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The Seven Pains of Hell: The Latin Source of an Old English Homiletic Motif

Stephen Pelle

Recent research into the influence of Carolingian homiliaries on early English preaching has begun to recognise the importance of the 10th-century Homiliary of Angers. The Latin text of this homiliary is present in full in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 343, as well as in some 10th-century fragments. In addition, a partial bilingual Latin-Old English version survives in the Taunton Fragment. This essay deals with item 22 of the Homiliary of Angers, which served as the source for a list of the ‘Seven Pains of Hell’ in two Old English homilies. Although this list derived originally from the Visio S. Pauli, close verbal parallels between the Latin homily and the Old English texts prove that item 22 of the Homiliary of Angers was the source. Furthermore, while the complexity of the textual tradition of the homiliary makes certainty unattainable, it is possible that the bilingual version of the Homiliary of Angers represented by the Taunton Fragment was the more proximate source for the Old English texts. This identification of a text from the Homiliary of Angers as a source for two Old English homilies suggests that future research will uncover further evidence of the collection′s use in Anglo-Saxon England.

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