William Cowper



William Cowper is buried in the Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury (formerly St. Edmunds Chapel), St. Nicholas Church, East Dereham, Norfolk, England.


Stained Glass Window.

Cowper was the son of the Rector of Great Berkhamsted and was educated at Westminster School in London. Cowper's mother died when he was only six years old and this event had a profound effect upon his already sensitive nature. Later in life, Cowper would be inspired to write one of his finest poems when he received a picture of his mother from his cousin Ann Bodham.

After leaving school Cowper became articled to a solicitor and in 1754 he was called to the bar and later took up a clerkship in the House of Commons. However, by this stage his fits of depression had became severe and he attempted suicide. Cowper was to suffer similar bouts of depression for the rest of his life and, as a result, he lived in virtual retirement.

In 1765 he moved into the house of the Revd Unwin at Huntingdon. After Unwin's death Cowper moved - together with Unwin's widow Mary - to a house in Olney (now the Cowper Museum). While in Olney Cowper met John Newton and the two collaborated on the Olney Hymns. Cowper contributed the famous Light Shining out of Darkness and Walk with God.

Cowper later became engaged to Mary Unwin but another suicide attempt interrupted their relationship.

In 1785 his best known poem The Task was published.

In 1795 Cowper moved with Mary to Norfolk. They originally stayed at North Tuddenham, then at Dunham Lodge near Swaffham and then Mundesley before finally settling in East Dereham. However, Mary died in 1796 and Cowper spent his final years in depression. It was during this period that he wrote his desolate poem The Castaway.

William Cowper

The magnificent stained glass window above his tomb depicts Cowper reading to his pet hares. These were given to him by the villagers of Olney and were called Puss, Tiney and Bess. (See Epitaph on a Hare.)

In many ways Cowper's work was a precursor of romanticism; his more natural style providing a break from the work of the neo-classical poets. Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak.

See also mock-heroic.

God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.

Light Shining out of Darkness From Olney Hymns  

Read more Of Cowper's Poetry






 Poems by Cameron Self | About Us | Contact Us Advertise on PG

Cameron Self 2003-2014.  All rights reserved.                                                                                                                                  Hosted by UK Web.Solutions Direct