Mirk, John (DNB00)

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MIRK, JOHN (fl. 1403?), prior of Lilleshall in Shropshire, is chiefly known by his ‘Liber ffestialis,’ written in English. The manuscript, in Cott. Claud. A. ii. f. 123, has the colophon: ‘Explicit tractus qui dicitur ffestial. Per fratrem Johannem Mirkus compositus, canonicum regularem Monasterii de Lulshull.’ The ‘Festival’ begins with a preface in which the writer speaks of himself as of one who has charge of souls, and must teach his parishioners about the principal feasts, information respecting which he has partly drawn from the ‘Legenda Aurea.’ Each sermon begins with moral reflections and ends with a ‘narracio,’ the source of which is often named. The Cott. MS. contains a story about a man of Lilleshall (f. 116), and sermons for the feasts of the local saints, St. Wenefreda and St. Alkemund of Shrewsbury. The Cambridge University Library MS. Dd. 10. 50 omits the local legends and the colophon (Ee. ii. 15 and Nn. iii. 10 are mutilated). The Harl. MSS. 2371 and 2391 supply the sermons, without the local legends and preface, and are arranged ‘de tempore’ and ‘de sanctis.’ The Lansdowne MS.392 (1), which resembles Cott. Claud. A. ii., omits twelve sermons between St. Margaret's day and the Ember days, and ends at All Saints' day. The conclusion of the manuscript is imperfect. No common origin has yet been assigned to the numerous manuscripts of the ‘Liber Festialis.’ The printed editions of the ‘Festial’ by Caxton (1483) and Wynkyn De Worde (1493) have Mirk's preface, but are arranged like the Harl. MSS., with various omissions.

Mirk wrote also the ‘Manuale Sacerdotum,’ found in Harl. 5306, Bodl. Cod. Digb. 75(26), f. 162, imperfect, Jesus Coll. Oxon. i., and Cambridge University Library, Ff. 1, 14. The title of Harl. 5306, in a later hand, states that the author was John Miræus. The Jesus Coll. MS. removes any uncertainty by the colophon, 'Explicit libellus dictus … secundum Johannem Marcus, priorem abathie de Lilyshel.' Both this manuscript and Harl. 5306 begin with a letter: 'Amico suo Karissimo domino iohanni de S. uicario de A. frater iohannis dictus prior de l. salutem.' The writer humbly asks for corrections, and hopes J. de S. may not long delay to turn the work into English. In Harl. MS. 5306 the last eight chapters of the fifth part are missing. The Cambridge MS. does not contain the letter, but is entitled 'Manuale Sacerdotis' (Johannis Lilleshullensis); it is complete, and the transcriber's name, Robert Wasselyn, chaplain, is recorded. Mr. Bradshaw noted that the subject and treatment of the 'Manual' are much like that of Mirk's 'Instructions to Parish Priests,' an English poem in rhyming couplets, printed for the Early English Text Society from the Cott. MS. Claud. A. II. ff. 127, 152. This poem, which Mirk says he translated from the Latin called 'Pars Oculi,' is neither a versified translation of John de Burgh's 'Pupilla Oculi' (a dictionary of theological subjects alphabetically arranged), nor of Mirk's 'Manual,' as has been suggested, but of the 'Pupilla Oculi' by William de Pagula [q. v.] Of this Mirk has used both the 'dextra' and the 'sinistra pars,' but chiefly the 'dextra.'

No list of the priors of the canons regular of Lilleshull is known, and Mirk's date cannot be ascertained. Pits gives it as 1403.

[Manuscripts quoted in the text (Early English Text Soc.); Instructions to Parish Priests, ed. Perry, with note by H. Bradshaw. On the early editions of the Liber Festialis see Lowndes's Bibliog. Manual, s.v. 'Festival.']

M. B.