THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE: SUMMARY
The proem is dated 1436 and is written
by her priest-scribe. The purpose of the book is to comfort sinners through
a story of the inexpressible mercy of their Savior. He states that many
worthy clerics had urged Kempe to record her feelings but she would not
consent until twenty years from her conversion and only at the express
command of God. Her first scribe, a native Englishman who had lived in
Germany (or the Netherlands) produced an incomprehensible text. This priest-scribe,
who knew her well, had many scruples about writing, even sending her to
another scribe and delaying four years, but he is ultimately reassured
through her prayers and his own experience.
This is Kempe's preface. She speaks of
herself in the third person as "a creature," set within the pride of the
world who becomes drawn to Christ. The order of events in the book is not
chronological, but as Kempe could remember them.
Margery Kempe begins with her marriage
(to John Kempe) about the age of twenty, (about 1393). She becomes ill
during the pregnancy and birth of the first of her fourteen children, believing
that demons surround her. She is saved by a vision of Christ clothed in
silken garments who sits on her bed and assures her that he will be with
her throughout her life.
This chapter continues to focus on the
first twenty years of Margery Kempe's married life, including her failed
businesses as a brewer and a miller and her prideful way of
dressing. She mentions her high social status as daughter of a mayor
of Lynn (John Brunham).
Margery Kempe now experiences a moment
of deep conversion. While in bed with her husband she hears a sound so
sweet she knows that it presages paradise. She begins a regime of penance,
frequent confession, and prayer vigils in church night and day. She begs
her husband to let her live chastely.
After two years of spiritual progress
she is given three years of temptations, specifically of lust. She describes
a failed assignation with a man for which she is greatly ashamed.
During Advent Kempe is at prayer in her
parish church of St. Margaret's,
in the chapel of St. John (south choir aisle), when Christ speaks with
her plainly. He tells her to leave off wearing a hair shirt as penance
and her saying of many beads; Christ himself will direct her piety. She
must abstain from meat and also take as a confessor the anchorite (unnamed)
at the Dominican House in Lynn.
In this and the following chapter Kempe
speaks of a meditation on the Life of the Virgin. Christ allows her to
experience the events as if she were actually present. She assists at the
birth of the Virgin and then cares for her. Then she accompanies Mary to
her cousin Elizabeth and helps with the birth of John the Baptist. Finally
she is present at the birth of Christ.
She continues her narration of the meditation
with the arrival of the Three Kings. Then, when the angel tells Joseph
to take his family to Egypt, she accompanies them.
Probably a memory of an event that occurred
after 1418, Margery Kempe speaks of a time at prayer when the Virgin appears
and assures her that she is saved and they she may claim a guest to sit
next to her in heaven. She names her confessor R. (Robert Springolde, a
secular priest assigned the parish functions of St. Margaret's). The Virgin
then tells her that, in addition, her entire family will be saved.
Kempe prays that Christ inspire her husband
to grant her a chaste marriage. She is in St.
Margaret's and a section of the wooden roof with a stone falls on her
head and back but she is not seriously hurt. Master Alan, a Carmelite doctor
of divinity, investigates and proclaims it a miracle of God's grace; others,
however, interpret it as God's wrath.
Kempe speaks of being moved in her soul
to visit places for her spiritual health. Her husband supports her intention
and travels with her.
Early summer, 1413, Margery Kempe finally
receives her husband's consent for a permanent, chaste marriage. As they
are traveling from York to Bridlington on a hot day, they sit down under
a cross. Here he agrees that he will give up his conjugal rights if she
will pay his debts and cease her Friday fasting in order to share meals
Kempe speaks of being sent by Christ to
visit many religious sites. She describes visiting an abbey and, while
at dinner with the abbot, another monk listens to her words. Afterwards,
in the church, the monk asks her about his own spiritual state and she
is able to tell him his sins. He repents, is grateful, and gives her a
fine dinner and gold to pray for him.
Margery Kempe is at Canterbury
cathedral and her behavior causes clergy and layfolk to accuse her
of Lollardy. (This most probably happens after 1415 and her return from
the Holy Land.) Her loud weeping causes a hostile reaction among the monks
(whose primary public concern is the administration of the pilgrimage to
St. Thomas's shrine). Her husband keeps his distance during her stay.
