Eliason, Eric

title.none: Connolly, Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God

identifier.other: baj9928.9512.004 95.12.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Eliason, Eric, Gustavus Adolphus College

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God. Early English Text Society, no. 303. Oxford University Press, 1993. $45.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-19-722305-2.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.12.04

Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God. Early English Text Society, no. 303. Oxford University Press, 1993. $45.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-19-722305-2.

Reviewed by:

Eliason, Eric
Gustavus Adolphus College

Margaret Connolly's edition of the anonymous Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God makes this late-medieval devotional treatise widely available for the first time in almost a century. Readers will find it to be conservative both in its approach to details and in its conception of what a critical edition ought to be and do. Its main strength is the accuracy with which the work has been done, and its main drawback is its reluctance to confront the socially embedded nature of the work--both in its medieval and its modern presentations. While it is not necessarily clear what sort of "ownership" this 14-15th-century author might have claimed over his treatise, there can be little doubt that he would recognize the text in Connolly's edition as being his own work. In this important respect the edition must be judged a success. In 1896 Carl Horstman published a lightly edited version of Wynkyn de Worde's 1509 printing of the work, but since then the necessary labor of establishing the relationship between this printed version and the sixteen surviving manuscripts of the full work has remained undone. Connolly has done this work, and presents the results in 44 pages of text, accompanied by 46 pages of introduction, 55 pages of variant readings from the manuscripts, and 22 pages of textual notes. (The edition also contains a small glossary of obsolete and difficult words.) It turns out that the text of CDLG is, in the editor's own words, "remarkably stable," and Connolly's version of the text, in the end, does not differ significantly from Horstman's. It is, however, much more readable, thanks to her modern punctuation and paragraphing. To the extent that she does encounter variation in the manuscripts, Connolly edits largely by means of common sense and provides clear rationales for her decisions. Not surprisingly, she is able to show that it is not possible to construct a rigid genealogical stemma for the surviving witnesses to the text, though she can and does lay out and discuss the evidence of kinship between manuscripts where it exists. To identify error she relies mainly on defective syntax and sense and to a lesser extent omissions and the principle of difficilior lectio. A survey of the textual notes indicates that the genuine problems are few. Connolly offers specific justifications for her emendations of the base text (Maidstone Museum MS 6), but, oddly, not for those places where she retains the base text's reading against the bulk of the other evidence. The full complement of variants accompanying the text, however, makes it possible (though not convenient) for readers to examine for themselves which manuscripts contain which readings. The work has been carried out with commendable accuracy. An hour spent spot checking the textual variants against three manuscripts discovered no errors. There are, however, some curious limits to Connolly's deliberate openness concerning her evidence and her methods. She is silent, for instance, as to why she has chosen not to use as evidence the twenty-two instances where single chapters of the work survive separately. (Connolly mentions these, but does not reveal which chapters they are or where they might be found.) Given the stability of the full versions of the text, one would guess that this decision has few substantive consequences. But the decision ought to be acknowledged and explained, particularly given the exhaustive completeness toward which so many of the edition's features seem to point. Connolly is also silent about whether one ought to regard as authorial the marginal apparatus identifying sources which exists in many of the manuscripts. Connolly's approach is inconsistent, ignoring the marginal apparatus in her collations, but using her Textual Notes to give extensive accounts of that which appears in her base manuscript. The author of CDLG thoughtfully (and proudly?) offered his readers a table of contents; perhaps he offered other helps as well. It's a possibility that an editor ought to address. Both of these issues raise important questions about the boundaries of the work which is proposed to be edited: to what extent should the isolated chapters be considered part of the work? to what extent are the ordinatio, physical layout, and apparatus to be considered part of the work itself? To respond to such questions, one would have to look at how CDLG is embedded in the culture that produced and used it, and here Connolly is a less helpful editor than might be wished. It seems unlikely we will ever know who wrote the work, given the author's utter absence of self-identification in the work itself. (The sixteenth-century attribution to Richard Rolle was rejected by Horstman and no one has since tried to revive it). But it might be possible to infer something about where the author lived. Although she devotes