This chapter focuses in depth upon one fifteenth-century Carmelite writer, Richard Misyn (d. 1462), who translated into English the De Emendatio Vitae and Incendium Amoris by Richard Rolle of Hampole (c.1290-1349). Close analysis of Misyn’s work, and external evidence, shows his awareness of social and literary concerns within his order and local society.


Misyn and his audience – biographical details

Misyn[1] joined the Carmelites at Lincoln where he received his basic instruction, before furthering his studies at the studium in York,[2] then the second city of England. Misyn was ordained acolyte in York on 11 March 1419, subdeacon on 23 Dec 1419, and deacon on 17 May 1421.[3] He proceeded to university, possibly Oxford (within Lincoln diocese), before returning to his filial house. In Lincoln Misyn translated Rolle’s Emendatio Vitae[4] in 1434. A year later he translated Rolle’s Incendium Amoris at the request of an anchoress, Margaret Heslington, by which time – manuscript colophons inform us – he was prior at Lincoln and holder of the Bachelor of Theology degree.


It is strange that Misyn called himself Bachelor of Theology for the first time in 1435, and not in the colophon of the Emendatio translation. Since Misyn studied at the York studium c.1419-21, and probably gained a licentiate (an internal award in theology), he would normally be exempt as a friar from the university’s Bachelor of Arts course. Ordinarily, he would have gained his Bachelor of Theology within three or four years, that is, by c.1425.[5] Either Misyn felt it unnecessary to state his academic credentials in the earlier text, or else delayed claiming his degree until the mid-1430s. What Misyn did between 1425 and 1434 is unknown, though he probably returned to lecture at the York studium. [6]


The later events of Misyn’s life have some bearing on his literary activities, and inform us about the circles he moved in. In a papal letter of 15 November 1441 he was granted ‘Dispensation to him a priest and a chaplain of Henry, earl of Northumberland, to receive and hold for life any benefice with cure, wont to be governed by secular clerks.’[7] Misyn’s right – despite his status as a religious – to hold a benefice as private chaplain to Henry Percy, second Earl of Northumberland and Lord High Constable,[8] shows his patronage by one of the leading families of England. The Percy family had supported the Carmelites since they formed their first hermitage c.1242 at Hulne,[9] on the outskirts of Alnwick where the Percys were feudal lords.[10] The family were considered founders of the convent in York,[11] where their residence, Percy Inn, was adjacent to the Whitefriars.[12]


Misyn was admitted as rector of Edlaston, Derbyshire on November 18th 1443,[13] but it was probably a benefice he resigned in 1446 when he took the post of perpetual rector of Colwich, Staffordshire.[14] His appointment as “inquisitor and prosecutor for apostate” (fugitive) friars sometime between 1446-56, shows his role in the government and regulation of Whitefriars.[15]


Because of his status in the Percy entourage, and his post at Colwich, it is probable that Misyn came to the attention of William Booth (bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, 1447-1452). When Booth was translated to the Archbishopric of York (1452-1464),[16] Misyn was appointed as a suffragan bishop in that city (1458-62). Misyn was given the See of Dromore in County Down, Ireland, on 29 July 1457 by papal appointment. Dromore was such a poor diocese that Misyn was twice granted permission by the Pope to retain the parish of Colwich, along with his bishopric.[17]


Misyn’s activities in York extended to membership of one of its most exclusive guilds. ‘Frater Ricardus Mysyn, suffragenus, ordinis Fratrum Carmelitarum’ is recorded ‘in primis’ as the first person admitted to the Guild of Corpus Christi in 1461-2.[18] Misyn’s membership is significant for a number of reasons. It shows Carmelite involvement in the guild that organised the city’s decorous Corpus Christi celebrations.[19] The guild combated heresy by promoting the doctrine of Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist.[20] Carmelites, who propagated the cult of Corpus Christi in the face of Lollard detraction, featured prominently as guild members.[21] The guild had another significance for Misyn; the addressee of his translation, Margaret Heslington, was a member when Misyn was probably lecturing at the studium.[22] It was not unusual for anchorites to be guild members, and some guilds patronised them.[23]


Since Misyn did not join the guild until after Heslington’s death it seems unlikely he knew her through its activities. However, their mutual membership reveals something of the milieu in which they lived and worshipped. The guild only admitted clergy and laity of good character.[24] These men and women of social and intellectual distinction included leading book-owners of the Diocese of York; merchants, abbots, bishops, and royalty.[25]


An artefact of York Minster provides further evidence of Misyn’s involvement with the guild. His name is inscribed on the mazer bowl known as Archbishop Scrope’s Indulgence Cup:


+ Recharde arche beschope Scrope grantes on to all tho that drinkis of this cope xlti dayis of pardun. Robert Gubsun. Beschope Musin grantes in same forme afore saide Xlti dayis to pardun. Robert Stensall.[26]


The bowl belonged to the Corpus Christi Guild before passing to the Cordwainers’ (shoe-makers) Company. Misyn must have come into contact with the Cordwainers’ Guild of St. Mary the Blessed Virgin since the confraternity met in the Carmelite friary.[27] Since the Cordwainers were one of the guilds responsible for the York cycle of mystery plays at Corpus Christi, it is possible that Carmelites were somehow involved with the city’s drama.[28] Misyn’s involvement with the guilds shows that York Carmelites were deeply involved in town life, and the spiritual edification of its citizens.


Alongside his Episcopal duties in York, Misyn was rector of East Leake, Nottinghamshire, in January 1459,[29] and in July of that year he was collated as warden of St. John the Baptist’s Hospital in Ripon.[30] Misyn remained in frequent contact with all four orders of friars, performing ordinations in each York house.[31] Misyn was rector of Birstall in Yorkshire[32] until his death in September 1462, when according to Bale he was buried in the York convent.[33]


We now turn to Misyn’s addressee, ‘Margarete Heslyngton, recluse’ [104/9-10].[34] Since patronymics became more important in later medieval surnames, ‘Heslington’ probably denotes a family name rather than a place. Nevertheless, the proximity of Heslington (the only English village so named) to York suggests a provenance from there. York was a fruitful home for recluses in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,[35] and would therefore be a natural place to locate Heslington.


York testamentary records indeed reveal that Heslington lived as an anchoress in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, within a few hundred metres of the Carmelite convent. She received the generous support of several York citizens in their wills, and died in 1439.[36]


Heslington’s membership of the Corpus Christi Guild suggests she came from an affluent family. Anchoresses often came from the governing classes. If Misyn was in York in the late 1420’s, his prestige as a lecturer may have introduced him into Heslington’s social or spiritual circle. Since book production in the Middle Ages was expensive, it is even possible that Heslington paid Misyn for his translation, thus reviving the practice among the early friars of earning income from ‘manual’ labour.[37]


Misyn’s relationship with Heslington is only known from his writing activity. In 1434 he wrote the mendynge of lyfe [105/6], a translation of Rolle’s Emendatio Vitae. He translated Rolle’s Incendium Amoris a year later, calling it þe fyer of lufe [1/9], and calling himself hermit, Carmelite, and Bachelor of Theology [68/29-30].[38]


There are three extant manuscripts of Misyn’s translation.[39] Palaeographers and codicologists date all three to the 1440s-50s.[40] The two translations are found side-by-side in each, with identical prologues and colophons identifying Misyn as translator and Heslington as recipient. It is necessary to understand their textual history before analysing Misyn’s translations.



British Library MS Additional 37790 (Amherst Manuscript)

Misyn’s translations (ff. 1-95) hold pride of place as the first texts within this important florilegium of religious treatises.[41] The translation of Emendatio Vitae [ff. 1r-18r] ends with the colophon


Thus endis the xij Chapetrs off Richarde Hampole Into englyis translate be ffrere Rycharde Msyn to in fformacion off Crystyn saules Anno Domini millimo cccc xxxiiij. [131/3-5]


Misyn’s translation of the Incendium follows immediately (ff. 18v-95r). In the other two manuscripts, the fyer precedes the mendynge, but Amherst’s scribe placed Misyn’s works in correct chronological order.[42]


The accompanying translations in Amherst shed light on the kind of material deemed complementary to Misyn’s work. Misyn occurs alongside an English translation of the Epistola aurea (ff. 95v-6v) falsely attributed to St. Bernard, and The Chastising of God’s Children. Selections from some of Rolle’s English works (Ego Dormio and The Form of Living) also feature (ff. 132r-5v). The manuscript contains, uniquely, the short text of Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love (ff. 97r-115r). The manuscript contains the unique English version of The Treatise of Perfection of the Sons of God (ff. 115r-30r), a translation of the Latin version of the Dutch text by the Carthusian Jan van Ruusbroec.[43] Amherst also contains a fragment of a Middle English translation of Suso’s Horologium Sapientiae (ff. 135v-6v),[44] the ‘M. N.’ version of the Mirror of Simple Souls (ff. 137r-225r) by Marguerite Porète,[45] and a note on the Liber celestis (II, 16) of St. Bridget of Sweden (ff. 236v-237r, cropped).[46]


The manuscript’s physical properties help ascertain details about its use. The Amherst manuscript measures 26.6 x 18 cm,[47] probably too small for public oration,[48] but perfect for comfortable private reading. With the exception of some patristic writings on the contemplative life (ff. 226-34r), the manuscript is largely written in English. Though the scribe rubricated Latin, the overall impression created by the translations is of a readership more comfortable with English.[49] The manuscript was written by one hand in Anglicana script, possibly within a monastic scriptorium.[50]


The Amherst manuscript’s presentation and contents lead many to believe that it is a Carthusian production, its texts appealing to that order’s interest in vernacular theological works.[51] The materials show thematic unity, and a progression of theological complexity, suggesting that it may have been a handbook for the contemplative and reclusive life. The fyer deals with the life of the contemplative solitary. Julian’s is an anchoritic text. The mystical theology of van Ruusbroec is directed towards an anchorite. The Chastising was written for a female religious, probably by a Carthusian advisor, just as the Dominican Suso wrote for a female religious. The Mirror of Simple Souls also deals with stages of contemplation. Though the Amherst texts were originally addressed to female recipients, they were disseminated to an interested wider public, which probably included Carthusians.[52] Misyn’s fyer is the most heavily annotated text in Amherst,[53] and annotations by James Grenehalgh prove that it was once in Carthusian ownership.[54]


The inclusion of attributed Carmelite and Dominican materials in a Carthusian compilation shows the monks were interested in the literary activities of the friars. The manuscript also demonstrates the rapid Carthusian accumulation of Carmelite literature. Misyn’s translations are the most recent works in the compilation. Since the scribal hands of all three manuscripts suggest that they were made ‘within five, or at most ten, years of the original composition’,[55] we can conclude that Misyn’s work was copied outside the Carmelite order before or soon after Heslington’s death in 1439, and before Misyn was suffragan in York.


Yale University MS Beinecke 331

The Yale manuscript places Misyn’s translations (ff. 1r-136v) alongside a verse life of St. John of Bridlington,[56] and a sixteenth-century poem. As with the Amherst manuscript, the accompanying texts explain the context in which Misyn was read. The collation of the fyer alongside a verse life of Bridlington (d. 1379) suggests an interest in northern saintly figures. Like Rolle, Bridlington was a Yorkshire man revered for his piety.[57] Canonized in 1401, Misyn would have been well aware of Bridlington’s cult. The Bridlington poem almost certainly predates Misyn’s translation,[58] and it is possible the poem was collated with Misyn because of Carmelite interest in Bridlington.[59] The attraction to a Carmelite is plain. The poem focuses upon a religious who, like the Whitefriars, combined communal life [f. 170, line 12] with a desire for contemplative solitude [f. 172, line 6; f. 174, line 17].


The collation of Rolle and Bridlington materials may also have political implications. In 1402 a friar was hanged for quoting Bridlington’s Prophecy, ‘in an apparently pro-Yorkist manner’.[60] Archbishop Scrope of York, responsible for Bridlington’s canonization, was executed three years later for his support of the Yorkist cause.[61] The friar’s execution shows disapproval of some mendicant interpretations of Bridlington’s writings. Whilst there is nothing overtly political in the verse life, placing it alongside Misyn’s Rolle translations shows distinct interest in northern eremitic spirituality.


Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 236

Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 236 dates from between 1435 and 1450 and is written in the same fifteenth-century hand throughout.[62] The quality of Corpus is high, the first page beautifully ornamented with gold gilt.[63] It contains only Misyn’s translations.


The relationship between the Misyn manuscripts

Laing has studied all three manuscripts containing Misyn, and shown that they are closely related, linguistically and textually.[64] Combining her research with biographical data on Misyn and Heslington, and an appreciation of the cultural context in which they lived, can inform us about the Carmelite’s literary activities.


Laing’s dialectal study reveals that each of the three manuscripts is the work of a scribe working alone. Linguistic profiles conclude that ‘whatever the dialect of Misyn’s original texts … the three copies of his tracts were all made by Lincolnshire scribes’.[65] The Corpus scribe’s dialect can be located in Lincoln itself,[66] and ‘it is no surprise that Misyn’s work should have been copied in that city at a time not long after they were written there.’[67] However, the Corpus text cannot be Misyn’s autograph. A comparison between early sections of the fyer against later sections, and the mendynge, reveals that the early part is ‘a linguistic mixture made up of components from the… scribe’s own dialect and that of his exemplar.’[68] In other words, although a Lincoln scribe wrote Corpus, the Mischsprache (dialectal mixture) reveals he copied a manuscript written by a scribe from a different linguistic region. The gradual change in dialect shows that the Corpus scribe, who took ‘a little time to work into his task’, was an exact copyist who combined his own usage with that of his exemplar.[69] The Corpus scribe’s exemplar has been lost, but the extraction of ‘foreign’ dialectal features from the early part of his manuscript shows that the exemplar was written in northwest Lincolnshire, to the north of Gainsborough.[70] It seems unlikely that this exemplar was Misyn’s autograph either, since that would presumably be in a Lincoln dialect.[71] More likely is that Corpus’s exemplar ‘went through at least one stage of copying in a dialect from somewhere other than Lincoln’.[72]


The dedication to Heslington would suggest that she owned Misyn’s autograph, though it is more than likely that Misyn would copy such a substantial work before parting with the original.[73] All the extant manuscripts contain the dedication to Heslington; so the exemplar for the Corpus manuscript derived from either her own manuscript in York, or from a Carmelite manuscript that copied the dedication verbatim. Alternatively, the colophons could have been added to account for how a copyist came to possess the text.


By studying the dialect and textual practice of the Yale and Amherst scribes, Laing comes to the ‘inescapable conclusion’ that these two manuscripts were directly copied from the Corpus text.[74] Yale and Amherst are therefore at least third generation copies of Misyn’s original. Laing locates the Yale scribe in ‘the point where Lincs, Leics and Notts meet’,[75] and places the Amherst scribe (whose dialect can be checked against his other known productions) close-by in the Grantham area of southwest Lincolnshire.[76] From Laing’s analysis, it is possible to create a stemma for the Misyn manuscripts.



Corpus is the most accurate (though not perfect) copy,[77] and the other two manuscripts share the Corpus scribe’s uncorrected errors.[78] Linguistically, the Amherst scribe parallels his exemplar better than the Yale scribe, whose text is more erroneous[79] but more readable, because as a ‘translator’ rather than a ‘transcriber’, his is a freer copy.[80] The Amherst scribe is extremely accurate, his copy being ‘almost identical’ to his exemplar.[81] Carthusian copying from an archetypal manuscript is not unheard of.[82] All three manuscripts show a degree of uniformity and standardized presentation typical of Carthusian productions.[83] This ‘Carthusian zeal for accuracy’[84] is further evidence for the Carthusian production of the Amherst manuscript, and would account for the retention of Misyn’s prologue and the faithful mis-en-page of the colophons in their precise forms. Why all the manuscripts maintain the attribution to Misyn is discussed below. Intriguingly the Amherst scribe seems to have copied the Rolle texts with more accuracy than the others,[85] suggesting a heightened respect for the purity of Rolle’s text, or indeed Misyn’s repute.


Though the Amherst scribe is demonstrably Carthusian, we cannot automatically conclude that the Yale and Corpus scribes were also. The Corpus manuscript was copied from a north Lincolnshire exemplar, and whilst it seems unlikely that a Lincoln Carmelite would need to copy Misyn from a manuscript outside Lincoln, the text’s Lincoln dialect suggests the scribe was possibly a Carmelite from Misyn’s own town.[86] Furthermore, since this manuscript contains only Misyn’s translations it can be said to be of ‘undiluted’ Carmelite interest.


Analysis of Misyn’s work

Having studied the manuscripts in which Misyn’s translations are preserved, we can analyse the contents of the fyer and mendynge. Why should a Carmelite have thought it meritorious to translate Rolle at a recluse’s request? The ‘hermit of Hampole’ was arguably the most popular and influential of all medieval English mystics.[87] The fact that the original Latin text of the Emendatio is found in ninety extant manuscripts,[88] and the Incendium in over forty (about half of which contain the long version as used by Misyn) is proof of Rolle’s enormous popularity amongst the Latin readers of the Middle Ages.[89] However, whilst Misyn’s translation of the Emendatio is one of seven English versions,[90] Misyn’s fyer is the only known medieval translation of Rolle’s Incendium, making it all the more significant.[91] Given the Incendium’s status as ‘the most important and representative’[92] of Rolle’s Latin treatises, and the high demand for Rolle’s work in general, the lack of translations other than Misyn’s needs accounting for.


Misyn as a defender of orthodoxy

There is evidence within Misyn’s translation to suggest that access to Rolle’s text was controlled. Misyn prefaced his translation of Rolle’s Incendium prologue with his own, in a dedicatory epistle preserved in all three manuscripts. This was not a casual addition. Whilst Rolle’s prologue acts as an ‘audacious’ foregrounding of his own authority, rooted in experience rather than traditional sources,[93] Misyn’s prologue makes it plain the translator eschews all authority. Indeed, though Misyn wrote his prologue in the first person, he does not identify himself at all, and we do not learn Misyn’s name until the colophon of Book I:


Explicit liber primus Incendij Amoris Ricardi Hampole heremite, translatus a latino in Anglicum per fratrem Ricardum Misyn heremitam & ordinis carmelitarum Ac sacre theologie bachalareum, Anno domini Millesimo ccccxxxv. [68/27-30][94]


Though this colophon identifies the author and translator, the reader has to wait until the colophon of Book II to learn anything about the circumstances in which it was written:


Explicit liber de Incendio Amoris, Ricardi Hampole heremite, translatus in Anglicum instancijs domine Margarete Heslyngton, recluse, per fratrem Ricardum Misyn, sacre theologie bachalaureum, tunc Priorem Lyncolniensem, ordinis carmelitarum, Anno domini M.CCCCxxxv. in festo translacionis sancti Martini Episcopi, quod est iiij nonas Iulij, per dictum fratrem Ricardum Misyn scriptum & correctum. [104/8-14][95]


Without the colophons, no reader after Heslington would have been able to identify Misyn as the translator. Misyn was keen not to name himself until the very end of the fyer. Authorial attribution might therefore seem supplementary to the work, not integral. However, even if the colophons were written by a later copyist, and not by Misyn, their retention in all three manuscripts represents a significant attribution of authorship, and the only attempt by Misyn or his scribes to construct for him a ‘bibliographic ego’.[96] We have no reason to doubt that the translations were in fact by him. Indeed external biographical information makes it practically undeniable. Even if Misyn did not write the colophons himself, a later scribe knew of his relationship with Heslington, and the scribes of all three extant manuscripts felt this compositional information important enough to retain. Moreover, retaining the colophon claim that each copy was written and corrected by Misyn suggests a desire to lend them authenticity, as does naming the translator twice, alongside his auctor, and his order.[97] Just as Misyn probably never saw or corrected the three extant manuscripts, it is incredible that Heslington should have owned all three. Given the expense of manuscripts, one might expect the dedication to be omitted, or reworded to the owner’s own name, as commonly happened with copies of devotional books, including Rolle.[98] The retention of Misyn and Heslington’s names was clearly deliberate.


The extant manuscripts show that Misyn’s authorship of the mendynge and the fyer could be attributed. Nevertheless, the prologue shows Misyn’s keenness that all credit for the text should be given to ‘þis haly man Richard Hampole’ [1/8], even though Rolle does not identify himself in his prologue either.[99] Misyn’s deference shows that Carmelites recognized the hermit of Hampole’s auctorite by the fifteenth century. Misyn’s self-defacement from the prologue places responsibility for the teachings on the Incendium solely on Rolle’s shoulders, though in a phrase typical of the medieval humility topos, Misyn claimed to be ‘emonge lettyrd men sympellest’ [1/4], and that any errors should be attributed to his ‘vnconnynge’ [1/14]. Given his extensive education this is little more than rhetoric, but an important piece of rhetoric. It shows that Misyn anticipated his text circulating to critical readers beyond Heslington’s anchorhold, and demonstrates a concern to apologise in advance for ‘any þing mys-sayd’ [1/13].


Misyn’s apologia and reticence in identifying himself can be accounted for by the climate of censorship and control that existed in fifteenth-century England. A comparison can be made between Misyn’s strategy and that of a Carthusian contemporary at Sheen. Writing a ‘prefacyon’ to the Speculum Devotorum[100] (c.1415-25), also for a ‘Gostly syster’ [2] and ‘soulys that cunne not or lytyl undyrstonde Latyn’ [56-7], the anonymous monk was at pains to defer all credit [37-9], accept all errors as his own [39-40], and state that ‘the entent of hym that dede hyt was ful goode’ [54-5]. 


Another useful Carthusian comparison is Nicholas Love’s translation of the pseudo-Bonaventuran Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.[101] Misyn’s advice to Heslington to keep ‘sum holy lesun’ [1/18] at hand as a ward against sin and error is reminiscent of the beginning of the Mirror, in which the reader is encouraged to imitate St. Cecilia, who ‘bare alwey þe gospel of criste hidde in her breste’.[102] Love’s Mirror was the only Carthusian text widely and actively disseminated by the order.[103] It was promoted in the fight against Lollardy, and ‘licensed’ by Arundel (when Archbishop of Canterbury) in the wake of the Constitutions he had promulgated by 1407 and formally issued in 1409.[104] Arundel’s statutes were designed to eradicate Lollardy through the prohibition of ‘all sorts of theological thinking and writing in the vernacular’,[105] and would have impinged upon Misyn in a number of ways.


Firstly, the Constitutions would have ensured the orthodoxy of the Whitefriar’s education. As we have already seen, the Carmelites had been frontline combatants against Lollardy from the 1380s. Carmelite educational orthodoxy was upheld by the requirement of the Constitutions for monthly inquiry into the views of every student at Oxford,[106] where Misyn probably studied. These enquiries almost certainly extended to the friars who, though somewhat detached from the university, nevertheless came under its regulations.[107]


The environment of York would have been as influential on Misyn as Oxford. In York, Love’s text received support from the clerks in Arundel’s ‘circle’, who almost certainly interacted with Carmelites at the studium. As a student in York, Misyn may have recognised the potential of such texts as vehicles for orthodoxy. Misyn does not appear to have received a ‘nihil obstat’ licence for his text from diocesan authorities as Love did. Misyn did not have to seek approval for his text because of the Carmelites’ exemption from Episcopal jurisdiction, and their reputation for upholding the fida verita.[108] Misyn’s Carmelite credentials in the colophons may actually have functioned as a licence, and would account for its retention in copies that Heslington did not own. Even prior to his creation as a bishop, Misyn’s name functioned as a certificate with semi-Episcopal authority.


Writing his fyer and mendynge twenty-five years after the Constitutions, Lollardy was still a concern for Misyn, and his fellow Carmelites who compiled the Fasciculi Zizaniorum in the same decade. Though ‘the series of orthodox refutations of Wyclif in Latin was concluded with the death of Thomas Netter in 1430’,[109] vernacular texts continued to confront the heresiarch’s teachings, which lingered in that decade and beyond.[110] Misyn’s fyer, Love’s Mirror, and the Speculum Devotorum all reveal a post-Arundelian concern with asserting church teachings in the vernacular.


