Category Archives: Uncategorized

This tretice, by me compiled

Exactly a month ago the Devotional Compilations Conference, ‘our’ Devotional Compilations Conference, more officially entitled ‘This tretice, by me compiled’: Late Medieval Devotional Compilations in England had ended a couple of hours earlier. Delegates were making their way back home by train or by plane, some of them walking to the ruins of La Chartreuse d’Oujon in the Jura, others visiting Lausanne Cathedral or the exhibition devoted to the works of Paul Signac at the Hermitage. The academic content of the conference will be revisited in the conference volume that we will start working on once the papers for it have been submitted by the end of June. We will then see, in writing and in print, rather than listen to all the fascinating and thought-provoking research – the more usual written form of scholarship replacing (or complementing) the more transient spoken word.

Between the lines of this volume-to-be, read excited greetings upon arrival, ‘bonjours’ and ‘rebonjours’ between people who have met before and people who share the same research topics. Read lively conversations at every coffee-break, so lively that many morning croissants remain uneaten. Read metro journeys from Lausanne centre in groups (the Aulac group, the Alagare group). Read great lunches at La Banane (with its fabulous salad bar and the Festival des Pâtes) and at the Restaurant de Dorigny. Read the candle-lit concert with Le Miroir de Musique and Aline Stotzer, evoking Philippe de Vitry in word, music, and gesture (the Guidonic hand) at the Ecurie of La ferme de Dorigny. Read the conversations, drinks and nibbles at the wine reception afterwards. Read the wonderful atmosphere of the conference dinner at Lausanne’s Restaurant du Théatre (‘did I order the fish or the meat menu?’), the delicious food and the impeccable service. Read exchange of ideas, every participant’s contribution to what the conference turned out to be: an enriching scholarly meeting, a joyous celebration for our project, a very special three days.

Conference Dinner 1 Conference Dinner 2 Conference Dinner 3 Conference Dinner 4

Libraries and Manuscripts

Last week brought some invaluable moments in three Cambridge College libraries and the University Library. It was a week away from Oxford, where Diana and I are based this term (permanently in her case, intermittently in mine) – making my acquaintance with these two iconic institutions within the space of three weeks. In Magdalene College’s Pepys Library I worked seated at a small table near the window, in the beautiful room that houses Pepys’s bookcases and his books in the order in which he kept them. I walked through the entrance of the public library to the manuscript library at St John’s, studying the manuscript that, uncharacteristically, only has The Chastising of God’s Children, and that turned out more interesting than I had expected.

I approached the Wren Library at Trinity College from the back of the college – I only managed to locate the Porter’s Lodge later, when I had walked to the front of the college through the courts, catching a glimpse of the Henry VIII portrait copied from Hans Holbein’s Whitehall mural in the dining hall when walking past it – and was escorted to the library doors by a security guard in a bowler hat and long coat. The Wren Library is grand, marbled, with bays full of books, and a research table with six seats at the very end, all of which were filled. The gentleman sitting opposite me was having fun with the documents he was looking at, laughing silently but heartily at some funny tidbit he seemed to be finding in them. All of us under the eyes of marble busts and statues.

The University Library’s manuscript room is housed at the very back and top of the impressive building from the 1930s. A larger library, different rules: lockers, no clear plastic bags allowed, and … the most comfortable book rests and weights I ever used – cushions, so they really couch the books and take their shape, which is what a hard mousse never does.

Four libraries, four individuals. But even more so: six manuscripts, six individuals. After I had researched all six manuscripts, I found myself unable to picture the third. What was it like again? What was its script like? Its decorations? Just as you can strain your memory to recover the face of someone you have just met at a dinner party, and can’t, because someone else’s face comes up to replace the lesser known face, I was straining to bring to mind Trinity College, MS B.14.19. It took a while, but I recovered them, the look and feel of this Chastising manuscript, and I was as happy about it as I would have been if I had remembered the face of an interesting new acquaintance.

Textual integrity, ‘mouvance’ and the manuscript room of the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique

Today I was looking at Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 2544-45, an early 17th century handwritten copy of early printed versions of Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection and Mixed Life. Across from me sat an elderly reader — an amateur historian, I suspect — who noticed that a quire was missing from the 19th century book he was studying. He was grateful that he, a “lay” historian (“lay” in the sense of “outside academia”) was allowed to consult the book. (“We are a public institution,” the librarian said). As a token of his gratitude, the reader offered the librarian to come back another day and bring the photocopies he owned of another copy of the book, so that they could be scanned. In that way, other people consulting the book could read the whole work.

I could see the librarian hesitate between his appreciation of the library copy as a unique, even if incomplete, textual witness, and his wish to give readers access to its full content. In the end, he and the reader set a date for the scanning of the pages, and the integrity of the work triumphed over its mouvance.

Medieval Anchorites in their Communities 2014 in the form of a table

(Inspired by the table of contents to Contemplations on the Dread and Love of God, aka Fervor Amoris)

I. On arriving

A How it was a long trip to travel from Brussels to Gregynog, Tregynon, Wales.

B How the trains were all on time, and I managed to put in some solid reading and write feedback on Diana’s PhD outline.

C How I was awaited at the station by a lady from Station Cars taxis, Newtown (Powys), who called me by my first name and how nice that was after a 9-hour trip with a very early start.

