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HOPE EMILY ALLEN—A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE FREDERIC G. CASSIDY The recent publication of Hope Emily Allen: Medieval Scholarship and Feminism by John C. Hirsh (Norman, OK: Pilgrim, 1988) revives interest in an American scholar of the first third of our century. Allen (1883-1960) is primarily remembered as a medievalist and within that field is famous for her discovery of the manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe. In 1931, however, she ventured forth in the postmedieval world and joined the staff of the Early Modern English Dictionary, then in progress in Ann Arbor under the direction of Charles C. Fries. That fall, Frederic G. Cassidy arrived as a graduate student and, as he writes in the reminiscence below, they became friends. R. W. B. Two distinct dictionaries were being compiled at the University of Michigan in 1931, when I went to Ann Arbor to begin graduate study: the Middle English Dictionary (M.E.D.) under Samuel Moore and the Early Modern English Dictionary (E.M.E.D.) under Charles C. Fries. In those deep days of the Great Depression, I was fortunate to have a simple clerical job on the staff of the latter, of which Hope Emily Allen became an editor in the same year [according to Hirsh 99]. The two dictionaries shared offices at the top of Angell Hall, but with a corridor between that suggested something more than a chronological difference in the language periods they covered. On the Middle English side were Sanford Meech, Harold Whitehall, and James Rettger, juniors but editors; on the EMED side was a largely student staff doing cuttingand -pasting jobs, preparing files, the only senior editor being 149 150Frederic G. Cassidy Dr. Hereward T. Price, formerly of the Oxford Dictionary staff. Professors Moore and Fries, both teaching, had their personal offices in the lower regions, but they appeared occasionally in our eyrie to observe and encourage. The arrival of Hope Emily, who became "Miss Allen" to us all—for she did not fuss with titles or rank beyond the requirements of simple politeness—came in as something unexpected . There were few women medievalists those days, at least in America, and certainly few who had made the kind of discovery that Hope Emily had done with the Book of Margery Kempe. This lent her an ambience of excitement which we students felt though yet unable to assess it. Miss Allen came to our 4:30 tea breaks from time to time. I remember her as a vivacious person altogether given to the scholarship in hand, pleasant with our staff and with students generally, some of whom sought her out, but always seeming to soar above us—as she had every right to do. We were not always able to appreciate the under-depth of Miss Allen's enthusiasms. As a budding etymologist I think I did better than most . At one point in her study of mysticism while editing the Book of Margery Kempe she became fascinated with the word bug and its many folkloric ramifications . The bogle, the bogey, boggart, bugbear, all "spiritual" creatures associated with the Devil, attacking people, frightening some literally to death, or as scarecrows frightening birds from the fields, all became subjects of question, discussion , speculation. She tracked down the phrase to put a bug in one's ear, or a flea, meaning to give a secret hint for one's good; and that led to the whole matter of familiar spirits , which in turn led to the word fly, another familiar spirit, and the senses of bug and fly as spies. (This was in the days before development of electronic spying, with bugs installed in buildings to pick up information secretly, also before the bugs that get into computer programs and mess them up.) Hope Emily Allen151 One discovery that took her directly back to childhood was the use of booger for dried nasal mucus (my nursery word was bugaboo), which led further to the belief of diabolic involvement with all bodily exudations—why people respond to a sneeze with exclamations "God bless you!" or "Gesundheit " or Salut or, in the Southeastern United States "Scat!" to drive the Devil away. The indelicacy of some of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 149-151
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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