Misyn may have been aware that Rolle’s writings had been appropriated by the Lollards, and translated the Emendatio and Incendium before heretical interpolations could be made. Misyn’s declaration that ‘to reforme I make protestacyon, with entent no þinge to wryte ne say agayns þe faith or determinacion of holy kyrk, god to wytnes’ [1/14-16], can be read as warning heretics capable of writing not to challenge church teaching, or even to correct possible errors in his text. Alternatively, this statement is a further ‘apologia’, swearing loyalty to ‘holy kyrk’. Living in Lincoln, Misyn probably would have known about the punishments Bishop Alnwick exacted at the heresy trials he oversaw whilst bishop of Norwich.[111] Misyn’s prologue shows he was aware of the religious and political consequences of writing.


One of the ways in which Arundel tried to control heresy was to prohibit religious debate outside the universities.[112] However, since Wycliffism had emerged in Oxford itself, Article 6 of the Constitutions declared: ‘we will and command, that no book or treatise made by John Wickliff, or others whomsoever, about that time, or since, or hereafter to be made’.[113] Writing in 1434 and 1435, this stipulation would have been applicable to Misyn. However, the Whitefriar got around the clause by translating a work that pre-dated Wyclif.[114] Watson has shown that because of the Constitutions, most texts written between 1410-1500 were translations or derivations of other works.[115] Whilst few texts during this period were original, the Constitutions stimulated production of orthodox vernacular texts, such as Misyn’s.[116] The possible dangers in writing Rolle’s theology in the vernacular were foremost in Misyn’s mind, since he felt obliged to point out in his preface that ‘The whilk boke, in sentence ne substance I þink to chaunge, bot treuly aftyr myn vnderstandynge to wryte it in gude exposicione’ [1/9-11].[117] Misyn’s prologue reveals he was concerned not only by the threat heresy posed to his audience, but also that by changing the language of Rolle’s Incendium he could be accused of heresy himself.[118]


Orthodoxy and the language of Misyn’s translations

Despite Misyn’s desire not to alter the text in any way, translation requires a certain amount of interpretation and innovation. Translations thus constitute an important part of medieval Carmelite literature. However, it must be admitted that Misyn’s promise not to alter the text in sentence or substance resulted in rather lacklustre prose. Misyn’s fear of altering Rolle’s work made his translation extremely faithful to the original, to the point of being awkwardly literal.[119] Misyn’s translation is unimaginative and ‘clunky’, and comparison with Fishlake’s excellent translation of The Scale suggests that Carmelites were less at ease writing theology in English. Scrope’s English translation of Ribot is also awkward, but not to the extent of Misyn’s prose. In his ‘slavish adherence to the words of the original, Misyn’s translation runs counter to the norm’[120] of fifteenth-century translators, to the extent that Misyn is used as an illustration of bad practice.[121] The ‘unnaturalness’[122] of Misyn’s cumbersome syntax fails to recreate Rolle’s characteristic balance and alliteration, suggesting that Misyn is more concerned with Rolle’s theology than his stylistic effects.[123] Some of Misyn’s translation is nonsensical because parts of Rolle have been omitted.[124] One seventeenth-century annotator of the Yale manuscript found Misyn’s prose so incomprehensible that he rewrote whole passages.[125]


Nevertheless, the poor scansion of Misyn’s translation is not due to a lack of artistic flair. As Laing points out, artistically Misyn’s own prologue is more successful than the ensuing translation.[126] Misyn’s fears about translating theology from Latin into English account for his ‘conscious effort to Latinize his expression’, and attempt ‘to give his English a classical turn’.[127] As Workman admits, whilst these concerns at best encouraged a ‘blindly mechanical’ translation procedure,[128] in Misyn’s prose ‘one at least feels a purpose if not a system’.[129] Misyn seems to have been caught between his purpose of promoting Rolle’s Latin teachings in English, and a fear of doing so. He was all too aware of the fact that ‘because of the nature of language to give shape to thought, vernacular expression of ideas created new theological and linguistic possibilities’.[130]


Whilst Misyn’s prose is not the best example of fifteenth-century vernacular style, his project nevertheless allowed ‘redars’ [1/11] greater access to the theological literature of his day, and the prior’s contribution to the corpus of vernacular theology should not be overlooked. As Millet says of anchoritic literature in the centuries preceding Misyn, ‘in the texts produced for recluses… we see not only the recording in writing of works originally intended for oral delivery, but the development of something still closer to our modern concept of ‘literature’, vernacular works composed with readers rather than hearers in mind’.[131]


Writing in English, for readers or hearers, was often perceived as evidence of seditious leanings in the early fifteenth century. Article 7 of the Constitutions forbad the translation of the scriptures into the vernacular, and ‘any vernacular religious work produced from the 1380s on… was liable to be treated with circumspection by orthodox readers’.[132] However, it would seem that in the use of the vernacular, the Carmelites were surprisingly pragmatic. Alan of Lynn’s Bible discussions with Kempe took place after the Constitutions, but must have involved the vernacular. Misyn similarly felt that the translation of Rolle’s Latin text was of benefit to Heslington and others ‘þat curiuste of latyn vnderstandes noght’ [1/3-4]. But such a project was not undertaken lightly. Misyn warned his audience not to stray beyond the bounds of church teaching, ‘for drede þou erre, namely in slyke þinges þat touches þe .xij. artikils of þi fayth, als of þe holy Trinite, & oþer dyuers, als in þis holy boke filouynge is to oure lernynge connyngly writtyn’ [2/1-4]. Whilst the fyer was not a coterie text, the prologue is evidence that Misyn addressed a wider audience with hesitation. He presumably agreed with Rolle that ‘hard sentens to disputars & witty men be longe tyme vsyd in holy doctrine be left’ [121/10-12].


Misyn’s warnings against heresy only preface the fyer, not the mendynge, which was written ‘to informacioun of Cristyn sauls’ [131/4-5]. The absence of such warnings from the shorter text suggests that Misyn perceived a greater danger in translating the theologically more complex Incendium, in which Rolle describes a life not regulated by the magisterium authority of the church.[133] It is significant that in all three manuscripts, the colophon of the theologically straightforward mendynge is in English, whilst the colophons of both books of the fyer are in Latin, to lend a more ‘respectable’ and scholarly air. The year’s gap between his two translations may have been a period in which Misyn could assess the impact of the earlier text, before translating the more complicated longer treatise. Misyn may also have been conscious that although anchoresses were generally renowned for their orthodoxy, Lollard anchoresses were not unheard of.[134]


Rolle’s voice in Carmelite debates over the solitary life

If there is a dominant theme in the Incendium and the Emendatio it is praise of the solitary life.[135] It is understandable that the Carmelite order, with its ‘strong emphasis on solitude and silence… separation and detachment, which allowed space for contemplation even within a life which included some aspects of an active apostolate’[136] should have been interested in Rolle’s spirituality. For example, Rolle’s emphasis on the need for quiet, particularly in order to experience ‘heet’, ‘songe’ and ‘suetnes’ [33/8 & 9] finds echoes with the stipulations on silence in the Carmelite Rule. Other sections of the fyer have particularly Carmelite resonance. Rolle refers to the joy of contemplative lovers as sweeter than ‘hony & hony-kombe’ [32/14]. This phrase may have reminded a Carmelite of the praise bestowed upon the order’s early contemplatives by Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre (1216-28), who wrote in his History of Jerusalem that men ‘in imitation of the holy anchorite the prophet Elijah, led solitary lives on Mount Carmel… where in little comb-like cells, those bees of the lord laid up sweet spiritual honey’ [Ch. 27].[137]


Misyn’s texts are similar to Lavenham’s Litil Tretys in their provision of basic Christian doctrine. The mendynge discusses how one may turn to Christ, and in the fyer Rolle offers basic theological teaching on such diverse matters as the Trinity [chapters VII and VIII in Misyn], ‘þe way of penance’ [43/11], the ‘profett & worþines of prayer and meditacioun’ [46/22], and the distinction between ‘veniall’ and ‘deedly syn’ [50/7]. What differentiates the fyer from books on the vices and virtues is Rolle’s mixing of didactic instruction with exalted descriptions of his own personal experience as a solitary. In Rolle’s view, the solitary’s life is independent of, and more perfect than, the prelate’s. Therefore, the prelate, ‘men contemplatyue before þame-self suld sett, & before god þer bettyrs þame hald, þame-self not trouand worþi to be gyfen to contemplacyon, bot if paraunter goddis grace to þat þame wald enspyr’ [9/13-17]. Rolle instructs that a recluse ‘allone sothely sal he sytt… with odyr not syngand, ne psalms rede’ [72/22-3]. However, ‘not ilk man þus suld do, bot he to qwhome it is gyffen, & qwhat hym likys lat hym fulfill, for of þe holy goste he is led’ [72/23-5]. Rolle's declarations on the limitations of the communal life and the praise of the solitary in large sections of the Incendium find echoes in the Albertine Rule and Ribot’s Institutione.


Rolle’s teachings predated the fourteenth-century developments in the theology of the ‘Mixed Life’. To Rolle, divinely-inspired solitaries are closest to God, and ‘In lufe of lyfe euerlastynge, men contemplatyue hily þat ar brynde þai ar forsoth as hyest in luflyest byrnyng, & miryest of þe lufer euerlastynge, so þat þai seldum or neuer gos vtward to warldly besynes, nor ·it tak þe dignite of worschpy or prelacy’ [8/6-9]. Rolle’s praise of the contemplative life does not seem to accept any integration with the active, as favoured by Carmelites.[138] Thomas Scrope probably saw a correlation between his own life, and Rolle’s example of St. Cuthbert, who went ‘fro hys byschopryk to Ankyr’ [30/17-18], but Heslington’s vocation concurs more with Rolle’s description of the solitary life than Misyn’s. It seems surprising that Misyn, as a prior, should have translated a text that said that he could not simultaneously hold office and be a contemplative. Yet Misyn’s desire for the status of solitary is plain in his self-labelling as ‘hermit’ [68/29]. ‘Hermits of Mount Carmel’ was an ancient name given to the Carmelites,[139] and though it was dropped from the order’s official title before 1435, Misyn retained it in his colophon. The title ‘hermit’, applied to both Rolle and Misyn in the same colophons, had the specific technical sense in the medieval church of a solitary not tied to an anchorhold but free to roam about. Misyn’s use of the term perhaps reflects his self-perception as both a solitary and a peripatetic friar.


We have already identified in medieval Carmelite literature a characteristic interest in the order’s desert roots. As Edden observes, ‘the urban friars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were unable to follow the life-style of their forebears in their desert cells. Some Carmelite writing of the period reflects this new life’.[140] The Carmelite interest in Rolle reveals nostalgia for the purely eremitic life. Misyn was not the only Carmelite who found inspiration in Rolle’s spirituality. We have already speculated that Ashburne perhaps translated a poem he believed to be a Rolle text, and Carmelite verse such as Maidstone’s Penitential Psalms was sometimes confused with Rolle.[141] Copies of Rolle’s Incendium and Emendatio are known to have been in the Carmelite library at the studium generale in London.[142] A florilegium, Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library MS 218 (c.1400), exposes Carmelite admiration for the hermit of Hampole.[143] Its four Latin Rolle texts include the Emendatio Vitae and Incendium Amoris. The appearance of Carmelite friars in some of the numerous miniatures (ff. 89, 101) suggests that the manuscript was a Carmelite production,[144] and that the order was used to copying Rolle texts. Given the manuscript’s current location it would be pleasant to speculate that this manuscript was the copy Misyn worked from.


Misyn’s copy is more likely to have been a manuscript with layout and division more in keeping with his own. One manuscript of the long text of the Incendium, Cambridge University Library MS Dd.v.64 includes chapter-headings that are ‘translated almost verbatim in Richard Misyn’s version’.[145] Moreover, this manuscript contains exactly the same opening and chapter-headings in the Emendatio as in Misyn’s mendynge.[146] Since only two other manuscripts give chapter-headings at all it would seem that this manuscript, which was in York in the seventeenth century, could contend as Misyn’s copy. Moreover, like Misyn, the scribe of this manuscript divided the Incendium into two books, of thirty chapters plus twelve. Misyn’s consists of thirty-one plus twelve, but since he counts Rolle’s prologue as the first chapter, this would correspond perfectly. This manuscript also contains Rolle’s The Form of Living, addressed to ‘margaritam anachoritam’ (f. 85), and Ego Dormio.[147] Another possible source manuscript is Cambridge, Emmanuel College MS 35,[148] which also contains Misyn’s chapter-headings, but as a ‘tabula’ rather than between each section. This manuscript is particularly interesting because it contains both the short and long versions of the Incendium, and was owned by one of Arundel’s clerks in York, John Newton (d. 1414), a bibliophile and treasurer of the Minster.[149] The Bridgettine Joan Sewell and the Carthusian James Grenehalgh later annotated his manuscript.[150] The other manuscript containing chapter-headings numbered like Misyn’s fyer is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS 861.[151] This also contains the Emendatio and other Rolle texts.


