John Newton

1725 (London) – 1807 (London)

Newton and Cowper were close friends and neighbours in Olney, where Newton was the parish priest. Newton got Cowper to contribute over 60 hymns to a collection he was preparing; he also took care of Cowper during suicidal bouts of depression. He became a mentor to Wilberforce, whom he’d first met as a child, visiting his aunt, and persuaded him he could achieve more for the abolitionist cause by staying on as a Member of Parliament than by entering the priesthood. Johnson published his thoughts on the slave-trade, while More sought his spiritual advice — he stayed with her at Cowslip Green.

William Cowper, poet

1731 (Berkhampstead, England) – 1800 (East Dereham)

The evangelical pastor Newton (who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’) was a neighbour who became a friend, and got Cowper (pronounced ‘Cooper’) to collaborate on a hymn-book with him, Cowper composing over 60 of the 348 hymns; Newton also took Cowper in for months, helping care for him during bouts of depression and despair. Flaxman illustrated Cowper’s translations from Milton, and corresponded with him. The “learned and ingenious” Fuseli helped Cowper with his translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Fuseli also painted illustrations for some of his poems; they shared a publisher, Johnson, dedicated to radical causes.