Thomas Traherne was born in Hereford, England sometime between 1636 and 1638. Records state that Traherne was either the son of a shoemaker or of an innkeeper named Philip Traherne and his wife Mary Lane. Through his own writings, Traherne speaks on the interest he had in the natural world as a young boy.
Early Life and Education
Traherne was educated at Hereford Cathedral School and then went on to attend Brasenose College, Oxford. He graduated from the university in October of 1656 with a baccalaureate degree. A number of years after this he was given an MA or Masters of Arts. He later went on to receive a Bachelor of Divinity in December of 1669. After graduating from Oxford Traherne took holy orders and was soon appointed as the rector of Credenhill in Hereford. He was not an ordained priest when he began his work at Credenhill, that is until October of 1660 when he was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford, Robert Skinner. He served in the position for ten years.
During his lifetime Traherne was known as a pious and optimistic man. His contemporaries cite him as having led a simple life dedicated to God. It was not until long after his death that the literary world took notice of his writings. This was in part due to his seclusion. He did not participate in any of the literary circles which would’ve allowed his work to gain a larger readership. Traherne’s work was mainly published after his death. One of the only pieces to see publication during his lifetime was Roman Forgeries, released in 1673.
Later Life and Legacy
Traherne died of smallpox in September of 1674. He was living in Teddington at the time and was later buried in St Mary’s Church in October. The year after he died his work Christian Ethicks was published. It was followed many years later in 1699 by A Serious and Patheticall Contemplation of the Mercies of God. This piece was published as if written anonymously.
When he died Traherne left his manuscripts to his brother. They were then passed on to the Skipp Family in Ledbury where they remained for almost 200 years. It was in the latter part of the 1890s that Traherne’s works were discovered. Still, they were not published comprehensively until 1903 and 1908. This was the first time his poetry was seen by a wide audience.