Revelations of Divine Love
Revelations of Divine Love is a medieval book of Christian mystical devotions. It was written by an anchoress called Dame Julian, now known as Julian of Norwich, about whom almost nothing is known. The book is remarkable for being the earliest surviving example of a book in the English language to have been written by a woman.
Julian, who lived all her life in the English city of Norwich, wrote about the sixteen mystical visions or "shewings" she received in 1373, when she was thirty. Seriously ill, and on her deathbed, the visions appeared to her over a period of several hours in one night, with a final revelation occurring the following night. After making a full recovery she then wrote an account of each vision, in a manuscript now referred to as her Short Text. She developed her initial ideas over a period of decades, whilst living as a recluse in a cell attached to St Julian's Church, Norwich, producing a much larger version of her writings, now known as the Long Text. She wrote straightforwardly in Middle English, perhaps because she had no other language in which to express herself. Her original manuscripts are now lost, but her work was copied and preserved by others, although it is known that many copied manuscripts were destroyed over the centuries. Four manuscripts of her writings survived, which have been used to produce many editions of her book, the first of which was a translation of the Long Text in 1670 by Serenus de Cressy.
Julian of Norwich
Although Julian refers to herself as a simple creature unlettered (Rev. chap. 2), it is possible that she was educated and that "unlettered" carries a more nuanced meaning. It might be an expression of real modesty or imposed modesty because she did not want to antagonize her readers, especially male readers in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, who would have been offended if she considered herself a teacher. Also, "unlettered" in the Middle Ages did not necessarily mean the inability to read or write. It might have just meant that she did not receive a formal education because, in the Middle Ages, formal education was rarely available to laywomen. Another interpretation of "unlettered" could be that Julian was illiterate in Latin, the official ecclesial and academic language of her time and place. That being said, it is possible that she had received some instruction and that she could read and write.:15–6 Throughout the mid-fourteenth century, Norwich was a flourishing centre for religious life. The city contained many convents and orders that recognized the importance of education. Many English convents in the Middle Ages had boarding schools for girls where they were expected to read and write.:16 While scholars are not sure whether Julian attended any of those boarding schools, it is at least a possibility. There were many schools in the late Middle Ages for young men to attend. The goal of these schools was to give men the basic training needed before entering colleges. Some of these schools were attached to a church or cathedral. Those schools taught reading, writing, religion, spoken and written Latin, and probably rhetoric and logic. It is a possibility that Julian had a brother who went to such a school, and she could have learned from her brother.:15–7 All these possibilities show that there were a number of religious resources which could have given Julian some kind of education. When Julian describes herself as "unlettered" she may have just meant that she lacked a "formal education."
Julian's writings are unique, as no other works by an English anchoress have survived, although it is possible that some anonymous works may have been written by women. In the 14th century women in England were generally barred from high status clerical positions or other authoritative roles, and their knowledge of Latin, the lingua franca of the day, would have been limited. It is more likely that women read and wrote in English, their vernacular language, as Julian did. Julian's life was contemporaneous with four other English mystics, Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, Margery Kempe, and the unknown author of the work known as The Cloude of Unknowyng, all of whom wrote in the vernacular. The historian Janina Ramirez has suggested that their use of English was a sensible choice, considering the inexplicable nature of what they were attempting to describe.
Julian's writings were not mentioned in any medieval bequests, as often happened for male authors at this time. Some Middle English spiritual texts were written for a specific readership, such as The Cloude of Unknowyng, which was intended by the author to be read by a young hermit, but Julian wrote as if for a general readership. There is no evidence that her writings influenced other medieval authors, or were read by anymore than a very few people until 1670, when her book was first published by Serenus de Cressy under the title XVI Revelations of Divine Love, Shewed to a Devout Servant of Our Lord, called Mother Juliana, an Anchorete of Norwich: Who lived in the Dayes of King Edward the Third. Since then the book been published under a variety of different titles,[note 1] and has become celebrated by both Roman Catholics and Anglicans because of the clarity and depth of Julian's visions of God. In recent decades a number of new editions and renderings of her book into modern English have appeared, as well as publications about her.
The Long Text
The Long Text, written and developed by Julian over a number of years, does not seem to have been widely circulated in late medieval England. The one surviving medieval manuscript, the mid- to late-15th century Westminster Manuscript, contains a portion of the Long Text, refashioned as a didactic treatise on contemplation. The known manuscripts of the complete Long Text fall into two groups, with slightly different readings. One is the late 16th century Brigittine Long Text manuscript, produced by exiled nuns in the Antwerp region. Now often referred to as the Paris Manuscript, it now resides in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. The other two surviving manuscripts now form part of the British Library's Sloane Collection. It is believed there was once an original holograph manuscript of the Long Text, written in Julian's Norwich dialect, copied by exiled English Benedictine nuns during the mid-17th century, and preserved in their Cambrai and Paris houses.
