Thomas Traherne was born in Hereford c.1637, the son of a master shoemaker. His writings vividly re-create his childhood experiences, but documentary evidence is scant until his admission at Brasenose College, Oxford, on 1 March 1653. He was admitted BA on 13 October 1656, and in December 1657 was presented to the living of Credenhill in Herefordshire, supported by the county’s leading Presbyterian clergy. After the Restoration, however, he received episcopal ordination, and subscribed to the 1662 Act of Uniformity.
Traherne remained rector of Credenhill until his death in 1674, and apart from visits to Oxford to take his MA (1661) and BD (1669), and to work in the Bodleian Library, was resident there until the last months of his life. Credenhill, therefore, is the context for the composition of almost all his extant works.
In the autumn of 1673, Traherne went to London to arrange for the publication of Roman Forgeries, which he dedicated to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, former Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. By February 1674 he was in Teddington as Bridgeman’s domestic chaplain, an appointment curtailed by Bridgeman’s death in June. Traherne remained at Teddington, preparing Christian Ethicks for the press, but died soon afterwards, and was buried at Teddington on 10 October 1674. His reputation now rests on the extensive writings which he left in manuscript.
For a detailed account of Traherne’s life, see ‘Thomas Traherne, c.1637‑1674’ (courtesy of the Oxford DNB ).
- Left image: Leonard Knyff, The Southeast Prospect of Hampton Court, Herefordshire, c.1699, detail: courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
- Right image: MS 1360, fol. 272r (‘The Kingdom of God’, ch. XXVII): Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library