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CHARITY SCOTT STOKES
The writing of the second amanuensis’s proem to Liber I, added after the first quire had been copied, is dated 1436, and the beginning of the writing of Liber II is dated 1438.
The precise nature and extent of the contribution of the second amanuensis to the shaping and substance of The Book of Margery Kempe cannot be ascertained. Clearly he was a cleric, unlike the first amanuensis. He wrote his account of Margery Kempe in the third person, which may perhaps suggest that he had professional experience recording the proceedings of an ecclesiastical court.90 The narrative as it stands records her religious life, moving in traditional manner from frailty during the phase of purgatio through illuminatio towards perfectio.91 It is possible that the second amanuensis exerted a considerable influence, as did the male biographers of holy women mentioned in the book, for instance Marie d’Oignies (153/1) and St Elizabeth of Hungary (154/13), and of others not mentioned, but possibly known, such as Dorothea of Montau. Only in the case of Beatrice of Nazareth (†1268), a holy woman not mentioned in the book, have two life histories survived, one written by Beatrice herself and one by her male biographer, which enable the reader to see just what modifications and shaping the biographer undertook, 92 but it is well known that in the other cases also the biographers examined and selected material from the experiences recounted to them by their subjects.
In Liber I not only the proem but also chapters 24, and parts of 25 and 62, were written by the second amanuensis in his own person.93 There is one passage in chapter 62 in which he says that he did not write much in justification of the weeping of Marie d’Oignies and Margery Kempe when he wrote the book because at that time he had not read about the matter “seryowslech & expressiowslech” (153/30–31), which suggests that the decision on what to write was his (as well as suggesting that he worked on this part of the book at different times). There are further passages which share some features of style and content with the ones which were definitely written by the second amanuensis, and may also have been written by him: for instance, chapters 82 and 83 (pp. 198–202). All of these chapters, or parts of chapters, contain passages of commentary on the testing and justification of Margery Kempe. They also include some traditional descriptions, for instance of Purification and Candlemas, and topoi such as the abandonment of Margery Kempe by her kindred who should have loved her best, and the ineffable quality of her mystical experience – for which she demonstrably found many words. There is little trace in them of Margery Kempe’s “owyn tunge” (221/11–12), so characteristic of many of her revelatory dialogues and other passages of direct speech. Instead of her direct record of sense experiences it is uncharacteristically stressed in chapter 82 that she seemed to hear, rather than that she heard: “hir thowt she herd” (198/12). There is no example in these passages of her distinctive vocabulary and phrasing, such as the expression of movement, literal and metaphorical, by means of to+ noun/pronoun/adverb + wards, exemplified for instance in the words of the Lord to her in time of trouble in Rome: “?er is gold to-?e-ward” (92/38–39).
With regard to Liber II it seems reasonable to accept the claim made by the second amanuensis that he “held it expedient” (221/4–5) to write of some but not all of the years that she lived after the death of the first amanuensis “aftyr hyr owyn tunge” – and to take this to mean that the narrative was based on, and often reproduced verbatim, Margery Kempe’s own words, but that the amanuensis helped at the very least to choose which years, and therefore what material, to include.
The entry of a Margery Kempe into membership of the Holy Trinity Guild of Merchants from Lent 1438 – the only contemporary reference to a Margery Kempe outside her own book – suggests that at the end of her life she achieved some measure of recognition and standing in Lynn. That participation in civic life was not incompatible with the religious life is demonstrated by the situation of Julian of Norwich who, though a recluse, lived in close proximity to a busy city street, and had a place in the public discourse of Norwich.94 At the beginning and end of extracts from the book printed in 1521 by Henry Pepwell, Margery Kempe is referred to as “ancresse of lynn”. There is no other evidence that she became an anchoress in her last years, but it is possible.
The second amanuensis states in the proem that the book was not to be made known as long as she lived (4/34–36). If her wish was followed – and there is no evidence to the contrary – she did not live beyond 1440.