Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down and Connor, and Dromore


Bibliography (1971)

Robert Gathorne-Hardy and William Proctor Williams, A Bibliography of the Writings of Jeremy Taylor to 1700 (Dekalb, Illinois, 1971)


Memoirs illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray, 2 vols (London, 1818)


The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, D.D., ed. the Right Rev. Reginald Heber [15 vols (London, 1822)]; revised and corrected by the Rev. Charles Page Eden, 10 vols (London, 1847-52)

QR (1871)

[Anonymous review of Eden and of R.A. Wilmott, Bishop Jeremy Taylor (2nd edition, 1848)], Quarterly Review, 131, No. 261 (July 1871), art. IV, pp. 113-44.


C.J. Stranks, The Life and Writings of Jeremy Taylor (London, 1952)


Diary of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray; new edition by Henry B. Wheatley, 4 vols (London, 1906)

Williams, ATR (1976)

William P. Williams, ‘Eight Unpublished Letters by Jeremy Taylor’, Anglican Theological Review (Evanston, Illinois), 58 (1976), 179-93.


Of the many formal writings of Jeremy Taylor — the widely acknowledged master of seventeenth-century English theological prose — only one work is known to survive in his original manuscript: his epistolary discourse On the Reverence Due to the Altar (TaJ 2). Possibly the earliest of his extant discourses, this was paradoxically the latest to be discovered and published (in 1848). But for a later title-page, the manuscript is entirely autograph, being written for the most part in a neat, formal version of the cursive hand found later in his letters (that more familiar style does, however, appear in some of the sidenotes). A few features of his early hand (such as the predominant use of the epsilon e) were later discarded, and there are also a few atypical variations of lettering for purely stylistic effect (such as the ‘print hand’ adopted for a few side-headings). The manuscript is among Bishop Barlow's collections at Queen's College, Oxford, and it may indeed have been left in Oxford by Taylor himself when he left the city for good during the Civil War.


If no other authorial manuscripts of his formal works are extant, there survive, nevertheless, a considerable number of Taylor's original letters, many of these being, in effect, discourses on doctrinal matters expounded with much the same argumentative and stylistic qualities as are found in his published writings. Printed sources for some 22 of Taylor's letters are usefully recorded in Gathorne-Hardy and Williams's Bibliography (1971), pp. 127-32. The number of extant letters is substantially greater than this, however, even though those known at present must represent only a small portion of what must have been a voluminous correspondence. With due cautions about the dating of Taylor's letters (Eden is followed for the most part, but neither he nor other editors are invariably accurate), Taylor's known letters — including a number which are currently untraced — are given entries below (TaJ 34-102).

At least six more letters by Taylor to John Bramhall (1593-1663), Archbishop of Armagh, are probably in existence, besides the nine important ones recorded below, for fifteen such letters, together with other materials relating to Taylor, were sold at Sotheby's, 29 April 1884 (Thomas Percy sale), lot 73, to Wallis. In addition, an unspecified letter by Taylor was bound with numerous other documents in an extra-illustrated four-volume exemplum of Izaak Walton's Lives, ed. T. Zouch (York, 1796), sold at Sotheby's, 26 June 1885 (the Rev. J.F. Russell sale), lot 1255, to Toovey.

The transcript of some of the letters to Lord Conway used by John Murray and his editors in 1870 is bound with the original letters — a collection formerly in the library at Ragley Hall, sold at Sotheby's, 27 October 1970, lot 375, to Pickering, and now chiefly at Princeton (RTCO1, 134). Three undated letters to Conway, which may or may not be identified with letters recorded below, were sold at Sotheby's, 6 May 1858, lots 185-7, to Skeffington. They concern victory over the Dutch, Lord Orrery's coming into the North, and the proposed cathedral at Lisburne respectively.

A few of the letters written to Taylor by perhaps his most regular correspondent, John Evelyn, survive. In addition to those replies drafted by Evelyn on certain of Taylor's letters to him, Evelyn has preserved autograph copies of ten letters by him to Taylor, written between 9 February 1654[/5] and 9 July 1661, in one of his letterbooks (letters lxx, lxxi, lxxxv, xci, xcvi, xcix, cx, cxv, cxix, clxxvi) owned by Lord Camoys, of Stonor Park (a microfilm of this is in the Bodleian, MS Film 743). Other letters by Evelyn to Taylor are probably to be found in his other letterbooks among the Evelyn Papers now in the British Library (including Add. MS 78298, ff. 60r-v, 69r, 70v, 71v, 78v, 80r), if not among Evelyn's widely dispersed original letters. Five of Evelyn's letters to Taylor in the Camoys volume are edited in Bray, II, i, 148-51, 166-7, 171-2, 173-4, and reprinted in Wheatley, III, 203-7, 214-15, 236-9. See also E. S. De Beer, ‘Jeremy Taylor in 1655’, N&Q, 170 (11 January 1936), 24-5, and Jeanne K. Welcher, ‘John Evelyn to Jeremy Taylor, 27 April 1656’, N&Q, 214 (October 1969), 375. Various letters by members of Taylor's circle, some mentioning him, are also edited (chiefly from originals in the British Library) in Conway Letters, ed. M. H. Nicolson (New Haven, 1930).


