O Thou Sea of Love: Oxford and St. Petersburg manuscripts of Ann Bathurst’s religious visions

Leena Kahlas-Tarkka, Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki
Matti Kilpiö, Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki

The article deals with the religious visions and mystical writings of Ann Bathurst, a late 17th-century religious thinker closely connected with Philadelphian mysticism and English Behmenism, who wrote a massive diary about her ecstatic experiences. All her writings are only available in manuscript form, one autograph fragment (Bodley MS Rawl. Q. e. 28) and two fair copies, one in the Bodleian Library and one in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. One and the same passage from the three manuscripts has been transcribed and studied closely for this article.

Ann Bathurst’s colourful language provides a rich source for research. Special attention is paid to her ‘unlearned’ and inconsistent phonetic or semi-phonetic spellings, as well as to features of syntax and grammar, e.g. relative as, the –th/-s variation in verb forms, and gerundival constructions. Bathurst’s lexis and ways of word-formation are of particular interest. Further work in this area is likely to lead to new discoveries.

O Thou Sea of Love: Оксфордские и петербургские рукописи религиозных сочинений Анны Бэтерст

Леена Кахлас-Таркка и Матти Кильпио, Университет Хельсинки

Настоящая статья посвящена религиозным видениям и мистическим сочинениям Анны Бэтерст, религиозному автору конца XVII века, которая была тесно связана с филадельфийским мистицизмом и английским бехменизмом и написала объемный дневник, описывающий свои экстатические опыты. Все сочинения Анны Бэтерст доступны в настоящее время только в рукописях: одна из них – это автографический фрагмент (Bodley MS Rawl. Q. e. 28), а две другие – копии в Бодлианской библиотеке и в Библиотеке российской академии наук. Один и тот же отрывок из этих трех рукописей был отредактирован и проанализирован для данной статьи.

Язык Анны Бэтерст – это богатый материал для исследования. Особое внимание здесь уделяется ее «неграмотной» и непоследовательной фонетической и полу-фонетической манере письма, а также некоторым аспектам синтаксиса и грамматики, таким как относительный союз as, варьирование -th/-s в окончаниях личных форм глагола и герундивные конструкции. Большой интерес представляют собой также лексика и особенности словообразования Анны Бэтерст, изучение которых в будущем, возможно, прольет новый свет на эти проблемы.

1. Ann Bathurst – a seventeenth-century English mystic

The profound religious changes in early modern England from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century not only led to the birth of the established Protestant church but also gave rise to a large number of dissenting groups and sects (Crawford 2005 [1993]: 1-2, 209-10). Women played an important role in the establishment of what Crawford calls “an alternative religious tradition” (2005 [1993]: 210).
According to Sarah Apetrei, the mid-seventeenth century in Protestant England saw the rise of “something of a mystical renaissance” (2007: 52).  In this connection, she mentions the following female theological writers: Ann Bathurst (c.1638-c.1704) and Jane Lead (1624-1704), both of them representatives of the millenarian Philadelphian Society, Elizabeth Bathurst, a Quaker, (fl. 1690), and M. Marsin, of whom very little is known outside her writings (Apetrei 2007: 49-50, 55, 60). 

Whatever scanty information we have about Ann Bathurst is mostly connected with her religious activities. Her religious visions began in 1678 when she was forty (Thune 1948: 87). Soon after that, she began to write diaries about her religious visions and experiences. We do not know when she joined Jane Lead’s circle, but she ultimately rose to the status of one of the movement’s prophets by 1697, when the Philadelphian Society was founded (Bowerbank 2004). Jane Lead was a disciple of the theosophist John Pordage; both of them were profoundly influenced by the theosophy and alchemical imagery of the German mystic Jacob Böhme, and their writings were widely read on the Continent (Apetrei 2007: 55; Thune 1948: passim, Hirst 2004, Versluis 1999: passim). When Bathurst was a member of Lead’s circle she lived in the house of Mrs Joanna Oxenbridge in Baldwin’s Gardens, London (Bowerbank 2004, Thune 1948: 86). [1]  
Ann Bathurst’s diaries constitute a massive piece of writing: volumes 1 and 2 of the Russian Academy of Sciences manuscript (Q. 538 and 472) together comprise over 2,000 handwritten pages. The work is structured as a series of diary entries; the date of the first entry is 17 March 1679 and that of the last 21 October 1696. The work begins with a section where Bathurst describes her religious development from childhood to the threshold of adulthood. The section is not autobiographical in the proper sense of the word. The reader of this introduction is denied information about Bathurst’s place and date of birth, the names and social status of her parents, her marriage and widowhood (cf. Crawford and Gowing (eds.) 2000: 7), her two dead children (see Apetrei 2007: 54), or other personal references.

