(Re) Introducing Thomas Taylor

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(Re) Introducing Thomas Taylor

Postby Heaven/Hell » Sat Mar 01, 2008 1:03 pm

Those of you unfamiliar with the name can be forgiven, for in all but the rarest literary circles is Taylor recognised. A grand misjustice has been done by the phillistine critics and reviewers to this brilliant man, who many scholars rightly assert played a moving force to the whole English Romantic movement.

Thomas Taylor was the first to translate into English the complete works of Plato, and the Neoplatonists Plotinus and Proclus, and fervently declared himself a Platonist and to prefer Platonic theology over Christian; in the days when the clergy had a stranglehold for what passed for common knowledge this had the effect of producing an uproar almost analogous to Shelley's declared hellenistic Atheism. Coleridge read avidly all Taylor's Platonic translations, he repeatedly claims Plato, Plotinus and Proclus to be among his favourite philosophers he read whilst at college. Blake was also fascinated with Platonic theology, which can be traced throughout his poetry and prose, describing the soul's journey into the "Body, which is only the Garment".

Taylor envisaged himself as the one to hold the banner of Plotinus against the pernicious and potentially destructive materialist philosophy of the day, of such 'geniuses' as Locke, Bacon and Newton. His scarcely contained contempt for the clergy and the materialist philosophy du jour was only surpassed by Blake. "Mr. Locke describes the soul as a tabula rasa, a blank state, a mechanical recipient", wrote Taylor, "To Plato she is an ever-written tablet, a plenitude of forms, a vital intellectual energy."

The Platonic philosophy is of course the very language of Romanticism and the Imagination, throughout all the poets of the era we see a prevailing trend: the authors are urging you that it is not what is being looked at that is important (whereas Locke asserts reality is only experienced through the senses) but what we are looking with.
"Language has not the power that Love indites: The Soul lies buried in the ink that writes" ~ John Clare
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