- The Doctrine of the Hert: A Critical Edition with Introduction and Commentaryby Christiania Whitehead, Denis Renevey, and Anne Mouron, and: A Companion to “The Doctrine of the Hert”: The Middle English Translation and Its Latin and European Contextsby Denis Renevey and Christiania Whitehead
According to the Psalmist, the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” For the Middle English author (or, as he styles himself, compiler) of The Doctrine of the Hert, quoting Gregory the Great by way of his Latin intermediary, “Þer is noþing so flittyng as is þe hert” (81). Little surprise, then, that a substantial program of textual discipline would be necessary to keep this flighty organ in order. Or, considered another way—as the seat of the emotions and the storehouse of the memory—it should be unsurprising to find the heart turned into a literary catchall, a structuring device allowing for the rehearsal of a wide range of medieval devotional literature’s most vivid images and motifs.
Both of these aspects of the heart inform the early fifteenth-century Middle English text edited by Christiania Whitehead, Denis Renevey, and Anne Mouron. The heart must be disciplined in seven stages, constituting [End Page 238]the book’s seven chapters: it is prepared, preserved, opened, kept stable, given, lifted up, and, finally, cut. Within each of these chapters, the text’s imaginative discipline takes the form of a series of devotional commonplaces: the heart is prepared, for example, as a house for a guest, as meat for a meal, and as a spouse for her husband. Owing to such imagistic capaciousness, therefore, though it only survives in four manuscripts, the Doctrineoffers important insight into the devotional scene of England in the age of Chichele and Henry VI. The editorial work undertaken by Whitehead, Renevey, and Mouron, together with the valuable essays collected in the edition’s Companionvolume, should ensure this text’s place in subsequent criticism of Middle English religious literature.
One of the greatest strengths of the edition and essay collection as a set is their extensive cross-referencing. The reader should begin with the introduction in the edition, which provides, in small, discussion of essential points that are then treated at greater length in the Companion’s essays—and the links between the two are indicated throughout the notes. Thus the edition’s introduction starts with a discussion of the De Doctrina Cordis, the thirteenth-century Latin text adapted and abridged by the later Middle English compiler, and in the Companionone finds essays on the authorship of the De Doctrina(Nigel Palmer) and on its various generic affiliations (Whitehead). Likewise, the introduction’s short discussion of the different translations of the De Doctrinainto Continental vernaculars (xvii–xx) is expanded in the Companionwith a series of essays on the French (Mouron), Dutch (Marleen Cré), German (Karl-Heinz Steinmetz), and Spanish (Anthony John Lappin) versions of the text. As noted in the edition’s introduction (xvii n. 24), only discussion of the Italian translation is lacking.
While essays on its source and its analogues in other vernaculars provide useful context, the focus of the Companionand edition is, clearly, the Middle English translation. In the Companionvolume, the Doctrineis the subject of a core group of four essays. Mouron demonstrates that, rather than being a close translation of the De Doctrina, or even a close translation of an abridgment of the Latin text, the Doctrineis best considered an adaptation on the model of Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Yet, if the compiler has freely adapted the Latin text...