Carmelite ‘appropriation’ of Rolle in a time of decline

One of the limits on the popularity of Rolle’s Latin treatises ‘was the fact that Rolle on principle belonged to no religious order, which would have been interested in preserving his works’.[152] Indeed, although Rolle’s writings show that he was influenced by mendicant, especially Franciscan, spirituality,[153] his Incendium contains strong criticism of religious. Misyn’s translations reveal a Carmelite desire to establish Rolle firmly within the canon of religious literature. Misyn’s interest in Rolle also demonstrates a Carmelite desire to appropriate the hermit of Hampole as one of their own. Rolle’s Incendium can’t be called a Carmelite work, but in terms of imagery and content there are a number of parallels between Rolle’s spirituality and that of the Whitefriars. The Officium biography of Rolle’s life compiled by the nuns of Hampole in 1381[154] describes how he made a habit out of his sister’s dress. The Carmelites had changed their own habit, and developed legends surrounding their scapular.[155] According to the Officium, Rolle adopted the hermit’s life of contemplation, and gave spiritual advice to women, as later Carmelites did. In dedicating his text to Heslington, Misyn would have remembered Rolle’s correspondence with female recluses such as Margaret Kirkeby.


To fully understand the Carmelite interest in Rolle, we must look at the historical context in which Misyn was writing, and his order’s general preoccupation with eremitism in the early fifteenth century.


Misyn was writing in a period when little remarkable seems to have happened within the Carmelite order in England, Knowles remarking that ‘the seventy years that followed the death of… Netter… make up the darkest period in the history of the English friars’.[156] There is a prima facie link between this decline and various changes in the order’s lifestyle, the only upshot of which was the production of texts by Misyn and Scrope. Misyn’s translations can be seen as the last fruits of fifty years of prolific literary output, written only two-three years after Pope Eugenius IV mitigated the Rule for the second time with his bull Romani Pontifices Providentia. This bull, issued in 1432, relaxed the Carmelite lifestyle in matters of perpetual abstinence from meat, fasting, and enclosure. It allowed the Whitefriars to vacate their cells and wander around the convent freely when not occupied in community duty,[157] a communal life that had been disintegrating for a number of years.[158]


The full impact of Chapter XV of the fyer is best understood in this context. The criticism of ‘rynnars aboute, þat ar sclaunderes of hermyts’ [32/2-3], and girovagi or vagabonds[159] who ‘trow þame-self be þe warld may ryn & be contemplatyf’ [76/21-2] might have had uncomfortable and immediate echoes for a Carmelite readership. On the other hand, could Misyn have read Rolle as validating and legitimizing the recent changes in the order? Traditionalists stated that hermits should practice ‘stabilitas’, and be fixed in one place. Rolle’s contradiction, that ‘cellis forsoth to leue for cause reasonable, to harmetis is not ill’ [35/22-3] may be read as justifying the Carmelites’ recent acceptance of vacating cells.


The full significance, to a Carmelite, of Rolle’s criticism of ‘comon lyff’ [29/4], can also be appreciated in the context of the 1432 mitigation. Rolle’s distaste for communal worship and living with others finds resonances in the order’s debates about fraternal life. Yet his image of solitaries who ‘þof all emongis men full fare þa dwell, ’it fro heuenly desyrs þai stumbyll not’ [29/35-6], may have encouraged Whitefriars in their efforts to integrate the communal and the solitary life.


As inquisitor for apostate friars, Misyn had an interest in upholding community life. Misyn translated Rolle’s description of the solitary who has relinquished the ‘communi habitu’[160] as forsaking ‘comon clethinge of þe warld’ [29/30], rather than spurning ‘the habit of the community’.[161] ‘Habitus’ could refer to one’s manner of living, as well as dress, and Misyn’s lexical choice of the latter interpretation is telling.[162]


The fyer could also have been read as supportive of the 1432 relaxation of the Carmelites’ more ascetic practices. Rolle criticises those who think they cannot please God ‘bot if þa castis be to mikyl abstinens & vnmesurde nakydnes’ [94/21-2] and advises against ‘to mykill abstinence’ [25/30]. Rolle’s balanced criticism of ‘vnwyse abstinence’ [113/33] would have particular significance after the relaxation of the regula. Much of the Incendium and an entire chapter of the Emendatio could be read as approving the Whitefriars’ life of voluntary poverty.


As well as reading Misyn’s translations in the wake of the 1432 mitigation, it is possible to see them as part of the Carmelites’ growing interest in eremitic texts. It is no coincidence that a few years before Misyn translated Rolle, a text was rediscovered in the order that called for a return to desert solitude. In his encyclical letter, the Ignea Sagitta (Flaming Arrow), Nicholas the Frenchman, prior general from 1265, called for the preservation of the primitive traditions of Mount Carmel.[163] Written in 1272, this text was lost for many years, but re-circulated within the order from c.1411.[164] Though the Ignea comprised the thoughts of just one author concerning the essence of the order’s charism, its popularity shows a continuing Carmelite preoccupation with how they should live. Indeed, the revived interest in the Ignea during Misyn’s novitiate along with the dissemination of the ‘Ribot collection’ may have been formative. Whether Misyn knew of the Ignea or not, his translation of Rolle is one of several fifteenth-century texts circulating within the order that promoted the solitary life. As highlighted in Chapter One, from the early fifteenth century the English province accumulated books about the order’s desert history.


The Carmelite desire for a return to its eremitic roots can also account for the precise dating of the colophon to the feast of St. Martin. Such details are often significant. Martin of Tours (c.316-397), a very popular saint in the Middle Ages, was a bishop noted for his great encouragement of monasticism.[165] Martin, the founder of a community of monk-hermits, was portrayed as an eremitic figure in the widely popular Vitas Patrum, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495 (shortly after Scrope-Bradley’s death). As a champion of orthodoxy in doctrinal disputes, Martin may also have inspired the Carmelites.[166] Even as a bishop Martin continued to live in his cell, which may have inspired Misyn in his calling as prelate and hermit. Perhaps the dating of the colophon to the translation of St. Martin is a pun on Misyn’s act of translation.


The early fifteenth century was a watershed in Carmelite literary production when interest in a new type of contemplative literature emerged. Scholastic output began to decline, and writers such as Misyn and Scrope experimented with a new brand of reclusive Carmelitism that was lived in anchorholds, rather than friaries. Misyn’s writing for Heslington can be seen as regulating this new expression of the Carmelite solitary life.


Carmelites and Anchorites

Anchorites in England have a long history. Like the Carmelites, they can be traced back to the desert hermits of antiquity.[167] Throughout the Middle Ages, monks and nuns, and eventually laypersons in pursuit of the contemplative life lived in ‘Ankers’ (inclusorium).


Anchorites were important in the Carmelite order’s sense of identity, reminding the friars of their own contemplative roots. Carmelites dissatisfied with communal life spent a while as anchorites, including George or Gregory Ripley,[168] and Thomas Scrope. From about 1425, the order produced records about the quasi-mythical saint Simon Stock, an early prior general, visionary, and recluse.[169] Though Stock was supposedly a thirteenth-century English saint, his cult only seems to have reached England in the early fifteenth century.[170] The interest in him at the time Misyn was writing is symptomatic of the order’s quest for contemplative exemplars.


Misyn wrote for Heslington in the well-established tradition of providing rules and guides for anchorites.[171] However, Heslington’s request of a copy of Rolle demonstrates that she was not content with the anchoritic texts already available, and was interested in the contemporary spirituality of York. We have already noted that in calling Heslington a ‘recluse’, Misyn framed his relationship with her in similar terms to the ‘spiritual friendship’ between Rolle and Margaret Kirkby.[172]


This was not simply a literary device, since works of anchoritic guidance ‘seem to have been genuine responses to requests for such a guide.’[173] Misyn did indeed know Heslington, and wrote in response ‘to þe askynge of þi desyre’ [1/1-2]. Clay rightly stated that ‘the works of Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton were much appreciated by anchoresses, who were often well-educated women’,[174] and the Carmelite interest in both authors is indicative of the order’s awareness of anchoritic and literary movements in England.


Little study has been done on the provision of guidance for solitaries in the middle to late medieval period, particularly from a Carmelite perspective. Nevertheless, English and continental examples establish the existence of fruitful interactions between Carmelites and recluses, and what is known can be extrapolated to shed light on the dynamic of Misyn’s relationship with Heslington. One of the earliest known female Carmelite recluses was blessed Jane (or Joan) of Toulouse (d. 1286).[175] Bale claimed that Simon Stock affiliated her to the order as a tertiary, and though there is no evidence for this, it is significant that the order linked the cults of two recluses. Even if Misyn and Heslington did not know of Jane’s cult, she exemplifies a general culture of female solitaries affiliated to the order.


The Carmelites had no nuns in pre-Reformation England, and Carmelite sisterhoods were not approved by the papacy until 1452.[176] This did not mean, however, that Carmelite spirituality had no appeal to women in medieval England. Some lay people were affiliated to the family of the order by letters of confraternity,[177] and Jane of Toulouse demonstrates that female solitaries were recognised as members of the order’s confraternitas[178] living according to the direction and possibly even the Rule of Carmelites. Rolle himself followed no guide or rule that we know of, but Misyn transformed Rolle’s autobiographical mysticism into a model or ‘rewl of lyfynge’ [105/6-7] for Heslington, dealing with the interior life rather than external regulations.[179] His translation might even be seen as extending ‘honorary membership’ of the order to the anchoress.


Recluses contemporary with Heslington lived under the spiritual direction of Carmelites. Emma Stapleton lived as a Carmelite anchoress at the Whitefriars’ convent in Norwich from 1421 until her burial in the Whitefriars’ Church in 1442.[180] The Norwich convent had two anchorages used throughout the fifteenth century,[181] one for a man (inhabited by Scrope) and one for a woman.


Carmelite recluses were seemingly professed before the provincial of the order. As provincial between 1414 and 1430, Netter veiled Stapleton,[182] and may well have conducted Heslington’s profession.[183] Enclosure allowed the anchoress to live a reclusive life, but also meant the Carmelites could monitor her religious sentiment. It was far easier for the Carmelites to regulate Stapleton and Heslington than it was to control the ‘freelance religious mystic’[184] Margery Kempe.


The provincial appointed the most able Carmelites as counsellors to anchoresses – in the case of Stapleton none less than the prior, sub-prior, and three other members of the convent.[185] Stapleton ‘must have been considered a person of some consequence because she was placed under the spiritual guidance of one of their more learned friars, a man named Adam Hemlyngton who had received a doctorate in theology from Oxford’[186] by 1414. Hemlyngton was a writer, and at one time Master of the Carmelite School of Theology at Paris.[187] Another of Stapleton’s Carmelite counsellors, John Thorpe, was probably also connected to the Arundel circle.[188] Stapleton’s example suggests the role of spiritual guide for anchoresses was reserved for senior members of the Carmelite order. This was true of Heslington and Prior Misyn.


Like many anchoresses, Dame Emma was indeed a ‘person of consequence’, being the daughter of Sir Miles Stapleton of Bedale and Ingham.[189] Sir Miles was part of a rich and influential family in Norfolk and Yorkshire,[190] and a patron of book production.[191] He had been in close contact with Julian of Norwich, as executor of a will that had benefited her. Whilst it is an overstatement to say that Dame Emma was ‘Julian’s follower’,[192] it seems probable that Emma knew of Julian. Norwich had more recluses than any other city in England in the middle years of the fifteenth century, and it would not be a ‘geographical fallacy’ to suggest that the Carmelites directing Emma would have been aware of the anchoritic movement in the city.[193]


The fact that anchoresses such as Stapleton were immured within convent boundaries suggests that they were valued additions to the contemplative community, and not only because of the financial benefits of supporting aristocratic women. The relationship between anchoresses and Carmelites was symbiotic; the Whitefriars provided the recluse with spiritual direction, and she sustained them by adding to the order’s ‘spiritual treasury’ of prayer. Both relied upon the generosity of others for physical sustenance. Towns afforded more support for the recluse than rural communities, [194] and anchoresses sought support for their deserts in the urban environment, just as friars had done. As monastic orders declined from the fourteenth century, the contemplatives in the cities – friars and anchorites – became popular.[195] Even when Carmelite communities declined in the fifteenth century, Carmelite anchorites flourished.


