Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The First Autobiography Written in English, Ever

It's called Margery Kempe. There's only one book known to exist. It's now digitized.

From a piece in the Guardian...

Kempe lived in Norfolk from around 1373 to 1440. After she had given birth to 14 children, she made a vow to live chastely with her husband, and embarked on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Italy and Germany. Her devotion was expressed through loud cries and roars, which often irritated bystanders, but she became famous as a mystic, and claimed to have conversations with God.

She dictated her life story to a priest, but her autobiography was only known through excerpts printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1501, and by Henry Pepwell, who called her a "devoute ancres", in 1521, until a complete manuscript – thought to be a copy made from the original, possibly under Kempe's supervision – was discovered in a cupboard in the 1930s.

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