Hymn #299: For All the Saints

William Walsham How (1823-1897) wrote this hymn in eleven stanzas, which was published in the 1864 collection Hymns for Saints’ Days and Other Hymns by a Layman.  The “layman” referred to in the title was Earl Nelson, a relative of England’s famous Admiral Nelson.

William W. How was born December 13, 1823, in Shrewsbury, England, and rose in the Church of England to be suffragan bishop of Bedford, East London.  A plain, unassuming man, he often turned down appointments to more-prestigious positions without even consulting his family.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed this tune for The English Hymnal (1906) as an alternative to SARUM, with which this text had been associated for many years.  The title, SINE NOMINE (or “without a name”), may refer to the saints whose names are known only to God.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s name became connected with religious music when he was asked to help edit The English Hymnal (1906).  This work had a great influence on the standards of music in churches in England and the United States.  The hymnal remained in use for over sixty years.