Stapleton and Heslington contradict the statement that ‘English solitaries often had no links to established religious orders or specific monasteries’.[196] A striking feature of the link is that anchoresses seem to have been guided by Carmelites in academic centres where the order had studia (Jane at Toulouse, Stapleton at Norwich, and Heslington at York). Anchorites seem to have been important at Cambridge, Oxford, and York, for academic, social or religious reasons.[197] The academic milieu seems to have nurtured anchorites with literature. The literature Whitefriars produced for anchoresses exemplifies how eremitism was perceived as an essential quality of Carmelite spirituality, of which anchoresses (and eventually nuns) were the inheritors.[198]


The significance of Misyn’s translations becomes more apparent in this anchoritic climate. Though the solitary life of the friars was continually under threat, Misyn was keen to instruct another – outside of the convent, but within the order’s confraternity – of the benefits of solitary life. Encouraging the anchoritic way of life allowed Misyn to live Carmelite spirituality by proxy. Misyn perceived in Heslington some imitation of the heroism and holiness of the early hermits of Carmel. Their relationship is a classic example of how ‘the popularity of the solitary life in England gave rise to a significant body of literature written to aid its practitioners, particularly anchoresses’.[199]


There is no evidence that the original Incendium was ever targeted at women – its Latin would seem to preclude this.[200] Nevertheless, the text was eminently suitable for anchoresses, given its echoes with the ritual of enclosure. Rolle’s repetitive insistence on the need to die to the world, and the desirability of death would have special resonance for Heslington, whose immurement ceremony would have echoed the funeral rite.[201]


We might expect Rolle’s misogyny to have dissuaded anchoresses from reading his Incendium, but Misyn’s translation of it into English at a woman’s request disempowered the language of patriarchal authority and rendered it a more femino-centric text. Just as women ‘socialise Rolle into writing his vernacular epistles, whose spirituality obliges the elusive and eccentric solitary to discover his own capacity for teaching in English’,[202] so Misyn’s translation effectively ‘feminised’ the Incendium, and vastly widened its readership to include women


Contemplative spirituality beyond the convent – challenges to society

Misyn’s translations of the Emendatio and the Incendium can best be seen in the light of the Carmelite desire to make contemplative and eremitical spirituality available to audiences outside the convents and universities. The text Misyn chose to translate appealed to those not schooled professionally. Although Rolle’s thought is not strictly anti-intellectual (he wrote for a Latinate audience), his Incendium makes strong criticism of ‘disputacion vnprofetabill’ [13/19-20] such as might be found in the schools of Oxford, which he had abandoned.[203] Rolle’s statement that ‘an olde wyfe of goddis lufe is more expert, & les of wardly likynge, þen þe grete devin, whos stody is vayne’ [13/26-7] is closely translated by Misyn, himself a scholar writing for a woman’s benefit. Misyn’s translation can be taken as evidence that he, like Rolle, did not consider it possible for the contemplative to be taught by those ‘bolnyd with foldyn Argumentis’ [74/25] in the schools. Just as Rolle addressed his Incendium to the ‘non philosophis, non mundi sapientibus, non magnis theologicis infinitis quescionibus implicatis, sed rudibus et indoctis’,[204] Misyn wrote his fyer for ‘all redars’ [1/11], and ‘for edificacyon of many saules’ [1/6]. In this way, Misyn’s prologue can be seen as mimicking Rolle’s literary mission to extend contemplative spirituality beyond its usual boundaries.


Rolle’s criticism of prelates and scholars was dangerous to promote after the Constitutions. Like the Carmelites who continually fought to justify their existence, Rolle’s ‘self-authorization’ justified his experiences and teachings, independent of the church hierarchy. Misyn was interested in Rolle’s independence of thought, but the danger of translating such texts was that they encouraged independence in others. When translating Rolle’s statement ‘þat lufer[s] of endles lufe of þer inward maister my·t be taght to speek better þen þai of men taght’ [74/26-8], Misyn must have been conscious that the notion of inner teaching, autonomous from church control, was of serious concern to many fifteenth-century theologians, keen to practise probatio and discretio on independent female religious experience.


Misyn seems to have perceived reading and meditating upon holy books as a means of regulating Heslington’s autonomy, and shielding her from error. The fyer states that ‘it is full gude truly to despisynge of þis warld, desyre of þe heuenly kyngdome [&] desyre of cristis lufe, & to þe hatynge of syn, bisy redinge or holy bokis behaldynge’ [70/23-6].[205] However, Rolle points out that contemplative experiences are not to be described in any ‘docturs writynge’ [72/17]. This distinction between devotional and scholastic books has implications for Carmelites. We see in Misyn’s translation of Rolle an educated Carmelite’s turning away from ‘docturs writynge’ towards a more personal, private, and sensory spirituality.


Rolle’s abandonment of his studies in the pursuit of the eremitic life is the antithesis of the Carmelites who deliberately mitigated their life of solitude in order to establish themselves in the universities. Rolle’s mockery of the vain scholar who is ‘a foyle, & not wis’ [13/29] is one of several instances in the fyer where the text might be seen as subverting Misyn’s own position as a Whitefriar, and challenging the social order of the day. Rolle – a layman to whose authority Misyn submits – is also critical of the pretensions of church dignitaries ‘glad in byschoppys aray’ [22/32]. Rolle states that prelates rank lower in the church than contemplatives, the former being ‘siluer’ and the latter ‘gold’ [49/2 & 4]. Whilst Rolle’s hierarchical ordering of the spiritual life is not unconventional, it is nevertheless radical in its implications.[206] It elevates the contemplative, such as Heslington, above senior clergy, such as Misyn. Furthermore, by translating Rolle at Heslington’s request, Misyn essentially became her clerk. Heslington must have been a powerful patron to commission a text from such a high-ranking cleric, and shows that not only Carthusians had links with ‘the posh and powerful’.[207] Heslington is one of a number of fifteenth-century laypersons that could demand written spiritual direction from the cleric of their choosing.[208] I agree with Riddy that ‘we should not assume that women were merely passive recipients of books, or that they could not have taken the initiative in the process of translating from Latin into the vernacular… In the relation between the male clerks and their women readers it must often have been difficult to tell who followed and who led.’[209] The opening sentence of Misyn’s prologue suggests that Heslington played a dynamic role in the translation of the Incendium. Misyn’s respect for Heslington is evident, and the two presumably enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship.


Carmelite promotion of Rolle in a Yorkshire context

Finally, as well as recognising that Misyn wrote within the context of Carmelite and anchoritic eremiticism, we must see his translations in the context of a spiritual and literary movement in the north of England. As Hughes states, ‘most of the devotional works which were copied and circulated throughout England in the fifteenth century were originally composed or translated by men who lived and worked in the area administered by the archbishop of York’.[210] Misyn’s fyer was read in York, and that city’s environment must have been hugely influential during his formation.


During Misyn’s formation, the clergy of York were notable for their book owning and producing activities. The Minster was an ecclesiastical training centre where learning and contemplation flourished. The clerks, many of them members of Arundel’s circle, continued a pastoral programme in the diocese of York that had been initiated by Archbishop Thoresby. Integral to the programme was the provision of instructive texts and pastoral manuals, such as the Pupilla oculi’. Leading nobility and clergy in the diocese of York also owned and distributed copies of Rolle, and were instrumental in the promotion of his cult.[211]


That Misyn should have been interested in producing a version of Rolle is not astonishing since ‘friars were among the most assiduous of medieval literary popularizers and translators’.[212] It is even less surprising when seen in the religious and literary climate of early fifteenth-century York. Misyn’s rendering of Rolle in the vernacular had at least the potential of making Rolle widely read, and not only supported the Carmelite anchoritic movement, but also contributed to the corpus of pastoral and Rollean texts in Yorkshire.[213]


Pastorally, Misyn’s translation functioned as a penitential aid. Misyn’s prologue tells us that Heslington requested the translation ‘couetynge a-sethe to make’ [1/2], that is, she wished to use the translation in preparation for confession,[214] perhaps not unlike readers of Maidstone’s Penitential Psalms. Misyn’s fyer can be seen as one of a number of fifteenth-century texts that taught readers in York ‘how to integrate their personal meditations with social responsibilities, conformity to the sacraments of the church, especially to compulsory annual confession, and the performance of penitential satisfaction’.[215]


In their pastoral concern, York clergy saw in Rolle’s theology much that was spiritually beneficial. On the other hand, the combination of satire, autobiography, polemic, social commentary, gospel analysis, and mystical experiences in the Incendium made his work difficult to control. Arundel and his successors perceived the potential dangers of the ‘enthusiasm’ of the Rolle cult, and the burgeoning eremitic movement.[216] They were keen to distinguish ‘between the genuine piety of recluses… and either irresponsible emotional enthusiasm, or the heretical beliefs of the Lollards’.[217] We have already noted Misyn’s concerns over heresy. His translation also reveals concern about Rolle’s more extreme language and imagery. In her study of the Amherst manuscript, Cré shows that although Misyn largely kept his promise not to alter the text, he shared contemporary concerns about Rolle’s theology. For example, Misyn occasionally added to the text to clarify Rolle’s meaning in English, and subtly curbed the more excessive aspects of Rolle’s language by removing some superlatives.[218]


Despite these changes, Misyn largely admired his auctour, and felt Rolle’s theology to be beneficial for Heslington and others. Though the Incendium’s discussions of calor (heat), dulcor (sweetness), and canor (spiritual song) are more than a little indebted to the affective piety of mendicants,[219] Rolle’s passionate and zealous tone never becomes intemperate or extremist. Rolle‘s idiosyncratic brand of piety combines the affective with more sophisticated and scholastic theology. Cré contends that the texts in Amherst are arranged ‘in ascending order of interpretative difficulty’,[220] Rolle’s texts being the least theologically complex.[221] Nevertheless, Misyn’s translation of the Incendium represents a desire to provide a woman with a more theologically mature,[222] and more learned text than the visionary literature usually circulated amongst women.[223] By toning down the language of Rolle’s sensory experiences, Misyn emphasised the contemplative elements of the text. As well as raising the intellectual possibilities for women readers, Misyn’s translation took Rolle’s Incendium from the restricted world of ‘the recluse or hermit, and the members of contemplative religious orders’[224] to the laity at large. We know that Misyn anticipated the fyer circulating beyond Heslington’s anchorhold to the increasingly literate laity, because he wrote ‘for edificacyon of many saules’ [1/6].


We have yet to consider fully how Misyn’s texts circulated. We know from the colophons that Misyn composed the fyer in Lincoln, and that Heslington read it in York. We have no internal evidence of where the mendynge was written, but Lincoln, the York studium, Oxford or the London studium generale all seem possible locations.


