Winkworth, Catherine


b Ely Place, Saffron Hill liberty, Holborn, London 1827, d Monnetier, Savoy, France 1878. Her early life was spent in the Manchester area, where with her eldest sister Susanna she was educated; in 1850 she moved with her silk-manufacturer father to the suburb of Alderley Edge, encouraged in her German studies by (the Rev) William and Mrs Gaskell, as later by the Prussian Minister in London, Baron Karl von Bunsen. She made the first and most decisive of 4 visits to Germany in 1845–46, mainly in Dresden. After a business recession she settled with her father and sisters at Clifton, Bristol, in 1862. Here she pioneered the higher education of women, as a governor of Red Maids’ Sch and founder of Clifton High Sch for Girls, member of the Clifton Assn for the Higher Education of Women and the council of Cheltenham Ladies’ Coll, envisaging eventually a university college for Bristol. Most significantly, she did for German hymns what J M Neale (qv) had done for Lat and Gk. She translated over 400 hymns by 170 authors, mainly from Bunsen’s collection of texts, combining faithfulness to the original with fluency in English. Her 2 series of Lyra Germanica: Hymns for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Christian Year (1855) ran to 35 edns, the title complementing Susanna’s 1854 translation of Theologia Germanica. These came without tunes; not being a musician, CW did not attempt to reproduce German metres in English. The Baron, however, urged the need of music; so with editorial help from the leading composer Sterndale Bennett and the fine musicologist Otto Goldschmidt, husband of the international soprano Jenny Lind, she produced in 1863 the influential Chorale Book for England. This also had a ‘church’s year’ arrangement, and was followed in 1869 by Christian Singers of Germany (‘a landmark in the Victorian reception of German culture’).

More than most, Winkworth understood the genius of the two languages and styles of worship, and also translated 2 German biographies. Though informed by varied theological influences she remained ‘a firm if sometimes unsatisfied member of the CofE’ (P Skrine 1991, who described her as ‘perhaps the best known and most effective mediator between the German and English-speaking worlds in the second half of the 19th cent’). She travelled to Switzerland in search of better health, but died at the age of 50 from a sudden heart attack near Geneva. She translated at least 27 of P Gerhardt’s hymns, 4 of them in two versions. Two American Evangelical Lutheran hymnals from the 1990s included respectively nearly 60 and nearly 80 of her texts and versions; 21 are included in the Moravian Book of Worship (USA, 1995), 19 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 17 in the 1965 Anglican Hymn Book, 15 in The BBC Hymn Book (1951), 8 in Hymns of Faith (1964) and 6 in the Scottish Church Hymnary 4th edn (2005). Susanna had begun to collect Catherine’s letters, but many had been destroyed and she died with the work unfinished. One surviving letter from CW to SW relates a dinner with some distinguished VIPs: ‘I had to talk politics in Italian and French, and felt I was making an awful hash of my languages!’. Another describes in detail at extraordinarily vivid dream about St Chrysostom; others from the 1870s express great anxiety about the threat of war. In 1908 Memorials of two Sisters was published by their niece Margaret J Shaen. See also the HS Occasional Paper, 2nd series no.2, Susanna and Catherine Winkworth (1992); and Robin A Leaver’s study of CW’s translations (1978). Julian, endorsed by T B Hewitt in 1918, rates her as ‘the foremost in rank and popularity’ among translators of German hymns, a position which has not been seriously challenged. Nos.161, 196, 349, 457, 556, 730, 761, 845.