William Langland

William Langland

Bio

Nothing is known for certain about the life of William Langland, an obscure fourteenth-century cleric, but a tentative outline can be made from the supposedly autobiographical elements in the manuscrips of his poem. Born in about 1332 at Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire, the son of a small Oxfordshire landholder, he was probably educated at the monastery of Great Malvern; he trained to be a priest but due to the death of his patrons he only took Minor Orders and was unable to advance in the Church. He wandered a good deal in England and was clearly familiar with London; he also lived for some while in a cottage on Cornhill with his wife Kit and his daughter Colette, making a meagre living by singing the Office of the Dead for wealthy patrons. Langland lived an unvonventional life, constantly writing verse, and was thought by some to be crazed. Tall and thin, he was nicknamed ‘Long Will’. He died at the end of the century.