Jan­u­a­ry 24, 1818, Con­du­it Street, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Au­gust 6, 1866, East Grin­stead (near Lon­don), Eng­land.

St. Swith­un’s Church, East Grin­stead, Eng­land.


We know John Ma­son Neale to­day as a hymn­o­graph­er, the trans­lat­or or adap­ter of an­cient and med­ie­val hymns. It is by the hymns be­low and sim­i­lar hymns that most of us know Neale, if we know him at all. But Neale’s achieve­ments in oth­er areas as well de­serve our re­cog­ni­tion.

Neale was the son of a cler­gy­man, his fa­ther dy­ing when he was five years old.

At Cam­bridge (1836–40), Neale became a High Church­man, and de­vel­oped a fas­cin­a­tion with church ar­chi­tec­ture. Ev­en at this youth­ful age, Neale par­ti­ci­pat­ed in the cath­o­lic re­vi­val of the Es­tab­lished Church, as he and some friends founded the Cam­bridge Cam­den Society of an­ti­quar­i­ans. Their per­i­od­i­cal prompt­ly ad­dressed it­self to the di­lap­i­dat­ed con­di­tion of ma­ny Engl­ish church build­ings. Their rec­om­men­da­tions were ve­ry in­flu­en­tial in the Vic­tor­i­an cam­paign of church con­struc­tion, and they came to have ma­ny sup­port­ers in Church ranks.

Americans apt to think af­fec­tion­ate­ly of the taste­ful­ness and charm of Eng­lish churches will be im­pressed by the des­crip­tions of ru­in­ous build­ings en­coun­tered by Neale and his con­tem­po­rar­ies.

Neale also cru­sad­ed against the ug­ly stoves that were placed in some church­es to heat them. One is­sue of The Ec­cle­si­ol­o­gist, for ex­am­ple, re­cord­ed a large Ar­nott stove in the mid­dle of the chan­cel, whose flue rose to the height of the priest and crossed his face be­fore ex­iting the build­ing via a hole in the glass of the north win­dow. Neale es­pe­cial­ly raged against the high walled box pews—pues or pens, the So­ci­e­ty called them—where weal­thy fam­i­lies se­ques­tered them­selves in the midst of the com­mon peo­ple. In their pews, they might re­cline at their ease up­on so­fas, and one lo­cal aris­to­crat ev­en ate lunch dur­ing the ser­vice.

The Cam­bridge Society cham­pi­oned the cause of Vic­tor­ian Goth­ic. The ed­i­tion of a med­ie­val text on ec­cles­i­as­ti­cal sym­bo­lism that Neale and a friend pre­pared set forth their con­vic­tions about ar­chi­tec­tur­al de­tails.

Neale’s health pre­vent­ed his re­main­ing a par­ish priest (he was or­dained in May 1842), but, in his se­mi-in­va­lid­ism, he had much time for an­ti­quar­i­an and schol­ar­ly en­dea­vor. From May 1846 on, he was War­den of Sack­ville Col­lege, an in­sti­tu­tion re­sem­bling that of a fic­tion­al Vic­tor­i­an cler­gy­man, An­tho­ny Trol­lope’s War­den, Sep­ti­mus Hard­ing. Like Hard­ing, Neale gave much thought to church mu­sic.

Neale held that the hymns of Is­aac Watts and oth­er pop­u­lar com­pos­ers im­part­ed er­ron­e­ous doc­trine, as well as of­fend­ing against taste. So in 1842, for ex­am­ple, Neale pro­duced Hymns for Child­ren. How­ev­er, aside from his car­ol Good King Wen­ces­las, it is not Neale’s orig­in­al com­po­si­tions that are most wide­ly re­cog­nized, but his trans­la­tions and adap­ta­tions of an­cient and med­ie­val works, on which he la­bored on through­out his life. The var­i­ous ed­i­tions of the an­no­tat­ed hym­nal he and his as­so­ci­ates pre­pared—the Hym­nal Not­ed—and his hymns of the Or­tho­dox church­es have con­trib­ut­ed hymns such as those list­ed above. It is es­tim­at­ed Neale and his col­lab­o­rat­ors pro­duced over 400 hymns, se­quenc­es and ca­rols.

