Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knox, William (1789-1825)

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KNOX, WILLIAM (1789–1825), Scottish poet, was born at Firth, parish of Lilliesleaf, Roxburghshire, 17 Aug. 1789. After receiving elementary education at Lilliesleaf and Musselburgh, 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. In 1820 the family settled in Edinburgh, and Knox became a journalist. Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, and others befriended him, and Scott frequently gave him substantial pecuniary relief. His convivial habits undermined his health, and he died at Edinburgh of paralysis, 12 Nov. 1825.

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, and ‘Mortality,’ in ‘Songs of Israel,’ was a favourite with President Lincoln. A complete edition of Knox's poems appeared in 1847.

[Sir Walter Scott's Journal as in text; Lockhart's Life of Scott, vi. 152, ed. 1837; Rogers's Scottish Minstrel, vol. iii.]

T. B.