The Book of Margery Kempe - Vol. 1

The Book of Margery Kempe - Vol. 1

The Book of Margery Kempe - Vol. 1

The Book of Margery Kempe - Vol. 1

Excerpt

One cannot present facts of the language in the extant manuscript of the Book of Margery Kempe until one has given the best answer one can to the question, "Whose language is it?" A priori, the habits of speech and orthography of at least four persons might be reflected in it in varying degrees--namely, those of Margery, of her first and second amanuenses (the Englishman long resident in "Dewchlond" and the priest), and of Salthows, the scribe of Colonel Butler-Bowdon's manuscript. If there were manuscripts intervening between the priest's final copy and Salthows's, the linguistic and orthographic habits of their scribes might also have left their impression. Of the four, only Margery Kempe is provided in the Book with a life-history with which a student of dialect can be satisfied. She was born in Lynn, the daughter of a prominent citizen, married another citizen, and spent most of her life in that town.

Her first amanuensis is best described in the following passage: a man dwellyng in Dewchlond whech was an Englyschman in hys byrth & sythen weddyd in Dewchland & had þer boþe a wyf & a chyld, . . cam in-to Yngland wyth hys wyfe & hys goodys & dwellyd wyth þe forseyd creatur tyl he had wretyn as mech as sche wold tellyn hym for þe tym þat þei wer to-gydder. And sythen he deyd, p. 4. It would appear that he died in or before 1432, inasmuch as the priest who began to copy and revise his work 23 July, 1436 (5/29-32, 6/21-24), delayed doing so for at least four years after his death (4/24-27, 6/17-21). The suggestion has been made by Miss Joan Wake to Miss Allen that this nameless first amanuensis might have been Margery's son, who figures in Liber II. It is said of the son in Liber II, as it said of this man in the passage just quoted, that he married in "Dewchelonde" and had a child there (223/8-16), and that he came to England with his wife to dwell with Margery (225/1-8). The son . . .

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