Pricke of Conscience Manuscripts Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Collection consists of three manuscripts which all contain the Pricke of Conscience. English MSS 50 and 90 both contain an additional contemporary work, respectively a romantic epic called the 'Speculum Gy of Warewyke' and a Wycliffe commentary on the Lord's Prayer.

Administrative / Biographical History

Written about 1350 in the North of England the Pricke of Conscience is a long devotional poem in northern Middle English. It comprises about 10,000 lines set into four-stressed rhyming couplets and is divided into seven parts and a prologue. It deals with the miserable state of mankind, worldly life, death, Purgatory, Doomsday, the torments of hell and the joys of heaven. It satisfied the contemporary desire, in the face of calamities such as the Black Death and the subsequent social unrest that affected most of Europe, for spiritual guidance in the second half of the 14th century. It was undoubtedly a popular text in its time, surviving today in over one hundred manuscripts. Authorship has often been ascribed to Richard Rolle of Hampole, a prolific 14th-century hermit and mystic, but modern scholarship has cast doubt over this assertion and has instead ascribed the work to a different and anonymous writer.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

English MSS 50 and 51 were purchased by the John Rylands Library from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch on 28 January 1919.

English MS 90 was purchased by the John Rylands Library from the London booksellers J. and J. Leighton on 6 July 1908.

Bibliography

Carleton Brown and Rossell Hope Robbins, The index of Middle English verse (New York: printed for the Index Society by Columbia University Press, 1943).

Richard Copsey, 'Maidstone, Richard (d. 1396)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/17803.

Richard Morris, The pricke of conscience (Stimulus conscientiae): a Northumbrian poem (Berlin: published for the Philological Society by A. Asher, 1863).

Entry for the Pricke of Conscience in the Online Companion to Middle English Literature at http://web.phil-fak.uni-duesseldorf.de/~holteir/companion/Navigation/Anonymous_Texts/Pricke_of_Conscience/pricke_of_conscience.html.