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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Charlotte Elliott (1789–1871)

CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, author of some of the most popular hymns of the century, was born on the 18th of March, 1789. Her early life was spent at Clapham, where her uncle, the Rev. John Venn, was then rector. Her constitution, always delicate, induced a life of retirement and seclusion, only varied by occasional journeys in search of health. From 1834 she edited for many years the “Christian Remembrancer Pocket Book,” to which she contributed both prose and verse. She also edited “The Invalids’ Hymn Book,” in which she first published many of her hymns. In 1869 she had a severe illness, from which she unexpectedly recovered, and during which she addressed the following verses to her devoted sister:—

  • Darling, weep not! I must leave thee,
  • For a season we must part!
  • Let not this short absence grieve thee,
  • We shall still be one in heart;
  • And a few brief sunsets o’er,
  • We shall meet to part no more!
  • Sweet has been our earthly union,
  • Sweet our fellowship of love;
  • But more exquisite communion
  • Waits us in our home above;
  • Nothing there can loose or sever
  • Ties ordained to last for ever.
  • Sweet has been thy tender feeling
  • Through long years for this poor frame:
  • Love and care, like balm of healing,
  • Have kept up life’s feeble flame;
  • Now these dying pangs betoken
  • That the “silver cord” is broken.
  • Dearest! those sad features pain me:
  • Wipe those loving tears away!
  • Let thy stronger faith sustain me,
  • In this dark and cloudy day!
  • Be my “Hopeful,” make me brave,
  • Lift my head above the wave!
  • Place me in those arms as tender,
  • But more powerful far than thine:
  • For awhile thy charge surrender
  • To His guardianship divine!
  • Lay me on my Saviour’s breast,
  • There to find eternal rest!
  • Charlotte Elliott died on the 22nd of September, 1871. Several of her hymns have found world-wide acceptance, and one at least, “Just as I am, without one plea,” has been translated into many languages. It is a little singular that nearly all her best hymns are cast in the same form, in four-line stanzas with a short line for the fourth. It seems as though she needed the restraint of form to check the diffuseness of facility. Her hymns are characterised by simplicity, directness, and sincerity; they breathe a sweet and elevated piety.