Dr. Robert Taylor (2)

Extract  from  "The Annals  of Nottinghamshire",  written by Thomas Bailey in 1853.

 During 1762, being the 2nd year of the reign of King George III:

Died, Dr. Robert Taylor, of Newark.

The reverses in life of this extraordinary individual are well worthy of a record in these "Annals," as the incidents of Dr. Taylor's life tend so strongly to establish the fact, that no surreptitious merit can for long maintain its position in a country like this, where every description of talent, or claim to public regard, on the ground of extraordinary merit, must, sooner or later, be brought into direct competition for popular favour with that which is sterling and undeniable. Dr. Taylor was born at Newark, in April, 1710; he was the son of a respectable publican, who kept the sign of the "Turk's Head," but which has since been better known as "Thompson's Hotel." At an early age he was placed in the Grammar school there, founded by Dr. Magnus. He went through his scholastic exercises with great credit, and in due time became a member of Trinity College, Cambridge. He afterwards devoted himself to the study of medicine, and obtained his diploma with some considerable reputation for his attainments in medical knowledge. When prepared for entering on his professional duties, he fixed his residence in his native place, where he conciliated general esteem by his polished manners and erudition. The former he certainly possessed in no inconsiderable degree, and in the latter he was far from deficient; but those who had the best opportunities of judging appear to have believed his professional qualifications to have been rather superficial than real—the result of a quick perception, and a faculty of ready appropriation, rather than the substantial attainments of laborious study. Be this, however, as it may, his practice speedily became respectable, both as to its extent, and the class among which he visited; when one of those little incidents which, perhaps, as frequently among professional men, of all classes, lay the foundation of promotion, as the intrinsic merits of the parties, brought him into prominent notice with the public, and eventually became the cause of his rapid advancement to the possession of one of the best "practices" in his profession. The circumstances of this extraordinary case were as follow: Lord and Lady Burlington was on a visit to his Grace the Duke of Rutland, at Belvoir castle. His lordship was taken dangerously ill during the visit, and Newark being the nearest place from which medical aid could be obtained, and the case being urgent, Dr. Taylor was "called in." Great apprehensions, for a time, were entertained for the life of the noble patient. The malady, however, at length yielded to the bold measures adopted by the physician, and the sufferer was once more restored to his anxious lady, and the brilliant circle of friends around him. The skill and attention of the doctor so won upon all the distinguished inmates of the castle, that they prevailed upon him to remove to London, where their united efforts soon established him in an extensive practice, and even procured for him the appointment of physician to the king. Lady Burlington, it is said, took him in her carriage, so soon as he arrived in London, and introduced him to all her acquaintance as a prodigy of skill; and is actually declared to have employed herself, for several weeks, in driving about to hunt out invalids, on all of whom she absolutely forced her favourite physician. Powerful patronage, a concurrence of fortuitous events, plausible manners, bold practice, and some talent, had all contributed their respective quotas of benefit to advance Dr. Taylor to the highest pinnacle of his profession. The firmness of his mind, however, not keeping pace with the rapidity of his elevation, he was intoxicated with adulation, and giddy with applause. His manners became haughty, his expenses boundless: his friends deserted him, his professional skill became assailed, and the emoluments of his practice could no longer sustain the weight of expense which his profuse habits had cast upon it. The consequence was, that this late idol of a host of fashionable valetudinarians, was cast down from his elevated position with a suddenness greater even than that which had accompanied his rise; it was, literally, an extinction—a blow so fearful, and so fatal, that it at once deprived the victim of all power of ever more raising himself in that society of which he had latterly been one of the most brilliant and conspicuous members. "We have known," says Mr. Dickinson, "many instances in which fashion has raised her votaries to the pinnacle of splendor, from which caprice has hurled them headlong, but some friendly projections, formed by prudence in the hour of success, or disposed by charity, have generally intervened to break the rapidity of their fall. In the present instance, common occurrences of life fail to account for the extraordinary celebrity with which patronage and popularity forsook eminence like Dr. Taylor's." At the time of his decease, which rapidly followed on the reverse of his fortune, he was erecting a magnificent mansion at Winthorpe, near Newark, where he had fondly hoped to spend the evening of his days in splendid retirement. He left it, however, unfinished, and it was sold to Roger Pocklington, Esq. His body was to have been brought to Winthorpe for interment immediately after his decease; but the vengeance of some implacable creditor who, under the severe laws then in existence, it was apprehended would seize the body of the deceased, as security for his claim, caused it to be interred in the most private manner possible, in the burial ground of Audley chapel. However, a few years afterwards, his remains were removed, with those of his infant son, to Winthorpe, and deposited in a small vault, prepared for his reception by his widow.