John Keble of Oxford

Priest and Poet

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John Keble of Oxford portrait
John Keble of Oxford
Priest and Poet

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John Keble proved himself a brilliant student at Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1815 and priest in 1816. After a period spent as a tutor at Oriel College, in 1823 he became assistant in his father’s parish in the Cotswolds. In 1827 he published The Christian Year, a book of religious poems. From this volume comes the well-known hymn, “New every morning is the love”. In 1831 he became professor of poetry at Oxford.

Keble became one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, along with J.H. Newman and E.B. Pusey. Keble’s famous sermon at Oxford in 1833, entitled “National Apostasy”, condemned the proposed political suppression of ten bishoprics in Ireland. Its emotive title reveals his vigorous stand against what he saw as a political attack on the divine authority of the church. This authority he saw as in need of defence, especially after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 and the Reform Bill of 1832.

Keble was humble, sociable and warm hearted. He was a passionate conservative, following the high church tradition. Because of his conservatism, he helped translate the writings of the early Christian fathers. His stance also enabled him to provide a steadying influence when Newman and others felt drawn to join the Roman Catholic Church. Like the majority of members of the Oxford Movement, Keble remained within the Church of England. Keble contributed a number of the movement’s “Tracts for the Times”.

Among the positive effects of this movement, was a greater concern for a high standard of worship and its ceremonial. There was also an increased awareness of the role and importance of the ordained ministry. One far reaching result of the Oxford Movement was the establishment of a number of religious communities.

John Keble’s flair for bringing the ancient values of the church to bear on its contemporary practice continued throughout his life and work. His genuine and deep humility and integrity earned him wide respect, both during his lifetime and since. He became vicar of Hursley in 1836, a position he retained till his death in 1866. In 1870 Keble College, Oxford, was established in his memory.

BORN: 25 April 1792, Fairford, Gloucestershire, England

DIED: 29 March 1866 (aged 73), The Hermitage Hotel, Bournemouth, England