Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Caswall, Edward

CASWALL, EDWARD (1814–1878), divine and poet, was son of the Rev. Robert Clarke Caswall, and younger brother of Dr. Henry Caswall, prebendary of Salisbury. He was born on 15 July 1814 at Yateley, Hampshire, where his father was vicar. He was educated at Marlborough and at Brasenose College, Oxford, of which society he was Hulme exhibitioner. He graduated B.A. in 1836 and M.A. in 1838. After ordination he was presented to the perpetual curacy of Stratford-sub-Castle, Wiltshire, in the diocese of his uncle, Dr. Burgess, bishop of Salisbury [q. v.] This living he resigned shortly before his reception into the Roman catholic church in January 1847. Two years later he became a widower, and in March 1850 he joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, under Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Newman, whose acquaintance he had made at the house of Lord Shrewsbury, and to whose writings he always attributed his conversion to the catholic faith. In one of his numerous lyrics, beginning, ‘Hail, sacred Force! hail Energy sublime!’ Caswall bore eloquent tribute to the influence exercised over him by Dr. Newman's magic pen. While at Oxford Caswall had given evidence of considerable humour and literary skill in two pamphlets by ‘Scriblerus Redivivus’ entitled ‘Pluck Examination Papers’ (1836) and ‘A new Art, teaching how to be plucked, being a treatise after the fashion of Aristotle’ (1837); and before his secession from the established church he published a collection of thoughtful ‘Sermons on the Seen and Unseen’ (London, 1846, 8vo). Afterwards he acquired distinction as a sacred poet, and some of his hymns, original and translated, are known wherever the English language is spoken. He died at the Oratory, Edgbaston, near Birmingham, on 2 Jan. 1878, and was buried at Rednall, near Bromsgrove, in the private cemetery belonging to the Birmingham Oratory.

He published several devotional works, translated for the most part from the French, and was also the author of: 1. ‘Lyra Catholica, containing all the Breviary and Missal Hymns; with others from various sources,’ translated, London, 1849, 1884, 32mo; New York, 1851, 12mo. 2. ‘The Masque of Mary, and other poems,’ London, 1858, 8vo. 3. ‘A May Pageant, and other poems,’ London, 1865, 16mo.

[Birmingham Daily Post, 4 Jan. 1878; Guardian, 9 Jan. 1878, p. 41; Weekly Register, 19 Jan. 1878, p. 38, columns 1 and 3; Cat. of Oxford Graduates (1851), 117; Preface to Shipley's Annus Sanctus; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. i. 429; Postscript to Gondon's Conversion de 500 Ministres Anglicains; Gondon's Les récentes Conversions de l'Angleterre, 227; Browne's Annals of the Tractarian Movement, 145; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.]

T. C.