Frances Ridley Havergal
post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: Frances Ridley Havergal
Author: Eileen M. Berry
Major Themes: Christian Biographies, Hymns, Songs, Writers
Synopsis: The life story of a famous hymn writer, written for children, along with stories about some of the different songs she wrote.
Sometimes even the simplest stories can really touch you. For me, Frances Ridley Havergal was one of those. I’ve loved singing since long before I can remember. I have a vague memory from when I was very little—perhaps four or five—when we went to a meeting with a guest preacher from South Africa. I have no idea what he taught on that night, but I do remember Dad somehow ended up talking to him later, and he turned to me during the conversation and asked, “What do you enjoy doing?”
“I like to sing!” I told him.
He smiled, and asked, “Well, will you become another Fanny Crosby?”
I had no idea who he was referring to at the time—only later did I find out how influential that particular woman’s life has been on our modern hymns today—but it was a blessing I’ll probably never forget.
Havergal lived a very normal life, by anyone’s standards. She lost her mother at a young age, but for much of her life she had a caring father who looked after her and her siblings, and she also had a loving step-mother later in life. She struggled with knowing if she was saved or not for many years, but as time went on and she learned how reliable the Lord is, she knew she could trust Him with her life, too—and found much hope in His love. She also struggled with many years of sickness, but from that, she got to know how to rely on God that much more.
Throughout her life, as she grew to love God more, she wrote many poems—some of which got turned into hymns. She was a proficient writer as well as a composer under her father’s tutelage (and he also wrote several well-known hymns!), and her main goal seemed to be to use her talents to God’s glory.
Frances Ridley Havergal is written in free verse, which I was a little concerned about going in. I love poetry, but I don’t always enjoy the choppiness with that poetic style. However, that wasn’t a problem for me in the end, possibly partly because the formatting in the book I got (an ARC file) wasn’t the most stellar, and more because the stanzas are slightly longer than I’ve encountered before. It was a somewhat weird combination of storytelling and poetry, and it worked for me—I ended getting sucked up into the story, forgetting about the way it was written while I kept reading to find out what happened next.
If you’re interested in learning the stories behind some of the composers of the songs we sing today, I think this book would be a blessing for you. It was also written in a way that children would find quite interesting, and I’m sure some of them would love to have that “inside information” they can share with their friends, too! I really enjoyed Frances Ridley Havergal and would love to read others by this author if I have the chance.
“I have been striving, trying so hard to gain assurance. But Jesus is only asking me to rest, to trust Him, to cease from my own efforts completely.
He has already paid the full price of my redemption with his blood.” —Frances
“Pray to God to prepare you
for all that He is preparing for you.” —Momma
“If I receive good things at the hand of such a Father, shall I murmur at this drawback?” —Frances
I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults
Links to buy this book:
Keywords: Hymns, Songs, Writers, Biography, Christian Non-fiction, Christian Living, 19th Century, Europe