Wednesday, January 27, 2010

John Julian

John Julian was probably the most eminent hymnographer of the nineteenth century (a time when there were dozens if not hundreds of books published in the subject).

Born on this day in 1839, in
Cornwall, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1866. He wrote three shorter books, Concerning Hymns (1874), The History of the Use of Hymns in Public Worship (1894), and Carols Ancient and Modern (1900), but his primary accomplishment was the enormous Dictionary of Hymnology (1892). This book contained more than 40,000 entries on hymn texts and hymn writers. In Julian's 1913 obituary in the Musical Times, it was described as:

...stand(ing) alone as a guide to the study of English Hymnody, which it has helped to raise to its present dignity as a branch of aesthetical and historical learning.

The Dictionary was revised and updated at least twice, and was reprinted by three publishers, most recently in 1985. Today, of course, it can be
downloaded from the internet. Nearly every serious book on hymnody published since probably includes it in the bibliography.

Like most people interested in hymnody, Julian also
wrote some hymn texts himself, including this one.

Gracious Spirit, Life divine
Breathe on us thy life benign;
Life, to join ourselves to thee
Life, our life in thee to see.

Bounteous Spirit, Light divine
Cause on us thy light to shine;
Light, our path in life to see,
Light, to lead our feet to thee.

Gentle Spirit, Love divine
With thy love all love entwine;
Love, in trial peace to give
Love, for all through life to live.

John D. Julian, 19th c.
William Henry Havergal, 1869

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