Skip to content

Osbern Bokenham

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes


English Augustinian friar and poet, b. 1393 (the year in which the most famous of English Augustinians, John Capgrave, was also born); d. probably, in 1447. The assertion of Horstmann, his German editor, that Bokenham was born at Bookham, Surrey, appears to be contradicted by the friar's own statement that his birthplace was in the vicinity of a "pryory of blake [black] canons" which Mr. Sydney Lee (Dict. Nat. Biogr., V, 314) identifies with a famous house of Augustinian canons at Bokenham, now Old Buckenham, Norfolk. Bokenham may or may not have got some early schooling from these "blake canons", but he certainly spent five year as a young man in Italy, chiefly at Venice, making frequent pilgrimages to the great Italian centres of devotional life, Rome, of course, among them. His long residence in Italy, in a generation to which the memory of Petrarch (d. 1374) was still recent, must have been in itself something of a liberal education. Bokenham is known to have read both Cicero and Ovid — classical accomplishments not by any means a matter-of-course with young Englishmen destined to the ecclesiastical state in those days. Lydgate (d. 1451?) was among his contemporaries; Gover (d. 1402) and Chaucer (d. 1400) had been living in England in his boyhood, and had demonstrated the splendid possibilities of a language which for more than three centuries had been a mere rustic vernacular. His admission to the Order of Hermit-Friars of St. Augustine, whatever the exact date, certainly fell within the period of the order's greatest intellectual activity in England, when Dr. John Lowe (d., Bishop of Rochester, 1436) was making such valuable additions to the great Austin-Friars library in London. Bockenham finally became a professed religious in the Augustinian convent at Stoke Clare, Suffolk.

Children learning @ Catholic Online School

His writings were chiefly religious in theme and feeling. A "Dialogue" (printed in vol. VI of Dugdale's "Monasticon"), on the genealogy of a great Suffolk family, is attributed to Bokenham on internal evidence. The "Lyvys of Seyntys" he compiled chiefly from the "Legenda aurea" of Jacobus à Voragine. Those are the lives of twelve female saints, with an account of the legendary "11,000 virgins ". Though valuable in a devotional sense, the "Lyvys of Seyntys" cannot be very seriously considered by modern hagiologists; but as illustrating the evolution of English literature , their historical value is inestimable. The language, described by its author as "of Suthfolke speche", is forced into the exotic form of ottava rima . This work, preserved among the Arundel manuscripts, in the British Museum, was printed for the Roxburghe Club in 1835; but Horstmann's edition (vol. I of Kölbing's "Altenglische Bibliothek') had appeared at Heilbronn two years earlier. Bokenham's ideas of religious humility are curiously illustrated by his using the names of several contemporary ladies of high rank as noms de plume to cover his own authorship.

To all our readers,

Please don't scroll past this. We interrupt your reading to humbly ask you to defend Catholic Online School's independence. 98% of our readers don't give; they look the other way. If you are an exceptional reader who has already donated, we sincerely thank you. If you donate just $10.00, or whatever you can, Catholic Online School could keep thriving for years. Most people donate because Catholic Online School is useful. If Catholic Online School has given you $10.00 worth of knowledge this year, take a minute to donate. Show the world that access to Catholic education matters to you. Thank you.

Help Now >

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!