Winkworth, Catherine (1827–1878), was the fourth and youngest daughter in a family of six children born to Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, England. She was born on September 13, 1827, at Ely Place, Holborn, in London but spent most of her childhood and youth near Manchester. Robin Leaver, in his book Catherine Winkworth: The Influence of Her Translations on English Hymnody (1978) confirms the 1827 birthdate with the comment “not 1829 as in Julian.” All in her family were very devout members of the Church of England, and her home was filled with with much prayer and hymn singing. Most of Catherine’s education was received at home through governesses and private tutors, including Rev. William Gaskell, with whom she studied German, chemistry, music, Greek, astronomy, and philosophy. After her mother’s death in 1841 and her father’s remarriage in 1845, she and her sister Selina went to live with an aunt in Dresden. Her stay in Germany kindled her interest translating German into English and increased her ability.

She was strongly influenced by her sister Susanna who, like Catherine, never married and who believed that women should earn their own living. After 1862, when she moved with her father and sisters to Clifton in Bristol, Catherine devoted her life to promoting higher education for women. She established a school that led to the founding of University College in Bristol, was secretary of the Clifton Association for the Promotion of Higher Education for Women from 1870 on, and was an active participant in other societies that fostered the education of women. She was governor of the Red Maids’ School of Bristol; a member of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College (1871); and a delegate to the German conference on women’s work held in Darmstadt in 1872, at which she delivered an address in German. Because of ill health, Catherine left for Switzerland in 1877 to be with her brother-in-law, who was recuperating there. She died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 50 on July 1, 1878, and was buried at Monnetier in France, near Geneva, Switzerland. Her sister Susanna began a written memorial tribute to Catherine but died before she was able to finish it. Their niece completed the effort, added some long letters from Susanna, and titled her book Memorials of Two Sisters, Susanna and Catherine Winkworth (1908). A recent book by Peter Skrine dealing with these two sisters, entitled Susanna and Catherine Winkworth: Clifton, Manchester and the German Connection was published in 1991.

With nearly four hundred translations of the texts of more than 170 authors from every period of German hymnwriting, Winkworth was one of the most prolific and able translators of German hymns into English. At one time she wrote, “I am doing them at the rate of one a day when I can get a day to myself.” It is also generally agreed that as to faithfulness toward the original, clearness of thought, and flow of the language, she was not surpassed. In the preface of the first volume of her Lyra Germanica, she expressed

the hope that these utterances of Christian piety, which have comforted and strengthened thehearts of many true Christians in their native country, may speak to the hearts of some among us,to help and cheer those who must strive and suffer, and to make us feel afresh what a deep andtrue Communion of Saints exists among all the children of God in different churches and lands.

Her publications were the following:

Lyra Germanica; Hymns for the Sundays and chief festivals of the Christian year (1855; which wentthrough 23 editions and contained 103 translations of hymns selected from Christian Carl Bunsen’s Versuch eines allgemeinen evangelischen Gesang und Gebetbuch of 1833, which contained 934 hymns and 350 prayers)

Lyra Germanica: Second series: The Christian Life (1858; which contained 123 translations and passed through 12 editions)

Life of Pastor Fliedner (1861; a translation of the German biography of the founder of the Sisterhood of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserwerth)

Life of Amelia Wilhelmina Sieveking (1863; a translation of the German biography of the founder of the Female Society for the Care of the Sick and Poor in Hamburg)

The Chorale Book for England. Congregational Edition.-Hymns and Melodies. The Hymns from the German by Catherine Winkworth (1863; for which William Sterndale Bennett, professor of music at Cambridge University and founder of the Bach Society in 1849, and Otto Goldschmidt, German-born pianist, composer, and husband of Jenny Lind, were music editors)

Christian Singers of Germany (1869; biographies of the principal hymnwriters of Germany from “the early dawn of German Sacred Poetry and Song” to the middle of the 19th century, reprinted by Books for Libraries Press in 1972)

Palm Leaves: Sacred Poems Selected and Translated from the German of Karl Gerok (date unknown)

The following memorial tablet is found in Bristol Cathedral:

In memory of CATHERINE WINKWORTH, Who, in her Lyra Germanica, rendering into English verse the treasures of German sacred poetry, opened a new source of light, consolation, and strength in many thousand homes. Her works reveal a clear and harmonious intellect, a gift of true poetic insight and expression, and the firm Christian faith which was the mainspring of a life rich in tender and affectionate ministration, and fruitful in various fields of active service. Her loss is mourned by all who shared her labour, and by the many friends whom death has bereft of her rare sympathy, her wise counsel, her bright companionship, and her unfailing help in every time of need. To commemorate her work, and to perpetuate her efforts for the better education of women, a scholarship, bearing her name has been founded in University College, Bristol, by friends who now dedicate this table to her memory.

She has translated:

1 Wie soll ich dich empfangen (2 versions)
2 Warum willst du draußen stehen
3 Wir singen dir, Immanuel
4 O Jesu Christ, dein Kripplein ist
5 Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen
13 O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben
24 O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (2 versions)
29 Zieh ein zu deinen Toren (2 versions)
30 O du allersüßte Freude
37 Die güldne Sonne, voll Freud und Wonne
38 Nun ruhen alle Wälder (2 versions)
40 Geh’ aus mein Herz und suche Freud
46 Voller wunder, Voller Kunst, Voller Weisheit
51 Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken
58 Ich weiß, mein Gott, daß all mein Tun
73 Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn
78 Ach treuer Gott, Barmherzigs Herz
80 Was Gott gefällt, mein frommes Kind
82 Ist Gott für mich, so trete
83 Warum sollt’ ich mich denn grämen
94 Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille
98 Gottlob, nun ist erschollen
99 Sollt’ ich meinem Gott nicht singen
102 Auf den Nebel folgt die Sonn
112 Ich, der ich oft in tiefes Leid
117 Du bist zwar mein und bleibest mein
128 Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden