William Knox's grave, New Calton Cemetery

Grave of William Knox (1789-1825), New Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh. Photo by Stephen C. Dickson, 2014. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

William Knox (17 August 1789 - 12 November 1825) was a Scottish poet.



Knox, son of a farmer in Roxburghshire, wrote several books of poetry, The Lonely Hearth, Songs of Israel, Harp of Zion, etc., which gained him the friendship of Scott. He fell into dissipated habits, was latterly a journalist in Edinburgh, and died at 36.[1]

Youth and educationEdit

Knox was born at Firth, parish of Lilliesleaf, Roxburghshire. He receivied an elementary education at Lilliesleaf and Musselburgh.[2]


He farmed without success near Langholm, Dumfriesshire, from 1812 to 1817. He "became too soon his own master," says Scott, "and plunged into dissipation and ruin." (Journal, i. 39). His farming career over, he returned to his native place.[2]

In 1820 the family settled in Edinburgh, and Knox became a journalist. Sir Walter Scott, Prof. Wilson, and others befriended him, and Scott frequently gave him substantial financial relief. Knox's convivial habits undermined his health, and he died at Edinburgh of paralysis.[3]


Besides a prose Visit to Dublin and a Christmas tale, Mariamne; or, The widower's daughter, Knox published The Lonely Hearth, and other poems, 1818; The Songs of Israel, 1824; and The Harp of Zion, 1825. His lyrics are graceful and thoughtful. Scott thought Knox in The Lonely Hearth superior to Michael Bruce.[3]


A complete edition of Knox's poems appeared in 1847.[3]

"Mortality" ("Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"), from Songs of Israel, was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln.[3]



  • The Lonely Hearth, and other poems. North Shields, UK: privately published, printed by.K. Pollock, 1818.
  • Songs of Israel: Consisting of lyrics, founded upon the history and poetry of the Hebrew scripture. Edinburgh: J. Anderson, 1824.
  • The Harp of Zion: A series of lyrics, founded upon the Hebrew Scriptures. Edinburgh: John Fairbairn, 1825.
  • The Lonely Hearth; The songs of Israel; Harp of Zion; and other poems. London: J. Johnstone, 1847.
  • President Lincoln's Favorite Poem. Philadelphia: A.W. Auner, 1865.
  • Oh, why should the spirit of moral be proud? (illustrated by Lizbeth Bullock Humphrey).Boston : Lee & Shepard / New York: C.T. Dillingham, 1877.


  • A Visit to Dublin: Containing a description of the principal curiosities and public buildings in the Irish metropolis. Edinburgh: John Fairbairn, 1824.[4]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

Oh Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud?

Oh Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud?

See alsoEdit


  • PD-icon.svg Bayne, Thomas Wilson (1892) "Knox, William (1789-1825)" in Lee, Sidney Dictionary of National Biography 31 London: Smith, Elder, p. 337-338 . Wikisource, Web, July 28, 2016.


  1. John William Cousin, "Knox, William," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: Dent / New York: Dutton, 1910, 226. Wikisource, Web, Feb. 4, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bayne, 337.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Bayne, 338.
  4. Search results = visit + au:William Knox, WorldCat. OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 29, 2016.
  5. Search results = au:William Knox 1825, WorldCat. OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 29, 2016.

External linksEdit

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