JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER  || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || Original version published in The Tablet, 11 May, 1996
 
 

THE SHOWING'S SCRIBES

AS JULIAN'S EDITORS
 
 

here are eight texts representing three versions of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love. The three oldest manuscripts are written in Brigittine contexts, both at Syon Abbey and in exile from England; later copies of two now-lost manuscript exemplars then being made by English Benedictine nuns in exile, three of the whole text, two of fragments, and the first edition of 1670. In all of these versions, the texts of the Showing of Love , the Revelations, are presented for women in monastic contemplation. All but one are copied by women contemplatives. Of these seven, only one stayed in England, Amherst, and only one, Paris, now remains abroad. What manuscripts had been in England in lay persons' hands would have been destroyed under Archbishop Chancellor Arundel's persecution of Lollardy which forbade theology and the Bible, especially by women, in the vernacular; if they survived that purging they would have next been destroyed at Henry VIII and Elizabeth I's persecution of Catholicism, except where they were treasured up in recusant circles at the risk of their owners' lives.
 
 

I. The Amherst Manuscript's Scribe

The oldest manuscript we have is possibly the last version of Julian's text of her Showing. It is the Short Text in the British Library, in the Amherst Manuscript , written about 1413 to about 1435, by a scribe, possibly the Carmelite Richard Misyn himself, from Lincolnshire, of texts assembled finally for an anchoress, Margaret Heslyngton. The Amherst Manuscript also includes Margaret Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls , Jan van Ruysbroeck's Sparkling Stone , an extract from Henry Suso's Horologium Sapientiae , and works by Richard Rolle, translated by Richard Misyn, for women recluses, as well as Julian's Showing of Love in the Short Text. The scribe's dialect is identified as from Grantham, Yorkshire, the same scribe being responsible for other major manuscripts, including Mechtild of Hackeborn's Book of Ghostly Grace. The Amherst Manuscript constantly uses the monogram 'SI'. The drawing at its conclusion, where Jesus is as Mother, is shown with a cross-nimbed halo made of three nails, appears to reflect the Brigittine headdress of the five wounds made by three nails and spear in Christ's body, as a white crown with five red roundels at the interstices upon a black veil. The manuscript is then heavily annotated by James Greenhalgh, a monk of Syon Abbey's twin foundation, Carthusian Sheen.

Brigittine nuns in choir, Paradiso, Florence, circa 1435

 ere es Avisio un. Shewed Be the goodenes of god to Ade/uoute Woman and hir Name es Julyan that is recluse atte/ Norwyche and 3itt ys oun lyfe. Anno domini millesimo CCCC/xiij. In the whilke visioun er fulle many Comfortabylle wordes and/ gretly Styrrande to alle thaye that desyres to be crystes looverse/

By Permission of The British Library, Amherst Manuscript, Additional 37,790, fol. 97. Reproduction Prohibited.

It continues with:

 Desyrede thre graces by the gyfte of god. The ffyrst was to have mynde of Cryste es Passioun. The Secounde was/ bodelye syekenes And the thryd was to haue of goddys gyfte thre wo=undys. ffor the fyrste come to my mynde with devocio un me thought/ I hadde grete felynge in the passyoun of cryste Botte 3itte I desyrede to haue mare be the grace of god. me thought I wolde have bene ~
 
 
 

II. The Westminster Manuscript's Scribe

The second oldest surviving manuscript is in the Westminster Manuscript , owned by Westminster Cathedral and now on loan to Westminster Abbey. The florilegium, or gathering of texts, including Psalm commentaries, parts of Hilton's Ladder of Perfection, and Julian's Showing of Love , was likely written out about 1500, but bears the date on the first page of '1368', which is repeated on the spine and on the end papers.
 
 

Westminster Cathedral Manuscript, '1368'

The hand of the manuscript is most closely identified by the paleography Jean Preston with one in another manuscript owned by a Brigittine nun, 'Elizabeth Crychley of Syon'. It is likely written out by a Brigittine nun at Syon Abbey.

The section on the Showing of Love is quite different from the British Library's Short Text. It includes much of Julian's brilliant theology, of the entire cosmos as if it were but the size of a hazel nut in the palm of her hand, of God in a point, of Jesus as our Mother. It includes none of the death-bed vision that occurred in 1373 when Julian was thirty. It makes use of the Scriptures and where it uses the Hebrew Scriptures it does so with a knowledge of the original Hebrew texts, specifically two passages from Exodus, translating these into medieval English. This 1368?/1500 manuscript was discovered in 1955, edited by Sister Anna Maria Reynolds in 1956, but was neglected by most Julian scholars.

Folios 74-75 of the  Westminster Manuscript, the original within careful line and margin rules, presents the discussion on the hazel nut:
 

 

The Westminster Manuscript came to be owned by Lowes and a Bramston, who record their names on the final folio, 'Thomas Lowe, ffrauncis Lowe',  and in a bookplate. Christopher de Hamel noted that the Lowe family also, at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, owned a Syon Psalter, now in Edinburgh. It has a touching inscription that he believes was written by a former Syon nun, forcibly married off at the Dissolution, on the birth of her daughter, 'Elinor Mownse lowe was borne into this world upon the innocenttys day in the mornying betwene xii and on of the cloke the yere of our Lord 1543. God make her a good woman . . . ' Philip Lowe, his wife and John Lowe, a priest and their relative, were arrested and imprisoned, and John Lowe was drawn, hung and quartered, Philip's wife dying in prison, for their Catholicism and their continued association with Syon Abbey's young nuns returned in disguise to Lyford Grange, under Elizabeth I. John Bramston was the last Brigittine monk buried at Syon Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, 1539. The Bramstons were reported by a Portuguese spy as being secretly Catholic, 1672. From the information added to the Westminster Manuscript we find the manuscript remained for centuries within the hands of the Lowe family, and that it eventually passed from them to Bishop James Bramston. Sister Rose Lowe became Prioress of Syon Abbey in exile in Lisbon, Portugal, having preserved the community from extinction under Wellington, dying in 1822. Bishop James Bramston carried out his theological studies at the English College, Lisbon. Bishop James Bramston calculated on its end paper in 1821, by subtracting 1368 from it, that it was 453 years old. Sister Rose Lowe and, centuries before her, the Brigittine nun scribe of this manuscript would have been garbed with this particular headdress upon their veils that we see in the manuscript illumination above. That garb was the same for all Brigittine nuns, wherever they established foundations, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, England, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Mexico.
 
 

III. The Paris Manuscript's Scribe

The third oldest surviving manuscript was written out about 1580 in the region near Antwerp, according to its watermarks, which is the date that exiled Syon was in Antwerp, then was taken to Rouen, which is where Syon Abbey next journeyed, then was sold off when Brigittine Syon Abbey-in-exile's nuns sailed away from Rouen in France to Lisbon in Portugal in 1594, coming into the hands of the Bigot family of book collectors in Rouen, before it was auctioned off to the King of France's Library in 1706.

Here is given folios 8 verso and 9 recto of the Paris Manuscript of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love , in which we are looking at an Elizabethan manuscript copy by a nun of a Tudor 'fair copy' Syon manuscript readied for printing, that was blocked by Henry VIII's Reformation:

with Westminster's corresponding passage for comparison. The appearances of the Westminster and the Paris Manuscripts are similar in 'house style', despite the change with time in handwriting, both being written on ruled lines between ruled margins. The Paris Manuscript rubricates Christ's words to Julian, where other Julian manuscripts tend to engross these passages.

Studying the Lowe family and their ownership of the Westminster Manuscript is to realize the tremendous courage recusants had in the face of execution by burning, by drawing, hanging and quartering, by imprisonment, by exile, by poverty. We witness that same oppression when studying the Paris Manuscript. Brigittine Syon Abbey, founded in 1415, fostered the writing and owning of contemplative treatises. Wynken de Worde printed Walter Hilton's Scala Perfectionis in 1494, and this text was treasured by Syon nuns, both before and after their exile. Even the indefatigable friend of Julian, Margery Kempe who went on pilgrimage to Syon and Sheen, was to have extracts of her manuscript printed in 1501. Syon's entry into print culture really began in earnest, however, with the 1516 Richard Pynson printing of Gascoigne's Life of St Birgitta, followed by the exquisite 1519 Wynken de Worde, Orcherde of Syon, 1530, Richard Fawkes, Myroure of oure Ladye, and many others. The woodcut of Syon Abbey's foundress, St Birgitta of Sweden, appears in eighteen such books pritned by Wynken de Worde, Richard Pynson, Robert Redman, Richard Fawkes and others, between 1519-1534. It is likely that this printing programme, already including Margery Kempe, Catherine of Siena and Birgitta of Sweden, should have been intended also to include Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love. Clearly the Paris Manuscript, written out in the Antwerp region, was copying a Tudor exemplar from Syon Abbey that had already been carefully written out as such 'fair copy' with running headers and readied for printing. Had it appeared it would have had the woodblock of St Birgitta of Sweden, Syon Abbey's hallmark. It would also, like the Orcherde of Syon, translating St Catherine of Siena's Dialogo, used both red and black ink, the red for God's words dialoguing with Julian's in black.

