Early British Nonfiction Intro

Early British
A History of The English Church and People (p.98-100)
From The Book of Margery Kempe (p.116-117)
Journal entry/quick response
A dream may inspire a person to change
his way of life or to take his life in a
certain direction. What other factors
might inspire a dramatic shift in the way
someone lives? What do you hope your
life will be like and how will you achieve
those goals?
Background on A History of The
English Church and People
The Venerable Bede (an English
monk) recorded information on
Caedmon, the earliest English
poet known to us by name
Background on A History of The
English Church and People
According to Bede:
Caedmon composed many poems in (written)
English, his native tongue
Only his first poem, a hymn to God the
Creator, has survived
He lived at Whitby Abbey, a religious
community on the coast of England founded in
657 by St. Hilda (the active abbess in charge
during Caedmon’s time)
*Read A History of The English Church and People p.98-100
Journal entry/quick response
What gives people the strength to tackle
a challenge or to keep going despite
obstacles or setbacks? Draw from your
own experience or those of someone you
More on A History of The
English Church and People
Biographical narrative
Bede tells of Caedmon, a
humble man who thought
that he had no skill at poetry
When reading the piece,
focus on how a dream
inspired the life of an
important historical figure
Background on Margery Kempe
and The Book of Margery Kempe
She lived from 1373-1439
Believed to be the oldest surviving autobiography in
the English language
Autobiography: writer’s account of his or her own life
Differs from diary and memoir as a sustained
narrative that attempts to make sense of a person’s
Most are written in first person
Kempe wrote hers in the third person; this may
reflect that she dictated her story to a scribe or her
desire to be humble
Ordinary Wife and Mother
Born in Lynn, a town in the country of
Norfolk, England
Father served 5 terms as mayor
Born into a prominent family
Received little education (like
most women of her time)
Married John Kempe, a tax
collector, at age 20, and began
raising a family
She gave birth to 14 children
Forsaking Secular Life
Around 40 years old, decided to live in chastity and
preach to the world
Abnormal at the time for women to preach since nearly
every aspect of life was controlled by men
Any woman wishing to pursue spiritual calling was
expected to join a convent or life as a recluse; Margery
Kempe did neither
Began a series of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Spain, Italy,
and Germany
Some considered her a model of human compassion and
devotion, while others disapproved of her lifestyle
A Gift of “Holy Tears”
In Jerusalem she began having fits
of tears, claiming they were a
special gift from God, a physical
token of her special worth in his
Violent fits of hysterical crying at
unpredictable times
Both clergy and common people
found her anywhere from annoying
to heretical (profane)
Kempe encountered persecution
and ridicule
Her Life Story
1430s Kempe began dictating her life story to
(illiterate like most women since denied education)
Her story is valued for several reasons: captures life
in the 1400s (showing social customs, speech, and
attitudes of the day); shows Kempe’s spiritual
character (woman of strong faith who lived by her
convictions despite social criticism and oppression)
*Read from The Book of Margery Kempe p.118-121