In the late autumn of 1767, William Cowper, along with Mrs Unwin, who from then on was to be his lifelong companion, moved from Huntingdon to the small town of Olney in Buckinghamshire. They did so to be near their new friend, the Rev John Newton, that rumbustious, charismatic Evangelical preacher who had spent his early years as the captain of a slave ship plying the African triangle.
Today, Olney strikes visitors as being a quiet, genteel market town, lived in by people of the utmost respectability, but this was not so in Cowper’s day. From his letters we can tell that it suffered from a good deal of drunken rowdiness, burglaries and even attacks of arson. It was a working town, the centre of the lace-making industry and …
Curry, Neil. "Olney Hymns". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 December 2008
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=3085, accessed 11 December 2016.]