1814–1879

Introduction

Born: No­vem­ber 26, 1814, Lead­en­hall Street, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Died: March 10, 1879.

Buried: Ab­ney Park Ce­me­te­ry, Lon­don, Eng­land.

[Born] of poor par­ents, his ed­u­ca­tion was of the scan­ti­est. Al­though ap­pren­ticed to a shoe­mak­er at an ear­ly age, the el­e­ments of the trade were not taught him, and through ill health and ne­glect, at the com­ple­tion of his ap­pren­tice­ship, he was un­a­ble en­tire­ly to earn his own liv­ing.

Dur­ing his ram­bles, he oc­ca­sion­al­ly sol­aced him­self with the pur­chase of old hymn­books, and in the stu­dy and com­par­i­son of these he be­gan to find his chief de­light.

He joined him­self to the strict Bap­tist con­gre­ga­tion, wor­ship­ping in Pro­vi­dence Cha­pel, Gros­ve­nor Street, Com­mer­cial Road, in 1839, hav­ing mar­ried a wife of his own hum­ble sta­tion and ed­u­ca­tion.

At the age of 23 he be­gan to dab­ble in the se­cond­hand book trade, and gra­du­al­ly worked up a con­nect­ion.

About 1840 he taught him­self writ­ing by co­py­ing print­ed let­ters, and ac­quired a sin­gu­lar­ly neat and clear hand. Hymn­books were then a drug in the mar­ket, and he gra­du­al­ly ac­quired a no­ble col­lect­ion.

About 1852 he be­gan the is­sue of re­prints of the rar­er hymn-writ­ers of the 17th and 18th cents., and in his Lib­ra­ry of Spir­it­u­al Song he re­pub­lished the hymns of Will­iam Will­iams, John Ma­son, Tho­mas Shep­herd, Ro­bert Sea­grave, Jo­seph Grigg, Anne Steele, John Ry­land, John Stock­er, James Grant, Tho­mas Ol­iv­ers, Bi­shop Ken, and oth­ers.

This ser­ies brought him in­to com­mu­ni­ca­tion with ma­ny cler­gy, and with min­is­ters of all de­no­mi­na­tions, and the hum­ble book­sell­er of 81 Sun Street, Bi­shops­gate, would there re­ceive men of high sta­tion and cul­ture and teach them the ru­di­ments of the then in­fant sci­ence of Engl­ish Hym­no­lo­gy.

It was, how­ev­er, on the pub­li­ca­tion of Sir Roun­dell Palm­er’s, (Lord Sel­bourne’s) Book of Praise, in 1862, that Sedg­wick took his place as the fore­most liv­ing Eng­lish hym­no­lo­gist.

With all his dog­ma­tic ig­no­rance and want of pow­er to bal­ance ev­i­dence, his in­dus­try and per­se­ver­ance in fol­low­ing up clues in ev­ery di­rect­ion, led to the for­ma­tion of an in­val­u­a­ble lib­ra­ry, and to a unique cor­res­pon­dence. In the pur­chase, sale, and ex­por­ta­tion of dup­li­cates, and in as­sist­ing hymn-com­pil­ers in trac­ing dates, au­thors and co­py­rights, he passed, from 1862 till his death in 1879, the hap­pi­est years of his life

He was con­sult­ed by men of all shades and opin­ions, and Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern owed, from its ear­li­est days, some­thing to his as­sist­ance. He was con­sult­ed at ev­ery step by the Rev. C. H. Spur­geon for his Our Own Hymn­book (1866); and in Jo­si­ah Mill­er’s Sing­ers and Songs of the Church ev­ery ar­ti­cle had the ben­e­fit of his know­ledge and re­vi­sion; in fact the prac­tis­ed ex­pert can de­tect in that work base­less sugg­est­ions and er­ron­e­ous con­clu­sions, which arose out of Mr. Mill­er’s too close ad­her­ence to his guide.

Sedgwick’s health be­gan to fail ra­pid­ly in 1879, and ex­haust­ing and se­vere spasms of heart dis­ease fol­lowed to his death. On Sun­day, March 9th, he asked in the af­ter­noon for Cen­nick’s Thou dear Re­deem­er, dy­ing Lamb, to be sung to him…It was in the ve­ry ear­ly hours of the fol­low­ing morn­ing that, with the words Hal­le­lu­jah, Praise the Lord, on his lips, he fell asleep; and on the 15th March, 1879, he was bur­ied at Ab­ney Park ce­me­te­ry.

He may well be called the fa­ther of Eng­lish Hym­no­lo­gy; and it is to be spe­cial­ly re­mem­bered, to his hon­our, that, with all draw­backs of ed­u­ca­tion, tem­per­a­ment, and nar­row the­o­lo­gic­al pre­pos­ses­sions, he, by the col­lect­ion and com­par­i­son of hymns and hym­no­lo­gi­cal li­ter­a­ture, and by care­ful an­no­ta­tion, made it pos­si­ble for othe­rs to reap a rich har­vest, by bring­ing their ed­u­ca­tion, cri­ti­cal acu­men, wide sym­pa­thies, and ac­cu­rate know­ledge of Bib­li­cal, class­ic­al, ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal, and his­tor­i­cal sub­jects to bear up­on the stores of hym­no­lo­gical wealth which he had ac­cu­mu­lat­ed, but which, to a ve­ry great ex­tent, he could not use.

Julian, pp. 1037–38