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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

Richard Frederick Littledale (1833–1890)

RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE (1833–1890) was born at Dublin, and was educated at Bective House Seminary and Trinity College, Dublin, where he had a distinguished career. He was first class and gold medallist in Classics 1854, and won the Berkeley gold medal for Greek in 1856. He graduated B.A. 1855, M.A. 1858, LL.D. 1862, and was made D.C.L. of Oxford in 1862. After holding curacies at St. Matthew’s, Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, and St. Mary the Virgin, Soho, London, he gave up parochial work in 1861 on account of his health, and devoted himself to literature. He has published works theological, historical, liturgical, and hymnological, too numerous to mention, including “The Priest’s Prayer Book” (1864) and “The People’s Hymnal” (1867). His translations comprise hymns from the Greek, Latin, Danish, Swedish, Syriac, German, and Italian, many of which are included in the “People’s Hymnal.” One of the best known of his poems is the one commencing “From hidden source arising,” given below; another, the hymn for use during a vacancy of a see or parish, beginning,—

  • Eternal Shepherd, God Most High,
  • In mercy hearken as we cry,
  • And send us, in our time of need,
  • A pastor wise, Thy flock to lead.
  • Many of his hymns, like this one, which has been frequently reprinted, were written for special occasions, for which, as Julian says, there were at the time of their writing but few hymns provided. Dr. Littledale has used a great variety of measures with equal success. Many of his hymns are didactic in their aim, and therefore less poetical than others. Some are limited in their use by the doctrines they teach, but many are worthy of much wider use than they have yet attained.