William Cowper biography

William Cowper

Poet, Author

1731 – 1800


Who was William Cowper?

William Cowper was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet", whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak. He was a nephew of the poet Judith Madan.

Although after being institutionalised for insanity in the period 1763–65, Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity, the inspiration behind his much-loved hymns, he often experienced doubt and after a dream in 1773 believed that he was doomed to eternal damnation. His religious sentiment and association with John Newton led to much of the poetry for which he is best remembered. His poem "Light Shining out of Darkness" gave the English language the idiom "God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform."

Famous Quotes:

  • The man that hails you Tom or Jack, and proves by thumps upon your back how he esteems your merit, is such a friend, that one had need be very much his friend indeed to pardon or to bear it.
  • I pity them greatly, but I must be mum, for how could we do without sugar and rum?
  • O, popular applause! what heart of man is proof against thy sweet, seducing charms?
  • Remorse, the fatal egg that pleasure laid.
  • Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness. Where rumors of oppression and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me anymore.
  • The life of ease is a difficult pursuit.
  • Fanaticism soberly defined, is the false fire of an over heated mind.
  • The darkest day, If you live till tomorrow will have past away.
  • Nature is a good name for an effect whose cause is God.
  • Religion! what treasure untold resides in that heavenly word!

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Nov 26, 1731
Also known as
  • Cowper, William
  • Anglicanism
  • England
  • Westminster School
Lived in
  • Berkhamsted
Apr 25, 1800

on July 23, 2013


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