Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§9 Cecil Frances (Fanny) Alexander
(1818–1895)

Fanny Alexander was born in 1818 in Dublin, Ireland, the second daughter of Major John Humphreys and Elizabeth Frances Reed. In 1833, the family moved to Milltown House in Strabane, County Tyrone, where Major Humphreys served as agent to the Marquess of Abercorn. While living at Milltown House, Alexander wrote some of her best-known poetry and hymns. In 1846, she published Verses for Holy Seasons, and in 1848 Hymns for Little Children was published, with a preface by John Keble. The purpose of this immensely popular collection was to explain the Apostles' Creed to children using concrete images in hymns. "Where was Jesus born?" was answered by "Once in Royal David's City"; the answer to "Why did he have to die?" was found in "There is a Green Hill Far Away." Alexander's poetry reflected her interest in the teachings of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement; this movement and its leaders continued to influence her throughout her life.

In 1850 Alexander was married to the Reverend William Alexander, a supporter of the Oxford Movement and rector of a parish in County Tyrone, Ireland. She became devoted to parish work. She continued to write and publish poetry when health and other responsibilities allowed. Her early hymn writing was so highly regarded that she was consulted by Sir Henry Baker

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