"Documentum Roberti Grosehede": An Unpublished Early Lollard Text

By Hanna, Ralph | The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

"Documentum Roberti Grosehede": An Unpublished Early Lollard Text


Hanna, Ralph, The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History


Cambridge, Trinity College, MS O.1.29, but for one of its texts, might be described as an almost boilerplate mid-fifteenth-century religious miscellany. More or less pocket-sized (about 195 mm x 140 mm overall), it provides a succession of standard prose tracts of instruction, with a strong Northern and Rollean emphasis. The volume begins and concludes with Rolle's epistles: at the head a relatively unusual isolated copy of "The Commandment" (fols. 1-8), at the end, the ubiquitous "Form of Living" (fols. 99v-117v). About forty percent of the book is devoted to the explicitly yet inauthentically ascribed "Pater noster of Richard Ermyte" (fols. 18-66v). The collection also includes the companion pieces "The Abbey of the Holy Ghost" and its "Charter" (fols. 77-99). (1) Given the placement of the scribal language in east central Lincolnshire by the Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, the book would appear in most respects to represent the familiar southward spread of Northern texts into Humberside and thence into the East Midlands more generally. (2)

There is, however, one exception, a single textual item, one of the volume's three unpublished texts, an omission this note will seek to rectify. (3) At fols. 73-74v, the compiler presents a text he identifies as "Documentum Roberti Grosehede episcopi Lincolniensis." This brief work, enjoining priests not to harass poor parishioners for their tithes, would appear to be of origins quite distinct from the remainder of the book. In its argument, it relies upon what is relatively easily identifiable as Wycliffite "cant," e.g., associations of post-apostolic "innovative" behaviors with Satan and Antichrist (lines 6-7, and following), use of the phrase "pore mennes godes" as a more relevant term than "tithes" (lines 15-16, etc.), and a passing reference to worldliness as a form of "mamentrie" (i.e., idolatry, the worship of a false god, line 99). (4)

Moreover, like a good many similar polemics, the text is presented as a series of excerpts from materials deemed authoritative. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the opening move that provides the slightly misleading title for the piece. Robert Grosseteste here stands for a local English tradition of clerical concern. The great bishop of Lincoln replaces the orthodox and conventional model, Thomas Becket, who is anathema in these contexts because of his steadfast vindication of clerical rights.

At the same time, one should probably insist that, within a range of Lollard invective at abuses perpetuated by the established church, the brief tract strikes a relatively conciliatory note. It is not addressed simply, or indeed primarily, to sectarians, as a muckraking revelation of abuse. Rather, the author directs his comments to the "villains," grasping priests themselves, and he imagines that he offers, through his citations, a case that his audience should recognize as compelling--and that should lead to self-reform. In the context of Trinity O.1.29, one might imagine this to be a priest's book that includes not just basic catechetical information, but an admonition about how its owner should behave.

Any doubts one might have about the sectarian origins of the "Documentum" will be vitiated by a second, and partial, record of the text. This occurs added at the end of a booklet, on a blank leaf (and on part of a supplied extra leaf), in Bodleian Library, Bodley MS 647. (5) This manuscript represents the collaborative work of four scribes, all of whom write English in comparable Derbyshire languages. (6) The Bodley manuscript has been recognized, ever since John Bale handled it in about 1550, as a central exhibit of early vernacular Wycliffism. Virtually all its contents (once again, the exception is this unpublished text) are well-known, for Bodley 647 provided materials for the two early anthologies, edited by Thomas Arnold and F. D. Matthew, through which vernacular Wycliffite interests have always been known.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

"Documentum Roberti Grosehede": An Unpublished Early Lollard Text
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?