Kempe reflects on the value of suffering
and rejection. These are the marks of Christ's life. She thinks of martyrdom.
Christ speaks to her mind, saying that as long as she is willing to do
something, it is as if she done it. Just as a priest baptized a child with
water, so will Christ wash her in his precious blood and remove all sin.
Christ commands that she visit Rome, Jerusalem,
and Santiago de Compostela, the three great international sites of pilgrimage.
He also commands her to wear white, the color reserved for consecrated
virgins. Margery Kempe then speaks of her travels to religious sites, invariably
accompanied by her husband. They journey to Lincoln in the summer of 1413
and ask the Bishop, Philip Repyndon, for official recognition of their
chaste marriage. He receives them well, Margery is invited to eat a meal
in the bishop's company. He refers her to the archbishop of Canterbury,
Thomas Arundel for final approval of her privileges.
During the later summer or autumn of 1413
Margery Kempe and her husband journey to London to the archbishop's palace
at Lambeth. She speaks critically to the archbishop's retinue concerning
their swearing. She is rebuked by being reminded of a former priest from
Lynn burned as a Lollard in 1401. Arundel receives her in his garden; he
gives her written permission to choose her confessor and to receive communion
every Sunday. She then returns to Lynn and tells her adventures to the
This chapter is retrospective. Margery
Kempe describes that previously while she was bearing children, after a
birth, Christ commanded her to bear no more children. She should go to
Norwich and speak with Richard Caister, the Vicar of St. Stephen's (a secular
priest). She describes telling him about her heavenly conversations that
were far superior to words from any book she heard read (including those
by St. Bridget, St. Bonaventure, or Walter Hilton). Caister was convinced
and became one of her supporters.
She continues to recall her connections
in Norwich and support from many religious. She met with the Carmelite,
William Southfield, who confirmed her manner of life. She also spoke with
Dame Julian, the anchoress and author of Showings. Kempe recalls
that Julian urged her to obey Christ's instruction to her. Others, not
knowing her inner feeling, were critical. The Domincan anchorite in Lynn,
her principle confessor, however believed her and urged her to go on pilgrimage
Before going to Jerusalem, Margery Kempe
speaks critically to a respectable lady about the state of her soul and
that of the woman ‘s deceased husband. The woman complains to Margery's
Dominican confessor. Kempe urges another woman to give money for masses
and as alms to the poor to ease her husband's stay in purgatory.
Margery Kempe hears mass and sees the
sacrament flutter at the moment of the elevation. When the priest raises
the chalice it also moves to and fro. Christ reveals that he has not shown
such a miracle to St. Bridget. He confirms for Kempe that every word in
Bridget's writing is true, and that she will succeed in her quest for grace.
This chapter is retrospective, recalling
events before she and her husband had entered a chaste marriage. Christ
tells her that she is with child and that she need not fear her continued
devotions for he will arrange for it to be looked after. Christ explains
the maidenhood is the highest state and widowhood better than wedlock;
still he loves her as much as he loves any maiden. The Virgin Mary then
appears to her. She tells no one of this except her confessor the Dominican
Margery Kempe continues to relate Christ's
assurances to her that she can be the spiritual equal of a consecrated
virgin. Christ gives her a long picture of joy in heaven where he will
take her by one hand and his mother by the other and will call her his
darling, and his blessed spouse.
Kempe describes her "pastoral work" around
St. Margaret's. She counsels a vicar who asked her advice on the efficacy
of his ministry. She reveals that the soul of a recently deceased woman
is in purgatory and that her husband will die shortly. He beseeches Christ
to have mercy on the soul of a wicked woman, and he does. She prays for
others who are gravely ill and they recover.
Kempe continues to note her capacity to
give good advice. She counsels a priest against buying a book from a young
man. The priest ignores her and is swindled by the man.
This chapter deals exclusively with the
struggle of the chapel of St. Nicholas,
dependent on the parish church of St.
Margaret's, to achieve independent status. This would entitle the St.
Nicholas to administer all sacraments, as well as to church women after
childbirth and to bury the dead. Margery, as was her father, when he was
mayor, is bitterly opposed.
