This book is a major interdisciplinary study of English sermons written in the late fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries - a body of texts currently attracting much attention both for their own interest, and for their value in helping us to understand an important historical period marked by rapid social and religious change. Relating the texts to their historical and cultural context, the author focuses on material recorded in English,
showing how the use of the vernacular to explore ideas hitherto expressed in Latin anticipated the better-known developments of the sixteenth century. Conservatives distrusted the sermonizers as popularizers of theology, and Dr Spencer pays close attention to the ways in which these writers' freedom of
expression was curbed by the Church's increasingly repressive attitude to reform. Drawing on the most up-to-date research, this detailed and original book uncovers - through an analysis of its sermons - the pluralism of the medieval English church which anti-heretical legislation and Reformed propaganda sought to deny.
'... this is a book with a wide scope and a great deal of interesting detail. This book will be a necessary tool for all those working on English sermons and no doubt for many others besides.'
Valerie Edden. Medieval Sermon Studies. Newletter 34. Autumn 1994
`There is much to be learnt here about the content and context of preaching:...The most convincing historical revisions still come from skilful work on manuscript sources, such as H. Leith Spencer's in this admirable book.'
The Times Literary Supplement
`...it is a major book, and a significant contribution to medieval English sermon studies.'
The English Historical review
`learned, exhaustive, and at times witty treatment of late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century sermons and English preaching...'
Religious Studies Review
`This book satisfies a real need. Not since G.R. Owst's pioneering efforts more than a half-century ago...has anyone attempted such a comprehensive survey of the field.'
The Journal of Religion
`Spencer has done us a real service by establishing the way these late fifteenth-century compilers used their often explosive heritage.'
`A major interdisciplinary study of English sermons written in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.'
The Medieval World
`One of the more disconserting virtues of H. Leith Spencer's remarkably thorough and original survey of late medieval English sermons is the author's ability to anticipate more or less every criticism that a reviewer might make of his laborious enterprise. This painstaking and highly systematic investigation of so large and complex a body of source material unquestionably places the study of the late medieval English sermon on a much more sophisticated
level than ever before ... magisterial ... As it was so large a part of a medieval preacher's duty `to hand on the teaching of the past', Leith Spencer deserves especial congratulations on his admirable success in taking up that challenge on behalf of late medieval preachers themselves.'
Barrie Dobson, Christ's College, Cambridge, Ecclesiastical History, Vol 47, No. 1 Jan '96
This book is a worthy posthumous tribute to what the author calls 'a remarkable constellation of great scholars'; the Oxford teachers who set the standards that she has followed and subsequently enhanced. There is not a stale word or phrase anywhere in this compellingly readable combination of meticulous scholarship, imaginative enquiry and, where appropriate, even jauntiness ... Her book will be of immeasurable and enduring value to the many scholars engaged
in the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study of medieval preaching and preachers ... The book is also of considerable relevance to the study of the contextual culture and sensibility of English medieval literature.
`important work ... an absorbing and subtle exercise in textual detective work, demonstrating the complex relationships among a number of collections that might seem superficially to have little in common. This is a splendid book. The felicity of its stylish, often witty prose is matched by the range and depth of its scholarship. The value of Spencer's work to students of the later Middle Ages in England cannot be overemphasized. Her meticulous and
wide-ranging researches ensure that this will be a standard work for a long time.'
A.S.G. Edwards, University of Victoria, Speculum - A Journal of Medieval Studies, July 1996
`this book is a major contribution not only to the study of medieval preaching but also to the literary and ecclesiastical history of late-medival England as a whole ... one of the handful of books that must be consulted for an idea of the late-medieval English church ... Next in merit to Spencer's breadth of approach is the sheer learning exhibited in this work ... although it seems unlikely that Spencer's book will convert many to the reading of these
sermons in extenso, she has made it possible for us to understand their social and intellectual dimensions.'
Richard W. Pfaff, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, American Historical Review, February 1996