John Mason Neale

24 January 1818–6 August 1866


LEARNED and voluminous as a writer, the late Dr. J. Mason Neale was one of the most devoted promoters of the modern High Church movement. He was born in London, January 24, 1818, and was the only son of the Rev. Cornelius Neale. His father died when he was only five years of age, but his mother trained him in piety, and stored his mind with Bible truths. He graduated at Trinity College, Cambridge—B.A., 1840, M.A., 1845. After receiving previous rewards, he gained the Seatonian prize at Cambridge, for an English sacred poem, nine times between 1845 and 1861.  He was ordained deacon in 1841, and priest in 1842. He was master of several languages, and received presents, in recognition of his literary services, from the Emperor of Russia and the Archbishop of Moscow. From May 1846 till his death he was Warden of Sackville College, East Grinstead.  He also founded the Nursing Sisterhood of S. Margaret’s, and promoted the establishment of cottage hospitals. His life was divided between excessive literary toil and exhausting labours of piety and benevolence.

In 1842 he married Sarah Norman, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Webster, B.D. During his last days it was a great delight to him to hear his children singing his hymns.  He died on August 6, 1866. His funeral was conducted with extraordinary Ritualistic splendour, so as to be the subject of remark in the journals of the day; and it is proposed to raise, in honour of his memory, a sum of £25,000, to complete the buildings of S. Margaret’s, East Grinstead, where he laboured so zealously. A clergyman, who knew him well, concludes a high tribute to his memory by saying: “Of all his teachings, and all his elevating of the spiritual intellect, the most edifying to my own soul was when I saw him, in his last illness, laying in the dust all his works and all his talents, and casting himself, as a little child, only on the atoning work of Jesus Christ.”[1]

by Josiah Miller
Singers and Songs of the Church (1869)

  1. E.J.B, “Good Bye.” A Few Lessons from the Life of the Late Warden (London: J. Masters, 1867), p. 22.

John Mason Neale, from Eleanor A. Towle, John Mason Neale: A Memoir (1906).

Featured Hymns:

All glory, laud, and honour
Brief life is here our portion
For thee, O dear, dear country
Jerusalem the golden
O come, O come, Emmanuel
O Heavenly Wisdom, hear our cry
Today the victor o’er his foes

Collections of Hymns & Poems:

Hymns for Children

1st ed. (1842): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1844): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1848): WorldCat
5th ed. (1852): WorldCat
7th ed. (1858): WorldCat 
8th ed. (1862): WorldCat
10th ed. (1867): PDF

Hymns for the Sick

1st ed. (1843): PDF
2nd ed. (1849/50): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1855): PDF

Hymns for the Young, 2nd series

1st ed. (1843): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1846): WorldCat
New ed. (1854): WorldCat
New ed. (1860): PDF

Songs and Ballads for Manufacturers

1st ed. (1846): PDF
2nd ed. (1850): PDF

Hymns for Children, 3rd series

1st ed. (1846): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1848): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1867): PDF

Seatonian Poems (1845-1863; collected 1864): HathiTrust
Hymni Ecclesiae (1851): PDF
Mediaeval Hymns & Sequences

1st ed. (1851): HathiTrust
2nd ed. (1863): HathiTrust
3rd ed. (1867): PDF

The Hymnal Noted

Melody edition: Part I (1851) & Part II (1856) Combined: PDF
A Short Commentary on the Hymnal Noted (1852): PDF
The Words of the Hymnal Noted, Parts I & II (1855): PDF
Accompanying harmonies: Part I (1852) & Part II (1858) Combined: PDF
Words … with an appendix revised and greatly enlarged (1863): WorldCat
Music of the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted (ca. 1865): WorldCat

Note: This collection is often dated erroneously, including in Julian. See this guide, prepared by Joe Herl: PDF

Sequentiae ex Missalibus (1852): PDF
Carols for Christmas-tide (1853/54): PDF
Carols for Easter-tide (1854): WorldCat
Songs and Ballads for the People (1855): PDF
The Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix, Monk of Cluny

1st ed. (1858): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1859): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1861)
4th ed. (1862): PDF
5th ed. (1864): WorldCat
6th ed. (1864): WorldCat
7th ed. (1865): PDF
8th ed. (1866): PDF

Hymns of the Eastern Church

1st ed. (1862): PDF
2nd ed. (1863): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1866): PDF
4th ed., with music (1882): PDF

Hymns, Chiefly Mediaeval, on the Joys and Glories of Paradise (1865): PDF
Stabat Mater Speciosa (1866): WorldCat
Sequences, Hymns, and other Ecclesiastical Verses (1866): PDF
The Invalid's Hymn Book (1866): PDF
S. Margaret’s Hymnal (1875)

Related Works (Selected):

The Ecclesiastic and Theologian (1846-1868): WorldCat
The Ecclesiologist (1841-1868): HathiTrust
The Christian Remembrancer (1819-1868): HathiTrust
A Commentary on the Psalms, 4 vols. (1868-1874): HathiTrust
The History of the Holy Eastern Church, 5 vols. (1847-1873): HathiTrust
Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863): HathiTrust

The Liturgies of S. Mark, S. Clement, S. James, S. Chrysostom, and S. Basil

1st ed., Greek (1859): PDF
1st ed., English (1859): PDF
2nd ed., Greek (1868): PDF
2nd ed., English (1869): PDF

Life and Works:

E.J.B, “Good Bye.” A Few Lessons from the Life of the Late Warden (London: J. Masters, 1867): PDF

Josiah Miller, “John Mason Neale,” Singers and Songs of the Church (1869), pp. 537-544:

Edwin Hatfield, “John Mason Neale,” Poets of the Church (NY, 1884), pp. 454-457: HathiTrust

J.H. Overton & John Julian, “John Mason Neale,” John Julian, ed. A Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), pp. 785-790: Google Books

Eleanor A. Towle, John Mason Neale: A Memoir (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1906): PDF

Mary Sackville Lawson, Letters of John Mason Neale (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1910): PDF

Mary Sackville Lawson, Collected Hymns, Sequences, and Carols of John Mason Neale (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1914): PDF

A.G. Lough, The Influence of John Mason Neale (London: SPCK, 1962).

