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This article is taken from PN Review 85, Volume 18 Number 5, May - June 1992.

(1637-1674) Some Extracts from the Unpublished Writings chosen and edited by Julia Smith introduced by Anne Ridler Thomas Traherne

Nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since the latest known manuscript of Thomas Traherne was recovered from a Lancashire bonfire, but the prose part of this work, entitled 'Commentaries of Heaven', still awaits publication. The poems, edited by Douglas Chambers, were printed in Salzburg a couple of years ago.1

The manuscript known as 'Select Meditations' was discovered even earlier, and is still unpublished, though extracts have been quoted in several articles. It is surely time, therefore, that readers should be given a substantial sample of this writing which, though it is uneven in literary quality, is of great interest to all lovers of Traherne.

As readers of P · N · R will remember, Traherne' s writings were known only to a few in his lifetime, and none of his poems were published until this century. A chance purchase of two manuscripts, from different second-hand bookstalls, in the winter of 1896-97, began the series of remarkable accidents which established our knowledge of Traherne as a major 17th-century religious writer. It was the brilliant literary flair of Bertram Dobell which identified him as the author of the unsigned manuscript of poems, and other discoveries followed, leading to the publication in 1958 of the two-volume Works, edited by H.M. Margoliouth,2 and the reissue in 1962 of 'Christian Ethics … opening the Way to Blessedness',3 the one work prepared for publication by Traherne himself (apart from a piece of polemical writing, 'Roman Forgeries'); it appeared ...


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