We do not know whether Heslington possessed a copy of the mendynge, but it is preserved in all three manuscripts. It may be that Heslington commissioned the fyer having read Misyn’s mendynge the year before, and this would suggest an element of reader response in Carmelite literary circles. Copying both Misyn texts together suggests that either Heslington owned a copy of both (which seems likely, given the thematic links between them), or that the Carthusian copyists gathered two separate translations. To produce the Amherst manuscript (and possibly copies further up the stemma), Carthusians must have had access to a copy of Misyn, by being in communication with either the Carmelites of Lincoln, with Heslington in York, or other intermediaries. It is useful to speculate how the texts were transmitted from the convent or the anchorhold to the Charterhouse. Literary historians have shown how texts ‘trickled-down’ from religious orders to the laity,[225] but did the process work in reverse? Carthusians did actively seek out copies of vernacular theological texts originally owned or written by the laity.[226] By writing for someone outside the direct daily control of the Whitefriars, Misyn opened his text to potential wide dissemination.[227] The Carthusians may have received a copy from Misyn, from a Carmelite library, or perhaps Heslington bequeathed it to them, since solitaries often donated books to religious orders.[228]


We know with certainty from the Amherst manuscript that the Carmelites shared the Carthusians’ taste for the works of Rolle,[229] and the promotion of eremiticism. Cré states that ‘the references in Rolle’s Fire of Love to the ‘wyldyrnes’ must have found double resonance amongst a Carthusian audience, as Carthusian houses were often referred to as ‘heremi’, deserts, or the wilderness’,[230] and that since all the texts in Amherst deal with the solitary life, it was ‘eminently suitable for a Carthusian audience’.[231] Though undoubtedly true, this is equally applicable to the order of the original translator, which saw itself as continuing the eremitical desert tradition.[232]


A striking feature that links Misyn’s translations to many of the surviving pastoral manuals read in the diocese of York is that they share a similar dialect – not of York itself – but that of the northeast Midlands, probably Lincolnshire. There were strong links between the city of York and the county of Lincolnshire, which may well account for the transmission of texts between the two places.[233] Gillespie wonders whether the composition of such works was ‘the result of some collaboration between the Carthusians and the secular diocesan authorities’.[234] Equally plausible is some collaboration between Carthusians and Carmelites. The Charterhouse of Epworth in Axholme stood less than ten miles north of Gainsborough, in the region where Laing located the lost exemplar manuscript.[235] Carthusians there could conceivably have obtained Misyn’s prose from either Mount Grace or York, or the neighbouring friaries of Doncaster, Hull, or Lincoln. Carthusians could have disseminated Misyn’s translations southward to the Charterhouse of Beauvale, very near to the Nottingham Carmelite convent, and near the region where both Yale and Amherst scribes have been located.[236] Whilst Carthusian houses in the north were geographically (and culturally) close to Carmelite foundations, this theory of transmission can be nothing more than informed speculation. It is possible that dissemination of the fyer and mendynge was done in conjunction with the chantry priests of York Minster.[237] These priests would perhaps have known Misyn and Heslington as eminent members of York society.


Amongst the most assiduous promoters of the Rolle cult were the ubiquitous Scrope and Stapleton families, who flourished especially in Yorkshire and East Anglia. The Scrope family was notable for its patronage of solitaries, and probably supported Rolle during his life.[238] Emma Stapleton became an anchoress herself. We have already noted that her family were serious book owners, and like the Scropes, the Stapletons owned autograph copies of Rolle.[239] Both families were in an ideal position to acquire and disseminate Rolle’s texts in the North and East Anglia.[240] Before succeeding Arundel to the See of York, Richard Scrope was bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and was perhaps responsible for overseeing the copying of Hilton and Rolle texts in the cathedral’s scriptorium.[241]


A number of Scropes were members of Arundel’s circle at Ely and York, and were probably responsible for the introduction of Rolle’s work to that group.[242] Since the circle included Carmelites, it is possible that these families introduced the order to Rolle. Secular family members may also have been influential. A number of Scropes, and Emma Stapleton’s father, were Knights of the Garter,[243] and would thus have come into contact with Carmelites active at court. Both the Scropes and Stapletons were supportive of the friars in York, and like Heslington and Misyn, were members of the Corpus Christi Guild.[244] Thomas Scrope is an embodiment of the strong links between the Carmelites and leading Yorkshire nobility. Since both the Scrope and Stapleton families supported the anchoress at Walmgate,[245] Misyn’s translations for Heslington may have been encouraged by such patrons.



Whereas Fishlake’s translation of Hilton’s Scale into Latin thirty years before Misyn had made theology in English available to the international church, Misyn wished to make English theological treatises in Latin available to the illiterati. I think that after a thorough textual, palaeographic, and linguistic study of Misyn’s work in its religious and socio-political context, one cannot take the saccharine and transhistorical view that Misyn’s translation ‘has embodied and preserved for us the simple faith and enthusiastic love of the generation for which it was written’.[246] Misyn was aware that his faith was not simple, but had a very real impact upon his life, and upon his readers. Misyn’s translations were written with an awareness of events occurring in his order and society at large, and in Rolle and Heslington he sought to rediscover something of the Carmelites’ contemplative identity.

[1] DNB, XIII, p. 504; BRUO, p. 1286. I am grateful to Fr. Copsey for providing me with his biography of Misyn written for the forthcoming New DNB.

[2] On the York friary, see studies listed by Copsey in CIB, I, p. 250; McCaffrey, pp. 257-60; Greatrex, in Smith, The Church in Medieval York, pp. 69-73; Raine, pp. 62-5. On the fifteenth-century church in York see Dobson, ‘The City of York’, in Ford, pp. 201-13, and literature listed by Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 181 n. 99.

[3] York, Borthwick Institute, Reg. Bowet (Reg. 18), ff. 402, 404v, 409v.

[4] Sometimes entitled Regula vivendi (Rule of Life), Emendatio peccatoris, Vehiculum Vitae, or Duodecim capitula [Manual, IX, p. 3064; Sargent, ‘The Transmission’, p. 232 n.3.].

[5] For information on the length of time required for each stage of study, see Copsey’s forthcoming article.

[6] On the office of lector, see MM, pp. 262, 299.

[7] CPL, IX, pp. 210-211. Misyn probably appointed a vicar to administer the parish for him, as was quite usual. Misyn gained financially from the appointment. This practice, often considered an abuse in the late medieval church, was common amongst Carmelites from this period [Sheppard, pp. 47-8].

[8] DNB, XV, pp. 850-3; Burke’s Peerage, p. 1998.

[9] Egan, in CIB, I, pp. 39, 90-91, 89.

[10] Burke’s Peerage, p. 1998.

[11] Egan, in CIB, I, p. 85.

[12] Raine, pp. 108-9.

[13] Lichfield Joint Record Office, Reg. Heyworth (B/A/1/9), ff. 92v, 94v.

[14] Ibid., f. 71; Reg. Hales (B/A/1/12), f. 40; Harley MS 1819, f. 200v.

[15] British Library MS Harley 1819, f. 200v. On the recurring problem of apostasy, see TC, p. 71; Logan.

[16] BRUC, p. 73; Jones, pp. 4-5; HBC, pp. 254, 282.

[17] Eubel, II, p. 162; Ware, I, p. 260; HBC, p. 350; Stubbs, p. 206; CPL, XI, pp. 172, 322.

[18] Skaife, p. 62.

[19] The guild was founded by ‘chaplains and other worthy parsons, both secular and regular’ [Skaife, p. v] in 1408, showing collaboration between secular clergy and private religious in Arundel’s ‘circle’ (though Arundel had been translated to Canterbury in 1396, his clerics mostly remained in York). The guild was supervised by Arundel’s clerks and other Minster clergy [PV, p. 192]. On the guild’s development see Crouch.

[20] See the discourse on Eucharistic doctrine that prefaces the list of members [Skaife, pp. 1-6].

[21] Carmelites were notable defenders of orthodox Eucharistic teaching. In 1382, Peter Stokes, O. Carm. was due to condemn Wyclif’s teachings (and defend the doctrines of the Eucharist and transubstantiation) on the significant date of Corpus Christi [Catto, in Catto & Evans, pp. 214-6; Flood, pp. 175-7]. Ten Carmelites were admitted to the Corpus Christi Guild between 1430 and 1469 [Page, III, p. 293, n. 32], including two in the same year as Misyn [Skaife, p. 62].

[22] Hughes [PV, p. 110] claims that Heslington was a member of the guild from 1428. Actually, ‘Dom. Isab. Heslyngton, reclusa’ is listed in 1429/30 [Skaife, p. 29]. This is one of numerous errors in Hughes’s otherwise interesting study. The surname, date, and title of recluse indicate that she is the anchoress Misyn knew. Isabel was probably Heslington’s baptismal name, and Margaret derived from the Church she was attached to – just as Julian of Norwich took her name from the church of St. Julian in Conisford.

[23] Warren, pp. 184, 192, 207.

[24] Fifth ordinance, [Skaife, pp. vi & 7].

[25] Skaife, p. xii.

[26] Poole & Hugall, p. 197; Fellow  & Hope, p. 311 ff.

[27] On the Cordwainers (allutari in Latin) see Raine, pp. 65, 102; Crouch, pp. 136-137. Testators of the guild made thirty bequests to the Carmelites between 1402 and 1527 [Crouch, p. 129], making them 'the most popular in testamentary terms' of all the city’s mendicant convents [Crouch, p. 133]. Several guild members were buried in the friary. Sellers prints the Cordwainers’ ordinances in French (undated) and Latin (1417), pp. 72-74, 187-197.

[28] The Cordwainers’ play, The Agony in the Garden and the Betrayal, (ed.) Beadle pp. 234-42. Although ‘it was never the duty of the Corpus Christi Guild to present the [Mystery] Play’, the performance ‘had become attached to the Corpus Christi procession’ [White, p. 2] and was thus influenced by the guild.

[29] York, Borthwick Institute, Reg. Booth (MS Reg. 20), ff. 85, 99v.

[30] Ibid., f. 49.

[31] Ibid., ff. 434v-451v.

[32] Ibid., ff. 17v, 22.

[33] MS Harley 3838, f. 40; MS Bodley 73, f. 1. HBC puts Misyn’s death as 1463.

[34] All references to Misyn’s text [page/line] come from Harvey’s edition.

[35] Warren, pp. 39, 242-253.

[36] Raine, p. 108; Warren, pp. 244-5; York, Borthwick Institute, Probate Registry, Will 3, f. 590.

[37] MM, pp. 250, 255. On the support of friars by the burgher class, see PV, p. 50.

[38] SW, pp. 204-5; SWA, p. 197; IPMEP, 92; Manual, IX, p. 3055. The Latin text of the Incendium is edited by Deanesly, and the Emendatio by Watson. Numerous twentieth-century Modern English editions of both are listed in Lagorio & Bradley, pp. 57-9; Manual, IX, pp. 3411-2. According to Colledge & Walsh writing in 1978 [ME edition of Julian, p. 4 n. 13], Margaret Amassian was re-editing both the fyre and the mendynge, and re-examining their attribution to Misyn. Although she stated that a critical edition of the Emendatio translation was near completion (Manuscripta 23, p. 68 n. 5), I have not heard any further details, and whilst Harvey is certainly in need of revision I see no reason to doubt the attribution of the translation to Misyn (though probably of the manuscripts themselves). In anticipation of a revised edition, Laing has listed errors in Appendix 1 of her article [see p. 219 n. 4].

[39] Not two as Watson states [‘Richard Rolle’, p. 312 n. 1].

[40] Manual, IX, p. 3423; Laing, p. 189.

[41] Comper, p. xxxiii; Cré, in Renevey & Whitehead, p. 57 n. 1; Colledge & Walsh’s ME edition of Julian, pp. 1-5; Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum, pp. 153-6; Julian’s Shewings, (ed.) Crampton, p. 19; Pezzini; Glasscoe; Bazire & Colledge, pp. 9-11; Gillespie, ‘Dial M’, p. 246; Laing, p. 220 n. 8. Cré’s recent thesis is the most thorough study of the manuscript.

[42] Cré gives a thematic account for the Amherst ordering, p. 59. Theologically speaking, the Emendatio lays the ground rules for the Christian life and introduces the themes which occupy Rolle in the Incendium.

[43] Manual, IX, p. 3124, 3466.

[44] Ibid., pp. 3125-7, 3466-7.

[45] Ibid., pp.3117-9, 3462; Sargent ‘The Transmission’, pp. 238-9.

[46] Pezzini; Ellis, ‘Flores ad fabricandam’.

[47] Pezzini, p. 292.

[48] Comper [p. xxxii] believed that Misyn’s translation may have been read aloud, rather than privately, because she perceived the text repetitive. No manuscript apparatus suggests that Misyn’s translation was primarily aurally received. Rolle himself was aware of his text reaching ‘herars or redars’ [96/23]. Misyn’s translations were part of the devotio moderna’s shifting emphasis towards private reading.

