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This article is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

(1637-1674) Some Extracts from Commentaries of Heaven, edited by Julia Smith, introduced by Anne Ridler Thomas Traherne

In a first selection of extracts (P·N·R 85) I described the latest discovery of Traherne material, in the shape of a manuscript volume retrieved from a bonfire in about 1967, only slightly damaged. Like Traherne's other work, it carries no signature, but experts who have examined the MS agree that it is in his own handwriting, and the style is unmistakeably his.

The volume contains an alphabetical encyclopedia, compiled with a particular moral purpose. The elaborate title page explains what this was, as follows: 'Commentaries of Heaven, wherein the mysteries of Felicity are opened, and all things discovered to be objects of happiness.'

By showing everything in the light of glory, Traherne means to make us understand the perfection of God's creation, and our limitless capacities: thus even such emotions as Abhorrence and Anger are shown as 'working together for good'; the quotation from St Paul is in fact used by Traherne in one of the articles printed below.

At the outset of this introduction I should explain that in describing the manuscript and its contents I am quoting the work of others, and for knowledge of the prose it contains I am dependent on the extracts published by Dr Julia Smith1 and Professor Allan Pritchard2.

To quote from Julia Smith's description3: 'The manuscript itself is a large one, measuring about twelve and a half by eight inches, and it contains nearly four hundred pages of small writing in double columns.' ...


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