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• MEMOIR OF EDGAR TAYLOR, ESQ., F.S.A. All who are interested in the character of the larger branch of the legal profession, and its standing and position in society, will desire to see a record of each eminent member of that class, as he passes off from the scene of his labours. In such an instance as the present, the record is of more extended value, as showing that great professional success is compatible with unusual proficiency in literature, and exten. sive literary productions; and that with industry, even a short measure of life is quite sufficient for the attainment of both.
Mr. Edgar Taylor was the fifth son of Mr. Samuel Taylor, of New Buckenham, in Norfolk, and a descendant of Dr. John Taylor, of Norwich, the author of the Hebrew Concordance, a very learned and highly distinguished Presbyterian Minister of the last century, whose writings have not only been held in high estimation by some of the most eminent divines of the Church of England, but have in part had the honour, singular towards a non-conformist, of being republished by a bishop of that church. He was born at Banham, in Norfolk, on the 28th of January 1793. He received his education at Palgrave School, Suffolk, under Dr. Lloyd, a very excellent classical scholar.
In the year 1809, he was articled to his uncle, the late Mr. Meadows Taylor, of Diss, a solicitor of large practice, and the successor to a business which has now been carried on by his family for upwards of a century. He here acquired a good knowledge of law, and particularly of conveyancing; and also found time in his leisure hours to attend to subjects of literature, and particularly to acquaint himself with the Italian and Spanish languages. In the year 1814 he came to London ; and in 1817, he entered into partnership with Mr. Robert Roscoe, one of the sons of the celebrated Mr. Roscoe of Liverpool, the author of the Life of Lorenzo de Medici, then also commencing the practice of the law, and opened chambers in King's Bench Walk, Temple,-beginning life, as he says himself in some notes left behind him, with only a very small capital, and that borrowed.
Of the nature and particulars of his private practice it will not be requisite to say much. He continued in partnership with Mr. Roscoe until that gentlenian retired from the profession on account of ill-health, and he afterwards associated with him other gentlemen as partners, one of whom, however, died before him. It was two or three years after he began business that the writer of this memoir first knew him. The official establishment then consisted of one writing clerk only : at the time of his death it was amongst the most extensive of the agency houses in London.
It will not be out of place to state that his business arrangements were of the most accurate and complete nature. In all matters relating to accounts, particularly to those which strictly belong to the science of book-keeping, he was especially skilful and accurate. He was probably the first solicitor, or one of the first, who applied the Italian or double-entry system to solicitors' books. With the assistance of a friend, once his fellow clerk, but now an eminent accountant in the city, he arranged his books from the first upon this plan, and during his whole life they were so strictly kept, that, every bill for every business, finished or unfinished, being first made out, he had a balance sheet of the whole concern struck twice a-year, showing the results and state of the concern at those moments, and checking, as is the nature of the Italian system, every posting and the casting of every cash account. So particular was he in this matter, that even if, as occasionally happened, there was an error of only a single penny appearing on the balauce sheet, he would keep clerks engaged, even for two or three months, in examining the accounts till it was found out. The following note appears in one of his private books of account, and was written by him two or three years ago :-“ I have had the complete series of my accounts with my different firms copied into a small book, with a copy of the profit and loss accounts. This, for curiosity, showing the progressive successful operations of 204 years."
To his professional talents it is not easy to do justice. He was a man of a very acute mind, and remarkable for his foresight and generalship. His own personal practice was principally in the Equity Courts. In the early stages of the most complicated suit he delighted to look forward to and provide for contingencies which could not occur till the cause had advanced to stages requiring years to arrive at: his memory, or at least his method, was such, that, on the contingency taking place, he had the whole previous arrangements in his mind. Though, latterly, the suits under his charge were very numerous, yet he always bore the particulars of each in his mind, the objects of the suit, the parties to it, and the state in which it was. He rarely had to give two readings to any cause, however long its duration. Altogether, a man better fitted to the management of the most extensive business, even in its minutest details, can scarcely be conceived.
