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ART. IV. The History of the Lives of Abeillard and Heloisa. By the Rev: Joseph Berington, &c. [Continued.]

THE most curious part of the volume is that which contains the correspondence between Abeillard and Heloisa, and here the superior aptness of the female mind for epistolary excellence is very apparent. While his letters are cold, stiff, and uninteresting, hers abound in touches of nature that show distinctly the true state of her feelings. In perusing these with Pope's epistle before us, we seem to behold the disjecta membra poeta, to look behind the curtain, and see the poet's notions in all the rudeness of their first conceptions before they were clothed with the magic tissue of his fancy.

A letter from Abeillard to a friend, describing his persecutions and dangers at St. Gildas had been shown to Heloisa at Paraclet: her sympathy was excited, and the idea of her husband's sufferings revived the ardour of her affection, which neither absence, monastic austerities nor the selfishness of Abeillard had been able to eradicate. She immediately wrote the letter which Pope has metamorphosed into a beautiful and impassioned rhapsody.

'A letter of consolation you had written to a friend, my dearest Abeillard, was lately, as by chance, put into my hands. The superscription, in a moment, told me from whom it came; and the sentiments I felt for the writer, compelled me to read it more eagerly. I had lost the reality: I hoped therefore from his words, a faint image of himself, to draw some comfort. But alas! for i well remember it, almost every line was marked with gall and wormwood. It related the lamentable story of our conversion, ́ and the long list of your own unabating sufferings."

She then adverts to some of the particulars of his misfort ones. 'Who, think you, could read, or hear these things, and not be moved to tears? What then must be my situation? The singular precision, with which each event is related, could but more strongly renew my sorrows. I was doubly agitated, because I perceived the tide of danger was still rising against you. Are we then to despair of your life? And must our breasts, trembling at every sound, be hourly alarmed by the rumours of that terrible event?'f "For Christ's sake, my Abeillard, and he, I trust, as yet protects you, do inform us, and that repeatedly, of each circumstance of your present dangers. I and my sisters are the sole remains of

* Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,

That well known name awakens all my woes. Pope. Ep. of Abeillard. line 29. + I tremble too where e'er my own I find,

Some dire misfortune follows close behind, &c.

ib. 33-,

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all your friends. Let us, at least, partake of your joys and sor rows. The condolence of others is used to bring some relief to the sufferer: and a load laid on many shoulders is more easily supported.'

*'How pleasing are the letters of absent friends, Seneca, I remember, teaches us by his own example." I thank you, says he to his friend Lucilius, for your frequent letters. By this you do all you can to be in my company. The moment I open your letters, I see Lucilius before me." And, indeed, if the portraits of our friends can give us pleasure, and ease the pain of absence, by the weak impressions they make; what may not be said of letters, which speak the genuine sentiments of the dear absent friend? God be thanked! no invidious passion can forbid, and no obstacle can hinder this manner of your being present with us. On your side

let no indifference, I pray, be a retardment to it.'f

She proceeds to remind him that he is the founder of the Paraclet, and ought to superintend its concerns.

'Our new establishment, therefore, is strictly yours. But, can the young plant prosper, if it be not often watered with peculiar care? We are women, Abeillard, by nature weak and delicate. Thus, had our society been long formed, it would still be exposed to much danger. But now, if you give us not all your care and all your diligence, how shall we brave the storm? The apostle says, "I have planted, Apollo has watered, but God has given the increase." He is writing to the Corinthians, whom he had lately converted to the christian faith: his own disciple, Apollo, had then given them further instructions; and divine grace had completed the work. But you cultivate a vineyard, which you have not planted; and your sacred admonitions are lost on an ungrateful soil. I speak of the monks of St. Gildas, of which you are abbot. Rather recollect then what you owe to us. You preach to them, but you preach in vain. Your words are pearls which you throw to swine. The treasures, which are lost on them, should be kept for us, who are docile, who are obedient. And you, who are so prodigal to your enemies, do reflect on what you owe to your own children. But I will say nothing of others: think only how much you are indebted to me. Whatever obligations bind you to the devout part of my sex, are all concentred to your Heloisa.'‡

A few reproaches of this neglect of her then follow, after which she continues.

* Yet write, oh! write, me all that I may join,

Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine, &c.
Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid, &c.
Ah think at least thy flock deserves thy care,
Plants of thy hand, and children of thy prayer, &c.

ib. 41.

ib. 41.

line 130

"My Abeillard, you well know how much I lost in losing you: and that infamous act of treachery, which, by a cruelty before unheard of, deprived me of you, even tore me from myself. The loss was great indeed, but the manner of it was doubly excruciating. When the cause of grief is most pungent, then should consolation apply her strongest medicines. But it is you only can administer relief: by you I was wounded, and by you must be healed. It is in your power alone to give me pain, to give me joy, and to give me comfort. And it is you only that are obliged to do it.I have obeyed the last tittle of all your commands; and so far was I unable to oppose them, that, to comply with your wishes, I could bear to sacrifice myself. One thing remains, which is still greater, and will hardly be credited: my love for you had risen to such a degree of frenzy, that to please you, it even deprived itself of what alone in the universe it valued, and that forever. No sooner did I receive your commands, than I quitted at once the habit of the world, and with it all the reluctance of my nature. I meant that you should be the sole possessor of whatever I had once a right to call my own.'