Serenus de Cressy was a confessor for the English nuns at Cambrai. He published a translation of the Paris Manuscript in 1670. Cressy's book was reprinted in 1843, 1864 and again in 1902. Modern interest in the text increased with the 1877 publication of a new edition of the Long Text by Henry Collins, and still further with the publication of Grace Warrack's 1901 version of the book, which included modernised language, as well as, according to the author Georgia Ronan Crampton, a "sympathetic informed introduction". The book introduced most early 20th century readers to Julian's writings. Following the publication of the Warrack edition, Julian's name spread rapidly and she became a topic in many lectures and writings. The book has been translated into French, German, Italian, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Catalan, Greek and Russian.
The Short Text
It is thought unlikely that the Short Text, thought to have been completed shortly after Julian's recovery from her illness in 1373, was ever read by others whilst she was still alive, but was instead copied after her death, and then largely forgotten. It remained hidden following the English Reformation, as ownership of any copies of her work would have been considered heretical by the authorities.
A copy was made by a scribe in the 1470s, who acknowledged Julian as the author of the work. Centuries later it was seen by the antiquarian Francis Blomefield, who referred to it in his An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk, written in 1745. Once thought lost since that time, the manuscript was found in a collection of contemplative medieval texts. Dating from c.1450, they appeared in the 1910 sale of Lord Amherst's library and were purchased by the British Museum. Formerly referred to as the Amherst Manuscript from its last owner, Lord Amherst, the texts, now known as MS Additional 37790, are held in the British Library in London.
The Long Text of Revelations of Divine Love is divided into eighty-six chapters.
The first chapter begins with a single sentence introduction: This is a Revelation of Love that Jesus Christ, our endless bliss, made in Sixteen Shewings, or Revelations particular. This is followed by a sentence or two describing each of the sixteen visions in turn. The second chapter is partly autobiographical. Julian mentions her illness, but in a spiritual manner. She reflects on three 'gifts' from God: meditation on the Passion of Christ, meditation on her own suffering and the gift of greater piety (which she calls 'wounds'). In the third chapter, which concludes the introduction, Julian writes more concretely about the events of her illness and her preparation for death by receiving the last rites. The introduction ends with Julian's recounting of her sudden recovery as she lay on her deathbed gazing at a shining image of the cross.
The individual revelations are:
- The Crown of Thorns and God's love for all that is made — the hazelnut
- The face of Jesus on the Cross
- All creation is in God's wise care
- The scourging of Jesus, and the spilling of his blood
- The evil one defeated by the cross
- God's gifts of thanks to those who serve him
- God comforts those whether in good times or bad
- The death of Christ
- The love for humanity that brought Christ to his Passion fills the heavens
- The broken heart of Jesus for love of the world
- Mary, mother of Jesus
- The glory of Christ
- The great deed of God's making amends for our sin, which prevents us, and that he will make all things well
- God is the ground of our beseeching: he inspires us to pray and gives us what is needful
- Our coming up above: resurrection
- Christ dwells in the souls of those who love him
"And in þis he shewed me a lytil thyng þe quantite of a hasyl nott. lyeng in þe pawme of my hand as it had semed. and it was as rownde as eny ball. I loked þer upon wt þe eye of my vnderstondyng. and I þought what may þis be. and it was answered generally thus. It is all þat is made. I merueled howe it myght laste. for me þought it myght sodenly haue fall to nought for lytyllhed. & I was answered in my vnderstondyng. It lastyth & euer shall for god louyth it. and so hath all thyng his begynning by þe loue of god. In this lytyll thyng I sawe thre propertees. The fyrst is. þt god made it. þe secunde is þet god louyth it. & þe þrid is. þat god kepith it."
[And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, it seemed, and it was as round as any ball. I looked thereupon with the eye of my understanding, and I thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus: 'It is all that is made.' I wondered how it could last, for I thought it might suddenly fall to nothing for little cause. And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it; and so everything has its beginning by the love of God.' In this little thing I saw three properties; the first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it; and the third is that God keeps it.]— ch.V, Westminster MS.
- The usual title of Julian of Norwich's work, Revelations of Divine Love, originated from the title provided by Cressy in 1670. That title and all subsequent ones are editorial choices.
- The surviving manuscript of the Short Text contains twenty-five chapters and is about 11,000 words long. It is now kept in the British Library.
