Sunday, 31 January 2016

Reginald Heber (21 April 1783 – 3 April 1826)




Reginald Heber was an English clergyman, traveller, man of letters and hymn-writer who, after working as a country parson for 16 years, served as the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta until his sudden death at the age of 42.


The son of a wealthy landowner and clergyman, Heber gained an early reputation at Oxford University as a poet. After graduation he expanded his view of the world by undertaking, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, an extended tour of Scandinavia, Russia and central Europe. He was ordained in 1807, and took over his father's old parish of Hodnet in Shropshire. He combined his pastoral duties with other church offices, hymn-writing, and more general literary work which included a critical study of the complete works of the 17th-century cleric Jeremy Taylor.

Heber was consecrated Bishop of Calcutta in October 1823. During his short episcopate he travelled widely in the areas of India within his diocese, and worked hard to improve the spiritual and general living conditions of his flock. A combination of arduous duties, hostile climate and indifferent health brought about his collapse and death while visiting Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirappalli). On 3 April, after attending an early-morning service at which he gave a blessing in the Tamil language, Heber returned to his bungalow for a cold bath. Immediately after plunging into the water he died, possibly from the shock of the cold water in the intense heat.

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