Another ob­ject of Neale’s in­terest was the his­to­ry of the Eas­tern Church­es. Neale’s book on the Pa­tri­arch­ate of Al­ex­an­dria ap­peared in 1847. In 1850, it was fol­lowed by a Gen­er­al In­tro­duc­tion to the Or­tho­dox church of the East. A third vol­ume, ed­it­ed by George Will­iams, came out in 1873.

One as­pect of Neale’s out­look not dwelt up­on much by his bi­og­raph­ers is his con­vic­tion that di­vine judg­ment was the lot of those who ap­prop­ri­at­ed prop­er­ty that had been con­se­crat­ed. With an as­so­ci­ate, in 1846 he pub­lished, anon­y­mous­ly, an up­dated edit­ion of Sir Hen­ry Spel­man’s His­to­ry of Sac­ri­lege.

The book shows how dis­as­ters, the fail­ure of the male line, and/or great ex­cess­es of mor­al de­prav­i­ty came up­on per­sons who took land that had been giv­en to the Church, or their suc­cess­ors. When such lands had be­longed to the Church, rev­e­nues from these lands had been em­ployed to feed the hun­gry as well as to sup­port the some­times lux­ur­i­ous way of life of cer­tain cler­gy­men. Here we see the an­ti­quar­i­an and the man of Chris­tian com­pas­sion unit­ed.

Such a un­ion is ve­ry ev­i­dent in Neale’s foun­da­tion of the So­ci­e­ty of St. Mar­ga­ret, one of the first An­gli­can con­ven­t­ual sis­ter­hoods (1855). As War­den of Sack­ville Col­lege at East Grin­stead, Neale came to know the pov­er­ty of some of the near­by vil­lag­ers. Fe­ver victims might die un­at­tend­ed. So his sis­ters of char­i­ty be­gan their work, with Neale as their pas­tor-con­fes­sor-ad­min­is­tra­tor. How­ev­er, the sis­ter­hood was ver­bal­ly and ev­en phys­ic­al­ly at­tacked as a wedge of Ro­man­ism in the Eng­lish Church.

In 1857, the Lewes Ri­ot oc­curred, in­sti­gat­ed by an Evan­gel­i­cal cler­gy­man whose daug­hter had been one of the Sis­ters, and who had died of scar­let fe­ver, be­queath­ing 400 pounds to the So­ci­e­ty. Neale was used to op­po­si­tion by then. Years be­fore the So­ci­e­ty’s foun­da­tion, Neale had been in­hib­it­ed by the Bish­op of Chi­ches­ter from ex­er­cis­ing his priest­ly du­ties in the vil­lage, ev­i­dent­ly on ac­count of the bi­shop’s re­sent­ment of Neale’s church furn­ish­ings, etc., at Sack­ville Col­lege.

John Ma­son Neale had his light­er side, too, as ev­i­denced by a joke he once played on John Ke­ble. As re­lat­ed by Neale’s as­so­ci­ate Ger­ard Moul­trie and quot­ed in A. G. Lough, The In­flue­nce of John Ma­son Neale (Lon­don, So­ci­e­ty for Pro­mot­ing Chris­tian Know­ledge: 1962), p. 95:

[Neale] was in­vit­ed by Mr. Ke­ble and the Bish­op of Sal­is­bury to as­sist them with their new Hym­nal, and for this rea­son he paid a vis­it to Hurs­ley Par­son­age [Ke­ble’s res­i­dence]…[Ke­ble] re­lat­ed that hav­ing to go to an­o­ther room to find some pap­ers he was de­tained a short time. On his reeturn, Dr. Neale said, Why Ke­ble! I thought you told me that the Chris­tian Year was en­tire­ly orig­in­al! Yes, he an­swered, it cer­tain­ly is. Then how comes this? And Dr. Neale placed be­fore him the La­tin of one of Ke­ble’s hymns for a Saint’s day—I think it was for St. Luke’s.

