Example to the Soulehele: John Audelay the Vernon Manuscript, the Vernon Manuscript, and the Defense of Orthodoxy
This article this article pieces together and assesses clues that may point to a link between the fifteenth-century poet John Audelay’s compendium of religious texts, The Counsel of Conscience, and the Vernon MS, which includes PPl A inside its covers. The title Counsel of Conscience might derive from PPl A.10.91, and ‘bears a likeness to the famed bilingual title of Vernon: Soulehele / Salus anime’ (p. 183). While a number of critics have read Audelay ‘in the trailing light of L’, this essay argues for a tempering of such an approach. The stylistic differences between the two poets ought not be minimized. Other recoverable literary, theological, and codicological affinities are with, for instance, Mirk and Lydgate. Most interesting for gaining a sense of Audelay’s originality are those works that have no analogues or known sources: the Vernon MS quite plausibly offered Audelay ‘a tangible model for his own accomplishment in vernacular making, translating, extracting, and compiling’ (p. 193). The essay concludes with an examination of the poet’s use of the term ‘soulehele’: ‘Audelay’s making of The Counsel of Conscience and his concluding it with an anti-Lollard, heretic-confounding trinitarian theology of soulehele may—even at its later moment in history—bring us to a better understanding of the Vernon manuscript’s expansive title. We may glimpse, that is, how the clerical “Salus anime” delivered as vernacular “Soulehele” to an English laity was meant to erect an impregnable textual/spiritual fortress in defense of Holy Church’ (p. 202).
Chaucer Review, 46 (2011), 182-202.