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William Cowper (1731-1800)

William Cowper was cousin to the Evangelical clergyman Martin Madan. The son of an Anglican priest, Cowper was educated at Westminster School and later entered the legal profession. Subject to periodic bouts of severe depression, Cowper was committed to an asylum in 1763 following several suicide attempts.

Cowper is regarded as one of the finest English poets of the eighteenth century, whose simple and natural style influenced younger contemporaries including William Wordsworth. Much of his poetry was on a religious theme including several contributions to John Newton's collection of Olney Hymns of 1779.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography

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