Robert Stephen Hawker

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Robert Stephen Hawker (3 December 1804[1] – 15 August 1875), often known as Stephen Hawker, was an Anglican clergyman, poet, antiquarian of Cornwall, and reputed eccentric. He is best known as the writer of The Song of the Western Men, that includes the chorus line, And shall Trelawny die? There's 20,000 Cornish men shall know the reason why, which he published anonymously in 1825[1]. His name became known after Charles Dickens acknowledged his authorship of "The Song of the Western Men" in the serial magazine Household Words.



Hawker was born in the vicarage of Charles Church, Plymouth, on 3 December 1804, the eldest of ten children and the grandson of Robert Hawker, vicar of Charles Church: his father was Jacob Stephen Hawker but he was brought up by his grandfather.[2] By the age of ten he was already reading and writing poetry. He was educated at Liskeard Grammar School and Cheltenham Grammar School. As an undergraduate, aged 19, he was married to his godmother, Charlotte Fans, aged 41. The couple spent their honeymoon at Tintagel in 1823, a place that kindled Hawker's life-long fascination with Arthurian legend and inspired him to write The Quest of the Sangraal. This marriage, along with a legacy, helped to finance his studies at Pembroke College, Oxford[1]. He graduated in 1827 and won the 1827 Newdigate Prize for poetry.

Hawker was ordained in 1831, becoming curate at North Tamerton and then vicar of the church at Morwenstow, where he remained throughout his life. When he arrived at Morwenstow there had not been a vicar in residence for over a century. Smugglers and wreckers were apparently numerous in the area. A contemporary report says the Morwenstow wreckers "allowed a fainting brother to perish in the sea without extending a hand of safety."[citation needed]

Hawker's first wife, Charlotte, died in 1863 and the following year, aged 60, he married Pauline Kuczynski, aged 20. They had three daughters. Hawker died in August 1875, having become a Roman Catholic on his deathbed. He was buried in Plymouth's Ford Park Cemetery. His funeral was noteworthy because the mourners wore purple instead of the traditional black.

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