Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winkworth, Catherine
WINKWORTH, CATHERINE (1827–1878), author, was born in London at 20 Ely Place, Holborn, on 13 Sept. 1827. She was the fourth daughter of Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant, the youngest son of William Winkworth, an evangelical clergyman and a member of a Berkshire family. Her mother, Susanna Dickenson, was daughter of a Kentish yeoman farmer. In 1829 the Winkworths removed to Manchester, and there Catherine's education was chiefly carried on by governesses at home; she studied also under the Rev. William Gaskell and Dr. James Martineau. The family was always on intimate terms with the Gaskells, and Catherine declared that she owed to Mr. Gaskell her knowledge of English literature and her appreciation of style. On 21 April 1841 her mother died, and in 1845 her father married, as his second wife, Miss Leyburn. In the spring of that year Catherine went to Dresden to join an aunt who was living there in order to educate her daughters, and her residence there (she stayed until July 1846) gave an impetus to her study of German. In 1850 her father built himself a house at Alderley Edge, about fifteen miles from Manchester, where the family lived for about twelve years.
In 1853 Catherine published the first series of her ‘Lyra Germanica,’ translations made by herself of German hymns in common use. The first edition was soon sold out, and by 1857 the book was in a fifth. There have been twenty-three editions since. In 1858 a second series was published, and that volume has had twelve editions. A selection appeared in 1859. Catherine Winkworth's translations of German hymns are very widely used, and have done more to influence the modern use in England of German hymns than any other version. The translations are always faithful, and at the same time poetical.
Baron Bunsen suggested that the German hymn-tunes should be given, and in 1862 appeared ‘The Chorale Book for England,’ with music arranged by (Sir) William Sterndale Bennett [q. v.] and Otto Goldschmidt. A supplement to the ‘Chorale Book’ was published in 1865.
In consequence of pecuniary losses the Winkworths in 1862 removed to Clifton, where Catherine, in addition to literary work, threw herself heart and soul into the movement for the promotion of the higher education of women. She joined the committee formed for that object in 1868, and in 1870 became its secretary. Her main business was to find suitable lecturers, and here she had eminent success. Among those who gave discourses during her term of office were J. A. Symonds, Professor Nichol, F. W. Myers, Dr. Creighton, and Professor Bonamy Price. Classes were established to aid women who were preparing for the Cambridge higher local examination, and they had likewise a great success. The association took a large part in assisting the establishment of Bristol University College, and at Catherine Winkworth's death her friends raised a sum with which they founded in her memory two scholarships for women at the college. She was likewise governor of the Red Maids' school, Bristol, one of the promoters of the Clifton High school for girls, and from 1875 until her death a member of the council of Cheltenham Ladies' College. On 15 May 1869 her father died. In 1872 she went with her sister Susanna to Darmstadt, accompanying Miss Carpenter and Miss Florence Hill as delegates to the German conference on women's work, presided over by the Princess Alice.
Miss Winkworth died suddenly of heart disease on 1 July 1878 at Monnetier (near Geneva) in Savoy, whither she had gone to take charge of an invalid nephew. She was buried there. A monument to her memory was erected in Bristol Cathedral.
Other works by Catherine Winkworth are:
- ‘Life of Amelia Wilhelmina Sieveking from the German’ (the first half was translated by Miss Winkworth, who revised the whole; the second by a lady unnamed), 1863.
- ‘The Principles of Charitable Work as set forth in the Writings of A. W. Sieveking,’ 1863.
- ‘The Christian Singers of Germany,’ 1866; 1869.
- ‘Life of Pastor Fliedner, the Founder of the Kaiserswerth Sisterhood of Protestant Deaconesses, translated from the German,’ 1867.
- ‘Prayers from the Collection of Baron Bunsen,’ 1871.
Her eldest sister, Susanna Winkworth (1820–1884), translator, was born in London on 13 Aug. 1820, and received much the same education as her sister Catherine. About 1850 Susanna told Mrs. Gaskell that she would like to translate the life of Niebuhr. Mrs. Gaskell mentioned this to Bunsen, who encouraged the idea. A meeting with Bunsen followed at Bonn, where Susanna stayed from August 1850 until May 1851. The acquaintance so begun influenced the literary work of both Susanna and Catherine. At one time indeed Susanna worked as a sort of literary secretary to Bunsen. Regarding the biography of Niebuhr, it was at first intended merely to translate Mme. Hensler's memoir, and to incorporate from her collection of his letters and essays those that seemed suitable. But so much fresh information was gained at Bonn that Susanna's book is, to all intents and purposes, an original work. It was refused by Longman and Murray, but was finally published in 1852 by Chapman & Hall in three volumes. The first edition sold rapidly. The second edition, published in 1853, incorporates the miscellaneous essays. In 1854 Susanna published her translation of the ‘Theologia Germanica,’ which takes its place beside the ‘Imitation’ in the literature of devotion. The treatise had been first discovered by Luther, and was published by him in 1516. The translation was made at the suggestion of Bunsen, whose letter to the translator is prefixed to the volume (cf. Bunsen, Memoir, ii. 342–6). Charles Kingsley provided a preface (cf. Kingsley, Letters and Memories, i. 423–7), and he wrote in 1856, ‘Your “Theologia” is being valued by every one to whom I have recommended it’ (ib. i. 498). A third edition appeared in 1859, and it has been since republished. In 1855 Miss Winkworth completed the ‘Life of Luther’ commenced by Archdeacon Hare. The volume really consists of explanatory matter to Gustav Koenig's historical engravings. All following section xiv. is Miss Winkworth's work. There was a second edition in 1858. In 1856 Miss Winkworth translated Bunsen's ‘Signs of the Times,’ and received 150l. for the work. Again, at Bunsen's suggestion she translated in 1857 Tauler's ‘Sermons.’ Bunsen wrote on 14 Sept. 1859 that Miss Winkworth sacrificed her health in her labours over Tauler. ‘Her historical treatment of the subject (he said) is admirable; she had, one may say, as good as no forerunner’ (Bunsen, Memoir, ii. 510). In 1858 she published a little book entitled ‘German Love from the Papers of an Alien.’ The author was Professor Max Müller, who refused at that time to allow his name to appear. Her translation of Bunsen's ‘God in History’ was published in three volumes, 1868–70.
Miss Winkworth was a philanthropist as well as author and translator. She worked among the poor of Bristol, and in her district visiting was struck by the difficulty poor people found in getting decent lodgings. She therefore rented several houses in the poorest part of the town, put them into proper repair, and let them out in tenements. She was thus the first in Bristol to make efforts for the better housing of the poor. In 1874 she formed the company which built Jacob's Wells industrial dwellings, managing them herself till the time of her death. She took also a great interest in the education of women, and in 1878 succeeded her sister Catherine as governor of the Red Maids' school, and member of the council of Cheltenham Ladies' College. Susanna was for some years a unitarian, but returned to the English church in 1861.
Susanna Winkworth died at 21 Victoria Square, Clifton, on 25 Nov. 1884, being buried in the churchyard of St. John's Church.
Among the friends and correspondents of the two sisters other than those already mentioned were Harriet Martineau, the Hares, F. D. Maurice, Mazzini, Professor Max Müller, Carlyle, and Jenny Lind.[Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. with Supplement; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, p. 1287; Letters and Memorials of Catherine Winkworth, ed. Susanna Winkworth, privately printed, 1883; private information.]