(In 1413, Margery Kempe's father dies).
Probably in the autumn of that year, she embarks on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
She stops to pray at the cathedral of Norwich and a church in Yarmouth,
the port of her embarkation. Crossing the channel, she passes through a
"large town called Zierikzee," in the Netherlands. Her route is then by
land, during which she offends her companions
Kempe arrives at Constance in late 1413.
She meets with an English Franciscan who has come to the city for its Council
of 1414 when issues of heresy, including the Lollard movement, are being
discussed. She travels to Venice
via Bologna. Remaining in Venice
for thirteen weeks, she again offends her English companions by her piety.
In spring, 1414, Kempe sails from Venice
in a galley, lands in the Holy Land, and travels to Jerusalem by donkey.
She describes entering the church of
the Holy Sepulchre at evening and remaining there until the following
evening. The Franciscans who administer the church lead
the pilgrims around the church to each holy place. She then adds her
reflections on this crucial moment when she received her gift of tears.
Kempe collapses with grief at the tomb
of Christ and weeps at the place where Christ was nailed to the cross
and before the stone slab where he was prepared for burial. She received
communion at the place of his crucifixion. She later follows the Via Dolorosa,
the path Christ took carrying his cross through Jerusalem.
Kempe goes to the River Jordan and Mount
Quarantyne where Christ fasted for forty days. She sees the birthplace
of John the Baptist and also visits Bethany the site of the grave of Lazarus.
She revisits the Holy Sepulchre and mentions the chapel where Christ appeared
to Mary Magdalene. She then returns to Venice
and sets out for Rome. She describes traveling with two Franciscans and
a woman who owned a statue of the Infant Jesus. When they come to cities,
the woman allows other women to dress up the image and kiss it.
August 1414, she arrives at Assisi
and receives the great indulgences of Lammas Day (August 1). There she
meets a Roman matron [Dame Margaret Florentyne] who allows her to travel
with her part to Rome. Arriving at Rome,
she is received at the Hospital of
St. Thomas of Canterbury, an English-supported foundation. She can
receive communion on Sundays there. A priest arrives and speaks against
Kempe so that she is ejected from the hostel.
Without English-speaking clergy, Kempe
is hard pressed to find a confessor so that she can be shriven in order
to receive communion. Christ sends St. John the Evangelist to be her confessor
in her soul. An Italian priest in Santa
Caterina in Ruota believes her sincerity and gives her communion.
Kempe makes the acquaintance of a German-born
priest [Wenslawe] attached to St.
John Lateran. They speak through an interpreter. She urges him to pray
to be able to understand her speech. After thirteen days he understands
her English. To test her, he administers communion to her far from others
and she still has her boisterous sobbing. He then believes that her tears
are sincere and supports her against her detractors.
Wenslawe asks her to put aside her white
clothes and she obeys him. He also orders to serve an impoverished old
woman in Rome as part of her penance.
November 9, 1414, the Feast of St. John
Lateran, Kempe in the church of the Holy
Apostles in Rome. She is granted a vision of her own marriage in heaven
to Christ, witnessed by the Father, Holy Ghost, the Virgin, and a host
of saints. She then describes other tokens of God's favor that she received
over the twenty-five years since her conversion: sounds, melodies, flying
things, like specks in a sunbeam, and a burning heat in her breast.
Christ continues her consolation to Kempe
begun in the previous chapter. Fasting, penance, or praying with beads
are good beginnings. The most pleasing devotion, however, is weeping, and
contemplation. In the most explicit passage of the book, Margery Kempe
describes Christ as a husband, who will lie in bed with her and she may
kiss him. She then describes other tokens, these of hearing, such as a
sound like bellow or a little bird.
Christ assures her of his confidence in
her love and of the truth of his promises to her and her confessors. Then
follows specific mention of Rome. Shortly before Christmas, Christ tells
Kempe to inform her confessor Wenslawe that he wishes her to wear white
clothes again. She does and he agrees. She stops serving the poor woman,
and gives all her money away, including money she had borrowed from Richard,
an English companion.
She is in St.
