29 October 2013

Four Women, Four Hymns.

Perhaps my favorite presentation at the ChLA 2013--which I attended in Biloxi many months ago--was that of Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, "For the Children Who Played... and for Those Who Didn't: Nineteenth-Century Hymnbooks for Home, Sunday-Schools, and Orphanages." This was the second time I have heard Alisa present, and, since I share her interest in Victorian hymnody,  I eagerly await her book Nineteenth-Century British Children’s Hymnody: Re-Tuning the History of Childhood with Chords and Verses. Studies in Childhood Series: 1700-Present series.  Claudia Nelson, series editor.  Anticipated publication 2015.

I have much enjoyed her article ,“Writing for, Yet Apart: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Contentious Status as Hymn Writers and Editors of Hymnbooks for Children.”  Victorian Literature and Culture. Vol. 40.  Issue 1.  (March 2012): Pp. 47-81. Clapp-Itnyre advocates "for the woman hymn writer for children – she who, as hymn writer or editor, surely enacted the role of religious “priest” for countless generations of children during and after her lifetime, but who is all but forgotten today."
In much the same way, I have asserted that women writers of hymns and Christian didactic literature function as theologians, shaping the doctrine and practice of the church. (See my introduction for SEASONS's reading of Evelyn Whitaker's Laddie.)

Later this week, I will teach a short class on the Hebrew word
ba yith 
which means"House, Household, Home, Family, Temple, Shelter, Stronghold, Door..." and the meaning of the phrase "The House of the Lord" in the biblical Psalms. Since this is a devotional rather than a literary presentation, I selected several hymns written by women for the group to sing. These songs were chosen for their commentary upon the selected Psalms and because they were written by 19th Century Women.
Four Women Writers of Hymns:

Dorothy Ann Thrupp (1779 – 1847) was born in Paddington, England. She was deeply involved in the Sunday School movement. The first Sunday Schools were founded to provide some education to the children of the poor. These children often worked during the week to help support their families. Having Sundays free, they often ran wild and engaged in dangerous and immoral activities. Dorothy Ann Thrupp was a life-long Sunday School teacher. She wrote many materials and songs to be used in the curriculum. Many were published under the name "Iota" and some are noted as by D.A.T.  Alisa Clapp-Itnyre in her presentation discussed the Sunday School movement and  cited the "democratizing influence" of hymns and their importance in a "move from selfish pursuit to core Christian values." Attributed to Thrupp, "Savior like a Shepherd Lead Us" appears in at least 831 hymnals.

Anna Laetitia Waring (1823 – 1910) was born into a Quaker family in Wales  but like her uncle, Samuel Waring, was baptized into the Anglican church in 1842. Both her uncle and her father, Elijah Waring, were also writers. She was a life-long daily reader of the Psalter and learned Hebrew in order to read the Psalms (Yes! a kindred spirit, indeed!) and other Old Testament scripture in the original language. Her first small collection of eighteen hymns was published in 1850 and titled Hymns and Meditations by A.L.W. There was an 1855 publication of Additional Hymns. In 1863 the 10th edition of Hymns and Meditations was published. Here is a link to the American edition which contains 32 poems.  In 1886 she published Days of Remembrance: A Memorial Calendar. For many years she was active in a prison ministry visiting Bridewell in London  and later Horfield, Bristol, and worked with the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society. When a friend asked how she could bear this ministry, Waring replied: “It is like watching by a filthy gutter to pick out a jewel here and there, as the foul stream flows by.” Many of her hymns are reflective of pain and suffering. In our hymnal she is represented by "In Heavenly Love Abiding" which appears in at least 453 hymnals.

Anne Ross Cundell Cousins (1824 – 1906) was born in Yorkshire, England. She married William Cousins, pastor of the Free Church of Scotland. They ministered for twenty years in various locations with the Free Church of Scotland and with Presbyterian congregations. She was the mother of six children. She began writing hymns to be used in her husband’s worship services and some of these became very popular in Britain. Her hymns and poems for various publications were most often published as by A.R. C.  She was an accomplished pianist having studied with John Muir Wood. Here is a link to the 1876 edition of her collected works. She said her hymn, 'The Sands of Time," was inspired by the last words of the great 18th Century Calvinist and leader of “the second Reformation,” Samuel Rutherford, whose tombstone is engraved “Acquainted with Immanuel’s Song.”  
 Caroline Louisa Sprague Smith (1827 –1886) was the wife of Rev. Charles Smith of the South Congregational Church, Andover, MA.  She is listed in Hatfield’s Poets of the Church, New York, 1884, p. 564. Her hymn “Tarry with Me. An Old Man’s Prayer” appeared in The Sabbath Hymn Book 1858. She described writing this hymn:  “About 1853 [in the summer of 1852] I heard the Rev. Dr. H. M. Dexter preach a sermon on ‘The Adaptedness of Religion to the Wants of the Aged.’ I went home and embodied the thought in the hymn “Tarry with me, O My Savior.’ I sent it to Mr. Hallock, for The Messenger. He returned it as ‘not adapted to the readers of the paper.’ Years after, I sent it, without any signature, to the little Andover paper…. I send it to you in its original form, in a little paper of which my sister, Mrs. Terry [Rochester, NY] is editoress.” Here is a link to a 1909 edition of her collected writings.

There are at least three other tunes more commonly used with Smith’s words.  The tune in our hymnal #783 is not listed in the references. It is by Knowles Shaw (1834 –1878) who was the “singing evangelist” of the Stone-Campbell Movement. The story of his conversion--he was in the middle of playing the fiddle at a dance--is rather amusing. He was both an accomplished violinist and pianist. Having no objection to instrumental music in the Disciples of Christ fellowship, he frequently played in churches and revival meetings. Smith’s “Tarry with Me” with Shaw’s music was published in Zion’s Harp #165.


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