Taylor, Reverend Robert
|born on||18 August 1784 at 15:00 (= 3:00 PM )|
|Place||Edmonton, England, 51n37, 0w04|
|Timezone||LMT m0w04 (is local mean time)|
|Astrology data||26°11' 24°34 Asc. 12°46'|
Early 19th-century English Radical, a clergyman turned freethinker.
Taylor studied at St John's College, Cambridge for three years to qualify as a clergyman. At that time the University of Cambridge was dominated by the established Church of England and most students were preparing for positions in the Anglican church. The Revd. Charles Simeon gained Taylor his first curacy; but five years after ordination Taylor gave up on orthodox Christianity and turned from evangelism to eccentric anti-clericalism.
Taylor set up a Christian Evidence Society and lectured in London pubs dressed in elaborate vestments, attacking the Anglican liturgy and the barbarities of the Establishment for what he called its "Pagan creed". At this time blasphemy was a criminal offence against the faith "by law established", and he was sentenced to a year in gaol. In his cell he wrote The Diegesis, attacking Christianity on the basis of comparative mythology and attempting to expound it as a scheme of solar myths.
On his release he joined up with the Radical Richard Carlile and, with his book newly published, set out on an "infidel home missionary tour" in 1829. They arrived in Cambridge and strolled round the colleges, then in the evening attended Holy Trinity Church for a hell-fire sermon by the Revd. Simeon which they sneered at as "one of the worst imaginable for the morals of mankind".
Several times a week in 1830, Taylor dressed in "canonicals", staged infidel melodramas, preaching bombastic sermons to artisans. Two Sunday sermons on "The Devil" caused particular outrage when he pronounced "God and the Devil... to be but one and the self-same being... Hell and Hell-fire... are, in the original, nothing more than names and titles of the Supreme God." He was then dubbed "The Devil's Chaplain", and thousands of copies of his ceremonies were circulated in a seditious publication, The Devil's Pulpit. At the start of April 1831 Taylor was indicted for blasphemy over two Easter sermons in the last days of The Rotunda. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Horsemonger Lane Gaol.
Charles Darwin was studying at Cambridge at this time. Taylor would be remembered by Darwin as a warning example of an outcast from society who had challenged Christianity and had been imprisoned for blasphemy, one of many warnings that gave him a well-founded fear of revealing his theory.
Released from gaol in 1833, Taylor retired from public view. He married an elderly lady of property; the marriage was a happy one, but it exposed Taylor to an action for breach of promise on the part of Miss Richards, to whom a jury awarded a large compensation. To escape paying this, Taylor removed to France, practising as a surgeon at Tours, where he died in September 1844.
Sy Scholfield quotes Robert Taylor and Richard Carlile, "The Devil's Pulpit: containing twenty-three astronomico-theological discourses: by the Rev. Robert Taylor; with a sketch of his life." Vol. 1. (London: Freethought Pub. Co., 1882. ), p. ii:
"ROBERT was the sixth son of John and Elizabeth Taylor, born at the village of Edmonton, on the north-east side of London, in the Walnut Tree House, adjoining the wooden bridge, over the pond, at three o'clock, p.m. on Wednesday, August 18th, 1784."
- Vocation : Religion : Other Religion (anti-clerical)