Sunday, June 27, 2010

More Voices Found: Julia Anne Elliott

English hymnwriter Julia Anne Elliott was born today in Leeds in 1809. Her father, John Marshall, was a successful mill owner, but we know nothing of Julia's early life.

She married the Reverend Henry Venn Elliott in 1833. He was the curate of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Brighton, and his sister Charlotte Elliott had already begun her hymnwriting career. In 1835, his hymnbook Psalms and Hymns for Public, Private, and Social Worship was first published, and it included eleven hymns by Julia. Probably due to the custom of the time, her hymns were anonymous, but by the time of the third edition (1839) her editor-husband apparently allowed her initials to appear in the index next to the titles of her hymns.

In Songs from the Hearts of Women (1903), author Nicholas Smith describes Julia Elliott's hymn texts as "bearing the stamp of fine poetic taste, and all of them possess a deep religious feeling; and it is strange that they have not won a larger place in our hymnology." One hundred years later, still not having won any larger place, her time may have passed, but I did like this one, a Trinitarian hymn of praise for Sunday worship.

Great Creator, who this day
From thy perfect work didst rest,
By the souls that own thy sway
Hallowed be its hours and blest;
Cares of earth aside be thrown,
This day give to heav’n alone.

Savior, who this day didst break
The cold prison of the tomb,
Bid my slumbering soul awake;
Shine through all its fear and gloom;
Let me, from my bonds set free,
Rise from sin, and live to thee.

Bless├Ęd Spirit, Comforter,
Sent this day from Christ on high;
Now on me thy gifts confer,
Heal, illumine, sanctify:
All thine influence shed abroad;
Lead me to the truth of God.

Julia Anne Elliott, 1833; alt.
Tune: H
Henry T. Smart, 1866

Julia Elliott died in childbirth in 1841, before she may have written more texts. Though her hymns are not as familiar as some by her sister-in-law Charlotte, or even her niece, the hymnwriter and composer Emily Elliott, she is still remembered in Brighton. At the Church of St. Mary the Virgin (the original building, pictured below, is the one she knew) one of the windows is dedicated to her memory (the Resurrection portion is shown above).

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