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

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Manor House Letter Writer Rock Crystal Holy Ghost Parish Church 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    With his particular concern for the precise language, Norman Davis talked about the question of how closely the letters mirror “real” speech: “The Language of the Pastons,” pp. 120–44. Janel M. Mueller, The Native Tongue and the Word: Developments in English Prose Style 1380–1580 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 90–94, and for a good example of Margaret moving from “indirect to direct representation” as she becomes more vivid in telling John I of the slanging match in the street (I, 129).Google Scholar
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    The whole topic of blessings is now treated at length by Derek Rivard, Blessing the World: Ritual and Lay Piety in Medieval Religion (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2009).Google Scholar
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    Following the lead of John Bossy, “Christian Life in the Later Middle Ages: Prayers,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, sixth series, 1 (1991), pp. 137–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For what I term the Pastons’ manichean view of the universe, Joel T. Rosenthal, Telling Tales: Sources and Narration in Late Medieval England (University Park, IL: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003), pp. 149–54.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    John L. Austin, “Performative Utterances,” pp. 233–52 of his Philosophical Papers (third ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Pritchard, “Religion of the Pastons,” p. 67, with various examples. Thomas F. Simmons, ed., Lay Folks Mass Book, EETS, o.s. 71 (1879), p. 107 for the instructions to pray for saintly intercession.Google Scholar
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    John III went on to say, regarding his still-unmarried sister who presumably would make the trip with their mother: “and let my sustyr Margery goo wyth yow to prey to them that sche may haue a good hosbond or sche com hom ayen.” By this time Agnes may have been living in London with William II at Warwick’s Inn near Newgate: “The place at Warwyks Inne is large and my grawntdame is agyd” as John II stated in 1474 (I, 285). On the pilgrim shrines of St Pauls, Janet Backhouse, ed., The Medieval English Cathedral: Papers in Honour of Pamela Tudor-Craig, Harlaxton Medieval Studies, X (Donington: Paul Watkins, 2003): the relevant papers are of Caroline M. Barron, “London and St Paul’s Cathedral in the Later Middle Ages,” pp. 126–49, on the shrine of St Erkenwald; Eamon Duffy, “St Erkenward: London’s Cathedral Saint and His Legend,” pp. 150–67; Lucy Freeman Sandler, “The Chantry of Roger of Waltham in Old St Pauls,” pp. 168–90.Google Scholar
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    For Edward IV and Walsingham, Cora Schofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth (London: Longmans Green & Co, 1923), I, pp. 491–2.Google Scholar
  33. Charles Ross, Richard III (second ed., New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 14. John II was told by Jakyn Hawte that the Queen planned to go on that 1469 expedition “yf God send hyr good hele.” She may have been following in the king’s footsteps, as Edward IV had “departyt to Walsynggame apon Fryday com vij nyght.” I, 352, John II to John III, on Norfolk’s resolve to bring his wife to Walsingham in thanksgiving after her confinement. Long afterwards, in 1503, the earl of Oxford told John III that he planed to go to Walsingham, “doing my pilgrimage” (II, 850).Google Scholar
  34. 46.
    On the Calthorp family: Josiah C. Wedgwood, History of Parliament: Biographies (London: His Magesty’s Stationery Office, 1936): entries for Sir William (1410–94), MP for Norfolk, 1445–46, and for his eldest son, Sir Philip (1463–1535), MP for Norfolk, 1491–92. Before her marriage Ann Paston Yelverton had spent time in the Calthorp household, and Calthorps were buried in the Carmelite church in Norwich.Google Scholar
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  37. Some miracles attributed to Henry VI took effect in East Anglia: Ronald Knox and Shane Leslie, The Miracles of Henry VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923): #96, 101, and 124.Google Scholar
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    Henry S. Bennett, The Pastons and their England, pp. 205–6. Bennett accepts, as a matter of course, that such gentry folk had their own chapel, as does the old study by Edward L. Cutts, Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages (London: Simpkin, 1925), pp. 208–12.Google Scholar
  41. 58.
    Christopher Woolgar, The Great Household, p. 178 for the chapel at Caister (most household books were “closely associated with the religious arrangements of the chapel or personal devotion”), pp. 179–80 for Fastolf’s books. Also, on Fastolf’s books and reading circle, Deborah Youngs, “Cultural Networks,” in Gentry Culture in Late Medieval England, pp. 119–33. Gairdner, I, 467–90, for various inventories of Fastolf’s vast accumulations; no relics, no books other than service books, and mostly concerned to list a tremendous accumulation of clothing, household furnishings, and linen. Margaret Wood, The English Mediaeval House (London: Phoenix House, 1968) on domestic chapels. John II saw the chapel at Caister as his, now to control: “Thomas Howes hadde a free chapel in Caster, where-of the gyfte longyth to me,” writing to John II in 1469 (I, 239).Google Scholar
  42. 62.
    Margaret Aston, “Segregation in Church,” in Women in the Church, ed. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood, Studies in Church History, 27 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 237–94, on seating in the parish church. Andrew Brown, Popular Piety in Late Medieval England: The Diocese of Salisbury, 1250–1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 250: little evidence for a “detachment from parochial life” because of private or internalized prayer or family chapels.Google Scholar
  43. 65.
    Daniel E.Thiery, “Plowshares and Swords: Clerical Involvement in Acts of Violence and Peacemaking in Late Medieval England, 1400–1536,” Albion 36/2 (2004), pp. 201–22; pp. 212–13 on Gloys as a nasty char-acter and on Margaret Paston’s seemingly uncritical acceptance of his behavior. Henry S. Bennett, The Pastons, siding with John II and John III; Bennett’s index reference to Gloys has a subheading, “overbearing way.” Knowles says of him: “The priest is lost in the man of business” (p. 159), and Mertes, the English Noble Household, p. 46, on the “versatil-ity” of household chaplains.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. It has been suggested that Gloys actually provoked that famous quarrel in the street: David Burnley, Courtliness and Literature in Medieval England (London: Longmans, 1998), pp. 213–14: Gloys “deliberately refused to acknowledge the offended men by removing his hat.” This sounds like the opening scene of “Romeo and Juliet.”Google Scholar
  45. 69.
    Katherine French. The Good Women of the Parish: Gender and Religion after the Black Death (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 37.Google Scholar
  46. 73.
    Jenny Stratford, The Bedford Inventories: The Worldly Goods ofJohn, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France (1389–1438) (London: Society of Antiquaries, 1993); Bedford as a patron and collector, pp. 105–26, with a fragment of the True Cross and various relics listed in the inventories.Google Scholar

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© Joel T. Rosenthal 2010

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  • Joel T. Rosenthal

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