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 || This essay transcribes the actual manuscripts of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, rather than the editions made from these. This text is also an audio book: http://www.umilta.net/soulcity.mp3 We suggest to the gentle reader/hearer the calling up of the audio file, then reducing it, and calling up again this file. The essay is based on the premise, not held by all Julian students, that the Amherst Manuscript, as it itself declares, presents a text written in 1413 and under Arundel's censorship of women teaching theology. It is dedicated to the memory of my paleography professor, Jean Preston, who owned two Fra Angelico side panels of the San Marco altarpiece which present a pair of Dominican saints.



St Birgitta gives her Revelations to Christendom
Revelationes, Ghotan: Lübeck, 1492

argery Kempe visited Julian of Norwich perhaps before 1413 and later reported their conversations, thus providing for us not only the early written texts we now have, the Amherst, Westminster, Paris Texts, but also an Oral Text, spoken just prior to the time that the 1413 exemplar to the Amherst Text was being written. Margery's Manuscript thus allows us to go back to fifteenth-century East Anglia with, as it were, a tape-recorder or an IPod. For this reason we present this essay in an oral recording at soulcity.mp3 which can be read simultaneously with this text, giving the various Julian and Margery texts, on the screen. Julian functioned in her community much like a psychiatrist, healing souls, that Greek word, in fact, meaning 'soul doctor'. For the Middle Ages theology was psychiatry, making use of the Book of Job and of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. Julian helps heal Margery's soul, perhaps too by suggesting the therapy of the Jerusalem pilgrimage and the writing of the vast book of her travels, The Book of Margery Kempe.

Both the Amherst and the Butler-Bowden Manuscripts, of Julian's Showing and Margery's Book, are now in the British Library. This essay transcribes directly from the manuscript texts. The letter 'thorn' is the Middle English form for th, the letter 3, 'yoch', is g, y or gh, the median letter the scribal s. Contractions are spelled out in italics. The foliation of the manuscripts is cited, preceded by A for Amherst (the Julian Showing Manuscript in the British Library, Additional 37,790), W for Westminster (the Julian Showing Manuscript owned by Westminster Cathedral and on loan to Westminster Abbey), P for Paris (the Julian Showing Manuscript in the Paris, Bibliothque Nationale, Anglais 40) which can all be retrieved from the edition by Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway, published by SISMEL, Florence, 2001), and M for The Book of Margery Kempe (the Butler-Bowden Manuscript, now British Library, Additional 61,823, discovered in 1934, and retrieved from the manuscript rather than from the edition by Sanford Brown Meech and Hope Emily Allen, Oxford: Early English Text Society, 212, 1939, 1961). Letters and words rubricated here are so in the manuscripts. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_61823_fs001r

Margery has her scribes tell us (M, folio 21r)

Julian's 1413/1450 Short Text concludes with an essay on the 'Discerning of Spirits'. Indeed, if Julian of Norwich had been counseled by Cardinal Adam Easton of Norwich Cathedral Priory, who knew Bishop Hermit Alfonso of Jan and his Epistola Solitarii, and who had together with him defended Birgitta of Sweden's canonisation, the Norwich anchoress certainly would have been 'expert' in the discerning of such spiritual matters and such revelatory showings, about which both the Cardinal and the Hermit Bishop had written. This was a matter, at this time when the pros and cons were being debated concerning women's visionary writings, of the greatest topical concern.

Margery and Julian's conversation continues

Again, we hear in this counsel the precepts written by Adam Easton and by Alfonso of Jan (also by the Cloud Author in his various Epistles), concerning the discerning of spirits in connection with the validation of the visionary writings of Birgitta of Sweden, whose 1391 Canonisation was to be confirmed at the 1419 Council of Constance despite the 1415 objections of Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, contained in his work, De probatione spirituum. That material had already been given in William Flete's Remedies Against Temptations. And William Flete had left England after writing that work to become an Augustine Hermit at Leccetto and associated with St Catherine of Siena. In the passage we also hear Julian's own beloved phrase, 'euyne cristen', and we can clearly recognise the echoes to the concluding section concerning the 'Discernment of Spirits', in the Julian corpus unique to the Amherst Short Text, A114v-115, and which may perhaps be her last, and authorizing, words in the face of Archbishop/Chancellor Arundel's censorship of Lollardy, particularly where women taught theology: Julian continues in her conversation with Margery, and is now reported in direct speech: That image of the storm-tossed sea reflects that in the Cloud Author's A Pistle of Discretion of Stirings (EETS 231:64.7-23).