We have dwelt the more on Mr. Taylor as a thorough man of business, engaged in an extensive and successful practice, in order that, viewed with these serious occupations, his assiduous cultivation of jurisprudential and literary pursuits may be the more justly appreciated. We will now enumerate some of the subjects on which we happen to know that his pen was from time to time engaged. The most important of his works, “Wace's Chronicle of the Norman Conquest,” his " Book of Rights,” the “ Lays of the Minnesingers," and his “ Translation of Grimm's German Stories,” are referred to in a notice in the Morning Chronicle of the 22nd of August last (from which an extract is subjoined) ;* a notice in which we feel pretty sure we can trace the pen of an eminent German scholar, and an old and valuable friend of Mr. Taylor -a gentleman formerly leader on the Norfolk Circuit, but now retired from the bar. His “ German Stories” were first published at an earlier date than that assigned by the writer in the Chronicle, and when Mr. Taylor was in the full enjoyment of his health, we think in 1823 or 1824. We well remember his showing us, on the first publication of those stories, the long and most interesting letter of praise and congratulation from the late Sir Walter Scott, published in the second edi. tion of his Stories, from which we extract the following passage : -"I have to return my best thanks for the very acceptable present your goodness has made me in your interesting volume of German Tales and Traditions. I have often wished to see such a work undertaken by a gentleman of taste sufficient to adapt the simplicity of the German narratives to our own, which you have done so successfully."'*
* " Notwithstanding the occupation arising out of an extensive professional practice, and an active participation in public measures, he found leisure for literary pur
To begin with his fugitive Legal productions :-He contributed many articles to the (Quarterly) “ Jurist,” then, we think, edited by his friend, the late Mr. Henry Roscoe. The following we believe to be from his pen : On “the New Chancery Orders of 1828;' on “ Parochial Registration” (two articles in 1828 and 1832); and on “the History of projected Law Reforms in 1830, 1831, and 1832" (a most admirable article). He also was a frequent contributor to this journal. He wrote in it on all the subjects just named, and also on “the Local Courts Bill.” This latter project he powerfully assisted in defeating. With respect to it, he wrote, at the request of several influential members of the profession, a most able pamphlet, under the assumed name of H. B. Denton, Esq., entitled, “ Lord Brougham's Local Courts Bill examined.” He had a few years before published another pamphlet on a previously pending bill, entitled, “ An Estimate of the Brougham Local Court Bill, by an Observer.”
It must not be supposed, however, that he was an opposer of legal re
suits. He was a frequent contributor to the periodical press, and our readers had not unfrequently the benefit of his labours. He generally published anonymously, but in 1833 he gave to the world a ' Book of Rights' with his name, a valuable digest of constitutional acts from Magna Charta downwards, with able and original com ments. He was attached to antiquarian and historical studies, as well as to the lighter literature which combines poetry with history. He was the author of an admired translation of the famous French metrical chronicle by Wace, entitled the 'Roman de Rou.' He composed a history of the German Minnesingers, with translated specimens, and was able, notwithstanding the sufferings of his latter years, to recreate his imagination by preparing a version of some of the admirable Marchen legends of the distinguished brothers Grimm, the banished Hanoverian professors. The second edition, under the title of Gammer Grethel,' was the last of his writings that left the press.
“But these lighter occupations never interfered with the discharge of sterner duties, nor with the more earnest studies founded on religious opinions. He sustained his severe bodily trials with fortitude and patience, and died full of the assurance of a Christian's hope, though he rejected many of the dogmata which constitute the faith of the more numerous Christian sects. He has left a name unassailed by reproach or imputation, and left the world without an acquaintance who does not lament his departure."
* See Gammer Grethel, ed. of 1839, p. 343.
form. Where real and extensive and not patchwork reform could be brought about, he was most anxious to assist in the work; but he objected to the system adopted by too many of our Equity Judges of altering for the sake of being able to say that alterations had been made, and of deluding the public into a notion that these alterations were really the extensive improvements which the public voice required. An extract from the preface to his second Local Court pamphlet will best show the views he always entertained on these subjects :
“The following observations come from one who is as ardent a reformer of the principles and practice of our law as any one engaged in the work, and who on that account feels the more deeply the discredit brought on the cause by projects involving useless expense and unnecessary violence to the established order of business,-needlessly injurious to the interests of large bodies of respectable individuals,-changing any. thing and everything as if it was only for changing sake,-and swelling enormously that legal patronage which already has so great a tendency to convert into timid subservients a body of men to whom popular inte. rests must look for their most efficient defenders.
