1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 129-30.



This eminent writer (1674-1748) was born at Southampton. His parents were Protestant dissenter, who had suffered severely for their faith during the times of Charles II. Watts read Latin at five years of age. He was well instructed, and became an Independent minister; but weak health prevented his devoting himself actively to his profession. The last thirty-six years of his long life were spent in the house of his friend, Sir Thomas Abney. Watts wrote Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children; but in his later years he is said to have abandoned the extreme Calvinistic views expressed in those once-popular productions, and to have leaned almost to Universalism. His Logic, and his work on The Improvement of the Mind, show that he could write English prose with clearness and force. He was the author of some eight hundred hymns, most of them of little account in a literary respect, though in some he manifests genuine poetic feeling. Many of them still retain their high place among devotional effusions. The character of Watts was amiable and beautiful to the last. His poem of True Riches is alone sufficient to justify his claim to be ranked among true poets.