Reference > Cambridge History > The End of the Middle Ages > English Prose in the Fifteenth Century, I > Juliana of Norwich
  Walter Hylton Gesta Romanorum  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XII. English Prose in the Fifteenth Century, I.

§ 9. Juliana of Norwich.


An incidental remark in The Ladder, “this readest thou in every book that teacheth of good living,” bears witness to a considerable body of literature of which only fragments have come down to use. Chief among them is the well-known Reve lations of Divine Love by the anchoress Juliana of Norwich, a work of fervent piety, pre-eminent in the graces of humility and love. Juliana’s meditations upon her vision evince her acquaintance with Hylton, and probably, with other religious writers. Such study was, indeed, a duty strictly enjoined upon recluses by the Ancren Riwle. More than once she uses Hylton’s actual words when developing the same ideas: “the soul is a life,” they both reiterate, and Juliana terms its inalterably pure essence, or spirit, as distinguished from the sense-perceptions, its substance in a manner reminiscent of older scholars.  6 Apparently, she was not acquainted with the translations of à Kempis, made in the middle of the century, and again translated for the Lady Margaret.   36

Note 6. Juliana’s date is hardly certain. Only two late MSS. are now known, B.M. Sloane 2499, said to belong to the seventeenth century, and Paris, Bibl. Nationale 30, said to be a sixteenth century copy (cf. Miss Warrack’s preface to her edition of Juliana). According to these she was born in 1342, saw the vision in 1373, wrote her account of it about 1393, and was still living in 1442. (Cf. The Examination of William Thorpe, which demands the belief that he, too, lived to be nearly a hundred, as used to be assumed also of Hylton and of Juliana Berners.) It is generally stated that Juliana describes herself as unable to read, but this is an error. The Paris copyist calls her “a symple creature unlettyrde”;but “a simple creature” is a term of humility: the author of the prologue to the Wyclifite Bible so describes himself: “unlettered” may only mean no great scholar. The Sloane manuscript alters this word to “that cowde no letter.” But the Tevelations do not require the ascription of such a miracle to enhance their value. [ back ]

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  Walter Hylton Gesta Romanorum  
 
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