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Updated 05/30/2013


I Love to Tell the Story

Arabella Katherine Hankey

The lyrics for “I Love to Tell the Story” were penned by Arabella Katherine Hankey (1834-1911).  Daughter of banker’s Thom­as Hank­ey, Kath­er­ine (known to her friends as Kate) be­longed to an evan­gel­ic­al group known as the Clap­ham Sect, led by Will­iam Wil­ber­force; the group was main­ly known for its an­ti-slav­ery and pro-mis­sion­ary stanc­es. While still a teen­ag­er, Hank­ey taught Sun­day school for girls. Lat­er, she tra­veled to South Af­ri­ca to be a nurse, and to help her in­val­id bro­ther.


In her early 30’s, Hankey con­tract­ed a se­vere ill­ness. Dur­ing her pro­tract­ed re­cov­ery, she wrote a long po­em about Je­sus. It is in two parts, with the first, 50 stan­zas in length, ask­ing about Him, and the se­cond an­swer­ing the quest­ion. I Love to Tell the Sto­ry and Tell Me the Old, Old Sto­ry both come from this po­em.

The music was written by William Gustavus Fischer (1835-1912).  Son of a German im­mi­grant, Fischer showed mu­sic­al abil­i­ty at an early age. When he was eight years old, he be­gan sing­ing in a Ger­man church in Bal­t­imore. He learned to read mu­sic in a church sing­ing class, and af­ter­wards stu­died pi­ano and or­gan.

William G. Fisher

He learned book­bind­ing at J. B. Lip­pin­cott’s in Phil­a­delphia, Penn­syl­van­ia, but spent his even­ings stu­dy­ing and prac­tic­ing music. He was an ex­per­i­enced train­er and lead­er of large bo­dies of sing­ers of all ages, and was much sought af­ter to lead choirs and chor­us­es in sac­red music in Phil­a­del­phia. He al­so taught sing­ing, pi­ano and mu­sic the­ory. He was close­ly con­nect­ed with Welsh mu­sic fes­tiv­als, and di­rect­ed the com­bined Welsh So­ci­e­ties at the bi­cen­ten­ni­al of the land­ing of Wil­liam Penn (founder of Penn­syl­van­ia).

From 1858-1868, Fischer was Pro­fes­sor of Mu­sic at Gir­ard Coll­ege. Before leav­ing Gir­ard Coll­ege, he start­ed in the pi­ano bus­i­ness, where he built up one of the most pros­per­ous piano houses in the count­ry. He was part­ner with John E. Gould until Gould’s death in 1875. From that time, Fischer was sole pro­pri­e­tor of the bus­i­ness for a num­ber of years, when he took his old­est son, Charles, into part­ner­ship. He fin­al­ly re­tired in 1898, and was suc­ceeded by his son.

Lyrics by Katherine Hankey


I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.


I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.


I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.