1821 - 1877 Person Name: Henry W. Baker, 1821-1877 Author of "Give Peace, O God" in Discipleship Ministries Collection Baker, Sir Henry Williams, Bart., eldest son of Admiral Sir Henry Loraine Baker, born in London, May 27, 1821, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated, B.A. 1844, M.A. 1847. Taking Holy Orders in 1844, he became, in 1851, Vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire. This benefice he held to his death, on Monday, Feb. 12, 1877. He succeeded to the Baronetcy in 1851. Sir Henry's name is intimately associated with hymnody. One of his earliest compositions was the very beautiful hymn, "Oh! what if we are Christ's," which he contributed to Murray's Hymnal for the Use of the English Church, 1852. His hymns, including metrical litanies and translations, number in the revised edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, 33 in all. These were contributed at various times to Murray's Hymnal, Hymns Ancient & Modern and the London Mission Hymn Book, 1876-7. The last contains his three latest hymns. These are not included in Hymns Ancient & Modern. Of his hymns four only are in the highest strains of jubilation, another four are bright and cheerful, and the remainder are very tender, but exceedingly plaintive, sometimes even to sadness. Even those which at first seem bright and cheerful have an undertone of plaintiveness, and leave a dreamy sadness upon the spirit of the singer. Poetical figures, far-fetched illustrations, and difficult compound words, he entirely eschewed. In his simplicity of language, smoothness of rhythm, and earnestness of utterance, he reminds one forcibly of the saintly Lyte. In common with Lyte also, if a subject presented itself to his mind with striking contrasts of lights and shadows, he almost invariably sought shelter in the shadows. The last audible words which lingered on his dying lips were the third stanza of his exquisite rendering of the 23rd Psalm, "The King of Love, my Shepherd is:"—
Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His Shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me."
This tender sadness, brightened by a soft calm peace, was an epitome of his poetical life.
Sir Henry's labours as the Editor of Hymns Ancient & Modern were very arduous. The trial copy was distributed amongst a few friends in 1859; first ed. published 1861, and the Appendix, in 1868; the trial copy of the revised ed. was issued in 1874, and the publication followed in 1875. In addition he edited Hymns for the London Mission, 1874, and Hymns for Mission Services, n.d., c. 1876-7. He also published Daily Prayers for those who work hard; a Daily Text Book, &c. In Hymns Ancient & Modern there are also four tunes (33, 211, 254, 472) the melodies of which are by Sir Henry, and the harmonies by Dr. Monk. He died Feb. 12, 1877.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
H. W. Baker