William Cooke Taylor
Biography of William Cooke Taylor
William Cooke Taylor, Writer, Journalist, Historian and Anti-Corn Law propagandist. Born at Youghal on 16 April 1800 and died at 20 Herbert Street, Dublin on 12 September 1849. Through his mother he claimed descent from the regicide John Cooke.
He is best known for two works The Natural History of Society (1841) and Factories and the Factory System (1844). In the early 1840s he toured the northern English industrial centres and wrote considerably for the Anti-Corn Law League and his observations of the factories of Manchester and Bolton provide a first hand account of the depression at that time. In 1843 he became the editor of Anti-Corn Law’s ‘The League’. He was extremely hostile to chartism and his defence of child labour in factories (on the grounds that it was preferable to starvation) attracted much hostile criticism.
He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and gained a BA in 1825 and an LL.D in 1835. In 1829 he moved to London and began to contribute regularly to journals such as the Athenaeum of which he was deputy editor, Bentley’s Miscellany and The Art Journal. In London he worked as a writer for hire or, as his obituary puts it, "a writer for his daily bread". He published profusely throughout his career, writing on religion, history and a number of biographies, most notably that of Sir Robert Peel.
In Irish politics Taylor was a Whig, fiercely critical of the Penal Laws and supporting Catholic emancipation, but believing that continued union with Britain would bring about rapid political and economic modernisation. He was a strong advocate of the professedly non-denominational National School system, and his economic and religious views were heavily influenced by Richard Whately. Cooke Taylor was on friendly terms with Thomas Davis, whom he respected as a fellow-Trinity graduate, but in 1847-8 he engaged in government-sponsored journalism denouncing the Young Irelanders as communists, and was accused by Charles Gavan Duffy of having been hired to defame his country. This was unjust; while Taylor worked as a hired pen, it was for causes that he believed in.
He returned to Ireland for the last two years of his life where he worked as a statistician for the Irish Government before he died of cholera in 1849.
He was the son of Richard Taylor, a Youghal manufacturer and he married Marianne Taylor, his first cousin. He had four children, three girls and a boy, Richard Whateley Cook Taylor, a factory inspector who also went on to write about the factory system in his book Introduction to a history of the factory system.