Francis Ridley Havergal

14 December 1836–3 June 1879

Frances Ridley Havergal, in Francis Arthur Jones, Famous Hymns and Their Authors (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1902).

Daughter of the Rev. W.H. Havergal, honourably known for his efforts to improve the metrical psalmody of the Church, and composer of the simple but much-loved tune EVAN. Miss Havergal inherited her father’s special gift, and at one time seems to have contemplated a musical career. That she possessed the literary instinct and a vivid appreciation of nature was shown at the age of eight, when, lighting one day on Cowper’s beautiful line, “My Father made them all,” she exclaimed, “That was what I wanted to say.” Like Keble she regarded her poetic gift as something sacred—

Poetry is not a trifle …
’Tis the essence of existence …
And the songs that echo longest
Deepest, fullest, truest, strongest
With your life blood you must write.

Her writings in prose and in verse have a large circulation, as have also her biography and letters, which reveal a very winning and sympathetic nature, and tell the story of an unusually eager spiritual life. Few have more faithfully acted out the aspiration she expressed in one of her hymns, “Always, only for the King.” Her favourite title for our Lord is MASTER, “because it implies rule and submission and this is what love craves. Men may feel differently, but a true woman’s submission is inseparable from deep love.”

The hymn, “Thy life was given for me,” which Bishop How calls “one of our few very delightful meditation hymns,” was written in Germany. She had come in weary and sat down opposite a picture with the motto, “I gave my life for thee”—a copy, perhaps, of the picture which arrested Zinzendorf. The hymn founded on this motto came to her as by a flash. She wrote it in pencil on the back of a circular, but on reading it over said to herself, “This is not poetry anyhow, I won't go to the trouble of copying this,” and was about to put it in the fire, but a sudden impulse made her draw it back and put it “crumpled and singed” in her pocket. Visiting an old woman in an almshouse, some time after, she read the lines to her, and they so delighted her listener she thought they might prove helpful to others, as undoubtedly they have been. The version in common use is a recast by the compilers of Church Hymns, approved by the authoress.

Miss Havergal’s poetic range was limited, but within that range she is unsurpassed. In a very special sense she is the singer of consecration. One has only to quote the first lines of her best-known hymns as evidence of this “Take my life, and let it be”; “Lord, speak to me, that I may speak”; “Jesus, Master, whose I am”; “True-hearted, whole-hearted”; “Who is on the Lord’s side?”; “Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King.” Her beautiful Advent hymn, “Thou art coming, O my Saviour,” is in a somewhat different strain, expressive of pure direct adoration, but in every “complete” life, consecration follows on adoration as “loyal response.”

by Duncan Campbell
Hymns and Hymn Makers (1898)

Featured Hymns:

Take my life, and let it be


Ministry of Song (1869): PDF (2nd ed.)
Twelve Sacred Songs for Little Singers (1870): PDF
Holiday Work (1873): WorldCat
Under the Surface (1874): PDF
The Four Happy Days (1874): PDF
The Approaching Mission Services (1874): PDF
Hints for Lady Workers at Mission Services (1874): PDF
Little Pillows; or, Good-night Thoughts for the Little Ones (1875): PDF
Morning Bells; or, Waking Thoughts for the Little Ones (1875): PDF
Royal Commandments (1877): PDF
My King (1877): PDF
Royal Bounty (1877): PDF
The Royal Invitation (1878): PDF
Loyal Responses (1878): PDF
Life Mosaic (1879): PDF
Kept for the Master’s Use (1879): PDF
Life Chords (1880): PDF
Under His Shadow (1880): PDF
Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems (1881): PDF
Life Echoes (1883): PDF

see also:

Havergal’s Psalmody and Century of Chants (1871): PDF
Charles Snepp, Songs of Grace and Glory

1st edition (1872): PDF
Appendix (1874): WorldCat
Music edition (1876): PDF

Charles H. Purday, Songs of Peace & Joy (1879): PDF (2nd ed.)

Note: This list does not include songs published individually.


Maria V.G. Havergal, ed., Poetical Works of Frances Ridley Havergal (London: James Nisbet, 1884):

David L. Chalkley and Glen T. Wegge, eds., The Poetical Works of Frances Ridley Havergal (Havergal Trust, 2017): Amazon

Related Resources:

Maria Havergal, Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal (London: James Nisbet, 1880): PDF

“A Burning and a Shining Light,” Frances Ridley Havergal: A Biographical Sketch, Haughton’s Popular Illustrated Biographies (London: Haughton & Co., 1880): WorldCat

Edward Davies, Frances Ridley Havergal: A Full Sketch of Her Life (Reading, MA: Holiness Book Concern, 1884): PDF

John Julian & James Davidson, “Frances Ridley Havergal,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 496-498: Google Books

Duncan Campbell, “Frances Ridley Havergal,” Hymns and Hymn Makers (London: A.C. Black, 1898), pp. 137-139:

T.H. Darlow, Frances Ridley Havergal: A Saint of God (London: James Nisbet, 1927): WorldCat

Tacey Bly, The Poems and Hymns of Christ’s Sweet Singer (New Canaan, CT: Keats, 1977): WorldCat

Janet Grierson, Frances Ridley Havergal, Worcestershire Hymnwriter (Bromsgrove: the Havergal Society, 1979): WorldCat

C. Michael Hawn & June Hadden Hobbs, ‘“Thy Love ... Hath Broken Every Barrier Down’: The Rhetoric of Intimacy in Nineteenth-Century British and American Women's Hymns,” ed. Martin V. Clarke, Music and Theology in Nineteenth-century Britain (Farnham, 2012): WorldCat

Robyn L. Edwards, “They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait”: Resignation in the Lives of Charlotte Elliott, Frances Havergal, and Fanny Crosby, dissertation (Briercrest Biblical Seminary, 2001): WorldCat

Vincent A. Lenti, ‘‘‘Take my life and let it be’: the life and legacy of Frances Ridley Havergal,” The Hymn, vol. 53, no. 2 (April 2002), pp. 27-32: HathiTrust

Andrew Atherstone, “Frances Ridley Havergal’s Theology of Nature,” Studies in Church History, vol. 46 (2010), pp. 319-332:

Ronald Bayne & Rosemary Scott, “Frances Ridley Havergal,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Havergal Trust:

Frances R. Havergal,

J.R. Watson, “Frances Ridley Havergal,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology: