Quiet Angels: Some Women Hymn Writers



The nineteenth century saw a huge increase in the writing of hymns and the publication of hymn books, and a great many of both were written by women. They wrote hymns because it was a respectable and lady-like thing to do, along with teaching in Sunday school or Bible class (Mercy Chant, in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, is an uninteresting example). Their great exemplar, from the previous century, was Anne Steele, who did not publish under her own name, but who called herself ‘Theodosia’ to indicate her sex, and whose two volumes were prefaced with engravings making it clear that a woman was writing (even if the poems themselves do not discuss the problems of woman’s writing as, say, those of Anne Finch or Mary Leapor do). A nineteenth-century writer described her thus:

Anne Steele, both on account of an accident in girlhood and heavy attacks of illness at not infrequent intervals, loved the retirement of her Hampshire home. A quiet life suited her best. The garish foppery of fashion and the loud-voiced frequenters of life’s dusty arena were little suited to her taste.1


Woman Writer Sunday School Divine Love Quiet Life Heavy Attack 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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