“When it is manifest that the whole good which can be accomplished by an enormous machine,-the extent of the effects of which on society no one can measure, and which involves an expenditure exceeding the whole cost of the administration of justice in the Upper Courts,-could be effected with the smallest disturbance of the present system, at little or no cost, and yet with the most extensive effect, and so guarded as to protect society to the utmost against any mischievous consequences ; and when we nevertheless see that the wildest and crudest scheme, notoriously contrary to the opinion of the leading members of the profession, as well as of the Judges, is urged on by the eager wilfulness of two or three speculative individuals, and will most likely be supported by a House of Commons laudably anxious for reform of abuses, but neces. sarily ignorant of the details of such subjects, and naturally prone to be dazzled by the most showy scheme; it becomes high time to consider what all this is to lead to, and to ask whether, if free scope be given to this school of regenerators, the institutions which they are professing to reform will long exist elsewhere than in the page of history ?”
Besides the productions already mentioned, Mr. Taylor also wrote several articles in the Westminster Review and other periodicals, on other subjects connected with the state of the law,-particularly with reference to dissenters, and to that body of dissenters to which he belonged, and of which he was the legal organ for a long period of years.
The following were, we believe, among the general legal subjects he wrote upon :-"Parochial Registration ;' " the Registration of Voters ;” “ Admission, &c. of Attorneys ;” and “the Regulations of the Inner Temple.” His articles and pamphlets on matters affecting dissenters were very numerous. We find some letters of his as early as 1817 and again as late as 1834, on “Religious Offences indictable at Common Law," on “the Laws affecting Non-conformists,” and on “the Sense in which Christianity is part and parcel of the Law of the Land.” An article in the Westminster Review of 1835, " on Sir Robert Peel's Dissenters' Marriage Bill," was, we believe, written by Mr. Taylor, and we know that he frequently wrote on the subject of the Marriage and Registration Laws. In 1828 he wrote an article in the Westminster Review on the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Laws, and also published on the same subject, as a pamphlet, a very striking and argumentative letter to Sir T. Ackland, which, we think, went through several editions. A general statement of the legal position of dissenters, and of the grounds for their relief, was published by the deputies of the three denominations of dissenters, and rapidly passed through many editions. This, we believe, was drawn up by him. He wrote also on “the Title of Unitarian Dissenters to Endowments,” and on “the Admission of Dissenters to the English Universities.”
His articles on antiquarian and literary subjects were too numerous to allow of any full enumeration. He was deeply read in the literature of the middle ages, and communicated many articles to the Retrospective Review on subjects of that nature. We know that there are articles of his there, or in the Monthly Repository, or elsewhere, on “ Conybeare's Anglo-Saxon Poetry :” on the “ Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum ;" on “Physiophilis Specimen Monachologiæ,” (an old German naturalist's satire on the monks of his time) ; on “ Las Casas and the Slave Trade ;' on “ Sir J. Mandeville's Travels ;' on “ Burton's Diary,” (two articles) ; on “ Sale's Koran, and the Sects and Tolerations of the Mahometans," (several articles) and on “ Young and Champolion's Discoveries in Hieroglyphics.”
He was greatly attached to Biblical literature and church history, and we find articles on " The Reformation in Spain ;" on “ The State of Catholicism in Germany and Silesia :” on “ Wetstein,” the celebrated author of the Prolegomena ;" on“ Scipio Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia ;" on “The Life and Times of Archbishop Laud,” (two articles) ; on “Cave's History of the Primitive Church ; " on “A newly recovered Work of Eusebius (the Chronicon);" on “ The Culdees of Iona,”(an old sect of the Scotch Church); and also on the “ History of the Transmissions of Ancient Books to Modern Times,” and several Papers of Observations on the Controversy as to the Original Language of the New Testament.
He was an excellent linguist, and paid much attention to the structure of the modern tongues. Wes hould have mentioned, amongst his contributions to the periodical press, an article on “The Hamiltonian System of Teaching Languages." We believe he acquired his knowledge of the German after he was in practice as a solicitor. We know that several years after he commenced business, he was in the habit of taking French lessons, and well remember more than once finding his French master waiting for him late in the evening, while he was finishing the heavy bu. siness of the day. He must have had a pretty good knowledge of Spanish, as we recollect his once reading, off-hand, a legal document of considerable length written in that language. His knowledge of Italian was so good as to induce that accurate publisher Mr. Pickering, to request his assistance in revising the beautiful miniature editions of Italian poets. Much of Mr. Taylor's time, in the last few years of his life, was spent in