Lollards

A Fuller picture of the Lollards

 


U 9.783-6: The christian laws which built up the hoards of the jews (for whom, as for the lollards, storm was shelter) bound their affections too with hoops of steel


Reading or browsing through his copy of the Rev. William Henry Summers’s Lollards of the Chiltern Hills: Glimpses of English Dissent in the Middle Ages (London: 1906), Joyce’s eye apparently fell on the following paragraph, which deals with the Lollards’ fate in the mid fifteenth century:

One reason for the cessation of persecution referred to in the last chapter was probably the growing weakness of the House of Lancaster. The losses in France, the rebellion of Cade in 1450 (when there is no mention of religious grievances), and above all the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses in 1455, might all tend to make its supporters feel it impolitic to add to the number of its enemies. As Fuller beautifully says of the Lollards, "The very storm was their shelter".1

     Thomas Fuller was an English churchman and historian of the seventeenth century. He is best remembered today as the author of “Fuller’s Worthies”, The Worthies of England, published posthumously in 1662. His original version of the passage from the Church-history of 1655 reads:

Indeed now the sound of all bells in the steeples was drowned with the noise of Drums and Trumpets: And yet this good was done by the Civil Wars, it diverted the Prelates from troubling the Lollards; so that this very storme was a shelter to those poor souls, and the heat of these intestine enmities, cooled the persecution against them.2

     Joyce may also have found the expression limbo patrum (literally the “Limbo of the Patriarchs”) in Summers’s book rather than in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, where its slang meaning “prison” does not fit the context in the Scylla and Charybdis episode:

Who is the ghost from limbo patrum [purgatory], returning to the world that has forgotten him? (U 9.150)

     Summers quotes one John Ryburn as saying to his sister:

"God never made such fasting days," said John; "but you are so far in limbo patrum that you can never turn again."3


Harald Beck



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1 William Henry Summers, The Lollards of the Chiltern Hills: Glimpses of English Dissent in the Middle Ages (London: 1906), ch. 7 p. 65. The book is one of those found in Joyce’s Trieste library. Summers was born in 1850 and died in 1906.
2 Thomas Fuller, The Church-history of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year M.DC.XLVIII (London: 1655), Century 15, book 4, p. 190.
3 William Henry Summers, The Lollards of the Chiltern Hills: Glimpses of English Dissent in the Middle Ages (London: 1906), ch. 15, p. 147. Summers is citing Foxe’s Actes and Monuments (1583), K. Henry 8, p. 984.