Thomas Bestul teaches courses in medieval literature. His research interests include Chaucer, Anselm of Canterbury, devotional literature in Latin and English 1100-1500, and medieval theories of meditation. Recent books include the first Middle English edition of Walter Hilton's Scale Of Perfection; an anthology of Middle English and Anglo-Norman devotional writing; and a monograph, Texts Of The Passion: Latin Devotional Writing And Medieval Society. He is at work on an edition of the meditative commentaries of Alexander Nequam (d. 1217), and a larger project on popular religious writing of the fifteenth century. He is the moderator of Chaucernet, an international electronic discussion group.
The Scale of Perfectionby Walter Hilton, Illtyd Trethowan
Walter Hilton's The Scale of Perfection maintains a secure place among the major religious treatises composed in fourteenth-century England. This guide to the contemplative life, written in two books of more than 40,000 words each, is notable for its careful explorations of its religious themes and also as a monument of Middle English prose. Its popularity is attested by the fact that some forty-two manuscripts containing one or both of the books survive, with a relatively large number of manuscipts with Book I alone, which suggests it may have been the more popular of the two. Hilton (born c. 1343) was a member of the religious order known as the Augustinian Canons. There is reason to believe that be was trained in canon law and studied at the University of Cambridge. He was the author of a number of works in English and Latin, all much shorter than The Scale. He died at the Augustinian Priory of Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire in 1396. On the basis of the content of certain of his works it can be safely inferred that he was actively involved in some of the religious controversies current in England in the 1380s and 1390s, and his principal concern, evident in The Scale , is to defend orthodox belief, especially in the conduct of the contemplative life.
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