I Love to Tell the Story

[Return to "Tell Me The Old, Old Story"]

The Publications

In 1867, Arabella Catherine 'Kate' Hankey published her poem The Old, Old Story with "Part I - The Story Wanted" and "Part II - The Story Told." Part II is the basis for this hymn, but with the words to the hymn not taken directly from the poem. The earliest publication of the hymn, probably in 1868, is not yet available. In 1870, William H. Doane published the hymn with his own music in Songs of Devotion. His text is the same as that which appears in current hymnals, with the exception of a few words of the chorus. Doane indicates that the author is anonymous, but a 1878 hymnal gives the author as Catherine Hankey. It is to be noted that when the poem was published in 1867, the author was not identified, nor is she identified in the 1870 publication of the words to the hymn in Heart to Heart, "by the author of The Old, Old Story." Within eight years, the original two part poem was being published in several formats and languages, as detailed in a publications list at the end of the 1875 Edition (610K PDF file) - low resolution to limit file size.

Songs of Devotion
Christian Associations:

A Collection of

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs,
With Music, for Church Service,
Prayer and Conference Meetings,
Young Men’s Christian Associations,
Religious Conventions,
and Family Worship.

Also Adapted for Use in Schools, Colleges,
and Benevolent Institutions.

Biglow & Main, Publishers


[Reconstructed Title Page.
The Title Page is missing
from the available copy.]

WITHIN the last ten years, the field of Christian labor has been materially enlarged, and there is to-day more work performed by organizations of Christian laymen than at any other time in the history of the Church. These organizations, it has long been felt, should be brought into as close connection with each other as could be conveniently attained, both that each association might learn and profit by the experience of every other, and for the sake of mutual encouragement and sympathy. To secure these objects, the Young Men's Christian Associations have been accustomed, for several years, to meet in Convention, and discuss measures which seemed important to the common welfare of all.

In the hope that another bond uniting the Associations together might be obtained, the last International Convention of the Y. M. C. A., held at Portland, adopted a resolution providing for the preparation of a Hymn and Tune Book for the use, primarily, of the Associations, though regard was to be had to the wants of other Christian bodies. It was in accordance with that resolution that "SONGS OF DEVOTION" has been prepared. This collection is presented to the Christian public with the single desire that it may promote, in some way, the efficiency and usefulness of those who are working for the advancement of Christ's kingdom. If it shall prove of service in so doing, the hopes of the editor will be fully realized.

Thanks are due to Drs. Mason, Hastings, Lowry, and others, for the permission to use the Music found tinder their respective names. Those bearing the monogram ([WHD]), are by the editor,
The words of "I Love To Tell The Story" are available in many current hymnals, and are the same as they were published by Doane in 1870, with the verses in the words of Kate Hankey. The chorus was added by Doane, and received minor revision by Fischer:
William H. Doane:
William G. Fischer:
Oh! yes, I love to tell the story,
   'Twill be my happy theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
   Of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
   'Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
   Of Jesus and his love.

The 1868 "Sacred Song," published by John Church, Jr. of Cinncinnati, is a different story. Gen. Russell had read the Hankey poem (published anonymously) at a Y.M.C.A. Convention in Montreal in 1868, and had the words of selected verses set to music. The sheet music credits "Words by Gen. Russell" and "Music by H. D. S." Unfortunately, efforts to identify either Gen. Russell or H. D. S. have been unsuccessful - thus far. All text for the "Sacred Song" is verbatim from the 1867 publication of The Old, Old Story, "Part II - The Story Told" as follows:
Part II
Part II
1 & 5
28 & 35
13 & 17
40 & 41
19 & 25
42 & 43
26 & 27
45 & 47

"The Story told" -- by Nature

In the 1878 edition of Heart to Heart. with music. By the author of "The old, old Story," there appears a second hymn authored and composed by Kate Hankey based on Part II of her 1866 poem. This hymn and tune has not been located in hymnals of the era, but is clearly part of the history of Kate Hankey's The Old, Old Story.
"The Story told" -- by Nature

On ev'ry leaf in Nature,
   On all the flowers I love,
I read the old, old Story,
   Of unseen things above.

Of Jesus and His glory,
   Of all I hold most dear,
They tell the oft-told Story,
   In accents sweet and clear.
They tell it me so simply,
   As to a little child:
They seem to know I'm weary,
   And helpless and defiled.

They tell it me so softly!
   And oh! I love to hear
Their echo, soft and gentle,
   Of Jesus' "Do not fear!"

We shall not need the flowers
   To tell us of His Love,
But still, I hope to find them
   'Mid unseen things above.
 1878 "Music... by the author"

The Music

There are three distinct tunes that have been used for group singing of "I Love To Tell The Story," and one "Sacred Song" as described above. The first tune was composed by Arabella Catherine Hankey when she wrote the words for the hymn in 1867. However, thus far the earliest publication of this tune is from 1878 edition of Heart to Heart with music.

The second tune was composed by William Howard Doane, and appears in the 1870 edition of his Songs of Devotion, with words by Kate Hankey.

The third tune was composed by William Gustavus Fischer in 1870 and is commonly know as "Hankey." It is the Fischer tune that appears in hymnals today - the music published in 1874 is identical to that published in 1926, with only slight variations from the music published in 1878 and 1976.
[The music files are coded to play directly with QuickTime - if not
installed, you may download and listen with any midi file player.]

  1867 "Music by the author" - from 1878 edition of Heart to Heart

  1868 "Music by H. D. S." - from sheet music folio "Published by John Church, Jr."

  1870 "W H D" - from Songs of Devotion, No. 241

  1873 "Music by W. G. Fischer" - from Hymns of the Morning, Pages 18-19

  1874 Composer not named - from Songs for the Sanctuary, Page 478

  1878 "William G. Fischer" - from Hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, No. 756

  1926 "William G. Fischer" - from The American Hymnal, No. 46

  1976 "William G. Fischer" - from The New Church Hymnal, No. 435

Bonus: "Tell Me the Old, Old, Story"
The focus here is on "I Love to Tell the Story" from Part II of Kate Hankey's poem. The history of the lyrics and tune of the hymn from Part I is not as complex. The 1867 edition of the poem indicates that an edition "With Music by the Author" was then available. A copy of the music has been located in an 1869 edition. In 1870, William H. Doane published his tune with the original lyrics, but with an added refrain. It is the Doane tune that remains in current use.
  1867 Hankey tune - from 1869 edition of The Old, Old Story
  1870 "W H D" - from Songs of Devotion, No. 240
A wonderful century old vocal duet of "Tell Me the Old, Old Story" has been marvelously restored from a 1908 Edison recording and is available at the Donald C. Davidson Library of the University of California at Santa Barbara.


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Modified: 6/9/07