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 Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts

Southampton, Southampton Unitary Authority, Hampshire, England
Death 25 Nov 1748 (aged 74)
Stoke Newington, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England
Cenotaph Stoke Newington, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 19793 · View Source
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Hymn writer and theologian. Regarded as "The Father of English Hymnody". He was born and went to school in Southampton, and showed an early facility in rhyme. As the son of a well-known Nonconformist, who had been imprisoned for his faith, he was unable to go to Oxford or Cambridge universities, and studied at the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington. He worked as a private tutor, as well as preaching, writing, and training preachers. Watts' work as a writer of hymns was important because, prior to his influence, most singing in worship in England used biblical texts, mainly from the Psalms. Watts wrote new poetry to set to music, emphasising personal spirituality, and also produced metrical English versions of the Psalms. His intention was that the congregation, not just the choir, should make an active contribution to worship. His ideas were widely adopted, notably by members of the Wesley family. Three of his best known hymns are, "Joy to the World", "O God, Our Help in Ages Past", and "When I Survey the Wond'rous Cross". One of his poems for children was parodied by Lewis Carroll in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", as "How Doth the Little Crocodile", and is now better known from that than from the original. The same poem is the source of the quotation, "Satan finds some mischief still / For idle hands to do," which occurs, amongst other places, in Dickens' "David Copperfield." Isaac Watts' papers have been held by Yale University since his death, because of the founders' strong Congregationalist connections. The tomb in Bunhill Fields replaces the original, and dates from 1808. There is an earlier memorial in Westminster Abbey, and a statue, erected by public subscription in 1845, in Abney Park, Stoke Newington. A memorial bust, formerly in the London chapel with which Watts was associated, was lost when it was demolished in the late 18th century. There is also an Isaac Watts Memorial United Reformed Church in Southampton.

Bio by: Sheilia W.




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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 26 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19793
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Isaac Watts (17 Jul 1674–25 Nov 1748), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19793, citing Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .