Cowper, William, 1731-1800

Identity area

Type of entity

Person

Authorized form of name

Cowper, William, 1731-1800

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Dates of existence

1731-1800

History

COWPER, WILLIAM, son of John Cowper (qv), and his first wife; b. 15 Nov 1731; adm. (Playford) Apr 1742; left 1749; articled to a solicitor 1750-2; adm. Middle Temple 29 Apr 1748, called to bar 14 Jun 1754; fell in love with his cousin Theodora, but the marriage was forbidden by her father; contributed verses to various papers; a member of the Nonsense Club, chiefly composed of Westminster men who dined together weekly; migrated to Inner Temple, adm. there 17 Jun 1757; owned chambers Inner Temple 1757 - still 1781; a Commissioner of Bankrupts (occurs in annual lists 1758-65); Clerk of Journals, House of Lords c. May - Nov 1763; the stress brought on by his acceptance of the appointment caused a suicide attempt and nervous breakdown; an inmate of Nathaniel Cotton’s private lunatic asylum at St. Albans, Dec 1763 - Jun 1765; lived with the Unwins at Huntingdon 1765-7 and subsequently with Mrs Unwin at Olney, where he was employed by the Rev. John Newton as a sort of lay-reader and district visitor; composed hymns, a number of which are printed in Newton’s Olney Hymns, 1779; became engaged to Mrs Unwin; again deranged 1773-5 and for part of that time a guest in Newton’s house; occupied himself in gardening and writing verse; published Anti-Thelypthora, 1781, an anonymous attack on the defence of polygamy written by his cousin Martin Madan (qv) in the previous year; published Poems, Feb 1782; wrote the famous ballad of John Gilpin, first published in The Public Advertiser, Nov 1782; began translating Homer 1784; published The Task, 1785; removed to Weston, Nov. 1786; again became insane 1787; published his translation of Homer, 1791; undertook to edit Milton; removed in 1795 to East Dereham, Norfolk, where Mrs Unwin died in the following year; a complete edition of his works was published in 15 vols. by Robert Southey (qv) in 1834-7; Cowper’s schooldays, to which he frequently refers in his correspondence, were probably the happiest days of his life, and his recollections of them afforded him much pleasure; he appears to have enjoyed playing cricket and football; his favourite friend was Sir William Russell, Bart. (qv), but he was “much intimate” with Walter Bagot (adm. 1739/40, qv); he had a “particular value” for Warren Hastings (qv), to whom he addressed some lines on his impeachment, and he showed his friendly feeling for Robert Lloyd (qv) in the verse epistle which he addressed to him in 1754; his poem Table Talk contains an interesting allusion to the custom in his time of awarding pieces of Maundy Money for a good copy of verses (lines 507-11); d. unm. 25 Apr 1800. Memorial window in baptistery of Westminster Abbey. DNB.

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Relationships area

Related entity

Cowper, John, d. 1756 (d. 1756)

Identifier of the related entity

GB-2014-WSA-019014

Category of the relationship

family

Type of relationship

Cowper, John, d. 1756

is the parent of

Cowper, William, 1731-1800

Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

Related entity

Johnson, John, 1769-1833 (1769-1833)

Identifier of the related entity

GB-2014-WSA-018853

Category of the relationship

family

Type of relationship

Johnson, John, 1769-1833

is the cousin of

Cowper, William, 1731-1800

Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

John Johnson's mother, Anne Donne (b. 1748) was the daughter of Cowper's maternal uncle, Roger Donne.

Related entity

Hesketh, Harriet, Lady Hesketh, ca. 1733-1807 (bap. 1733, d. 1807)

Identifier of the related entity

GB-2014-WSA-018852

Category of the relationship

family

Type of relationship

Hesketh, Harriet, Lady Hesketh, ca. 1733-1807

is the cousin of

Cowper, William, 1731-1800

Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

Lady Hesketh's father, Ashley Cowper (1701-1788) was William Cowper's paternal uncle.

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Occupations

Control area

Authority record identifier

GB-2014-WSA-00495

Institution identifier

GB 2014

Rules and/or conventions used

International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families - ISAAR(CPF) 2nd edition

Status

Final

Level of detail

Full

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Prepared for import into AtoM by Westminster School Archive staff, 2019-2020

Language(s)

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Sources

Users should note that the information recorded here that is not to be found in the first two volumes of the Record of Old Westminsters and its first Supplement has been assembled from various published and manuscript sources by Hugh Edmund Pagan MA FSA, and all new resulting text is his copyright, © 2014.

The Record of Old Westminsters: A biographical list of all those who are known to have been educated at Westminster School from the earliest times to 1927, Volumes 1 & 2, compiled by G. F. Russell Barker and Alan H. Stenning, London, 1928.

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