Marcellus Church in Rome in great poverty. She is given some money
by a man in response to her pious conversation. She meets again with Dame
Margaret Florentyne who has her to dinner every Sunday and who also gives
her food to take away. Others also feed her.
Kempe describes the poor sharing what
little they have with her; they remind her of the Virgin and Christ. A
gentlewoman asks her to be the godmother to her child. When the Brothers
of the Hospital of St. Thomas
hear such good repute of her, they invite her back. She visits the church
that shelters the room that St. Bridget died in. She adds that Christ warned
her about bad weather when she was about to follow the devotions of the
Stations of Rome.
An English priest comes to Rome and is
told by others that Kempe has been receiving the sacrament of penance from
a priest who cannot understand English. The priest asks her confessor Wenslawe
to join his party for dinner, where, expectedly, the two priests can communicate
only in Latin. Kempe, however, tells Wenslawe a story from the Bible that
she had learned from clerics in England. The party is amazed that he can
Kempe speaks of attending sermons where
Germans and others spoke and regrets her lack of comprehension. Christ
preaches to her in her heart. Many people notice her piety. She is reassured
in a vision of St. Jerome at his tomb in Santa
Maria Maggiore that her tears are blessed.
Kempe leaves Rome for England in the spring
of 1415. Again passing through Constance, she takes the Rhine River road
to Middelburg, a port in the southern Netherlands. She is hesitant about
which ship to take for the crossing and is frightened during heavy rainstorms.
Christ assures her that he will keep her safe.
Finally there is good wind for the passage
but only a small boat. At sea, they are threatened by a storm, but it passes.
She lands, probably at Yarmouth, and journeys to Norwich,
arriving May, 1415. She offers at the cathedral, visits Richard Caister,
Vicar of St. Stephen's, and sees an anchorite at the Chapel-in-the-Fields.
Kempe stays on in Norwich
and is given white clothes by a good man and receives communion on Trinity
Sunday wearing white. Her husband joins her in Norwich
and they come home together to Lynn. She is sick during the winter, and
in debt, but she still resolves to go on pilgrimage to Santiago. In the
spring she leaves Lynn for Bristol, remaining there for six weeks.
July through early August, 1417, in
Bristol, waiting for a ship to take her Santiago, Kempe witnesses the
Corpus Christi procession in the town. She is summoned to appear before
the Bishop of Worcester, staying at his residence near Bristol
at Henbury, Gloucestershire. He receives her well, giving her lodging until
the ship is ready and also gives gold for her voyage. She arrives in Santiago
after a seven-day voyage, stays there for two weeks, and then returns to
Bristol. After five days in Bristol she travels to the Cistercian Abbey
of Hailes, Gloucestershire, to see the relic of Christ's blood. She rebukes
the monks for using many oaths, and they take the corrections well.
Late August through September, 1417, Margery
Kempe is in Leicester. She speaks of being in a fine church and being moved
by the Passion of Christ when seeing a crucifix. She is brought before
the Mayor who interrogates her on suspected Lollard beliefs. Instead of
being sent to prison, Kempe is detained in the jailer's own house where
she is well treated by him and his wife.
Kempe is then interrogated by the Steward
of Leicester. Two of her companions are then put into prison, but unusually
heavy storms raise fears that this action is bringing punishment from God.
The two men are then released to be interrogated in the Guildhall
by the Major and leaders of the city. The storms subside but her companions
stay the night outside the city.
Further interrogations follow in the church
of All Saints, Leicester. The mayor, the Abbot of Leicester, canons of
the abbey, and the Dean of Leicester (probably from the collegiate churches
of St. Mary the Less or St. Mary the Greater) confront Kempe. They sit
at the high altar and ask questions about her belief in the Eucharist and
her white clothes. She is asked to go to the Bishop of Lincoln to secure
Outside Leicester's city walls, she stops
by St. Mary's (Leicester) Abbey, a foundation of Augustinian canons, and
enters the church. The abbot writes a letter of introduction for her to
the Bishop of Lincoln (Philip Repyndon, who had been a predecessor, abbot
of St. Mary's from 1494 to1404). She is able to get a letter from the Bishop
commanding the Mayor of Leicester to let her travel as she pleases.
