Obituary: The Rev Edmund Colledge

EDMUND COLLEDGE was a distinguished scholar of late medieval mysticism, both English and continental.

He was born Eric Colledge (Edmund was the religious name he took up later in life) in 1910, entered Liverpool University in 1929 and graduated, with first class honours in English, in 1932. His MA followed in 1935, preceded by a studentship at Munich in 1932-33. He became an assistant lecturer in the Department of English Language and Philology at Liverpool in 1937. He was an excellent linguist (English medievalists usually are not) and with his competence in French, German and Dutch it is not surprising that the years of the Second World War saw him occupied in military intelligence and later the Allied Control Commission for Germany. In 1945-46 he was a member of the commission to supervise the reopening of German universities in Berlin.

He returned to Liverpool and academic life in 1946 as Lecturer in English, Senior Lecturer in 1952 and Reader in 1961. He was, by all accounts, an entertaining and inspiring teacher, yet a demanding one too, who expected his classes to work hard and prepare properly. He lectured not only on medieval literature but also on the history of the English language and could more than hold his own with philologists of the old school. Some of his graduate students hold chairs (in Old English as well as in Middle English) in Britain, the United States and Australia.

He was an enthusiastic member of the Dramatic Society as both actor and director of a variety of plays (Sophocles's Electra, Dr Faustus and Huis Clos). There he met Patricia Routledge, an English graduate, whom he persuaded to take up acting as a career; they remained in touch all his life. His sartorial elegance - canary or tomato-coloured waistcoats and spats (no less) - was legendary in those years.

A good cook himself, he retained his love of fine food. He had as well a lively appreciation of antique furniture and of fabric and design. One of his most prized possessions was a beautiful Gillow chair which moved with him from one community to another. He was also knowledgeable about pre- and post-war society and literature, the world of the Woolfs, the Sitwells and the Mitfords.

He had been taught at Liverpool by J.W.G. Gratton, who recommended him as a recruit to the Piers Plowman editorial team. But Langland's loss was the mystics' gain, for it was in the field of medieval spiritual writing, English and continental, that his chief contribution to scholarship lay. His earlier work often consisted of translations, with critical introductions of Jan van Ruysbroeck, Tauler and Eckhart, and his 1962 anthology The Medieval Mystics of England is still used.

In 1957, however, appeared the critical edition (with Joyce Bazire) of the Middle English The Chastising of God's Children. Colledge's major work is the monumental edition, with the late Fr James Walsh SJ, of A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, published by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto, in 1978. Several years' work on Margaret Porete, who was condemned for heresy and burnt in Paris in 1310, culminated in his Notre Dame edition (with J.C. Marler and Judith Grant) of her Mirror of Simple Souls, a work which had circulated in English, French, Latin and Italian, published last summer.

Colledge seems to have had an affinity for "difficult" women mystical writers, although he had little time for Margery Kempe. There are several articles, especially in Mediaeval Studies, but much of his work on Capgrave and on the Golden Legend sadly remained unpublished. Those who consult Adolar Zumkeller's Augustine's Ideal of the Religious Life (1986) will find, in smaller print, "Translated by Edmund College, OSA", a labour undertaken as a tribute to his order.

For in 1963, Colledge had resigned from Liverpool University and entered the order of Augustinian Friars at Clare Priory in Suffolk. Those who knew him mainly as a scholar are perhaps apt to undervalue his work as a priest. As an older man, the novitiate at Clare cannot have been easy - after studies in Rome he was ordained in 1967 - but if you have been brought up in Tynemouth and lived in Liverpool, perhaps that, and an early stint as assistant priest in Horton, fell into perspective.

Even in what were probably his happiest years, holding a professorship at the Pontifical Institute in Toronto and surrounded by scholars, he went out of the city at weekends to help in a parish. When he returned to England, he settled for a time at Austin Friars' School, Carlisle, where Fr Benignus O'Rourke was headmaster and Fr Benedict Hackett (with whom he had collaborated in work on the Augustinian mystic William Flate) was a member of the community.

Later years in Kent were rather quieter. There he developed a surprising enthusiasm (Colledge was always an enthusiast) for cultivating roses and vegetables in the community garden. Whenever possible he continued to visit a large circle of friends, both in England and in Europe, circulating as easily and as readily as had several of his medieval Carthusian manuscripts. And he was a most meticulous and courteous correspondent.

Edmund Colledge could be strong-minded, both where he detected injustice and neglect and where he thought others fell short of his own impeccable scholarly standards. But his generosity, his sparkling conversation, his deeply held beliefs and his rigorous scholarship - these are qualities which we can ill afford to lose.

Edmund College was buried at Clare Priory, the Augustinian mother house, on 25 November.

Eric Colledge, medieval scholar and priest: born Tynemouth, Northumberland 14 August 1910; Assistant Lecturer, Department of English Language and Philology, Liverpool University 1931-39, Lecturer 1946-52, Senior Lecturer 1952-61, Reader 1961-63; entered the order of Augustinian Friars, assuming the religious name of Brother Edmund 1963; ordained priest 1967; Assistant Professor, then Professor, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto 1968-77; died Deal, Kent 16 November 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable