Edward Caswall

15 July 1814–2 January 1878

Edward Caswall, portrait by Albin Roberts Burt (1837), National Portrait Gallery, London

His father, the Rev. R.C. Caswall, was the Vicar of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England, and previously Perpetual Curate of Yateley, Hampshire. His mother was a niece of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Burgess, D.D., Bishop of St. David, and afterwards of Salisbury. The father was a descendant of Sir George Caswall, Kt., who was compromised in the affairs of the South Sea Company (1720). The family were pos­sessed of a considerable estate. The son, Edward, was born, July 15, 1814, at Yateley, and was the fourth of nine chil­dren.

After a preparatory training at the grammar-schools of Chigwell and Marlborough, Edward entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1832. Previous to his graduation (1836), he contributed to the Metropolitan Magazine a series of papers, entitled “The Oxonian.” His “Art of Pluck” (1835), a satire on the idle and wasteful habits of the Oxford boys, was very popular, and speedily went through eleven editions. His “Sketches of Young Ladies,” a similar satire, was equally popular. In the summer of 1835, he visited Italy and other parts of the Continent.

He remained, as “Hulme Exhibitioner,” studying divinity, at Oxford, two years, when he was ordained by Rt. Rev. George Henry Law, D.D., Bishop of Bath and Wells (1838) a deacon, and (1839) a priest. In the meantime, he pub­lished “Morals from the Church Yard” (1838), and therein showed some tendencies towards Romanism. He served as Curate, successively, at Bishop’s Norton, near Taunton, at Milverton, and at St. Dunstan’s in the West, London. In 1840, he became Perpetual Curate of Stratford, near Salis­bury. He married (1841) Louisa, the only child of General Walker, at Taunton, with whom (1845) he again visited the Continent. They returned, quite in love with the pomp of the Roman ritual. He had already received, with eager­ness, the “Tracts for the Times,” and other kindred publi­cations.

As the result, he resigned (March 1846) his church-liv­ing, and published The Child’s Manual, and Sermons on the Seen and Unseen. A visit to the eastern and south­ern parts of Ireland, the same year, confirmed him in his leanings towards the Papacy. His father died soon after, and, in December, he proceeded with his wife to Rome, where, in January 1847, they were both received into the Church of Rome. His younger brother, Thomas, Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, had taken a similar step shortly before.

On his return home, he was occupied, during the follow­ing two years, in translating the Breviary Hymns, as pub­lished (1849) in his Lyra Catholica. The Altar Man­ual, translated from the French by Mrs. Caswall, was pub­lished about the same time. They removed to Torquay, early in the autumn, where Mrs. Caswall became (Septem­ber 14, 1849) a victim of the Asiatic Cholera. In December he repaired to Dr. Newman’s Oratory at Birmingham, was received on probation into the Order, March 29, 1850, and finally into the priesthood, September 18, 1852. His final admission to the Oratory took place January 18, 1854.

He published, afterwards: (1856) Hours at the Altar, a translation from the French, and Verba Verbi; or, the Words of Jesus, arranged in the Order of Time as a Daily Companion, etc.; (1868) The Masque of Mary, and Other Poems, of which forty-nine are Translations; (1861) Con­fraternity Manual of the Most Precious Blood, etc.; (1862) Love for Holy Church; and (1865) A May Pageant and Other Poems. He also assisted his college-friend, Rev. Henry Formby (who, also, had become a Romanist) in bring­ing out his series of hymns. He died January 2, 1878.

Mr. Caswall's translations are of a high order, and many of them are used extensively, both by Protestants and Ro­manists. More than thirty of them have been adopted by Protestant Compilers, notably those of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) and The People’s Hymnal (1867).

by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)

Featured Hymns:

Jesu, the very thought of Thee

Collections of Hymns & Poems:

Lyra Catholica

1st edition (London, 1849): PDF
American edition (NY, 1851): PDF

Masque of Mary and Other Poems (London, 1858): PDF

A May Pageant and Other Poems (London, 1865): PDF

Hymns and Poems (London, 1873): PDF

Hymns and Poems, New Ed. with Biographical Preface, ed. Edward Bellasis (London, 1908): PDF

Related Resources:

Edwin Hatfield, “Edward Caswall,” Poets of the Church: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Hymn Writers (NY: Anson D.F. Randolph & Co., 1884), pp. 135-138: HathiTrust

John Julian, “Edward Caswall,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 214-215: Google Books

J.R. Watson, “Edward Caswall,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

Edward Caswall at Hymnary.org:

Thompson Cooper & Charles Brayne, “Edward Caswall,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: