The prologe of the translatour of this lytell treatyse in the seconde boke.

stanza 1

1Now whan we consyder / with mynde dylygent
The merueylous maners / & synguler condycion
Of the comyn people 1 / symple and neclygent,
Whiche without lytterature / and good informacyon
Ben lyke to Brute beestes / as in comparyson,
Rude / wylde / and boystous / by a prouerbe, certan,
'Good maners and conynge / maken a man'. 2

stanza 2

8 Saynt Paule sayth / shewynge to the Romans 3
How all thynge wryten / in holy scrypture
Is wryten for our doctryne / and ghostly ordynans , 4
For our great conforte / and endeles pleasure.
All thynge is knowen playnly / by lytterature,
Morall vertues / be noted by it full playne
From vyce and neclygence / to abstayne, certayne.

stanza 3

15 What were mankynde / without lytterature? 5
Full lytel worthy / blynded by ignoraunce.
The way to heuen it declareth ryght sure
Thrugh perfyte lyuynge / and good perseueraunce;
By it we may be taught / for to do penaunce
Whan we transgresse / our lordes commaundyment;
It is a swete cordyall / for mannes entent.

stanza 4

22How shulde the seuen / scyences lyberall 6
Haue ben preserued / vnto this day,
The wysdome / of the phylosophers all,
But alone by lernynge / it is no nay.
The notable actes / of our fathers, I say,
(yf litterature were nat) myght nat nowe be tolde,
Nor auncient histories and cronycles olde.

stanza 5

29 The lawe of ciuile / and of holy canon 7
By study be preferred with moche honour
To execute iustice / and for due reformacion;
The most blessed doctrine of our sauiour,
The actis of the apostoles / with the doctours four ,
Be preserued by wrytyng / and put in memorie,
With the lyues of saintes many a noble storie.

stanza 6

36Of whiche histories 8 we purpose speciall
To speke of saint Werburge / vnder your protection, 9
Declaryng the ende of her lyfe historiall
As we haue begon / and made playne mencion
In the fyrst volume by breue compliacion, 10
There playnly descriuyng her liniall discens
Of .iiii. myghty kyngdomes by true experience; 11

stanza 7

43Also we haue shewed in the sayd littell boke
Her goodly maners / and vertuous disposicion
Of her yonge age / who-so lyst theron to loke;
And howe her bretherne suffred martyrdome; 12
Of her fathers realme a litell discripcion:
Howe she was professed in the place of Ely; 13
Of her conuersacion within the sayd monastery;

stanza 8

50After for her vertue / howe she was made abbasse
Of diuers monasteries, 14 flouryng in vertue;
And of the great miracles whiche there done was
For her great charite / by the grace of Iesu;
Howe diuers of her kynrede dyd clerely exchewe
All wordly pleasures and honours transetory,
Professyng obedience at the place of Ely;


Bradshaw's use of the terms 'comyn people' here may imply a specific allusion to the medieval social theory of the 'three estates': church, nobility and 'commoners'. Bradshaw defines the commoners by their lack of access to literature and learning - and thus to good manners and refined behaviour. For a discussion of the 'three estates' in medieval social ideology and literature, see Mohl, 1962 and 'Medieval Estates and Orders: Making and Breaking Rules: An Overview', Norton Topics Online. Back to context...
Variants of the phrase 'manners make the man' occur in a range of Middle English texts, including the Proverbs of Wisdom or Wise Man's Proverbs. See Schleich, 1927, 222. Back to context...
Romans 15:4 Back to context...
Ultimately deriving from Paul's Letter to the Romans, the assertion that 'all is written for our doctrine' is a commonplace in later medieval English literature. See for example Chaucer's Retractions to The Canterbury Tales or Caxton's Preface to Malory's Morte Darthur See Benson, 1988, 328 and Vinaver, 1971, xv. Back to context...
Christopher Cannon has commented on the innovative use of the term 'lytterature' here, and the role of Bradshaw's discussion in establishing a new 'category of literature'. See Cannon, 2008, 150-1 and Cannon, 2002, 321 and 345-7. Back to context...
The seven liberal arts were the combined disciplines of the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric, logic) and Quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, music, astronomy) as taught in the medieval university, and formed the basis of medieval knowledge and learning. See Rait, 1912, or for a more detailed discussion Wagner, 1983. Back to context...
Bradshaw makes a basic distinction between civil (secular) law and ecclesiastical or ecclesiastical-influenced (canon) law). For an introduction to different systems of law in the Middle Ages, see 'Illuminating the Law: Legal Manuscripts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge' . Back to context...
Bradshaw locates his Life of St Werburge within the category of hagiography or saints' lives. Back to context...
In this line Bradshaw addresses the reader directly. See also below, line 57, line 64, and line 72. Back to context...
The term 'compilacion' draws attention to the nature of the text as an assimilation of earlier sources relating to the life of St Werburgh. See similarly 'compilacion' below, line 86, and 'abstract', line 65. Back to context...
See Goscelin, Life of St Wærburh, Ch. 1. (Love, 2004, 30-1.) Back to context...
See for example Book I, lines 1982-2275 (Horstmann or via Literature Online - subscription only) and Goscelin, Life of St Wærburh, Ch. 1, pp. 28-33. Back to context...
Following his sources, Bradshaw tells us that Werburgh entered the monastic life at Ely. See Book I, lines 1485-1547 (Horstmann, 1887 or via Literature Online - subscription only) and Goscelin, Life of St Wærburh, Ch. 2 (Love, 2004, 34-7). Back to context...
Werburgh was abbess at Weedon, Trentham, Hanbury, Minster in Sheppey and Ely. See Book I, lines 1982-2611 (Horstmann or via Literature Online - subscription only) Back to context...