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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Isaac Williams (1802–1865)

ISAAC WILLIAMS, son of a Chancery barrister, was born at the house of his grandfather, Cwmeynfelin, Cardiganshire, on the 12th of December, 1802. He was educated privately and at Harrow School and Trinity College, Oxford, where he won the prize for Latin verse in 1823 with a poem entitled “Ars Geologica,” a circumstance which gained for him the friendship of Keble. After holding a curacy at Windrush for a short time, he was elected Fellow of Trinity, and, returning to Oxford, was introduced by Hurrell Fronde to John Henry Newman, whose curate he afterwards became at St. Mary’s, Oxford. On the resignation of the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford by Keble, Williams became a candidate for the office, but met with great opposition, on account of his association with the Tractarian movement, and was defeated, after which he retired from public life. He died on the 1st of May, 1865. He published numerous works, including the following in verse: “The Cathedral” (1838); “Thoughts in Past Years” (1838); “Hymns Translated from the Parisian Breviary” (1839); “Hymns on the Catechism” (1842); “The Baptistry” (1842); “Ancient Hymns for Children” (1842); “The Altar” (1849); and “The Christian Scholar” (1849). Some of these works are ambitious, but cannot be regarded as successes from the poetic point of view. The set purpose of the design of such a work as “The Cathedral” is incompatible with the freedom which favours inspiration, and the result is a work which is far more ecclesiastical than poetical. The following are favourable examples of his lyrics. The first is given as quoted by Lord Selborne in “The Book of Praise”; the second is from the “Translations from the Parisian Breviary.”