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
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders