Wordsworth, Christopher


b Lambeth, S London (Surrey) 1807, d Harewood, Yorkshire 1885. A nephew of William W (whose brief biography he was later to write), he lost his mother before he was 7; Winchester Coll and Trinity Coll Cambridge (BA 1830, maths and classics), where he was described as ‘brilliant’, possibly the best Gk scholar of his generation, and won numerous prizes. He was a keen sportsman; travelled in Italy and Greece in 1832 and was ordained in the following year. He was a Fellow of Trinity, Lecturer in Classics, and in 1836 Public Orator of the Univ. In that year he became Headmaster of Harrow Sch where he proved a reforming influence, he gained BD and Hon DD in 1839; becoming a Canon of Westminster from 1844. From 1850 to 1868 he was Vicar of Stanford-in-the-Vale-cum-Goosey, Berks, during which time he again toured Italy (1862) and also gave many academic lectures. He was then Bishop of Lincoln from 1869 for 16 years until resigning through illness a month before his death. A distinguished but stern-looking bust of him currently adorns the Lincoln Cathedral Library.

Bp Wordsworth He was a prolific author who wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, in stages between 1856 and 1870, a year in which he issued Prayers in Time of War; his many other books included (in 1862) The Holy Year: Hymns for every Season. He believed that hymns should use ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and that ‘it is the first duty of a hymn to teach sound doctrine, and thence to save souls’; he was critical of much earlier hymnody. John Ellerton praised his humble and loving character while calling his verse plain, sometimes unpoetic, but with a charm which makes us ‘forget its homeliness’; J H Overton (in Julian) went into some detail but admits the ‘very unequal merit’ of his hymns, while later critics have been less kind. J R Watson (1997) calls his verse churchy, pedestrian and untheological; but Routley said that it ranged from the trivial to the magnificent. An early biography was written jointly by his daughter Elizabeth Wordsworth (hymnwriter; Head of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford) and J H Oldham. Nos.210, 331, 496, 847.