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Selected Poetry of John Newton (1725-1807)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

AMAZING grace! (how sweet the sound!)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
        (Faith's Review and Expectation, 1-4)
  1. Faith's Review and Expectation (Amazing Grace)


Notes on Life and Works

Born in London on July 24, 1725, John Newton joined the merchant marine as a youth and had many adventures, including harsh service to a slave-trader. Rescued from this, and while returning home, Newton underwent a sudden religious conversion in March 1748 as he steered the ship through a storm. In England he married a childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett, educated himself in classical and eastern languages, joined the evangelical movement, and yet continued to captain slave-ships until 1754, when illness turned him to ministering. His autobiography, The Authentic Narrative (1764), was published the year he became a priest in the Church of England and was appointed to Olney, Buckinghamshire. There his dramatic preaching earned him large audiences, among whom was the poet William Cowper, and they became close friends. They jointly authored Olney Hymns in 1779 (280 hymns by Newton, and 68 by Cowper), many works from which still remain popular today. Later Newton took over the church of St. Mary Woolnoth in London. Throughout his life he fearlessly dwelt on both his sins and his love for Mary, who predeceased him in 1790. He died on December 21, 1807, and they were buried together at St. Mary Woolnoth.

Biographical information

Given name: John
Family name: Newton
Birth date: 24 July 1725
Death date: 21 December 1807
Nationality: English
Family relations
          wife: Mary Newton (from 12 February 1750)
Languages
          English
          Latin
          Greek
          Hebrew
          Syriac
Education: School at Stratford, Essex
Honour: D.D. , University of New Jersey: 1792
Literary period: Augustan
Occupations
          Surveyor of the tides
          Priest: 1764
          Deacon: 1764
Residences
          Olney, Buckinghamshire
          London: 24 July 1725
Buried at: St. Mary Woolnoth
First RPO edition: 1998