Turning Over A New Leaf

In the Front Matter to her edition of Revelations of Divine Love (1901), Grace Warrack refers to Tersteegen who “gives a long extract from Julian’s book”. Now, who was Tersteegen and why is the “long extract” so very important?

Grace Warrack gives the title of the book in which the extract is to be found: Auserlesene Beschreibungen Heiliger Seelen which may be translated as Selected Biographies of Blessed Souls. Warrack writes that this Biography is found in Volume 3 of the third edition, published in 1784, and starting on page 252. 

 My German is rather rusty. Like most of you, I suspect, German was taught at my school as a written rather than a spoken language, as was Italian, Russian, and Spanish, and so on my holidays to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, I had to imagine what I needed to say was written down before I spoke! French escaped and we had conversational French as an extra in years 10 and 11, and ‘A level’. (One of our masters taught Russian to a Polish boy who had come to England and in return was taught Polish by the boy!)

And, so, a dear friend of mine, Roger Rayner, translated the whole of the extract, all 24 pages of it. Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) I discovered, was a German poet and hymn writer. What is extraordinary is the fact that Tersteegen belonged to the Reformed church in Germany and was probably a Lutheran. To think that Julian of Norwich’s writings come down to us not only through no more than a handful of manuscripts in Middle English, but also the fact that lengthy extracts from her Long Text in German – Neuhochdeutsch, Early New High German, to be specific – by a Protestant are available in print and online is, frankly, mind boggling!

What else is out there, we wonder? All this information is now to be found in a file titled ‘The Eighteenth-Century Reception of Julian of Norwich’ (alongside papers on Peter Poiret, Francis Blomefield (who some of you – especially those of you living in Norfolk – will have heard of), and George Ballard, all of whose writings can be found online) and so, in addition to all the books we have at the Julian Centre, for loan and for reference, we also have a mounting number of fascinating files in our Archive to be proud of!

Fr Luke CJN, ObJN

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