William Cowper (26 November, 1731 – 25 April, 1800) was one of the most popular English poets and hymnwriter of his time.
Fun Facts about William Cowper:
- William Cowper(pronounced Cooper) was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. His father, John, was one of King George II’s chaplains in the Church of St. Peter.
- John’s sister, William Cowper’s aunt, was poet Judith Madan. Ann Cowper née Donne, was related to poet John Donne.
- Ann Cowper died when young William was six years old. The young man was sent off to boarding school where he was ostracized by the other students. He was there until he was 18, and became a lawyer’s apprentice.
- For the next decade William Cowper apprenticed law, but had a mental breakdown before his exam which would have allowed him to clerk at the House of Lords. Mr. Cowper was sent to an asylum and started reading the Bible which helped him get better.
- William Cowper went on the live with a Morley and Mary Unwin, a clergyman and his wife, in the town of Olney. He got very attached to the Unwins and wrote his first book of hymns with them.
- The poet changed the nature poetry in the 18th century by writing about everyday life in the English countryside.
- In a bout of insanity, William Cowper was convinced he was condemned to hell, commanded by G-d to sacrifice his life. It took him a year to get well thanks to Mary Unwin’s dedicated care.
- William Cowper’s translations of Homer’s Odyssey and the Iliad (1791) were the most significant translations since Alexander Pope’s almost 100 years previously.
- Cowper never recovered from the death of Mary Unwin in 1796. He passed away four years later.
- There are two windows in St. Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted to memorialize William Cowper. One depicts his writing desk and pet hares, baring the line “Salvation to the dying man, And to the rising God” from the poem “The Saviour, what a noble flame”. On the second window there are lines from his poems “Oh! for a closer walk with God” and “The Task”.
The same church has a tablet for the memory of Ann Cowper, the poet’s mother.
Zohar — Man of la Book
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