William Ewart Gladstone Louw, the youngest brother of N. P. van Wyk Louw, was born on 31 May 1931 in the Karoo village Sutherland, where he spent his childhood.

He matriculated at the S. A. Kollege School in Cape Town.

He studied at the University of Cape Town from 1931 -1935 and received his M.A. with a dissertation on the poetry of J. H. Leopold. He then continued his studies in Holland at the University of Amsterdam, where he obtained a D.Lit.

He returned to Cape Town in November 1938. Here he completed another Ph.D. with a dissertation on the influence of Gorter on Leopold (Die Invloed van Gorter op Leopold).

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