William Cowper

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William Cowper
BirthplaceBerkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England
EducationWestminster School

Cowper, William

(ko͞o`pər, kou`–), 1731–1800, English poet. Physically and emotionally unfit for the professional life, he was admitted to the bar but never practiced. After a battle with insanity, Cowper retired to the country, taking refuge with the family of Mrs. Mary Unwin, whose life-long devotion to him he celebrates in "To Mary." Most of his country life was spent at Olney, where he met John Newton, the ardent evangelical preacher. He contributed to Newton's Olney Hymns (1779) several poems, including the two commencing "Oh for a closer walk with God" and "God moves in a mysterious way." His hymns, while expressing the hope of the new humanitarian religious revival, often gave way to religious despair and self-distrust. After Newton left Olney, Cowper, having recovered from another period of insanity, turned to writing about simple homely subjects, producing his famous long poem, The Task (1785). Its descriptions of the sights and sounds of country life foreshadowed 19th-century romanticism. Cowper's sweet-tempered, playful moods found a way into many of his poems, the most notable being "The Diverting History of John Gilpin." He also made a relatively unsuccessful translation of Homer (1791). After the death of Mrs. Unwin in 1796, his old malady returned, and he wrote little except the anguished poem, "The Castaway." His letters are considered among the most brilliant in English literature.


See his verse and letters selected by B. Spiller (1968); letters and prose writings (ed. by J. King and C. Ryskamp, 5 vol., 1979–86); biographies by D. Cecil (1947) and J. King (1986); studies by J. A. Roy (1914, repr. 1972) and V. Newey (1982).

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References in periodicals archive ?
In so doing, it will place him among a well-known network of evangelicals and raise the possibility that, soon after he arrived in England, Johnson exerted an influence over the Reverend William Cowper in regard to him coming to New South Wales.
With its title referring only to the 'Lake Poets,' a surprising proportion of this book is devoted to 'genealogical' studies of earlier eighteenth-century poets like Richard Savage, James Beattie, Thomas Gray and William Cowper as precursors or partial role-models for the Romantics' drive to professionalise.
Other schools taking part were Arden Primary, Aston Tower Primary, Calthorpe Special, Christ Church CE, The College High, William Cowper Primary, Wyndcliffe Primary and Yardleys.
We were six boys and six girls, and the eldest 10 of us went to William Cowper Street School.
Birmingham's William Cowper had its English results scrapped.
This is followed by an account of the evangelical Anglicans at Olney, Newton, William Cowper, and Thomas Scott (based on one of Hindmarsh's previously published articles), and of three notable Baptists, Anne Dutton, John Collett Ryland, and John Ryland junior.
David Cecil (1902-1986) was the son of Robert and Eleanor Cecil and a prolific biographer who wrote about Lord Melbourne, Jane Austen, William Cowper, Walter de la Mare, and Charles Lamb, among others.
Other illustrations depict scenes from classic poems by Robert Southey, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cowper, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Michael Drayton, as well as one from Robin Hood.
Klein shows that Thornton sought to increase the presence of evangelical preaching in the Church of England by endowing several dozen parish pulpits, including that of John Newton and, by extension, William Cowper. Newton made no secret of the fact that he owed all his "consideration and comfort as a minister" (vii) to Thornton's patronage.
Chapter 2, "The Poetics of Antislavery," surveys works by 15 poets--Anna Letitia Barbauld, Joel Barlow, William Cowper, Thomas Day, Theodore Dwight, Bryan Edwards, Philip Freneau, David Humphreys, Hannah More, Thomas Morris, William Roscoe, William Shenstone, John Singleton, Phillis Wheatley, and Ann Yearsley--whose verse makes use of what Gould names "the language of commercial exchange." Gould's particular engagement is with how the poetry fashions a "troubling equivalence between 'civilized' and 'savage' societies," portraying the barbarously uncivilized trader as a marker of the potential fall of a presumably enlightened society, whose institutions accommodate savage values.
Dear William Cowper wears a striped cotton headdress that