Certain other documents bear Taylor's signature (‘Jerem: Dunensis’ when he became a bishop in 1661) or other additions in his hand. Those known at present, again a tiny fraction of Taylor's original documentation, are given entries below (*TaJ 103-111).

Presentation or Annotated Exempla of Taylor's Printed Works

A few printed exempla of Taylor's works bearing presentation inscriptions or other manuscript annotations of some interest are also given entries below (TaJ 112-115).

Besides these items, a notable series of exempla of printed works by Taylor is that once owned by his friend John Evelyn. Often containing Evelyn's autograph notes and markings, a number of these volumes have appeared at auction and elsewhere since the dispersal of the Evelyn Library in 1977-78. His exempla of XXVIII Sermons (London, 1651) and Unum Necessarium (1655) — sold at Christie's, 12 July 1978, lots 1457-8 — and Antiquitates Christianae (1675) are now in the British Library (Eve.b.40, Eve a.55, and Eve.b.55 respectively). Lot 1452 in the Christie's sale, Taylor's A Collection of Offices or Forms of Prayer in Cases Ordinary and Extraordinary (London, 1658), is now British Library Eve.a56, and lot 1453, Taylor's Contemplations of the State of Man (London, 1684), was sold to Spinks. Lot 1454, (London, 1660), was sold to Gayre. Lot 1455, The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living (London, 1693), was sold also to Gayre; and lot 1456, Symbolon Athikopolemikon, or A Collection of Polemical and Moral Discourses (London, 1657), was sold to [Alan] Thomas.

A printed exemplum of The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, 5th edition (London, 1656), with manuscript corrections and additions in an unidentified hand throughout, bound with an exemplum of The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying, 4th edition (London, 1658) which contains three small manuscript alterations, is at King's College Cambridge. It is discussed by Robert Gathorne-Hardy in TLS (20 September 1947), p. 484, and in Bibliography (1971), pp. 40 and 51, where the manuscript changes are very doubtfully considered ‘possibly autograph’ and the volume (which lacks preliminary blank leaves) as possibly a presentation exemplum. A facsimile of page 3 appears in Hugh Ross Williamson, Jeremy Taylor (London, 1952), after p. 80.

Taylor's Library

From innumerable references in his letters and writings, it is clear that Taylor built up, at Portmore and elsewhere, a substantial library. Whether his books passed into official ecclesiastical or academic libraries or were dispersed, it does not seem that he was accustomed to employing any special marks of ownership or identification. Consequently no specific volumes from his library appear to be known today.

In addition to the recorded evidence on this subject, notes by John Cosin, later Bishop of Durham (1594-1672), of ‘Bookes which Dr Taylour tooke with him’ — listing some twenty-seven books or sets of books which Taylor took with him into exile on the continent in 1648 — are among Cosin's letters to Christopher Hatton in the Bodleian (MS Bodley 878, f. 20r). He also refers to Taylor, in a letter about sending books, on 10 February 1647[/8] (f. 10r-v).


A manuscript of a reply to Taylor's A Dissuasive from Popery, headed ‘A Dissuasive from Protestancy’, by one ‘W.N.’ or ‘N. W.’, c.1665, is in the National Library of Ireland (MS 4107).

A reply to Taylor's Unum Necessarium is in the Bodleian (MS Rawl D. 1306).

An alleged documentary source which has taxed biographers — and really defies further comment — is the so-called ‘Jones MSS’, which, as Hugh Ross Williamson has noted (Jeremy Taylor (London, 1952), pp. 55-7), ‘must, sooner or later, challenge a decision of authenticity from every reader of Taylor's life’:

William Todd Jones, of Homra in County Down was, according to Bishop Heber (who wrote the life of Taylor in 1822), ‘Taylor's lineal descendant in the fifth degree and was employed at one period of his life in collecting and arranging materials for the biography of his distinguished ancestor’. Among other things he possessed a series of autograph letters to and from Taylor and a family-book in his own hand recording ‘the principal events of his life with comments on many of the public transactions in which he himself, or those connected with him, had borne a share’.

Jones died suddenly in 1818 and the greater part of his papers have disappeared or have been presumed burnt in a fire at the London Custom House. All that was left consisted of ‘some extracts made by Mr Jones from these documents…and some traditions respecting himself and his descendants, which have been liberally communicated’ to Bishop Heber by his two sisters.

Papers relating to Taylor are among the collections of the Rev. J. F. W. Bullock for a projected ‘Lives of holy men of the Church’, 1892-1907, now in the Bodleian (MS Misc. d. 1096, ff. 142r-9r).

For some account of the collection of books and manuscripts relating to Taylor at Dekalb, Illinois (incorporating the Taylor collection of Robert Gathorne-Hardy), see ‘Jeremy Taylor Holdings at Northern Illinois University’, Seventeenth-Century News, 28 (1980), 17.

Various other relics of Taylor — including his chalice and patten in Dromore Cathedral, his alleged pulpit and patten in Uppingham Parish Church, and alleged prayer book and pulpit at Ballinderry — are recorded in Stranks, pp. 306-7 (Appendix D).

Peter Beal