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as the equal of Shakespeare and Milton. Taylor was probably ordained in 1633, the year in which he took his master's degree; he became a fellow of Gonville and Caius College and, two years later, a fellow at All Souls in Oxford. Shortly after being appointed the rector of Uppingham in 1638, he became the chaplain to the king of England on Laud's nomination; Laud also seems to have retained him as his own chaplain.

Taylor joined the Royalist army as chaplain when civil war broke out in 1642, and he was briefly imprisoned twice. In 1645 he became private chaplain to Lord Carbery at his Golden Grove estate. There, Taylor produced his greatest works, including A Discourse of the Liberty of Prophesying (1647), a call for Christian toleration that probably alienated Charles I; The Golden Grove (1655), a collection of daily prayers; and the Unum Necessarium (1655), a work on sin and repentance. His two famous books of devotion, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living (1650) and The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying (1651), were intended to act as guides for those not served by local Anglican clergy because of the ejection of priests during the interregnum. At the Restoration in 1660, Taylor published his comprehensive manual of moral theology, the Ductor Dubitantium. That same year he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor; in 1661 he was appointed bishop of Dromore, in Ireland; and later vice-chancellor of Trinity College, in Dublin.

Although he seemed conventional in his relations with the royal and Episcopal authorities, Taylor aroused controversy because of his defense of Christian toleration and his allegedly Pelagian views on original sin and justification, both of which were attacked by the Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford. Holy Dying was written in the circumstances of the death of his wife, Phoebe, but was directed at a general audience as a self-help manual: "The first entire Body of Directions for sick and dying People, that I remember to have been publish'd in the Church of England." The importance of the text was not only in the quality of its prose but in the serenity of its ecumenical verdict: "Let it be enough that we secure our Interest of Heaven," Taylor wrote, "for every good Man hopes to be saved as he is a Christian, and not as he is a Lutheran, or of another Division." Taylor advocated daily self-examination by the Christian to avoid divine judgment, and especially the "extremely sad" condition of many "Strangers and Enemies to Christ." Thus, he concluded, "He that would die holily and happily, must in this World love Tears, Humility, Solitude, and Repentance" (Taylor, 2:1:3).

See also: Christian Death Rites, History of ; Good Death, The ; Moment of Death


Askew, Reginald. Muskets and Altars: Jeremy Taylor and the Last of the Anglicans. London: Mowbray, 1997.

Hughes, H. Trevor. The Piety of Jeremy Taylor. London: Macmillan, 1960.

Taylor, Jeremy. The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying. N.p., 1811.


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