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Thomas Taylor

From Wikipedia link Wikipedia (article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & sons; New York, E. P. Dutton. )

Thomas Taylor (15 May 1758 - 1 November 1835) was an English translator and Neoplatonist, the first to translate into English the complete works of Aristotle and of Plato, as well as the Orphic fragments. The texts that he used had been edited since the 16th century, but were interrupted by lacunae; Taylor's thorough understanding of the Platonists informed his suggested emendations, which, when better manuscripts have been found, were often proved just. His translations were influential to William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. In American editions they were read by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and G.R.S. Mead, secretary of Mme Blavatsky the founder of Theosophy. He and his wife took Mary Wollstonecraft, into their home when she was an unhappy teenager, and thus influenced the future author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.


Born in London, Taylor was educated at St. Paul's School, London, and devoted himself to the study of the classics and of mathematics. After being a bank clerk, he was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Society for the Encouragement of Art (precursor to the Royal Society of Arts), in which capacity he made many influential friends, who furnished the means for publishing his various translations, which besides Plato and Aristotle, include Proclus, Porphyry, Apuleius, Ocellus Lucanus and other Neoplatonists and Pythagoreans. His aim was the translation of all the untranslated writings of the ancient Greek philosophers.

Taylor was a fervent adherent and admirer of Hellenism, most especially in the philosophical framework furnished by Plato and the Neoplatonists Proclus and the "most divine" Iamblichus, whose works he translated into English. So enamoured was he of the ancients, that he and his wife talked to one another only in classical Greek.

He was also an outspoken voice against the corruption and vice he saw in the Christianity of his day, and its shallowness, inauthenticity and spiritual inefficacy. For this critique and for his Hellenism, Taylor was ridiculed in his day and acquired many enemies, although in other quarters he was very well received. Among his friends and interlocutors in London in the first quarter of the nineteenth century was the eccentric traveller and philosopher John "Walking" Stewart, whose intellectual soirees Taylor was in the habit of attending.

Taylor also published several original works on philosophy (in particular, the Neoplatonism of Proclus and Iamblichus) and mathematics. These works are now published (some for the first time since Taylor's lifetime) by Prometheus Trust.


W. E. A. Axon, Thomas Taylor, The Platonist (London, 1890)

Kathleen Raine, Thomas Taylor the Platonist; Selected Writings, 1969.


external link "Thomas Taylor, the English Platonist"

external link ''Hymns of Orpheus'', translated by Thomas Taylor, 1792

external link ''On the Mysteries'' by Iamblichus, translated by Thomas Taylor

external link Thomas Taylor, ''A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes'', 1792

external link Criticism of Taylor's translations of Platonicism

external link Thomas Taylor, a great English Platonist Short biography and bibliography: The Shrine of Wisdom

external link Thomas Taylor] Biography - The Prometheus Trust

external link The Thomas Taylor Series - Main Catalogue from the Prometheus Trust

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content from Wikipedia link Wikipedia, edit last modified on 17 December 2008, at 04:28. Available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 11 January 2009