Christopher Wordsworth--nephew of the great lake-poet, William Wordsworth--was born in 1807. He was educated at Winchester, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A., with high honours, in 1830; M.A. in 1833; D.D. in 1839. He was elected Fellow of his College in 1830, and public orator of the University in 1836; received Priest's Orders in 1835; head master of Harrow School in 1836; Canon of Westminster Abbey in 1844; Hulsean Lecturer at Cambridge in 1847-48; Vicar of Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berks, in 1850; Archdeacon of Westminster, in 1865; Bishop of Lincoln, in 1868. His writings are numerous, and some of them very valuable. Most of his works are in prose. His "Holy Year; or, Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and other occasions throughout the Year," was published in , and contains 127 hymns.
--Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872.
Wordsworth, Christopher, D.D., was born at Lambeth (of which parish his father was then the rector), Oct. 30, 1807, and was the youngest son of Christopher Wordsworth, afterwards Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Priscilla (née Lloyd) his wife. He was educated at Winchester, where he distinguished himself both as a scholar and as an athlete. In 1826 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where his career was an extraordinarily brilliant one. He swept off an unprecedented number of College and University prizes, and in 1830 graduated as Senior Classic in the Classical Tripos, and 14th Senior Optime in the Mathematical, won the First Chancellor's Medal for classical studies, and was elected Fellow of Trinity. He was engaged as classical lecturer in college for some time, and in 1836 was chosen Public Orator for the University. In the same year he was elected Head Master of Harrow School, and in 1838 he married Susan Hatley Freere. During his head-mastership the numbers at Harrow fell off, but he began a great moral reform in the school, and many of his pupils regarded him with enthusiastic admiration. In 1844 he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel to a Canonry at Westminster; and in 1848-49 he was Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge. In 1850 he took the small chapter living of Stanford-in-the-Vale cum Goosey, in Berkshire, and for the next nineteen years he passed his time as an exemplary parish priest in this retired spot, with the exception of his four months' statutable residence each year at Westminster. In 1869 he was elevated to the bishopric of Lincoln, which he held for more than fifteen years, resigning it a few months before his death, which took place on March 20th, 1885. As bearing upon his poetical character, it may be noted that he was the nephew of the poet-laureate, William Wordsworth, whom he constantly visited at Rydal up to the time of the poet's death in 1850, and with whom he kept up a regular and lengthy correspondence. Christopher Wordsworth was a very voluminous writer, his principal works being:—
(1) Athens and Attica, 1836; (2) Pompeian Inscriptions, 1837; (3) Greece Pictorial and Descriptive, 1839; (4) King Edward VIth's Latin Grammar, 1841; (5) Bentley's Correspondence, 1842; (6) Theophilus Anglicanus, 1843; (7) Memoirs of William Wordsworth, 1851; (8) Hippolytus, 1853; (9) Notes at Paris, 1854; (10) A Commentary on the whole Bible, 1856-1870;
(11) The Holy Year, 1862; (12) Church History, 1881-1883; many volumes of Sermons, and an enormous amount of Pamphlets, Addresses, Letters, Speeches, on almost every subject in which the interests of the church were concerned, and also on subjects connected with classical literature.
