Poet and hymn writer; born at Malpas, Cheshire (just north of Whitchurch, Shropshire) and educated at Whitchurch Grammar School from 1790 to 1796. His childhood was:-
"distinguished by sweetness of disposition, obedience and that trust in God's providence which formed through life so prominent a feature in his character...He could read the Bible with fluency at five years old, and the avidity with which he studied it, and his wonderful remembrance of its contents, astonished his parents. Indeed, from the moment he could read, his passion for books became insatiable"
He then went to study in the home of a clergyman in Neasden, London before going on to Brasenose College, Oxford. He became Rector of Hodnet, Shropshire, in 1807 and took up residence at the Rectory following his marriage two years later. He devoted himself to the affairs of the parish and writing hymns. In 1812 he published a small volume of poetry and began work on a Dictionary of the Bible.
In 1822 he also became preacher at Lincoln's Inn, but the following year, after much agonising, he decided to leave Hodnet to become Bishop of Calcutta, sailing on 16 June 1823.
"The parish of Hodnet grieved truly and deeply at losing their beloved pastor, and rich and poor subscribed to give him a parting gift, as a testimonial of their love and gratitude"
He spent the next three years travelling around his new extensive parish before suddenly dying of apoplexy, whilst taking a cold bath, on 3 April 1826.
Reginald Heber is best remembered as a hymn writer: From Greenland's Icy Mountains and Holy. Holy, Holy are two of the most famous. His verses include Palestine, "a prize poem recited in the Theatre, Oxford in the year MDCCCIII", Europe; Line on the war (1809) and The passage of the Red Sea.
The poetical works of Reginald Heber, D.D., Lord Bishop of Calcutta, in the Lansdowne Poets series published by Frederick Warne, collects his poetry, hymns, translations of Pindar and other fragments. The quotes above are taken from the introduction. This book is available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection.
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updated 28 October 2002
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