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                   P R E F A C E

It is a deeply interesting fact in the history of that so-called Queen of the Sciences—Theology (now completely “found out” as no science at all), that the Tribal God of the Hebrew nation, Jehovah, should have gradually merged into the tender “Father in Heaven” of Jesus, and so become the G0D of the foremost nations of the World.

From being the ruthless Deity of Abraham, whom that patriarch believed capable of commanding him to slay his only son, as a religious act; through the stage of the fighting Hebrew God, in conflict and rivalry with the Gods of neighbour nations (“The Lord is a Man of War,” &c.), we reach in Jesus the poetic embodiment of benevolence.

Thus the idea of a personal God was, and still is, the mere reflection of man’s thought of what a powerful and noble MAN would be.

In patriarchal times he would be the despot of the clan; in times of national danger the valorous leader of his people; in times of peace their benevolent Father.

The discovery (or re-discovery) by Copernicus of the facts of the Solar System and the relation of that system to the Universe, struck away that pillar on which the personal Godism of Earth (a single planet) and the Christian presentiment of it rested.

Hence the Unitarian ministers, as a body, and those “advanced” Congregationalist preachers (Dr.John Hunter, Mr. R. J. Campbell, and the others) who are labouring, with desperate and verbose ingenuity, to “re-state” ChristianTheology, are pre-Copernicans!

This one fact is fatal to their pretensions to be anything but special pleaders for a lost cause. They know it well enough, but feel themselves to be serving a useful office in helping a very numerous class of sincerely pious and “well-off,” but unthinking people (women especially) into a somewhat less irrational system of belief.

Once admitting the fact that “God” is Man’s Moral Ideal, and emphasizing it, as it is done in this collection of Hymns, we have opened to us a rich mine of poetic and religious thought, which should not be allowed to fall into desuetude with the theological system which gave it birth.

I make no apology to either the living or dead writers whose hymns I have appropriated and altered. I rather claim their thanks forgiving them, in an improved form, an opportunity of being useful beyond their anticipation.

“The Power” of the second hymn is the inscrutable and “ terrific benefactor ” of Emerson, in his book on the Conduct of Life.

The Hymn Books I have laid under contri-bution are these,

viz. :—



and edited by James Martineau, LL.D., D.D.Second edition, 1877;

“ETHICAL HYMN BOOK.” Compiled and editedfor the Union of Ethical Societies, 1903 ;

“PSALMS, HYMNS, AND SPIRITUAL SONGS; for use in the Public Services of the Church of Christ.”

Compiled by John R. Beard, D.D.,and James C. Street, 1860;

“HYMNS of FAITH AND LIFE.” Collected and

edited by the Rev. John Hunter, D.D., 1896 ;

“HYMNS, PSALMS, AND ANTHEMS.” Compiled for George’s Chapel, Exeter. 1884.

“ HYMNS, CHANTS, AND ANTHEMS, 1889.” (Saint Saviourgate Chapel, York.)

P.S.—   l have rigidly excluded all hymns that dwell on the beauty and softness of Nature and ignore those darker and uglier features which are equally the production of the same mighty and inscrutable Force.

No one who does not really study the hymns in popular use can be aware of the crudeness of metaphor, the weak sentimentalism, and the positive nonsense that pass muster unchallenged.

I have endeavoured to compile a book which no one can charge with limpness.

“Quit you like men ! Be strong!”


Barnard Castle,

3rd Oct., 1909.


In his appendix to his newly published “A Hymn-Book of God the Moral Ideal” Haydn Williams mentions, in relation to the Constable painting above “which once adorned the interior of Flowergate Old Chapel,” that he had sung with his father in the Salisbury Cathedral choir.

Singing in a major cathedral choir is probably a good start for anyone who would compile a hymnal. His familiarity with the great music of the Anglican tradition would be a given and suggests that Haydn Williams could “hold a note” and was unlikely to have had a “tin ear”. It is likely that he could sight read music.

The revision of hymn-books, both in terms of text and music, had been a common place for several centuries as new Protestant religions flowered and science and industrialisation changed the intellectual and theological colour of people’s thought .

While Haydn Williams was making his choices and modifications the young Ralph Vaughan Williams (on the right) was working on “new music” for the  Anglican “The New Hymnal” which was to prove such a huge musical success.

In America in the nineteenth century the Unitarian Chapels there had produced a large number of “suitable” hymnals for their congregations.

“Suitability” seemed to be about finding, even writing hymns, which fitted with their pastor’s take on Unitarian theology and matters of morality generally.

Francis Haydn Williams’ hymnal is very much in that mode though, as we shall see, he has scant time for theology.

He published his compilation with the help of Mrs Tattersfield in 1909 and dedicated it to his wife on the forty-fifth anniversary of their marriage.

Were hymns good poetry?


Francis Haydn Williams begins with a preface whose chief interest for us today is the light it sheds on FHW’s beliefs towards the end of his life.

The publication of Copernicus' model in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making an important contribution to the Scientific Revolution.

desuetude noun

the condition of not being in use or practice; disuse

those ceremonies had fallen into desuetude

Collins English Dictionary.

The Pythons took the fact of the darker uglier features of “creation” to the limit here:


For those of you who might like to hear what Unitarian hymns currently sound like here’s a selection sung by a choir in Berkeley USA


For an impressive overview of how extensive hymn writing and revising was in the Unitarian church in the USA.

FHW spent several years in America and may well have encountered a huge variety of Hymnals.