John Mason Neale

Anglican author, historian and hymn-writer


January 24, 1818
August 6, 1866


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Born in London, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, Neale was ordained deacon in 1841 and priest in 1842. As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he was one of the founders of the Cambridge Camden Society. Neale's strong High Church views and support of Puseyism embroiled him in lifelong controversy and militated against any ecclesiastical appointments. After a brief pastorate in Crawley, Sussex, in 1842, his poor health prompted residence in Madeira. He returned to England in 1845. The following year he became warden of Sackville College, a charitable institution in East Grinstead.

That position he held until his death two decades later. In it he had the opportunity to exercise his interests in human welfare and in writing. His extensive charitable efforts included prominently the founding of the nursing Sisterhood of St. Margaret, which eventually came to include an orphanage, a school for girls, and a home for fallen women.

An accomplished linguist, said to have known as many as twenty languages, he was a prolific writer, authoring some seventy publications and numerous hymns. His works include essays, commentaries, books for children, and a compilation of hymns. Neal's fame as a hymnologist rests not only in his numerous original compositions but also in his translations of ancient and medieval hymns, an area in which he has hardly had an equal. His translations include works of Bernard of Cluny, Theodolf, and Prudentius. His poetical works won him the Seatonian prize on eleven occasions. His frail health, in combination with his heavy labors and years of controversy contributed to his early death. His works include Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862), Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863), and The History of the Holy Eastern Church (five volumes, 1847-1873).

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