Although her parents were Christians, and both her brothers sought ordination,
When aged eleven she experienced 'what must be childhood's greatest grief' - the death of her mother. Two years later she began praying for faith, having no doubt of her own unrighteous condition, and, during a visit to Oakhampton, spoke with her future step-mother of spiritual matters, and was able to commit her soul to Christ Jesus.
She summed this up in a later hymn in the words:
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
Trusting only Thee,
Trusting Thee for full salvation,
Great and free.
Finishing school, she was aware of her responsibility, commenting that 'in a measure one's whole life ... must be greatly influenced by...the first year after leaving school'.
Her regime was a salutary example of 'redeeming the time': staying at Obercassel in 1853 she used to get up at 5am, have breakfast at 7am, and then study for four hours, devoting one hour to French literature; but she also enjoyed such physical activities as rowing on the Rhine. During a later stay in Harlech she climbed Snowdon, and found the ascent very easy after mountains in
She thought much about confirmation, writing when it was still two years away: 'It seems such a solemn vow ... one of my most constant prayers, if I am spared to be confirmed, (is).. that I may never act as if I had not been (confirmed).' How different from some of us who may have approached such an occasion as a mere duty!
Illness in the form of erysipelas had at times curtailed her schooling, and she always found the enforced rest from any 'head study' most trying. Her health was in a critical state when she was twenty, and she commented 'It is very strange to think that I was in real danger, the erysipelas having gone to my head; it seems like a new life given me, and I do hope that He who has restored it will give me grace to use it for Him.'
During a visit to Germany the following year she returned to their lodgings one day, and sat down to rest by a print of Durer's painting of the crucified Christ, with the words 'All this I did for thee: what hast thou done for Me?' This painting, in the gallery in
At her eldest sister's home in Oakhampton
With the increasing influence of the Oxford Movement on some Anglican services, she wrote to a friend about the differences between Evangelical doctrine, which her father and she held, and the '
A visit to
After the death of her father, who had composed chants and sacred songs,
She would be approached by all sorts of people with problems, and wrote 'I actually dread a visit to a large household; for each one separately, as a rule, seems to imagine they must pour out all their difficulties and feelings to me in private, often down to the very servants; and though I am thankful for the opportunities this gives, you cannot think what a strain it often becomes upon heart and nerves. I hope not many are the repositories of as many sad secrets, spiritual and temporal, as I am.'
Although intellectually she enjoyed reading Shakespeare, she was saddened that 'there is so much that is entirely of the earth earthy, amid all the marvellous genius and even the sparkles of the highest truth which flash here and there, so much that jars upon one's spirit, so much that is downward instead of upward.'
After receiving a booklet 'All for Jesus', she consecrated herself fully to God, commenting that there had to be full surrender before there could be full blessedness, and regarded that time, Advent 1873, as a milestone in her life. Some months later she stayed at a house in Worcester where there were twelve people, some unconverted, but all having received much prayer. During her five-day stay, each one experienced God's blessing, and on the last night
To her correspondents she might endeavour tactfully to correct any failings, as when writing:
Would you like any one to retail, and dwell upon, little incidents which made you appear weak, tiresome, capricious, foolish? Yet, dear, everything which we say of another which we would not like them to say of us is transgression of this distinct command of our dear Lord's... Do not think I am condemning you without seeing my own failures. It is just because it is a special battle-field of my own that I am the more pained and quick to feel it when others, who love Jesus, yield to the temptation or do not see it to be temptation.
About clothing she commented:
I must dress both as a lady and a Christian. I do not consider myself at liberty to spend on dress that which might be spared for God's work, but it costs no more to have a thing well and prettily made, and I should only feel justified in getting a costly dress if it would last proportionately longer.
After the death of her stepmother in May 1878 the
Enjoyed walks and scrambles on the cliffs, at low tide springing lightly over boulders to beds of seaweeds, and rocky pools bright with sea anemones. Watching the vessels with all sails up entering the harbour made her think of 'the abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom'. She studied the Nautical Almanac, and at the top of Mumbles Lighthouse listened attentively to all the lighthouse keeper told her.
In her study was her favourite chair from Astley Rectory, her American typewriter with Hebrew Bible, Greek New Testament and lexicons at hand. At her study table she would be reading her Bible by 7am in summer, and by 8am in winter. Her harp-piano was on a stand nearby. Her sofa faced the west window, looking out over
She was opposed to any Sunday post, and saddened that many Christians did not consider that an issue worth endorsing. 'I was delighted in another house to see a notice on the post box in the hall, with the post times, and "No delivery or despatch on Sundays." No manner of work must include postal delivery, and it is not right to ignore God's commands.' How grieved she would have been at the secularisation of Sundays nowadays!
As there was then no church building in Newton, the schoolroom was used for Anglican services, while on many occasions Frances played the organ and was involved with the children's work at nearby Paraclete, one of six chapels in peninsular Gower erected by Diana, Lady Barham, in the early nineteenth century.
In April 1879
Visitors to 'Park Villa' were both the humble and the famous. With the Vicar's agreement Frances invited several nearby cottagers to a Bible reading at the house, and the month before her death she had a visit from the American musician Ira D. Sankey (who had accompanied Dwight L. Moody on his evangelistic tours), together with his wife. Correspondents included the blind American hymn writer Frances van Alstyne (née Fanny Crosby), authoress of such hymns as 'To God be the glory' and 'Blessed Assurance'.
Her health was always precarious, and after a succession of feverish chills in late May she awoke in the night with stabbing abdominal pains. The doctor was summoned from
Early in the morning a week later the vicar of
In 1864 she had written: 'If I had my choice, I should like to be a 'Christian Poetess', but I do not feel I have ability enough ever to turn this line to much account. I feel as if music were a stronger talent.' Whether she would have revised that opinion during the subsequent fifteen years of her life we do not know, but when in 1937 a memorial plaque was unveiled, outside the house (by then re-named 'Havergal'*), where she had died, it described her as a 'Christian Poetess and Hymnwriter'.
Her hymns may not be so frequently sung these days, but their sentiments continue to challenge each of us into a deeper relationship with her Lord:
O let my life be given,
My years for Thee be spent,World-fetters all be riven,
And joy with suffering blent:
Thou gav'st Thyself for me
I give myself to Thee.
* in 1930-31 the house was already named ‘Havergal’.
Paraclete chapel in Newton was built in 1818, the fourth of six chapels in peninsular Gower erected by Diana Middleton, Lady Barham. The others are Bethesda in Burry Green and Trinity in Cheriton (both belong to the Presbyterian Church in Wales, originally known as the Calvinistic Methodists), the original Bethel in Penclawdd (now a much enlarged Welsh Independent chapel), Immanuel in Pilton Green (now a private house), and Mount Pisgah in Parkmill (now part of the United Reformed Church).
The name Paraclete occurs five times in the Bible – four times in John's gospel when referring to the Holy Spirit – in the New International Version translated as the Counsellor. In John 14v16 Jesus promises the disciples "I will ask the Father and he will give you the Counsellor to be with you – the Spirit of Truth". See also John 14v26, 15v26 and 16v7.
The fifth instance is in 1 John 2v1 "We have an Advocate (or 'one who speaks to the Father in our defence') – Jesus Christ the righteous." The word translated Advocate is the same word Paraclete, from the Greek Parakletos. So the chapel is named after both Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.