Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Perilous Passages: The Book of Margery Kempe, 1534-1934

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Perilous Passages: The Book of Margery Kempe, 1534-1934

Article excerpt

Julie A. Chappell, Perilous Passages: The Book of Margery Kempe, 1534-1934 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 208 pp. ISBN 9781137277671. £55.00.

Chappell presents Perilous Passages vs a type of 'detective' narrative of the obscure - and sometimes speculative - history of the journey made by the manuscript housing The Book of Margery Kempe, tracing it from the hands of its Carthusian scribe 'Saltows' in the fifteenth century to the country house of Colonel Butler Bowden, where it was eventually recovered in 1934. Indeed, the mystery inherent to the book's rationale begins with the question, 'Was it the Colonel in the Library with the Candlestick?', subsequently categorizing the manuscript's 'find' as a 'good English mystery' (p. xliii). This generic identification continues to characterize a book that can be fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, depending on the expectations brought to it by the reader.

The book is divided into five chapters, each detailing a likely stop-off post for the manuscript on its journey. Also - somewhat playfully echoing the Book's early production history - it includes a 'Provm', 'Prologue', and 'Epilogue' as part of its structure. Here Chappell combines a personal, subjective stance with scholarly acumen, to varying degrees of success - although Perilous Passages does frequently read in terms of a praiseworthy attempt to break the mould of the traditional 'crusty' academic monograph, offering something that ends up both scholarly and imaginative.

Chapters i and 2 outline the manuscript's already well-understood Carthusian history, offering a helpful synthesis of the Order's commitment to spiritual works by women such as Kempe. Chapter 3 posits a likely post-Rcformation journey to 'the tragic London charterhouse' (p. 45), with chapter 4 tracing the dynastic links between the Digby, Erdeswick, Bowden, and Butler-Bowden families, all of whom, so Chappell argues, can be linked to the manuscript at some stage in its post-Reformation history. Intriguingly, far from being overlooked in the library of Butler Bowden's ancestral home in Lancashire (as Butler Bowden himself asserted), it seems to have emerged from 'a wall-cupboard on one side of the fireplace' in another of Butler Bowden's country residences in Chesterfield, Derbyshire (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.