Who was John Keble?
John Keble was a poet, theologian, an eminent educator, and a man of the Church. He is commonly known as the initiator of ‘The Oxford Movement’ which was a process to revive the older Anglo-Christian teachings.
The early life of John Keble
Born on 25 April 1792 in Fairford, Gloucestershire, John Keble hailed from a Vicar family of Coln St. Aldwyns. He was home-schooled by his father and was later sent to Oxford.
During his time at Oxford, he performed exceptionally well winning a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, securing a Double First Class in Latin and Mathematics and later winning prizes for his essays in English and Latin.
His academic achievements didn’t end here. He was made a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford and also worked as a tutor and an examiner at the University. During this period, he was ordained a curate to his father and later curate of St. Michael and St. Martin’s Church in Gloucestershire.
However, he had to leave Oxford after his mother’s untimely passing in 1823 and return to his childhood home with his father and his sisters. In the next ten years, he was offered a position at Oxford for about three times however he chose not to accept it to stay with his family.
The Oxford movement and John Keble
John Keble’s Assize Sermon on ‘National Apostasy’ in 1833 created history and sparked ‘The Oxford Movement’ by addressing Judges and officers of the Civil and Criminal Courts and appealing them to conduct their affairs in a fair and just manner.
Popularly known as the Tractarianism after a series of publications called the ‘Tract for the Times’, this Movement saw the contribution of several scholars like John Henry Newman, Edward Pusey and Isaac Williams along with Keble who wrote seven pieces for the papers.
Although a prominent figure of the movement, he did not choose the same path has his fellow member Newman into Roman Catholicism and returned to curacy at Hursley.
Later life of John Keble
The year 1835 marked the death of Keble’s father and Keble moved to Coln with his only surviving sister. He was also offered vicarage and got married. He continued to live and quiet and content life till his death in 1866 at the Hermitage Hotel, after visiting the area to try and recover from a long-term illness as he believed the sea air had therapeutic qualities.
Poems and Hymns of John Keble
Keble never stopped writing all through his life and published several wonderful books. Out of all his works, the most widely known is ‘The Christian Year’ (1825) which is a compilation of poems dedicated to every religious day in the Christian calendar such as Ash Wednesday, All Saints Day, Advent Sunday and such.
In 1846, he wrote a volume of poems called ‘Lyra Innocentium’ which related the teachings of the Church with raising children although he didn’t have any of his own. Another of his gifts to English Literature and the Church was his collection of hymns. They remain popular till date and are still sung in Churches. One such hymn is ‘New Every Morning Is the Love’.
Legacy of John Keble
His iconic ‘Assize Sermon’ of 14th July 1833 is still remembered by celebrating its Anniversary as ‘Keble’s Feast Day’. Owing to his marvellous achievements in the field of Academia, Oxford’s ‘Keble College’ is named after him.
The John Keble Church of Mill Hill was founded in his name and an old clapper bridge in the village of Eastleach Martin, where he spent time in his youth is also named after him.