Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

186 A SCHOOLMASTER IN WALES.

handsome face and still finer style of preaching, he attracted the notice of the great Archbishop Laud, who was then in the fullblaze of power. Under the patronage of so noted a man the advancement of Taylor was rapid. Laud earnestly wished to establish him at Oxford; and in 1636 secured for him a fellowship in All Souls College. In the following year he became, through Juxon, Bishop of London, the rector of Uppingham in Rutlandshire; and to that quiet parsonage, two years later, he brought home his first wife, Phoebe Langdale. Three years passed by—years of mingled joy and sorrow; for they made him the father of three sons, but took from him his gentle wife. Then came the storm of the Civil War; and in the wreck of the throne the fortunes of Jeremy Taylor suffered shipwreck too. His life at this period presents a striking resemblance to the life of Fuller. Like that witty priest, he joined the royal party at Oxford, accompanied the troops to the field in the capacity of chaplain, and took an active share in the hard work of the war. In the battle fought at Cardigan he was made prisoner by the Roundheads. His release, however, soon followed; and, having no longer a home among the rich woodlands of Rutlandshire—for his rectory had been sequestrated by the Parliament—he resolved to cast his lot in the mountain-land of Wales, and calmly wait for better times. There, at Newton-hall in Caermarthenshire, he set up a school in conjunction with two accomplished friends, who like himself had fallen upon evil days. Time slid away; King Charles was beheaded, and Oliver assumed the purple robe of Protector. Far away from the great centres of learning and distinction, girdled round by the huge Cambrian mountains, the Chrysostom of our English literature lived a peaceful but very busy life. His good friend John Evelyn, and his kind neighbour the Earl of Carbery, stretched out willing hands to help him in his need. His marriage with a lady, who possessed an estate in Caermarthen, relieved him from the wearing toil of the school-room. But if his life grew easier, he certainly did not relax in the work for which he was best fitted. Ever labouring with his pen, he sent forth from his secluded

RISHOP OF DOWN AND CONNOR. 187

dwelling-place book after book, enriched with the choicest fancies of a most poetic mind. But even the privacy of his life could not keep him entirely safe; fine and imprisonment fell heavily on him at various times during the ascendency of the Puritans, against whom he spoke and wrote on some occasions very strongly. At last, probably weary of a retirement which did not shield him from his foes, he returned to London in 1657. An invitation from the Earl of Conway induced him, in the following year, to settle in the north of Ireland, where he officiated as lecturer at Lisburn, and also at Portmore, a village on the shores of Lough Neagh. He fixed his residence at the latter place. Here, too, Puritan resentment found him out. An informer gave evidence that the minister of Lisburn had used the sign of the cross in baptism. Arrested with violence, Taylor was hurried in deep mid-winter to answer before the Irish Council for his act. Exposure and anxiety brought on a fever, which did him the good office of softening the sentence of the court. Soon afterwards visiting London on literary business, he signed the Royalist declaration of April 24, 1660, and in the following month the joy-bells, which rang in the Restoration of the second Charles, sounded a note of preferment to Taylor. The wishopric of Down and Connor, to which was afterwards Aug. added the see of Dromore, rewarded the eloquent 1660 preacher, whose Royalist zeal had never languished. Yet, A.D. after all, this mitre was but the badge of an honourable, but not an easy exile, in which Taylor spent his remaining years. A hard and thankless office it must have been for an English bishop to superintend an Irish diocese at that day. His nation and his faith were both unpopular. Congregations, driven by the terror of strict penal laws, crowded the churches every Sunday to hear a service which many of them could not understand, and which most of them regarded with the strongest dislike. Many of his clergy, also, appointed under the old system of things, looked jealously on the authority of a bishop. Battling with difficulties so many and so great, Taylor must often' have sighed after his quiet parsonage at Uppingham, or even after his

188

STYLE AND WORKS OF JEREMY TAYLOR.

school-room at Newton-hall. But he did his duty nobly in a most difficult position, until an attack of fever cut him off at the early age of fifty-five. His death took place at Lisburn in 1667.

Hallam characterizes the style of Jeremy Taylor's sermons as being far too Asiatic in their abundance of ornament, and too much loaded with flower-garlands of quotation from other, especially classical, writers. Yet the great critic assigns to the great preacher the praise of being “the chief ornament of the English pulpit up to the middle of the seventeenth century,”—an admission which does much to blunt the point of his censure.

Taylor does, undoubtedly, sometimes run riot in sweet metaphors, and lose his way in a maze of illustrations; but, even so, is it not pleasanter and better to wander through a lovely garden, although the flowers are sometimes tangling together in a brilliant chaos and tripping us as we walk, than to plod over dry and sandy wastes, where showers, if they ever fall, seem only to wash the green out of the parched and stunted grass

ļ Jeremy Taylor's most popular devotional work is his Holy Living and Holy Dying. Other works of the same class are The Life of Christ and The Golden Grove; of which the latter is a series of meditations named after the seat of Earl Carbery, his neighbour in Wales. These were all written in his Welsh retreat. There, too, he wrote a generous, liberal, and most eloquent plea for toleration in religious matters, entitled The Liberty of Prophesying ; * in the dedication of which he refers with pathetic beauty to the violence of the storm which had “dashed the vessel of the Church all in pieces," and had cast himself, a shipwrecked man, on the coast of Wales. His last great work, styled Ductor Dubitantium, treats of the guidance of the conscience, and is still considered our great standard English book on casuistry. But Taylor's style is not well suited to make clear a subject so difficult and intricate; nor does the plan, which the author lays down, aid in giving dis. tinctness to his teaching. * Prophesying is here used in the sense of preaching. Compare its use in certain parts

of the New Testament,

SPECIMEN OF TAYLOR's STYLE. 189

ON PRAYER.

Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God. For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighing of his wings, till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air, about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man: when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design of charity, his duty met with the infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument; and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud; and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention; and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose that prayer, and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed, made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth like the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, till it returns, like the useful bee, loaden with a blessing and the dew of heaven.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

FORMING the door-posts of a stable-yard, attached to the Three Kings' Inn in Piccadilly, there stand, or stood a short time since, two old defaced Corinthian pillars, chipped, weather-stained, drabpainted, and bearing upon their faded acanthus crowns the signboard of the livery-stables. Ostlers lounge and smoke there; passersby give no heed to the poor relics of a dead grandeur; and the brown London mud bespatters them pitilessly from capital to base, as rattling wheels jolt past over the uneven pavement. These pillars are all that remain of a splendid palace, which was reared upon that site by the famous Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Lord High Chancellor of England. It was built at an unhappy time, when England could but ill spare the £50,000 sunk in its gorgeous stone-work, and when England's King and Chancellor were hated by the people with a bitter hatred. So it was nicknamed Dunkirk House, and Tangier Hall, and insulting couplets were chalked upon its gates by a howling rabble, who shivered its windows with stones, when the Dutch cannon were heard in the estuary of the Thames. Clarendon, who built it, was then near the day of his fall.

Already he had seen heavy reverses. When he left the pleasant lawns of Dinton in Wiltshire, where he was born in 1608, to study at Oxford for the Church, and afterwards to pore over ponderous law-books in the old chambers of the Middle Temple, he little foresaw either his splendid rise or his sad decline. Still less

« ElőzőTovább »