He was born in Gloucestershire where his father was a vicar, and followed him into the clergy. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford and, after a brilliant academic performance there, became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. While still at Oxford, he became curate of East Leach, and in 1827 he became known as a poet, publishing his first collection, The Christian Year. From 1831 to 1841 he was Professor of Poetry at the university, and it was at this stage that he led the Tractarian movement. Along with his colleagues, including John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey, he became a leading light in the movement, but did not follow Newman into the Roman Catholic faith. In 1835 he settled down to family life in Hampshire, where he remained for the rest of his life.