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Margery Kempe

Kempe, Margery (kĕmp) [key], d. 1438 or afterward, English religious writer, b. King's Lynn. She was the wife of a prominent citizen and the mother of 14 children. Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe (complete ed. 1940; ed. with modern spelling 1944), was known only in small excerpts until 1934, when the whole was discovered. She was a religious enthusiast whose loud weeping in church and reproof of her neighbors kept her in public disfavor. She traveled abroad as a pilgrim, and her work has rich details of the everyday life of her time. The narrative is occasionally interrupted with visions, prayers, and meditations, many of them of great beauty. The book may be the earliest autobiography in English. See mysticism.

See biographies by M. Thornton (1961) and L. Collis (1964); study by R. K. Stone (1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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