Of his many works, however, the only one which claims notice from the hynmologist's point of view is The Holy Year, which contains hymns, not only for every season of the Church's year, but also for every phase of that season, as indicated in the Book of Common Prayer. Dr. Wordsworth, like the Wesleys, looked upon hymns as a valuable means of stamping permanently upon the memory the great doctrines of the Christian Church. He held it to be "the first duty of a hymn-writer to teach sound doctrine, and thus to save souls." He thought that the materials for English Church hymns should be sought (1) in the Holy Scriptures, (2) in the writings of Christian Antiquity, and (3) in the Poetry of the Ancient Church. Hence he imposed upon himself the strictest limitations in his own compositions. He did not select a subject which seemed to him most adapted for poetical treatment, but felt himself bound to treat impartially every subject, and branch of a subject, that is brought before us in the Church's services, whether of a poetical nature or not. The natural result is that his hymns are of very unequal merit; whether his subject inspired him with poetical thoughts or not, he was bound to deal with it; hence while some of his hymns (such as "Hark! the sound of holy voices," &c, “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph," &c, "O, day of rest and gladness") are of a high order of excellence, others are prosaic. He was particularly anxious to avoid obscurity, and thus many of his hymns are simple to the verge of baldness. But this extreme simplicity was always intentional, and to those who can read between the lines there are many traces of the "ars celans artem." It is somewhat remarkable that though in citing examples of early hymnwriters he almost always refers to those of the Western Church, his own hymns more nearly resemble those of the Eastern, as may be seen by comparing The Holy Year with Dr. Mason Neale's Hymns of the Eastern Church translated, with Notes, &c. The reason of this perhaps half-unconscious resemblance is not far to seek. Christopher Wordsworth, like the Greek hymnwriters, drew his inspiration from Holy Scripture, and he loved, as they did, to interpret Holy Scripture mystically. He thought that ”the dangers to which the Faith of England (especially in regard to the Old Testament) was exposed, arose from the abandonment of the ancient Christian, Apostolic and Patristic system of interpretation of the Old Testament for the frigid and servile modern exegesis of the literalists, who see nothing in the Old Testament but a common history, and who read it (as St. Paul says the Jews do) ‘with a veil on their heart, which veil' (he adds) 'is done away in Christ.'" In the same spirit, he sought and found Christ everywhere in the New Testament. The Gospel History was only the history of what "Jesus began to do and to teach" on earth; the Acts of the Apostles and all the Epistles were the history of what he continued to do and to teach from Heaven; and the Apocalypse (perhaps his favourite book) was "the seal and colophon of all." Naturally he presents this theory, a theory most susceptible of poetical treatment, in his hymns even more prominently than in his other writings. The Greek writers took, more or less, the same view; hence the resemblance between his hymns and those of the Eastern Church. [Rev. J. H. Overton, D.D.]
During the time that Bishop Wordsworth was Canon of Westminster, and Vicar of Stanford-in-the-Vale cum Goosey, he published his collection of hymns as:—
The Holy Year; or Hymns for Sundays and Holy-days, And other Occasions. London, Rivingtons, 1862.
This work contained an extended Preface; a Calendar of Hymns; 117 Original Compositions; and a Supplement of 82 hymns from other sources. In the 3rd edition, 1863, the Supplement was omitted, and the Original hymns were increased to 127. Several of these hymns are annotated under their respective first lines, the rest in common use are:—
From The Holy Year, first edition, 1862:—
1. Five pebbles from the brook. Temptation. Stanza ix. added in 1863.
2. Giver of law is God's [Thy] dear Son. Circumcision. Doxology added in 1863.
3. Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost. Quinquagesima.
4. Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts, Eternal King. Holy Trinity.
5. Holy of Holies! awful name. Epistle 5th Sunday in Lent.
6. How blest are hearts which Christ the Lord. Holy Matrimony. In 1863 in two parts, Pt. ii. being "Bless these Thy servants, gracious Lord."
7. How blessed is the force of prayer. St. Peter. In 1863, in two parts, Pt. i. being "Behold! at hand is Herod's doom."
8. How wondrous and mysterious are. Holy Baptism. In the 1863 ed. it is divided into four parts:— Pt. ii. "In Jordan Thou didst sanctify"; Pt. iii. "Thee, risen in triumph from the grave"; Pt. iv." Baptized in Christ we put on Christ." The cento, "By Water and the Holy Ghost," is also from this hymn.
9. In sorrow and distress. Ash Wednesday.
10. In Thy glorious Resurrection . Easter. In the 1863 ed. it begins, "Lord, Thy glorious Resurrection," and the doxology was added.
11. Lord, may we never, save to One. Against False Worship. Stanza viii. was added in 1863.
12. Lord not with [by] poor and paltry gifts. Offertory.
13. Lord, Who didst the Prophets teach. 2nd Sunday in Advent, or, Holy Scripture. The doxology was added in 1863.
14. Man fell from grace by carnal appetite. Gospel 1st S. in Lent.
15. Mankind in Adam fell. Good Friday. In the 1863 ed. it is divided into three parts: Pt. ii. being "We fell by Adam's sin;" and Pt. iii. "Thy Cross a Trophy is."
