Blessed are the Wholesome
John Keble was born on 25 April 1792 and passed away on 29 March 1866. He was an English churchman and verse writer, one of the leaders of the Oxford movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after John Keble.
Keble was born in Fairford, Gloucestershire, where his father, John Keble, was Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyns. He and his brother Thomas were schooled at home by their father until each went to Oxford. In the year 1806 John won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There, he executed brilliantly, and in the year 1810 fulfilled a Double First Class in Latin and Mathematics. In the year 1811, he won the University Prizes both for the English and Latin Essays and began to be a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. He was for a few years a tutor and examiner in the University.
While still at Oxford, he took Holy Orders in the year 1816, and began to be first a curate to his father, and later curate of St Michael and St Martin's Church, Eastleach Martin in Gloucestershire while still living in Oxford. On the demise of his mother in the year 1823, he left Oxford and returned to reside with his father and two surviving sisters at Fairford.
Between the year 1824 and 1835, he was three times recommended a position and each time rejected on the grounds that he ought not to separate himself from his father and only surviving sister. In the year 1828, he was nominated Provost of Oriel but not elected.
Meanwhile, he had been writing The Christian Year, a book of poems for the Sundays and feast days of the church year. It appeared in the year 1827 and was very beneficial in spreading Keble's devotional and theological opinions. It was planned as an aid to meditation and devotion following the services of the Prayer Book. Though at first anonymously, its authorship soon began to be known, with Keble in the year 1831 appointed to the Chair of Poetry at Oxford, which he held until 1841. The Victorian intellect Michael Wheeler calls the "The Christian Year" simply the "the most famous volume of poetry in the 19th century". In his composition on Tractarian Aesthetics and the Romantic Tradition, Gregory Goodwin insists that the "The Christian Year" is "Keble's significant contribution to the Oxford Movement and to English literature." As a proof, Goodwin cites E. B. Pusey's report that 95 editions of this sacred text were printed throughout Keble's lifetime, and "at the end of the year following his demise, the number had occurred to a hundred-and-nine".
By the time that the copyright ended in the year 1873, over 375,000 copies had been sold in Britain and 158 editions had been produced. Notwithstanding its worldwide appeal among the Victorian readers, the popularity of Keble's The Christian Year faded in the twentieth century, despite the familiarity of certain well-known songs of praises.
At Oxford, Keble met John Coleridge, who presented him to the writings not only of his uncle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but also of Wordsworth. He devoted his Praelectiones to and greatly appreciated Wordsworth, who once offered to go over The Christian Year with a view to correcting the English. To the similar university friend, he was indebted for an introduction to Robert Southey, whom he found to be "a virtuous and wonderful character," and the writings of the three, especially Wordsworth, had much to do with the formation of Keble's own mind as a verse writer.
In the year 1833, his popular Assize Sermon on "National Apostasy" gave the first impulse to the Oxford movement, also known as the Tractarian movement. It marked the beginning of a term of the civil and criminal courts and is formally addressed to the judges and officers of the court, encouraging them to deal fairly. Keble donated 7 pieces for Tracts for the Times, a series of short papers dealing with belief and practice. Along with his associates, including John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey, he began to be a leading light in the movement but did not accompany Newman into the Catholic Church.
In the year 1835, his father passed away, and Keble and his sister retired from Fairford to Coln. In the same year, he got married to Miss Clarke and the vicarage of Hursley, becoming vacant, was offered to him; he accepted. In the year 1836, he stayed in Hursley and remained for the rest of his life as a parish priest at All Saints Church. In the year 1841, neighbor, Charlotte Mary Yonge, homeowners in Otterbourne House in the adjacent village of Otterbourne, where Keble was responsible for constructing a new church, compiled The Child's Christian Year: Songs of praises for every Sunday and Holy-Day to which Keble contributed four poems, including Bethlehem, above all cities blest.
In the year 1857, he wrote one of his most significant works, his treatise on Eucharistical Adoration, written in support of George Denison, who had been attacked for his opinions on the Eucharist.
In the year 1830, he produced his edition of Hooker's Works. In the year 1838, he started to edit, in conjunction with Pusey and Newman, the Library of the Fathers. A volume of Academical and Occasional Sermons appeared in the year 1847. Additional works were a Life of Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man. After his demise, Letters of Spiritual Counsel and 12 volumes of Parish Sermons were produced.
Extracts from a number of his verses found their way into famous collections of Songs of Praises for Public Worship, such as "The Voice that Breathed o'er Eden", "Sun of my soul, You Savior dear, "Blessed are the pure in heart" and "New each morning is the devotion".
Lyra Innocentium was being written while Keble was stricken by what he always seems to have regarded as the great misery of his life, the choice of Newman to leave the Church of England for Catholicism.
Keble passed away in Bournemouth on 29 March 1866 at the Hermitage Hotel, after visiting the place to try and recover from a long term sickness as he believed the sea air had therapeutic qualities. He is buried in All Saints' graveyard, Hursley.