Some biographical notes taken from Spiritual Songsters by Frank Wallace,
Miss Burlingham was born on March 17th. 1842. She was the eldest daughter of Henry Burlingham of Evesham, Worcestershire, who died in January 1896, at the age of 81. Her mother died four months previously in August 1895, in her 85th. year. Miss Burlingham died on May 15th. 1901 at Evesham and was buried in the Bengeworth Cemetery, near Evesham.
The father of Miss Hannah Kilham Burlingham was a member of the Society of Friends, and reading between the lines in her poems, we can discern the godliness and piety of that Quaker household. We see, too, the love and respect the children had for their parents, and the blessing that came to them in answer to their mother's prayers. We also gather that when Miss Burlingham was about the age of 12, three deaths entered that family circle, one of them being the mother's eldest son, her "dearest, eldest born".
As a girl Miss Burlingham was able to express her thoughts with ease, and in language that was suitable; and at school she was the recipient of a prize for the excellence of her poem describing one of the school excursions. Not long after she became of age, she withdrew from the Quakers and became attached to the "brethren", either in 1863 or 1864. Now Miss Burlingham commenced writing her poems and hymns, her best compositions probably being written between 1865 and 1875, largely before she attained the age of 30. In her earlier days, Miss Burlingham was a frequent contributor to the "British Herald", edited by William Reid, a Scottish clergyman, and these were repeated in "Reid's Praise Book, 1872". Perhaps the best known of these is "O Jesus, Friend unfailing, How dear art Thou to me" translated on June 13th. 1865 from the German of Samuel Christian Gottfried Kuster who died near Berlin in 1838. It appeared in the "British Herald" the next December, then commencing "'Tis well with me, O Friend unfailing". Although not more than 23 years of age, she could say in the words of this hymn:
"O worldly pomp and glory,
Your charms are spread in vain,
I've heard a sweeter story,
I've found a truer gain".
Her translations from the German were considered extremely good ... No doubt Miss Burlingham's interest had been awakened by those translations which at that time were bringing new sources of comfort and edification to English believers from the rich storehouse of German hymnody. She was extremely fond of music, >yet unable to play any instrument; for although the singing of hymns was practised, music was rarely taught in Quaker households then. Perhaps no hymn of hers is to be found in so many of the collections of the "brethren" as "I'm waiting for Thee, Lord" and its wistfulness touches the spirit and sets the heart longing. It was this hymn that led Mr. Darby to indite one in a similar strain; and again it inspired a later writer to compose "Thou art waiting for me, Lord", reminding us that the Lord is waiting, like us, for that hour unknown to any "but the Father". Several of the hymns of Miss Burlingham bring out the truth of the Lord's Coming, for her own heart had been directed both "into the love of God and into the patience of the Christ". Some hymns owe their popularity to the beauty of the first verse, or even to the first line, but with those of Miss Burlingham the beauty is often sustained throughout the hymn. She wrote with freshness and vigour, combining sweetness with strength. Objective and subjective truth both have their place in happy proportion.
No hymns of hers have proved more useful than her Gospel hymns. In these the great truths of the Gospel ring out with the clearness of a bell, in harmony with the word of God. The burden of these fine hymns is "We declare unto you glad tidings". "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things". Many of her hymns are found in Dr. Wolston's "Evangelist's Hymnal".
It had often been the privilege of Miss Burlingham to hear the Gospel preached in purity and power, and by preachers to whom was given much of the "fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ" and she herself entered in good measure into the greatness of God's plan of salvation. Having in her youthful days "tasted that the Lord is gracious", Miss Burlingham could plead with those in the morning of life, who were indifferent to the claims of the Saviour. She could, moreover, be for the encouragement of those who had been called to be the heralds of salva-tion. In Miss Burlingham's poems of "Christian Life and Experience" there is that which is of abiding value, as another has truly said, "her poems are the fruit of exercise"; lessons learned in the school of God, taught by disappointment, sorrow and bereavement. Even as a girl she had known the grief that falls upon the happy family circle when death enters. Said someone who knew more intimately than most, "I never met any one who loved her Bible as she did. Though she was interested in current topics, they were wholly subservient to her one great interest. Her love for her Lord and Saviour was deep and real, and one felt that with her, all else must take a back place".
Miss Burlingham was evidently a lover of nature, as her poems abundantly testify. We are told that she was very fond of a long country ramble. She must have been fond of flowers, and could draw spiritual lessons from "crimson roses" or the "frail convolvulus". A holiday in the Scilly Isles afforded great delight. Yet "The flower fadeth" and in one of her beautiful poems she wrote "Ours are flowers that know no fading, Everlasting is their bloom" It is found in the "New Times of Refreshing, Hymn Book"
In her "In Memoriam", she writes of the departure of her own father, whose death occurred 5 years before her own. He died in his 81st. year, his declining years marked by grace and wisdom, "the path of the just.... that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" .
The poetry of Miss Burlingham appeared in various periodicals and hymn-books, a number of later poems coming out in "The Christian Friend and Instructor", but most of her best known verse was published a few months after her decease in "Wayside Songs", a little volume of intrinsic worth. In the preface the editor writes, "It is to be regretted that the book was not brought out during the life-time of the writer, and under her own supervision; but although often urged to publish what she had written in a collected form, her friends were unable to overcome her reluctance to do so".
Her lines "The glory shines before me; I cannot linger here", set forth the longing of the saint nearing the home beyond. Miss Burlingham was not far on in her 60th. year when a sudden illness developed, a form of meningitis, and in 3 days she was gone. Whilst ill she made an effort to sing a hymn and chose, "For all the saints who from their labours rest" by Dr William How. Dying on the 15th. May 1901, her body was laid to rest in the little walled-in Cemetery at Bengeworth, outside Evesham.
Miss Burlingham's hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are:
39 On His Father's throne is seated, Christ the Lord, the Living One
189 O God of matchless grace, We sing unto Thy Name
261 The Holy One who knew no sin
325 We wait for Thee, O Son of God
360 O Jesus, Friend unfailing
377 O blessed living Lord
385 The Father sent the Son
402 Everlasting glory unto Jesus be
435 God in mercy sent His Son
440 I'm waiting for Thee, Lord
456 Lord, Thou hast left us to prepare the place
487 Sweet the theme of Jesus' love