Havergal, Frances Ridley (1836–1879)

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Havergal, Frances Ridley (1836–1879)

English-born hymn writer and author of religious poems, tracts, and children's books. Born at Astley, Worcestershire, England, on December 14, 1836; died, age 42, at Caswell Bay, Swansea, South Wales, on June 3, 1879; youngest of six children of Reverend William Henry Havergal (writer of sacred music and rector of Astley, Worcestershire) and Jane (Head) Havergal; sister of Maria Vernon Graham Havergal (who wrote Frances R. Havergal: The Last Week, 1879, and edited Frances' Memorials in 1880, Poetical Works, 1884, and Letters, 1885), and Jane Havergal Crane (who edited Maria's autobiography in 1887 and published a biography of their father in 1882); educated by her mother and elder sister Jane; studied for a year in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Selected poetry:

The Ministry of Song (1870); Under the Surface (1874); Loyal Responses (1878); Life Chords (1880); Life Echoes (1883); Poetical Works (1884); Coming to the King (1886).

Children's books:

A Little Worker for Christ (1872); Little Pillows: or, Good Night Thoughts (1874); Morning Bells: or, Waking Thoughts (1874).

Born in Astley, Worcestershire, England, in 1836, the daughter of a minister, Frances Havergal inherited her father's musical talent as well as his Christian faith. It was said that she prayed three times a day, and studied Greek and Hebrew so that she could better understand the Bible. Havergal wrote the well-known hymn "I Gave My Life for Thee" at the age of 18, after which she endured a period of illness which required her to abandon her work for nine years. Upon her father's death in 1890, she prepared The Ministry of Song for the press, claiming that her inspiration was from God. "I never seem to write even a verse by myself," she once said, "and feel like a little child writing what is dictated."

Havergal's poetry has been criticized as scattered and repetitive, but some of her hymns have been called excellent. The best of them, including "True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted," "O Savior, Precious Savior," "I Gave My Life for Thee," and "Tell It Out Among the Heathen," have stood time's ultimate test.

suggested reading:

Darlow, T.H. Havergal: A Saint of God, 1927.

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