Title Background

William Langland’s Lollardy.

William Langland’s Lollardy.

Almost all studies of the polemical contexts surrounding the origin of the word “lollard” are also studies of PPl. The essay builds on Cole’s other piece on this subject (no. 5) discovering “further fictions of origination” of “lollardy” (26) by proceeding from the assumption that Wycliffism and “lollardy” must be considered as separate things. The essay considers the following texts: an anonymous Wycliffite tract (no. 12) in Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.6.26, John Clanvowe’s The Two Ways, the Fyue Wyttes, the Epistola Sathanae ad Cleros, and the C version of PPl. If one moves away from the orthodox back-formations linking “lollardy” to Wycliffism at the point of its condemnation in 1382, then from the analysis of these texts, the former emerges as a generically consistent, “lay oriented version of virtuous poverty and Christian discipleship” (28)—a consistency that can be seen across the range of Wycliffite, orthodox, and neutral writings exemplified by the texts chosen here. In his discussion of PPl, Cole suggests that the “lunatyk lollares” of C.9, distinct from the “lewd lollares and hermits,” should be read in conjunction with other positive models of poverty such as the “poor pacient” (C.9.178) and desert fathers (C.9.196– 203), all of whom form part of L’s inclusive, theoretical model of virtuous, lay poverty, a “new vision . . .necessary to all” (49). The essay presents two conclusions: first, that while orthodoxy tried to use anti-fraternal rhetoric to proscribe “lollardy,” Wycliffites and authors interested in “‘lollard’ genres,” such as L and the others considered here, wanted to break the link between antifraternalism and lollardy; and second, that “‘lollardy’ is not always Wycliffism,” and is, therefore, generically available to non-Wycliffite writers (51).


YLS 17 (2003): 25–54.


Cole, Andrew.