Margaret Paston in Context: Things Said, Done, and Owned

  • Joel T. Rosenthal
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Saints and the moveable feasts of the Christian year seemed a good place to begin, guided as we are by Margaret Paston’s own choices on such matters. And yet noting saints’ days in the dating clause of her letters can be thought of as Margaret talking to herself. She chose this particular style and we have come to expect her to express herself in this fashion; “Wretyn in hast on Seynt Edmundys Day the kyng” (I, 165). No one else in her world followed her lead, at least not in letter after letter. At the same time there is no reason to think that any of her recipients was put off stride by her style. It was her own touch, her own business; if it did not make the letter better or more useful, it certainly did no harm and seemingly caused no confusion about the date. But an analysis of her dating style only takes us so far. We now turn to other aspects of Margaret Paston’s expressions of religiosity. One of these concerns other forms of usage, of speech-into-writing, this still being in the realm of “thing said.” Then I will turn to “things done” and then to “things owned” and see what else falls into these realms.


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© Joel T. Rosenthal 2010

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