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Anglican priest and writer.
Baring-Gould’s bibliography consists of more than 1240 publications, but he is now largely remembered as a writer of hymns.
His most famous hymn is Onward, Christian Soldiers, whose words were written in 1865 and set to music by Arthur Sullivan in 1871.
Baring-Gould himself thought his main achievement was the collection of folk songs that he made with the help of the ordinary people of Devon and Cornwall. His first book of songs, Songs and Ballads of the West (1889–91), was published in four parts between 1889 and 1891. The musical editor for this collection was Henry Fleetwood Sheppard.Baring-Gould and Sheppard produced a second collection named A Garland of Country Songs during 1895.
Baring-Gould was also a prolific novelist and in 1880 published Mehalah, a Gothic story of mad obsession, horror and murder that caused a sensation at the time and was compared by critics such as Swinburne to Wuthering Heights. It was written during the period from 1871 to 1881 when he was Rector of East Mersea (the island near Colchester) and absorbed the bleak landscape of salt marshes and river he evokes so well in the book.
John Herring ("A west of England Romance"), published in 1883, was also popular.
This is an important 2-page letter on headed notepaper (Lew Tenchard, N.Devon, Sept 12, 1885), handwritten in purple ink, in which Baring-Gould writes to a reader who has asked him to explain his motivation "in writing such a horrible story as Mehalah". He does so (sort of), and goes on to explain his motivation in writing John Herring.
He writes (in full):
“What was my motive in writing such a horrible story as Mehalah?”
No motive at all. It came after a day’s row among the fleets about Red Hall & a lunch in the room with the little triangular window, with the wind wailing through the broken glass. It came the whole story with a leap out of my head the night after. It is in keeping with the weird, desolate, hopeless, cheerless surroundings, all unlovely, all grey and colourless.
It could not end otherwise. There was no purpose at all in this story.
It was other with John Herring in that there was purpose but not one reviewer detected it. I wished to contrast three consciences, the nascent rude natural conscience in Joyce (Cobbledick), the highly artificially overtrained conscience in Mirelle & the untutored but healthy conscience in John Herring. He and Mirelle both do wrong, unconsciously, he because he does not clearly see the true right & wrong in a subtle question of conscience, she does cruel wrong by acting strictly according to hard & fast rule.
Then, I wanted to show in him how real life only begins after a series of educative failures & stress, that is why I called my last chapter “Introductory”, he is almost characterless throughout the story, but his character forms through it, and is fixed at last, but only in the last chapter.
There is one horizontal and one vertical correspondence fold. Condition is very good. The letter comes with its original envelope.