Julian next is reported as citing her authorities, Paul and Jerome, to Margery, who perhaps misremembers one of them:

The only possible corresponding passage in Jerome's writings occurs in the heavily philosophical and theological Epistula 84, Ad Pammachium et Oceanum, 'Iungamus gemitus, lacrimas copulemus, ploremus et conuertamur ad dominum, qui fecit nos; non expectemus diaboli paenitentiam. Vana est illa praesumptio et in profundum gehennae trahens; hic aut quaritur uita aut amittitur'.(1) Perhaps Margery here misremembers and Julian was rather speaking of Augustine's account of Monica's tears, Confessions 3.12, recalled also by Birgitta's vision in the Holy Sepulchre concerning the fate of her son, Charles.(2)

Julian next discusses evil:

There is a parallel in Julian/Margery's wording here to the commentaries upon the Psalms Qui habitat and Bonum est, attributed to Walter Hilton and both present in the Westminster Cathedral Julian Manuscript. Has Julian intended not ' city' but 'seat ' in W101v, P116 and 144-145, A112, or has Margery misheard the word? But perhaps Julian deliberately plays upon the likeness of the two words. She may be using the concept expressed throughout Luke 14 where guests need to exercise humility to enter the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is within us.

Apart from the Hilton and Julian texts in the Westminster Manuscript, making this same point are other texts associated with Julian: Norwich Castle Manuscript, fol. 78v: . . . iusti sedes est sapiencie ffor as ʃeith holy write the ʃoule of the ry3tful man or womman is the ʃee & dwelling of endeles wiʃdom that is goddis ʃone ʃwete ihe If we been beʃy & doon our deuer to fulfille the wil of god & his pleaʃaunce thanne loue we hym wit al our my3te; and likewise John Whiterig, Contemplating the Crucifixion; from Anima iusti sedes est sapiencie: Proverbs 10.25b; cited, Gregory , Hom. XXXVIII in Evang. PL 76, 1282.

With that last comment, '& ʃo I truʃt, ʃter, at 3e ben', we realise that we certainly are listening to reported speech and that Dame Julian addressed Dame Margery, her 'evyn cristen', even as 'Sister'. The discussion of evil reminds one more of William Flete's Remedies Against Temptations than it does of Julian's 'sin as nought'. Interestingly, this phrasing concerning the soul as a city is closer to that of the Sixteenth Showing in the 1393/1580 Paris Manuscript, P143v-145v, and the 1413/1450s Amherst Manuscript, A112, which both give vestiges of the Lord and the Servant Parable, with their echoes from Angela of Foligno and Catherine of Siena, than it is to the earlier version, the Fourteenth Showing, present in the Westminster, W101-102v, and Paris, P116-119, Manuscripts.

Julian's 'Sovereign Might, Sovereign Wisdom, Sovereign Goodness' as the Trinity is discussed in 'Julian and Judaism'. This can be compared to the 1368/1500s Westminster Manuscript's more subtle account concerning Julian's vision of the Kingdom of Heaven, the City of God, within one's own soul, W101-102v:
God is nearer to us than our own soul, for he is the ground in whom our soul stands, and he is the means that keeps the substance and the sensuality together so that it shall never depart. For our soul sits in God, in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God in endless love. And therefore if we will have knowing of our soul, and communing and daliance
The Paris Manuscript gives first the Westminster Manuscript version as part of the Fourteenth Showing, greatly expanding it, while noting that it is to be spoken of again later in the Sixteenth Showing, P116-119. In that Sixteenth Showing it is given just as in the Amherst Manuscript, where it appears to be in the form of Julian's consolatory sermon for those who would have felt lost and bewildered by the subtlety of the earlier, far more precocious account, P144-145. W101v-102v and P116-119 are now excised from the text. But elements of it can be traced elsewhere in Julian's words to Margery, especially where they all speak of 'communynge & da=liance therwith', W101-101v, 'comenyng and dalyance ther with', P118v.5-6, (though in Amherst these words, 'daliaunce'. 'commones', sadly occur only in connection with the evil spirit and the soul, A114v.31-115.1), and Margery's use of these same words for her soul talk with Julian: 'the holy dalyawns that the ankres & this creature haddyn be comownyng in the lofe of owyr lord Jhesu crist'.

Of interest, too, is that the Amherst Manuscript contains not only Julian's Showing of Love but also Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone, translated into Middle English. Both Julian's Sixteenth Showing, P146, and the Sparkling Stone make use of Revelation 2.17. The Amherst Manuscript, A118, gives the text from Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone discussing the Apocalypse of St John as the 'Book of the Secrets of God' addressed 'To him that overcometh', in which 'the ʃpirit ʃays in the Apocalyps vincenti ʃays he ʃchalle gyffe hym a lytil white ʃtone and in it a newe name the whiche no man knowes but he that takys it' . This is material Julian well could have shared with Margery.

Julian continues:

Margery then ends her account by saying: John Milton and George Eliot have spoken of books as souls and cities as souls, George Eliot in Middlemarch IX giving us:

1st Gent.  An ancient land in ancient oracles
                Is called "law-thirsty:" all the struggle there
                Was after order and a perfect rule.
                Pray, where lie such lands now? . .
2nd Gent. Why, where they lay of old - in human souls.

