Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baker, Henry Williams

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BAKER, Sir HENRY WILLIAMS (1821–1877), hymn writer, was the son of Vice-admiral Sir Henry Loraine Baker, C.B., by his marriage with Louisa Anne, only daughter of William Williams, Esq., of Castle Hall, Dorset. His father served with distinction at Guadaloupe in 1815. His grandfather was Sir Robert Baker of Dunstable House, Surrey, and of Nicholashayne, Culmstock, Devon, on whom a baronetcy was conferred in 1796. Sir Henry Williams Baker was born in London on Sunday, 27 May 1821, at the house of his maternal grandfather; and after completing his university education at Trinity College, Cambridge, took his B.A. degree in 1844, and proceeded M.A. in 1847. In 1851 he was presented to the vicarage of Monkland near Leominster. On the death of his father, on 2 Nov. 1859, he succeeded him as third baronet. In 1852, while at Monkland, Sir Henry wrote his earliest hymn, 'Oh, what if we are Christ's.' Two others, 'Praise, O praise our Lord and King,' and 'There is a blessed Home,' have been referred to 1861 ((Selborne's Book of Praise, pp. 176, 207-8, 288-9). Sir Henry Baker's name is chiefly known as the promoter and editor of 'Hymns Ancient and Modern,' first published in 1861. To this collection Baker contributed many original hymns, besides several translations of Latin hymns. In 1868 an 'Appendix' to the collection was issued, and in 1875 the work was thoroughly revised. The hymnal was compiled to meet the wants of churchmen of all schools, but strong objections were raised in many quarters to Sir Henry Baker's own hymn addressed to the Virgin Mary, 'Shall we not love thee. Mother dear?' Sir Henry Baker held the doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy, and at his death the baronetcy devolved on a kinsman. He was the author of 'Daily Prayers for the Use of those who have to work hard,' as well as of a 'Daily Text-book' for the same class, and of some tracts on religious subjects. He died on Monday, 12 Feb. 1877, at the vicarage of Monkland, and was buried in the churchyard of the parish. Stained glass windows have been put up to his memory in his own church and in All Saints, Notting Hill.

[Foster's Baronetage, 1882; Gent. Mag., June 1796 and Dec. 1859; Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1877; Annual Register, 1877; Literary Churchman, 24 Feb. 1877; Academy, 24 Feb. 1877; Church Times, 16 and 23 Feb. 1877; Guardian, 21 Feb. 1877; Earl Selborne's Book of Praise, 1865; Miller's Singers and Songs of the Church. 1869; Stevenson's Methodist Hymn Book, illustrated, with Biography, &c., 1883.]

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