Sunday, December 13, 2015

William Walsham How

William Walsham How, born on this date in 1823, was a priest in the Church of England and eventually Bishop of Wakefield (though he resisted being named a bishop for some years).  He had originally planned to enter the legal profession, but changed his mind while in college at Oxford and went on to divinity school at Durham University.

He was ordained in 1846, and served as rector of Whittington for twenty-eight years (1851-1879).  His first book of poetry was published anonymously, and was updated and enlarged in 1886. His collected hymns, 54 in number, were also published separately.  

He was chair of the committee that produced Church Hymns (1871) for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and that volume became the second-most widely-used hymnal in the UK (after our old friend Hymns Ancient & Modern). He was also one of the editors for The Children's Hymn Book (1881).

Since Bishop How's birthday falls on the third Sunday in Advent this year I tried to find a text with some connection to the season, so here we have the second stanza about the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), which is usually read during Advent though it also has a separate feast day on March 25 - nine months before Christmas.

Jesus! Name of wondrous love!
Name all other names above!
Unto which must every knee
Bow in deep humility.

Jesus! Name decreed of old,
To the maiden mother told,
Kneeling in her lowly cell,
By the angel Gabriel.

Jesus! Name of mercy mild,
Given to the holy Child
When the cup of human woe
First he tasted here below.

Jesus! Name of priceless worth
To your people here on earth!
Jesus! Name of wondrous love!
Human Name of God above!

William Walsham How, 1854; alt.
Tune: ST. BEES (
John Bacchus Dykes, 1862

In 1898 How's son Frederick Douglas How published a memoir of the bishop.  Perhaps not surprisingly, he writes thusly of his father's hymns: "Among the good hymn-writers Bishop Walsham How takes his place without challenge."  Though How wrote fewer hymns than several of his Victorian contemporaries, a good proportion of them are still being sung, so this assessment is not without merit.

Seven Years Ago: William Walsham How

Five Years Ago: Edwin O. Excell

One Year Ago: William Walsham How

No comments: