Without the help of the British Academy and the Humanities Research Council whose award of leave in 1998 provided a year of full-time research, the present book would have remained impossible to complete, and I am very grateful for this support. A term's fellowship in 1995 at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, Canberra, and more recently a semester at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, have been crucial both for this and other work and are deeply appreciated.
The patience and skill of many librarians has been another sine qua non and I thank staff at the British Library, London; Bibliothèque Albert ier, Brussels; Cambridge University Library; Cardiff Public Library; the Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool; Nottingham University Library; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; St John's College, Cambridge; the Library of the Taylor Institute, Oxford; Trinity College, Cambridge. For the opportunity to see Anglo-Norman manuscripts at the Vatican I thank Professor Teresa Pàroli and the Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’.
A much-delayed book accumulates heavy debts to the patience and kindness as well as the scholarship of its friends and helpers. If the number and calibre of the people to whom I am indebted were of itself a guarantee of quality in writing, I would be happy indeed.
In francophone medieval studies I thank especially Elspeth Kennedy, Glyn Burgess, Simon Gaunt, and Sarah Kay, and, for their welcome into a field so largely created by their fine editions for the Anglo-Norman Text Society and their other scholarship, I thank Tony Hunt, Bill MacBain, Duncan Robertson, and Delbert Russell. Most particularly I am grateful to Ian Short, the doyen of Anglo-Norman studies: so rich a field can seldom have owed so much to one scholar, and his alertness to and constructive critique and support of Anglicist work in the area is a small but characteristically vigilant part of the wide range of scholarly activity inspired and improved, to say nothing of personally produced, by him. In some countries, one can imagine, such a scholar would be kept from bureaucratic burdens and treated as a national asset.
In Anglicist medieval studies, I thank Bella Millett for inimitable but inspiring scholarship and for much generosity in rigorous attention to and encouragement of others’ work. Alexandra Barratt's superb scholarship and pioneering retrieval of women's texts is equally inspiring. Geraldine Barnes, John Fletcher, Andrew Hamer, Lesley Johnson, David Mills, and Rosalynn Voaden have been exemplary scholars and critics and have provided long-enduring support and stimulus. I would also like to thank Margaret Clunies Ross, Margaret Harris, (p.viii) Diane Speed, and Jane Tibbetts Schulenberg, whose generous interest helped more than they may have realized. Sally Thompson's kindness and her remark that she first took her children to nunnery sites in pushchairs and that they were grown up before she finished her work has remained with me for many years. She and Virginia Blanton-Whetsall, Sarah Salih, Finn Sinclair, John Frankis, and Elisabeth van Houts have sent material, published and forthcoming, for which I warmly thank them.
I owe special debts to those who read and commented on the typescript: Helen Phillips and Tom Head generously took on particular chapters, giving the benefit respectively of a superb ear and prose style and inimitable hagiographic scholarship. Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay exchanged typescripts and ideas and my intellectual debts to them bulk large in these pages. To Nicholas Watson I remain profoundly grateful for longstanding and tireless intellectual support for the book, and above all for the insane but crucial generosity with which he gave up several precious days of an archival trip to pulling out supernumerary chapters and making the book writable (for its readability or otherwise I of course take responsibility).
I have had much skilful and kind help in preparing the typescript, and thank Gwen Jones, Elizabeth Wall, and Lillian Ashworth for bibliographical checking and indexing. Frances Whisder at Oxford University Press has shown saintly patience as well as kind and constructive professionalism, including arranging for me to have the privilege of Dorothy McCarthy's indispensably brilliant, patient, and supportive copy-editing. I am responsible for all remaining errors as I am for the many excised from the typescript by all these people in the limited periods for which I was able to leave it in their care.
Among many colleagues and friends I owe particular intellectual and personal debts to Ian Britain, Iain Bruce, the late Colette Murphy, Vera Morton, Penelope Pollitt, Catherine Rees, Anne Savage, Jean and Ian Shearman, Barbara Smith, Lorna Stevenson, Margarita Stocker, and more recently Mary Erler, Constance Hassett and Maryanne Kowaleski for encouragement, suggestions, and many other kinds of help. I thank Julia Bagguley, Julia and Simon Boyd, Francis Ryan, and Peter Woods for generous hospitality close to major research libraries. The opportunity to participate in the Strasbourg conferences on the History of Women and Christianity in Europe (1992–8) has been uniquely valuable and I am very grateful to all colleagues involved.
One of my very greatest debts is shared with many other similarly indebted people. Without Felicity Riddy's trenchant, sometimes fearsome, but always energizing interest in one's work, without her profound intellectual and personal generosity, her own brilliant interdisciplinary scholarship and most particularly her model of constructive ways to behave in a system under great stress, not only work but existence as an academic would often have seemed impossible in recent years. Many scholars have been sustained by her personal concern with their work and well-being, while her model of rigorous but inclusive scholarship and (p.ix) the newly alive, inquisitive, non-hierarchical social and institutional matrices she creates for its production have redefined what is possible and what to aim for.
Other supreme debts are acknowledged, with more gratitude than can adequately be expressed here, in the dedication.
Some paragraphs from Chapters 2 and 6 have appeared in ‘Re-Routing the Dower: The Anglo-Norman Life of St Audrey by Marie [of Chatteris?]’, in Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean (eds.), Power of the Weak: Studies on Medieval Women (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), and several in Chapter 1 have appeared in Sarah Kay and Miri Rubin (eds.), ‘Chaste Bodies: Frames and Experiences’, in Framing Medieval Bodies (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994). I thank the publishers for permission to re-use this material. Material from Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature by Janice A. Radway, copyright © 1984,1991 by the University of North Carolina Press, is used by permission of the publisher. The photographs of Saint Faith in Illustration 1 were taken by Marilyn Deegan as part of the large ongoing research project on this saint by Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn: I am deeply grateful for the generous readiness of all involved to allow their use for the different purpose to which they are put here. For permission to reproduce part of one of the Becket leaves as Illustration 2, I thank Sir Paul Getty, KBE, Wormsley Library, England, and for permission to reproduce the illustration from London, BL MS Additional 24686, f. 3r on the jacket, I am grateful to the British Library. I have modernized manuscript punctuation and word division for Anglo-Norman and transliterated Early Middle English wherever possible for ease of reading. Translations are my own unless otherwise acknowledged. Original text is quoted wherever possible, but in the interests of space, translations alone are used on occasion. (p.x)