Sabine Baring-Gould, English clergyman, folksong collector, novelist and writer. Born Exeter, 28 Jan 1834; died Lewtrenchard, Devon, 2 Jan 1924.
Educated at Cambridge, Baring-Gould was ordained in 1864. On his father’s death in 1872 he inherited the family estates at Lewtrenchard, where he became rector in 1881, and served as a Justice of the Peace. He travelled widely and wrote extensively on both theological and more general topics. He was the author of the words of many well-known hymns, Onward, Christian Soldiers being the best known example.
Baring-Gould was also a pioneer in the collection of English folksong: between 1888 and 1891 he published 110 songs, transcribed from performances by singers in Devon and Cornwall, as Songs and Ballads of the West. This collection was made jointly with the Rev. H.F. Sheppard, sub-dean of the Savoy Chapel. The two men collaborated also on A Garland of Country Song (1895) and English Minstrelsie (1895–6).
Although Baring-Gould has been criticised for his bowdlerisation - indeed, in some cases, rewriting - of many of the songs that he collected, it is worth remembering that as a collector he was preceded in England only by John and Lucy Broadwood’s Sussex Songs (1843, 1888). Baring-Gould and Sheppard's publications came several years earlier than the folksong collections of W.A. Barrett, Frank Kidson, John Stokoe and J.A. Fuller Maitland. Cecil Sharp’s revision of Songs and Ballads of the West (1905) reflects the influence of Baring-Gould’s early work on Sharp’s own choice of collecting ground.
Sabine Baring-Gould and the folk songs of South-West England - site maintained by Martin Graebe.
Essay on English Folk-Music - from volume VII of Baring-Gould's English Minstrelsie: a National Monument of English Song.