CHAPTER V
DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH

Habent sua fata libelli. Most writers address only their contemporaries. A few obtain a further audience of future generations. But there are also those whose message is apparently lost, and who must wait for their audience till a more or less remote posterity. Of these were Henry Vaughan and Gerard Manley Hopkins among the poets and among mystical writers Dame Julian of Norwich. Within a restricted circle, indeed, she possessed her contemporary disciples. But it can never have been large and it must soon have passed away. Of her Revelations of Divine Love in which she records her visions of God's truth and love and her ruminations of their meaning, but four manuscripts survive, of which only two are anterior to 1600, only one possibly was written in her lifetime. It was not until the seventeenth century that the record of her religious experience was first printed by Dom Serenus Cressy, in 1670. And it was only in the closing years of the last century that her book became at all widely known. Now interest is awake; her readers are many. Evidently her message is specially adapted for our reception, is a spiritual food which our constitution is peculiarly fitted to relish and assimilate.

Of Julian's biography we know little that is certain. Two or three days of a life covering at least seventy-one, presumably eighty-two or eighty-three years, stand out in vivid light. The rest is darkness. Of her origin we know nothing. An allusion to "the seaground" with "its hills and dales green seeming as it were most begrowing with wrake [seaweed] and gravel"1 suggests perhaps that her home had been on or near the coast.2

The warmth and tenderness with which Julian speaks, in her Revelations, of a mother's love--when she speaks of fatherhood

____________________
1
Revelations of Divine Love, Ch. 10.
2
If I am right in concluding that her home was the scene of her illness and revelations (see below) it was probably in the neighbourhood of some house of male religious to which her visitor belonged.

-70-

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