Milman, Henry Hart


b St James’s, Middx (London), 1791, d Sunninghill nr Ascot, Berks 1868. Dr Burney’s Academy at Greenwich; Eton Coll; Brasenose Coll Oxford, later a Fellow. While a student his many honours included the Newdigate Prize for poetry; he was ordained (CofE) in 1817, becoming Vicar of St Mary’s Reading until 1835, meanwhile being Oxford’s Prof of Poetry 1821–1831 and writing the poem Belshazzar in 1822. He then became a Canon of Westminster and Rector of St Margaret’s, until moving east across the city to be Dean of St Paul’s in 1849, where he contributed much to the musical services. As a boy he had watched Nelson’s funeral; in old age he officiated at that of the Duke of Wellington. Known as ‘the great Dean’ in his lifetime; now remembered almost solely for one unique hymn, from the 13 written some time before 1823 and published in Heber’s (qv) posthumous collection of 1827. But his own Selection of Psalms and Hymns followed in 1837, and among other texts is the outstanding Bound upon the accursèd tree. H Leigh Bennett (in Julian) compares his writing to Heber’s, since both aimed at ‘higher literary expression and lyric grace’; Milman’s is credited with excellent structure and greater ‘burning, sometimes lurid force’. Refrains are more common with him than among his hymnwriting peers. His verse dramas for the stage included the successful Fazio (1815), a neo-Jacobean tragedy set in Italy; his Miltonic-style epic Samor (1818) featured 5th-c Britain. Among several prose writings in fine style, far eclipsing his hymns in their day, were historical studies including The Fall of Jerusalem, 1820; the German-influenced and controversial History of the Jews, 1829; and his greatest work, A History of Latin Christianity, 1854. From his everyday talk he was also called by a contemporary ‘the last of the great conversers’. No.408.

Hymns and songs by Milman, Henry Hart

Number Hymn Name
408 Ride on, ride on in majesty