Cultures of Piety: Medieval English Devotional Literature in Translation 9781501726767

Devotional texts in late medieval England were notable for their flamboyant piety and their preoccupation with the tortu

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Cultures of Piety: Medieval English Devotional Literature in Translation

Table of contents :
1. Henry of Lancaster, The Book of Holy Medicines
2. The Middle English Pseudo-Augustinian Soliloquies and Its Anti-Wycliffite Commentary
3. The Cast of Gy
4. The Privity of the Passion
5. The Fifteen Oes
6. Life of Soul
7. Symon Wynter, The Life of St. Jerome
Appendix. Anthology of Middle English Texts
General Bibliography
List of Contributors

Citation preview

Cultures ofPiety

Cultures of Piety Medieval English Devotional Literature in Translation Edited by

Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul

Cornell University Press ITHACA AND LONDON

Copyright © 1999 by Cornell University Chapter G, Lije of Soul, copyright by Paul F. Shaffner. All rights reserved. Except ior brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 5 I 2 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 148 so. First published 1999 by Cornell University Press First printing, Cornell Paperbacks, 1999 Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Catalogillg-in-Publication Data Cultures of piety : medieval English devotional literature in translation I [edited by] Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul. p. em. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN o-8014-3443-2 (cloth: alk. paper).- ISBN o-Ror4-8455-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) r. Devotional literature, English (Middle)-Modcrnized versions. 2. Piety-History of doctrines-Middle Ages, 6oo-rsoo--Sources. 3. Christian life-History-Middle Ages, 6oo- I sao-Sources. 4· England-Religious life and customs-Sources. I. Bartlett, Anne II. Bestul, Thomas H. (Thomas Howard), 1942Clark, 1960PRII2o.C85 1999 Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks and acid-free papers that are recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of non wood fibers. Books that bear the logo of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) use paper taken from forests that have been inspected and certified as meeting the highest standards for environmental and social responsibility. For further information, visit our website at 2 2









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Cloth printing


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Introduction Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul

of Holy Medicines


Henry of Lancaster, The Book M. Teresa Tavormina


The Middle English Pseudo-Augustinian Soliloquies and Its Anti-Wycliffite Commentary Robert S. Sturges

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The Cast of Gy Mona L. Logarbo



The Priuity of the Passion Denise N. Baker



T11e Fifteen Oes Rebecca Krug



Life of Soul Paul F. Schaffner



Symon Wynter, The Life of St. Jerome Claire Waters



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Anthology of Middle English Texts

The Pseudo-Augustinian Soliloquies The Cast if Gy The Privity of the Passion The Fifteen Oes Life cif Soul Symon Wynter, The Life of St. Jerome

165 166 181 194

212 217 232

General Bibliography


List of Contributors


Cultures ofPiety

Introduction Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul

This anthology has been compiled to demonstrate the rich variety of late medieval devotional writing and to suggest its importance in defining the literary culture of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. The works included here were originally written in English, with the exception of one text in Anglo-Norman French. All were written between 1350 and 1450, a remarkably active literary period during which a great many devotional works and religious works of all types were written. By all accounts, works of popular piety far outnumbered the more currently studied dream visions, lyrics, and narrative poetry that were produced during the period and provide a valuable context and counterpoint to the writing we have come to regard as the "masterpieces" of late medieval English literature, such as Piers Plowman, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. We believe that students of later medieval English literature can best acquire a meaningful understanding of late Middle English literary culture if the conception of the "canon" (the body of texts which are thought worthy of study and serious critical attention) is enlarged to encompass texts of the kind included here. Devotional literature has a long history in the Christian west. From the earliest times, portions of the Bible, particularly the Psalms, served devotional needs, as did the public prayers of the church in the formal liturgy. By the middle of the eighth century, we find collections of Latin prayers compiled chiefly for devotional purposes, and beginning in the middle of

Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul

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the eleventh century we have a continuous production, at first exclusively in Latin, of devotional anthologies, manuals, and treatises on the contemplative life. The twelfth century is marked by the growth of affective piety, or a form of spirituality that differed from that of previous centuries by placing much greater emphasis on self-examination, the inner emotions, and the cultivation of an interior life. This form of piety was typically anchored in devotion to Christ in his human form, with special attention to the events of the Passion. The movement was led first by the Cistercians Bernard ofClairvaux (d. 1153) and Aelred ofRievaulx (d. II67); by the thirteenth century, the movement came to be closely identified with Franciscan religiosity, as shaped especially by Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) and Bonaventure (d. 1274). The flamboyant piety of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries developed from these roots. 1 Although it would be a mistake to view late medieval piety as completely homogeneous, its dominant expressions were notable for heightened degrees of emotionalism and a preoccupation with the tortured body of Christ and the grief of the Virgin Mary. Generations of Christian readers thus reached for the divine in ways that were already both socially shaped and responsive to change. They internalized and shaped the "cultures of piety" represented by a large and varied output of devotional literature. As we might expect, the abundance and diversity of medieval devotional texts make their easy classification virtually impossible. Works such as Peter Jolliffe's Check-list of Middle English Prose of Spiritual Guidance, and Michael Sargent and Valerie Lagorio's contribution to the Manual of WritinL(tS in Middle English suggest the complexity of attributing modes, genres, and forms among these texts. 2 We admit that have not aided the effort to pin down even the very term "devotional literature," deliberately choosing to define it broadly for the purposes of selecting texts for this anthology. The primary intent of devotional literature is neither to delight nor to instruct (although it may do both incidentally), but rather to produce in the reader a receptivity: a frame of mind or emotional condition that prepares him or her for an encounter with the deity in the form of prayer, meditation, or I. For the development of medieval Fran~ois Vandenbroucke, The Spirituality

spirituality, see Louis Bouyer, Jean Leclercq, and

of the Nliddle Ages, trans. the Benedictines ofHolme

Eden Abbey (London: Burns and Oates, 1968). 2. Peter S. Jollitle, A Chn·k-list 'if Middle English Prose Writings of Spiritual Guidance, Subsidia Mediaevalia, vol. 2 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1974); Valerie M. Lagorio and Ritamary Bradley, T/zc 14th Century English Mystics: A Comprchwsille Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 198r); Valeri/kskultur des curopaischen Spiitmittelalters, ed. Peter Dinzelbacher and Hans-Dieter Miick (Stuttgart: Kroner, I987), r-r4; Paul Saenger, "Books of Hours and the R.eading Habits of the Later Middle Ages," in Tl1e Culture of Print: Power and the Uses of Prir1t ir1 Early Modem Europe. ed. Roger Chartier (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 14r-73; Andre Vauchez, 1hc Laity in the Middle A.~es: Religious Bcliif and Devotional Practices, trans. Margery J Schneider (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993). 4· William of Saint Thierry, Meditations, trans. Sister Penelope (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, I977), 142. 5. T11e Prayers and A1editatious of St. Anselm, trans. Benedicta W