Our blog is full of author, book and product news, reviews and giveaways aswell as blogger information and little bit of humour on the way............................................
Voted a Book Reviewer Yellow Pages 'Top 10 Book Reviewer 2015'
*Publisher’s Note: 'Beck Valley Books is an influential book review site and book tour host.'
manuscripts by two of the earliest women writers in English, Julian of Norwich
and Margery Kempe, are being displayed together for the first time in a new
The Book of Margery Kempe, which is dated
between 1436 and 1438, is Norfolk woman Kempe’s story of her life, dictated to
a scribe, and is widely seen as the first autobiography in English. The mother
of 14 children, Kempe became a chaste pilgrim after experiencing religious visions,
travelling to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela while expressing her
devotion to Christ through weeping and loud cries.
The 14th century
anchorite Julian of Norwich wrote Revelations of Divine Love herself after
experiencing a series of mystical visions in 1373. The visions included that of
“a little thing, the size of a hazel-nut, lying in the palm of my hand ... I
looked at it and thought, ‘What can this be?’ And the answer came to me, ‘It is
all that is made.’” The book, which Julian wrote in a shorter version,
describing the “shewings” she saw and interpreting them, and then in a longer
version around 20 years later, is seen as the first by a woman in English.
Only one known
manuscript exists of Margery Kempe’s story: its whereabouts were unknown from
around 1520 until the 1930s, when it was discovered in the cupboard of a
country-house during a game of ping-pong. One of the players stepped on the
ball and while searching for another, the The Book of Margery Kempe manuscript
fell out of a cupboard. It has been stored in the British Library ever since
and was digitised by the British Library in 2014.
Julian of Norwich’s
text, which includes the famous line “all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well”, is also rare: the short text, which she
is believed to have written soon after her 1373 visions, only exists in one
manuscript, also kept in the British Library, while the later text exists in three
copies dating to the 17th century.
Although the two
women met during their lives – Margery Kempe visited Julian of Norwich in her
anchorite cell for advice on her visions – the two manuscripts have never been
shown together. A new exhibition from Wellcome Collection, This
is a Voice, which explores the human voice, brings them together for
the first time, after the British Library agreed to the loans.
that the British Library has loaned the unique manuscript of The Book of
Margery Kempe to the This is a Voice exhibition – not only did Kempe describe
hearing voices and sounds but she also crafted a distinctive voice for herself.
It is very touching that the Julian of Norwich manuscript is displayed
alongside that of Margery Kempe: the two women – who can also legitimately be
called two of the earliest women writers in English – met in Norwich, probably
in the year 1413,” said Anthony Bale, professor of medieval studies at
Birkbeck, University of London, who recently edited and translated The Book of
Margery Kempe for Oxford University Press.
reputation as a holy woman was already established, and Kempe visited her to
see if the ‘holy speeches and conversations’ that Kempe had with God were real
or not,” said Bale. “Kempe describes how Julian advised and endorsed her, and
the two women had ‘much holy conversation’, over the course ‘of many days’
Bale said the two women
were “very different”. “On the one hand, Julian was an anchoress, a pious
hermit who had withdrawn from the world to live an ascetic life in a cell
attached to a church; on the other hand, Margery Kempe was a middle-class wife,
mother of 14 children, a relentless pilgrim who made her way to Jerusalem, and
a controversialist whose weeping, praying, and presence antagonised many of the
people around her,” said the professor.
psychologist Charles Fernyhough, who is about to publish his new book The
Voices Within, a look at “how we talk to ourselves”, was part of the team who
put the Wellcome exhibition together. “We went to the British Library and met
with the curator, and put to her that having these two manuscripts would send
an incredibly important message - it would say that this experience [of hearing
voices] has been around for a long time. That hearing voices isn’t new, and
that it has been interpreted in more positive ways in the past ... It was such
a coup for us to get [The Book of Margery Kempe] as it’s one of their most
precious, prized things.”
The one surviving
copy of the short text of Julian of Norwich’s book was “too valuable” to be
loaned, so Wellcome Collection chose a 1625 version of the long text, said
Fernyhough, which exhibits the “beautiful writing style” of its scribe.
“The manuscript of
Julian of Norwich is from a later date, from the early 17th century – so it
would never have actually been read with The Book of Margery Kempe,” said Bale.
“But the same people – Carthusian monks and devout readers interested in
mysticism – were responsible for preserving both Julian’s Revelations and The
Book of Margery Kempe, two of the most important pieces of Middle English that
will stay on display together until the end of the exhibition on 31 July.