This early thirteenth-century West Midlands guide for women recluses is not only one of the major works of early Middle English prose, but is also a key document for the development of medieval spirituality. It reflects the 'democratization' of religious experience which was one of the outcomes of the 'Medieval Reformation'. Drawing on new kinds of pastoral literature designed to appeal to a more general audience, the insight, wit and charm of 'Ancrene Wisse' led to its adaptation for other readers, both religious and lay, and it continued in use until the end of the Middle Ages. This annotated translation, based on the text in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 402, incorporates the most recent research on 'Ancrene Wisse''s contemporary context and offers an accessible, up-to-date introduction for both scholars and students.
It is a text that all students of English Literature should read but which few could in its original language, making a good modern translation an essential to the work’s modern dissemination. Bella Millett’s new translation is extremely valuable for this reason alone, but it is an additional boon in being the fruit of many years’ research on the original Middle English manuscripts by the current leading scholar in the field of Ancrene Wisse studies. Such helpful tools, coupled with the very readable lucid prose in which the entire translation and commentary have been rendered will no doubt be greeted with thanks from the students and non-specialists whom this translation is meant to serve, as well as from the specialists who now have an exceptionally well done translation to use in their classrooms.
English Studies Vol. 92, No. 4