But in 1534 stormclouds were gathering, due to a Benedictine nun from Kent who was writing a 'greate boke' of Revelations modeled on those of St Birgitta of Sweden and St Catherine of Siena, made available to her at Syon Abbey. Her spiritual director was Dr Edward Bocking, a Canterbury Benedictine. Already Robert Redman had printed a pamphlet on Elizabeth Barton's miraculous sure from an illness in Kent. Then ' Thomas Laurence of Canturbury being regester to the Archidecon of Canturbury, at the instance and desyre of the seid Edwarde Bocking wrott a greate boke of the seid falce and feyned myracles and revelations of the seid Elizabeth in a fayre hande redy to be a copye to the prynter when the seid boke shulde by put to stampe'. That book was printed in seven hundred copies by John Skot in 1530, one copy even reaching Tyndale in exile in Antwerp. The Holy Maid of Kent, Elizabeth Barton, O.S.B., fearlessly spoke out against Henry VIII's divorcing Katherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Bishop St John Fisher and Cardinal Wolsey believing her, though St Thomas More, who spoke with her at Syon Abbey, expressed doubt. Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cramner on behalf of the king had all copies of these books seized and destroyed and, 20 april 1534, Elizabeth Barton, Benedictine nun of St Sepulchre's Canterbury and Dr Edward Bocking, Benedictine monk of Canterbury Cathedral, were drawn from the Tower to Tyburn, hanged and quartered.

Following the drawing, hanging and quartering of the Benedictines, Elizabeth Barton and Edward Bocking, the Brigittine, St Richard Reynolds, the 'Angel of Syon', and three Carthusians were likewise drawn, hung and quartered, 4 May 1535. The Brigittine monks and nuns of Syon Abbey went into exile twice, taking with them some of their books, perhaps, including the 'fair copy' exemplar of the Julian of Norwich manuscript, the Showing of Love, and certainly, the marble gatepost, sculpted with angels holding the Instruments of the Passion, upon which a part of St Richard Reynolds' quartered body had been exposed. They were to lose the Julian Manuscript but the gatepost they took to Antwerp, to Rouen, to Lisbon, to Devon, on all their 'Wanderings of Syon'. They have it still, in their chapel at Totnes, along with portraits of St Richard Reynolds, the three Carthusians, John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster, and those of St John Fisher and St Thomas More, who were executed in that same year, 22 June and 6 July, 1535.

Though not a scrap of the hundreds of printed versions of Elizabeth Barton's text survive there is discussion about what her book contained. Here is an example: 'Nay it was not so, but One was before Any Other, and One in Neither'. The sermon condemning the Holy Maid of Kent implies that this statement written in her great book was heresy and treason. Two women, Marguerite Porete, in 1310, Elizabeth Barton, in 1534, were both executed for their theological books, the first perhaps influencing Julian, her text present in the earliest extant manuscript, the Amherst, the second woman certainly influenced by Saints Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena and likely also by Julian of Norwich, all of whose manuscripts were present at Syon Abbey and in English versions where she worked on her 'greate boke' of Revelations.

Thus Syon Abbey first went into exile to the Antwerp region under Henry VIII, then returned to London under Mary Tudor, then was exiled again to Mechline in the Antwerp region under Elizabeth I. So great was the poverty of Syon Abbey, many being ill with symptoms of starvation like oedema, that the young Sisters were sent back to England in lay clothing to seek funds and to print books. Five were arrested at Dover, three at Colchester, several of them likely dying in Reading Goal. Eight others made their way to the same place, the moated, damp Lyford Grange, as was frequented by the Lowes and where the original seven nuns from Syon Abbey under Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries had carried on the recitation of the Offices while living with lay relatives. Together, they faced arrest with the Lowes and worse, both Edward Campion, S.J., 1581, and John Lowe, 1586, eventually being drawn, hung and quartered on Tyburn. One Sister, Mary Champney, dying of tuberculosis, had already been sent off to London and on her deathbed was quoting passages from Julian of Norwich and begging that the books of the English mystics she had be published, this in in 1580. Later in that year, another Sister, Elizabeth Saunders, was captured at Alston, imprisoned in Winchester Castle and the books found on her person seized by the Anglican Bishop as being 'lewde and forbydden'. One of them likely Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love in fair copy for printing. She escaped, then returned to her prison, and was finally able to return to Syon Abbey, by then moved to Rouen in France. In 1594, Rouen proving as dangerous as Antwerp, the Sisters next embarked for Lisbon, selling off their books, amongst them this manuscript copied out by one of them for publication, where it ended up in a library of a family in Rouen, finally coming to Paris in 1706, decades later than the 1670 First Edition edition of Julian of Norwich's Showng of Love published by the Paris English Benedictines.

If we study the dates that actually appear in the three manuscript versions of Julian's Showing a most interesting pattern emerges. The Westminster Manuscript, which has nothing of the death-bed vision and which has the date '1368', could represent an attempt to reconstruct a first version written out when Julian was twenty-five. The Paris Manuscript Long Text tells us that its original version was being conceptualised and written fifteen and twenty years after the 1373 vision, that is, when Julian was between forty-five and fifty years of age. The Amherst Manuscript Short Text clearly tells us it was written out in 1413, when Julian was seventy. These manuscript versions could thus represent a lifetime of a woman's theological writings. They also demonstrate the great care and knowledge her contemplative scribes took to preserve all known versions of her text. Westminster contains corrections against another manuscript, likely also at Syon.

The manuscripts tell a story of an even greater span of time than that of Julian only, or even of her Brigittine scribes, and it is a story which encompasses great troubles and tempests in the history of the Church in England and abroad.
 
 

IV. Norwich Castle and Lambeth Palace Manuscripts' Scribes

Two manuscripts contemporary with the end of Julian's life and with the Amherst Manuscript and somewhat later are to be found at Norwich Castle and at Lambeth Palace. The hands of their scribes are squarish, with a particular ampersand, and the second typically dots ys as well as is to distinguish them from the thorns. The Norwich Castle Manuscript transcribes the 'Epistle sent Jerom [actually Pelagius] sent to amayd Demetriade that had vowed chastite to ihsu criste', a Treatise on the Lord's Prayer , the Carmelite Richard Lavenham's Treatise on the Seven Sins, and Pore Caitif. Like the Amherst Manuscript, it has always remained in England.

The Lambeth Palace Manuscript contains contemplative prayers in Latin and English and was originally taken by Syon Abbey into exile to Dendermonde, 1539-1557, under King Henry VIII. Many phrases within these texts echo Julian's theology, yet neither contain Julian's Showing of Love.

The hand of the Norwich Castle Manuscript is similar to that of the corrector of the Amherst Manuscript adding missing and important lines to the text of the Showing of Love. I believe it is the hand of Julian herself, correcting her amanuensis' eyeskips.
 

V. The Benedictine Manuscripts: Gascoigne; Upholland
 


Permission, Ampleforth Abbey Trustees

Now we must turn to Benedictine Nuns' Manuscripts preserving Julian's text. And ask why there was a change from the one congregation to the other, why the English Recusant Catholic families, still carefully preserving manuscripts of Julian of Norwich's text secretly, chose to found a Benedictine house at Cambrai in 1623, rather than sending their daughters to the established Brigittine one at Lisbon. In carefully handwritten Notebooks compiled by Canon John Rory Fletcher, now preserved at the University of Exeter but formerly belonging to Syon Abbey in Totnes, we learn of a 'licensed pirate', one Thomas Robinson, who pretended to be Catholic and who entered Lisbon's Syon Abbey becoming a priest brother, only later to flee in the night with treasure, including manuscripts, and to publish a scandalous book against them in 1622. He may have been planted in their midst as a spy with orders to damage Catholicism in English eyes to the greatest extent possible.

That libel likely caused the founding of the Benedictine foundation in Cambrai, then in the Spanish Netherlands, now in France, with daughters from the More and Gascoigne families, usually associated with Brigittine Syon Abbey. Nevertheless, the English Brigittines of Syon Abbey in Lisbon and the English Benedictines of Our Lady of Comfort in Cambrai and Our Lady of Good Hope in Paris, three monastic women's houses, continued to treasure Julian of Norwich's anachoritic, contemplative Showing of Love, from their beginnings to this day.

The Cambrai house had Father Augustine Baker, O.S.B., as spiritual director. He encouraged the nuns to make use of medieval mystical writings for their own contemplative writings and acquired manuscript texts for them from Sir Robert Cotton (whose collection later came into the British Library), for whom Augustine Baker had worked. The English Benedictine nuns had begun a publishing programme with their translation of some of Francis de Sales' Conferences as The Delicious Entertainments of the Soul, printed at Douai in 1632. In 1633, Chapter first questioned Augustine Baker's spiritual direction, then approved it. Augustine Baker returned to Douai in that year, going to England in 1638 and dying there in 1641. It is very probably that Dame Clementia Cary, O.S.B. realizing the danger to the Julian manuscripts in their care at Cambrai, then took two copies, one made by herself, with her to Paris in 1651, planning upon their eventual publication as part of the work of the English Mission.

There were two such directors for the English Benedictine nuns in exile. The first being Father Augustine Baker, O.S.B., who had worked for Sir Robert Cotton and knew his superb collection of medieval manuscripts, which later entered the British Library. Father Augustine Baker, encouraged the nuns at Cambrai to read, copy and use the medieval mystics in their own contemplative lives. Other, and male, Benedictines balked at this practice. The nuns were asked to surrender their books. A burst of copying ensued, Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B ., providing the greatest amount of copied texts, among them the Upholland fragment of Julian's Showing, and likely also Dame Clementia Cary's hastily written complete version in the first Sloane Manuscript (S1) , following upon her ecstatic 'reader response' comments to the margins of the second Sloane Manuscript (S2) , and a small group of nuns went to Paris in 1651 with the resulting duplicated collection of texts as insurance against their loss. Their director in Paris was Father Serenus Cressy, O.S.B. Likewise the Paris Constitution, written out in Dame Bridget More's exquisite hand, in French, in Dame Clementia Cary's, in English, included the information that the English Benedictine nuns' spiritual lives were to be based, as Father Augustine Baker, O.S.B., had carefully taught them, upon these practices.

In 1653, Chapter approved Serenus Cressy, O.S.B.'s epitome of Augustine Baker's methods, but in 1655, disaster struck. Dom Claude White, President of the English Benedictine Congregation, demanded the recall of all Baker's manuscripts in order to purge them of ' poisonous doctrine'. Apparantly this move was instigated by Dom Rudisind Barlow, the re-founder of the English Benedictine Congregation, who was jealous of the esteem in which Augustine Baker's memory was held. The Stanbrook Benedictines describe the scene from a transcribed document found recently in the Bodleian Library, Rawlinson A.36, written by the Abbess Dame Catherine Gascoigne, and intercepted by the spy Thurloe.

. . . Father White arrived in person on Saturday, February 27, 1655, determined to enforce his demand. Summoning the Abbess before Conventual Mass, her ordered her to hold a Council meeting and declare in writing, with a simple 'I or No', whether the Councillors would surrender the manuscripts. 'Myself and all the Councill first prostrating before him', writes Dame Catherine, the reply was presented. Again, by 'uniform concurrence ', they humbly petitioned to have the matter deferred. The document is a model of tact, deference and unshaken resolution. It closes: ' We humbly beseech your V.R. Paternity to pardon us that do not answer you in the simple word of I or No, we having given your Paternity many reasons why wee could not answer I, and as for No, without the necessary circumstances wee feared it might carry a show of disrespect to your V.R. Paternity to whom we owe and desire to perform all dutifull obedience and respect '.
That response elicited further rage, the Abbess being told by the President that the books of the medieval mystics (among which were Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love), ' contained poysonous pernicious and diabolicall doctrine '. (One hears the echo of 'certaiyne lewde and forbydden bokes' seized by the Bishop of Winchester when Sister Elizabeth Saunders of Syon Abbey was arrested at Alton with them in her possession in 1580.) The President next required each nun in turn to vote 'I or No ,' and almost all held out for the preservation of the books, the President shouting the while, the nuns' soft voices gently refusing to acquiesce to the destruction of these precious writings. Dame Catherine, upon being forced again, replied that the Cambrai community was even willing to withdraw from the English Benedictine Congregation if need be. President White made one last attempt at coercion, to which Dame Catherine replied, ' I answered "I was ready to give his Paternity all the satisfaction I could in conscience'. She had many Masses said for him. He died in that year, Dom Rudisind Barlow the following one. Dame Catherine was to live many more years. Her last recorded act was an appeal to have 'a new and very ample confirmation [of these writings] as being the greatest treasure that belongs to this poor community'.

But, in fact, insurance copies of all their precious manuscripts had already been copied out in a burst of activity, most texts transcribed by Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B., around 1650, and these copies were then taken to Paris in 1651 where the daughter house to Our Lady of Comfort, Our Lady of Good Hope, was founded. Among these copies are two seventeenth-century fragments copied from a Long Text version of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, one at at St Mary's Abbey, Colwich, and written out by Dame Bridget More , the great great great great granddaughter of Thomas More, from a text originally copied by Dame Margaret Gascoigne,

the other formerly at Upholland, written out by Dame Barbara Constable ,

the above portraits of both these scribes also surviving.
 
 

VI. The Benedictine Manuscripts, Sloane 2488, Sloane 3705

There are as well two complete copies of the Showing of Love's Long Text made by these Benedictine nuns in the seventeenth century; a further Long Text manuscript is made in the eighteenth century.:

Sloane 2499 (siglum S1), appears to be copied out rapidly by Dame Clementia Cary, O.S.B. , about 1650, while taking great pains to be faithful to the archaic dialect of the exemplar.

Sloane 3705 (siglum S2), likewise copied from S1's exemplar, though modernizing its spelling.

The Sloane Manuscripts (sigla SS) copy out a different and now-lost medieval exemplar of Julian's Showing of Love, owned by the Benedictine nuns at Cambrai and perhaps taken by them to Paris. The exemplar to the Sloane Manuscripts, however, is not the same as the now-lost Tudor exemplar that was already copied out in the Syon Abbey manuscript that eventually entered the Paris Bibliotheque Nationale, and that was to to be copied out again for the Serenus Cressy 1670 edition. That now-lost exemplar was also owned by the English Benedictine nuns in exile and had been first quoted from by Dame Margaret Gascoigne, O.S.B., before her death in 1637. But the First Edition taken to the printers by Serenus Cressy, O.S.B, is based on a second, now lost, manuscript, one which is almost exactly the same as the Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Anglais 40 (siglum P), Manuscript. But Cressy in Paris cannot have consulted that manuscript we now know as Paris, which was initially written out by an exiled Brigittine nun in Antwerp circa 1580, and which then came to Rouen, where it entered the Library of the Bigot family, in turn being sold to the King of France's Royal Library in 1706 (which become the Bibliothèque Nationale at the French Revolution). The Paris Manuscript was neither available to the Benedictine English nuns nor to their Spiritual Director of 1651-1653, Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., not having yet reached Paris from Rouen by these dates. One of the manuscripts the English Benedictines used must thus have been the Tudor exemplar of the Paris Manuscript. It is therefore important to heed the readings of Stowe 42 (siglum C1) and Cressy 1670 (siglum C2).

The dialect of the Tudor exemplar to Paris was already flattened and normalized by the Syon Abbey Brigittines. But their medieval exemplar used for the Sloane Manuscripts (SS), though it presents a shorter version of the Long Text, was in Julian's own Norwich dialect and corresponds with the Norwich Castle Manuscript written for or by an anchoress in that region. It is a blessing that Dame Clementia Cary, O.S.B., took such care to preserve its original fourteenth-century spelling in her Sloane 1 manuscript of the seventeenth century. Thus, editorially, all these seventeenth-century readings of a fourteenth-century text need to be heeded, particularly that of Sloane 2488.

We do not know who inscribed the second Sloane manuscript. Sloane 3705 (siglum S2). It has been tended to be thought late, perhaps eighteenth-century. Its spelling is modernised. But it takes great pains with italicizing and engrossing to reproduce the layout of its medieval exemplar. That its annotations and layout came to be used in Serenus Cressy's 1670 editio princeps indicates that it is closely contemporary with Sloane 2499 (siglum S1). Moreover some of its annotations are in Dame Clementia Cary's hand and appear to be her response to her initial reading of Julian's Showing. Thus Sloane 3705, Sloane 2, could precede Sloane 2499, S1, in the manuscripts' chronology; a check of its watermarks actually does reveal scientifically that it precedes Sloane 1.

The Sloane 2 manuscript, like Dame Barbara Constable and Dame Bridget More's two fragments from Julian's Showing, is most careful to place Christ's words to Julian in larger letters or with underlining, to differentiate these from the rest of their text. That the fragment of the Showing, copied out by Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B. , formerly in the Upholland Northern Institute (siglum U) collection, recreates the same engrossing as does Sloane 3705, engrossing also seen in one instance in the Westminster Manuscript, and that Dame Bridget More, O.S.B. , in turn, also copied out a fragment of a Julian manuscript, her copy to be found in that house, now St Mary's Abbey, Colwich, which returned to England following the French Revolution (siglum G), this text likewise making careful use of engrossing in the text, while the earlier Paris Manuscript gives Christ's words to Julian in rubrication, may be evidence, where five of seven scribal witnesses concur, of Julian's own scribal practices. Interestingly, one sees this same practice of engrossing of the sacred text in a Hebrew manuscript Julian's likely director, Cardinal Adam Easton, had owned of Rabbi David Kimhi's Sepher Miklol. It is a practice that goes back in time to even the pre-Christian Book of the Dead in Egypt, which rubricates the divine locutions.