1417, fall, Kempe arrives at York and
is shunned by an anchoress who previously encouraged her. She mentions
being in other churches. Clerics (canons) in the Minister question her
about her beliefs, but many laypersons receive her well, inviting her to
Other clerics in the Minster question
her. She is then ordered to appear in the Chapterhouse for a formal examination
of faith. She receives communion in the Minster with great cries.
Kempe continues to be a point of controversy
in York and is examined by Archbishop Henry Bowet in the chapel of his
palace in Cawood, just south of York. She asks his permission to see her
confessor at the Priory of Bridlington.
Escorted from York, Kempe goes on to Bridlington
priory. There she speaks with her confessor William Sleightholme and others
who had encouraged her previously. Sleightholme gives her money to help
her travel home. She goes to Hull then Hessle to cross the Humber but is
arrested by the Duke of Bedford's men and brought to Beverly.
In Beverly, Archbishop Bowet of York again
interrogates her about Lollard tendencies in the Minster's Chapterhouse.
Bowet questions her also in private. The archbishop accepts her sincerity,
gives his blessing, and arranges for an escort out of his diocese.
1417, she crosses the River Humber and
is arrested. Someone who had seen her interrogated by the Archbishop at
Beverly testifies to her acquittal and she is released. She travels south
to Lincoln. At Bishop's Lynn, she asks her husband to travel with her to
London to acquire a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. (He
is Henry Chichele, successor to Thomas Arundel, who died in 1414.) Having
secured the letter, they return to Lynn via Ely, once again avoiding ill
treatment by showing required Episcopal approval.
Kempe speaks of many illnesses, of head,
side, and back, lasting over eight years. During a bout of dysentery she
receives the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (Last Rites). She compares her
suffering to Christ's Passion. After the sickness abates she speaks of
her emotional outbursts increasing so that she is given communion privately
in the Prior's chapel in Lynn.
Margaret's in Lynn, a monk arrives who causes the prior to expel her
from the chancel area. She produces Archbishop Chichele's letter of 1417
and regains her privileges. She mentions the ceremony of the Easter
Sepulchre in the chancel and gives other examples of her meditations,
especially on Good Fridays.
This chapter appears to be retrospective.
Kempe's confessor, the Dominican anchorite has died (1415?), but a new
priest comes to Lynn who is sympathetic to her. He reads her many books
as well as passages from the Bible with comments by the Church Fathers,
such as St. Jerome, whom she mentions earlier. Kempe names St. Bridget'sRevelations,
Walter Hilton'sScale of Perfection,
the Pricke of Love, then considered to be by St. Bonaventure, and
Richard Rolle'sFire of Love.
Kempe continues to discuss her listening
to holy books and sermons. Christ reveals to her souls to be saved and
damned. She is troubled by the devil in her meditation but then comforted
by an angel.
Kempe is stirred to go to Norwich.
There she prays with great distress at the tomb of Richard Caister, the
Vicar of St. Stephen's who was very supportive of her. (Caister died in
March 1420) A woman visits her in a church in Norwich and sees her deeply
moved when contemplating a pietá statue. The woman declares that
Kempe sets a good example and invites her to eat at her home.
A friar renowned for his sermons comes
to Lynn and preaches in the chapel of St. James. At first he does not complain
about her loud weeping. As she is a constant presence, he soon wants her
put out of the church. There is considerable discussion among Lynn clergy
about Kempe’s behavior and for years she is not allowed to attend the friar's
On the feast of St. James, the same friar
preaches in St. James Chapel yard in Lynn. He is hostile to Kempe, criticizing
her manner of piety. The priest who would become the scribe for Kempe's
Book is at first influenced. He subsequently reads examples weeping
in books on Mary d' Oignies and Elizabeth of Hungary and in treatises by
Richard Rolle and St. Bonaventure, and comes to her support.
Kempe writes about all the people in Lynn
who are against her. She reassures her confessor that she can bear all
their enmity. She describes her prayers in various places in
St. Margaret's and explains Christ comforting words to her.
Chapters 64 through 66 describe Kempe's
conversations with Christ. He tells her to listen to him and that he honors
those who are held in contempt by others. Kempe begs him to remember his
charity to all sinners.
