This is a list of biographies of Frances Ridley Havergal.
The most important, valuable biography of her is Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by her sister Maria Vernon Graham Havergal (1880). The other two biographies most highly valued and recommended are Frances Ridley Havergal by Janet Grierson (1979) and Ever, Only, ALL for Thee Frances Ridley Havergal: Glimpses of Her life and Writings by Pamela D. Bugden (2009). Although volumes of letters are not usually included among biographies, Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal and Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems are included in this list, because they are especially rich and give a very close, valuable view of F.R.H.
This list is not exhaustive, giving only the ones recommended or regarded as either historically or otherwise marginally valuable. Besides the formal entries from the Bibliography of Works by or about Frances Ridley Havergal given near the end of each of the five Volumes of The Complete Works of Frances Ridley Havergal, other comments are also given in this next list. The brief essays or sketches by John Philip Hobson and Warren Wiersbe are also included here. —David Chalkley July 28, 2019
1. Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by Maria Vernon Graham Havergal.
Maria Vernon Graham Havergal was Frances Ridley Havergal’s second oldest sister, 15 when Frances was born. Maria was devoted to Frances, served and encouraged her while she lived, and after she died, Maria was the diligent editor and publisher of her completed works and part of her uncompleted works, gathering, codifying, preserving F.R.H.’s written treasure for others then and later. Maria was herself a finely gifted writer, and her Memorials biography of Frances is gold. Frances had loved Maria’s book Pleasant Fruits, and who wouldn’t? Maria also wrote a memorial biography of another sister, Ellen, Outlines of a Gentle Life. Maria’s own Autobiography is filled and overflowing with valuable details and lessons. Though very little known today, there is much edification, encouragement, enrichment in these works by Maria. Like her sister F.R.H., she was a true example of the Lord’s love, of His true work in a believer. All was laid at her Master’s feet, to glorify Him and benefit His people.
Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal is a prose volume, published in London by James Nisbet & Co., 1880. This is the most important biography of F.R.H. Maria was Frances’ sister, very likeminded and likehearted to her, loving and serving her all her adult life. After Frances’ unexpected early death, Maria edited and published the unpublished completed works and a number of uncompleted works by her, so importantly, valuably preserving and disseminating the works and life of F.R.H. Memorials by Maria is an invaluable work. See her edition of Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal. The original Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by Maria had at the end of the fifteen chapters an Appendix, containing very valuable materials, writings by Frances and by others about her, making a total of 392 pages (printed by Morrison and Gibb, Printers, Edinburgh, who printed most of Nisbet’s books by F.R.H.). Nisbet also published an abbreviated Memorials by Maria, retypeset (so that more text was printed on each page than the original, complete Memorials), having the fifteen chapters by Maria, omitting the invaluable Appendix, an illustration, and two facsimile pages from Frances’ personal Bagster study Bible, totalling 250 pages (printed by Frank Murray, 9 and 11 Young Street, Edinburgh). The original, complete volume of 392 pages is definitive and far more valuable for its contents.
2 The Last Week.
by Maria V. G. Havergal. A prose volume. London: James Nisbet & Co., 1879.
This was a letter that Maria wrote to her niece, Cecilia Havergal, signed and dated at the end June 12, 1879, nine days after Frances’ death. In the published volume a Postscript was added, and an Outline (prose summation) of the memorial address by Rev. S. C. Morgan of Swansea, where F.R.H. lived her last eight months and died an unexpected early death. This is a richly beneficial book.
3. Autobiographical Glimpses through Frances’ letters
[Though a volume of letters is not usually counted as a biography, two volumes of letters by F.R.H. are so very valuable and give a truly close view of how she thought and lived; thus these are included in this list of biographies.]
Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems has letters written home to family when F.R.H. was visiting in Switzerland, posthumously compiled and published by her oldest sister, Miriam Crane. Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal was compiled and published by another sister, Maria. The letters and other items in Lilies and Shamrocks show Frances’ long, deep interest to support the Irish Society, a group ministering to the Irish in their own language. One or two of these letters will have you shaking with laughter (no one could write on paper how to imitate the sound of a donkey in the Swiss Alps as well as Frances), but they are all so good to read, truly and deeply edifying and enriching. These letters bring you very near to Frances, as if she were sitting three feet away and speaking directly to you, and they so exceptionally well show her, and her Lord’s work in her mind and heart and life.
Let me say a personal statement. Over the fifteen years of work to prepare the Havergal edition for publication, I have long thought and occasionally said that if I were free from work and could just read, I would want to start with the volume of Letters compiled by Maria. They are so very good.—David L. Chalkley
Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal. Edited by Maria V. G. Havergal. London: James Nisbet & Co., 1885. Maria asked the Lord to spare her life until she finished this volume of letters, the last book of Frances she published. Maria ended her Preface to this volume with this sentence: “This closing record of the loved and loving one is laid at her Master’s feet, praying that interwoven with her life-story, His praise and glory may shine forth.” See Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal. See also Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems, a volume of different letters by F.R.H. edited by her oldest sister, Jane Miriam Crane.
Swiss Letters and Alpine Poems. F.R.H. Edited by Jane Miriam (Havergal) Crane. London: James Nisbet & Co., 1881. Miriam was Frances’ oldest sister, 19 when she was born, who tutored her when she was two and a half, and later taught her poetry. These are different letters than Maria’s edition of Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal. Both volumes are invaluable.
4. Footprints and Living Songs.
A prose volume by and about F.R.H. London: Home Words Publishing Office, 1883 (? date uncertain). This book contains an essay, “Footprints of Frances Ridley Havergal” by Emily M. Coombe, who had access to the family and home and papers of F.R.H. There is an essay, “A Specimen Glass: Hymns of Frances Ridley Havergal” by her oldest sister, Jane Miriam (Havergal) Crane, who tutored Frances from two and a half and taught her poetry. Finally there is an uncompleted “Specimen Glass” by Frances on hymns of Horatius Bonar.
5. Biographical Works by Charles Bullock
Next are comments on the biographies of F.R.H. written and published by Charles Bullock.
Within the Palace Gates by Rev. Charles Bullock, author, editor, publisher
Near the Throne by Rev. Charles Bullock
The Sisters by Rev. Charles Bullock
Two sections from The Crown of the Road by Rev. Charles Bullock
Very little in The Complete Works of Frances Ridley Havergal was difficult to decide to include in the edition. The next four items, by Rev. Charles Bullock (1829–1911), are exceptional in the contents of this edition: there is much repetition in these pages by Bullock, and this section is not equal in importance to nearly all the other parts of the edition. Rev. Bullock knew F.R.H. very well from her teenage years, when he was Curate (assistant pastor) under her father at St. Nicholas Church in Worcester, and he remained a loyal, supportive friend and advocate the rest of her life and after her death. He gives a direct perspective on Frances and on her father that is valuable. Not knowing how to excise the parts that repeat (repetition of parts from Maria’s Memorials, Miriam’s Records, and Bullock’s own repeated details among these four items) without great harm to the works, and also wanting the reader to have direct access to the materials, the decision was made to include all these pages by Rev. Bullock. These three books and two sections from a fourth book are the weakest and least valuable items in the edition, yet truly valuable and worthy to include in the edition. I suggest that these items by Bullock be left until the end, after all the other biographical works on Frances included in the Havergal edition have been read.
Within the Palace Gates was written a few months after F.R.H.’s death in 1879. The Crown of the Road was published in 1884. The Sisters was published in 1890. Near the Throne was published in 1902.
While she lived and after she died, Rev. Bullock published poetry and prose by F.R.H. in his magazines he edited and published, and he posthumously published five books by F.R.H.: Echoes from the Word, Royal Gems and Wayside Chimes, Home Words Birthday Book, Specimen Glasses for the King’s Minstrels, and My Bible Study for the Sundays of the Year, directly prepared by her or posthumously compiled by him, Footprints and Living Songs about her, Miriam Crane’s biography Records of the Life of the Rev. William Henry Havergal, M.A., and these four items Bullock personally wrote about her. F.R.H.’s oldest sister, Mrs. Jane Miriam Crane (1817–1898), wrote near the end of her biography of her father, that Rev. Charles Bullock was “the intimate and valued friend both of the Rev. William Henry and Frances Ridley Havergal.”
6. Frances Ridley Havergal: A Full Sketch of Her Life.
Rev. E. Davies. Reading, Massachusetts: Holiness Book Concern, 1884. This is a biography largely based on Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by her sister Maria V. G. Havergal; Rev. Davies quoted extensively from letters and poems by Frances. This biography by Rev. Davies is a helpful introduction to F.R.H. for ones without access to original Havergal books, but not important or valuable to include in this edition. Most of the book is quotations from Memorials, with generous quotation of poems, letters, and prose works, not very beneficial to those who have Memorials by Maria and the two volumes of Letters by Frances. Very often Davies only gives brief introductions or linking comments between his quotations of original Havergal books; Davies’ Preface is profitable.
7. Miss Havergal’s Story.
L.B.E. (the only name given for the author). Boston, Massachusetts: James H. Earle, Publisher, 1889 (copyright 1887).
This small book (123 pages) is weak and problematic, mingling various quotations of F.R.H.’s words, with no indication of where one excerpt ends and another begins, giving no indication of the source book for any of the quotations, ending the book with Edwin Charles Wrenford’s eleven-stanza memorial poem on F.R.H. with no attribution at all (“So Beautiful to Go” given on page 444 of Volume IV of the Havergal edition).
8. “Frances Ridley Havergal” by Rev. John Philip Hobson, M.A.
A prose essay, or brief biography (24 pages). London: The Religious Tract Society, no date (likely 19th century).
This essay was likely first printed as an article or pamphlet and later published (as the third of eight short biographies) in Excellent Women by the same publisher. This is a good introduction to F.R.H., largely based on Memorials with other sources also.
9. Women Who Have Worked and Won;
Twelve Notable Good Women of the XIXth Century
Women Who Have Worked and Won (by Jennie Chappell, London: S. W. Partridge & Co., 1904) and Twelve Notable Good Women of the XIXth Century (by Rosa Nouchette Carey, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1899) also have chapters on F.R.H.
10. Frances Ridley Havergal, by Esther Ethelind Enock.
A prose biography. London and Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1928. Apparently written for children, this is a good biography, but not as good as others, and this seems to have little value that is not found in Memorials by Maria and F.R.H.’s Letters edited by Maria.
11. Frances Ridley Havergal A Saint of God, by Thomas Herbert Darlow.
London: James Nisbet & Co., 1927. F.R.H.’s nephew, Rev. Alfred Havergal Shaw (1859–1939), and her niece and god-daughter, Frances Anna Shaw (1856–1948), gave Darlow their recollections and access to manuscripts. After a 59-page biographical Memoir, Darlow gives prose extracts and poems by her.
12. The Poems and Hymns of Christ’s Sweet Singer Frances Ridley Havergal.
Selected by Tacey Bly. New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1977. This volume has a brief biographical sketch, almost 100 poems, and 13 hymns (of which only one score was composed by F.R.H.).
13. Frances Ridley Havergal Worcestershire Hymnwriter, by Janet Grierson.
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire: The Havergal Society, 1979. This researcher is physically affected by writing this description. Miss Grierson has done the most important work on Frances Ridley Havergal since her sister Maria died in 1887. Though I importantly and very profoundly disagree with Miss Grierson in a number of areas, I can hardly say the value of her work on Havergal, and of her kindness and generous, invaluable help to me in the preparation of this edition of Havergal’s Complete Works. For facts, details (numerous, richly valuable details), and historical context, no other writer on F.R.H. comes close to Miss Grierson.
I think that likely Miss Grierson found and read important materials that may never be found again, and that she likely had a knowledge of Frances’ life that will not be known again by another. This biography was written and published in 1979, the 100th year after F.R.H.’s death. The Havergal Society was a group of only 8 or 10 people, Havergal descendants and friends of Miss Grierson wanting to publish and distribute this biography. A close friend and colleague, Miss Marie T. Eamer, importantly assisted Miss Grierson in her work on Havergal.
Miss Grierson later wrote a shorter work about hymns by Havergal, Singing for Jesus, a previously unpublished manuscript published in the Havergal edition for the first time. Miss Grierson wa a true scholar and a fine writer (and a dear lady), whose work on F.R.H. is truly valuable. David Chalkley
Frances Ridley Havergal’s written works in poetry, prose, and music are a rarely valuable treasure chest, a goldmine, and just as surely, accounts of her lived out life have so much benefit to others. For the centenary of F.R.H.’s death in 1979, when few were interested in F.R.H.’s life and works, Miss Janet Grierson (1913-2011) wrote and published a biography of Havergal, Frances Ridley Havergal: Worcestershire Hymnwriter. After that she wrote another book on her, Singing for Jesus, a golden study centered around several of her hymns; this second book remained in manuscript, never published, and was entrusted by Miss Grierson to David Chalkley in 2002. David, the compiler and editor of The Complete Works of Frances Ridley Havergal, has included in the Havergal edition both of Miss Grierson’s books, and also a few articles by her that were found. He was honored and blessed to meet and know Miss Grierson in 2002, and her help in the preparation of the edition was invaluable. Several times he has said that Grierson’s writings were the most important work on Havergal since Frances’ sister Maria V. G. Havergal’s work in the 19th century. Janet Grierson was richly blessed with ability, a brilliant scholar and a fine writer. These two books are overflowing with so many details on F.R.H.’s life and works, and give so much insight into this sweet psalmist of Worcestershire.
A Personal Note: The 17th century gold-mine poet George Herbert wrote (in Outlandish [that is, “Foreign” like the German Ausländer, “outside the land,” not our meaning of “absurd”] Proverbs, No. 50), “A dwarf on a giant’s shoulder sees further of the two.” I stood on Miss Janet Grierson’s shoulder. I also stood on another’s shoulder: I stood on Glen Wegge’s shoulder. Both of these two were profoundly valuable in this work, and the Havergal edition would not be nearly what it is without their involvement. They were the Lord’s provision. Thanks be to God. David Chalkley June 7, 2016
14. “Fanny Crosby’s British Counterpart” by Dr. Warren Wiersbe.
A prose essay. This is the sixth chapter in Dr. Wiersbe’s valuable book Victorious Christians You Should Know. He understands and well presents Frances Ridley Havergal. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984.
15. Ever, only, ALL for Thee – Frances Ridley Havergal: Glimpses of Her life and Writings, by Pamela D. Bugden
This is a sterling biography of F.R.H., written by a lady who understood well her subject, one very likeminded and like-hearted to Frances. Mrs. Bugden proofread the Havergal edition, and then wrote this biography based on the edition. This is a remarkably fine, deeply valuable biography of Frances, highly recommended. —David Chalkley