James Francis Taylor
Barrister Q.C. / Orator / Journalist
John Francis Taylor was an able advocate on all matters pertaining to Ireland who also encouraged the study of the Irish Language.
John Francis Taylor was born in Co. Mayo on 13th February 1853. His pseudonym was “Ridgeway.” He was a close friend of Alice Stopford Green. He worked as a Barrister in Ireland during 1882 later in England during 1890, first as QC then as King’s Council.
J.F. Taylor penned the “Life of Owen Roe.” His many contributions to various reviews earned him his place amongst eminent writers of his time. In The Freeman’s Journal of 25th October 1901 an article appeared entitled “The Irish Revival” in which it reported Taylor’s conclusion as “If Moses had listened to the councils of that learned professor he would never have come down from the mountain, his face glowing as a star, and bearing the tables of the law….” He was the Dublin Correspondent of the Manchester Guardian from 1887 to his demise during 1902.
He attended many of the Law Society’s Debates in Dublin. Taylor delivered his inaugural address on the Parliaments of Ireland to the Young Ireland Society on January 29th 1886. He repeated the celebrated speech to the T C D Law Society on 24th October 1901 with his encouragement of the Irish Language. In the closing part of his speech, J. F. Taylor tells of the Egyptian who challenges Moses by comparing the riches and dominance of the Egyptian language, literature, history and religion with the poverty of Jewish culture. [i]
On November 1924 W.B. Yeats along with Sylivia Beach made a recording of Taylor’s speech from the “Aeolus” episode of “Ulysses” as Yeats claimed it was the only passage that could be lifted from the edition that was suitable. [ii]
James Francis Taylor joined the Contemporary Club in Dublin, a forum where ideas were exchanged and for debates where held on the Social, Political and Literary questions of the day during 1888. [iii] He died in Dublin during November 1902. [iv]
His Manuscripts and Newspaper articles from the Manchester Guardian, the Pilot, United Irishmen plus the Electric from the period 1887 to 1902 are held in the National Library in Dublin. [v]
Douglas Hyde notes “a lecture the best I have ever heard” from J. F. Taylor on 20th November 1886. (Domnic Daly “The young Douglas Hyde, the dawn of the Irish Revolution and Renaissance, 1874-1893”) W.B Yeats in “Yeats: An Illustrated Biography” 1976 Macmillan London said of J. F. Taylor that “he knew nothing of Poetry and Painting though he seemed to know by heart whole plays of Shakespeare and all the most famous passages in Milton and was deeply read in 18th century literature.” Yeats made numerous references to Taylor’s exceptional power as an orator he called him “Rifhear, a king of kings.” (p 86). Yeats mentioned Taylor often in his “The collected Works of Yeats Vols 11, 1V, also V1.” He stated his disapproval and quarrel with Taylor in his Prefaces and Introductions as “a poor regard for the blazing rhetoric of the Young Ireland Movements and its poetry” from Thomas Davis anthology, “The Spirit of the Nation.” Taylor is also is mentioned in “The Yeats Reader revised edition a Portable Compendium of Poetry and Drama.”
Justin Mc Carthy in The Irish Literature at Washington University in 1904 gave extracts from the “Life of Owen Roe O’Neill The Irish School of Oratory” he noted it was “an intense and rhetorical advocacy of Catholic Celt.” Frank Tuohy in the Yeats Illustrated Biography reported that Yeats said of Taylor that he was “an obscure great Orator.” Richard Ellman in James Joyce 1959 reported on a speech by the patriotic Barrister J. F. Taylor that he had the “style of our own Joyce at his best” and had a “broadness of sympathy that the latter had yet to acquire.” W. P. Ryan wrote of J. F. Taylor Q.C. in The Irish Literary Revival of 1894 that “He was regarded as a strong but independent Personality and will deal with the stronger personality of Owen Roe for the New Irish Library” Page 53). According to Denis O ‘Donoghue Taylor was “In the opinion of good judges the finest Irish Orator of his time.” [vi] Roger Casement’s pamphlet “The Language of the Outlaw”published between the years of 1903 – 1905 contained a version of Taylor’s speech that Yeats had used in writing the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses. [vii]
An extract from ‘Travels through Time’ published in the Mayo News on 24th February 1993 (assessed 12th Sept 2019) stated that ‘As can be seen J. F. Taylor is mentioned among illustrious novelists at Mayo’s Carnegie Library at the Courthouse in Castlebar, who invited applications for the establishment of Branch Libraries in various districts during 1928. The Library announced that recent acquisitions included; the notable J.F. Taylor who was one of the intellectual giants of that time plus author of a standard life of Owen Roe O’Neill.