Medieval Studies Nicholas Love
by
Michael G. Sargent
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0015

Introduction

Nicholas Love, prior of the Carthusian house of Mount Grace, in Yorkshire, 1410–1423, produced The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, a translation of the Meditationes vitae Christi, probably by an Italian Franciscan named Johannes de Caulibus but regularly attributed to St. Bonaventure. The earliest version of the Mirror was probably composed c. 1400, but the “original copy” of the book was said to have been submitted to Thomas Arundel, the archbishop of Canterbury, c. 1410 for approval before it was more widely circulated. The reason for this is that the Lambeth Constitutions of 1409 required, as part of an attempt to control Wycliffite translation of the Bible, that any new translations of biblical material of any kind be submitted to diocesan authority. The Constitutions failed in their intention—the Wycliffite Bible versions survive in many more manuscripts than any other writing in Middle English—but Love’s Mirror, which contained a number of anti-Wycliffite defenses of orthodox theological positions, itself came to be widely circulated. The prominence of the Mirror among surviving works of late-medieval English spirituality has led to its being considered as a focal work in the history of vernacular theology.

Biographies

Love was prior of the Carthusian monastery of Mount Grace, near Northallerton in Yorkshire, from 1410 until shortly before his death on 15 March 1423 (Smith 2006, Smith 2008). Prior to that, he is reported to have been a Benedictine monk, possibly, according to Falls 2010, at Freiston, a cell of Croyland Abbey in Lincolnshire. Mount Grace had been founded in 1397 by Thomas Holland, duke of Surrey, a nephew and supporter of King Richard II. When the king was deposed, and Henry IV was crowned in his stead at Christmas in 1400, Holland and his uncle, John Holland, formerly the duke of Exeter, led an abortive attempt to assassinate the king, for which they were executed. The new Carthusian foundation languished for several years, until Love, the fourth “rector” of the unincorporated house, was able to transfer its allegiance to the Lancastrian party, in large part by submitting his Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ to Archbishop Thomas Arundel for use in his campaign against Wycliffism, a submission that was accompanied by a grant to Arundel of confraternity in Mount Grace (c. January 1409/1410). At that point, Arundel and Thomas Beaufort, duke of Exeter (a younger brother of Henry IV), took up the patronage of the house, and it was formally incorporated into the Carthusian Order in May 1410. According to the Croyland Chronicle, Love was later the instigator of the extraordinary convocation of the Benedictine Order in England called by King Henry V in May 1421, at which the king’s representatives (Love prominent among them) presented the monks with a list of disciplinary abuses on which they needed reformation. In the event, the negotiators nominated by the Benedictine convocation proposed their own, much less stringent, list of proposals for reform. Beckett 2008 is generally a good overview; Hughes 1988 is tendentious and unreliable.

  • Beckett, W. N. M. “Nicholas Love (d. 1423/4).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004.

    E-mail Citation »

    Generally accurate, although it should be noted that the assertion that Love was possibly an Augustinian friar before becoming a Carthusian at Mount Grace repeats from earlier scholarship and is based on a bibliographic error.

  • Falls, David J. “Reading Prior to Translating: A Possible Latin Exemplar for Nicholas Love’s Myrrour of the Blessed Lyf of Jesu Christ.” Notes and Queries 57.3 (2010): 313–315.

    DOI: 10.1093/notesj/gjq059E-mail Citation »

    Lays out the evidence that Nicholas Love may have been a Benedictine at Freiston, a cell of Croyland Abbey, before becoming rector and then prior of Mount Grace. Available online through purchase.

  • Hughes, Jonathan. Pastors and Visionaries: Religion and Secular Life in Late Medieval Yorkshire. Woodbridge, UK, and Wolfeboro, NH: Boydell, 1988.

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    Love is discussed throughout this historical survey, but often erroneously. In particular: Love is not known to have had any connection with Archbishop Thomas Arundel’s circle of ecclesiastical administrators in York (1388–1397); there is no evidence that Love was in contact with Arundel, as archbishop of Canterbury, before 1410; and Love did not compose his Mirror with the intention of influencing the York plays.

  • Smith, David M. “The Phantom Prior of Mount Grace.” Monastic Research Bulletin 12 (2006): 37–39.

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    Proves that the description of Robert Layton, rector of Crofton, as prior of Mount Grace, succeeding Nicholas Love c. 1421, is a bibliographic error; Love was prior until his death in 1423.

  • Smith, David M., ed. The Heads of Religious Houses, England and Wales: III, 1377–1540. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511495649E-mail Citation »

    The list of historically identifiable priors of Mount Grace Charterhouse is on pp. 361–362; the references to Nicholas Love are on p. 362.

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