Skip to main content
Select Source:

Kempe, Margery

Kempe, Margery (c.1373–c.1440). The manuscript of her memories, which she had dictated in the later years of her life, was discovered in 1934, first published in 1947, and is now considered to be the earliest English autobiography. After the birth of her first child, Kempe, daughter of a prosperous burgess of King's Lynn (Norfolk), suffered a spiritual crisis and was subsequently redeemed by a vision of Christ. In later life she became deeply religious and undertook many pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, and Santiago de Compostella, amongst others. Her devotion manifested itself in excessive lamentation, for which she was ridiculed and imprisoned, and even denounced as a heretic, ‘for some said that she had a devil within her’. A mystic of remarkable courage, she is often likened to Julian of Norwich, whom she knew. Her story inspired admiration and pity for all she suffered in her search for God.

Sandra M. Dunkin

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kempe, Margery

Margery Kempe (kĕmp), d. 1438 or afterward, English religious writer, b. King's Lynn. She was the wife of a prominent citizen and the mother of 14 children. Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe (complete ed. 1940; ed. with modern spelling 1944), was known only in small excerpts until 1934, when the whole was discovered. She was a religious enthusiast whose loud weeping in church and reproof of her neighbors kept her in public disfavor. She traveled abroad as a pilgrim, and her work has rich details of the everyday life of her time. The narrative is occasionally interrupted with visions, prayers, and meditations, many of them of great beauty. The book may be the earliest autobiography in English. See mysticism.

See biographies by M. Thornton (1961) and L. Collis (1964); study by R. K. Stone (1970).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kempe, Margery

Kempe, Margery (c.1373–after 1433). Author of the Book of Margery Kempe. Born in Lynn, Norfolk, she married young and had fourteen children, but was increasingly drawn to a deeper religious experience. In 1413 she and her husband took vows of chastity. Sharply critical of contemporary religious corruption, she went on pilgrimage and also visited Julian of Norwich. Her life, as revealed in her Book, became one of an imaginatively close relationship to Christ, her heavenly spouse, expressed in visions and highly emotional (some say disordered) devotion, and also in auditions.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kempe, Margery

KEMPE, MARGERY

KEMPE, MARGERY (c. 1373c.1440), English pilgrim, autobiographer, and professional holy woman. Kempe was the daughter of a prosperous merchant of King's Lynn, England. Although happily married, she tended to have hysterical fits during which God spoke to her. At about the age of forty, having had fourteen children, she persuaded her husband that God wished them to take a vow of chastity. By this time the Deity was conversing agreeably with her nearly every day. Her meditations tended to concentrate on the Passion and to bring on wild lamentations, uncontrollable floods of tears, and rollings on the ground. These were widely acceptable signs of grace in the Middle Ages, but there were always some who declared her a fraud. Such charges were dangerous, as they several times led to her arrest as a heretic and a narrow escape from burning. For about twenty-five years, Kempe was a perpetual pilgrim, visiting not only every shrine in England but also the Holy Land, Rome, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and various northern German centers, gradually establishing a reputation as a prophetess and seer among the less learned.

Kempe's importance for history lies in her autobiography, the first in English, a book intended for the edification of nuns. Although full of moralizing and sermons, it has a saving shrewdness and interest in the world. In the course of her travels, Kempe had numerous alarming encounters and met a host of people, from the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the holy Julian of Norwich, and innumerable friars to a wide range of fellow pilgrims and lesser government officials. It was her wish to write a mystical treatise, such as the famous Cloud of Unknowing, but what she did, in her autobiography, was to lay the fifteenth-century world before the reader in all its violence and piety; its blend of the spiritual and the venal, ignorance and learning, feudalism, democracy, and petty officialdom; its magnificence and utter filth. Here is the authentic background to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. No other medieval document enables one so clearly to realize what it was actually like for a humble pilgrim to live and to travel in fifteenth-century Europe.

Bibliography

The Book of Margery Kempe, edited by Hope E. Allen and Sanford B. Meech (London, 1940), is the text dictated by Kempe to a priest about 1438, in the original spelling and fully annotated. The narrative is confused in many places, and the reader will be greatly assisted by the only modern study, Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe, by Louise Collis (New York, 1964), also published under the title The Apprentice Saint (London, 1964). This biography places Kempe's adventures in their proper historical perspective, relating them to the wider political, social, and religious issues of the day.

Louise Collis (1987)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kempe, Margery

KEMPE, MARGERY

English mystic and author of The Book of Margery Kempe, the oldest extant autobiography in English; b. Lynn, Norfolk, c. 1373; d. sometime after 1439. The daughter of John Brunham, who was five times mayor of Lynn, she married John Kempe, burgess, in 1393. Vain and ambitious, she tried to support her extravagances by trade, first by brewing, then by a horsemill. The failure of both undertakings, together with an attack of madness suffered after the birth of her first child, turned her gradually to prayer and penance. The madness, which did not recur, was cured, she tells us, by a vision of Christ seated on her bed and saying: "Dowtyr why hast thou forsakyn me and I forsoke never the."

In 1413, having borne her husband 14 children, she separated from him by mutual consent, to live a religious life in the world. Soon after, having visited many English shrines and holy persons (among them Julian of Norwich), she set out for the Holy Land. On her return journey she spent six months in Italy (141415), where she was better understood than among the English pilgrims, who did not appreciate her unusual vocation"boystrous" crying, exclusively religious conversation, and rebuke of her neighbors' faults. Throughout her life she suffered taunts of Lollardy that occasionally developed into formal accusations. In 141718 she visited Santiago de Compostela. In 1425 she returned to Lynn to nurse her husband until his death in 1431. Thereafter, she traveled to Norway and Danzig (143334).

Unable to write herself, she had set down by the aid of two clerks, c. 143138, a vivid and frank account of her travels, temptations, mystical experiences, and deep compassion for sinners. Her book, known only in extracts till 1934, when a manuscript was discovered in the Butler-Bowden family, has undoubted value as a literary and human document, and as a picture of medieval life. Margery herself remains a controversial figure: by some considered a victim of religious mania; by others, a genuine mystic.

Bibliography: The Book of Margery Kempe, critical ed. s. b. meech and h. e. allen (Early English Text Society 212; 1940); modernized version ed. w. butler-bowdon (New York 1944). e.i. watkin, "In Defense of Margery Kempe," Poets and Mystics (New York 1953) 104135. d. knowles, "Margery Kempe," The English Mystical Tradition (New York 1961) 138150. l. collis, Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe (New York 1983).

[m. n. maltman]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Kempe, Margery

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kempe, Margery." Feminism in Literature: A Gale Critical Companion. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kempe, Margery." Feminism in Literature: A Gale Critical Companion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

"Kempe, Margery." Feminism in Literature: A Gale Critical Companion. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kempe-margery

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.