William Knox (Scottish poet)

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William Knox (17 August 1789–12 November 1825) was a Scottish poet. He is known for writing Abraham Lincoln's favourite poem, Mortality, which Lincoln often recited by memory.


William Knox's Cemetery, New Calton Cemetery

The eldest son of a Thomas Knox, a farmer, and Barbara Turnbull in Lilliesleaf, Roxburghshire, he was educated first in Lilliesleaf then in Musselburgh Grammar School. They lived in a farm (Todrig) which his mother had inherited when her first husband, also a farmer, died.

He farmed unsuccessfully from 1812-1817 then turned to writing, supported by both Christopher North and Sir Walter Scott.[1]

He wrote several books of poetry, The Lonely Hearth (1818), Songs of Israel (1824) which contains "Mortality", Harp of Zion (1825).

He fell into dissipated habits, was latterly a journalist in Edinburgh, and died at 36.

He died aged only 36 in Edinburgh, following a stroke, and is buried in the New Calton Cemetery in its upper east section.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource 

  1. ^ Oxford National Dictionary of Biography