Introduction: Touching on the Past
A brief and provisional description, to be elaborated and documented
in the course of this book: "Lollards" - initially a term of disapprobation
that seems to have been picked up and used by the disapproved them-
selves-refers to followers of John Wyclif (c. 1330-84), philosopher and
theologian at Oxford. Wyclif was concerned with - among other things-
what he saw as the illegitimacy of the established church hierarchy and
clerical privilege, including the church's material holdings, clerical claims
to perform a miracle in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and deviations from
the will of God as it was expressed in the Bible. Certain of Wyclif's doc-
trines were condemned as heretical in 1382. From the 1380s through the
1390S Lollards were found in a relatively wide range of English society,
high and low; opposition consolidated against Lollardy during Richard II's
reign (1377-99) and the first Lollard was burned in 1401. The social level of
Lollardy in the fifteenth century became more decidedly nonaristocratic.
Note, too, that the term refers to dissenters whose ideas, though "born"
ofWyclif (as Anne Hudson puts it), were not necessarily entirely uniform
across the movement. For a capsule description, see The Concise Oxford
Dictionary ofthe Christian Church, ed. E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford
Univ. Press, 1977); for the standard scholarly work, see Anne Hudson,
The Premature Reformation: Wycliflite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford:
Clarendon, 1988), to whose rich scholarship I am deeply indebted.
Modern English translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.
John Mirk's Instructions for Parish Priests, ed. Gillis Kristensson (Lund:
Gleerup, 1974). This edition updates the 1868
edition by Edward Pea-
cock, revised by F. J. Furnivall in 1902
O.S. 31 [London: Kegan Paul,
Trench, Triibner, 1902]). My modern English translations are informed by
Kristensson's glosses. On the genre of religious instruction manuals in the
thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, see H. G. Pfander,"Some Medieval
Manuals ofReligious Instruction in England and Observations on Chaucer's
Parson's Tale," Journal ofEnglish and Germanic Philology 35