D How I dropped my luggage in my very comfortable room, and managed to sneak into the opening manuscript workshop and still caught most of it.

II. Conference pleasures and dangers

E How it was nice to see so many of our anchoritic colleagues again, and to meet many new. How we hope Margaret Healey-Varley and Krista Murchison (and others) will keep in touch with the Devotional Compilations project.

F The pleasure of listening to seriously good papers and stimulating discussion and questions afterwards. On the trinity of scholarship, enthusiasm, and generosity.

G The pleasure of living in a beautiful and comfortable manor house for three days: discovering the layout of the house, enjoying the wooden panelling, furniture, soft carpet on the stairs, amazing art work (three Rembrandt etchings! real?), banisters worked into the wall and gleaming floorboards.

H The dangers of gleaming but slippery floorboards in the book room, and the kindness of Catherine who kept smiling despite her injured elbow after she fell.

I The pleasure of walking the grounds: finding the lake before dinner, catching the dew before breakfast.

III. Food for the body, soul, heart and mind

K How Eddie Jones’s new edition of the Speculum Inclusorum / A Mirror for Recluses was presented to the author, and toasted with wine and juice.

L How the meals were excellent, the desserts sumptious, the coffee and tea breaks cakey, and the conversation sparkling.

M How laughter and painfully moving moments alternated in Sue Bevan’s ‘My Life with Shurl’.

N Recurring topics: Eve of Wilton, the isolation of the anchorite as a myth.

O Recurring topics: the influence of Anselm on anchoritic spirituality, new readings of Julian of Norwich.

P Recurring words: speculative – speculation – speculate / liminal – liminality.

IV. More pleasures, burdens and trials

Q How Denis planned to give a French horn recital, and how that did not come to pass.

R How it was nice to hear about the Lincoln Thornton manuscript in Clarck Drieshen’s talk, about Charles D’Orleans in Eddie Jones’s, about Cerquiglini in Bella Millett’s, about sermons in Fumiko Yoshikawa’s, about Mechtild of Hackeborn in Naoe Kukita Yoshikawa’s, ….

S The pleasure of buying books at a discount, the burden of carrying them home and the rewards of reading them.

T The trials (or pleasures – according to the individual person’s experience) of being in a place where your phone says ‘no service’ and wifi is so unreliable as to be virtually (note the word) non-existent.

V. On going home

U The realization that all these brilliant papers will at some point be available in what is already a very promising conference volume.

W The realization that Tregynon is a remote place, and that we need to catch the earlier train, and miss the final paper, communal lunch and general goodbyes.

X The realization that, in the taxi to the station, we return to the world as if from the constraints and freedoms of the anchorhold (not unlike returning home from a summer camp), and slowly begin to think about what we will do tomorrow and at the weekend.

Y On how to continue work on ‘our’ devotional compilations with renewed energy, more contextual information and a clearer sense of where we want to go and the work it will entail.

Z On ninety minutes (give or take a couple) in the British Library, on meeting Charles d’Orleans (again) and Charles Dickens in the bookshop, and getting online in the café (tweet, tweet).

AB The prospect of doing more work at the British Library in the second term of next year, when Diana will hopefully be at Oxford on a mobility grant, and I will probably be a regular Eurostar user.

CD The conclusion that we are lucky to work on a great project in a thriving discipline and in conversation with a wonderful research community.

Deo Gracias. MC.

Late medieval England, Lausanne and trilingualism

The devotional compilations we study in this project clearly originated in a trilingual culture. The compilations my colleague Diana and I are focusing on at the moment — A Talkyng of the Love of God / The Tretyse of Loue and The Holy Boke Gratia Dei respectively — borrow and adapt excerpts from English and Latin sources and — in the case of the Tretyse — a French source, and some of the manuscripts in which the devotional compilations occur collect texts in the three languages used in England in the medieval period: French, Latin and English. As we immerse ourselves in the trilingual culture our 14th and 15th century corpus texts were part of, we live a mirrorred trilinguality in 21st century Lausanne, where Anthropole Room 5143 is a Dutch-speaking island in the English-speaking lake of the English Department in the French-speaking region of the University Campus and the city it is located in. French: we learn by immersion, and now know everything about ‘logiciels’, ‘onglets’ when we work on our ‘ordis’ and how to ‘coucher notre verres’ when putting our empty lunch trays on the conveyor belt. Like probably some of the medieval English unnamed compilers whose texts we study, we change from one medium to another with the speed of lightning, depending on the subject we discuss or the person we speak to, ‘glossing’ words we insert from one language into another, laughing at regional varieties even in our Dutch Dutch and Flemish Dutch (often because Flemish Dutch uses a French loanword when Dutch Dutch uses the germanic one). I drink from a ‘tas’ (French ‘tasse’), whereas Diana drinks from a ‘kop’ (English ‘cup’) and uses a ‘tas’ (English ‘bag’) to carry her papers home from work. So when I say: ‘I need to go and wash my ‘tas’ Diana’s bewilderment is perhaps comparable to the non-latinate reader who comes across a Latin Bible verse and needs a ‘that is to say’ followed by an English translation to understand what is being said. ‘I need to go and wash my ‘tas’, that is to say, my ‘kop’.’