Christopher Wordsworth

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Christopher Wordsworth, undated drawing by an anonymous artist.
Christopher Wordsworth, undated drawing by an anonymous artist.

Christopher Wordsworth (30 October 1807 – 20 March 1885) was an English bishop and man of letters.



Wordsworth was born in London, the youngest son of the Rev. Dr. Christopher Wordsworth, Master of Trinity and a nephew of the poet William Wordsworth. He was the younger brother of the classical scholar John Wordsworth and Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of Saint Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity, Cambridge.[1] Like his brother Charles, he was distinguished as an athlete as well as for scholarship. He won the Chancellor's Gold Medal for poetry in 1827 and 1828.[2]

He became senior classic, and was elected a fellow and tutor of Trinity in 1830; shortly afterwards he took holy orders. He went for a tour in Greece in 1832-1833, and published various works on its topography and archaeology, the most famous of which is "Wordsworth's" Greece (1839). In 1836 he became Public Orator at Cambridge, and in the same year was appointed Headmaster of Harrow, a post he resigned in 1844. In 1844 Sir Robert Peel appointed him as a Canon of Westminster[3] (1844–1869). He was Vicar of Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire (1850–1869) and Archdeacon of Westminster (1864–1869). In 1869 Benjamin Disraeli appointed him Bishop of Lincoln which he retained until his death in 1885.[3]

He was a man of fine character, with a high ideal of ecclesiastical duty, and he spent his money generously on church objects.


As a scholar he is best known for his edition of the Greek New Testament (1856–1860), and the Old Testament (1864–1870), with commentaries; but his writings were many in number, and included a volume of devotional verse, The Holy Year (1862), Church History up to A.D. 451 (1881–1883), and Memoirs of his uncle, William Wordsworth (1851), to whom he was literary executor. His Inscriptiones Pompeianae (1837) was an important contribution to epigraphy. He also wrote several hymns (Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard contains seven) of which perhaps the best known is the Easter hymn 'Alleluia, Alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise'.

  • The New Testament ... in the Original Greek: With Notes by C. Wordsworth. [With] an Index to the Introductions and Notes, by John Twycross,<ref>Scrivener A plain introduction to the criticism of the New Testament 1861 p150 notes"John Twycross, of the Charter House, re-collated the whole manuscript in 1858". The death of Rev. John Twycross MA Dublin aged 72 is recorded in The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 224 1868 p260</ref> 2 Vols.


  • Athens and Attica, 1836
  • Ancient Writings Copied from the Walls of Pompeii, 1837
  • Greece, Pictoral, Descriptive, and Historical, 1839
  • Theophilus Anglicanus, 1843
  • On the Canon of the Scriptures, 1848
  • Lectures on the Apocalypse, 1849
  • Memoirs of William Wordsworth, 1851
  • Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1856–70
  • The Holy Year; or Hymns for Sundays and Holydays Throughout the Year, and for Other Occasions, 1863
  • Church History, 1881–83


  • Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven and Voices Raise
  • Arm These Thy Soldiers, Mighty Lord
  • Father of All, from Land and Sea
  • Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost
  • Hallelujah! Christ Is Risen
  • Hark! the Sound of Holy Voices
  • Heav’nly Father, Send Thy Blessing
  • Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
  • Lord, Be Thy Word My Rule
  • O Day of Rest and Gladness
  • O Lord of Heaven and Earth and Sea
  • O Lord, Our Strength in Weakness
  • See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph
  • Sing, O Sing, This Blessed Morn
  • Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
  • The Day Is Gently Sinking to a Close
  • The Grave Itself a Garden Is


In 1838 Wordsworth married Susanna Hartley Frere (d. 1884) and had seven children. The elder son, John (1843–1911), was Bishop of Salisbury, founder of Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury, and author of Fragments of Early Latin (1874); the eldest daughter, Elizabeth (1840–1932), was the founder (in 1878) of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and its first principal in 1879. His daughter Dora married Edward Tucker Leeke, Canon and sub-dean of Lincoln Cathedral. His younger son Christopher (1848–1938) was a noted liturgical scholar.

His Life, by J. H. Overton and Elizabeth Wordsworth, was published in 1888.


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