The Cowper & Newton Journal

Volume 9: 2019 Available June


Landmarks can be occasions for looking back as well as for present satisfaction. The approach of the tenth anniversary of The Cowper and Newton Journal has led us to thoughts of its forerunner, The Cowper and Newton Bulletin, and to the decision to devote more or less an entire issue to reprinting pieces from it. The Bulletin ran in thrice-yearly parts from 2002 to 2009, combining news and reports from the Museum with articles and notes on Cowper and Newton and related topics. Current readers may well be unfamiliar with this earlier material or find it difficult to locate. We hope that our selection will not only give a second and accessible life to a portion of it but also bring into focus the range and character of the Bulletin as a whole, which may be further sampled by searching online.

The volume has, however, a shape and direction of its own. We have chosen, in the main, short and medium-length contributions and ones which are of general rather than more purely academic interest. (The Bulletin did carry longer essays linked to research in literature and history, now largely published elsewhere.) The individual groupings of items – ‘Life’, ‘Works’, ‘Newton, Cowper and Olney’, and so on – speak for themselves. Together they constitute a colourful, if necessarily circumscribed, picture of the spectrum of activities, contexts, and connections in which Cowper and Newton had a part and through which their lives, work, and importance may be approached and understood.

Our subjects are viewed in various roles: Cowper the poet and Cowper the man who ‘loved’ women, Newton the hymn-writer and Newton the campaigning clergyman in the vanguard of the struggle for the Abolition of Slavery. Poetry and politics placed these two men in the national and international arena, but here the local setting, contemporary background, and the byways of history claim a degree of prominence, reaching even as far as the world of military life in the eighteenth century. There are weighty and lighter themes, taking us from the sobriety of Evangelical tradition to the surprise package of cigarette cards, a seemingly incongruous area of material culture that yet yields serious evidence of Cowper’s abiding popularity (as, in its more conventional way, does our foray into the realm of prints and painterly illustrations) and recalls his creative fascination with the commonplace rituals of his own day. All in all this is a collection that will engage specialist and non-specialist readers alike, especially those who know and value Olney and its Museum, the latter coming directly to the fore at several points including, as the final section, the descriptive catalogue of the lately acquired Cowper-Johnson Archive.

This unusual number of The Cowper and Newton Journal  may indeed be characterised as sharing with the Cowper and Newton Museum a core quality and function. Both preserve, interpret, and explain the past, uniting instruction with pleasure, or, as the eighteenth-century rhetorician might have said, the utile with the dulce. Both generate a breadth of interest and knowledge out of a careful and caring attention to the particular.


  • Editorial

  • William Cowper: the Life

William Cowper of the Inner Temple – Clare Rider  

How Did Cowper Love Women? – Conrad Brunström

The Winner of Sorrow: A Novel  by Brian Lynch – Tony Seward


  • William Cowper: the Works

Detached Cowper and His Critical Eye – Ashley Chantler

Tasking the Mind: Understanding ‘Unstood’ in Cowper’s ‘Yardley Oak’ – Michael Davies

The Weather House – Tony Seward

Recalling Adam’s Dream: A Note on Keats and Cowper – Vincent Newey


  • John Newton, William Cowper and Olney

The Olney Hymns – Vincent Newey

The Evangelical Tradition in Olney – Joan McKillop

Two Curates, Two Baptists and a Poet: Olney and the  Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade – Thomas Martin

 The Revd. Morley Unwin and his Family – Joan Jones

Texts on the Wall of Newton’s Study – Marylynn Rouse

‘Amazing Grace’ – Joan McKillop

Eighteenth-Century Military Life in Olney – Joan McKillop

  • Cowperiana

 Cowper’s ‘Woodman’ Illustrated – Vincent Newey and Tony Seward

Cartogenic Cowper – Vincent Newey

A Tune Called ‘Cowper’ – Vincent and Susan Newey


  • The Cowper and Newton Museum: Acquisitions 2004-2006      

A Portrait and a Nursery Plate – Tony Seward

An Important First Edition – Tony Seward

The Cowper Johnson Archive  – Felix Pryor


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