Choosing the right book for 'The Story of a Soul'


Hello, everyone. This book is a compilation of 3 manuscripts by St. Therese of Lisieux. The problem is that there are so many versions of it; cannot write down the links but in Amazon there is a $1 one vs. $10 one. One edition claims that it is the authorized translation, while one is being criticized since it omitted some portion of the manuscripts.

In the case of ‘Divine Mercy in My Soul’ there was this official version but it seems there is none this time. I’m just thinking of buying the cheapest one. Anyone with knowledge of this book or any catholic book in general, any help would be highly appreciated :slight_smile:


I would recommend you buy the translation by Fr. John Clarke, which is the official one endorsed by the Carmelite order.

Earlier translations of the book were heavily edited by Therese’s family members and as such are not her authentic writing.

There’s another translation by somebody named Edmundson, but I don’t know anything about that one.


I liked the Knox translation, although I also hear the Clarke version is very well-done.

I want to say I remember there being some difficulties with the manuscript? As in, when Pauline edited the three different manuscripts together, certain things were left out. I want to say that I picked the Knox edition because it had some of the stuff that Pauline had omitted?


Here’s a passage from Clarke:

I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don’t receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw Him shower His extraordinary favors on saints who had offended Him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom He forced, so to speak, to accept His graces. When reading the lives of the saints, I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way when coming to Him, helping them with such favors that they were unable to soil the immaculate beauty of their baptismal robe. I wondered why poor savages died in great numbers without even having heard the name of God pronounced.

Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.

And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.


The Knox translation:

I had always wondered why it was that God has his preferences, instead of giving each soul an equal degree of grace. Why does he shower such extraordinary favours on the Saints who at one time have been his enemies, people like St. Paul and St. Augustine, compelling them (you might say) to accept the graces he sends them? Why do you find, in reading the lives of the Saints, that there are some of them our Lord sees fit to hold in his arms, all the way from the cradle to the grave? Never an obstacle in their path, as they make their way up to him; grace still heading them off, so that they never manage to soil the robe of baptismal innocence! And again, I used to wonder about the poor savages and people like that, who die, such numbers of them, without ever so much as hearing the name of God mentioned. But Jesus has been gracious enough to teach me a lesson about this mystery, simply by holding up to my eyes the book of nature. I realised, then, that all the flowers he has made are beautiful; the rose in its glory, the lily in its whiteness, don’t rob the tiny violet of its sweet smell, or the daisy of its charming simplicity. I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her springtide dress-- there would be no little flowers to make a pattern over the countryside. And so it is with the world of souls, which is his garden. He wanted to have great Saints, to be his lilies and roses, but he has made lesser Saints as well; and these lesser ones must be content to rank as daisies and violets, lying at his feet and giving pleasure to his eye like that. Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants us to be.


Thanks for the reply, everyone! Well, I grabbed the one translated by T. Taylor since it was free, but I found the following review:

Rev. Thomas Taylor’s early 20th century translation of the memoir of St. Therese of Lisieux, unfortunately republished in 2006 by Echo Library, was made from the only manuscript then available outside her monastery, one substantially rewritten by Therese’s sister Pauline, who made seven thousand changes. Scholars interested in the documents which gave rise to the cult of St. Therese may wish to consult early versions of Taylor. I urge those who want to read what Therese wrote to read the third edition of “Story of a Soul” translated by Fr. John Clarke, OCD, and published by ICS Publications in 1976. The Clarke translation, made from the unretouched manuscript written by Therese (an authentic manuscript published in French only in 1956), is recognized as the standard throughout the English-speaking world. No other translation compares to it. The book is enriched by an introduction, afterword, and easy-to-read notes that set Therese’s manuscripts in the context of her life, and the index makes it even more useful. Don’t miss it. You’ll find it at [Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition.

I bought a different version but the translator was the same :frowning:

I’m thinking of grabbing the Clarke’s version safely when the price goes a bit down…


I have the translation which was made by the English layman and journalist John Beevers, first published in 1957. I bought it many years ago without doing any research on the various translations. I see now, both in this thread and online, that the Fr. John Clarke, OCD, translation is considered superior. Live and learn.


