Collection RC0707 - William Cowper collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

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William Cowper collection

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  • 1773-1824 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

4 manuscripts (3 by Cowper and 1 by John Newton)
4 letters

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Biographical history

William Cowper, English poet, was born at his father's rectory at Great Berkhampstead on 15 November 1731. He was educated at Westminster College and called to the bar in 1754. Following a spell of mental instability, bouts of which were to plague him for the rest of his life, he went to live at Huntingdon with the Revd. Morely Unwin, his wife, Mary (b. 1724) and their son William, who by then was away from home. On the death of Unwin, Mary moved to Olney in Buckinghamshire with Cowper. The curate in Olney, John Newton, collaborated with Cowper in the writing of the Olney Hymns (1779) after which he moved to London. Under Mrs. Unwin's influence, Cowper wrote a series of moral satires, published in 1782 as Poems. Mrs. Unwin died on 17 December 1796 while William Cowper lived for a few more years, dying on 25 April 1800.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The collection contains manuscripts and letters written by Cowper and Newton.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

There have been three accruals: the first purchased from Sotheby's by Bertram Rota in June 1976; the second from Quaritch Ltd. in June 1980; the third from Rendells Inc. in April 1983.


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There are no access restrictions.

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Associated materials

The collection also contains a first edition of Poems which has been separately catalogued. The collection has been supplemented by a microfilm reel of poems from the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

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No further accruals are expected.

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