Index to poems
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.