An inventory of Taylor’s estate taken after his death in 1729 showed him to be in possession of a substantial library. Detroit Metro Map It was not at all uncommon for Puritan pastors to accumulate large libraries, but this library was one of the largest in the area where Taylor preached. His library included many expensive works rare in New England, a collection of seventeenth-century schoolbooks, and books that aided Taylor’s practice of medicine. It also contained books by Cotton Mather, Increase Mather, and Samuel Sewall, which indicate that Taylor kept up his reading in current affairs. As mentioned above, Taylor’s considerable skill as a poet did not become known until more than two centuries after his death.
Taylor’s will specifically instructed that none of his 400 pages of accumulated manuscripts ever be published. In accordance with Taylor’s wishes, his grandson Ezra Stiles, president of Yale, deposited the unopened manuscripts in the university library. The themes of Taylor’s poetry are predictable enough for a man raised on seventeenth-century Puritanism: God’s power, man’s painful march to sainthood, and deep love for Christ. What sets his poems apart from many other works produced in colonial Country is his style. He avoids the plain style, favoring rhetorical flourish and high-minded analysis of scripture.
Following English models, he also modified love poetry to serve religious ends. Taylor’s central work is a series of loosely connected poems that explains most of the tenets of Puritan faith. Taylor called the work God’s Determinations Touching His Elect: And The Elects’ Combat in Their Conversion, And Coming Up To God and Christ: Together With The Comfortable Effects Thereof. While other Puritan poets, particularly Michael Wigglesworth in his Day of Doom, focused on the triumph of the church at the end of the world, Taylor focused on the individual’s personal journey to sainthood in a way that could be compared to the works of some of the metaphysical poets then working in England. In addition to the lengthy God’s Determinations, Taylor wrote a number of shorter Sacramental Meditations, which were, in essence, autobiographical treatments addressing Taylor’s love for Christ.
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