Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hilton, Walter
HILTON, WALTER (d. 1396), religious writer, was a canon of the house of Augustinian canons at Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire. Tanner, in his `Bibliotheca Britannica,' and Pits, from whom Tanner probably copied, state that he was a monk of the Charterhouse at Shene, which was founded by Henry V. Pits indeed adds that he died in 1433, but a manuscript note in the translation of one of his works (Harl. MS. (6576) states distinctly that he died on the eve of the Annunciation 1395, i.e. 24 March 1395-1396. His chief work, the `Scala Perfectionis,' was certainly written before 1414, as a copy of the book occurs in the list of the library of John Newton, treasurer of York Cathedral, who died in that year. It was originally written in English, but was translated into Latin by Thomas Fyslnwe, a Carmelite friar, not many years after its first appearance. Printed editions of the English text were published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1494 and by Pynson in 1506. The book is still read, especially by catholics, and in the two later editions by Father Guy (1869) and Dulgairns (1870) the spelling and phraseology have been slightly modernised. There are several manuscripts of this treatise in the British Museum, of which eight are in the Harleian collection. Two of them, Lansd. MS. 362 and Harl. MS. 6579, Father Guy suggests are the author's autograph. These volumes are not, however, written by the same hand. The Harleian MS. is the earlier, but is apparently not a correct copy, for it begins ‘Ghostly sister,’ while other copies have ‘brother’ or ‘brother and sister.’ Fyslawe's translation, however, has ‘soror’ only, following this Harleian MS. The Latin translation of this treatise is also known as ‘Baculum Contemplationis’ and ‘Speculum Contemplationis.’ Three other manuscripts of the ‘Scala’ are in the Rawlinsonian collection at the Bodleian Library.
Other works by Hilton are: 1. 'De Imagine Pecci,' beginning 'Dilecte in Christo frater, inter cetera que mihi scripsisti' (Digby MS. 115, f. 1: Cott. MS. Tit. D. xi. 40). 2. 'Speculum de Utilitate et prerogativis religionis regularis.' beginning 'Quia vero ex tenore cujusdam litere mihi nuper transmisse' (Merton Coll. MS. 48, f. 239: Harl. 3852; Reg.MS.8A.vii.f.l). 3. A tract, beginning 'Noviter militanti nova congruit milicia;' an exposition in English of this work is extant in Harley MS. 2406). 4. A tract, headed 'Here bigynes a devoute matier be the drawyng of M. Waltere Hylton,' beginning 'For als mikell as the Apostil sais' (Harl. MS. 2409). 5. 'The Cloud of Unknowynge,' attributed to Hilton and William Exmeuse, beginning 'Gostly frende in God, I prey and I beseche the' (Univ. Coll. Oxon. MS. 14). 6. 'A tretis of viij chapitres necessarie for men that given hem to perfeccion, which was founden in a book of Maister Lowes de Fontibus at Cantebrigge, and turned into Englisch bi Maister Water Hilton of Thurgarton,' beginning `The firste token of love is that the lover submitte.' 7. 'A devoute boke compylyd by Mayster Walter Hylton to a devoute man in temperall estate howe he shulde rule hym,' &c., beginning 'Dere broder in Cryst two maner of states there are in holy chyrche' (printed by Pynson, 1516). This is not the same as 'the luytel boke that was writen to a worldly lord to teche hym howe he schuld have hym in hys state in ordeynyng love to God and to his even Cristene,' of which there is a copy in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 22283, f. 160b, and which has been ascribed to Hilton, but is more probably the work of Richard Rolle of Hampole. 8. 'A devoute treatyse compyled by M. Walter Hylton of the songe of Aungells' (printed in 1521). 9. 'Quomodo temptationes aunt evadende.' 10. 'Liber theologicus cui titulus Imago Dei Homo' (Harl. MS. 330). 11. 'Epistola aurea de Origine Religionis' (Digby MS. 33, f. 316). The error in the date of Hilton's death noticed above has led biographers to attribute to him several works which present no evidence of his authorship, and in some cases belong to a slightly later period than that in which he lived. Tanner and Oudin give a very full list of works, but as some of them are only in manuscripts not easily accessible, it is impossible here to discuss the correctness of the attribution. Other works attributed to Hilton are: 'De Utilitate Ordinis Carthusianæ' (Magd. Coll. Oxon. MS. 93); 'Media Vita' in English (Rawlinson MS. A. 355); three letters, De consolatione in tentationibus, De Communi Vita, and Ad quendam religion (Reg. MS, 6 E. iii. 37); 'Conclusiones de Imaginibus contra Hæreticos' (ib. 11 B. x. 4). Hilton's name is often found in connection with devotional works which should most probably be assigned to Richard Rolle [q. v.]
[Pits, De Illustr. Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 624; Tanner's Bibl. Britannico-Hibernica, p. 425; Oudin, De Scriptoribus Ecclesiæ, iii. c. 3986; Catalogues of Cottonian, Harleian, Lansdowne, and Add. MSS. in the Brit. Mus.; Coxe's Catalogue of MSS. in Colleges and Halls at Oxford; Bibliotheca Carthusiana; The Scale of Perfection, edited by Robert E. Guy, London, 1869; the same, edited by J. B. Dalgairns, London, 1870; Writings and Examinations of Brute, Thorpe, Cobham, Hilton, &c., London, 1831, p. 189.]