Why would they edit her work? Since they’re her family (her parents were canonized not so long ago and sisters don’t seem to far behind), maybe they had a good reason?


Msgr. Knox goes on for a few pages talking about the original manuscript in his introduction. Here’s a few paragraphs—

Mother Marie de Gonzague, who may not have known of this plan (to publish the Autobiography in lieu of an obituary circular) until after the death of the Saint, was consulted, for her permission was necessary. She agreed, but the condition she imposed clearly shows the sickly jealousy which spoilt her very real qualities; the first two manuscripts were to be altered in such a way as to make it seem that all three were addressed to her personally.

Besides the permission of the Prioress, that of the Bishop had also to be obtained before going to press. As a first step, a few weeks after Therese’s death, Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the Reverend Godefroid Madelaine, the Prior of the Abbey of Mondaye, a friend of the community who had known Therese. She sent him a copy of the original manuscripts, though whether this was a copy of the original text or of a text already edited by Mother Agnes is not known.

In his reply, Dom Madelaine said: “For you, everything in the manuscript is precious, but for the public, there are details so intimate, so far above the ordinary level, that I think it would be preferable not to print them.” He also mentioned faults of style, some passages which might be shortened, and some repetitions; he said that he would mark with a blue pencil what he thought had better be cut…

and then later–

In his (Dom Madelaine’s) editing of the work he had been assisted by another priest, Dom Norbert, who, like Dom Madeliane, had encouraged the Prioress to allow Mother Agnes to make her own corrections: “Do not deprive Mother Agnes of Jesus (who is, I understand, a sister of Sister Therese) of the pleasure of putting some last touches to her sister’s work, which she does so well. Only a woman’s hand, and that of a Carmelite, can do such delicate work.”


It would certainly have been impossible to publish Therese’s manuscript word for word at the time; nobody who has looked at the facsimiles can doubt this. In a period when so much importance was attached to perfect correctness of style and scrupulous respect for literary conventions, to publish the rough notes of a young and unknown nun would have meant making oneself ridiculous as well as betraying the author.

The content also seemed to need some editing. The “too intimate details” and those “too far above the ordinary level,” passages concerning third persons and trivial incidents, all these, it seemed, had better be left out, at any rate for the time being. Sometimes too an added detail might enrich the text without doing it any harm. And the sequence could occasionally be changed for the sake of clarity. In brief, the three operations suggested by Therese herself-- adding, cutting, and arranging-- were carried out. But it must be admitted that the scale on which this work was done was very generous.

Mother Agnes in fact rewrote Therese’s autobiography. It is enough to compare the manuscripts with the printed text of The Story of a Soul to be convinced of this. There is no doubt that the content remains substantially the same, so does the basis of the doctrine, but the form differs to the extent that the temperament of Mother Agnes differed from that of Therese. These changes have certainly not prevented souls from really meeting Therese or understanding her doctrine. But it would be useless to claim that the way in which the text was re-handled conforms to the standards of literary scholarship accepted to-day.

To note every alteration would be an endless and useless task. We have listed more than seven thousand, from the smallest to the most important. The exact figure must depend on the standard adopted for this kind of work, but the number roughly shows the scale.

The corrections which were considered necessary before going to press might well have been made on the printer’s copy and have left the original manuscripts intact. Unfortunately these were also retouched and some passages erased and over-written in such a way that it is to-day impossible to know in every case whether the correction was made by Therese or by one of her editors.

It is certain that Therese made many corrections herself. In those days every Carmelite kept an eraser in her writing-case and used it generously and with precision. Of the changes made by other hands there were those, to start with, on which the Prioress insisted in order that all three manuscripts should seem to be addressed to her. In deference to her wishes, Mother Agnes made them not only in the published text, but on Therese’s manuscripts as well, and in going through them for this purpose she cut other details which might have displeased Mother Marie de Gonzague. The original names were later restored by the nuns but other corrections continued to be made at different times after the publication of the book. The effect of all these erasures and rewritings on the thin paper of the cheap copy-book can well be imagined…

And so on.


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