J. Vincent Higginson, “John Mason Neale and 19th Century Hymnody: His Work and Influence,” The Hymn, vol. 16, no. 4 (Oct. 1965), pp. 101-127: HathiTrust

A.G. Lough, John Mason Neale, Priest Extraordinary (Newton Abbot: A.G. Lough, 1975).

Leon Litvack, J.M. Neale and the Quest for Sobornost (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994): Amazon

Michael Chandler, The Life and Work of John Mason Neale (Leominster: Gracewing, 1995): Amazon

Dale Adelmann, The Contribution of Cambridge Ecclesiologists to the Revival of Anglican Choral Worship 1839-62 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997): WorldCat

Joel W. West, “Neale’s Hymnal Noted and its impact on twentieth-century American hymnody,” The Hymn, vol. 69, no. 3 (Summer 2018), pp. 14-24.

Find it on Amazon:


Related Links:

John Mason Neale,

Leon Litvack, “John Mason Neale,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

Susan Drain, “John Mason Neale,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

DR. NEALE was a native of London, England, and the son of the Rev. Cornelius Neale. He was born Janu­ary 24, 1818, and was educated at Trinity College, Cam­bridge, where he graduated, A.B., 1840, and A.M., 1845. He was distinguished for his poetic gifts, and his attain­ments in the languages, ancient and modern. Repeatedly he obtained the prize for the best sacred poem in English. He was ordained deacon in 1841, and priest in 1842. The same year (1842), he married Sarah Norman, a daughter of Rev. Thomas Webster, B.D. In May, 1846, he was ap­pointed the Warden of Sackville College, East Grinstead, Sussex—a position that he held through life.

His antiquarian and ritualistic tastes were early developed. In 1841, he published, “The History of Pews: A Paper read before the Cambridge Camden Society”; in 1842, “Herbert Tresham, a Tale of the Great Rebellion”; and in 1843, “Agnes de Tracey, a Tale of the Times of St. Thomas of Canterbury”; “Ayton Priory”; “Hierologus, or the Church Tourists”; and a Translation of Bishop Du­randas’ work on “The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments.” He had now become a very active member of the Ecclesiological Society, and eagerly prosecuted studies of that description. “Shepperton Manor, a Tale of the Time of Bishop Andrewes,” appeared in 1844, and a Letter “On Private Devotion in Churches”; in 1845, “A Mirror of Faith: Lays and Legends of the Church in England”; and in 1846, “Annals of Virgin Saints”; “The Loosing of the Euphratean Angels,” a prize poem; and “The Triumphs of the Cross.”

These smaller works (the enumeration of which is chiefly of importance as showing the drift of his studies) were fol­lowed, in 1847, by a work of sterling value, A History of the Holy Eastern Church: A History of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, in two volumes; also, the same year, “Stories from the Heathen Mythology”; in 1848, by “Ecclesiological Notes on the Isle of Man, Sutherland, and the Orkneys”; and, in 1849, by “Few Words of Hope on the present Crisis of the English Church.” The “Victories of the Saints,” and “Readings for the Aged” (for whom Sackville College was instituted), followed in 1850; “Even­ings at Sackville College,” and “Lectures on Church Diffi­culties,” in 1851.

His Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences, published in [1851], attracted much attention, and furnished material for several excellent and popular hymns; also, his Hymni Ecclesiae. He had previously, at various times, issued, in three-penny tracts: Hymns for the Young; Hymns for Children, in two series; Hymns for the Sick; Songs for the People; and Songs and Ballads for Manufactu­rers. His remaining works are as follows: Pilgrim’s Progress for the Use of the Children of the English Church, and Carols for Christmas-Tide (1853); A Hand-book for Travellers in Portugal (1855); The Life and Times of Bishop Torry (1856); Theodora Phranza: a Tale of the Fall of Constantinople, and Mediaeval Preachers, and Mediaeval Preaching (1857); A History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland (1858); A Commentary on the Psalms, from Primitive and Mediaeval Writers (1860); Hymns of the Eastern Church, and Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863). Sermons for Children (1867) appeared posthumously.

It will readily appear from the list of his publications, that Dr. Neale was an indefatigable worker. Excessive literary labor, and exhausting works of benevolence, wore him out at a comparatively early age. He died at home, August 6, 1866, in his forty-ninth year, in humble faith and peaceful hope.

He excelled greatly in the versification of the ancient Greek and Latin Hymns, and found great delight in the occupation: “Some of the happiest and most instructive hours of my life,” he says, “were spent in the Sub-Com­mittee of the Ecclesiological Society, appointed for the pur­pose of bringing out the Second Part of the Hymnal Noted. It was my business to lay before them the translations I had prepared, and theirs to correct.” Many of his hymns and translations were contributions, also, to Hymns Ancient and Modern, and the People’s Hymnal. His “Jerusa­lem” hymns are general favorites. All his translations were in “the exact measure and rhyme of the original,” with the single exception of the “quatrain” rhymes, for which he substituted couplets. His original hymns partake con­siderably of the mediaeval style which he had so long and faithfully studied.

by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)