Van Alstyne, Frances Jane, née Crosby, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born at South East, Putnam County, New York, March 24, 1823. When six weeks old she lost her sight. About 1835 she entered the New York City Institution for the Blind. On completing her training she became a teacher therein from 1847 to 1858. In 1858 she was married to Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician, who was also blind. Her first poem was published in 1831; and her first volumes of verse as A Blind Girl, and Other Poems, 1844; Monteresy, and Other Poems, 1849; and A Wreath of Columbia's Flowers, 1858. Her first hymn was "We are going, we are going" (Death and Burial), which was written for Mr. Bradbury and published in the Golden Censer, 1864. From 1853 to 1858 she wrote 20 songs, which were set to music by G. F. Root. Her songs and hymns number some 2,000 or more, and have been published mainly in several of the popular American Sunday school collections, and often under a nom de plume. About 60 have come into common use in Great Britain. The majority of these are taken from the following American collections:—
i. From The Shining Star, 1864.
1. Softly on the breath of evening. Evening.
ii. From Fresh Laurels, 1867.
2. Beautiful Mansions, home of the blest. Heaven.
3. Jesus the Water of Life has given. The Water of Life.
4. Light and Comfort of my soul. In Affliction.
5. There's a cry from Macedonia. Missions.
6. We are marching on with shield and banner bright. Sunday School Anniversary.
iii. From Musical Leaves, 1868.
7. O what are you going to do, brother? Youth for God.
iv. From Sabbath Carols, 1868.
8. Dark is the night, and cold the wind is blowing. Affliction anticipated.
9. Lord, at Thy mercy seat, Humbly I fall. Lent.
v. From Silver Spray, 1868.
10. If I come to Jesus, He will make me glad. Peace in Jesus.
11. 'Twill not be long—our journey here. Heaven anticipated.
vi. From Notes of Joy, 1869.
12. Little beams of rosy light. The Divine Father.
13. Press on! press on! a glorious throng. Pressing towards the Prize.
vii. From Bright Jewels, 1869.
14. Christ the Lord is risen today, He is risen indeed. Easter.
15. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord! Sing O ye people, &c. Holiness of God.
16. Jesus, keep me near the Cross. Near the Cross of Christ.
17. Saviour, bless a little child. A Child's Prayer. Written Feb. 6, 1869.
viii. From Songs of Devotion, 1870.
18. Pass me not, O gentle Saviour. Lent. Written in 1868.
19. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying. Home Missions.
ix. From Pure Gold, 1871.
20. Great is Jehovah. King of kings. Greatness of God.
21. I would be Thy little lamb. The Good Shepherd.
22. Lead me to Jesus, lead me to Jesus. Desiring Jesus.
23. To the work, to the work, we are servants of God. Home Missions.
24. Why labour for treasures that rust and decay? The Fadeless Crown.
x. From the Royal Diadem, 1873.
25. I am Jesus' little friend. For Infant Schools.
26. Jesus I love Thee. Loving Jesus.
27. Mourner, wheresoe'er thou art. To the Sorrowing and Penitent. Written Oct. 3, 1871.
28. Never be faint or weary. Joy in Jesus.
29. Only a step to Jesus. Invitation.
xi. From Winnowed Hymns, 1873-4.
30. Loving Saviour, hear my cry. Lent.
xii. From Echoes of Zion, 1874.
31. Say, where is thy refuge, my brother? Home Missions.
xiii. From Songs of Grace and Glory, 1874.
32. Thou my everlasting Portion. Christ the Portion of His People.
xiv. From Brightest and Best, 1875.
33. All the way my Saviour leads me. Jesus the Guide.
34. I am Thine, O Lord: I have heard Thy voice. Holiness desired.
35. O come to the Saviour, believe in His name. Invitation. Written, Sep. 7, 1874.
36. O how sweet when we mingle. Communion of Saints. Written in 1866.
37. O my Saviour, hear me. Prayer to Jesus for blessing and love.
38. Only Jesus feels and knows. Jesus the Divine Friend.
39. Revive Thy work, O Lord. Home Missions.
40. Saviour, more than life to me. Jesus All and in All.
41. To God be the glory, great things He hath done. Praise for Redemption.
xv. From Calvary Songs, 1875.
42. Come, O come with thy broken heart. Invitation.
xvi. From Gospel Music, 1876.
43. Here from the world we turn. Divine Worship.
44. When Jesus comes to reward His servants. Watching,
xvii. From Welcome Tidings, 1877.
45. O hear my cry, be gracious now to me. For Pardon and Peace.
xviii. From The Fountain of Song, 1877.
46. Lord, my trust I repose on Thee. Trusting in Jesus.
xix. From Good as Gold, 1880.
47. In Thy cleft, O Rock of Ages. Safety in Jesus.
48. Sound the alarm! let the watchman cry. Home Missions.
49. Tenderly He leads us. Christ the Leader.
50. 'Tis the blessed hour of prayer. The Hour of Prayer.
In addition to these hymns, all of which are in common use in Great Britain (mainly through I. D. Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos, the Methodist Sunday School Hymn Book, the Silver Street Sunday Scholars Companion, and other collections for Sunday schools), there are also "A blessing for you, will you take it?" (Pardon through Jesus); "My song shall be of Jesus" (Praise of Jesus); "Now, just a word for Jesus" (Home Missions); "Onward, upward, Christian soldier" (Pressing Heavenward); "Sinner, how thy heart is troubled" (Invitation); "'Tis a goodly, pleasant land" (Heaven anticipated); and "When the dewy light was fading" (Death anticipated). All of these are in I. D. Sankey's Sacred Songs & Solos.
Mrs. Van Alstyne's most popular composition is "Safe in the arms of Jesus" (Safety in Jesus). This was written in 1868, at the request of Mr. W. H. Doane, to his well-known melody with which it is inseparably associated, and published in Bright Jewels, 1869. Mrs. Van Alstyne's hymns have sometimes been published anonymously; but the greater part are signed by a bewildering number of initials, and nome de plume, including:—
A.; C.; D.; H.; W.; F.; F. A. N.; F. C.; F. J. C.; F. J. V. J.; J. C. F.; V.; V. A.; Ella Dale; F. Crosby; F. J. Crosby; Fannie; Fannie Crosby; Fanny; Fanny Crosby; Fanny Van Alstyne; Jenny V.; Mrs. Jenie Glenn; Mrs. Kate Grinley; Miss V.; Miss Viola V.A.; Mrs. V.; Viola (List kindly supplied by Mr. H. P. Main, of New York)
The combined sales of the volumes of songs and hymns named above have amounted in English-speaking countries to millions of copies. Notwithstanding the immense circulation thus given to Mrs. Van Alstyne's hymns, they are, with few exceptions, very weak and poor, their simplicity and earnestness being their redeeming features. Their popularity is largely due to the melodies to which they are wedded.
Since the above was in type we have found that the following are also in common use in Great Britain:—
51. Suppose the little cowslip. Value of Little Things.
52. Sweet hour of prayer. The Hour of Prayer. These are in Bradbury's Golden Chain, 1861.
53. Never lose the golden rule. Love to our Neighbours. In Bradbury's Golden Censer, 1864.
54. I will not be afraid at night. Trust in God. In Bradbury's Fresh Laurels, 1867.
55. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our, &c. Praise of Jesus. In Biglow & Main's Bright Jewels, 1869.
56. More like Jesus would I be. More like Jesus. In Perkins & Taylor's Songs of Salvation, 1870.
57. Behold me standing at the door. Christ at the Door. In Biglow & Main's Christian Songs, 1872.
58. If I come to Jesus. Jesus the Children's Guide.
59. Jesus, Lord, I come to Thee. Trust in Jesus.
60. Let me learn of Jesus. Jesus the Children's Friend.
61. Singing for Jesus, O singing for Jesus. Singing for Jesus.
62. There is a Name divinely sweet Holy Name of Jesus.
Of these hymns Nos. 58-62 we have not been able to trace.