The original source of this devotional hymn is the Latin poem “Jesu, dulcis memoria” from the late twelfth century. The evangelical fervor of the Latin text has caused some hymnodists to attribute the poem to Bernard of Clairveaux, but without sufficient proof. Ray Palmer freely translated selected stanzas (4, 3, 20, 28, 10) from the poem. These were published in the Sabbath Hymn Book (1858), beginning with the words “Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts." The translated text has been altered for publication in the 1987 Psalter Hymnal.
A serviceable long-meter tune, QUEBEC proves that a limited soprano range is not a handicap in a well-crafted hymn tune. The tune title's reference to the Canadian city and province is unknown. Also known as HESPERUS, QUEBEC shares similarities with MARYTON, PENTECOST, and especially ST. CRISPIN–to name just three "generic" late-nineteenth-century British hymn tunes.
Ray Palmer (b. Little Compton, RI, 1808; d. Newark, NJ, 1887) is often considered to be one of America's best nineteenth-century hymn writers. After completing grammar school he worked in a Boston dry goods store, but a religious awakening prodded him to study for the ministry. He attended Yale College (supporting himself by teaching) and was ordained in 1835. A pastor in Congregational churches in Bath, Maine (1835-1850), and Albany, New York (1850-1865), he also served as secretary of the American Congregational Union (1865-1878). Palmer was a popular preacher and author, writing original poetry as well as translating hymns. He published several volumes of poetry and hymns, including Sabbath Hymn Book (1858), Hymns and Sacred Pieces (1865), and Hymns of My Holy Hours (1868). His complete poetical works were published in 1876.
Henry Baker (b. Nuneham, Oxfordshire, England, 1835; d. Wimbledon, England, 1910; not to be confused with Henry W. Baker) was educated as a civil engineer at Winchester and Cooper's Hill and was active in railroad building in India. In 1867 he completed a music degree at Exeter College, Oxford, England. Baker composed QUEBEC in 1854 when he was a student at Exeter. In 1861 the London Penny Post advertised for a suitable tune for John Keble's text "Sun of My Soul." Baker's tune was among the many that were submitted, but without his knowledge—a friend who had seen QUEBEC shortly after Baker had written it submitted the tune anonymously. QUEBEC was selected and was published in Rev. John Grey's Hymnal for the Use of the English Church (1866). Many of Baker's hymn tunes were published in Garrett Horder's Worship Songs (1905).