Heber, Reginald, 1783—1826
by Benjamin Colbert
Reginald Heber, poet and Bishop of Calcutta, was born on 21 April 1783, at Malpas, Cheshire, the eldest son of Reginald Heber, rector of Hodnet, Shropshire, and Mary Heber, née Allanson. He was educated in Whitchurch and London, and in 1800 matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1804 he was elected fellow of All Souls, Oxford. His poem, ‘Palestine’ won a university prize, and Heber recited it at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, in 1803.
He toured Scandinavia, Russia, the Crimea, and Eastern Europe from July 1805 to October 1806, afterwards settling to the task of establishing himself in the church, first as rector of Hodnet from 1807. In 1809, he married Amelia Shipley, the daughter of the Dean of St Asaph’s Cathedral, William Davies Shipley (1745-1826; ODNB), and continued at Hodnet while also earning further recognition as a poet through his volumes Europe (1809) and Poems and Translations (1812). Through his father-in-law’s influence he became prebendary of St Asaph’s Cathedral from 1817. After the birth of his eldest daughter, Emily, in 1821, he took up a post as preacher to Lincoln’s Inn (1822), and the following year he received his appointment as Bishop of Calcutta.
In October 1823, the Hebers arrived in Calcutta. In the three years that followed, Heber undertook missions to Anglican communities around India and Ceylon. The most extensive of these journeys was in 1824-25, across northern India, following the Ganges, the Kumoan Mountains, and through the Rajputana deserts, returning to Calcutta via Ceylon. In February 1826, Reginald embarked for South India and died unexpectedly on 3 April in Trichinopoly.
Over the next three years, Heber’s widow, Amelia, worked to preserve her husband’s memory through editing and publishing his literary works, including Hymns (1827), the Narrative of a Journey (1828), based on his 1824-25 tour, and Sermons (1829). In 1830 she published The Life of Reginald Heber in 2 volumes, including a reconstruction of Heber’s earlier Russian tour, unpublished letters, and other materials, assuring the survival of his memory and reputation in the years to come.
Heber, Amelia. The Life of Reginald Heber, D.D. Lord Bishop of Calcutta. By His Widow. With Selections from His Correspondence, Unpublished Poems, and Private Papers; Together with a Journal of His Tour in Norway, Sweden, Russia, Hungary and Germany, and a History of the Cossaks. 2 vols. London: John Murray. MDCCCXXX . Print.
Heber, Amelia, and Reginald Heber. MS Letters. Eur F88 271, 274. British Lib., London.
Laird, Michael. 'Heber, Reginald (1783–1826), bishop of Calcutta'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 31 Aug. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/12853
|Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India||1828|