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John Mason Neale

1818-1866. Anglican scholar and hymnwriter. Born in London, he was educated at Sherborne and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He became a fellow of Downing College and was eleven times Seatonian Prize winner. Although his parents were Evangelicals, he adopted High Church ideals. To further these he helped in 1839 to found the Cambridge Camden (later Ecclesiological) Society, which greatly affected the style of Anglican buildings and worship. Lifelong ill-health prevented him in 1843 from accepting the living of Crawley, Sussex, but in 1846 he assumed the wardenship of Sackville College, East Grinstead, a refuge for indigent old men. There he remained for the rest of his life, declining the offer of the provostship of St. Ninian's Cathedral, Perth. His ritualism caused the bishop of Chichester to inhibit him for many years. Despite bitter Protestant opposition, Neale founded for the education of girls and the care of the sick the Sisterhood of St. Margaret at Rotherfield in 1854; he transferred it to East Grinstead in 1856.

He was a voluminous writer, with works including A Commentary on the Psalms (with R.F. Littledale, 4 vols., 1860-74); The History of the Holy Eastern Church (5 vols., 1847-73); and Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863). He wrote numerous sermons and children's stories. His fame rests chiefly on his many hymns and carols, some original, some paraphrases or translations mainly from Greek and Latin (though he knew about twenty languages). Examples are translations from Bernard of Cluny*; “All glory, laud, and honor” (Theodulf of Orléans,* d.821); “Art thou weary”; “Good King Wenceslas”; “O come, O come, Immanuel” (Latin, eighteenth century); “O happy band of pilgrims”; “Of the Father's love begotten” (Aurelius Prudentius* Clemens).

He translated 94 of the 105 hymns in The Hymnal Noted (1852-54). Among his other collections were Hymns for Children (1842-46); Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences (1851); and Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862), in which he broke entirely new ground.

See biographies and assessments by E.A. Towle (1906) and A.G. Lough (1962); also M. Donovan, “John Mason Neale,” Church Quarterly Review 167 (1966), pp. 317-22, and J.E. Holroyd, “Victorian Hymn-Writer's Gothic Zeal,” Country Life 140 (1966), pp. 1518-20.