Ke­ble pro­fessed him­self ut­ter­ly con­found­ed. There was the Eng­lish, which he knew that he had made, and there too no less cer­tain­ly was the La­tin, with far too un­plea­sant a re­sem­blance to his own to be for­tu­i­tous. He pro­test­ed that he had ne­ver seen this orig­in­al, no, not in all his life! etc. etc. Af­ter a few min­utes, Neale re­lieved him by own­ing that he had just turned it into La­tin in his ab­sence.

Never in his life­time was Neale ad­e­quate­ly ap­pre­cia­ted in his own church. Hiss Doc­tor of Di­vin­i­ty de­gree was con­ferred by Tri­ni­ty Col­lege, Hart­ford, Con­nec­ti­cut, in 1860. At Neale’s fun­er­al, the high­est rank­ing cler­gy­men were Or­tho­dox. Neale could ne­ver have guessed how much he ac­comp­lished for the church and for gen­er­a­tions of Chris­tians who would sing the hymns he gave them.

  1. Time to Watch, a Time to Pray, A
  2. With Thee, O Lord, Be­gins the Year
  3. World It­self Keeps Eas­ter Day, The
  1. Again the Lord’s Own Day Is Here
  2. All Glo­ry, Laud, and Ho­nor
  3. Alleluia, Song of Glad­ness
  4. Almighty God, Who from the Flood
  5. And Wilt Thou Par­don, Lord
  6. Around the Throne of God a Band
  7. Art Thou Wea­ry, Art Thou Lan­guid?
  8. As Jo­nah, Is­su­ing from His Three Days’ Tomb
  9. Be Pres­ent, Ho­ly Tri­ni­ty
  10. Blessed Ci­ty, Hea­ven­ly Sa­lem
  11. Blessed Feasts of Bless­èd Mar­tyrs
  12. Blessèd Sav­ior, Who Hast Taught Me
  13. Brief Life Is Here Our Por­tion
  14. Christ Is Born! Tell Forth His Fame!
  15. Christ Is Made the Sure Foun­da­tion
  16. Christ Was Born on Chris­tmas Day
  17. Christ’s Own Mar­tyrs, Val­iant Co­hort
  18. Christian, Dost Thou See Them?
  19. Come, Ho­ly Ghost, with God the Son
  20. Come, Thou Holy Par­a­clete
  21. Come, Thou Re­deem­er of the Earth
  22. Come, Ye Faith­ful, Raise the An­them
  23. Come, Ye Faith­ful, Raise the Strain
  24. Creator of the Stars of Night
  25. Day, A Day of Glo­ry, A
  26. Day Is Past and Ov­er, The
  27. Day, O Lord, Is Spent, The
  28. Day of Res­ur­rec­tion, The
  29. Dewy Fresh­ness That the Fur­nace Flings, The
  30. Draw Nigh and Take the Bo­dy of the Lord
  31. Eternal Gifts of Christ the King, The
  32. Eternal Glo­ry of the Sky
  33. Eternal Mon­arch, King Most High
  34. Fast, as Taught by Ho­ly Lore, The
  35. Father of Peace, and God of Con­so­la­tion
  36. Fierce Was the Wild Bil­low
  37. Finished Is the Batt­le Now
  38. Foe Be­hind, the Deep Be­fore, The
  39. For Thee, O Dear, Dear Coun­try
  40. From Church to Church
  41. From God the Fa­ther, Vir­gin-Born
  42. From Lands That See the Sun Arise
  43. Gabriel, from the Hea­ven Des­cend­ing
  44. Gabriel’s Mes­sage
  45. God the Fa­ther! Whose Cre­a­tion
  46. God Whom Earth, and Sea, and Sky, The
  47. Good Chris­tian Men, Re­joice
  48. Good King Wen­ces­las
  49. Great and Migh­ty Won­der, A
  50. Great Fore­run­ner of the Morn, The
  51. Heavenly Word Pro­ceed­ing Forth, The
