A NEW critical text of the “Omnia Opera” of Thomas à Kempis is being edited by Dr. M. Joseph Pohl, of Bonn, in seven volumes, of which four have already appeared, and the remainder are to be issued in the course of 1907. An eighth volume is to contain a life of the author, a dissertation on his various writings, and a vindication of his title to the “Imitation” by the same industrious hand. The publishers, Messrs. Herder, are doing their work in a way worthy of the subject matter, and of the painstaking toil of the editor; their volumes are a pleasure to behold and handle, a masterpiece of the printer’s and the bookbinder’s art, a contrast indeed to the unwieldy tomes and cramped letterpress, to which, apart from the “Imitation,” students of the Ven. à Kempis have hitherto been accustomed. From this edition is taken Dr. Duthoit’s translation, “Prayers and Meditations on the Life of Christ,” published in 1904 by Messrs. Kegan Paul, as also the present volume and the remainder, five in all yet to appear, of this series, embracing, with the exception of the “Imitation,” the complete works of à Kempis. Various parts, in fact quite a large proportion of these writings have been already rendered into English, and in many cases well, but at various times, by various hands, in various forms; and it was felt that even a thorough supplement of the portions not yet translated or not translated satisfactorily could in no wise compare with the advantages of a complete, uniform edition, one in fact to rival in English the work so admirably done by Dr. Pohl and Messrs. Herder in the original.
The fact that there is a demand, irrespective of class and creed, for these writings of à Kempis in the vulgar tongue, is one that speaks well for the English people. And whatever other reasons may be brought forward in explanation, it seems to me that the chief cause is one that lies deep in the heart and conscience of the nation. The remarkable love of Englishmen for the “Imitation” and for the other works of the saintly à Kempis may be traced to the strong, personal love which, in however lesser a degree, they share with him for Our Divine Saviour.
It is well known that in pre-Reformation days England was famous for her devotion to the person of the Incarnate Son of God. She was called the most Christian nation of Europe, and precisely, it seems, because of her deep-rooted love and reverence for Christ. The unhappy upheaval of the sixteenth century wrought many sad changes and brought in its train irreparable losses. These have been further accentuated by the countless religious divisions that immediately followed and that still daily spring up around us. But the love of Jesus Christ was too firmly set in the depths of the spirit and traditions of the English people ever to be wholly changed or entirely lost. And for those numerous pious souls who to-day long and pray for the re-union of Christendom there is no more assured motive for the hope that they cherish, no basis more practical for what efforts they can individually essay, than this common love for the Master, Whose name we all glory to bear.