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Editor: E.A. Jones

This source book offers a comprehensive treatment of the solitary religious lives in England in the late Middle Ages. It covers both enclosed anchorites or recluses and freely-wandering hermits, and explores the relation between them. The sources selected for the volume are designed to complement better-known works connected with the solitary lives, such as the anchoritic guide Ancrene Wisse, or St Aelred of Rievaulx’s rule for his sister; or late medieval mystical authors including the hermit Richard Rolle or the anchorite Julian of Norwich. They illustrate the range of solitary lives that were possible in late medieval England, practical considerations around questions of material support, prescribed ideals of behaviour, and spiritual aspiration. It also covers the mechanisms and structures that were put in place by both civil and religious authorities to administer and regulate the vocations. Coverage extends into the Reformation period to include evidence for the fate of solitaries during the dissolutions and their aftermath. The material selected includes visual sources, such as manuscript illustrations, architectural plans and photographs of standing remains, as well as excerpts from texts. Most of the latter are translated here for the first time, and a significant proportion are taken from previously unpublished sources.

E.A. Jones

Introduction This section is concerned with what Ancrene Wisse calls the ‘outer rule’ that governs ‘all outward behaviour, how you should eat, drink, dress, say your prayers, sleep, keep vigil’. 1 The emphasis is on rules or guidance texts composed during the period covered by the volume, though it should be stressed that the twin early classics, Aelred’s De Institutione

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
Abstract only
E.A. Jones

material for the early Middle English Ancrene Wisse (‘Guide for Anchoresses’), written in the 1220s, and the most complete and enduring of English anchoritic rules. It is divided between an ‘outer rule’, which focuses on prayers and other observances and the practicalities of daily life, and an ‘inner rule’ that addresses the anchorite’s moral and spiritual life, including discussions of sin, temptations, penance and love for

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
E.A. Jones

antiphons. The reclusory attached to the church of St Anne, Lewes (Sussex), had a squint so positioned that, in order to see the high altar, the anchoress there would have had to kneel in her own grave [ 29 ]. Ancrene Wisse elaborates upon the practical and spiritual rationale for the open grave: Admiring their own white hands is bad for many anchoresses

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
E.A. Jones

the external walls of a parish church, ‘under the eaves of the church’, as Ancrene Wisse puts it. 4 The foundations of a stone-built anchorhold at Leatherhead (Surrey) indicate a building 2.43 m square. The plan of the reclusory at Compton in the same county [ 8 ] was even smaller, but it had two storeys, as did the no-longer-extant cell occupied by John Lacy in Newcastle-upon-Tyne [ 23 ]. (See also

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
E.A. Jones

well-known anchoritic rules (Aelred’s, and the Ancrene Wisse ) that also belong to approximately this period. But there is little evidence for any concerted attempt to put hermits on a similarly well-ordered and orderly footing before about 1400. Thereafter, however, things moved quickly and, had Rolle been born a century later, his reception into the eremitic life could have looked strikingly different. Long associated with

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550
Abstract only
P. J. P. Goldberg

the field of Medieval Studies has come to be dominated by literary scholars. It follows that although certain texts, for example The Book of Margery Kempe, Ancrene Wisse , or even Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, are well known and readily accessible, of other sources, and particularly the rich variety of conventional historical sources, only a limited range are generally known. 2 The purpose of this present collection is

in Women in England c. 1275–1525