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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

Joseph Anstice (1808–1836)

IN 1836 a small volume, containing fifty-two hymns, was printed for private circulation at Bridgewater, bearing the following title: “Hymns by the late Joseph Anstice, M.A., formerly Student of Christ Church, Oxford, and Professor of Classical Literature at King’s College, London.” This little sheaf of Christian verse was the harvest of a period of pain and suffering which ended in early death. As the hymns were dictated to his wife during intervals of teaching, which he continued until the very day of his death, they did not have the advantage of final revision for the press, and for this reason were withheld on their first publication from the general public. Many of them, however, were included in Mrs. Young’s “Child’s Christian Year,” published in 1841, and from this source have found their way into general use. Perhaps the most popular of these hymns is the five-stanza hymn (reduced to four stanzas in some collections) beginning,—

  • O Lord! how happy should we be
  • If we could cast our care on Thee;
  • If we from self could rest;
  • And feel at heart that One above,
  • In perfect wisdom, perfect love,
  • Is working for the best.
  • Others of these hymns show greater finish, of which the evening hymn “Father, by Thy love and power,” too long for quotation, and the two examples which follow, may be mentioned. Joseph Anstice was born at Madeley, Shropshire, in 1808, and was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, where he had a distinguished career, gaining two English prizes and graduating a double first. He published “Richard Cœur de Lion,” his prize poem, 1828; “The Influence of the Roman Conquest upon Literature and the Arts in Rome,” his prize essay; and “Selections from the Choice Poetry of the Greek Dramatic Writers, translated into English Verse” (1832). He died at Torquay on the 29th of February, 1836, at the early age of twenty-eight years.