The fact that the second Sloane manuscript, like the first Sloane manuscript, has marginal notations which are printed in 1670, leads us to several conclusions. It is significant that both Sloane manuscripts came to England together before the return of the exiled English Benedictine nuns. The other fragmentary copies from medieval manuscripts remained with them in Paris, not returning to England until the nineteenth century. Who could have brought the Sloane Manuscripts to England? The logical answer is that these manuscripts were gathered together and carefully compared and prepared by Dame Clementia Cary, O.S.B, and her fellow Benedictine nuns for the 1670 first edition by Serenus Cressy, O.S.B. Teamwork was clearly involved. The different hands of many of the learned annotations and most careful editorial comments are still to be identified. What is clear is that an editorial team of Benedictine nuns further compared the text readied for publication of a now lost Tudor exemplar text with two slightly different texts from a related manuscript family, similarly prepared by them for such a purpose, from a medieval exemplar from Julian's fourteenth-century Norwich. Thus all the dates must precede that of 1670. Sloane 3705 is therefore coeval with Sloane 2499, most likely circa 1650. The Sloane Manuscripts are written out in France, then likely brought home to Julian's England by the exiled English Benedictines' chaplain, Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., for the flower ornaments to the editio princeps made from these manuscripts are English rather than French. Following that there is a significant gap in these manuscripts' history.

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), whose collection of manuscripts became the nucleus of the British Library, died prior to the French Revolution. His collection exemplifies his great interest in medicine and related subjects such as alchemy. It appears that Sir Hans Sloane acquired his two manuscripts, Sloane 2499 and Sloane 3705, quite early, perhaps out of medical interest in Julian's description of her near-dying.

These four manuscripts were all transcribed by English Benedictine nuns in exile at Cambrai (now Stanbrook Abbey), and Paris (now Colwich Abbey). They were observing the precepts of Fathers Augustine Baker and Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., who encouraged the nuns to read fourteenth-century contemplative writings and to transcribe them for their own devotional use. Benedictine Serenus Cressy was to publish the first printed edition of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love in 1670.
 
 

VII. The 1670 Editio Princeps

It is clear from studying the Brigittine manuscripts, especially that now in Paris, that there was the greatest desire amongst the enclosed Brigittine nuns to preserve, to collate and to prepare for publication a text they had found so efficacious in their own contemplation for the use of others. The text clearly was almost printed by Syon Abbey on the Eve of the Reformation, then again under Elizabeth I. That task finally came to fruition under the English Benedictines in exile. Serenus Cressy's Forward to the text notes that its publication is funded and approved by the Abbot of Lambspring, Placid Gascoigne, brother to the Abbess Catherine Gascoigne of Cambray, and whose Abbey owned the Anchoress/Foundress Christina of Markyate's St Albans Psalter: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/stalbanspsalter/. Their sister Margaret Gascoigne who had died in 1637, had first mentioned Julian's text. It is possible that the Gascoignes brought one or both exemplar Julian manuscripts to Cambray, Dame Bridget More and Dame Clementia Cary then bringing their two copies made of one of these, the now-lost medieval exemplar, to Paris. The other now-lost exemplar was the Tudor 'fair copy', upon which the 1670 Serenus Cressy edition was based and not the Elizabethan Paris Manuscript, then in Rouen. It is clear this was a text beloved in Cambrai, Paris, even Lambspring. Dame Catherine, when she was dying, affirmed that these texts were the greatest treasure Cambrai possessed. Cambrai's library of contemplative texts was lost at the French Revolution. Before its books disappeared it had been carefully catalogued by the French schoolgirls the English nuns had taught in the Revolutionary 'Catalogue des livres provenant de la maison des Benedictines anglaise de Cambrai', describing in 519 pages the Abbey library's 3,845 books.


 
 

IX. Revolution and Aftermath: Stowe 42's Scribe

But what of British Library, Stowe 42 and its contents of the Long Text of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, the seventh extant manuscript? The Stowe Manuscripts were lodged for a while at Ashburnham Place in Sussex, following the Duke of Buckingham's bankruptcy in the nineteenth century, before coming to the British Library. Because Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., died and was buried near Ashburnham in Sussex, 1674, I thought that perhaps Stowe 42 made its way into the Ashburnham Place collection, then into that of Stowe, and then into the British Library, beieving it to be the 'fair copy' for the Serenus Cressy 1670 First Edition. However, its watermarks indicate that it was copied out at the end of the eighteenth century and in England. It could thus could have been a gift from the English Benedictine nuns to thank their benefactress and patroness, the Marchioness of Buckingham, on their return home.