Chapters 64 through 66 describe Kempe's
conversations with Christ. Christ now replies that no one will be damned
unless well worthy of it. He speaks of heaven waiting for Kempe where angels
offer her tears that are "angels' drink."
This chapter concludes Kempe's conversations
with Christ. Christ tells Kempe to eat meat; she should inform her confessor
that is it Christ's will. She establishes therefore that she is excused
from fasting since the Lord has assured her that he does not want her weak.
January 23, 1420, a great fire burns down
Lynn's Guildhall. Flames threaten St.
Margaret's. Kempe urges her confessor, Robert Springolde, to carry
the Blessed Sacrament towards the fire. She prays for God's help and a
snow falls and quenches the fire.
In Lynn, Kempe finds preachers who support
her. Thomas Constance, a Dominican visiting Lynn, confirms the value of
pious tears. During a sermon at St. Margaret's on the Feast of the Assumption,
she is tolerated even though interrupting the sermon. During a Lenten sermon,
an Augustinian Friar from Lynn, who had criticized her previously, now
respects her vocal outbursts.
Kempe continues to mention her religious
supporters and sermons by notable clergy when she was very moved in spirit.
Bishop Wakeryn of Norwich preaches in St. Margaret's. Master Alan, a learned
Carmelite (White Friar) in Lynn is supportive but is ordered to keep his
distance from her. He had answered her questions about the scriptures.
She finds a good confessor in the secular priest (parish priest) appointed
by the Prior to administer the Chapel of the Gesine in St.
Kempe is deeply troubled by the grave
illness suffered by Master Alan and prays intensely at the high altar of
St. Margaret's. He recovers and his Provincial (Thomas Netter, who
was concerned with women Lollards) allows him to speak with her. She has
dinner with him and another woman who also took vows of chastity. Kempe's
Christ reveals to Kempe the future disposition
of local clergy in Lynn, in particular the Prior of St.
Margaret's. She mentions walking up and down in the Carmelite Church
Kempe speak of her joy in her devotions.
Again, she mentions that when she witnesses religious rituals, such as
anointings or processions with the Eucharist, she reflects on the precedent
for these actions in Christ's own life. She describes how many laypersons
Kempe describes a procession on Holy Thursday
that prompts her to see in her soul the actual moment when Christ parted
from his loved ones. Similarly she talks about beholding the moment when
the Virgin appears to die, and how she spoke to Kempe assuring her of the
value of her suffering
Kempe continues to speak of the joys of
closeness to Christ, the Virgin, and the saints through her meditations.
Her confessor gives her permission to show God's grace by kissing sick
women and she comforts a troubled girl.
While praying in St.
Margaret's she is asked by a man to visit his wife. The woman has just
given birth and is out of her mind. Kempe's presence greatly calms the
woman and Kempe visits her frequently.
Kempe's husband falls down stairs and
becomes bedridden. They had previously lived apart, but now she takes her
husband to live with her, caring for an incontinent invalid.
In one of the most theological passages
of her treatise, Margery speaks to Christ about his charge to her, especially
her great weeping in public. Christ reassures Kempe that her feelings are
efficacious. He wishes that his mother's sorrow be known through Kempe.
Kempe speaks of church rituals, such as
those associated with Palm Sunday, that allow her to imagine herself present
at the actual events of Christ's Passion. She specifies the smiting of
the door of the church with a staff and the lifting up of the Lenten veil
to reveal the crucifix.
Kempe begins a detailed meditation on
the Passion of Christ. Kempe sees "in her soul" the events, beginning with
Christ taking leave from his mother, paying in the garden of Gethsemane,
taken by soldiers, and then mocked, stripped, and beaten.
She continues to describe the Flagellation
in detail. Then Christ is given his cross and he falls, witnessed by his
mother, as he carries it to Golgatha. He is nailed to the cross, using
ropes to stretch out his arms. Kempe sees the Virgin swoon and St. John
take her on his arms. Joseph of Arimathea comes to help remove the body
and place it in the tomb.
Christ is placed in the tomb and Mary
is comforted by John the Evangelist. Jesus appears to Mary after his resurrection
and then to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the empty tomb.
