Since the publication of Professor G. R. Owst's two monumental works, Preaching in Medieval England and Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, there has been an awakened interest in the medieval English pulpit and a growing appreciation of its influence upon the life of the times: religious, political, social, and literary.
The significance of the sermons of Thomas Brinton, Bishop of Rochester 1373-1389, was long ago pointed out by Cardinal Gasquet and has been emphasized more recently by Professor Owst. Investigation has shown that Bishop Brinton was a vital and prominent figure during the last years of the reigns of Edward III and the early years of that of Richard II. Many of the sermons contain topical allusions to public affairs, and the bishop's ideas are an important source for a more complete understanding of the religious, social, and political background of the latter part of the fourteenth century. On the one hand they set him in sharp contrast to Wyclif as a reformer endeavouring to purify the Church from within, and on the other they have a connection still to be presented in detail with the ideas behind the preaching of John Ball, the Peasants' Revolt, and Piers Plowman. Bishop Brinton's association with Court and Parliament, his position as a mediator in favour of the poor, his acquaintance with the early humanist, Adam Easton, and even hints of his influence on Chaucer combine to suggest a personality and a force too little known.
MS. Harley 3760 in the British Museum contains a Latin digest of 103 sermons of Bishop Brinton. The notes are undoubtedly official and the book is probably that bequeathed to Rochester Cathedral by the bishop himself. Some years ago I became interested in the sermons through work on my doctoral dissertation, which concerned the C-text of Piers Plowman. Upon the recommendation of the late Professors John M. Manly and Edith Rickert of the University of Chicago, I secured photostats of the manuscript through the Modern Language Association, and I was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to study abroad the life and influence of Bishop Brinton.
I have edited the manuscript from a literary rather than from a palaeographical point of view. Therefore the division of the sermons into paragraphs, the capitalization of proper nouns, the insertion of quotation marks and other marks of punctuation are mine.
I owe a debt of gratitude which I can never repay to those great teachers at the University of Chicago, the late Professors John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, who suggested the editing of the manuscript, for their support and direction in the early stages of the work; to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for financing my studies abroad; to my religious superiors, especially Mother Mary Samuel, O.P., and Mother Mary Evelyn, O.P. for their unfailing kindness and encouragement; to Sister Winifred Mary Carmody, O.P., Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Classical Languages, Rosary College, for reading the proof; to . . .