Additional Christmas Carols &
John Mason Neale
Biography of John Mason Neale
In his all-too-short life, Rev. Dr. John Mason Neale wrote or translated a large number of hymns and carols, including those for the Christmas-tide, that is, from the first Sunday in Advent to the Presentation In The Temple (Feb. 2). Many of these were in collections of hymns or carols, often with music by Rev. Thomas Neale. But a few were scattered about the literary landscape of mid-19th Century England. It is those writings that we are attempting to capture here.
Whenever possible, we have gone to the first publication of a given hymn or carol. And while much of his work has been scanned or otherwise captured, there are a few that have, so far, escaped the attention of these projects. Many of those are found in the 1914 collection co-edited by his daughter, Mary Sackville Lawson, Collected Hymns, Sequences and Carols of John Mason Neale (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914).
Collections containing Christmas carols or hymns written or translated by John Mason Neale:
Christmas in Neale's
Hymns for Children
(Three Series; 1842, 1844, 1846 with subsequent editions)
Hymnal Noted (1852, 1856)
Carols for Christmas-tide (1853, 1854)
Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862)
In the Introduction to Collected Hymns, Sequences and Carols of John Mason Neale (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914), the editors, one of whom was his daughter Mary Sackville Lawson, wrote:
Being a collection — not a selection — the editors have been assiduous to include in this volume all Dr. Neale's hymns, whether published or unpublished, well known or little known. Amongst those hitherto unpublished, there are doubtless some which would have been improved or polished, had they passed under his revising hand. But with two slight exceptions (which are marked) the editors prefer to give them exactly as he left them.
His hymns naturally fall into two classes, translations and originals. In the former, Dr. Neale has been judged pre-eminent, and his work almost unique. ...
Turning to the original verse, we notice that the first publication was in 1842, when Dr. Neale brought out Hymns for Children : a book containing hymns for daily use and for some seasons of the Church. A second series appeared in 1844, entitled Hymns for the Young, and a third in 1846, Hymns for Children, Second Series, and these three little books were bound together, but without any arrangement of their contents, further than in an index at the end. The editors have endeavoured to render the hymns more useful by arranging them according to their subjects. ...
Of his object in writing Hymns for Children he wrote to Mr. Webb in 1842 : "Long ago I determined that if no one else did anything to free our poor children from the yoke of Watts, I would try. I have been seriously at work at it the last six weeks, and have accomplished a little volume of thirty-four." A few of these are in common use, but Dr. Overton says very justly, that "probably their severe and rigid style, copied no doubt from the old Latin hymns, is very observable, and has prevented them from being such popular favourites as they otherwise might have been ; but they are quite free from those faults into which a writer of hymns for children is apt to fall." In later years Dr. Neale criticised them as "intolerably prosaic; yet," he added, "I think they taught something." The little hymn "Christ is gone up" (selected from one of them by the Editors of Hymns A. and M. for Ember Days) is a good example of the way in which he "taught something "
Sequences and Hymns — a little treasury containing the gems of his original work — was in the press at the time of his death.
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