Margery Kempe

How To Be a Medieval Woman
  • How To Be a Medieval Woman

  • 'And then he, completely astonished at her words, left off his lewdness, saying to her as many a man had done before, "Either you are a truly good woman or else a truly wicked woman." '

    Brave, outspoken and guaranteed to annoy people wherever she went - including exasperated fellow pilgrims in Jerusalem and her long-suffering husband - Margery Kempe was one of the most vivid and unforgettable voices of the Middle Ages. Whether travelling alone, getting herself arrested or having visions of marrying Jesus, Margery repeatedly defied feminine convention - and also managed to compose the first autobiography in English, despite being unable to read or write.

    One of 46 new books in the bestselling Little Black Classics series, to celebrate the first ever Penguin Classic in 1946. Each book gives readers a taste of the Classics' huge range and diversity, with works from around the world and across the centuries - including fables, decadence, heartbreak, tall tales, satire, ghosts, battles and elephants.

Margery Kempe, born c.1373, was of a well-to-do middle-class family from King's Lynn in Norfolk. Married at twenty, she had a vision of Christ following her first childbirth, and after early failures as a businesswoman, felt herself called to the spiritual life. At about the age of forty, after she had bore fourteen children, she persuaded her husband to a vow of chastity and began a pilgrimage across England, Europe and the Holy Land. She was a controversial figure and was often imprisoned and abused for her actions. Towards the end of her life she dictated an account of her travels and visions, which was discovered in 1934. It is the earliest example of an autobiography in English.

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