24 January 2011

Julian of Norwich's Hometown Reads As Literary Utopia

"All shall be well and all shall be well
and all manner of things
shall be well."
-- Julian of Norwich

The above quote has been my trusting in troubled times mantra for the last few years. The optimism appeals to me, as does the simplicity and repetition of Julian's statement. A mystic, Julian of Norwich wrote "Revelations of Divine Love," started in 1373 and frequently cited as the first English-language book published by a woman. Julian, despite her claims of being "unlettered," was one of the first bluestockings.

Julian of Norwich, pictured with a cat, in this icon.

In the Travel section of today's New York Times, Rachel B. Doyle reported on the literary tradition alive and well in Julian's hometown of Norwich: "Where Writers, and Readers, Feel at Home."

A medieval town located two hours from London, 31 medieval churches still stand. Many now serve as houses of word worshippers, settings for readings, salons, and writing classes, Doyle reported. The reporter also revealed that Julian, , an anchoress (religious hermit) "was likely bricked up inside a small stone cell during her 40-odd-years of monastic life."

The contemporary writer demonstrates a sense of humor about the ancient writer. "Julian's manuscript survived for almost three centuries in the care of nuns before it was finally published in 1670. Compared with what Julian of Norwich experienced, the long waits of modern writers trying to find a publisher can seem almost reasonable."

Other high points of Doyle's feature:

• Last year, 1.5 million visitors dropped by the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.
• Across the street from the modern library, in a medieval church, the 17th-century writer/physician Sir Thomas Browne is buried.
• "An artist inscribed the entire text of Sir Thomas More's "Utopia"--written in 1516--on an old brick building.

Sounds like a town where people know how to wag their tales. I want to go!

COLLEEN SMITH’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit FridayJonesPublishing.com and GlassHaloNovel.com, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.



  1. Interesting analogy to describe Julian as a blue-stocking, however literary and intellectual prowess not her primary motive for penning her 'Revelations' nor had she like-minded associates to chat to on literature as would the 18th/19th c. blue stocking such as Amelia Opie of Norwich a real Georgian bluestocking.

    Occasionally, just occasionally us genuine Norvicensians like to point out that the 'do different' City has actually been a City for over 800 years!

    But sure you would be most welcome to come and see how we 'wag our tails' with our strong American connection from the many WW II Air-bases once here.

  2. I stand corrected. Julian really was not a bluestocking, but thanks for the tip on Amelia Opie of Norwich. I hope to visit your fine "do different" city one day. Sounds magnificent! Thanks for reading, and for commenting.
    Wag your tale.

    P.S. If you're on Facebook, please join us at Friday Jones Publishing, where I post regularly about books and other arts and random topics, too.


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