Page 48

T h e P o e t ic Wo n de r o f I sa ac Wa tt s

and last, the academy was designed to prepare Watts for the ministry of the gospel. The Rev. Thomas Rowe was director of the academy and the pastor of a Nonconformist congregation that met in Haberdasher’s Hall, London. Watts soon became a member of his schoolmaster’s congregation. The curriculum at the academy, where novelist Daniel Defoe had studied before him, was comprehensive: Watts studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, mathematics, history, geography, natural science, rhetoric, ethics, metaphysics, anatomy, law, and theology. Students were expected to develop mastery of oral disputation and of written composition. They were regularly guided in carefully studying the Bible, outlining passages for sermons, and preparing lessons from the Psalms. In this higher education, Watts was profoundly influenced by Rowe, “who was Calvinist in theology, Lockean in philosophy, and Cartesian in physics.”33 Rowe would influence Watts in all of these areas and is credited with contributing to Watts’ understanding of Christianity as a “reasonable” religion, that is, one that is founded on supernatural revelation and not in contradiction to reason. Watts wrote a poetic tribute to this beloved teacher: I love thy gentle influence, Rowe, Thy gentle influence, like the sun, Only dissolves the frozen snow, Then bids our thoughts like rivers flow.34 18

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts  
The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts  

Read a sample chapter of Douglas Bond's The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts.