The Mirror of Simple Souls

The Mirror of the Simple Souls Who Are Annihilated and Remain Only in Will and Desire of Love
Author Marguerite Porete
Original title 'Le Mirouer des simples âmes anienties et qui seulement demeurent en vouloir et désir d'amour'
Translator Ellen L. Babinsky (1993)
Cover artist Marion Miller
Country France
Language Old French
Subject Christianity / Mysticism
Publisher (1993) Paulist Press
Publication date
c. 1300
Published in English
Media type hardback
Pages 249
ISBN 0-8091-3427-6
OCLC 28378539
248.2/2 20
LC Class BV5091.C7 P6713 1993
The Mirror of the Simple Souls
Author "An unknown French mystic of the thirteenth century", Clare Kirchberger ed.
Translator M.N.
Language English
Subject Christianity / Mysticism
Publisher Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd.
Publication date
31 October 1927
Media type hardback
Pages 303

The Mirror of Simple Souls[1] is an early 14th-century work of Christian mysticism by Marguerite Porete dealing with the workings of Divine Love.

Love in this book layeth to souls the touches of his divine works privily hid under dark speech, so that they should taste the deeper draughts of his love and drink. - from 15th-century English translator's prologue.

Written originally in Old French at a time when Latin was the prescribed language for religious literature it explores in poetry and prose the seven stages of 'annihilation' the Soul goes through on its path to Oneness with God through Love. Enormously popular when written, it fell foul of the Church authorities, who, detecting elements of the antinomian Heresy of the Free Spirit in its vision, denounced it as 'full of errors and heresies', burnt existing copies, banned its circulation, tried and executed Porete herself. In spite of this the work was translated into several different languages around Europe, including English, albeit not with Porete's name attached. In fact it was not identified as being by Porete at all until 1946. Since then it has been seen increasingly as one of the seminal works of Medieval spiritual literature and Porete, alongside Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch, can be seen as an exemplar of the love mysticism of the Beguine movement.

20th Century rediscovery

A 15th-century manuscript of an English translation by "M. N." of The Mirror was found by Mr. J. A. Herbert among a manuscript collection purchased for the British Library in 1911 and was shown to Evelyn Underhill. Other 15th-century copies were subsequently found in the Bodleian and the library of St. John's College, Cambridge, together with a Latin version made in the late 15th century by Richard Methley of Mount Grace, Yorkshire. A printed edition was edited by Clare Kirchberger, from those four manuscripts, and published by Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd., publishers to the Holy See, in 1927, complete with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. [2]

The translation by "M. N. " included a number of glosses by him, and divided the text into divisions and chapters.

The French book that I shall write after is evil [i.e. badly] written and in some places for default of words and syllables the reason is away. Also, in translating French, some words need to be changed or it will fare ungoodly, not according to the sense. - from translator's prologue

For the 1927 edition, the mediæval text was used but with spellings updated, and occasional words replaced accompanied by footnotes with additional glosses.


  1. Full title: The Mirror of the Simple Souls Who Are Annihilated and Remain Only in Will and Desire of Love Sells, Michael A. (1994). Mystical Languages of Unsaying. University of Chicago Press. p. 118. ISBN 0226747867.
  2. Introduction to said book: By an unknown French mystic of the thirteenth century (1927). Now first edited from the ms by Clare Kirchberger, ed. The Mirror of Simple Souls. Translated into English by M.N. (trans.). Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd. p. 303.

See also

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