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The Story Of The Hymns And Tunes by John Brown (of Wamphray)


When the lapse of time and accumulation of fresh material suggested the need of a new and revised edition of Mr. Hezekiah Butterworth's Story of the Hymns, which had been a popular text book on that subject for nearly a generation, the publishers requested him to prepare such a work, reviewing the whole field of hymnology and its literature down to date. He undertook the task, but left it unfinished at his lamented death, committing the manuscript to me in his last hours to arrange and complete.

To do this proved a labor of considerable magnitude, since what had been done showed evidence of the late author's failing strength, and when, in a conference with the publishers, it was proposed to combine the two books of Mr. Butterworth, the Story of the Hymns and the Story of the Tunes, in one volume, the task was doubled.

The charming popular style and story-telling gift of the well-known compiler of these books had kept them in demand, the one for thirty and the other for fifteen years, but later information had discounted some of their historic and biographical matter, and, while many of the monographs were too meagre, others were unduly long. Besides, the Story of the Tunes, so far from being the counterpart of the Story of the Hymns, bore no special relationship to it, only a small portion of its selections answering to any in the hymn-list of the latter book. For a personal friend and practically unknown writer, to follow Mr. Butterworth, and |improve| his earlier work to the more modern conditions, was a venture of no little difficulty and delicacy. The result is submitted as simply a conscientious effort to give the best of the old with the new.

So far as was possible, matter from the two previous books, and from the crude manuscript, has been used, and passages here and there transcribed, but so much of independent plan and original research has been necessary in arranging and verifying the substance of the chapters that the Story of the Hymns and Tunes is in fact a new volume rather than a continuation. The chapter containing the account of the Gospel Hymns is recent work with scarcely an exception, and the one on the Hymns of Wales is entirely new.

Without increasing the size of this volume beyond easy purchase and convenient use, it was impossible to discuss the great oratorios and dramatic set-pieces, festival and occasional, and only passing references are made to them or their authors.

Among those who have helped me in my work special acknowledgements are due to Mr. Hubert P. Main of Newark, N.J.; Messrs. Hughes & Son of Wrexham, Wales; the American Tract Society, New York; Mr. William T. Meek, Mrs. A.J. Gordon, Mr. Paul Foster, Mr. George Douglas, and Revs. John R. Hague and Edmund F. Merriam of Boston; Professor William L. Phelps of New Haven, Conn.; Mrs. Ellen M.H. Gates of New York; Rev. Franklin G. McKeever of New London, Conn.; and Rev. Arthur S. Phelps of Greeley, Colorado. Further obligations are gratefully remembered to Oliver Ditson & Co. for answers to queries and access to publications, to the Historic-and-Geneological Society and the custodians and attendants of the Boston Public Library (notably in the Music Department) for their uniform courtesy and pains in placing every resource within my reach.


Boston, May 15th, 1906.

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