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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

William Walsham How (1823–1897)

WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW was born at Shrewsbury on the 13th of December, 1823, and was a son of William Wybergh How, solicitor and banker of that town. He was educated at Shrewsbury and Wadham College, Oxford, matriculating in 1840, and going into residence in 1841. Originally intending to follow the legal profession, he changed his views while at Oxford, and proceeded after graduating to the Divinity School at Durham, where he studied under Dr. Jenkyns. He was ordained in 1846, and accepted a Curacy at Kidderminster, and subsequently at (Holy Cross) Shrewsbury. In 1851 he was appointed Rector of Whittington, near Oswestry, where he remained until 1879, when he was presented with the living of St. Andrews Undershaft, and made Bishop Suffragan of East London, with the title of Bishop of Bedford. Here he had charge of the three popular rural deaneries of Hackney, Stepney, and Spitalfields, Tottenham being added at a later date. He was select preacher at Oxford 1868–9, examining chaplain to the Bishop of Lichfield 1878–9, and lecturer on pastoral work at Cambridge 1883, and special preacher 1884. He was made D.D. of Oxford in 1886, and was translated to the See of Wakefield on its creation in 1888.

An anonymous volume of verse, published many years ago, was Mr. How’s first appeal to the public as a poet. Of this a new and enlarged edition appeared in 1886, which volume, with a book of fifty-four hymns, published while Bishop of Bedford, forms the main substance of his poetic work. The Bishop’s poems show a true feeling for nature, a keen sympathy with suffering and sorrow, power of pathos, and sense of humour. The first is abundantly demonstrated in “Shelsley Beauchamp and the First Spring Day,” the second in “Poetry and the Poet,” the third in “The Boy Hero” and “Gentleman John,” and the fourth in “The Three Prelates” and “A Puzzling Question.” Of the shorter poems which are alone available for quotation in a work like this, “Converse,” shows the observation of the poet’s eye; “Stars and Graves,” the poet’s mind grappling with the problems of life and death; “Pasce Verbo, Pasce Vita,” the practical nature of his religion; and “A Starlit Night by the Sea-Shore,” his sense of the brotherhood of human relationships. Some of the Bishop’s hymns have become universal favorites, and others deserve much wider use than they have received. He died on August the 10th, 1897.