'Abide with me', 'The day thou gavest Lord is ended', 'All things bright and beautiful': a century and more after they were written Victorian hymns like these have an enduring popularity. This book examines the Victorian hymn from a literary, theological and cultural point of view. It traces its contemporary impact and its continuing influence in churches, public popularity, parody and literary references. In a way that has not been done before, Ian Bradley traces the importance of hymns in Victorian novels, explores the extraordinary political and social ramifications of Victorian hymnody, and assesses the literary and musical importance of the genre. Written in a lively and anecdotal style, this book punctures some of the myths about Victorian hymns, showing that the themes of doubt, humility and political and social radicalism surface just as much as those of triumphalism, imperialism and conservatism. 'Ian Bradley tells his story lucidly, from the disappearance of the chaotic and cheerful gallery musicians so beloved of Thomas Hardy, to the gospel songs of Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey. He moves easily between the novelist, the theologian and the musician.
He introduces the story with a striking analogy: hymns played much the same role in Victorian culture that soap operas do among us today ...it is a good curtain-raiser for a serious, indeed learned, but never humourless book' - Lord Runcie, "Daily Telegraph". 'I was so gripped by this book that I could not put it down. Here is invaluable resource material dealing with a period of hymnody which has never before been researched in such depth. In this eminently readable survey, we are left in no doubt as to the merits or otherwise of nineteenth-century hymnody' - Dr Lionel Dakers, formerly Director of the Royal School of Music.