The details of Edward Taylor’s life are not abundant. He was born in or near Sketchley, Leicestershire, England, probably in the year 1645. He may have attended the University of Cambridge or one of the dissenting academies, for when he was admitted to Harvard in 1668, he was given advanced standing. It is certain that he early began training for the ministry. He had been brought to New England by the Act of Uniformity of Charles II; passed in 1662, this law required all schoolmasters (Taylor may have served in that capacity at Bagworth, Leicestershire) and ministers to take an oath of allegiance to the Anglican Church. Of course, Taylor’s religious orthodoxy in the Puritan mode of worship prevented him, in good conscience, from taking the oath.
Taylor records his voyage across the Atlantic with vivid precision in his Diary. Even before his ship could get away from the British Isles, it was beset by a “violent storm” that filled the forecastle of the ship “ankle-deep” with water and so bathed the mate that “the water ran out of the waist of his breeches.” Although the young man often found himself subdued by the constant rocking of the vessel, he was particularly taken with the life he discovered in the sea; he describes more than ten different types of fishes and several kinds of “sea fowl.” On a few occasions, he and the crew spotted different kinds of driftwood. One such event held a pleasant surprise for them. Upon finding “a piece of white fir-wood full of barnacles, which are things like dew-worm skins about two inches long hanging to the wood,” they learned that the other end housed a species of shellfish, so “we had a dish of them.” Toward the end of the journey as the vessel approached land, Taylor saw his first fireflies: “About eight I saw a flying...
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