The Twickenham Museum
People : Writers, Poets and Historians

Thomas Traherne
Priest, mystic and poet
1637 - 1674

Cheerful and sprightly temper

Thomas Traherne spent only a little time at Teddington. He had been Chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman since 1667 and came to Teddington, with Bridgeman in 1672. Both men died two years later, in 1674, at Bridgeman House in the High Street and both are buried in St Mary's Church where Thomas had preached. He was only 37 years old.

Thomas, brother of Philip Traherne, came from Hereford, where his father was a shoemaker. He went to Brasenose College, Oxford, taking his BA in 1656, his MA in 1661 and his BD in 1669. At Teddington he was loved for his "cheerful and sprightly temper, free from anything of the sourness and formality by which some great pretenders to piety rather disparage and misrepresent true religion rather than recommend it".

The Fashioned Reed

He was, effectively, unknown as a poet until 1897 when two anonymous manuscripts of poetry and prose were discovered in a London bookstall and at first ascribed to Henry Vaughan the Silurist (1621-93). In 1905 another manuscript was identified among the Burney MSs in the British Museum. Brian Pearce in The Fashioned Reed has written of Traherne that "the apprehension of eternity through the innocence of childhood is the root and branch of his 'message', but it is expressed in prose and verse of great originality and unusual beauty".

Further reading:

Brian Louis Pearce, The Fashioned Reed - the Poets of Twickenham from St Margarets to Hampton Court from 1500, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No67, 1992
Thomas Traherne, The Poetical Works (ed B Dobell), London, 1903
Centuries of Maditations (ed B Dobell), London 1908 & 1927
G E Willet, Traherne - An Essay, Cambridge, 1919

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