[49] The inclusion of a few Latin texts need not necessarily point to a male readership. Nearly all the texts were originally written for women. The Vernon manuscript is another compilation mostly in English with a few Latin and French texts that some women would have been able to read. The Vernon manuscript, which contains Maidstone’s Penitential Psalms, Hilton works, and anchoritic texts addressed to women, was probably read by devout laywomen or a community of nuns – see Riddy, in Meale, pp. 104-27; RMPP, p. 17; PV, p. 213; Clark, ‘Late Fourteenth’, pp. 7-8; Pearsall.

[50] Pezzini, [p. 292] and Colledge & Walsh [ME edition of Julian, pp. 1-2] argue that Amherst was probably the product of a monastic scriptorium. According to Laing [pp. 189, 220 n. 10], the scribe was also responsible for British Library MS Egerton 2006 and St. John’s College Cambridge MS 189. The materials in Amherst would point to either a female reader, or a Carthusian production. If it was a Carthusian compilation, then it could not have been made in a scriptorium, since the Consuetudines Cartusiae required each monk to have copying implements in his cell rather than in a common room, [Bell, in Hellinga & Trapp, pp. 235-6; Cannon, in Wallace, p. 319.]

[51] Amherst meets the Carthusian desire for firsthand accounts of raw and immediate religious experience. This is why the compilation contains Julian’s Short Text, which is more about personal experience than the ‘more ramified and theologically more sophisticated Long Text’ [Gillespie, ‘Dial M’, pp. 245-6]; Cré, passim.

[52] Cré, in Renevey & Whitehead, p. 45 ff.

[53] Cré, p. 22.

[54] Sargent, James Grenehalgh; Colledge & Walsh ME edition of Julian, p. 3.

[55] Laing, p. 189.

[56] IMEV Supplement (ed. Robbins & Cutler), Entry 4105.5. The text is edited by Amassian, ‘A Verse Life’, and commented upon by Sleeth. A catalogue description is available at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s website:

[57] Farmer, p. 231; Socii Bollandiani, p. 644; Fros, p. 484; Purvis, St John of Bridlington; Grosjean; Laing, p. 205.

[58] Amassian, ‘A Verse Life’, p. 137.

[59] ‘Versus Prophetici per Priorem de Brydlington’ were copied alongside Ashburne’s prophetic poem [Smith, Catalogue, p. 104]. Bale was also interested in Bridlington [Amassian, ‘A Verse Life’, p. 138].

[60] Rigg, p. 268.

[61] Rolle, Bridlington and Scrope were ‘leaders of the contemplative movement’ in Yorkshire [PV, p. 3], a movement in which Misyn played a role. Misyn’s name was aligned with Scrope’s on the York mazer bowl. On political prophecy, see Coote.

[62] IMEP, VIII, p. 29; Coxe, II, (iv), pp. 97-8; Harvey p. ix. It cannot date before 1435, as Manual, IX, p. 3423 suggests.

[63] Alexander & Temple, Entry 531, p. 52; Harvey, p. ix.

[64] Laing, p. 210.

[65] Ibid., p. 189.

[66] LALME I:153; LP 16 [IMEP, VIII, p. 29].

[67] Laing, p. 190.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid., p. 190.

[70] Ibid., pp. 199-202.

[71] It is possible, of course, that Misyn wrote in another dialect, but whilst Laing is ‘uncertain whether Misyn was originally from Lincoln’ [p. 189], his presence there is only likely if it was his filial house.

[72] Laing, p. 208.

[73] Netter certainly did this [Alban, in CIB, II, p. 346]. It seems likely that Carmelites in York or Lincoln could have made copies. Carmelite convents were often in the vicinity of book producing areas. The Boston friary was near Book Lane [Foster, p. 43]. The Carmelite studium generale helped attract the London bookmen to Fleet Street [Christianson, in Hellinga & Trapp, p. 129]. Doctrinale manuscripts may have been produced at the London convent. With its Minster clergy and guilds, York was a major centre for book traffic [Raine, pp. 34-5], and the production and acquisition of pastoral texts [Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, pp. 178, 180]. On York book production, see J. B. Friedman, ‘Books, owners and makers in Fifteenth-Century Yorkshire…’, in Minnis, (ed.), Latin and Vernacular…, (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1989), pp. 111-27.

[74] Laing, pp. 195, 199, 216-9, 221 n. 26.

[75] Ibid., p. 204.

[76] Ibid., p. 208.

[77] Ibid., p. 194.

[78] Ibid., p. 195.

[79] Laing lists some errors, p. 222, n. 31.

[80] Ibid., p. 191.

[81] Ibid., pp. 206, 220 n. 10, 221 n. 20; Comper, p. xxxiii.

[82] Erler, in Hellinga & Trapp, pp. 516-7.

[83] It was usual for Carthusian manuscripts to have a ‘considerable degree of similarity in layout and apparatus’ [Gillespie, ‘Vernacular books’, p. 331].

[84] Cré, in Renevey and Whitehead, p. 47; Sargent, James Grenehalgh, p. 18 ff.

[85] As observed by Amassian, quoted by Colledge and Walsh [ME edition of Julian, pp. 1-2].

[86] Though there was no Charterhouse in Lincoln, scribes could move far from their place of origin [Laing, pp. 209, 223 n. 44].

[87] Studies in Rolle’s spirituality and cult include Horstmann, Allen, Deanesly, Nuth, PV, Dyas, and Watson. The best texts on the manuscripts, subject matter, and sources of the Incendium are Deanesly’s introduction, and Watson’s literary analysis in Richard Rolle. Moyes’s edition of the Expositio places Rolle in his historical context.

[88] The Emendatio was probably the most widely disseminated Rolle text, and most wide spread para-monastic rule in England [Manual, IX, p. 3064]. On the dissemination of Rolle, see PV; Gillespie, ‘Vernacular books’, p. 321.

[89] On the Latin manuscripts see Watson, Richard Rolle, p. 312, n. 1; Deanesly, pp. 1-37.

[90] It appears from Misyn’s act of translation that he did not know of the other translations of the ubiquitous Latin text, at least some of which probably pre-date his work [Manual, IX, pp. 3424; 3065; Laing, p. 188]. Non-Misyn translations are listed by Allen, pp. 213-20, 231-43.

[91] Laing, p. 188. As already mentioned, Kempe tells of having been read to from the Incendium, so unless a priest translated a Latin version for her as he read, a translation must have existed. It would be pleasing to imagine that a copy of Misyn’s translation might have reached his Carmelite brethren in Lynn before the end of the 1430s. Kempe began dictation of her book in 1436, a year after Misyn’s fyer was written.

[92] Deanesly, p. v.

[93] Watson, ‘Richard Rolle’, pp. 115-7; Deanesly, p. 38.

[94] ‘Here ends Book I of The Fire of Love by Richard Hampole, hermit, translated from Latin into English by friar Richard Misyn, hermit and Carmelite, and Bachelor of Theology, AD 1435.’

[95] ‘Here ends the Book of The Fire of Love, of Richard Hampole, hermit, translated into English at the instigation of Dame Margaret Heslington, recluse, by friar Richard Misyn, Bachelor of Theology, at that time Prior of Lincoln, of the Order of Carmelites, in 1435, on the feast of the translation of St. Martin, Bishop, that is, the 4th nones of July, written and corrected by the said friar Richard Misyn.’

[96] This term is interpreted by Kerby-Fulton as ‘authorial intrusion which serves to establish, protect, and/or market – not simply glorify – the author’ [p. 69].

[97] Comper believed that none of the scribes had ‘sufficient discretion to omit Misyn’s personal note’ in the colophon [p. xxxiv]. A more generous interpretation would be that the scribes wished to retain the name of Misyn as an indication of its value, and as mark of respect for his work and the academic reputation of his order.

[98] Gillespie, ‘Vernacular books’, pp. 327-8.

[99] There was a ‘late medieval interest in, or expectation of, authorial authenticity’ [Kerby-Fulton, p. 71], which may account for Misyn’s desire to highlight Rolle, and the statement that Misyn himself corrected the text.

[100] Wogan-Browne, et al, pp. 73-8.

[101] Manual, IX, pp. 3103-6. The Speculum Devotorum was written in response to Love’s text [Wogan-Browne, et al, pp. 73-4].

[102] Sargent (ed.), Nicholas Love’s Mirror, p. 11, lines 25-6. Thomas Betson, the scribe of the Syon catalogue, prefaced his Right Profitable Treatise with Jerome’s command that those in the service of god should have ‘euer bokes in your handes’ [Gillespie, ‘Dial M’, p. 260].

[103] Gillespie, ‘Dial M’, p. 248.

[104] ‘hereticorum siue lollardorum confutacionem’ [Sargent, 7/22]. On the use of Love’s text to promote orthodoxy, see the introduction to Sargent’s edition, Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 172, ‘Vernacular books’, p. 322-4.; Oguro et al; PR, pp. 437-440. On the Constitutions, see Watson, ‘Censorship and Cultural Change’; Nuth, p. 32.

[105] Watson, ’Censorship and Cultural Change’, p. 826. On the precautions a medieval author had to take in such circumstances, see Kerby-Fulton, p. 70; Watson, in Wogan-Browne, et al, pp. 339-45.

[106] Watson, ‘Censorship and Cultural Change’, p. 827.

[107] Poskitt, in CIB, I, p. 157.

[108] As Doyle points out, most members of religious orders ‘required the command or permission of the religious superior’ before writing ‘for any purpose’ [‘Publication’, p. 110]. As prior of his convent at Lincoln, Misyn would not have to consult any superior before producing the fyre.

[109] PR, p. 447.

[110] Hudson, in PR (particularly Chapters 9 & 10), shows that Wycliffite thought survived and re-emerged at various points in the fifteenth century. See also John A. F. Thomson.

[111] Deanesly, pp. 117-8; DNB, I, pp. 343-5.

[112] Watson, ‘Censorship and Cultural Change’, p. 827.

[113] Foxe’s translation in Acts and Monuments, quoted in Watson, ’Censorship and Cultural Change’, p. 827, n. 13.

[114] Watson believes the Incendium was composed before 1343 [Richard Rolle, p. 277-8].

[115] Watson, ‘Middle English mystics’, in Wallace, p. 560 n. 64.

[116] Watson includes Misyn’s translations in his listing of vernacular theological texts in the Appendix to ‘Censorship and Cultural Change’, p. 863.

[117] Cf. the translator of the Mirror of Our Lady (1420-50), in Wogan-Browne, et al, p. 260, lines 65-8.

[118] ‘Misyn was, on the whole, less suspicious of Rolle’s doctrine than of his own mistranslation of it’ [Cré, p. 89].

[119] According to the Beinecke library catalogue website, Michael Sargent is preparing an edition of the Incendium and Emendatio with the Latin and ME texts on facing pages, allowing a greater comparison. According to Lagorio & Bradley [p. 59], there exists ‘a painstaking investigation of Misyn’s translations, vis-à-vis the original works, and a discussion of Rolle’s Latin style’, which unfortunately I have not been able to see: Eugen Schnell, Die Traktate des Richard Rolle von Hampole Incendium Amoris und Emendatio Vitae und deren Übersetzung durch Richard Misyn, (Borna-Leipzig: Universitätsverlag von R. Naske, 1932).

[120] Laing, p. 221 n. 21.

[121] Workman, pp. 96-101.

[122] Ibid., p. 97.

[123] On Rolle’s style see Workman, p. 2; Watson, Richard Rolle. On Misyn’s prose, see Cré, pp. 71-90.

[124] Laing, p. 194. Harvey’s edition supplies omissions in square brackets.

[125] Ibid., p. 214.

[126] Laing, p. 191.

[127] Workman, p. 100.

[128] Workman, p. 96. Cf. Cré, p. 73.

[129] Ibid., p. 100.

[130] Nuth, p. 29.

[131] Millett, in Meale, p. 99.

[132] Watson, ‘The Composition’, p. 665. Watson lists a number of critical writings on this subject, of which should be highlighted Hudson, ‘Lollardy: The English Heresy?’, in Lollards and their Books, pp. 141-63.

[133] On Rolle’s ‘invention of authority’, see Watson’s study of that title.

[134] Watson, ‘The Composition’, p. 666; Warren, pp. 79-80.

[135] Cré, p. 63.

[136] Edden, ‘The Mantle’, p. 83.

[137] Jacques de Vitry, The History of Jerusalem, quoted in TC, p. 3.

[138] In discussing the respective merits of the active and contemplative lives, Rolle distinguishes those engaged in pastoral ministry such as preaching from pure contemplatives [49/14].

