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On the Kalendar: Margery Kempe, Mystic

November from Les Petites Heures d'Anne de Bretagne

“November”, kalendar page from Les Petites Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Little Hours of Queen Anne of Bretagne), by the Maître des Triomphes de Pétrarque. From Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris (France).

Margery Kempe (c. 1373—after 1438) is considered by some to have written the first autobiography in the English language. Actually, Kempe was illiterate, so her Book of Margery Kempe was dictated first to a hired scribe (possibly her son), and later to a priest (possibly her confessor Robert Springold). Kempe documents the details of her life, from the difficult birth of her first child, to the failures of her business ventures (a brewery and a grain mill), the relationship with her husband, her pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land, and her eventual meeting with Julian of Norwich to discuss her visions.

Because of her outspokenness, Kempe was accused variously of Lollardism and heresy, but she was able to defend herself successfully against all charges. Kempe is commemorated on 9 November by the Church of England, while the Episcopal Church commemorates her on 28 September with two other contemporaneous mystics and writers, Walter Hilton and Richard Rolle of Hampole.

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