Sarah Flower Adams was a poet and hymnwriter. She was born in Essex, England, on 22nd February 1805 and named Sarah Fuller Flower. She is probably best known for writing the words to popular hymn Nearer, My God to Thee.
Tragedy struck when her mother died when Sarah was only five years old, leaving her father to bring her and her sister Eliza up. Eliza herself, was a very gifted musician and composer, who would in later years, put many of Sarah Adams’ hymn lyrics to music. The family had moved to Dalston in Middlesex by 1820. Here they met the writer Harriet Martineau and were the inspiration for the Ibbotson girls in Martineau’s novel Deerbrook. Later, in 1823, while on a family holiday to Scotland with friends of the preacher W.J. Fox, she broke the female record for her fast ascent of Ben Lomond.
Soon after Sarah’s father's death in 1825, she became ill with tuberculosis. As she was recuperating, she penned The Royal Progress, although this was not published until 1845. Soon afterwards, under the pastoral care of Fox, Sarah and Eliza moved to Upper Clapton, in London and became friendly with a religious society. Sarah began helping Fox with his work by contributing hymns, poems and stories.
Sarah Adams met her husband, author, inventor and locomotive engineer, William Bridges Adams at a friend’s house. He too wrote essays, poems and stories and the two married on the 24th September 1834. He initially encouraged her to follow a career in acting and success followed. However, her health started to deteriorate and she returned to a life of literature. In 1842, her longest work Vivia Perpetua, A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts was published. Many more critiques and political verses followed, which often advocated equality for women and the working class. She also contributed a compilation of 13 hymns to her pastor to use in his chapel. The most famous of these, composed in 1840, was Nearer, My God to Thee. This hymn was reportedly played by the band aboard the RMS Titanic as it sank in 1912.
Unfortunately, her health gradually declined and she died on the 14th August 1848 at the age of just 43 and only two years after her sister. Sarah Adams is buried beside her parents and sister in a cemetery in Harlow. She had no children and was survived by her husband.