Thomas Traherne

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Traherne, Thomas (1637–74). Religious writer. Son of a Hereford shoemaker but enabled to study at Oxford, Traherne was ordained in 1660 and held the living of Credenhill (near Hereford) 1661–74, though he resided at London and Teddington 1669–74 as domestic chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgman, lord keeper of the great seal. Despite his literary intensity, only Roman Forgeries (1673), which attempted to substantiate charges against the Roman church for tampering with early Christian church records, was published in his lifetime. Christian Ethicks (1675) and Thanksgivings (1699) were posthumous, but manuscripts for Centuries of Meditations (instructing a friend in the way of ‘felicity’) and Poetical Works had to await chance discovery on a London street bookstall in 1896, whilst Poems of Felicity was unearthed later in the British Museum. A mystic poet like Herbert and Vaughan, Traherne was acknowledged by contemporaries for piety and scholarship, though has since been charged with naïvety.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Thomas Traherne (trəhûrn´), 1636?–1674, English poet and prose writer, one of the metaphysical poets. He was schooled at Brasenose College, Oxford, and was chaplain to the Lord Keeper from 1667 until his death. His writings express an ardent, childlike love of God and a firm belief in man's relation to the divine. Although Roman Forgeries and Christian Ethicks were published in 1673 and 1675 respectively, his finest work was lost for many years. In 1896 a manuscript of his poetry and prose was discovered in a London bookstall and subsequently was published as Poems (1903) and Centuries of Meditations (1908).

See his poems ed. by A. Ridler (1966); biography by G. I. Wade (1944, repr. 1969); study by A. L. Clements (1969).

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Traherne, Thomas (c.1636–74). Anglican clergyman, and Metaphysical poet. His main work remained unpublished until the beginning of the 20th cent., when his Poems and Centuries of Meditation appeared. Trusting the divine intuitions of childhood, he expresses a strong sense of the mystical embrace.