'Heaven knows! in all my love it was you, and you only I sought for. I looked for no dowry, no alliances of marriage. I was even insensible to my own pleasures; nor had I a will to gratify. All was absorbed in you. I call Abeillard to witness. In the name of wife there may be something more holy, something more imposing: but the name of mistress was ever to me a more charming sound-The more I humbled myself before you, the greater right, I thought, I should have to your favour; and thus also I hoped the less to injure the splendid reputation you had acquired:

'This circumstance, on your own account, you did not quite forget to mention in the letter to your friend. You related also some of the arguments I then urged, to deter you from that fatal marriage; but you suppresssed the greater part, by which I was induced to prefer love to matrimony, and liberty to chains. I call heaven to witness! should Augustus, master of the world, offer me his hand in marriage, and secure to me the uninterrupted command of the universe, I should deem it at once more eligible and more honourable to be called the mistress of Abeillard, than the wife of Cæsar. The source of merit is not in riches or in power: these are the gifts of fortune; but virtue only gives worth and excellence.

'The woman, who prefers a rich to a poor man, shows she has a venal soul. In a husband, it is his wealth and not himself, which she admires; and to her, who marries with this view, some reward may be due, but no gratitude. It is clear that I have not miscon

* How oft when press'd to marriage have I said,
Curse on all loves, but those who love has made
Love free as air, &c.

line 75.

+ Should at my feet the world's great master fall, &c.

line. 85.

strued her intentions: propose but a richer match, and if not too late, she will embrace it with ardour. The truth of my opinion the learned Aspasia has confirmed in a conversion with Xenophon and his wife, as related by Eschines the disciple of Socrates. When to effect a reconciliation betwixt them, she had proposed this reasoning, Aspasia thus concludes: "When you have got so far, as mutually to be convinced that there lives not a better man, and a more fortunate woman, all your thoughts will be directed to produce the greatest good: Xenophon will be happy in the reflection that he is married to the best of women, and she, on her side, that her husband is the best of men."

'These sentiments are beautiful: they seem the production rather of wisdom herself, than of philosophy. But in the married state, should this favourable opinion be even grounded on error, how charming is it to be thus deceived! It produces love, and on this rests the surest pledge of mutual fidelity; while purity of mind cooperates far more efficaciously than her sister virtue.

But that happiness which in others is, sometimes, the effect of fancy, in me was the child of evidence. They might think their husbands perfect, and were happy in the idea; but I knew that you were such, and the universe knew the same. Thus the more my affection was secured from all possible error, the more steady became its flame. Where was found the king or the philosopher that had emulated your reputation? Was there a village, a city, a kingdom, that did not ardently wish even to see you? When you appeared in public, who did not run to behold you? And when you withdrew, every neck was stretched, every eye sprang forward to pursue you. The married and the unmarried women, when Abeillard was away, longed for his company; and when he was present, every bosom was on fire. No lady of distinction, no princess, that did not envy Heloisa the possession of her Abeillard.

'You possessed, indeed, two qualifications, a tone of voice, and a grace in singing, which gave you the control over every female heart. These powers were peculiarly yours; for I do not know that they ever fell to the share of any other philosopher. To soften by playful amusement the stern labours of philosophy, you composed several sonnets on love, and on similar subjects. These you were often heard to sing, when the harmony of your voice gave new charms to the expression. In all circles nothing was talked of but Abeillard: even the most ignorant, who could not judge of composition, were enchanted by the melody of your voice. Female hearts were unable to resist the impression. Thus was my name soon carried to distant nations, for the loves of Heloisa and Abeillard were the constant theme of all your songs. What wonder, if I became the subject of general envy!'

Again she reproaches him gently for his neglect.

Having, as I said, complied with all your injunctions, I thought, indeed, I had great pretensions to your esteem. Even at this mo ment I am a victim to your will. It was not religion that called me to the austerities of the cloister: I was then in the bloom of youth: but you ordered it, and I obeyed. For this sacrifice, if I have no merit in your eyes, vain indeed is all my labour! From God I can look for no reward, for whose sake, it is plain, I have as yet done nothing. When you had resolved to quit the world, I followed you, rather I ran before you. It seems you had the image of the patriarch's wife before your eyes: you feared I might look back, and therefore before you could surrender your own liberty, I was to be devoted. In that one instance, I confess your mistrust of me tore my heart. Abeillard, I blushed for you. For my part, Heaven knows! had I seen you hastening to perdition, at a single nod, I should not have hesitated to have preceded, or to have followed you. My soul was no longer in my own possession. It was in yours. Even now, if it is not with you, it is now here. It cannot exist without you. But do receive it kindly. There it will be happy, if it find you indulgent; if you only return kindness for kindness, trifles for things of moment, and a few words for all the deeds of my life. Were you less sure of my love, you would be more solicitous. But because my conduct has rendered you secure, you neglect me. Once more recollect what I have done for you, and how much you are indebted to me.

'By that God then, to whom your life is consecrated, I conjure you, give me so much of yourself, as is at your disposal, that is, send me some lines of consolation.* Do it with this design at least, that, my mind being more at ease, I may serve God with more alacrity. When formerly the love of pleasure was your pursuit, how often did I hear from you? In your songs the name of Heloisa was made familiar to every tongue: it was heard in every street: the walls of every house repeated it. With how much greater propriety might you now call me to God, than you did then to pleasure. Weigh your obligations: think on my petition.-I have written you a long letter, but the conclusion shall be short.-My only friend, Farewell.'

The reply of Abeillard is, in the words of Mr. Berington, dry uninteresting and prolix.' He exhorts his wife to pray for him, and sends a form of prayer to be used for the purpose. He also mentions his desire, in case his enemies should succeed in taking his life, to be buried at the Paraclet.

The commencement of her second letter is quite characteristic of an abbess and not in the least so of the passionate Heloisa: she thus cavils at the style of her husband's communication.

* Give all thou canst, and let me dream the rest.

line. 124.

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