The theological topoi discussed in Bathurst’s diaries are too manifold and complex to be even superficially covered here. One recurrent theme, however, deserves mention. Bathurst repeatedly describes visions in which she is in intimate union with God, who is love. The language and imagery she uses is often strongly physical: Apetrei (2007: 54) says that “Bathurst’s account of the prophetic visions… is extraordinarily carnal and at times erotic, resonant of the meditations of Julian or Mechthild”. When Bathurst describes her experience of “oneness with the divine”, to use the formulation of Crawford and Gowing (2000: 45), her language becomes breathlessly ecstatic. In the following example, the loss of one’s self receives a metaphoric expression where the sea represents the element into which the experiencer’s self dissolves:

O Thou Sea of Love! what else may it be better compared to That we have seen! Thou Sea of Love drinkest our Spirits into Thee; Thou drenchest us with Thee, and we are as it were drunk with Thee; and anon Thou pourest us into Thee, and we are drunk up in Thee and from ourselves. And this is a Sea of Love, no Limits, we are lost to find ourselves when in It; how then can we measure this Love! we are so sopt in it, and then come forth; and then again sopt, and that so often over, that we know not, whether we shall come forth Substance or substantiated into the thing we are soped in: for we seem not held together, but dilated, as if we were to be alienated and nothing’d into the thing sopt or Sea.

[Beginning of the entry for 15 March 1692; Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, MS Q. 538, p. 1139]

The Philadelphian Society practically ceased to exist after the death of Jane Lead (Thune 1948: 136). The teachings of the Philadelphians did not, however, cease to exert an influence. One prominent continuator of Philadelphian mysticism was Richard Roach (1662-1730), a disciple of Jane Lead.  In the first decade of the 18th century he attended joint meetings of Philadelphians and members of a group called French Prophets in the same “affluent London suburb” of Baldwin’s Gardens where Ann Bathurst had lived (Dixon 2007: 194 and passim). Roach provides an interesting link between English Behmenism and German Pietism. Among his friends were the German Pietist bookseller Johann Christian Jacobi and the Pietist court chaplain Anton Wilhelm Boehme at the German Lutheran chapel at St James’s (Dixon 2007: 197, 198). Further, according to Dixon (2007: 197), a number of German Pietists educated at the University of Halle settled in London in the first decade of the 18th century. This German Pietist presence in London is in harmony with the popularity of English Philadelphian writings among German Pietists on the Continent. This popularity was fostered by the interest of German Pietists in Böhme’s theosophy (Thune 1948: 108). In light of this, it is easy to see why the St. Petersburg Bathurst manuscript found its way from England to the Graeflich Gersdorffsche Bibliothek zu Baruth in Saxony in the early part of the 18th century.  

2. The manuscripts

Three manuscripts containing Ann Bathurst’s visions have been consulted for this study: the autograph fragment in MS Rawl. Q. e. 28 (A in this study), MS Rawl. D. 1262 (B in this study), both in the Bodleian Library, and MS Q. 538 (P in this study) of the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Only a part of the diary covering the dates from 25 February to 6/7 March 1692 has been used for the present purpose.

Bodley MS Rawl. e. 28 (autograph ms)
Line numbers Transcription Notes
5 Feb             2  
Thrs 25 How ye loue douth flow: euen sick
wth loue, o deuine sweetnes who can stand
under such sicknes of loue sweetnes
macking me say, I am sick of loue
["2" may refer to the original page number; the dates are partly in the margin]
10 all loue, all sea of loue, wch reminds me
(of being all, sea) as beformerly is Exspresed
I wos as all salt, & so wos melted into
ye sea, so that I was as in ye whole sea
& tin had tinctured it, & then becam filled
15 wth sea a gane, so that ye sea fu[?] was me
and I was sea
O shall this sweet flaming breaths, bring
a bearth of loue in my soule: who can
stand under ye deuin Extases of it
20 wendy
March ye 2d
O the Esenshall goodnes, & sweetnes, Centeralle
in ye Esens, of the flame, in me
swetnes be yand exspresan arising from ye holy
25 gost with in me: wch thing I feele (as loue
swet Jesus inflame me: o how I am sopt
in thy loue, it breaketh in lick a flod, of
worme flame
sweet Jesus tell me, teach me: all: thy will
that thy word life, may be ye life in me.

                                                    3     March 1691
30 O thou word of life.                                   92 
O blesed, & holy Gost when wilt thou     3
[penciled for folio 3r]
35 a rise to perfit: Bearths, o bring forth
thy self to Manifestashan.

