Walter Hilton Criticism - Essay

William Ralph Inge (lecture date 1905)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Inge, William Ralph. “Walter Hylton.” In Studies of English Mystics: St. Margaret's Lectures 1905, pp. 80-123. London: John Murray, 1906.

[In the following essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1905, Inge examines Hilton's treatment of sin, desire, fear; metaphorical language; and the nature of God's love and grace in The Scale of Perfection.]

The picture of human life as a spiritual Jacob's ladder, on which angels are for ever ascending and descending, and which we all have to climb step by step, is as old as the rule of St Benedict. The idea of a gradual ascent, not in time or place, but from stage to stage of reality, leaving behind us the vain...

(The entire section is 8488 words.)

T. W. Coleman (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Coleman, T. W. “Walter Hilton.” In English Mystics of the Fourteenth Century, pp. 106-30. London: Epworth Press, 1938.

[In the following essay, Coleman presents an overview of Hilton's life, works, and influence, noting his prevalent qualities of charity and humility.]

The Scale of Perfection first appeared towards the end of the fourteenth century.1 During the next one hundred years it was often copied, and it circulated in many manuscripts. In 1494 it was printed by Caxton's successor, Wynkyn de Worde; by 1533 eight editions had been published. Almost from its first issue it became a devotional classic. People of most diverse religious...

(The entire section is 8620 words.)

David Knowles (essay date 1961)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Knowles, David. “Walter Hilton.” In The English Mystical Tradition, pp. 100-18. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.

[In the following essay, Knowles explains Hilton's views on contemplation, the Holy Ghost, and grace, illustrating his descriptions with numerous excerpts from The Scale of Perfection.]

The distinguished and nameless author of The Cloud was followed, within a very few years, by a spiritual writer of different temper but of equal distinction, and with a very similar outlook upon the life of the spirit. When reading The Cloud and its companion treatises we feel the impact of a strong, original, masterful and independent...

(The entire section is 6521 words.)

Walter H. Beale (essay date December 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Beale, Walter H. “Walter Hilton and the Concept of ‘Medled Lyf’.” American Benedictine Review 26, no. 4 (December 1975): 381-94.

[In the following essay, Beale focuses on An Epistle of Mixed Life and explores its message regarding merging a contemplative life with the an active life.]

Examining texts in the light of their traditions and historical backgrounds is an inherently risky business, because traditions and historical backgrounds are partly defined by the texts themselves. Thus texts that do not conform to the historian's conception of “tradition” are valuable in a special way, because they provide the opportunity for testing and...

(The entire section is 5172 words.)

David G. Kennedy (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kennedy, David G. “Works before Entering Thurgarton Priory.” In Incarnational Element in Hilton's Spirituality, pp. 167-98. Salzburg, Austria: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1982.

[In the following excerpt, Kennedy surveys Hilton's works through 1384, including some of his lesser known and unpublished writings.]


This work exists in at least nine MSS and was printed most recently as an edition from most of them in Jones's Minor Works.1Mixed Life was not necessarily the very first of Hilton's works, but was probably one of his earliest...

(The entire section is 15352 words.)

Alastair Minnis (essay date 1983)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Minnis, Alastair. “Affection and Imagination in The Cloud of Unknowing and Hilton's Scale of Perfection.Traditio 39 (1983): 323-66.

[In the following essay, Minnis compares the approach taken to spirituality in The Cloud of Unknowing with that taken by Hilton is The Scale of Perfection, particularly concerning the roles of intellectual contemplation and imaginative meditation.]

How can a literary critic best approach texts which are living classics of religious literature? This question is being asked with increasing frequency by modern readers of The Cloud of Unknowing and Walter Hilton's Scale of...

(The entire section is 21879 words.)

J. P. H. Clark (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Clark, J. P. H. “The Trinitarian Theology of Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection. Book Two.” In Langland, the Mystics, and the Medieval English Religious Tradition, edited by Helen Phillips, pp. 125-40. Suffolk, England: D. S. Brewer, 1990.

[In the following essay, Clark examines the second book of The Scale of Perfection, notes that it is more Christocentric than the first book, and explains its concern with perfect and imperfect humility.]

Walter Hilton is a pastor rather than a speculative theologian. His higher education was in Canon Law rather than in Theology as such. But he is familiar with the commonplaces of technical theology, more...

(The entire section is 8825 words.)

Barry Windeatt (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Windeatt, Barry. Introduction to English Mystics of the Middle Ages, pp. 1-13. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Windeatt provides an introduction to Hilton's ideas in the context of medieval mysticism in England.]

For sith in the first biginnyng of holy chirche in the tyme of persecucion, dyverse soules and many weren so merveylously touchid in sodeynte of grace that sodenly, withoutyn menes of other werkes comyng before, thei kasten here instruments, men of craftes, of here hondes, children here tables in the scole, and ronnen withoutyn ransakyng of reson to the martirdom with seintes: whi schul...

(The entire section is 7015 words.)

Thomas H. Bestul (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bestul, Thomas H. Introduction to The Scale of Perfection, by Walter Hilton, edited by Thomas H. Bestul, pp. 1-19. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 2000.

[In the following essay, Bestul discusses the terminology used in The Scale of Perfection and the manuscript tradition of the work.]

Among the major religious treatises written in fourteenth-century England, The Scale of Perfection of Walter Hilton maintains a secure place. The Scale is a guide to the contemplative life in two books of more than 40,000 words each and is notable not only for the careful exploration of its religious themes, but as a principal monument of Middle...

(The entire section is 7933 words.)