Berners, Juliana

, on account of her being one of the earliest female writers in England, is entitled to some notice in this work, although the most painful research has discovered very little of her personal history. She is frequently called Juliana Barnes, but Berners was her more proper name. She was an Essex lady, and, | according to Mr. Ballard, was probably born at Roding in that county, about the beginning of the fifteenth century being the daughter of sir James Berners of Berners Roding, and sister of Richard lord Berners. If, however, as is generally agreed, sir James Berners was her father, her birth could have been very little after 1388 for in that year sir James Berners was beheaded, as an enemy to the public, together with other favourites and corrupt ministers of king Richard the second. The education of Juliana seems to have been the very best which that age could afford, and her attainments were such, that she is celebrated by various authors for her uncommon learning and her other accomplishments, which rendered her every way capable and deserving of the office she bore which was that of pfioress of Sopewell nunnery. This was a cell to, and very near St. Alban’s, -end a good part of the shell of it is still standing. Here she lived in high esteem, and flourished, according to Bale, Tanner, and Ballard, about the year 1460 but if what we have said concerning her birth be the true account, she must have flourished somewhat earlier. She was a very beautiful lady, of great spirit, and loved masculine exercises, such as hawking, hunting, &c. With these sports she used to recreate herself, and so thoroughly was she skilled in them, that she wrote treatises of hawking, hunting, and heraldry. “From an abbess disposed to turn author,” says Mr. Warton, “we might more reasonably have expected a manual of meditations for the closet, or select rules for making salves, or distilling strong waters. But the diversions of the field were not thought inconsistent with the character of a religious lady of this eminent rank, who resembled an abbot in respect of exercising an extensive manerial jurisdiction, and who hawked and hunted in common with other ladies of distinction.” So well esteemed were Juliana Berners’s treatises, and indeed so popular were the subjects on which they were written, that they were published in the veryinfancy of the art of printing. The first edition is said to have been printed at St. Alban’s, in 1481. It was certainly printed at the same place in 1486, in a small folio; and again, at Westminster, by W. de Worde, in 1496, in 4to. Among Cryne’s books in the Bodleian library, there is a black letter copy of this work, “imprynted at London in Paul’s Churchyarde by me Hary Tab.” It was again printed, with wooden cuts, by William Copland, without | date, and entitled, “The boke of Hawkyng, Hunting, Fishing, with all the properties and medecynes that are necessary to be kept.” Here the tract on Armory is omitted, which seems to have been first inserted that the work might contain a complete course of education for a gentleman. The same title is in W. Powel’s edition, 1550. The last impression of it was in 4to, at London, in 1595, under the following title, “The gentleman’s academic or the book of St. Albans containing three most exact and excellent books; the first of Hawking, the second of all the proper terms of Hunting, and the last of Armory; all compiled by Juliana Barnes, in the year from the incarnation of Christ, 1486. And now reduced into better method by G. M.” This editor is certainly mistaken in saying that the whole work was composed in 1486. Juliana Berners could scarcely have been living at that time and even if she was not then dead, the book must have been written by her in a more early period of life. It is said, indeed, in the Colophon at the end of the St. Alban’s edition, “And here now endith the Boke of blasyng of armys, translatyt and compylyt togedyr at Saynt Albons the yere from thyncaruacyon of our Lorde Jhesu Crist MCCCCLXXXVI.” But all we can justly infer from hence is, that that part of the work which relates to heraldry was not drawn up by Juliana Berners. It is observable, that though the whole treatise is usually ascribed to her, her name is only subjoined to the book on hawking and hunting and that what relates to the biasing of arms contains no more than abstracts from a performance of Nicholas Upton, written about 1441. It is highly probable, therefore, that this latter part, if it was compiled so late as in 1486, was added by another hand and, indeed, if Juliana Berners was the daughter of sir James Berners, there can be no doubt about the matter. That part of our abbess’s work which relates to hunting, is written in rhyme. It is spoken in her own person in which, being otherwise a woman of authority, she assumes the title of Uame. Mr. Warton suspects the whole to be a translation from the French or Latin. The barbarism of the times strongly appears in the indelicate expressions which Juliana Berners often uses, and which are equally incompatible with her sex and profession. The book on armory begins with the following curious piece of sacred heraldry “Of the offspring of the gentilman Jafeth, come | Habraham, Moyses, Aron, and the profettys and also the kyng of the right lyne of Mary, of whom that gentilman Jhesus was borne, very God and man; after his manhode kynge of the land of Jude and of Jues, gentilman by his modre Mary, prince of cote armure, &c.” The most diligent inquirers have not been able to determine the exact period of Juliana Berners’s decease but from what is mentioned above, it is probable that she died sooner than lias commonly been imagined.

The public have been recently gratified with a fac-simile reprint of Juliana Berners’s curious work, as printed by Wynkyn de Worde, preceded by a biographical and bibliographical dissertation, so copious and correct, as to render all subsequent attempts superfluous. Joseph Haslewood, esq. the editor, has left no sources unexplored, and no means untried, by which light might be thrown upon the work or its supposed authoress. He is of opinion that the only, parts of the work which can safely be attributed to her pen, are: 1. A small portion of the treatise on Hawking. 2. The treatise upon Hunting. 3. A short list of the beasts of chase and, 4. Another short one of beasts and fowls. This fac-simile edition, of which one hundred and fifty copies only were printed, is executed with uncommon accuracy and fidelity, and does high credit to the taste, minute attention, and perseverance (for all are necessary in an attempt of this kind) displayed by the printer, Mr. Joseph Harding. At the late sale of the library of the duke of Roxburgh, an imperfect copy of Wynkyn de Worde’s edition [an erratum changes Wynkyn do Worde’s to the St Alban’s] was sold for 147l. 1


Biog. Brit.—Mr. Haslewood’s reprint.—Dibdin’s Antiquities, vol. II.— Ellis’s Specimens, vol. I.—Ballard’s Memoirs.—Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. II. P. 171.