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A NEW PIECE OF TAYLORIANA

A manuscript notebook closely related to Thomas Taylor has been acquired by the Division of Archives and Special Collections, Mills Memorial Library, McMaster University. The notebook, “The only fragments which remain of the Writings of the Philosopher Celsus,” seems to be the working notes for the Celsus portion of Taylor’s 1830 Arguments of Celsus, Porphyry, and the Emperor Julian, Against the Christians . . . (the cover title reads Fragments of Porphyry, Julian, &c. against the Christians). The notebook (3 3/4 × 5 3/4 inches, 104 pages, undated with no watermarks) contains a translation of all of Celsus’s anti-Christian writings, as preserved by Origen; the Celsus section of Taylor’s book contains only a portion of Celsus’s attack against Christianity, frequently interrupted by Taylor’s commentary.

Although the notebook is not in Taylor’s hand, it might well be a translation prepared on his behalf or Taylor’s working notes as transcribed by an amanuensis. Two circumstances make the latter case the more likely. First, aside from Taylor, there is no significant interest in Celsus’s religious writings in the 1820’s and 30’s. Second, the manuscript was found in the stockroom of the late Donald Berry of Eltham. In the same location was recently discovered the 1929-30 commonplace book of W. G. Meredith (1804-31), which contains the first positive evidence that Blake knew Taylor (see my “The Meredith Family, Thomas Taylor, and William Blake,” Studies in Romanticism, 11 [1972], 153-57). Although one must exercise caution in determining the extent of the dependency of Arguments of Celsus on “The only fragments . . . ,” the notebook is a piece of evidence of real interest to students of Taylor.

James King, Assistant Professor of English at McMaster University, is the co-editor of the forthcoming edition of Cowper’s correspondence to be published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford.

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