nearly one-fifth of her introduction to pinpointing the dialect of her base text, Connolly offers no opinion concerning the work's original dialect; so, for now at least, the author remains homeless as well as nameless. This reticence is as true concerning the manuscripts as it is concerning the author. While she gives a full description of her base manuscript, she tells us little about the other manuscripts containing the work beyond their shelfmarks. (She does, however, indicate that she hopes to deal more fully with the manuscripts elsewhere.) One is left to wonder what other works circulated with this one, and with what sort of geographical and temporal dispersion. On some topics, Connolly does provide useful information about the work's original context. Using the oldest of the surviving manuscripts and the most recent of the quoted material, she isolates the work's date to somewhere between 1375 and 1425. And more helpfully, she has begun the difficult work of sorting out the materials from which the author made his book. Her textual notes, for example, not only discuss decisions about the text but identify sources and analogues as well. Where she can, she traces the sources of quotations and she notes where the marginal attribution of sources in her base text differs from her own identifications. The borrowing turns out to be broad rather than deep, including authors as old as Augustine and new as St. Bridget. From this evidence, however, she draws no conclusions about either the nature of the borrowing or what it suggests about the education or vocation of the author or his readers. Just as Connolly skirts issues which call attention to the socially embedded nature of the artifacts she is editing, she seems not to be guided by a clear understanding of the socially embedded nature of the artifact she is producing. That is to say, Connolly offers little explanation of why she is editing the work or for whom. To justify her labor, she cites statements by Curt Buehler in 1954 and M.G. Sargent in 1984 that it would be a good idea for someone to make such an edition. The importance of the work is asserted purely on the basis of its physical existence: there are 16 manuscripts and two early printed editions, hence it must have enjoyed status and had wide circulation. It remains to be shown, however, how the treatise influenced any other work of English spirituality. She notes that CDLG is "a text whose fate it has always been to be anthologised" (xiv), but from the information regarding ownership which she records, it might also be said to be a book whose fate it has always been to be given away. Connolly laments that the work has been roundly ignored in the 20th century, and the form of her edition, with its extensive lists of variants, notes, and maps of dialect regions, is designed not so much to meet any demonsted need of readers in 1995 as to establish the CDLG as a "serious" work, one deserving of an edition which "looks like" editions of works more usually regarded as important. When she does imagine how the CDLG might actually be used, Connolly suggests that the work might be used as "an index of English popular spirituality" (xviii). But surely it ought to be an item in that index rather than the index itself. Far from being an omnium gatherum, it is instead a rather focused treatise, whose individual character ought to be acknowledged and accounted for: its concentration on individual piety to the exclusion of considerations of corporate life or the sacramental practices of the church; the focus on God to the near exclusion of Jesus and the saints; the relative absence (by medieval standards) of digression and the presence of a clearly articulated organizational scheme; its earnest tone, lacking entirely in irony or satire; the incorporation of a devotional set-piece (perhaps appropriated from some other author?) on the passion of Jesus which is radically different in character, tone, and language from the rest of the work. None of these features is without precedent, and most of them are related to topics of interest to historians of spirituality. Those interested in these topics--and those wishing to enhance the work's reputation-- would be better served by an edition which devoted more of its necessarily limited space to these "interpretive" issues and less to the traditional "objective" pieces of apparatus. If only an editor dared. Connolly herself clearly feels the constraints placed on her by a conservative idea of what an edition should be. In several places she asserts the importance of the topics I have noted, and declares that she will address them elsewhere. She has, in fact, already published a study of one of the manuscripts of CDLG, British Library Arundel 197, which shows how the text of CDLG was appropriated by one medieval reader for his own particular ends. One wishes that Connolly had designed her edition so that the work that went into collating variants would be more helpful to someone who wanted to investigate similar questions regarding manuscript Durham University Library Cosin V.iv.6, which, Connolly hints, also has "rogue" tendencies. The fact remains, however, that Connolly has made it possible for more people to read the CDLG and to read it well. Her work establishes a more confident understanding of the form of the work when it left the author's control. And her notes concerning the sources and analogues will be genuinely useful for further studies of this work's relation to other traditions of piety and religious instruction. In this her labor finds its justification.