Monsell, John Samuel Bewley


b St Columb’s, Co Derry, Ireland 1811, d Guildford, Surrey 1875. Trinity Coll Dublin (BA 1832, LLD 1836); ordained (Ch of Ireland) 1834, becoming chaplain to Bp Mant (No.193), then Chancellor of the diocese of Connor and Rector of Ramoan. His Hymns and Miscellaneous Poems were published in 1837, and Parish Musings, or Devotional Poems, 1850. He came to England in 1853 as a Surrey incumbent, at Egham from 1853 to 1870, then at Guildford. 9 further books of verse and some prose followed between 1857 and 1873; including The Beatitudes, Our New Vicar, and Spiritual Songs for the Sundays and Holydays throughout the Year (1867), arranged according to the church calendar, but where congregational hymns still merge with more meditative and sermonic poems and versified narrative. The 91 texts in this work are thoughtful, Scripture-based though touched by ritual; one for the 17th Sunday after Trinity powerfully celebrates the Christian Sabbath. The verse-forms range from actual limerick to stzs modelled on Geo Herbert. The author says they were written ‘among the orange and olive groves of Italy during a winter spent (for the sake of health) upon the shores of the Mediterranean Sea’. In all he wrote nearly 300 hymns, 5 of which appeared in The Public School Hymn Book in 1919. Julian’s characteristic verdict is that they ‘are as a whole bright, joyous and musical; but they lack massiveness, concentration of thought, and strong emotion’. Ellerton found his ‘warm and loving devoutness so often counter-balanced by his incorrectness’. During the rebuilding of St Nicholas’ Guildford he either fell from the roof he was inspecting, or was hit by falling masonry, and died shortly afterwards. His final poem was ‘Near home at last’; but Fight the good fight has passed in to the common currency of speech among many who know little more of the hymn and nothing of its biblical origins. Nos.194, 455, 651, 883.