  52. Here Is Joy for Ev­ery Age
  53. Him, of the Fat­her’s Ve­ry Es­sence
  54. Holy Child­ren Bold­ly Stand, The
  55. Holy Fa­ther, Thou Hast Taught Me
  56. How Vain the Cru­el Her­od’s Fear
  57. Hymn for Con­quer­ing Mar­tyrs Raise, The
  58. If There Be That Skills to Rec­kon
  59. In Days of Old on Si­nai
  60. Into the Dim Earth’s Low­est Parts Des­cend­ing
  61. Jerusalem the Gold­en
  62. Jesu! Names All Names Above
  63. Jesu, the Fa­ther’s On­ly Son
  64. Jesu! The Ve­ry Thought Is Sweet!
  65. Jesu, the Vir­gins’ Crown
  66. Joy Dawned Again on Eas­ter Day
  67. Lamb’s High Ban­quet We Await, The
  68. Let Our Choir New An­thems Raise
  69. Let Us Now Our Voic­es Raise
  70. Let Us Rise in Ear­ly Morn­ing
  71. Lift Up, Lift Up Your Voic­es Now
  72. Light’s Abode, Ce­les­ti­al Sa­lem
  73. Light’s Glit­te­ring Morn Be­decks the Sky
  74. Lo! Now Is Our Ac­cept­ed Day
  75. Lord and King of All Things, The
  76. Maker of Earth, to Thee Alone
  77. Merits of the Saints, The
  78. Now That the Day­light Fills the Sky
  79. Now to Our Sav­ior Let Us Raise
  80. O Blest Cre­at­or of the Light
  81. O Come, O Come, Em­man­u­el
    • Draw Nigh, Draw Nigh, Em­man­u­el
  82. O God, Cre­a­tion’s Se­cret Force
  83. O God, of All the Strength and Pow­er
  84. O God of Truth, O Lord of Might
  85. O God, Thy Sol­diers’ Crown and Guard
  86. O God, We Raise Our Hearts to Thee
  87. O Hap­py Band of Pil­grims
  88. O Lord of Hosts, Whose Glo­ry Fills
  89. O Mer­ci­ful Cre­at­or, Hear
  90. O Sons and Daugh­ters, Let Us Sing!
  91. O Thou Who by a Star Didst Guide
  92. O Thou Who Through This Ho­ly Week
  93. O Tri­ni­ty of Bless­èd Light
  94. O Un­i­ty of Three­fold Light
  95. O Ve­ry God of Ve­ry God
  96. O What Their Joy and Their Glo­ry Must Be
  97. O Won­drous Mys­te­ry, Full of Pass­ing Grace
  98. O Won­drous Sight!
  99. Of the Fa­ther’s Love Be­got­ten
  100. Our Fa­ther’s Home Eter­nal
  101. Raise, Raise Thine Eye a Lit­tle Way
  102. Rod of the Root of Jes­se
  103. Royal Ban­ners For­ward Go, The
  104. Royal Day That Chas­eth Gloom
  105. Safe Home, Safe Home in Port!
  106. Saint of God, Elect and Pre­cious
  107. Sing, My Tongue, the Glo­ri­ous Bat­tle
  108. Stars of the Morn­ing
  109. Strain Upr­aise of Joy and Praise, The
  110. Th’Abyss of Ma­ny a For­mer Sin
  111. That Eas­ter­tide with Joy Was Bright
  112. That Fear­ful Day
  113. Thee, O Christ, the Fa­ther’s Splen­dor
  114. They Whose Course on Earth Is O’er
  115. Those Ete­rnal Bow­ers
  116. Thou Hal­lowed Chos­en Morn of Praise
  117. To the Name of Our Sal­va­tion
  118. To Thee Be­fore the Close of Day
  119. Triumphs of the Saints, The
  120. We Have Not Seen, We Can­not See
  121. When Christ’s Ap­pear­ing Was Made Known
  122. Whence Shall My Tears Be­gin?
  123. Wingèd Her­ald of the Day, The
  124. With Christ We Share a Mys­tic Grave
  125. World Is Ve­ry Evil, The
  126. Yesterday, with Ex­ul­ta­tion