1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Faber, Frederick William

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

FABER, FREDERICK WILLIAM (1814–1863), British hymn writer and theologian, was born on the 28th of June 1814 at Calverley, Yorkshire, of which place his grandfather, Thomas Faber, was vicar. He attended the grammar school of Bishop Auckland for a short time, but a large portion of his boyhood was spent in Westmorland. He afterwards went to Harrow and to Balliol College, Oxford. In 1835 he obtained a scholarship at University College; and in 1836 he gained the Newdigate prize for a poem on “The Knights of St John,” which elicited special praise from Keble. Among his college friends were Dean Stanley and Roundell Palmer, 1st earl of Selborne. In January 1837 he was elected fellow of University College. Meanwhile he had given up the Calvinistic views of his youth, and had become an enthusiastic follower of John Henry Newman. In 1841 a travelling tutorship took him to the continent; and on his return a book appeared called Sights and Thoughts in Foreign Churches and among Foreign Peoples (London, 1842), with a dedication to his friend the poet Wordsworth. He accepted the rectory of Elton in Huntingdonshire, but soon after went again to the continent, in order to study the methods of the Roman Catholic Church; and after a prolonged mental struggle he joined the Roman Catholic communion in November 1845. He founded a religious community at Birmingham, called Wilfridians, which was ultimately merged in the oratory of St Philip Neri, with John Henry Newman as Superior. In 1849 a branch of the oratory—subsequently independent—was established in London, first in King William Street, and afterwards at Brompton, over which Faber presided till his death on the 26th of September 1863. In spite of his weak health, an almost incredible amount of work was crowded into those years. He published a number of theological works, and edited the Oratorian Lives of the Saints. He was an eloquent preacher, and a man of great charm of character. It is mainly as a hymn-writer, however, that Faber is remembered. Among his best-known hymns are:—“The Greatness of God,” “The Will of God,” “The Eternal Father,” “The God of my Childhood,” “Jesus is God,” “The Pilgrims of the Night,” “The Land beyond the Sea,” “Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we go,” “I was wandering and weary,” and “The Shadow of the Rock.” The hymns are largely used in Protestant collections. In addition to many pamphlets and translations, Faber published the following works: All for Jesus; The Precious Blood; Bethlehem; The Blessed Sacrament; The Creator and the Creature; Growth of Holiness; Spiritual Conferences; The Foot of the Cross (8 vols., London, 1853–1860).

See his Life and Letters, by Father J. E. Bowden (London, 1869), and A Brief Sketch of the Early Life of the late F. W. Faber, D.D., by his brother the Rev. F. A. Faber (London, 1869).