His father was a brewer and his mother was a native of Frankfurt, Germany.
He married Laura Barker, the composer, on 19 June 1855.
Taylor attended the University of Glasgow and went on to graduate with a Bachelor's degree from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1840. He was elected as a fellow of Trinity in 1842 and got his Master's degree.
He pursued a career at the bar and later as assistant secretary of the Board of Health.
At the same time, he wrote columns for Punch, the Morning Chronicle, and the Daily News, and wrote art criticism for two other dailies (art critic of the Times from May 1857-July 1880). He was a major contributing writer to Punch until 1874, and then Editor-in-Chief until his death.
He was also a prolific playwright and dramatized Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.
Taylor was elected a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club on 5 March 1867 (Whistler was expelled from the club in the same year). During the Whistler-Ruskin trial in November 1878, he was a witness for Ruskin.
The Taylors knew Emilia Venturi (who was a friend of Whistler as well), and she stayed with them from April-May 1861.
Taylor was living at Lavender Sweep, Wandsworth in 1872.
Maas, Jeremy, The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004; The Annual Register, 1880, pp. 179-80.