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Updated 05/29/2013

 

Close to Thee


Fanny Crosby

"Close to Thee" is one of many hymns by Frances Jane Crosby (March 24 1820 – February 12 1915) usually known as Fanny Crosby, an American lyricist best known for her Protestant Christian hymns. A lifelong Methodist, she was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 despite becoming blind shortly after birth. Also known for her preaching and speaking, during her lifetime Fanny Crosby was one of the best known women in the United States.

To this day, the vast majority of American hymnals contain her work. Some of her best known songs include "Blessed Assurance","Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home","Praise Him, Praise Him",and "To God Be the Glory".Since some publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals, Crosby used nearly 100 different pseudonyms during her career.
 

Fanny Crosby was born in Southeast, Putnam County, New York to poor parents, John and Mercy Crosby. At six weeks old, she caught a cold and developed inflammation of the eyes. The family physician was not available, and a quack who came in his place recommended mustard plasters as treatment. The botched procedure blinded her.

Her father died when she was one year old, so she was raised by her mother and grandmother. These women grounded Crosby in Protestant Christian principles, helping her, for example, memorize long passages from the Bible. Crosby became an active member of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City.

Crosby was noted for writing poetry from the time she was eight years old. Her first published work was A Blind Girl and Other Poems (1844), followed by Monterey and Other Poems (1853) and A Wreath of Columbia's Flowers (1858).

She also wrote some popular songs, which were set to music by George F. Root. Some of them were "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower", "Hazel Dell", "There's Music in the Air". Crosby saw success with her secular verse writing, earning nearly $3,000 in royalties for her song "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower".

Crosby wrote her first hymn in 1863 for the composer William B. Bradbury, a respected musician and publisher. It was called "There's a Cry from Macedonia". Over the years she wrote for Bradbury and for other composers, including Philip Phillips, Hubert P. Main, Robert Lowry, W. H. Doane, Ira D. Sankey, Philip P. Bliss, Mr. W. F. Sherwin, and Phoebe Knapp. Before her death, she had written at least 8,000 hymns,using dozens of pen names.

Crosby was very well known during her time and often met with presidents, generals, and other dignitaries. She played the hymn "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" at President Grant's funeral in 1885. In her later years, she also became a popular public speaker.

When she died, her tombstone carried the words, "Aunt Fanny" and "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine." Eliza Hewitt memorialized Fanny’s passing in a poem:

Away to the country of sunshine and song,
Our songbird has taken her flight,
And she who has sung in the darkness so long
Now sings in the beautiful light.

Crosby is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut. She was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1975.


Lyrics by Fanny Crosby

Thou my everlasting Portion, more than friend or life to me,
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Not for ease or worldly pleasure, nor for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer, only let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
Gladly will I toil and suffer, only let me walk with Thee.

Lead me through the vale of shadows, bear me over life’s fitful sea;
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.