Morning ! I’ve been researching this man and his work this week… Any educated guesses? Julie knows ‘cos I told her, but whether she’ll remember…
Born in 1793 in the Scottish Borders and orphaned as a boy, then educated in Ireland, he became an Anglican priest, first in Ireland, then in the West of England, mostly in Brixham, Devon. The 6’2 clergyman was a notable figure around town. He was much loved and gathered a Sunday School of 700 scholars and 80 staff. He also seemed to have an eye on his legacy.
“Some simple straw, some spirit-moving lay,
some sparkles of the soul that still might live when I was passed to clay…
O thou! Whose touch can lend life to the dead,
thy quick’ning grace supply, and grant me, swanlike,
my last breath to spend in song that may not die!”
He had two books of poetry published and wrote hundreds of hymns but is mostly remembered now for Praise my soul the King of Heaven—and Abide with me. How are we doing?
His house at Berry Head was built in 1809 as a military hospital, but by 1823 was not needed as such for the war with Napoleon was over and it came into his possession, possibly gifted by William IV, and was kept in the family until 1949.
The clergyman’s £140 per annum would be not enough to maintain such a standard of living although his wife had inherited money. Rev Henry Francis Lyte (for it is he) took in students to bolster the household income. He tutored “wayward sons of the gentry” including the future Lord Salisbury, later to be Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, and in 1827, two young Africans who had been liberated from a slave ship. His brief was to teach them to be teachers in Sierra Leone, by that time a homeland for freed slaves. (the trade was banned but not yet slavery itself)
He loved books. His library was famous and after his death it took seventeen days to auction all the books off!
He had always had respiratory problems which eventually became TB. At the age of 54, he preached what turned out to be his last sermon and set off for Italy for his health’s sake. “I must put everything in order before I leave, because I have no idea how long I will be away.” Before leaving, he took a long walk along the coast in prayer, went to his room and gave a draft of Abide with me to his daughter. “Abide with me” were words spoken by his friend Augustus le Hunte as he was dying, looking towards Luke 24: 29 ‘Abide with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent’ The assurance with which he had breathed his last had affected Henry’s whole life. Perhaps Lyte was revisiting notes or ideas from way back. From Avignon, he posted a revision home.
Thank God for the memories that shape our today.
He didn’t make it to Italy but died in the Hotel d’Angleterre in Nice saying, “Peace! Joy!”
The inscription on his grave reads:
Here rests the mortal remains of
the Revd Henry Francis Lyte, MA
for 23 years Minister of Lower Brixham in the County of Devon
Born on the 1st June, 1793,
died on the 20th November, 1847
“God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ” Gal 6-14
Henry Lyte had written his own tune for “Abide with Me,” (he was said to be an accomplished flautist) but no-one liked it much and the hymn was not well known until 1861. In that year, preparing for the publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern, William Henry Monk wrote a new melody for Lyte’s words. The story as told by Mrs Monk some 30 years later, was that their 3 year old daughter had just died and as husband and wife holding hands looked out at the sunset, he composed the tune, “Eventide” for Lyte’s hymn, which had been submitted for inclusion in the new hymn book – in ten minutes!
In their bad times, both Lyte and Monk “turned their eyes upon Jesus.” Let’s do that.
Not everyone loved it. Stephen Georgeson Hatherly (who he?) wrote thus:
“We find in bar 3 a double minor seventh; in bar 5 an unresolved fourth-sixth; in bar 7 a minor seventh resolved upwards; in bar 11 a revival of the ill-sounding discord of major third and minor sixth; in bar 13 a strain commencing on a discord, and throughout the tune, wherever a discord will “stick”, there will such be found, viz in 16 chords out of 40.”
(No criticism of Lyte’s words, though !)
Monk’s response is not recorded, though it may have been in his pocket.
Here is the work (to reinforce the learning, you know)
We all have hymns/songs that “point us to the skies” Which ones work for you ?
Thank God for them and those whose sorrows brought them to us.
Remember we have to let him use all things for good.
See you somewhere.