REGINALD HEBER (1783-1826), English bishop and hymnwriter, was born at Malpas in Cheshire on the 21st of April 1783. His father, who belonged to an old Yorkshire family, held a moiety of the living of Malpas. Reginald Heber early showed remarkable promise, and was entered in November 1800 at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he proved a distinguished student, carrying off prizes for a Latin poem entitled Carmen seculare, an English poem on Palestine, and a prose essay on The Sense of Honour. In November 1804 he was elected a fellow of All Souls College; and, after finishing his distinguished university career, he made a long tour in Europe. He was admitted to holy orders in 1807, and was then presented to the family living of Hodnet in Shropshire. In 1809 Heber married Amelia, daughter of Dr Shipley, dean of St Asaph. He was made prebendary of St Asaph in 1812, appointed Bampton lecturer for 1815, preacher at Lincoln's Inn in 1822, and bishop of Calcutta in January 1823. Before sailing for India he received the degree of D.D. from the university of Oxford. In India Bishop Heber laboured indefatigably, not only for the good of his own diocese, but for the spread of Christianity throughout the East. He undertook numerous tours in India, consecrating churches, founding schools and discharging other Christian duties. His devotion to his work in a trying climate told severely on his health. At Trichinopoly he was seized with an apoplectic fit when in his bath, and died on the 3rd of April 1826. A statue of him, by Chantrey, was erected at Calcutta.
Heber was a pious man of profound learning, literary taste and great practical energy. His fame rests mainly on his hymns, which rank among the best in the English language. The following may be instanced: " Lord of mercy and of might "; " Brightest and best of the sons of the morning "; " By cool Siloam's shady rill "; " God, that madest earth and heaven "; " The Lord of might from Sinai's brow "; " Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty "; " From Greenland's icy mountains "; " The Lord will come, the earth shall quake "; The Son of God goes forth to war." Heber's hymns and other poems are distinguished by finish of style, pathos and soaring aspiration; but they lack originality, and are rather rhetorical than poetical in the strict sense.
Among Heber's works are: Palestine: a Poem, to which is added the Passage of the Red Sea (1809); Europe: Lines on the Present War (1809); a volume of poems in 1812; The Personality and Office of the Christian Comforter asserted and explained (being the Bampton Lectures for 1815); The Whole Works of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, with a Life of the Author, and a Critical Examination of his Writings (1822); Hymns written and adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year, principally by Bishop Heber (1827); A Journey through India (1828); Sermons preached in England, and Sermons preached in India (1829); Sermons on the Lessons, the Gospel, or the Epistle for every Sunday in the Year (1837). The Poetical Works of Reginald Heber were collected in 1841.
See the Life of Reginald Heber, D.D. ... , by his widow, Amelia Heber (1830), which also contains a number of Heber's miscellaneous writings; The Last Days of Bishop Heber, by Thomas Robinson, A.M., archdeacon of Madras (1830);(1830); T. S. Smyth, The Character and Religious Doctrine of Bishop Heber (1831), and Memorials of a Quiet Life, by Augustus J. C. Hare (1874).
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