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Convent AutobiographyEarly Modern English Nuns in Exile$
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Victoria Van Hyning

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266571

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266571.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

The Prioresses’ Tales

The Prioresses’ Tales

(p.213) 5 The Prioresses’ Tales
Convent Autobiography

Victoria Van Hyning

British Academy

This chapter examines how Prioresses could tightly control chronicle and governance literature in their lifetime, subjugating history to their own views, and yet how vulnerable these strategies were after their death. Prioress Lucy Herbert is the most versatile and prolific author studied here, and the most controversial. Through a combination of wealth, status, acumen, treachery, and determination, Herbert acquired property, extended the convent and school, transformed the nuns’ garments and sung Office, changed the school governance literature, and consolidated the power of the Prioress. Her voluminous anonymous manuscript output includes governance literature and a long stint in the ‘Chronicles of Nazareth’, all of which attest to her focus on benefactors, the convent’s reputation, and strengthening the power of the Prioress. Herbert’s focus on benefaction, and her printed works, can be partly credited with the convent’s survival in Bruges to this day. Case studies of Herbert’s successors, Prioresses Mary Olivia Darell and Mary Augustina More, explore how Herbert’s exploitation of anonymous subsumed autobiography in the chronicle and governance literature, her printed works, and cultivation of benefactors had lasting consequences for chronicling and governance practices at Nazareth. Darell and More’s responses to Herbert’s legacy expose the limits of anonymous and subsumed autobiography.

Keywords:   chronicle, anonymity, manuscripts, benefaction, governance, legacy

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