Medieval English Prose for Women: Selections from the Katherine Group and Ancrene Wisse

By Bella Millett; Jocelyn Wogan-Browne | Go to book overview

TEXTUAL COMMENTARY

FULL notes on sources and textual points are available in the editions mentioned in Further Reading, and only a selection is offered here. Sources have been cited regularly for direct quotations in the texts but only occasionally for other borrowings. Biblical references are to the Vulgate Bible.


Hali Meiðhad

Title. Epistel . . . froure: only in MS Bodley 34. meidene: may be genitive singular or plural. The word is used of both male and female virgins in ME. From the early Christian centuries, girls could be professed as virgins from the age of fourteen in a ceremony involving a ring (for betrothal to Christ) and, from the thirteenth century, a nuptial veil. It was not necessary to enter a religious community to be consecrated as a virgin (the ceremonial profession of virginity has been exclusively reserved to nuns only since 1950). See further R. Metz, La Femme et l'enfant dans le droit canonique mediéval, Variorum Repr. ( London, 1985), 'La femme', §2, 'La Vierge consacrée', esp. art. VII, La Couronne et l'anneau dans la consécration des vierges . . ., originally published in Revue des sciences religieuses, 28, Strasburg, 1954). The description of HM's purpose as the froure ('comfort, support, encouragement') of virgins can be compared to the author's comment in AW (see Corpus MS 41b/23-4; Salu, p. 68, 'I write about the solitary life to encourage (frourin) recluses').

2/1-2. Avdi . . . tui: Ps. 44: 11, a text widely quoted in virginity literature. HM's interpretation is derived from Alan of Lille (see Millett, Hali Meiðhad, pp. xxvii-xxviii, and 1/11-12 n., 1/12-13n., 1/16-21 n.).

2/26-7. 'Syon' . . . 'heh sihðe': see Introduction, pp. xviii-xix.

6/4. alle . . . gode: Rom. 8: 28.

8/3. buggen ham brudgume: twelfth-century canon law affirmed that, in a marriage contract, the wife's gift to the husband (maritagium or dos, 'dowry') must equal the husband's to the wife (donatio, 'dower'), though in the early Middle Ages, when female labour and skills were more highly valued, it could be smaller. In the thirteenth century, contributions to the dowries of poor girls became a form of Christian charity for the first time, and rank was sometimes weighed against insufficient money in negotiations. See further David Herlihy, Medieval Households ( Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 98-103 and M. M. Sheehan, "The Influence of Canon Law on the Property Rights of Married Women in England", Medieval Studies, 25 ( 1963), 109-24.

8/11-21. Þet unpeaw . . . Þerwiðinnen: HM's denunciation of sexual intercourse, though vehement, is confined to the concupiscence attending it and does not condemn God's institution of it as such (see Millett, Hali Meiðhad, pp. xxx-xxxii, and 4/24-5 n., 4/30-2 n.).

8/28. Et concupiscet . . . tuum: Ps. 44: 12.

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Medieval English Prose for Women: Selections from the Katherine Group and Ancrene Wisse
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Further Reading xxxix
  • A Note on the Texts and Translations xli
  • Texts 1
  • Hali Meiðhad - Epistel of Meidenhad Meidene Froure 2
  • A Letter on Virginity - A Letter on Virginity for the Encouragement of Virgins 3
  • Seinte Margarete 44
  • Saint Margaret 45
  • Sawles Warde I Þe Feaderes Ant I Þe Sunes Ant I Þe Hali Gastes Nome, | Her Biginneð 'sawles Warde'. 86
  • The Custody of the Soul 87
  • Ancrene Wisse, Part 7 110
  • Guide for Anchoresses, Part 7 111
  • Ancrene Wisse, Part 8 130
  • Guide for Anchoresses, Part 8 131
  • Textual Commentary 150
  • Glossary 166
  • List of Proper Names 217
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