Hymn translator and poet
(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 ÃƒÂ 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.
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". 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.
Notes from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory" by E.E. Cornwall.
Works by Frances Bevan
This collection contains English translations of some of the best-known German Pietist poems and hymns throughout the centuries. Characteristic of their Pietist authors, the hymns' contents are deeply personal and sometimes mystical. Fortunately, little beauty and meaning is lost in Bevan's fine translations. The works of Gerhard Tersteegen (1697- 1769) and Heinrich Seuse, also known as Henry Suso (1300-1366), among others, are included. With this second volume, Bevan expands his collection of translations with English renderings of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s lyrical poetry. The medieval Catholic nun, whom some consider an “evangelical witness” of her time, influenced many of the German hymnists that followed her with The Flowing Light of Divinity, her single written work.
This collection contains English translations of some of the best-known German Pietist poems and hymns throughout the centuries. Characteristic of their Pietist authors, the hymns' contents are deeply personal and sometimes mystical. Fortunately, little beauty and meaning is lost in Bevan's fine translations. The works of Gerhard Tersteegen (1697- 1769) and Heinrich Seuse, also known as Henry Suso (1300-1366), among others, are included.
Mechthild von Magdeburg, a German mystic of the 13th century, recorded descriptions of her visions of God in her book The Flowing Light of Divinity. More often than not, Mechthild recounted her visions in poetry rather than in prose. Passionately and exuberantly, she wrote of Heaven, Hell, and her unique and powerful love of Christ. Some scholars conjecture that Dante alluded to the German nun in his Divine Comedy with the character of Matelda. Frances Bevan, translator of German hymns by Gerhard Tersteegen and others, offers here an English translation of selections from Mechthild’s work.
The Friends of God are an informal group of Catholic mystics who organized themselves in Germany and Switzerland in the early 14th century. These Friends strove to deepen both their communal relationships as well as their inner spirituality. Tauler was a master of combining the mystical with the concrete, the spiritual with the practical. He taught that each human has a desire for God which is satisfied through detachment from earthly things. Suso also believed that to achieve perfect, soul-level union with God, a person had to die to himself and become detached from the world. History provides a "very imperfect sketch" of Nicholas Basle according to Bevan. For many years, Basle was thought to be the mysterious "Master" described in many of the Friends' documents, but it was later discovered that the Master was a fictional character. Bevan's book is a biographical narrative of these three Friends' lives complete with dialogue. They discuss numerous facets of Catholicism and mysticism, and readers interested in these subjects will enjoy the work.
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