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Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748)

Books by this author: Selected Poems
  • About
  • Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was born in Southampton, the son of Isaac Watts, a Nonconformist who had been incarcerated on two occasions for his views. Isaac the Younger was educated at King Edward VI School, where he learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

    At home, his talent for rhyme soon became evident. In 1690, since his Nonconformity prevented him from matriculating at either Oxford or Cambridge, he went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newton, then a rural village, where much of his life was centred.

    He became the pastor of a large Independent Chapel in London, and despite his poor health he also helped trainee preachers, and took work as a private tutor. Like his friend Sir Thomas Abney (Lord Mayor of London 1700-01), Watts held religious views that were unusually non-denominational or ecumenical for a Nonconformist of his time: Watts was more concerned with promoting education and scholarship than with preaching for a particular ministry.

    When Sir Thomas died, Watts moved permanently with his widow into Abney House, which she had inherited from her brother. Watts lived here permanently until his death, and the nearby island heronry in Hackney Brook was a source of inspiration for the many books and hymns he wrote.

    He died in Stoke Newington, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, leaving behind him a great religious, educational and literary legacy. His work had been been influential among independents and early religious in his circle; and when he died, his papers were given to Yale University, with which he was connected due to its being founded predominantly by fellow Independents.
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