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Henry Alford

Henry Alford was an English Churchman, theologian, scholar poet, hymnodist and writer.

He was born in London, of a Somerset Family, which had given five consecutive generations of clergymen to the Anglican Church. Alford’s early years were passed with his widowed father, who was curate of Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire. He was a precocious boy and before he was ten years of age he had written several Latin odes, a history of the Jews and a series of affable outlines. After a peripatetic school course he went to Trinity College Cambridge, in 1827 as a scholar. In 1832 he was 34th wrangler and then two years later was made a fellow of Trinity College.

He had already taken orders and in 1835 began his eighteenth year tenure of the vicarage of Wymeswold in Leicestershire from which seclusion the twice repeated offer of a colonial bishopric failed to draw him. He was Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge between 1841-1842, and steadily built up a reputation as scholar and preacher.

In September 1853 Henry Alford moved to Quebec Street Chapel, Marylebone, London, where he had a large congregation. In March 1857 Lord Palmerston advanced Alford to deanery of Canterbury, where until his death he lived the same energetic and diverse lifestyle as ever.

Alford was a talented artist, as his picture book, ‘The Riviera’ shows, and he had abundant musical talent. Besides editing the works of John Donne, he published several volumes of his own verse, and a number of hymns, the best known of which are ‘Come, ye thankful people, come’ and ‘Ten Thousand times ten thousand’.

His chief fame rests on his monumental edition of the New Testament in Greek which occupied him from 1841-1861. Alford subsequently published the New Testament for English Readers and then in 1873 his widow wrote a book entitled 'His Life'.

Phil Taylor

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