Julian and Margery inscribe within the pages of their books their souls and their cities, black-clad Julian in her anchorhold in Norwich inscribing within that small space all the cosmos and its Creator while Margery in her white pilgrim robes trudges to Jerusalem and back.


Julian was readied for printing by Brigittine nuns but it was too dangerous to publish her under Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. (Her text was finally printed by Serenus Cressy in 1670, having been readied for printing by English Benedictine nuns in exile). Margery Kempe, however, was published. The Cell of Self Knowledge published by Henry Pepwell in 1521 was re-published by Edmund G. Gardner,3 who notes that

'She has come down to us only in a tiny quarto of eight pages printed by Wynkyn de Worde:

     "Here begynneth a ʃhorte treatyʃe of contemplacyon taught by our lorde Jhesu cryʃte, or taken out of the boke of Margerie kempe of Lynn."

And at the end:

     "Here endeth a ʃhorte treatyʃe called Margerie kempe de Lynn. Enprynted in Fleteʃtrete by Wynkyn de worde."
Gardner goes on to say:

The only known copy is preserved in the University of Cambridge. It is undated, but appears to have been printed in 1501. With a few insignificant variations, it is the same as was printed twenty years later by Pepwell, who merely inserts a few words like "Our Lord Jesus said unto her," or "she said," and adds that she was a devout ancress. Tanner, not very accurately, writes: "This book contains various discourses of Christ (as it is pretended) to certain holy women; and, written in the style of modern Quietists and Quakers, speaks of the inner love of God, of perfection, et cetera." No manuscript of the work is known to exist, and absolutely no traces can be discovered of the "Book of Margery Kempe," out of which it is implied by the Printer that these beautiful thoughts and sayings are taken.
     There is nothing in the treatise itself to enable us to fix its date. It is, perhaps, possible that the writer or recipient of these revelations is the "Margeria filia Johannis Kempe," who, between 1284 and 1298, gave up to the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, all her rights in a piece of land with buildings and appurtenances, "which falls to me after the decease of my brother John, and lies in the parish of Blessed Mary of Northgate outside the walls of the city of Canterbury." The revelations show that she was (or had been) a woman of some wealth and social position, who had abandoned the world to become an ancress, following the life prescribed in that gem of early English devotional literature, the Ancren Riwle. It is clearly only a fragment of her complete book (whatever that may have been); but it is enough to show that she was a worthy precursor of that other great woman mystic of East Anglia: Juliana of Norwich. For Margery, as for Juliana, Love is the interpretation of revelation, and the key to the universal mystery:

     "Daughter, thou mayʃt no better please God, than to think continually in His love."

     "If thou wear the habergeon or the hair, faʃting bread and water, and if thou ʃaidest every day a thouʃand Pater Noʃters, thou ʃhalt not pleaʃe Me ʃo well as thou doʃt when thou art in ʃilence, and ʃuffreʃt Me to ʃpeak in thy ʃoul."

     "Daughter, if thou knew how ʃweet thy love is to Me, thou wouldeʃt never do other thing but love Me with all thine heart."

     "In nothing that thou doʃt or ʃayeʃt, daughter, thou mayʃt no better pleaʃe God than believe that He loveth thee. For, if it were poʃʃible that I might weep with thee, I would weep with thee for the compaʃʃion that I have of thee."

     And, from the midst of her celestial contemplations, rises up the simple, poignant cry of human suffering: "Lord, for Thy great pain have mercy on my little pain."

Until Hope Emily Allen identifed the Butler-Bowden manuscript in 1934 this was all that was known of The Book of Margery Kempe. She next edited it for the Early English Text Society, which has yet to edit the text of Julian of Norwich.


1 CETEDOC CLCLT, Université de Louvain, CD

2 Saint Bride and Her Book: Birgitta of Sweden's Revelations, trans. Julia Bolton Holloway, pp. 113-119.



The Definitive Edition and Translation of the Extant Julian of Norwich Showing of Love Manuscripts:

To see the text inside click here

Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation, ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway (linen bound volume of 848 pages, with 18 plates of the manuscripts in full colour, ISBN 88-8450-095-8) from University of Florence, SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo  (Their price is  191,09 [subject to change], and postage was 36.46 air mail, 21.38 surface to America), or directly from Julia Bolton Holloway [price is negotiable]. The first edition is printed in 1670 copies. Reviewed in Sapienza, Medium Aevum, Speculum, etc.

  Sister Anna Maria Reynolds C.P. was the greatest editor Julian ever had. During the war years she was transcribing the extant microfilms with a microscope, a word at a time, for her Leeds University MA and Ph.D. theses. Subsequent editions based on her meticulous work failed to credit her.


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