Sabine Baring-Gould

From Academic Kids

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834January 2 1924) was an English Victorian hagiographer, antiquarian, novelist and eclectic scholar. His bibliography lists over 500 separate publications. His family home in Devon, Lewtrenchard Manor, has been successfully preserved as he rebuilt it and is today an hotel. He is particularly remembered as a writer of hymns, the best-known being Onward, Christian Soldiers and Now the Day is Over.

He regarded as his principal achievement 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 of the West (1889–91), was the first collection published for the mass market, Though he had to modify the words of some songs which were too rude for Victorian ears, he left his original manuscripts for future students of folk song. His work preserved many beautiful pieces of music and their lyrics which otherwise might have been lost.

Baring-Gould produced a second collection called A Garland of Country Songs. For a second edition of Songs of the West (1905) he collaborated with the collector Cecil Sharp. They also produced English Folk Songs for Schools in 1907. This collection of 53 songs was adopted for the UK schools curriculum, for the next 60 years.

Sharp dedicated his English Folk Song—Some Conclusions to Baring-Gould. The folk-song manuscripts from Baring-Gould's personal library and from public libraries have been puublished as a microfiche edition available for study in the main Devon Libraries and other places. In addition 30 boxes of unpublished manuscript material on other topics (the Killerton manuscripts) are kept in the Devon County Record Office.

Baring-Gould wrote many novels, a 16-volume Lives of the Saints, and the biography of the eccentric poet-vicar of Morwenstow, Robert Stephen Hawker. His folkloric studies resulted in The Book of Were-Wolves (1865), one of the most frequently cited studies of lycanthropy. Half-way through, the topic changes to crimes only vaguely connected to werewolves, including grave desecration and cannibalism. Stories of his own eccentricity have been exaggerated. He did once, while teaching at Hurstpierpoint, have his pet bat on his shoulder.

While a curate in Horbury in Yorkshire, Baring-Gould met a mill girl named Grace Taylor. He sent her away to be educated, and then married her in 1868. The couple had 15 children.

One grandson, William Stuart Baring-Gould, was a noted Sherlock Holmes scholar who wrote a fictional biography of the great detective—in which, to make up for the lack of information about Holmes's early life, he based his account on the childhood of Sabine Baring-Gould.

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