Richard Methley (ca. 1450–1527/8), a Carthusian of Mount Grace, was the last great mystic before the English Reformation. Most of his prolific works are lost, but the treatises translated here display the same kind of experiential, affective, and ecstatic mysticism that is often labeled "feminine." Dating from the 1480s, they include a guide to contemplative prayer, a spiritual diary, and an unknown work on the discernment of spirits. Indebted to Richard Rolle and compared by one of his contemporaries to Margery Kempe, Methley will be an exciting discovery for students of late medieval religion.
Barbara Newman, professor of English and classics at Northwestern University, is a medievalist specializing in religious culture and writings by, for, and about medieval women. She has translated many Latin texts, including Hildegard of Bingen's Symphonia, the collected saints' Lives of Thomas of Cantimpré, The Life of Juliana of Cornillon, the Epistolae duorum amantium (probably by Abelard and Heloise), and Mechthild of Hackeborn's Liber specialis gratiae, as well as Frauenlob's Marienleich from the Middle High German.
Laura Saetveit Miles is associate professor of British literature and culture in the Department of Foreign Languages, University of Bergen, Norway. She has published on the Virgin Mary in medieval religious culture, including her monograph The Virgin Mary's Book at the Annunciation: Reading, Interpretation, and Devotion in Medieval England (D.S. Brewer, 2020). Other research interests include medieval women's writing, anchoritic texts, visionary and contemplative genres, and monastic literary traditions, specifically the Carthusian and Birgittine Orders. Currently she is working on a large project exploring Birgitta of Sweden's influence in late medieval England, funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
“This lucid new translation of the writings of Richard Methley offers an intoxicating, not to say spiritually inebriated account of his search for union with God. An assiduous reader and translator of earlier contemplative texts, he blends together the languor of Richard Rolle, the apophatic austerity of the Cloud-author, the theological intensity of Heinrich Suso and the devotio moderna, and the liquefying ardour of Marguerite Porete. The resulting synthesis produces a new, urgently prophetic voice of meltingly eloquent spiritual longing existing in transcendent tension with the structures of his daily life as a Carthusian.”
Vincent Gillespie, J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English, University of Oxford
“Barbara Newman's translation of Richard Methley’s original Latin and Middle English works brings this important but little-known mystical writer to wider attention. Compared to Margery Kempe by the ‘red-ink annotator’ of her Book, Methley offers essential perspective on late-medieval Carthusian spirituality, affective devotion, and visionary experience—all helpfully contextualized here in an introduction by Laura Saetveit Miles. Scholars of late-medieval religion will be grateful for this excellent and essential volume.”
Jessica Brantley, Professor of English, Yale University
“Newman and Miles have set the table for an affective mystical feast! Laden with elaborate metaphor and devout hyperbole, the works of Richard Methley translated here offer an extraordinarily intimate perspective on late-medieval Carthusian mysticism in England.”
Steven Rozenski, University of Rochester, New York
“This book makes available in modern English one of the most significant contributions to the contemplative tradition of fifteenth-century England. By fusing in such a sophisticated way the apophatic and the cataphatic approaches to the contemplative life as part of his experience, Methley’s writings challenge our contemporary desire for categorization and division. The excellent translations by Barbara Newman bring to light the daily mystical experiences and the pastoral concerns of a Carthusian monk following a strict monastic life. Her notes and the outstanding general introduction by Laura Saetveit Miles provide a wealth of information about the rich religious tradition from which Methley’s corpus emerged.”
Denis Renevey, Professor of Medieval English Language and Literature, University of Lausanne