- Jantzen, G (1988), Julian of Norwich: Mystic and Theologian, Paulist Press
- Leyser 2002, p. 212.
- Ramirez 2016, p. 7.
- Rolf 2013, p. 8.
- Crampton, Georgia Ronan (1994). "The Shewings of Julian of Norwich: Introduction". Middle English Text Series. New York: University of Rochester. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
- Newman 2011, p. 427.
- Windeatt 2015, p. xv.
- "Julian of Norwich". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
- McGinn 2012, p. 425.
- Crampton 1993, p. 17.
- "Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Stowe MS 42: c 1675)". Explore Archives and Manuscripts. British Library. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
- Crampton 1993, p. 18.
- McGinn 2012, p. 426.
- Ramirez 2016, pp. 74-5.
- Ramirez 2016, p. 78.
- Rolf 2013, p. 9.
- Blomefield & Parkin 1805, p. 81.
- Rolf 2013, p. 6.
- Windeatt 2015, pp. li, lii.
- Blomefield, Francis; Parkin, Charles (1805) [First published 1739-75]. An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk. 4. London: Printed for W. Miller. OCLC 560883605.
- Crampton, Georgia Ronan (1993). The Shewings of Julian of Norwich. Western Michigan University. ISBN 978-1-879288-45-4.
- Leyser, Henrietta (2002). Medieval Women: a Social History of Women in England 450-1500. London: Pheonix Press. ISBN 978-1-84212-621-9.
- McGinn, Bernard (2012). The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism 1350-1550. New York: Herder & Herder. ISBN 978-0-8245-4392-1.
- Newman, Barbara (2011). "Eliot's Affirmative Way: Julian of Norwich, Charles Williams, and Little Gidding". Modern Philology. 108 (3): 427–61. doi:10.1086/658355. ISSN 0026-8232. JSTOR 10.1086/658355.
- Ramirez, Janina (2016). Julian of Norwich: A very brief history. London: SPCK. ISBN 978-0-281-07737-3.
- Rolf, Veronica Mary (2013). Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich. Orbis Books. ISBN 978-1-62698-036-5.
- Windeatt, Barry, ed. (2015). Revelations of Divine Love. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-811206-8.
Complete versions of the Long Text exist in three manuscripts, dating from the sixteenth century:
- "MS Fonds Anglais 40 (previously Regius 8297): Liber Revelacionum Julyane, anachorite norwyche, divisé en quatre-vingt-six chapitres". Archives et manuscrits. BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France), Paris.
- "Sloane MS 2499: Juliana, Mother, Anchorite of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love, 1373". Explore Archives and Manuscripts. British Library, London.
- "Sloane MS 3705: Visions: Revelations to Mother Juliana in the year 1373 of the love of God in Jesus Christ". Explore Archives and Manuscripts. British Library, London.
- Westminster Cathedral Treasury MS4, written in c. 1450, which includes extracts from the Long Text and Walter Hilton. The manuscript was discovered in 1955, and is now kept in Westminster Abbey.
The earlier Short Text exists in the form of a single manuscript dating from the mid-fifteenth century:
- "Add MS 37790 (A Carthusian anthology of theological works in English (the Amherst Manuscript))". Digitised Manuscripts. British Library. Includes the folio pages 97r-115r, with the rubric, "Here es a vision schewed be the goodenes of god to a devoute woman and hir name es Julyan that is recluse atte Norwyche and zitt ys on lyfe anno domini millesimo ccccxiii"
A copy of the manuscript used by Cressy in the 1670s is kept in the British Library:
- (unknown copyist) (c. 1675). XVI Revelations of Divine Love to Mother Juliana, Anchorite of Norwich, Shewed to a Devout Servant, called Mother Juliana, an Anchorite of Norwich: who lived in the days of King Edward the third. British Library. Stowe MS 42.
A lost manuscript, Upholland MS, was copied in the mid- to late seventeenth century by the exiled English Benedictine nun Barbara Constable in Cambrai, France. A copy of the manuscript was at one time kept at Stanbrook Abbey.
Printed editions and translations
- Reynolds, Sister Anna Maria, C.P.; Holloway, Julia Bolton, eds. (2001). Showing of Love: Extant texts and translation. Florence: SISMEL. ISBN 978-88-8450-095-3. A “quasi-fascimile” of each version of the Showing of Love in the Westminster, Paris, Sloane and Amherst Manuscripts.
- Beer, Frances, ed. (1998). Revelations of divine love, translated from British Library Additional MS 37790 : the motherhood of God : an excerpt, translated from British Library MS Sloane 2477. Translated by Beer, Frances. Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer. ISBN 978-0-85991-453-6.
