Posts Tagged ‘William Taylor of Norwich’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Frank Sayers
3 March 1763–16 August 1817


Frank Sayers

Frank Sayers was born in London, being baptised at St Margaret Pattens on 3 April, he was son of Francis Sayers, an insurance broker, by his wife Anne, daughter of John Morris of Great Yarmouth. His father died within a year, and he went with his mother to her father’s house in Friar’s Lane, Yarmouth. At the age of ten he was sent to a boarding-school at North Walsham, where Horatio Nelson was his schoolfellow. A year later he was transferred to a school at Palgrave, Suffolk, a dissenting academy kept by Rochemont Barbauld and Anna Barbauld. There he for remained three years, and met his lifelong friend William Taylor.

In October 1778 his mother’s father died, leaving him a small estate, and he went to learn farming at Oulton. Subsequently he attended John Hunter’s surgery lectures in London, where he saw much of his cousin James Sayers, the caricaturist. For two years from the autumn of 1786 he pursued medical and scientific study at Edinburgh. In poor health, he visited the Lake District in June 1788, and later in the year he went abroad. After graduating M.D. from the University of Harderwyk, he returned to Norwich at the end of 1789, giving up medicine and starting to write.

In 1792, on his mother’s death, Sayers moved to the Close at Norwich, and joined Norwich literary society. Among his friends and guests at various times were Robert Southey, Sir James Mackintosh, Thomas Fanshawe Middleton, and Thomas Amyot. The death of an aunt in 1799 increased his fortune.

He died at Norwich on 16 August 1817. A mural monument was erected to his memory in Norwich Cathedral by his heir, James Sayers. Sayers left benefactions to local institutions, and bequeathed his library to the dean and chapter. His portrait, by John Opie(1800), hung in William Taylor’s library, and passed to Amyot.

From Thomas Gray’s versions of the Runic poems and Thomas Percy’s Northern Antiquities, Sayers derived his Dramatic Sketches of Northern Mythology, which he issued in 1790. The volume consisted of three tragedies, Moina, Starno, and The Descent of Frea; Jann Ewald’s Danish tragedy The Death of Balder, on which the last piece is based, was subsequently translated by George Borrow. In 1792 a reissue of the volume included an Ode to Aurora, and a monodrama, Pandora. A third edition is dated 1803, and the last in 1807. Two German translations appeared, one in blank verse by Friedrich David Gräter, with notes, and another in rhyme by Valerius Wilhelm Neubeck (1793). In 1793 he published Disquisitions, Metaphysical and Literary. He followed David Hartley and Joseph Priestley in his metaphysical essays. In 1803 he published Nugæ Poeticæ, mainly versifications of Jack the Giant-Killer and Guy of Warwick.

Sayers then devoted himself to archæology, philology, and history. In 1805 he published Miscellanies, Antiquarian and Historical. In adissertation he maintained that Hebrew was originally the east, and not the west, Aramaic dialect. Other papers dealt with English architecture, English poetry, Saxon literature, and early English history. In 1808 appeared Disquisitions, another collection of his prose works, dedicated to Thomas Fanshaw Middleton. He was also a frequent contributor to the Quarterly Review.

Walter Scott, writing on 20 June 1807 to acknowledge a copy of his collected poems, said he had long been an admirer of his ‘runic rhymes.’ In July 1801 Southey expressed to Taylor his indebtedness to Sayers for the metre of Madoc. In 1823 William Taylor published a collective edition of Sayers’s works, with Opie’s portrait engraved by William Camden Edwards as frontispiece, and an engraving of Sayers’s house in the Close. Southey favourably reviewed the work in the Quarterly Review for January 1827.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Simon Wilkin
27 July 1790 –1862

Simon Wilkin was the second of the three children of William Wilkin Wilkin, a Norfolk gristmiller, and Cecilia Lucy Wilkin, daughter of William Jacomb of London. When his father died Wilkin moved to Norwich to live with his guardian, Joseph Kinghorn, who educated him. He was a close friend of John Curtis, William Kirby, John Burrell and William Spence who shared his interest in entomology.

Wilkin lost his inherited wealth in 1811 when the paper mill in which he was a partner failed, and in 1832 his guardian’s death was another financial disaster. Bankruptcy forced the sale of his insect collection to the Zoological Society of London. He was then able to establish a printing and publishing business in Norwich. He published the work of Harriet Martineau, Amelia Opie, George Borrow, and William Taylor. In 1825 he married Emma, daughter of John Culley of Costessey, and they had two daughters and a son and in 1834 they moved to London.