[139] Fleming, in Wallace, p. 349. The order’s titles are listed chronologically in Emanuele Boaga’s new book The Lady of the Place: Mary in the history and in the life of Carmel, (Rome, 2001), pp. 24-5.

[140] Edden, ‘The Mantle’, pp. 82-3.

[141] Manual, IX, p. 3067.

[142] Humphreys, The Friars’ Libraries, pp. 186-7.

[143] Thomson, Catalogue, pp. 177-179.

[144] Ibid., p. 179; Scott, I, p. 66 n. 17; Sargent discusses this manuscript in connection with Carthusian interest in Rolle in ‘The Transmission’, p. 232 n. 3. Moyes states the manuscript may have come from the continent [I, p. 71].

[145] Deanesly, p. 7.

[146] This is revealed by comparison between Harvey’s edition of the mendynge and Watson’s edition of the Emendatio, which is based on Cambridge MSS Dd.v.64 and

[147] Rolle, (ed.) Allen, pp. 132-42; 152-83.

[148] Deanesly, pp. 12-15.

[149] Ibid., p. 63 ff.

[150] Ibid., pp. 15, 78-83.

[151] Ibid., p. 18.

[152] Ibid., p. vi.

[153] Nuth, p. 36.

[154] Manual, IX, p. 3051; Deanesly, p. 37; Nuth, p. 36.

[155] The Carmelites exchanged the striped mantle for a white one in the 1280s [TC, pp. 21-2]. On the legends surrounding the Scapular, see Copsey, ‘Simon Stock’.

[156] ROE, III, p. 52.

[157] Sheppard, pp. 36-7; TC, pp. 72-3; NCE, III, p. 118.

[158] TC, pp. 70-71. It is likely that Misyn would have been well aware of the calls for the mitigation of the Rule made by the 1430 General Chapter at Nantes [see Alban, in CIB, II, p. 368].

[159] Wolters, p. 87, n. 4; Deanesly, pp. 39-40, 183 n.

[160] Deanesly, p. 180.

[161] Wolters, p. 83.

[162] Langland’s description of the ‘habite as an heremite unholy of werkes’ [Piers Plowman, B-Text, I.3] captures the ambiguity of the term.

[163] Sheppard, pp. 19-21; TC, p. 18; MM, p. 272; ROE, II, pp. 198-9. An extract is reproduced in MM, p. 272. The complete text is edited by Staring, and translated by Edwards.

[164] Copsey, ‘The Ignea Sagitta’; EIA, p. 46. Because of this date, most critical discussions of it are anachronistic.

[165] Book of Saints, pp. 377-8; Farmer, pp. 287-8.

[166] Martin features in miniatures in the ‘Reconstructed Carmelite Missal’, f. 159 [Scott, II, p. 25].

[167] On solitaries in medieval England see Clay; Warren; Gilchrist, Contemplation, pp. 157-208; Jantzen, pp. 28-50; Nuth, pp. 19-22.

[168] Clay, p. 172; Warren, pp. 24, 221n.

[169] Clay, p. 171.

[170] Copsey, ‘Simon Stock’.

[171] Texts written for female solitaries are listed in Hilton (ed.) Bestul, p. 2; Warren, pp. 103, 294-8; Savage & Watson, pp. 44-45.

[172] ‘Margaretam de Kyrkby, reclusam’, Incipit of The Form of Living, in Rolle, (ed.) Ogilvie-Thomson, p. 3. On Rolle and Kirkby’s relationship, see Warren, pp. 212-3. On spiritual friendship between men and women, which was of great concern to Rolle [Misyn Book II, chapter IX], see Fleming, in Wallace, p. 363; Manual, IX, p. 3050.

[173] Warren, p. 103.

[174] Clay, p. 177.

[175] Daniele & Smet, in Saggi, et al, pp. 44, 136-7; Baurens; CC, pp. 14-15; TC, pp. 88-89; Sheppard, pp. 39 & 79; Book of Saints, p. 293. The earliest known Carmelite anchorite, Franco Lippi (d. 1291), was admitted as a lay-brother [TC, p. 27; Book of Saints, p. 227].

[176] RHME, pp. 53-4; Egan, ‘The Spirituality’, p. 56; TC, pp. 89-90; CC, pp. 7-18

[177] ECD, p. 219; CC, p. 11; MM, p. 270.

[178] That is, ‘added to the fraternity’, in a variety of possible ways; CC, pp. 10-11.

[179] Cré, p. 62.

[180] British Library MS Harley 1819, f. 197; Clay, p. 137; CC, p. 17; Cutts, p. 129; Ashdown-Hill, p. 13; Warren, p. 213; Gilchrist, Contemplation, p. 184; Ashdown-Hill, p. 5.

[181] There are records of legacies given to the anchor at the house as late as 1494 [Cutts, p. 129.]

[182] Clay, p. 93; McCaffrey, p. 87. Bale listed anchorites influenced by Netter and the order [MS Bodley 73; Scriptorum, I, p. 565]. On Netter’s support of eremitic life, see Alban in CIB, II, p. 370 ff.

[183] This would account for why she does not feature in the diocesan register. The enquiry into the solitary’s life and enclosure required Episcopal approval, and was recorded in the bishop’s register [Darwin, p. 49]. However, ‘Carmelite’ anchoresses were presumably exempt from Episcopal control [Owen, p. 123], and friars would probably carry out discernment and formation themselves. Misyn’s text may have formed part of this.

[184] Gallyon, p. 132.

[185] Scriptorum, I, p. 565; CLMN, p. 63; Clay, p. 137.

[186] Warren, p. 213; Bale, MS Harley 3838, ff. 89v, 186v.

[187] BRUO, p. 906; Sharpe, Entry 23, p. 16; Zimmerman, Monumenta, I, p. 407; CLMN, p. 191.

[188] PV, p. 213.

[189] Ibid., p. 21.

[190] Warren, p. 209 ff; PV, p. 89. Sir John Stapleton, son and heir of Joan and Sir Miles Stapleton [DNB, XV, pp. 97-8] became a member of the Guild of Corpus Christi in 1455, shortly before Misyn.

[191] PV, p. 32. Another member of the Stapleton family, Agnes, left contemplative texts to religious houses in her will, including The Chastising of God’s Children, a Psalter, a primer, Stimulus Amoris, and The Prick of Conscience [Bazire & Colledge, p. 38].

[192] PV, p. 213.

[193] Ibid., p. 90; Warren, p. 214.

[194] Warren, p. 39.

[195] Gilchrist, Contemplation, p. 208.

[196] Nuth, p. 19.

[197] PV, p. 113.

[198] ‘Carmelite Solitaries’ in Anson, pp. 140-158.

[199] Nuth, p. 19.

[200] The Incendium was addressed to ‘bredyr’ [33/27 & 37/26].

[201] Crampton’s edition of Julian, p. 9; Clay, Appendix A.

[202] Riddy, in Meale, p. 107.

[203] Nuth, p. 23; Deanesly, p. 38.

[204] Deanesly, p. 147.

[205] Cf. advice on holy reading in the prologue to the Mirror of Our Lady, Book II [Wogan-Browne, et al, pp. 261-3].

[206] Watson, Richard Rolle, pp. 7-18.

[207] Hanna, p. 27.

[208] Cf. Edmund Leversedge’s text, which ‘witnesses to lay selectivity in the choice of parochial clergy to approach for advice over spiritual matters’ [Gillespie, ‘Dial M’, p. 248].

[209] Riddy, in Meale, p. 107.

[210] PV, p. 1.

[211] Details about the York province come from a variety of studies; PV, passim (especially p. 192 ff.); Dobson, ‘The Residentiary Canons’; Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 180; Deanesly, pp. vii-viii; Wogan-Browne et al, p. 336

[212] Fleming, in Wallace, p. 350.

[213] Archbishop Booth and his suffragan granted an indulgence to readers of the Incendium in a Carthusian manuscript [Deanesly, pp. 8-9; Sargent, ‘The Transmission’, p. 233]. Whilst Deanesly [pp. 8, 89] identifies the ‘Suffraganeus Ebor’ as John, bishop of Philippopolis, a suffragan from 1446-58, I do not see why ‘Suffraganeus’ could not equally refer to Misyn, acting in the same capacity, during the same period, a number of years after having translated the Incendium himself.

[214] ‘a-sethe’, meaning ‘reconciliation’, comes from the Old English sæd.

[215] PV, p. 2. On penitential piety in the north, see Hughes, The Religious Life of Richard III.

[216] PV, p. 90.

[217] PV, p. 174. On the concerns Hilton and the Cloud-author expressed about Rolle, see Cré, pp. 73-90.

[218] Cré, pp. 71-90.

[219] On the promotion of affective piety by the mendicant movement, see Baker, pp. 15-39; Gibson, pp. 70-112; Nuth, pp. 17-18; McGinn, The Flowering, pp. 79 ff; Watson, Richard Rolle, pp. 18-27; PV, pp. 284-92.

[220] Cré, p. 9.

[221] Ibid., pp. 59-61.

[222] Watson argues that the Incendium is perhaps Rolle’s first major ‘mature’ work, in which Rolle ‘finds his voice’ as an auctor, [Richard Rolle, pp. 113-141].

[223] Rolle, Hilton and the Ancrene Wisse author were cautious in their approach to visionary experiences [Watson, ‘The Composition’, p. 647]. For an introduction to medieval women’s visionary literature, see Petroff. We have already noted that Kempe tried to lend herself an educated air by referring to the Incendium. Since Heslington specifically asked for Rolle’s text, female readers must have wanted access to quasi-academic texts previously denied them by language restrictions.

[224] Deanesly, p. v.

[225] Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 177, ‘Dial M’, p. 249.

[226] See the literature on the order noted in Chapter One, especially Gillespie, ‘Dial M’ and ‘Cura Pastoralis’. The fact that the Carthusians acquired texts by Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich shows their interest in gathering vernacular theology penned by women.

[227] Doyle, ‘Publication’, p. 110-11. Living outside the convent, Heslington must have been less controlled by the Carmelites than Stapleton.

[228] Erler, in Hellinga & Trapp, passim; Dutton, in Smith & Taylor, pp. 41-54; Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, 173. Even though Bridgettine nuns were enclosed, not unlike Heslington, they were able to ‘act as the catalysts for the transmission of texts into the wider community’ [‘Dial M’, p. 250].

[229] Sargent, James Grenehalgh, p. 37 ff.; ‘The Transmission’, pp. 231-5; Cré, pp. 20-22.

[230] Cré, in Renevey and Whitehead, p. 49.

[231] Ibid., p. 48.

[232] The sixteenth-century reform of the Carmelites revived the practice of establishing houses called ‘Deserts’, [Edwards, The Rule, p.39].

[233] Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 180 n. 98.

[234] Ibid., p. 181.

[235] RHME, map 2 and p. 79.

[236] Cré [p. 50] posits Beauvale as a possible location for the Amherst scribe. Whilst admitting that ‘we cannot of course know the actual geographic movements of texts or scribes merely from a study of textual dialects’, Laing [p. 208] says ‘it would be pleasing to conjecture, however, that the manuscript C [Corpus] found its way to Grantham or some nearby place where it was independently copied by two local scribes’.

[237] On combined dissemination see Gillespie, ‘Cura Pastoralis’, p. 180; Sargent’s edition of Love, p. xxv. On the role of the Carthusians in disseminating Rolle and Hilton see Gillespie ‘Dial M’, p. 242.

[238] PV, pp. 90, 202; Cutts, p. 125.

[239] PV, p. 91; Clay, p. 175; Cavanaugh pp. 769-777.

[240] PV, p. 203; Rolle (ed.) Moyes, I, p. 82.

[241] Clark, ‘Late Fourteenth’, pp. 7-8; PV, pp. 213-14.

[242] PV, pp. 91, 178, 203; Deanesly, p. 65.

[243] PV, p. 33.

[244] PV, pp. 50, 192.

[245] In 1465, Lady Margaret Stapleton made a donation to Heslington’s successor amongst the ‘Anachoritis in Walmgate et Fisshergate’ (Test. II, p. 271). When Henry Scrope died in 1455, he also left money to Heslington’s successor [Warren, p. 201].

[246] Comper, p. xxxi.