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Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)

Frances was an English religious poet and hymn writer. "Thy Life for Me" is one of her best known hymns. She also wrote hymn melodies, religious tracts, and works for children. She was born into an Anglican family of considerable musical talent, at Astley in Worcestershire. Her father, William Henry Havergal (1793–1870), was a clergyman, writer, composer, and hymn writer. Her brother, Henry East Havergal, was a priest in the Church of England and an organist.

In 1852-1853, Frances studied in the Louisenschule, Düsseldorf, and at Oberkassel. Otherwise she led a quiet life, not enjoying consistent good health; she traveled, in particular to Switzerland. She supported the Church Missionary Society.

She died of peritonitis at Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. Her sisters saw much of her work published posthumously. Havergal College, a private girls' school in Toronto, is named after her. The composer Havergal Brian adopted the name as a tribute to the Havergal family.

Frances was a bright, but short lived candle in English hymnody. She was baptized by hymnist John Cawood. She was reading by age four, and began writing verse at age seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and memorized the Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. On her tombstone was the Scripture verse she claimed as her own:

The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Some of Frances' most notable hymns and poems are:

  • Ministry of Song (1870)
  • "Take My Life and Let it Be" (1874)
  • "Under the Surface" (1874)
  • "Kept for the Master's Use" (1879) memoirs
  • Life Chords, 1880 (published posthumously)
  • Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems (1881) edited by J. M. Crane
  • Under His Shadow: the Last Poems of Frances Ridley Havergal (1881)
  • Poetical Works (1884) edited by M. V. G. Havergal and Frances Anna Shaw
  • Coming to the King (1886)
  • My King and His Service (1896)
  • Forget Me Nots of Promise, Text from Scripture and verses by Frances Ridley Havergal, Marcus Ward & Co.
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