Wilkin compiled an edition of Sir Thomas Browne (1836) for which he researched Browne’s correspondence in the British Museum and Bodleian Library.

He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Starling Norgate
20 August 1772 – 7 July 1859

Thomas Starling Norgate was the son of Elias Norgate, a surgeon, and Deborah, daughter of Alderman Thomas Starling, he was born at Norwich, on 20 August 1772. From 1780 to 1788 he attended Norwich Grammar School, under Samuel Parr as headmaster until 1785. In 1789 he was sent to Hackney New College, and then entered at Lincoln’s Inn. Although he kept his terms there, he gave up on a legal career, and returned to Norwich without plans.

Norgate became involved in periodical writing, through a number of personal contacts. In 1829 he founded the Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society. In 1830 he, with Simon Wilkin and another friend, established the East-Anglian, a weekly newspaper published at Norwich (1830–3).

Norgate died at Hetherset, 7 July 1859, in his 87th year.

While in London Norgate knew William Beloe, and then contributed to an early volume of the British Critic. A year or two later, William Enfield invited him to write for the minister at the Octagon Chapel in Norwich, he became a regular contributor to the Analytical Review, which he did until it closed down in 1799; and he supplied a few papers to The Cabinet, a Norwich periodical published (1794–5) by Charles Marsh, William Taylor, and others. He was a writer on various topics in the Monthly Magazine, and supplied the Half-yearly Retrospect of Domestic Literature from 1797 to 1807, when the publication was discontinued. To Arthur Aikin’s Annual Review (1803–8) Norgate was a major contributor. His close friend William Taylor introduced him to Ralph Griffiths, the editor of the Monthly Review, for which he wrote for a time while living in retirement on his estate at Hetherset in Norfolk.

In 1829 Norgate wrote the introductory chapter on the Agriculture of the County for John Chambers’s General History of Norfolk.

Norgate’s eldest son Elias assisted him as editor, and with the Horticultural Society. His fourth son, Thomas Starling Norgate, was born 30 December 1807.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Enfield
29 March 1741 – 3 November 1797

William Enfield was born in Sudbury, Suffolk to William and Ann Enfield. In 1758, he entered Daventry Academy at the behest of his teacher and minister, William Hextal. In 1763 he became the minister at Benn’s Garden Chapel in Liverpool, a wealthy and well-connected congregation. In 1767 Enfield married Mary Holland, the daughter of a local draper, and together they had five children. In 1770 he moved to Warrington to be the minister of the Cairo Street Chapel and a tutor of rhetoric and modern languages at Warrington Academy. He remained there until 1785, when he was called to be the minister of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich.

In Norwich Enfield’s congregation assembled prominent families: the Martineaus, two unrelated Taylor families (those descending from John Taylor his predecessor at the Octagon, and that of William Taylor), and several others. His reputation was for bringing those of different views into polite discussion,, and he founded the Speculative Society, including Anglican and nonconformist clergy, and physicians.

Enfield died on 3 November 1797.

Despite being a Unitarian, Enfield still respected the Established Church and supported the government intertwined with it. When fellow Unitarian Joseph Priestley attacked these institutions, Enfield published Remarks on Several Late Publications in a Letter to Dr. Priestley (1770). Enfield believed that Dissenters would eventually win recognition from the government and decried Priestley’s abrasive strategy. Priestley replied in a dismissive pamphlet, but the two still remained friends. Eventually, after the failure of the Feathers Tavern Petition, Enfield changed his position, agreeing with Priestley that Dissenting civil rights were too slow in coming.

Throughout his career, Enfield focused more on ethics than on theology in his many published sermons and essays. He was also a contributor to the Monthly Magazine and at his death had just started a biographical dictionary project with John Aikin, a friend from Warrington. Like Aikin and Priestley, Enfield wanted to remain current in many disciplines. Believing that natural philosophy was essential to his students, he studied mathematics one summer and subsequently published a textbook dedicated to Priestley: Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Experimental (1783).

His most successful work, however, was The Speaker (1774), an anthology of literary extracts intended to teach elocution, and produced first for his Warrington pupils. He published a sequel, Exercises in Elocution in 1780. Enfield’s Speaker remained in print until the middle of the nineteenth century and inspired other anthologies, such as Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Female Speaker.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Taylor of Norwich
7 November 1765 – 5 March 1836


William Taylor

William Taylor of Norwich was the only child of William Taylor, a wealthy Norwich merchant with European trade connections, by his wife Sarah , second daughter of John Wright of Diss, Norfolk. William Taylor was taught Latin, French and Dutch by John Bruckner, pastor of the French and Dutch Protestant churches in Norwich, in preparation for continuing his father’s continental trading in textiles. In 1774 he was transferred to Palgrave Academy, Suffolk, by Rochemont Barbauld, whose wife Anna Letitia Barbauld Taylor regarded as a strong influence. For three years his school companion was Frank Sayers, who was to be a lifelong friend.

In August 1779 his father took him from school. During the next three years he spent much of his time abroad. Firstly he visited the Netherlands, France, and Italy, learning languages and business methods. In 1781, he left home again, and spent a year in Detmold, staying with an Alsatian Protestant pastor called Roederer, and absorbing German literature under the influence of Lorenz Benzler. Roederer gave him introductions to August Ludwig von Schlözer the historian at Göttingen, and to Goethe at Weimar. After further German travels he returned to Norwich on 17 November 1782.

Taylor was a Unitarian who attended the Octagon Chapel, Norwich. He became the central of Norwich’s literary circles, and a political radical who applauded the French Revolution. He argued for universal suffrage and the end of all governmental intervention in the affairs of religion. He wrote the 18th century tradition of liberal and latitudinarian criticism of the Bible (which Sayers thought heretical, at least in part). In the period 1793 to 1799 he wrote over 200 reviews in periodicals, following his concept of “philosophical criticism”.

From 1783 Taylor was engaged in his father’s business. In May and June 1784 he was in Scotland with Sayers, who had begun medical studies at Edinburgh; there he met James Mackintosh. A second journey to Edinburgh in 1788 followed a breakdown in Sayers’ health.

In November 1789 Taylor’s father was made secretary of a Revolution Society in Norwich, formed to commemorate the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In May 1790 Taylor made a visit to France, and spent time at the National Assembly. He returned somewhat sceptical whether its members’ rhetoric matched their intentions, but translated a number of its decrees for the Revolution Society. Before the end of 1790 two new clubs were formed in Norwich, of which Taylor became a member, the “Tusculan School” for political discussion, and the Speculative Society, founded by William Enfield for philosophical debate. Taylor became a leader of the Speculative Club. It lasted to 1797, dissolving after Enfield died.

Around this point in time, Taylor persuaded his father to retire on his fortune. The firm was dissolved in 1791; his father employed part of his capital in underwriting, not very successfully. Taylor resisted his father’s wish to put him into a London bank. William Taylor senior gave up his position as secretary to the Revolution Society by early 1792. In May 1794 government repression of radicals meant the Norwich Revolution Society closed down officially; and Taylor added “junior” to its written records, wherever his father’s name appeared.

In late 1794 a Norwich periodical, The Cabinet, was set up, publishing articles taking an anti-government view. It was supposed to be the work of a “Society of Gentlemen”, the group behind it being closely related to the Tusculan School, which dissolved or went underground in mid-1794: it was edited by Charles Marsh, and Taylor contributed, along with other like-minded young radicals, such as Thomas Starling Norgate and Amelia Alderson. They had tacit support from older citizens, including Enfield and Edward Rigby. It appeared for a year from September 1794, proposing in fact a tame and moderate intellectual line.

Taylor was nicknamed godless Billy for his radical views. He was a heavy drinker, of whom his contemporary Harriet Martineau said:
his habits of intemperance kept him out of the sight of ladies, and he got round him a set of ignorant and conceited young men, who thought they could set the whole world right by their destructive propensities.

Taylor’s friendship with Robert Southey began early in 1798, when Southey, having placed his brother Henry Herbert Southey with George Burnett at Great Yarmouth, visited Norwich as Taylor’s guest; Southey revisited him at Norwich in February 1802. Much of their correspondence to 1821 is given by John Warden Robberds in his Memoir of Taylor; it is frank on both sides.

In 1802, during the Peace of Amiens, Taylor embarked on another tour of Europe, visiting France, Italy and German, partly on business; Henry Southey joined him at Paris. He stayed with Lafayette at Lagrange, where he met Frances d’Arblay. In Paris he met Thomas Holcroft, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Manning.

From 1811 American and other business losses made money tight. Taylor applied in 1812, at Southey’s suggestion, for the post of keeper of manuscripts in the British Museum, on the resignation of Francis Douce; but the vacancy was already filled.

Unmarried, Taylor lived with his parents. He had a daily routine of studying in the morning, walking in the afternoon followed by bathing in the River Wensum, from a bath house upstream from the city and its pollution. In the evening he liked to socialise, drink (heavily) and discuss linguistics, literature and philosophy in society.

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