Kempe describes the Feast of the Purification
(Candlemas) a major feast in late medieval times. She describes how when
seeing women brought to the church to be purified after childbirth (Churching),
or at weddings, she thinks back on the precedents in the life of Christ
and the Virgin.
Two priests test her gift of tears by
taking her to a church of St. Michael outside of Lynn. Despite the fact
that no one else is present, Kempe's cries are even louder then when she
has an audience. She continues to explain the depth of her meditation.
Margery Kempe visits the Abbey
of Denny, a Franciscan foundation of nuns, a few miles north of Cambridge
at the abbess's request. Many impediments delay this trip, but Christ comforts
her, telling her that anything she does for the care of others is as if
she is doing it for him.
Kempe tells of her prayers said in her
parish church St. Margaret's, and
also the Dominican Church (Black Friars). The chapter is retrospective.
She describes meditative states. Once she was given a vision of an angel
who shows her a book with the Trinity all in gold. She asked that her name
be written at the Trinity's foot. She was also given visions of Christ
with the wounds of his Passion and as a child in his mother's arms.
The entire chapter is a transcription
of Christ's words of reassurance to Kempe. Christ calls her his "blessed
spouse" and speaks of the Trinity, the importance of the receiving the
Eucharist, and the intercession of the saints, especially Mary
Magdalene, Catherine, and Margaret.
Kempe again speaks of her contemplation
as she lay still in church. The chapter is cumulative, speaking of the
nature of Christ's "sweet dalliance in her soul" by which time could be
shortened or lengthened and she felt she heard the voices of Christ and
Kempe speaks of the years she spent writing
this Book, concerned that she neglected her prayers in the effort.
Christ replies that her intentions are as important as he actions. Christ
commends her confessor Robert Springolde.
Kempe concludes her Book by looking
back thought the years that she was writing her treatise. They were filled
with many spiritual comforts and assurances from Christ.
The second book is dated to April 1438.
(Ed. Note: Margery Kempe was admitted to the Holy Trinity Guild in Lynn
before Easter, 1438.) Kempe describes her son, whom she tried to convince
to become a priest or monk. Instead, he took up work for a merchant. After
contracting a skin disease, which Kempe attributed to punishment for lechery,
he lost his job. Ultimately he was cured, married a German wife and had
a daughter in Germany.
Leaving their child behind, Kempe's son
and daughter-in-law come to visit her in Lynn. She credits her son's conversion
to a pious life to her influence. Both her husband and son die about 1431.
Kempe's daughter-in-law wants to return home, expecting to embark from
Ispwich. A little distance outside of Lynn, at mass, Kempe "is commanded
in her soul" to go over the sea with her daughter. They return to Lynn,
then travel to the shrine at Walsingham, then Norwich, receiving support
from a Franciscan in Norwich.
Kempe and her daughter-in-law set sail
to Germany from $$ Ipswich or Yarmouth (April 1433?) They encounter heavy
storms on Palm Sunday, finally arriving in Bergen, Norway, ten days later.
They spend Easter Sunday on land and leave for Germany the following day.
April through May, 1433, they arrive in
Gdansk (Danzig) then East Prussia, and stay for five to six weeks. Kempe
then arranges to visit the pilgrimage site of Wilsnack by ship.
Kempe lands at Stralsund, a port close
to Wilsnack and, despite illness, she visits the site where the miraculous
hosts display the blood of Christ.
Going overland to Aachen by wagon, Kempe
and companions pass by a friary where the sacraments are exposed to celebrate
the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi. She is so boisterous in her
adoration that her company leave her. She then meets poor travelers who
must beg. They are lice-ridden and she become infected.
July 1433, finally reaching Aachen she
meets with an English monk and is able to see the Holy Relics of Aachen
that are exposed only once in seven years. She has trouble finding travelling
companions but finally reaches Calais.
From Calais she sails to Dover on the
English coast and then travels to Canterbury.
She leaves Canterbury
for London dressed in a conspicuous pilgrim's garb and is well received
by some and slandered by others.
July 1434, Kempe goes to the Carthusian
monastery of Sheen and the Bridgettinemonastery of Our Savior just outside
of London to gain the special indulgence associated with the visit. She
then returns to Lynn. She ends the
second book with a long list of people remembered in her prayers.