William Cowper, converted under a heterodox but eloquent early Methodist preacher, began a rocky spiritual journey which was to rise to great heights, yet, even to the end of his life, intermittently descended to abysmal depths of psychological torment and despair. Most of his poetry was written in rustic retreats to which he was forced by his persistent emotional fragility, and some of the best of it was written under the restorative pastoral counselling of ("Amazing Grace") John Newton. Yet even in the throes of his own despondency Cowper was able to write poems and hymns which then and since have been comforting to others. He thus remains about as fine an example as English literature affords of the "wounded healer." In this compact volume some of Cowper's best poetry-narrative, lyrical, personal, public-are gathered together with his confessional autobiography and part of his correspondence with Newton. David Lyle Jeffrey is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University. His other books include English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley and English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif (also available from Regent College Pubishing).
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