4.4. Clerical or Secular?

Of the four poems, Patience and Cleanness might almost be described as “sermon material”, the only worry being the expansion and sometimes unorthodox modification of scriptural sources.  the subject matter of Pearl is also largely a theological debate.  This religious emphasis has lead to the suggestion that the Gawain-Poet was a cleric, either of the regular elite [HILL68] or of a more humble role as a secular cleric [PUTTER96].  However, as Putter and others have pointed out, the poet invariably presents himself in these poems as being on the receiving end of both sermons and the eucharist.  Indeed Putter concludes “I admit, therefore, to ever-diminishing degrees of conclusiveness as I restate the Gawain-poet's profile that has emerged in this opening chapter:  he was almost certainly a cleric from the north west Midlands…probably a relatively unimportant cleric; perhaps in the service of a nobleman”.  Certainly the Gawain-Poet had a strong interest in, and much knowledge of religious matters, but I find no evidence that he was in holy orders of any kind.

James Cottrell was certainly closely connected with religious affairs and was attached to the Order of Christ in a lay capacity.  his patron, Philippa, was deeply religious and insisted on the introduction of the Use of Sarum into the cathedral at Lisbon and into the royal household.  There is absolutely no evidence that James Cottrell was a cleric of any description.