- Colledge, Edmund, and James Walsh, Julian of Norwich: Showings, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978. (a fully annotated edition of both the Short Text and Long Text, basing the latter on the Paris manuscript but using alternative readings from the Sloane manuscript when these were judged to be superior)
- Collins, Henry, ed. (1877). Revelations of Divine Love Shewed to a Devout Anchoress, By Name, Mother Julian of Norwich. London: Thomas Richardson and Sons. (based on Sloane and with a Preface by Henry Collins)
- Crampton, Georgia Ronan, ed. (1994). "The Shewings of Julian of Norwich". Middle English Text Series. New York: University of Rochester. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- Cressy, Dom Serenus (1670). "XVI Revelations of Divine Love, shewed to a devout servant of Our Lord, called Mother Juliana, an Anchorete of Norwich: Who lived in the Dayes of King Edward the Third". British Library Digitised Books. British Library. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
- Reprinted in 1843: Parker, George Hargreave, ed. (1843). XVI Revelations of Divine Love... London: S. Clarke. ;
- Reprinted in 1864: Hecker, J.T., ed. (1864). XVI Revelations of Divine Love... Boston: Tucknor and Fields. ;
- Reprinted in 1902: Tyrrell, George, ed. (1902). XVI Revelations of Divine Love... London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd. OCLC 669778715. *Dutton, Elisabeth. A Revelation of Love (Introduced, Edited & Modernized). Rowman & Littlefield, 2008
- Harford, Dundas (1911). Comfortable words for Christ's lovers : being the visions and voices vouchsafed to Lady Julian, recluse at Norwich in 1373. London: Allenson.
- Hudleston, Roger (1927). Revelations of Divine Love. shewed to a devout ankress by name Julian of Norwich edited from the mss. with Introductions by Hudleston. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 9780486113586.
- John-Julian, Father (2009). The Complete Julian of Norwich. Orleans, MA: Paraclete Press. ISBN 9781557256393.
- Reynolds, Frances (1947). An Edition of MS. Sloane 2499 of Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich. University of Leeds. OCLC 12798238.
- Skinner, John (1997). Skinner, John (ed.). Revelation of love. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-48756-6.
- Warrack, Grace, ed. (1907) [First published July 1901]. Revelations of Divine Love, Recorded by Julian, Anchoress at Norwich, 1373. Translated by Warrack, Grace (2nd (March 1907) ed.). London: Methuen and Company. OCLC 1052528409.
- Windeatt, Barry (2015). Revelations of Divine Love. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-811206-8.
- Wolters, Clifton, Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966) (the Long Text, based on the Sloane manuscripts)
- Crampton, Georgia Ronan, ed. (1994). "The Shewings of Julian of Norwich". Middle English Text Series. New York: University of Rochester. The text provided is in Middle English only. The website also includes a full Introduction section, with footnotes.
- Warrack, Grace, ed. (1901). "Revelations of Divine Love". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. A complete transcription of Warrack's 1910 book, available to download, read online or listen to.
- Holloway, Julia, ed. (2017). "Showing of Love". Umilta. From the "Julian of Norwich" website by Umilta. The large website provides details of Julian, her contemporaries, and her writings. The online texts are transcribed from Showing of Love, Holloway's edition of Julian's book, and shows the manuscript sources throughout.
- "Revelations of Divine Love". LibriVox. Retrieved 3 February 2019. The whole book has a file size pf 207.5Mb, a very large file to download. Each chapter can be listened to without having to download the book in its entirety.
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- The Search for the Lost Manuscript, a BBC documentary on YouTube about the history of Julian, her original manuscript and the copies made by others over the centuries.
- Dutton, Elisabeth M. (2008). Julian of Norwich: The Influence of Late-medieval Devotional Compilation. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. ISBN 978-1-84384-181-4.
- Holloway, Julia Bolton (2016). Julian among the Books: Julian of Norwich's Theological Library. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-8894-3.
- McAvoy, Liz Herbert (2008). A Companion to Julian of Norwich. Woodbridge: Cambridge. ISBN 978-1-84384-172-2.
- McEntire, Sandra J., ed. (1998). Julian of Norwich: A Book of Essays. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8153-2529-1.
- Watson, Nicholas (1992). "The Trinitarian Hermeneutic in Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love". In Glasscoe, M. (ed.). The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England V: Papers read at Dartington Hall, July 1992. Medieval mystical tradition in England. D. S. Brewer. pp. 79–100. ISBN 978-0859913461.