Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England

By Fiona Somerset; Jill C. Havens et al. | Go to book overview

Reginald Pecock's Vernacular Voice

Mishtooni Bose

Certis, thouʒ Crist and his Apostlis weren now lyuyng at Londoun, and wolden bringe ... braunchis fro Bischopis wode and flouris fro the feeld into Londoun, and wolden delyuere to men that thei make there with her housis gay, into remembraunce of Seint Iohun Baptist . . . ʒit tho men receyuyng so tho braunchis and flouris ouʒten not seie and feele that tho braunchis and flouris grewen out of Cristis hondis, and out of the Apostlis hondis. Forwhi in this dede Crist and the Apostlis diden noon other wise than as othere men miʒten and couthen do. But the seid receyuers ouʒten seie and holde that tho braunchis grewen out of the bowis upon whiche thei in Bischopis wode stoden ... and in lijk maner the feld is the fundament of tho flouris, and not the hondis of the gaderers, neither tho bringers ...

What if Crist and hise Apostlis wolden fische with bootis in the see, and wolden aftirward carie tho fischis in paniers upon horsis to London, schulde men seie for reuerence or loue to Crist and hise Apostlis that tho fischis grewen out of the panyeris or dossers, or out of the hondis of Crist and of hise Apostlis . . . ? . . . Certis treuthis of lawe of kind which Crist and hise Apostlis schewiden forth to peple were bifore in the greet see of lawe of kinde in mannis soule eer Crist or his Apostlis were born into this lijf ... 1

As this extract from the The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy illustrates, Reginald Pecock's experiment in annexing vernacular territory for orthodox theology occasionally involved complementary, albeit figurative excursions into the urban territory with which, as Master of Whittington College from 1431 to 1444, he would have been very familiar. The passage is meticulous in its discrimination between ultimate and proximate sources of authority, while the presence of Christ and his apostles in the illustrative hypotheses, far from sacralising their urban setting, do not overwhelm the concreteness of the rituals and quotidian practices of the city. 2 The vernacular voice that Pecock adopts here is that of

____________________
1
The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy (190, 1.28―29, 30). I am grateful to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Syndics of Cambridge University Library, and the British Library for permission to quote from manuscripts in their possession during the course of this article. I am also grateful to the editors of the present volume, to two anonymous readers, and to James Simpson for their helpful criticism of an earlier draft of this paper. I have expanded manuscript abbreviations throughout.
2
Pecock's associate, John Carpenter, common clerk of the City of London, had produced a compilation of documents relating to London customs and rituals, the Liber Albus (1417―1419), and the Repressor exhibits a similar self-consciousness about city rituals. For further discussion of

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