Knowles, Herbert (1798–1817)

A member of a family of Nonconformist cloth merchants and manufacturers from Gomersal, near Leeds, Herbert was orphaned in 1805. His relatives eventually recognized his academic talents and he was sent to Richmond Grammar School. Knowles was concerned that he did not have the funds to enter Cambridge University (and possibly that his family would not be prepared to support his ambition to study there). In October 1816 he sent one of his poems, ‘The Three Tabernacles’ (also known as ‘Lines written in the Churchyard of Richmond, Yorkshire’), to Southey, asking permission to dedicate it to him. The latter saw great promise, was moved by Knowles’s situation, and raised funds to help him take up a place at Cambridge. Knowles was elected a sizar at St John’s College on 31 January 1817, but died on 17 February 1817 and was buried at Heckmondwike Independent Chapel. In 1819 Southey included ‘Lines’ at the end of an article in the Quarterly Review, paying tribute to Knowles’s ‘extraordinary merits’ and ability to write with ‘such strength and originality upon the tritest of all subjects’ (Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 396–398).