And that in turn is a story. On 18 October 1793, the English Benedictines of Cambrai's Our Lady of Comfort, twenty-one in total, were violently ejected from the Abbey and taken in open carts to Compiegne where they were imprisoned for eighteen months. They had to carry out their departure, without trunks or boxes, only bundles of necessaries being permitted, within half an hour and in the presence of ruffians with clubs within the cloister. All their papers and books were sealed, becoming the property of the French Government. In one bundle or pocket one Sister, despite all these prohibitions, was able to carry away for her consolation the medieval Cloud Author's Book of Privy Counsell, today Stanbrook 3. After five days' journey the nuns were brought to Compiegne, also a convent now become a prison, which they came to share in June 1794 with sixteen French Carmelite nuns. These Carmelites were guillotined, 16 July, the Feastday of Our Lady of Carmel, while singing 'Salve Regina'. The English nuns were given the dead Carmelites's clothing to wear. finally, Robespierre being dead, the English nuns were able to return to England, still in the Carmelites' clothing, having borrowed money from Edward Constable of Burton, from whose family Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B., the scribe of so many Cambrai manuscripts, had come, a family which may also have owned the Amherst Julian manuscript. The English nuns, from deaths, themselves now only numbered sixteen when they arrived in Dover, 3 May 1795. Mr Peter Coglan, the Catholic bookseller, introduced them to the Marchioness of Buckingham and she arranged for them to first have a house in London, rather than be lodged at the Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross, then Edward Burton helped them to establish a school for girls, to carry on the work they had already done in Cambrai.

Their daughter house in Paris of Our Lady of Hope had 2,245 books and manuscripts. These the English Benedictines were able to have shipped back to England. At the French Revolution, September and October, 1792, these nuns were imprisoned in their convent, their papers and books searched and sealed. There were only twelve choir nuns and three lay sisters. On 15 July 1794 they were taken to the Chateau de Vincennes with just a bundle of necessaries each. They were next moved to the prison of the English Austin nuns in Paris. They returned home February 1795, again being helped by Mr Peter Coglan. Their precious books are to this day at St Mary's Abbey, Colwich, Staffordshire, though those of Cambrai disappeared, it is said, across the border to Belgium, among them likely the exemplar manuscript for Paris and for Cressy and, even more important, the exemplar manuscript, certainly in Julian's Norwich dialect, and perhaps even in Julian's hand, from which the two Sloane manuscripts were copied.
 

 

X. The Scribes' Brigittine/Benedictine Contexts

The story of these manuscripts is a deeply moving one. It tells us of scholarly men, in their direction of the lives of religious women, encouraging the use of earlier mystical and theological texts written by men and by women. In these Julian of Norwich Showing of Love manuscripts and their 1670 first edition we even witness a kind of Earlier English Text Society, a careful editing of texts using scholarly methods and indeed being more accurate in replicating their manuscript versions than are modern editors such as Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, Frances Beer, Marion Glasscoe, or Hugh Kempster, while at the same time doing so for their own and others' spiritual sustenance and growth. It is all the more poignant that this crucial work of the preservation of an English medieval text written by a woman was being carried out by seventeenth-century women and men in exile from England, and that this band included four direct descendants of St Thomas More, as well as several relatives of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, Chancellor of Oxford University and benefactor of Syon Abbey. Even Sister Anna Maria Reynolds wrote her work in exile from her native Ireland, while in Leeds; then I came home to England to edit Julian in an Anglican cloister amidst a fine library, discovering Sister Anna Maria's prior work; then was, after four years, sent away penniless by bishops into exile, where, after a further four years in one room, without heat, on foot, without the needed books, the edition of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love was finished.

We have gone backwards through time, exploring the archeology of Julian's Showing, to understand how it came to be preserved, even where it had to be hidden and hoarded, rather than revealed and shown, perhaps, because, like her own image of a homely hazel nut, it was beloved, despite persecution both from without and from within, Julian's cloistering of prayer. We must never forget that we owe the careful preservation of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love first to Brigittine, then to Benedictine, textual communities of contemplative nun scribes and editors, working together in courageous collaboration, in the face of exile and imprisonment, risking death by burning in chains at Smithfield, or being drawn to Tyburn and there hanged and quartered, even being taken by tumbril to the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde.
 

{ OUre gracious & goode
lorde god shewed me in
party the wisdom and the trewthe
of the soule of our blessed lady
seynt mary
 
 

Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, CP, and Julia Bolton Holloway have edited and translated in parallel text all the manuscript versions of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, carefully replicating the manuscripts' layouts, giving: The Westminster Cathedral Manuscript; The Amherst Manuscript; The Paris Manuscript; The Sloane Manuscript. The volume may be obtained from SISMEL, the University of Florence, through order@sismel.it Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, CP, had previously edited all the then known manuscripts for her University of Leeds 1947 M.A. and 1956 D. Phil. Theses and published a translation of the Amherst Manuscript text of the Showing of Love.

An earlier version of this essay was published in The Tablet, 11 May 1996, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Editor of The Tablet.
 

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