16. Not bound by chains, nor pent in cells. The Gifts of the Holy Ghost. This hymn is preceded by a special note on the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
17. Not gifts of prophecy can save. Self Discipline, or, 8th Sunday after Trinity.
18. 0 Jerusalem beloved, joyful morn has dawned on Thee. Purification of Blessed Virgin Mary, or, The Presentation. In the 1863 edition it is divided into two parts, Pt. ii. Being “Light the Gentile world to lighten, and thy glory Israel."
19. 0 Saviour, Who at Nain's gate. The Raising of the Widow's Son.
20. 0 Son of God, the Eternal Word. The Queen's Accession.
21. Once all the nations were as one. Babel and Sion a Contrast.
22. Sing, 0 sing this blessed morn. Christmas. In the 1863 edition a doxology was added, and the hymn was divided into two parts, Pt. ii. being, "God comes down that man may rise."
23. The banner of the Cross. Missions. In the 1863 ed. it is in three parts, Pt. ii., "Now for the Lord our God"; Pt. iii. "The earth from East to West."
24. The Galilean Fishers toil. Collect 4th Sunday in Advent. From this "0 Lord, when storms around us howl" is taken.
25. Thou bidd'st us visit in distress. The Promise of the Comforter, or, Sunday before Ascension. In the 1863 edition it is in two parts, Pt. ii. being “At Thy first birth, Thou, Lord, didst wait."
26. Thou hast a Temple founded. The Christian Temple; or, Epistle 11th Sunday after Trinity.
27. To-day, 0 Lord, the Holy James. St. James. In the 1863 ed. in two parts, Pt. ii. being "God in His word does not display."
28. Today with bright effulgence shine. Conversion of St. Paul. In the 1863 ed. it begins "Today in Thine Apostle shine," and is in two parts, Pt. ii being "From East to West, from North to South."
29. Upon the sixth day of the week. Easter Eve. Stanzas x., xi. of the 1863 text were added then, and the hymn was given in two parts, Pt. ii. being "By tasting the forbidden fruit."
30. We hear the tolling bell. Burial. The doxology was added in 1863, and the hymn was divided, Pt. ii. being "0 gracious Lord, to Thee." The cento "We see the open grave" is from this hymn.
31. When from the City of our God. The Good Samaritan. From this is taken “What beams of grace and mercy, Lord."
32. When Thou, 0 Lord, didst send the Twelve. SS. Simon and Jude. In the 1863 ed. stanza x. is new, and Pt. ii. begins, "Zeal, swollen with passion's cloudy smoke."
ii. From the Holy Year, 3rd ed., 1863.
33. Heavenly Father, send Thy blessing. For Schools. In extensive use.
34. Holy, holy, holy Lord, Maker of this worldly frame. Septuagesima. Based on the Epistle and Gospel of the week.
35. Lo He comes! Whom every nation. Advent. This is headed "The First Advent of Christ, coming to save."
36. 0 fear not though before thee lies. Communion of the Sick. Pt. ii. begins, "The Resurrection and the Life."
37. On every new-born babe of earth. Churching of Women. Pt. ii. begins, "Bright angels of the King of kings."
38. Peace to this house! O Thou Whose way. Visitation of the Sick. Pt. ii. "0 Conqueror by suffering; Pt. iii. "Restore us to Thine house of prayer."
39. The day is gently sinking to a close. Evening. A beautiful hymn.
40. We all, 0 God, unrighteous are. The Lord our Righteousness. Sometimes "We all, O Lord, unrighteous are." Based upon the Epistle of the Sunday next before Advent. Pt. ii. begins "Behold the day, the glorious day."
In addition to many of the hymns in the 1863 edition of The Holy Year being divided into parts, the texts of most of them were revised by the author, and are authorized.
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Wordsworth, Bp. C. (Lincoln) , p. 1294, i. Of his hymns, noted on p. 1294, i., ii., we find that No. 39 appeared in his Holy Year in 1864; and Nos. 34, 35, and 40 in 1862. The first edition in which the longer hymns were divided into parts was that of 1868. With regard to the date of Bp. Wordsworth's death, we find this reference thereto in his Biography: "He expired soon after midnight on Friday, March 20, or perhaps, it might be said, early on the Saturday morning." This gives the date of his death as March 21, 1885.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
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