There is a name I love to hear


Text: Origins. The text of this hymn was written by Frederick Whitfield (1829–1904), a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and vicar in the Anglican church. According to John Julian, in his Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), p. 1276, the hymn was “published in 1855 in hymn sheets and leaflets in various languages.” In Memorials of the Rev. Frederick Whitfield (London, 1905), edited by his son, R.S.B. Whitfield, the text notes only that this hymn was written “during his college career” (p. 6; he graduated in 1859). Its first appearance in a hymnal was in A Few Hymns and Some Spiritual Songs, Selected 1856, for the Little Flock (1856), in 9 stanzas of four lines, without music, unattributed (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. A Few Hymns and Some Spiritual Songs, Selected 1856, for the Little Flock (1856).


In this first printing, the second through fifth stanzas were unnumbered and bracketed, which indicates that those lines were not intended to be sung, given that the hymn is too long to be sung congregationally all at once. The irony of this indication is that in the United States, the stanzas that have been most widely adopted are the first, third, and fourth bracketed quatrains. This hymn has sometimes been printed starting with the second numbered stanza, “Jesus! the name I love so well.”

The hymn later appeared in Frederick Whitfield’s own Sacred Poems and Prose (Dublin: William Curry & Co., 1859 | Fig. 2). That collection contained only two textual difference, one in stanza 1, line 2 (“I love to speak its worth”), the other in stanza 5, line 2, “Can feel my deepest woe,” and it did not have numbers or brackets.


Fig. 2. Frederick Whitfield, Sacred Poems and Prose (Dublin: William Curry & Co., 1859).


Text: Analysis. The first six stanzas start with an idea, “There is a name I love to hear,” and then a series of concepts that can be gleaned from the declaration of that name. In a touch of suspension or anticipation, the author does not reveal the name until stanza seven. In American printings that draw from among the first five stanzas, that resolution is never found (except by the presence of the camp meeting refrain, as below). The allusion in stanza three to the “little while” is probably to John 16:16-24, where Jesus told his disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me,” and “whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” The “still small voice” in stanza six refers to 1 Kings 19:12. The final stanza, picturing a heavenly throng, is closely related to the heavenly scene of Revelation 7.

Tune 1. The most popular tune associated with this hymn is O HOW I LOVE JESUS, generally credited as an anonymous American campmeeting tune, not known to be published until 1868. In that year, it was printed in two slightly different forms. William H. Doane (1832–1915) arranged the tune for his collection The Silver Spray (Fig. 3), where he paired it with “Alas! and did my Saviour bleed” by Isaac Watts (1674–1748). This arrangement of the tune includes the refrain, “O how I love Jesus … because he first loved me,” and utilizes the chromatic tones and melodic shape that have become the normative printed version.


Fig. 3. W.H. Doane, The Silver Spray (1868).


Also that year, Joseph Hillman published an arrangement by John Baker in The Revivalist (1868 | Fig. 4), set to “Jesus, the name high over all” by Charles Wesley (1707–1788). This version of the melody is a little more simple, especially lacking the chromaticism of Doane’s version.


Fig. 4. Joseph Hillman, The Revivalist (1868).


The connection between the campmeeting tune and Frederick Whitfield’s text, “There is a name I love to hear,” seems to have happened first in Hymns for the Sanctuary and Social Worship (Dayton: United Brethren, 1874 | Fig. 5). This printing takes its melody and harmonization verbatim from The Revivalist. Note also the selection of the four stanzas that are still the normative four found in modern hymnals.


Fig. 5. Hymns for the Sanctuary and Social Worship (Dayton: United Brethren, 1874).


Tune 2. In the Church of Ireland, Whitfield’s text has been in continuous use since the Church Hymnal of 1873 (Fig. 6). In that tradition, it has always been paired with William H. Havergal’s tune EVAN.


Fig. 6. Church Hymnal (Dublin: APCK, 1873).


Havergal’s own account of the composition of the tune was given in Havergal’s Psalmody and Century of Chants (London: R. Cocks, 1871 | Fig. 7), p. xix.


Fig. 7. Havergal’s Psalmody and Century of Chants (London: R. Cocks, 1871).


Havergal’s tune was first published in 1847 as a musical setting for a sacred poem by Robert Burns (1759–1796), “O thou dread power.” This earliest source could not be located and may no longer exist.

This tune was then obtained by another tunesmith, Lowell Mason (1792–1872), who adapted it and named it EVAN in his Cantica Laudis (1850 | Fig. 8), without attribution. Havergal called Mason’s adaptation “a sad estrangement” and did not approve of it. The accompanying text in Mason’s version is from the German hymn “Nun sich der Tag geendet hat,” by Johann Hertzog (1647–1699), as translated by J.C. Jacobi (1670–1750) in his Psalmodia Germanica, 1722 (originally beginning “And now another day is gone”).

Fig. 8. Lowell Mason, Cantica Laudis (1850), p. 143. Melody in the tenor voice (third line).

For Havergal’s Psalmody (1871), Havergal prepared two revised versions of his tune. The original, full-length version of 16 measures was reharmonized as a four-part church tune for Common Meter Double (CMD) texts, shown in Fig. 9.


Fig. 9. Havergal’s Psalmody and Century of Chants (London: R. Cocks, 1871).


In spite of his misgivings about Mason’s adaptation, Havergal’s revised shorter version is nearly identical to Mason’s version, except being in duple time rather than triple (Fig. 10). Note the stated date of the original composition, July 1846, and the new harmonization on 19 March 1870. The text here is from the medieval Latin hymn “Jesu dulcis memoria,” as translated by Edward Caswall (1814–1878) in Lyra Catholica (1849).


Fig. 10. Havergal’s Psalmody and Century of Chants (London: R. Cocks, 1871).


This duple version was adopted into the Irish Church Hymnal (1873 | Fig. 6) with Whitfield’s “There is a name I love to hear,” except the editors prepared their own harmonization. This pairing has endured in every edition of the Church Hymnal since.

EVAN is a versatile tune, also appearing frequently with texts such as “O that the Lord would guide my ways” by Isaac Watts, or “The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want” from the 1650 Scottish Psalter.

for Hymnology Archive
25 October 2018
rev. 17 December 2018

Related Resources:

John Julian, “Frederick Whitfield,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), p. 1276.

“There is a name I love to hear,” Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal, ed. Wesley L. Forbis (Nashville: Convention Press, 1992), p. 250.

“There is a name I love to hear,” Companion to Church Hymnal, ed. Edward Darling & Donald Davidson (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005), pp. 183-184.

“There is a name I love to hear,”

J.R. Watson, “There is a name I love to hear,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology: