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St. Patrick's Purgatory: Two Versions of 'Owayne Miles' and 'The Vision of William of Stranton' Together with the Long Text of the 'Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii.'

Ed. by Robert Easting, Early English Text Society, Original Series, 298 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the EETS, 1991). xciii + 338 pp. ISBN 019-722300-1. 25.00[pounds].

This volume contains editions of all the major Middle English accounts of visions at St Patrick's Purgatory with the exception of the earliest (which exists in the section on |St Patrick' in The South English Legendary). As each text was previously edited individually (either in its entirety or selectively) at the turn of the century, this volume not only brings these texts together but also provides the reader with a modern apparatus criticus. It also contains the first edited text of the version of the Latin Tractatus from which both texts of Owayne Miles ultimately derive.

This edition is furnished with an extensive and helpful commentary and bibliography. As well as providing a careful examination of the language of each text, Easting includes a detailed analysis of each manuscript in which these visions occur, hightlighting any generic similarities between its contents (as on p. xxxvii) or conjecturing on why a disparity in themes exists (as on p. xxx). However, although this edition is of undoubted value, many readers might be frustrated by the crabwise procedures of the Introduction. For example, an examination of the relationship between the two Middle English texts and the Latin Tractatus precedes the introductory discussion of the Tractatus, even though Easting cites the latter as the source-text for Owayne Miles and for a text which influenced some parts of The Vision of William of Stranton.

The emphasis and direction of the Introduction would have been more helpful to the reader seeking a closer acquaintance with this type of vision literature if there were fuller discussion of the literary background. Such material is mainly provided in footnoted references to critical works: for example, page xviii contains only six bibliographical references. Although these are very helpful, they do not convey much sense of an overview to the reader not already familiar with such material. However, the interested reader will find much useful elucidation in the extensive commentary, in which Easting frequently indicates the iconographic and literary context of each vision. This edition makes considerable demands of the user, but the quality of its content ensures that perseverance will be rewarded.
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Author:Brown, Deirdre Kessel
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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