Richard Rolle Criticism - Essay

George G. Perry (essay date 1866)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: George G. Perry, English Prose Treatises of Richard Rolle de Sampole, N. Trubner & Co., 1866.

[Perry's 1866 edition of Rolle's treatises in English constituted the first time these manuscripts were made available since the Middle Ages. In the following excerpt, he touches on many issues central to Rolle scholarship, including Rolle's reputation, the authenticity of the manuscripts, and the matter and style of Rolle's English.]

The treatises which follow, now for the first time printed, are taken from a miscellaneous collection of Poems, Tracts, Prayers, and Medical Receipts, made by Robert Thornton, archdeacon of Bedford, in the earlier half of the...

(The entire section is 3532 words.)

H. R. Bramley (essay date 1884)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: H. R. Bramley, in an introduction to The Psalter or Psalms of David and Certain Canticles, translated by Richard Rolle, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1884, pp. v-xvii.

[In his introduction to Rolle's commentary on the Psalms, Bramley recounts Rolle 's biography and summarizes his doctrine, relying mostly on the Office made shortly after his death by the nuns of Hampole. Bramley also expands on this text by collating Rolle's life with the larger political scene.]

Richard Rolle, better known from the place of his death and burial as Hampole1, was a famous preacher and highly venerated hermit in Yorkshire, during the former half of the fourteenth...

(The entire section is 5117 words.)

C. Horstman (essay date 1896)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: C. Horstman, in an introduction to Yorkshire Writers, edited by C. Horstman, Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1896, pp. v-xxxvi.

[In the excerpted introduction that follows, Horstman provides a detailed rendition of Rolle's life and a comprehensive paraphrase of his works, organizing the paraphrase according to the tenets of Rolle's spiritual beliefs.]

Richard Rolle, from the place of his death and burial surnamed Hampole, was born about, or shortly before, 13001, at Thornton (now Thornton Dale), a village 2 1/2 miles E. of Pickering, at the foot of the hills in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He died on the 29th of September 1349. His father was William...

(The entire section is 16503 words.)

Geraldine E. Hodgson (essay date 1910)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Geraldine E. Hodgson, in an introduction to The Form of Perfect Living and Other Prose Treatises, Thomas Baker, 1910, pp. xi-xxxiv.

[Below, Hodgson discusses Rolle's major works, summarizing their content and engaging the various controversies that had sprung up around them; she ultimately tends to defend Rolle 's standing as a mystic.]

Richard Rolle of Hampole is the earliest in time of our famous English Mystics. Born in or about 1300, he died in 1349, seven years after Mother Julian of Norwich was born. Walter Hilton died in 1392.

An exhaustive account of Rolle's life is given in Vol. ii. of Professor Horstman's Edition of his works, a book...

(The entire section is 3615 words.)

Dom David Knowles (essay date 1927)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Dom David Knowles, "Richard Rolle," in The English Mystics, Burns Oates & Washboume Ltd., 1927, pp. 73-89.

[In the following excerpt, Knowles depicts Rolle as a kind of early Romantic poetone whose art is spontaneous, natural, personal, and almost rebelliously individualiste]

The four writers who have now to be considered are very different in mental outlook one from another, and may to some degree be taken as the representatives in English medieval religious life of four distinct types of spirituality. Richard Rolle, the first, is a poet, almost a romanticist; a troubadour of GOD, spiritual brother of St Francis, throwing off conventional habits,...

(The entire section is 5299 words.)

Hope Emily Allen (essay date 1927)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE· Hope Emily Allen, in an introduction to Writings Ascribed to Richard Rolle, D. C. Heath and Company, 1927, pp. 1-8.

[Since her standard works of 1927 and 1931, Allen has been recognized as a leading Rolle scholar. In the following excerpts from the introduction to her 1927 volume, Allen discusses her efforts to establish a canon of Rolle's writings; she was the first to argue that The Pricke of Conscience, previously considered one of his major works, had been wrongly attributed to him. She also briefly characterizes his mysticism, defending its nonconformity and "wildness. "]

As is true of most of the great mystics, Rolle's life and writings show a striking...

(The entire section is 1921 words.)

Frances M. M. Comper (essay date 1928)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Frances M. M. Comper, "Of the Union of the Soul with Christ: And How Perfect Love Stands in Heat and Song and Sweetness: And of the Three Degrees of This Love," in The Life of Richard Rolle, J. M. Dent & Sons Limited, 1928, pp. 98-124.

[Aside from the Office composed soon after Rolle's death, Comper's biography was the first extended account of Rolle's life. In the following excerpt, she treats in detail the pinnacle of Rolle's union with God.]

Richard nearly always speaks of mystical contemplation in terms of love. "To me it seems that contemplation is the joyful song of God's love taken into the mind with the sweetness of angels' praise." Correctly...

(The entire section is 11244 words.)

T. W. Coleman (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: T. W. Coleman, "Richard Rolle," in English Mystics of the Fourteenth Century, The Epworth Press, 1938, pp. 64-83.

[Below, Coleman describes Rolle not only as a true mystic, but also as a bridge from medieval to modern literature by virtue of the personal note in his devotional and literary styles.]

History plays curious pranks. In the middle of the fourteenth century, Richard Rolle of Hampole was one of our most prolific writers, in verse and prose, on religious subjects. During his lifetime, and for some years after his death, alike in England and upon the Continent, his numerous works were eagerly sought and frequently copied. Unfortunately, after enjoying...

(The entire section is 6823 words.)

Conrad Pepler (essay date 1958)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Conrad Pepler, "The Progress of Christian Life," in The English Religious Heritage, B. Herder Book Co., 1958, pp. 161-213.

[In the excerpt below, Pepler places Rolle at the head of English mysticism. Reserving most of his attention for Rolle's English works, Pepler looks at Rolle's experiences and terminology in relation to broader conventions of medieval mysticism.]

The New Light

Richard Rolle has been called 'The Father of English Mysticism' and it is to him we turn for the first introduction to mysticism in its strict sense among English writers. He was born some hundred years after the Ancren Riwle was written, and yet he is...

(The entire section is 19652 words.)

E. J. Arnould (essay date 1960)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: E. J. Arnould, "Richard Rolle of Hampole," in The Month, Vol. 23, No. 1, January, 1960, pp. 13-25.

[In the essay below, Arnould seeks to synthesize the divergent portraits of Rolle that have dominated, one portraying him as wholly saintly, and the other as largely wild and tempermental. In his effort to draw a more complex picture of Rolle's character, Arnould examines the De Emendatione Vitae, the Incendium Amoris; and the Melos Amoris.]

The fourteenth century was the heyday of English mysticism and is also famous for its hermits and anchorites. Richard Rolle, whose life-span covers the first half of the century, has a marked place among both...

(The entire section is 5172 words.)

Rosemary Woolf (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Rosemary Woolf, "The Lyrics of Richard Rolle and the Mystical School," in The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1968, pp. 159-79.

[In the excerpt that follows, Woolf considers Rolle in relation to the broader conventions and schools of mystical writing, focusing particularly on the tradition of the Passion meditation. Ultimately contradicting the pervasive image of Rolle as a "natural" writer, Woolf notes his innovative skill with literary form and places him at the beginning of "devotional-mystical writing in English."]

All the poetry so far discussed is unmystical. It may vary in the degree of literary formality, but...

(The entire section is 9314 words.)

Sister Mary Arthur Knowlton (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Sister Mary Arthur Knowlton, "Rolle's Lyrics," in The Influence of Richard Rolle and of Julian of Norwich on the Middle English Lyrics, Mouton, 1973, pp. 49-70.

[In the excerpt below, Knowlton sets out her basic reading of Rolle, noting the features that she considers definitive of his verse.]

Lyric poetry, among the Greeks, meant poetry to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre. Professor Frye suggests in the Anatomy of Criticism that the Greek word for lyric would be more meaningfully translated "poems to be chanted",1 since the emphasis should be placed on the words, not on the music. The lyric is now generally found to be defined in some...

(The entire section is 9011 words.)

John A. Alford (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: John A. Alford, "Biblical Imitatio in the Writings of Richard Rolle," in ELH, Vol. 40, No. 1, Spring, 1973, pp. 1-23.

[In the following essay, Alford makes an effort to correct what he sees to þe the paucity of true literary studies of Rolle. In his analysis, Alford examines the relationship of Rolle's works to the biblical imitatio—a rhetorical tradition based on study of the Holy Scripture.]

Though R. W. Chambers was not the first to appreciate Richard Rolle's prose style, his famous essay on the continuity of English prose had much to do with the subsequent direction of Rolle criticism—if it is accurate to speak of "direction" where there...

(The entire section is 9472 words.)

Nicholas Watson (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Nicholas Watson, "The Structure of Rolle's Thought," in Richard Rolle and the Invention of Authority, Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 54-72.

[In the following excerpt from his book-length study, Watson sets out the basis for his analysis, focusing on the function of canor in Rolle's work and thought. Considering Rolle in relation to larger mystical traditions, Watson finds him distinctive by virtue of "an idiosyncrasy not of thought but of focus."]

[Here I will examine] the major themes of [Rolle's] writing, through which he articulates his audacious argument as to the status of the solitary mystic in the Church, and points to ways in which these,...

(The entire section is 11243 words.)