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The Book of Margery Kempe (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Margery Kempe , B. A. Windeatt
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Feb 2000 Classics
The story of the eventful and controversial life of Margery Kempe - wife, mother, businesswoman, pilgrim and visionary - is the earliest surviving autobiography in English. Here Kempe (c.1373-c.1440) recounts in vivid, unembarrassed detail the madness that followed the birth of the first of her fourteen children, the failure of her brewery business, her dramatic call to the spiritual life, her visions and uncontrollable tears, the struggle to convert her husband to a vow of chastity and her pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land. Margery Kempe could not read or write, and dictated her remarkable story late in life. It remains an extraordinary record of human faith and a portrait of a medieval woman of unforgettable character and courage.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1 edition (8 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432510
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

This is the first edition for sixty years of the earliest surviving autobiography in English, the unique account (dated 1436-8) of the extraordinary life, travels and revelations of Margery Kempe, a Norfolk housewife and mother, pilgrim, prophet and visionary. For the first time the original text is presented in an accessible form for modern readers, with full on-page glossing and a glossary of common words. The unrivalled on-page annotation provides the first commentary of its kind on the Book, bringing together the insights of scholarship on Kempe since the discovery of the manuscript in 1934, and setting the life of a remarkable Englishwoman in the social, political and spiritual context of her times.  An introduction provides up-to-date information and contexts for interpretation of a text central to courses on women’s studies, women’s history, and medieval literature. There is also a chronology of Kempe’s life, a helpful summary analysis of the chapters, and a full bibliography, in this new edition of a work now accepted as among the most compelling and significant English texts of the Middle Ages. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Margery Kempe, born c.1373, was of a well-to-do middle-class family from King's Lynn in Norfolk. Married at twenty, she had a vision of Christ in her madness following her first childbirth, and after early failures as a businesswoman, felt herself called to the spiritual life. At about the age of fourty, after she had born fourteen children, she persuaded her husband to a vow of chastity and began a pilgrimage across England, Europe and the Holy Land. She was a controversial figure and was often nearly burnt at the stake as a heretic. Towards the end of her life she dictated an account of her travels and visions, which was discovered in 1934. It is the earliest example of an autobiography in English.

B. A. Windeatt is Fellow and Director of Studies in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Reader in Medieval Literature in the University of Cambridge.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The Book of Margery Kempe, the earliest surviving autobiographical writing in English, was lost for centuries until, in 1934, a fifteenth-century manuscript came to light, which had long been in the possession of an old Catholic family, the Butler-Bowdons. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first autobiography in English 28 April 2009
Format:Paperback
This is the first autobiography in English. It was written in 1436, lost for centuries, rediscovered 1934, and is here translated for the first time from Middle English into fully comprehensible modern language. In it Margery Kempe describes her `madness, financial ruin, religious ecstasies, marital problems and dangerous treks to distant shrines' over a period of 40 years. Strong stuff.
Margery Kempe was married, and had 14 children. She lived in Norfolk in the 14th century. After becoming a visionary and mystic she went on pilgrimages, preached, and was tried. Her `special talent', for which she was both revered and castigated, was the way in which she responded to her visions -- visions such as these:

In chapter 36, God deifies and marries Margery, inviting her to kiss him, embrace him and take him to bed' - a graphically described scene. In chapter 81, she has a vision of the crucifixion and subsequent events: `A little later, I thought I saw our Lady walking towards her home ... Once our Lady was home and resting on her bed it occurred to me to make her a nice hot drink, but when I took it to her she told me to throw it away'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very unusual and inspiring read! 2 April 2013
By Sally T
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Margery Kempe lived in Norfoldk and many places she mentions in her book bring back fond memories. For instance, the church of St Margaret, Kings Lynne, Norwich itself etc. I did not know about her but I knew about Julian of Norwich, it is strange but I always thought of Norfolk as the most religious place in England and I lived there for a number of years. Margery Kempe was an unusual woman for the age in which she lived. She travelled to the Holy Land, Compostela and round about England. She was very independent and was allowed to do what she pleased by her husband, even refusing him his conjugal rights. In short, when you read the book, all your conceptions about medieval women are turned upside down. And this is only the beginning. She has to be admired for her courage which came because of her strong faith. As everyone is aware, her behaviour was, to most clerics, outlandish at best, and deserving of the pyre for claiming to be in direct touch with heaven. Joan of Arc didn't get away so easily, wasn't the same Bedford around at the time? I loved her simple prayers especially when she asks Jesus to forgive her for her failings just as he forgave Peter and Mary Magdalen. Yes, I could go on but there is a lot to read between the lines and this makes the book a fascinating read all round. One point I wish to make - the front cover is not what is advertised, it's the Annunciation but I visited the Burrell Museum so it's acceptable too.
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for medievalists. 8 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a modern rendering of the earliest surviving autobiographical writing in English. Kempe lived in Lynn, Norfolk, in the late fourteenth-century. She was the daughter of a five-times mayor, a wife, mother of fourteen children and a self-confessed failed business woman. Although famed for the exuberance of her religious experiences, the book also reveals incidental details about Kempe's marriage, work and daily life.
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2.0 out of 5 stars moaning old woman. 8 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book ok. I managed to read it but had i known margery in real life she would have been classed as hysterical attention seeker and I would have given her a firm slap. She was a whining old woman who was apt at annoying folk just trying to go about their business. Sheesh. Wouldn't read it twice.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great source for the history of the period as well as giving an insight into the spirituality of the time.
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