Somthing very secret & hid,
I Joy in the Joy of the lord, is it not
a Joy of a haruest, sorow is intermixed
40 wth this foresight of Joy, I feele
sorow, & behold I morne, I feele as
sorow of a woman in trauell, yet
beholding grief but hardly to know it

ye ^Joy it is so deep, as beyond ye sorow, as
[ye Joy added later, partly in margin]
45 if ye sorow must com furst, sorow in
ye Euening but Joy in ye morning
o thou deeper then good, ye caues &
esens of all good
Sat       O my god help my sole to trauell 
5 March in in ye  deepts to prayes thee, & to
reioys in thy reio^ysing esens in me
[^ and o and y are all in “one vertical line”]
50 that ye holy gost, as thou hast plased
in me, might rise wth power.
O my god: o lord god, ye Holy gost
[lord, god, Holy with strong underlining]
arise wth power
[folio 3v]
55 then will be healing under thy
wing of power
perfit thy work of power in me 
60 o holy gost in me, rise to perfec
o holy gost my thinks I culd say
nothing els, but o holy gost, & to
call apon ye  holy gost to help me
65 and as if by caling one ye holy gost
he will help
7 Mar      There is such a deepth; learg, &
Mon       powerfull; to com forth, & arise in, &
threw me, as if it must neds be to ye 
70 rending ye uall (ye out word Body) ffor
that bearth, of power, semeth so learg
a maskalen forme, learger by far
then my forme that sure to haue.
that borne in & threw me, & to arise 
75 in its manly form, in streng & power
must neds rend ye case, being to big
to be contained in it, it is as if it
were to fill, all my whole man
with its manhud streng vicktory & 
80 5                                                                   4
power, but a las my case is nothing so
big as that, how then can I, be ye
case to so big a forme, till I, be noe more,
I, nor any thing but power. 
[4 penciled for folio 4r]
85 sens; euen sath [= ‘saith’], how, can this bee, that
I be im bodied, all ouer, head hans [= ‘hands’], Body
feet, wth a body in my body, & ^I bee, seing
it is to big, biger then ye case that it is
to be put in: yet sure it is for me, 
90 ether, in time, or eternity,
let me waite thy time o god, & let
ye rending ye vall be wot thou pleases,
let me feare not: for I feare, tho: it
semeth to me to be ye gostly body of ye
holy gost, yet being so lerg, & strong, I
say, how can this bee

The volume of the Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library by F. Madan, containing eighteenth-century collections, has the following entry for item number 16053: “In English, on paper: written in 1692: 7 ¾ x 6 in., ii + 52 leaves. Three parts of a religious diary, 21 Feb 1691/2 – June 1692: beg. ‘O Lord, I lye prosterat at thy feet.’ Now MS. Rawl. Q. e. 28.” The entry describes the fragment containing parts of Ann Bathurst’s diary without taking a clear stand whether we are dealing with an autograph version or a copy. The wording gives us, however, reason to believe that the fragment can be safely regarded as an autograph manuscript. The insertions and deletions made by the same hand, probably at the time of writing, also support this assumption. The mention of the three parts of the diary refers to the fact that the fragment consists of three leaflets of different sizes. Even the dark grey paper covers are included in the total number of leaves. The size of folios 2 to 19 is approximately 17 x 11 cm, the following 14 folios are of the same breadth but 1 cm taller, and the remaining folios 34 to 50 are the largest, approximately 19.2 x 14.5 cm. The folio numbering has been clearly added later in pencil, but the three leaflets of different sizes each carry a number in ink on the first page. They are numbered 3, 4 and 5, which implies that even at the time of compiling the present format there have been several leaflets, at least numbers 1 and 2, which are now lost. Each of the three leaflets has running page numbers in ink. The whole manuscript is in one hand, most probably that of Ann Bathurst herself, and the text consists of continuous, consecutive accounts of the writer’s mystical experiences and visions.

The autograph fragment corresponds to pages 425-460 in a bulky fair copy of Ann Bathurst’s writings in MS Rawl. D. 1262 in the Bodleian Library. The catalogue entry describes it as follows: “Chartaceus. In 4to, sæc. XVII. ff. 304. ‘This book belongs to Dr Keath’s Library at Mrs Brackley’s in Tufton Street, Westminster.’ A volume, closely written, of rhapsodical meditations and visions, by Mrs. Ann Bathurst, from 17 March, 1679, to 29 June, 1693. An Introduction is prefixed, from which it appears that the writer was forty years of age at the time when the volume commences. Then at p. 9 follows, ‘a transportation or manifestation made to me, whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell.’ Lines of verse are occasionally inserted.” [2] The manuscript contains 607 numbered pages of an approximate size of 20 x 26 cm.

The diary continues in MS Rawl. D. 1263, described as “Chartaceus. In 4to, sæc. XVII. ff. 99. Another volume to Ann Bathurst’s rhapsodies, from 30 June, 1693, to 21 October, 1696. On the cover is this note: ‘Mrs. Ann Bathurst’s writings, vol. 2, from ann. 1693 to 1696, which with vol. I. contains all that she wrote.’ but see MS. 1338 infra.” There is no mention of the date of the copy.

MS Rawl. D. 1338 is one more copy containing at least parts of Ann Bathurst’s diary. It contains 68 folios and begins at the date 11 June 1679. The hand is different from that of the two previous manuscripts, but interestingly there are marginal notes and two whole pages written in a hand that could well be the autograph hand. It seems that the manuscript represents a version of some diary entries that Ann Bathurst may have read through herself and added some notes and corrections.

One more set of Bodleian manuscripts is of interest in the pursuit for authentic information about Ann Bathurst and the circles in which she was active. These are MSS Rawl. D. 832 and 833, which are large collections of letters and various documents in different hands concerning the Philadelphian Society and people active in its functions. In a brief historical account of the Philadelphian Society, there is a mention that “Afterwards they met in Baldwins Gardens in ye house of Mrs Oxenbridg, wth whom Mrs A. Bathurst Combind who were the two Principal Persons in carrying on ye Spiritiual Work: & both Enlightend Persons and both hoping great & wonderful Experiences & Manifestations frō ye heavenly World.” (f. 65r). There is also a mention of Mrs Bathurst’s death without giving a precise date for it.

The fair copy of “Madame Bathurst’s writings”, MSS Q. 538 and Q. 472, in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg was acquired in 1956 (Lebedeva (comp.) 1979: 195). Elizabeth Bathurst is tentatively suggested as the author (ibid.). [3] The hands are different in the two manuscript volumes and also different from those of the Rawlinson manuscripts. Lebedeva (ibid.) points out that the first two leaves of the second volume are in a small hand, presumably written by a woman. The Bodley autograph corresponds to pages 1128-1208 in Q. 538 and additionally pages 1-3 in Q. 472. The size of the pages is approximately 15.4 x 18.8 cm, 35 lines per full page on average. The dates covered by the two manuscripts are exactly the same as those of Rawl. D. 1262 and 1263.  Attached to the diary there are two letters in German, dated 3 June 1739 and 8 June 1739, which shed some light on the earlier history of this particular version of the diary. [4]

Click on any of the images to view it in full size

It seems that Baron Metternich had brought these two volumes from England and presented them to Hans Hermann von Damnitz who then later in 1739 donated the manuscript to an anonymous person, probably also a baron from Baruth. Both locations mentioned in the letter, Baruth and Bautzen, through which the letter had travelled by post, are located in the easternmost part of present-day Germany. Damnitz regrets that his insufficient knowledge of English and ignorance of the genre prevent him from enjoying the contents of the diary, but he appreciates the high standard of the library of the anonymous addressee and therefore wants to donate the manuscript to this particular library. The name of the Graeflich Gersdorffsche Bibliothek zu Baruth appears only in an ex libris attached to the diary itself, but it is curiously not mentioned in the letter at all. The anonymous baron, (possibly Graf Friedrich Caspar von Gersdorff (1699–1751)), also writes back that he does not really understand much about that kind of religious writing either, but he is delighted and honoured to receive the gift. [5] Interestingly, the latter letter has not been signed and may therefore be a copy of the original letter sent to Damnitz. It is somewhat surprising that both of these letters, the outgoing letter of donation and the reply, have been enclosed with the manuscript. No definite information is available of the later history of the manuscript between the 18th century and the year 1956, but speculations about its fate in the tumults of the Second World War can of course be made.

3. The autograph spellings deviating from the Present-Day English British norm

Ann Bathurst’s autograph manuscript (A) contains a large number of ‘unlearned’ spellings. To what extent they reflect current seventeenth-century spelling practices is one of the issues which will be briefly discussed here in light of the Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence (PCEEC). The following rather conventional features of seventeenth-century spelling will remain outside the discussion: (i) differences between EModE and PresE, and within EModE, in writing or leaving out final <-e>, e.g. 36  <feele>, 59 <els>, 81 <sens> ‘sense’, 3 <deuine> vs. 15 <deuin>; (ii) the use of <u> for /v/ word-internally, e.g. 2 <euen>, 4 <loue>, cf. Lass 1999: 10-11; (iii) abbreviations with superscript letters: wch, wth, ye, 2d; /iv) the doubling of initial /f/ in 66 <ffor>; (v) the variation <o> vs <oo>, and <e> vs. <ee> except in 46 <deepts> ‘depths> and 63 <deepth> and when there is variation between the one- vs. two-letter spellings as in 3, 4, 18 <sweetnes> vs. 20 <swetnes>; (vi) the common spelling 79 <noe> for no.
Those of Bathurst’s spellings which most markedly deviate from the Present-Day norm are spellings which at least partly reflect the pronunciation of the word in question. One large group of spellings consists of Latinate or Romance words in which the regular spelling does not indicate the palatal fricative occurring in pronunciation, but Bathurst’s spelling does. Here are the three examples found in the passage cited here:

20 exspresan ‘expression’, 32 Manifestashan ‘manifestation’, 56-7 perfeckshan ‘perfection’

There are a few more examples of spellings of this type from outside the passage included in this article: attracshan ‘attraction’,  consepshon ‘conception’, esenshal ‘essential’, exoltashan ‘exaltation’, fesishan ‘physician’, menshion ‘mention’, and nashan ‘nation’. The palatalisation of /s, t, d/ in weak syllables before /I, j/ into /∫/, t∫, dʒ/ had begun in the fifteenth century and was nearly completed by the mid-seventeenth century (Lass (ed.) 1999: 121). Lass mentions two sequences as exceptional: /sju:/ and /ksj-/ (ibid.), but in light of  the spelling <perfekshan> cited above, Bathurst’s language already shows the palatalisation of /ksj-/ into /k∫/.  The PCEEC has examples of the <-shan> spelling (e.g.valluashan) and the <-son> spelling (e.g. condeson) but no instances of the <-san> spelling seen above in 20 <expresan>.

There are also other types of phonetic or semi-phonetic spelling in Bathurst. We shall here restrict our discussion to examples found in the passage included in this article:

(a)  The labialisation of /a/ into /ɒ/ or /ɒ:/ after /w/ can be seen in 8 <wos> ‘was’ (2x),  25 <worme> ‘warm’, 66 <out word > ‘outward’, and 88 <wot> ‘what’ (for a discussion of both changes, see Dobson 1968a: 209-210 and Dobson 1968b: §§ 193-195).  But the spelling <was> also occurs three times in the passage (ll. 9, 11, 12).
(b) The word ghost is systematically spelled <gost> (ll. 21, 50, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 91) and the word ghostly <gostly> (l. 90), with omission of the unpronounced /h/.
(c) It is possible that 14, 67 <bearth> ‘birth’, 31 <Bearths> ‘births’ and 41 <furst> ‘first’ represent two different solutions of representing the sound /ɜ:/ before /r/, solutions which may have struck Bathurst as being closer to actual pronunciation than the spellings with <i>.
(d) The reduced spelling 16 <wendy> ‘Wednesday’. At first sight this might appear to be an abbreviation, but it is also possible that it reflects a phonologically reduced pronunciation of the word, cf. the spelling <wenday> in the running text of a 1638 letter of Brilliana Harley in the PCEEC:

On wenday last your father had some of his shoulders at Brometon whean they dyned,… HARLEY.35.015.429

Another spelling reflecting phonological wear and tear is 82 <hans> ‘hands’ (for comparable examples see Dobson 1968b: § 410).

(e) There are a few spellings which show a preference for <s> instead of the <c> found in Present-Day English spelling: <esens> ‘essence’, <extases> ‘ecstacies’, <reioys> ‘rejoice’, <reio^ysing> ‘rejoicing’. These give the impression of being at least semi-phonetic spellings: obviously for Bathurst <s> rather than <c> had a more straightforward correspondence to /s/.
(f) Fourteen more candidates for (semi)- phonetic spelling are 13 <this> ‘these’, 23 <sopt> ‘sopped’, 24 <flod> ‘flood’, 30 <blesed> ‘blessed’, 33 <somthing> ‘something’, 37 <morne> ‘mourn’, 35, 37, 38, 40, 41 (2x) <sorow> ‘sorrow’, 58 <culd> ‘could’, 60 <apon> ‘upon’,  61 <caling> ‘calling’, 65, 70 <threw> ‘through’, 75 <manhud> ‘manhood’, 84 <biger> ‘bigger’, 86 <ether> ‘either’ and 89 <tho:> ‘though’. In the case of <this>, <culd> and <morne>, Bathurst is obviously trying to imitate the quality of the long vowels in the first two words and the short one in <culd>, <apon> [the 1st vowel], <manhud> and <ether>. In the last-mentioned word, one of the EModE pronunciations had [e:] in the first syllable (Dobson 1968b, §129, n. 2). In <sopt> the focus is on the consonant cluster <-pt> as representing the actual pronunciation rather than <sopped>; the spellings <sorrow>, <caling> and <biger> imitate the pronunciation with a short consonant. The spelling 89 <tho:> reflects the loss of the fricative /x/ (cf. Dobson 1968b: § 4).

The remaining ‘deviant’ spellings are difficult to systematise. It is typical of Bathurst’s vacillating orthography that she can use more than one spelling of a number of lexemes: in addition to <deuine>/<deuin> already mentioned above, there are the following pairs:  26 <sweet> / 23 <swet>, 3, 4, 18 <sweetnes> / 20 <swetnes>, 14 <soule> / 45 <sole>, 46 <deepts> ‘depths’ / 63 <deepth> ‘depth’, 63 <learg> / 67 <learg> / 68 <learger> / 91 <lerg> ‘large(r)’, 66 <uall> / 88 <vall> ‘veil’, 31 <a rise> / 51 <arise>, 20 <arising>, 20 <be yand> / 40 <beyond>. The spelling 46 <deepts>, unless it is simply an accidental omission of <h> between <t> and <s>, could reflect partial assimilation of /θ/ into /t/, a change not recorded in Dobson 1968b. The last two pairs exemplify the occasional writing as two words of an unstressed first syllable (historically a prefix, preposition or pronoun); seven further instances of this ‘deuniverbation’ are 11 <a gane>, 21 <with in>, 32 <thy self>, 58 <my thinks>, 66 <out word> ‘outward’, 77 <a las> and 82 <im bodied>.

The following spellings show no variation with alternative spellings: 2 <douth> ‘doth’, 5 <macking> ‘making’, 7 <Exspresed> ‘expressed’,  18 <Centeralle> ‘central’, 22 <reuells> ‘reveals’, 24 <lick> ‘like’ preposition, 31, 55 <perfit> ‘perfect’ (adjective and verb), 35, 37, 38, 40, 41 (2x) <sorow> ‘sorrow’, 38, 45 <trauell>  n. ‘travail’, vb. ‘travel’ 43, 69  <then> ‘than’, 43 <caues> ‘cause’, 46 <prayes> ‘praise’, 61 <one> ‘on’, 64 <powerfull> ‘powerful’, 68 <maskalen> ‘masculine’, 75 <vicktory> ‘victory’ and 81 <sath> ‘saith’. Two of the instances in this group, <trauell> and <then>, exemplify spellings where disambiguation has taken place as early as in the two fair copies where the noun travail has a different spelling from the verb travel, and the comparative marker has been separated from the adverb then by using than, a development which according to the OED was completed “by 1700 or a little later” (OED2 s.v. than conj.).

Eccentric as many of Bathurst’s spellings may seem, they are in fact quite firmly anchored in the EModE spelling system.  More than half of her non-systematic and idiosyncratic-looking spellings are represented in the PCEEC.

By way of conclusion, we think we can safely state that Ann Bathurst’s spelling practices were not exceptional considering the period in which she was writing. In her discussion of orthography and punctuation in 1661-1776, Vivian Salmon says about women that “their spelling continued to be neither pedantic nor polite but simply phonetic” (1999: 52). Broadly speaking this statement could be said to be true about Ann Bathurst, albeit there is considerable variation in her orthography, including vacillation between phonetic and more standard spellings.

4. Grammar and syntax

Even the short extract from Bathurst’s meditations included in this article gives a fairly representative picture of the way she gives a linguistic form to her visions. The exalted tone is reflected in the high incidence of exclamations, requests and questions, often introduced by addresses heralded by the exclamation O. The ecstatic in the text is not only underlined by the rather repetitive sentence structure but also by a plethora of lexical repetitions. To give an example, the short entry for Wednesday 2 March contains the following repetitions: sweet 2x + sweetness 2x, flame 2x + inflame; arise + arising; essence + essential; life 3x; love 2x. Thus syntax and lexis work towards the same goal.

The following features of grammar and syntax deserve a separate discussion:


On the basis of the extract given here, Bathurst’s syntax contains little that would deviate from what could be expected of a seventeenth-century writer. The use of as as a relative in Bathurst’s autograph may represent a recessive, outgoing use:

48-49 …that ye holy gost, as thou hast plased in me, might rise wth power.
Here is a PCEEC example, from a letter by Mary Harley:
The duty as you desierid of the fast was this day performed,…
(HARLEY.219.071.1853;  [Date of the letter: 1654?])

Rissanen (1999: 299) considers as to be among “the less common relative links” (see also Rydén 1966: 223). Both fair copies of Bathurst replace the relative marker as of the autograph by which.


Examples of the –th /-s variation can be seen in both the autograph and in the fair copies.                                                                                                                                                                                        

Here are the relevant instances from the autograph; the forms in brackets are the ones found in the Bodleian fair copy (B) and the St. Petersburg copy (P):

2 douth (B doth, P dos); 6 reminds (B remindes, P reminds); 22 reuells (B omitted, P reveals), 24 breaketh (B, P breaketh); 58 my thinks (B Methinks, P methinks); 88 pleases (B, P pleasest); 90 semeth (B seemeth, P seemes). The number of instances is low but it can be seen that there is some variation both within one manuscript and between different manuscripts. It may be good to keep in mind that in seventeenth-century texts the –th spelling possibly no longer indicates a fricative pronunciation but is to be pronounced {-s} (Lass 1999: 164).


There is interesting variation in the passage between two gerundival constructions, the type:

Definite article + gerund + direct object


Definite article + gerund + prepositional of phrase

The former occurs twice in the extract from the autograph to the exclusion of the second type:

(a) 65 ye rending ye uall
(b) 88 ye rending ye vall

These autograph readings are represented in the fair copies as follows:

(a) B: the rending of the vail; P: the rending of the Vail
(b) B: the rending the vail: P: the rending the Vail

As can be seen, the fair copies agree with each other in retaining the definite article + gerund + direct object construction in (b) and in replacing it in (a) by the definite article + gerund + postmodifying prepositional phrase type current in Present-Day English.

The definite article + gerund + direct object construction was obviously already receiving serious competition from the modern type in the early eighteenth century and is now practically extinct. I have, however, come across one example in the British National Corpus (BNC):

The doing it the same way each time…. .
(F8D 90)

For the rarity of this construction, see Curme 1931: §50.1.


All three manuscripts contain an example of the use of nothing as an adverb:
A: …but a las my case is nothing so big as that… (B: …but alas! my Case is nothing so big as That… P: ….But alas! My Case is nothing so big as that…). According to the OED2 (s.v. nothing pron. and n., adv., and int., B.1.a), the adverbial use ‘not at all, in no way’ is now obsolete.


At line 88 the autograph has the construction wot thou pleases. This is a personal construction with the 2nd-person singular pronoun thou as the subject of the 3rd-person present indicative form pleases. The lack of agreement between subject and verb seems to mark this construction as a transitional stage between the impersonal construction seen in

(a1387) Trev. Higd. (StJ-C H.1) 7.27: Wel lord kyng, what pleseþ þe schal nou3t displese me. (MED s.v. plēsen (v.) 1 (b))

and the personal construction with agreement between subject and verb exemplified by the two fair copies, which have what Thou pleasest.

5. Lexemes and word-formation

The lexis used by Bathurst will be one of the most interesting and rewarding areas of study for future students of her language. Research into the lexemes Bathurst uses, and in particular into the special lexicon of Behmenist spirituality found in her work, is likely to bring to light lexemes and collocations not previously recorded in dictionaries. A foretaste of possible new discoveries is the compound 4 loue sweetnes (B Love-Sweetness, P Love Sweetness), a noun not found in the OED2. Two words in our sample text have a connection with alchemy and thus, indirectly, with the teachings of the Behmenists: the noun essence (cf. OED2 s.v. essence n. 2.b) and the verb tincture (cf. OED2 s.v. tincture v. 2.b and n. 6.a).

On lines 71 and 75 the autograph has the noun streng ‘strength’. Both instances of this noun have been replaced by the noun strength in the two fair copies. Rather than considering streng to be a phonologically reduced form of strength – the reduced form of strength in EModE seems rather to be strenth (cf. Dobson 1968b: §§ 377 and 412) - we think it plausible to regard it as a genuine instance of the obsolete noun strengh, albeit none of the instances cited in the OED2 s.v. strengh n. are later than the fifteenth century. There is, however, a comparable instance of strengh from the period of Bathurst in a letter written in 1668 in the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots 1450-1700 (HCOS):

Aldie shows me that he hes gotten ane boy that hes verie good strengh to goe with you
(SC3XX CORP THOMSTEW 181: Heading)

The autograph contains an interesting instance of blending, a word-formation process “still relatively new and infrequent in Early Modern English” (Nevalainen 1999: 350). The word in question is 8 beformerly, an adverb blending before and formerly. This item is not recorded in the OED2, nor is it found in the fair copies where it is represented by formerly.

6. What next?

Ann Bathurst’s religious visions provide a rich source for research.  As her writings are at the moment only available in manuscript form, an edition, preferably an electronic one, is an absolute precondition.

In our view, the editorial process should start with an article with special reference to the problems encountered in producing a digital edition of the text.  The article would address at least the following areas:

(a) The non-systematic and idiosyncratic spelling conventions of the autograph

This is an area already briefly addressed in this article; in the article covering the text of the whole autograph the more extensive material will give us more material to draw conclusions on the questions that Bathurst’s spelling raise.

(b) Punctuation and abbreviations

The use of punctuation in the autograph is very selective: the usual marks are a comma and a colon. There are numerous, but conventional, abbreviations with superscript letters.

(c) Authorial corrections

There are many corrections in the autograph. They include words struck out for deletion, interlinear letters and words marked for insertion, or occasionally even a whole line inserted between lines. The discussion will involve a scrutiny of both the technical challenges posed for editors by changes of this type and the possibilities offered by e-publishing for coping with these challenges.

The next logical step is an electronic edition of the autograph. Somewhere in the more distant future we envisage an e-edition of the whole text of Bathurst’s visions, taking either the Bodley fair copy or the St. Petersburg fair copy as the base text. Once completed, this edition would make it possible for linguists, students of Behmenist spirituality and literary scholars to study one of the most important documents connected with the Philadelphian Society.


[1] Thune 1948 and Bowerbank 2004 give the surname as Openbridge.

[2] Catalogus CODD: MSS BIBL: BODL V, Rawl D 861-1516.

[3] We are grateful to Terttu Nevalainen (p.c. to Matti Rissanen 13 November 2000) for a bibliographical reference pointing to the Bodleian manuscripts and, subsequently, leading to the correct  identification of the author. Our thanks are further due to Anastasia Eseleva who translated part of Dr Lebedeva’s description of the manuscripts into English and checked a detail in our transcript of the St. Petersburg manuscript.

[4] We gratefully acknowledge the help of Marja Ursin and Martin Wichmann with the transcription of the letters.

[5] See the Gersdorff entry in Wikipedia https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gersdorff (in German)


Primary sources

MS  Rawl. Q. e. 28, Bodleian Library, Oxford (A).

MS Rawl. D. 1262, Bodleian Library, Oxford (B).

MS Q. 538, Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg (P).

Secondary sources

(a) Corpora

BNC = The British National Corpus, version3 (BNC XML Edition). 2007. Distributed by Oxford University Computing Services on behalf of the BNC Consortium. URL: <http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/>.

HC = The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts. (1991). Department of English, University of Helsinki. Compiled by Matti Rissanen (Project leader), Merja Kytö (Project secretary); Leena Kahlas-Tarkka, Matti Kilpiö (Old English); Saara Nevanlinna, Irma Taavitsainen (Middle English; Terttu Nevalainen, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (Early Modern English). URL: <http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/corpora/HelsinkiCorpus/>.

HCOS = Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots. Comp. by Anneli Meurman-Solin. Department of English, University of Helsinki. Available through ICAME (The International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English) and The Oxford Text Archive. URL: <http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/corpora/HCOS/>.

PCEEC = The Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence, parsed version. 2006. Annotated by Ann Taylor, Arja Nurmi, Anthony Warner, Susan Pintzuk, and Terttu Nevalainen.  Compiled by the CEEC Project Team. York: University of York and Helsinki: University of Helsinki. Distributed through the Oxford Text Archive. URL: <http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/corpora/CEEC/pceec.html>.

(b) Other sources

Apetrei, Sarah. 2007. “Mysticism and feminism in seventeenth-century England”, The Way: Spirituality and Social Transformation, vol. 46/4: 48-69.

Bowerbank, Sylvia. 2004. “Bathurst, Ann (b. c.1638, d. in or before 1704)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/40570, accessed 23 Aug 2011]

Crawford, Patricia and Laura Gowing (eds.) 2000. Women’s worlds in seventeenth-century England. London and New York: Routledge.

Crawford, Patricia. 2005 [1993]. Women and Religion in England 1500-1720. London and New York: Routledge.

Curme, George O. 1931. Syntax. Volume 3. Boston: D. C. Heath.

Dixon, Tom. 2007. “Love and music in Augustan London; or, the ‘enthusiasms’ of Richard Roach”, Eighteenth-Century Music 4/2, 191-209.

Dobson, E. J. 1968a. English Pronunciation 1500-1700. Volume I: Survey of the sources. Second edition. Oxford: Clarendon.

Dobson, E. J. 1968b. English Pronunciation 1500-1700. Volume II: Phonology. Second edition. Oxford: Clarendon.

Gibbons, B. J. 1996. Gender in Mystical and Occult Thought. Behmenism and its Development in England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hirst, Julie. 2004. “The Divine Ark: Jane Lead’s vision of the Second Noah’s Ark”, Esoterica, vol. 6. [Accessed 1 December 2011 at http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeVI/divineark.htm]

Krause, Gerhard and Gerhard Müller et al. (eds.) 1980. Theologische Realenzyklopädie, vol. 6. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Lass, Roger (ed.). 1999. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 3: Early Modern English 1476-1776. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lass, Roger. 1999. “Phonology and morphology” in Roger Lass (ed.), 56-186.

Lebedeva, Irina N. (comp.). 1979. Рукописи латинского алфавита XVI-XVII вв. Описание рукописного отдела Библиотеки Академии Наук СССР. Том 6. Leningrad: Nauka.

MED = The Electronic Middle English Dictionary. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Accessed at <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/>

Mustanoja, Tauno F. 1960. A Middle English Syntax. Mémoires de la Société Néophilologique de Helsinki. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.

Nevalainen, Terttu. 1999. “Early Modern English Lexis and Semantics” in Roger Lass (ed.), 332-458.

OED2 = Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed at <http://www.oed.com/>

Rissanen, Matti. 1999. “Syntax” in Roger Lass (ed.), 187-331.

Rydén, Mats. 1966. Relative Constructions in Early Sixteenth-century English, With Special Reference to Sir Thomas Elyot. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis: Studia Anglica Upsaliensia 3. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Salmon, Vivian. 1999. “Orthography and punctuation” in Roger Lass (ed.), 13-55.

Thune, Nils. 1948. The Behmenists and the Philadelphians: A Contribution to the Study of English Mysticism in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Versluis, Arthur. 1999. Wisdom’s Children:  A Christian Esoteric Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press.