Behind the Hymn: Whispering Hope

No known story of the writing of this hymn is available, but the life of the author is very interesting.

Septimus Winner

Septimus Winner

Septimus Winner was born in 1827 Philadelphia to a violin maker father.  He was the seventh child in the family, which is why they named him Septimus.  By the age of twenty he was running his own music shop and had formed a music publishing company with his brother.  He gave lessons on several instruments and performed around the city.

He wrote both sacred and secular music, including “Oh Where, Oh Where has my little dog gone?”

He was arrested for treason when he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, The People’s Pride,” over the firing of General George B. McClellan during the Civil War.  The song sold over 80,000 copies in just days.  In 1880, General Ulysses S. Grant rewrote the words for his campaign song.

Winner wrote thousands of musical arrangements, published numerous instructional books for various instruments, and continued to write sacred and secular pieces.  He published a vast majority of his music under the pen name, Alice Hawthorne.  The belief is that he did not “deem himself worthy to receive honor for the words he penned.”

Whispering Hope was based on Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 12:1, and 1 Thessalonians 5:8.  Published in 1868, this was the last popular song he wrote.

He died on November 22, 1902.

In 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


  • Dr Austin E. Vernon, Sr

    Whispering hope was my All-Age School song. I cherished it dearly from the day I learnt it. Coming upon the words today, makes me feel jubilantly refreshed.

  • maryanne kehoe ford

    I was raised a Roman Catholic and requested a duet of Whispering Hope at my mother’s funeral in the Roman Catholic church she attended. The duet singers were found by my high school band instructor, a devout Lutheran.

  • Janis Landes

    Thanks for being here at this time. My 93 year-old father asked me to play “Whispering Hope” for him over the phone in these days of COVID-19. I had no idea how important this text would become for me. We actually need the darkness to be able to see the Light. A song for the ages.

  • Ken

    It is said in some sources that Winner never meant Whispering Hope to be a “religious song” … but the 3rd verse certainly contains Biblical references as you have identified. Thanks for the background information.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.