Notes from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory" by E.E. Cornwall:
Mrs Emma Frances Bevan was the daughter of the Right Rev. Philip Nicholas Shuttleworth, sometime Bishop of Chichester. She was born on Sept. 25th. 1827, at Oxford. On April 30th. 1856 she married Robert Cooper Lee Bevan, banker of Fosbury Manor, Wilts. and Trent Park, Middlesex. She died in her own house, 'Chalet Pasiflora', Cannes, on Feb. 13th. 1909, and was buried at Cockfosters, Herts., being interred in the family vault in the church outside Trent Park.
The hymns of Frances Bevan are chiefly translations from German Pietists (so-called) of the Middle Ages. There is found in them that mystical touch, that indefinable quality (also found in the hymns of J.N. Darby) that reached the inmost recesses of the soul, and calls for the deepest language of the spirit. By her beautiful translations, Mrs. Bevan has taught us something of that wealth of hymnology found in the German language; and in her interesting prose works "Three friends of God", "Sketches of the Quiet in the Land", [and "Trees Planted by the River", F.W.] she has drawn aside the curtain and revealed the atmosphere and environment of the hymnists themselves.
She says, "How distinct was their witness to the truth of the Gospel may be early seen by comparing their writings with those of the true servants of God who remained under the influence of Roman Catholicism only. A comparison of Thomas Á Kempis with Johann Tauler will serve as an instance of this contrast. In the case of the latter the present possession and enjoyment of eternal life; in the case of the former an earnest and true desire to attain that possession. In the latter, peace and joy, the starting point; in the former, the goal to be reached by strenuous effort". The translations of Mrs. Bevan have exercised a deep influence upon the hearts of those to whom her poetry more particularly made its appeal, i.e. those with whom she was linked in assembly fellowship.
Writing of German hymnology, the late Philip Schaff said, "It surpasses all others in wealth. These hymns are an eloquent witness for the all-conquering and invincible life-power of an evangelical Christian faith. Those possessed of the greatest vigour and unction, full of the most exulting faith and the richest comfort, had their origin amid the nameless miseries of the Thirty Years War". (1618-1648).
Mrs. Bevan's first volume of verse was published in 1858 as "Songs of Eternal Life"; but it was too bulky and costly to command a large sale; it consisted of translations only. Her second volume came out in 1859 as "Songs of Praise for Christian Pilgrims", but later on in her life she no longer regarded this series with approval. Her third volume appeared many years later (1884) as "Service of Song in the House of the Lord". These three books are now out of print. Ten years later (1895) "Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso and Others" was published; soon followed by the second series as "Hymns of Ter Steegen and Others"; these two books containing the best that had already come out. Mrs. Bevan's last poetical work, "Come, a Selection of Gospel Hymns" is dated 1902, but does not reach the excellence of those written earlier. Among her prose works, linked up with Church History, are two valuable little biographies, "The Life of William Farel" and "The Story of John Wesley".
A comparison between Mrs. Bevan and her contemporary Miss Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) is not without interest. The latter, born 3 years later, had a rare poetic gift, and has been called "The Poetess of the Anglo-Catholic revival". Zealous and devoted, there can be no question of the beauty of her verse. Of a similar temperament, Mrs. Bevan herself, before her marriage, had been attracted by "High Church" claims and might have been drawn into that movement, had she not met certain brethren in Christ, taught by God's word. Mrs. Bevan being set free to walk in "newness of life" was content to lay aside "dead works" and those things "which all are to perish with the using".
"Sweetest rest and peace have filled me,
Sweeter peace than tongues can tell;
God is satisfied with Jesus,
I am satisfied as well".
When Mrs. Bevan was born at Oxford in 1827, her father Philip Nicholas Shuttleworth was Warden of New College. In 1842 he became Bishop of Chichester, but died two years later, leaving her fatherless at seventeen. He was opposed to Puseyism and wrote "Scripture not Tradition", a work of "great force and learning".
When a girl, Mrs Bevan was taught by a German governess, and became interested in Gothic art and medieval Christianity; and later on she was much attached to the family of Baron von Bunsen, at one time Prussian ambassador to England, whose scholarly attainments largely influenced her study of German literature.
Mrs. Bevan has given us glimpses of her own life story in two little biographies she has written, "Reminiscences of Ada Frances Bevan" is the touching story of her eldest child, taken from her at the age of four. The other biography, "Recollections of R.C.L. Bevan", is a memoir of her husband, a Christian banker, whose leisure was given so simply, yet fruitfully to God. In this narrative, we read that Frances Shuttleworth (as she was then) came to the house of Mr. Bevan to Bible Readings that made a lasting impression on her, being then 27 years of age; and Mrs. Bevan goes on to say, "As time passed on, I was no more a visitor but at home in his home". She was married to Mr. Bevan when 29, and 3 sons and 6 daughters were born into that happy household.
Adrian Roach in his history of the Little Flock Hymn Book relates concerning Mrs. Bevan:
"She met with those who, according to Matt. 18:20, were gathered to the Lord's Name and its authority, but was perplexed and saddened by the Stuart division in 1885. She and her husband spent more time in Europe, and after his death in 1890, she spent her time at Cannes, France. Various brethren came there from time to time to remember the Lord in His death in the breaking of bread".
Mrs. Bevan's hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are:
57 On the Lamb our souls are resting
164 Lord, we love to trace Thy footprints (Adapted)
352 From the palace of His glory
These are three excellent hymns. The last two are often sung at the breaking of bread. As long as the saints are left here in this world waiting for the coming of the Lord, Mrs. Bevan, though dead, will continue to speak through her beautiful hymns.