1818 - 1895 Person Name: Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 Author of "Once in Royal David's City" in Common Praise (1998) As a small girl, Cecil Frances Humphries (b. Redcross, County Wicklow, Ireland, 1818; Londonderry, Ireland, 1895) wrote poetry in her school's journal. In 1850 she married Rev. William Alexander, who later became the Anglican primate (chief bishop) of Ireland. She showed her concern for disadvantaged people by traveling many miles each day to visit the sick and the poor, providing food, warm clothes, and medical supplies. She and her sister also founded a school for the deaf. Alexander was strongly influenced by the Oxford Movement and by John Keble's Christian Year. Her first book of poetry, Verses for Seasons, was a "Christian Year" for children. She wrote hymns based on the Apostles' Creed, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Ten Commandments, and prayer, writing in simple language for children. Her more than four hundred hymn texts were published in Verses from the Holy Scripture (1846), Hymns for Little Children (1848), and Hymns Descriptive and Devotional ( 1858).
Alexander, Cecil Frances, née Humphreys, second daughter of the late Major John Humphreys, Miltown House, co. Tyrone, Ireland, b. 1823, and married in 1850 to the Rt. Rev. W. Alexander, D.D., Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Mrs. Alexander's hymns and poems number nearly 400. They are mostly for children, and were published in her Verses for Holy Seasons, with Preface by Dr. Hook, 1846; Poems on Subjects in the Old Testament, pt. i. 1854, pt. ii. 1857; Narrative Hymns for Village Schools, 1853; Hymns for Little Children, 1848; Hymns Descriptive and Devotional, 1858; The Legend of the Golden Prayers 1859; Moral Songs, N.B.; The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals, an Allegory, &c.; or contributed to the Lyra Anglicana, the S.P.C.K. Psalms and Hymns, Hymns Ancient & Modern, and other collections. Some of the narrative hymns are rather heavy, and not a few of the descriptive are dull, but a large number remain which have won their way to the hearts of the young, and found a home there. Such hymns as "In Nazareth in olden time," "All things bright and beautiful," "Once in Royal David's city," "There is a green hill far away," "Jesus calls us o'er the tumult," "The roseate hues of early dawn," and others that might be named, are deservedly popular and are in most extensive use. Mrs. Alexander has also written hymns of a more elaborate character; but it is as a writer for children that she has excelled.
- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Alexander, Cecil F., née Humphreys, p. 38, ii. Additional hymns to those already noted in this Dictionary are in common use:—
1. Christ has ascended up again. (1853.) Ascension.
2. His are the thousand sparkling rills. (1875.) Seven Words on the Cross (Fifth Word).
3. How good is the Almighty God. (1S48.) God, the Father.
4. In [a] the rich man's garden. (1853.) Easter Eve.
5. It was early in the morning. (1853.) Easter Day.
6. So be it, Lord; the prayers are prayed. (1848.) Trust in God.
7. Saw you never in the twilight? (1853.) Epiphany.
8. Still bright and blue doth Jordan flow. (1853.) Baptism of Our Lord.
9. The angels stand around Thy throne. (1848.) Submission to the Will of God.
10. The saints of God are holy men. (1848.) Communion of Saints.
11. There is one Way and only one. (1875.) SS. Philip and James.
12. Up in heaven, up in heaven. (1848.) Ascension.
13. We are little Christian children. (1848.) Holy Trinity.
14. We were washed in holy water. (1848.) Holy Baptism.
15. When of old the Jewish mothers. (1853.) Christ's Invitation to Children.
16. Within the Churchyard side by side. (1848.) Burial.
Of the above hymns those dated 1848 are from Mrs. Alexander's Hymns for Little Children; those dated 1853, from Narrative Hymns, and those dated 1875 from the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern.
Several new hymns by Mrs. Alexander are included in the 1891 Draft Appendix to the Irish Church Hymnal.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
Alexander, Cecil F. , p. 38, ii. Mrs. Alexander died at Londonderry, Oct. 12, 1895. A number of her later hymns are in her Poems, 1896, which were edited by Archbishop Alexander.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
See also in:Hymn Writers of the Church
Cecil Frances Alexander