The Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was born in Plymouth in 1803. After leaving school he was apprenticed to a lawyer but later decided the law was not for him. Instead, paid for by his aunt, he continued his education at Cheltenham Grammar School where his love of poetry was fostered to the extent that he was able to publish a small book of poems in 1821. His initial verses had no significant literary value, and the young man continued with his education at Pembroke College, Oxford.
It was whilst at Pembroke that Robert Hawker met and married a Cornish woman twenty years his senior. In spite of his married state, Robert Hawker continued with his student life at Oxford and in 1827 he won the Newdigate prize for poetry.
He attained his degree, and followed this by taking Holy Orders. He is perhaps best remembered as the eccentric poet-vicar of Morwenstow, the parish to which he was appointed in 1834. He was passionate about his parish and spent much of his time restoring the church, the vicarage, and he established a school. He threw himself actively into life as pastor of a sea-faring community, helping sailors and those left bereaved by the ravages of the sea. He was fearless in his sermons, preaching out against the wreckers in his parish. All through his life he continued to write poetry, one of his best loved being "Song of the Western Men" he also wrote many essays, and he studied Cornish history and folklore.
After a long and happy marriage his wife Charlotte died in 1863. Robert became a sad man, he missed the companionship of his wife, and shortly afterwards he met a Polish lady called Pauline Kuczynski, who he married in 1864. Together Robert and Pauline had three daughters.
His romantic soul kept him writing, and his generous nature kept him poor. He is remembered for works such as Ballard of Trelawney and Quest of the San Graal. Interestingly, Robert Hawker, although Anglican had always held strong Catholic beliefs and shortly before he died in 1875 he was received into the Catholic Church.
A path leads from Morwenstow church to the hut used by Robert Hawker as a study. Here he wrote both his famous poetry and his awesome sermons denouncing smugglers for the plundering of ships wrecked on the cliffs near the village.
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