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did but unite our hearts the closer; this privation increased our passion. The fit of shame once over, made us the more insensible to shame; actum itaque in nobis est quod in Marte et Venere deprehensis poetica narrat fabula.'
Shortly afterwards' Heloise found herself pregnant, and, in the exaltation of her heart, she wrote to Abelard, informing him of it, asking his advice. He visited her in Fulbert's absence, and arranged an escape to Brittany. There Heloise resided with his sister, till she gave birth to a son. When her uncle was aware of her flight, he became almost frantic ; and that which rendered his state still worse, was his being forced to suppress the motives of his rage. How did Abelard behave? contemptibly, as usual. He was evidently in great fear for his life; and though bold to insolence in debate, he was a coward in action. Audacity in speculation and timidity of character are often united. Some of the most daring thinkers have been as weak in resolution as they were strong in speculation. It would seem as if they were eager to make up for a constitutional deficiency by the temerity of their pens. Abelard was one of these. He had strong polemical tendencies, but the only war he liked was the war of words. Insolent, aggressive, and reckless in argument, he was always weak and irresolute in act. He could attack a Roscelinus, or a William de Champeaux; he could harass an aged teacher, and having driven him from his school, pursue him even to the cloister, and there cover him with shame; or he could by his ridicule and dialectics destroy the peace of Anselm; but he could not face an outraged uncle. He came trembling before Fulbert, greatly compassioning his excessive anguish,' he says, but greatly fearing his excessive wrath, as we believe; implored his pardon, and recalled to his mind how many of the greatest men had been cast down by women; accused himself of treachery, and offered the reparation of marriage, provided it were kept secret. His marriage, if made known, would be an obstacle to his advancement in the Church-and the mitre had glimmered before his ambitious eyes. Thus, on the one side, stimulated by fear, and, on the other, by ambition, he had neither sufficient force to sacrifice his ambition to his fear, nor sufficient courage to despise the danger; and so he proposed a compromise. To this Fulbert consented.
But Heloise, heroic heart! in the self abnegation of her love, would not consent to that reparation which fear had extorted from Abelard. She did not believe her uncle's vengeance would be thus assuaged; and if it were, what excuse could she have for thus robbing the world of its greatest luminary! What maledictions and what regrets would follow such a step! What a
shame and what a calamity that a man created for all mankind should consecrate himself to one woman! 'I should hate this marriage,' she exclaimed, for it would be an opprobrium and a ruin!' She recalled to Abelard the various passages in Scripture, and in the ancient writers, wherein wives are accursed; and pointed out to him how impossible it would be to consecrate himself to philosophy unless he were free. How could he study amidst the noise of children and the domestic confusion of a household. How much more honourable it would be for her to sacrifice herself to him-to be his mistress, his concubine! The more she humiliated herself for him, the more claims should she have upon his love; and in so doing she would not be an obstacle to his advancement-in so doing she would not have prevented the free development of his genius. I call God to witness,' she said many years after, that if Augustus, the emperor of the world, had deemed me worthy of his hand and would have given me the universe for a throne, the name of your concubine (tua meretrix) would have been more glorious to me than that of his empress.
This was the passion and these the motives which prompted her refusal. For herself, of course, no happiness could be greater than that of calling him her husband; but if, in so doing, she must destroy his hopes of advancement and stultify the growth of his sublime intelligence, she could not but hate that marriage as an opprobrium.' For his sake she would glory in sacrificing herself if only to convince him of the boundless love she bore him. Having read her own words, let us turn to those which Pope has lent her.
"How oft when press'd to marriage have I said,
Fame, wealth, and honour, what are you to love?"
This is the extravagance of a wanton, not the passion of Heloise. It was from no abstract preference for lawless love' that Heloise spurned marriage; it was simply because she was afraid of sacrificing her lover's interests to her happiness; and as she loved him far more than herself, she opposed the sacrifice.
Abelard felt the force of her arguments; gladly would he have accepted them; but fear was stronger than interest, and he had not the courage to brave Fulbert. He, therefore, endeavoured to answer Heloise's arguments; and finding that she could not con
quer his resolution-a resolution which, by the way, he himself calls a bit of stupidity (meam stultitiam)—she burst into tears and consented. This scene is characterised by M. Villenave as a contest between love and duty, in which, he adds, Abelard did not allow himself to be conquered in generosity. Really the benevolence of biographers is infinite. A scene in which Abelard figures as a contemptible coward, is christened a struggle between love and duty; and the terror which overcomes his interests, his ambition, and her passionate entreaties, is converted into a desire not to be outdone in generosity. May we have such a biographer!
"Having committed our little boy," says Abelard, "to my sister's charge, we returned privately to Paris, and in a few days, after going through the vigils of prayer secretly and by night, there also, very early one morning, in the presence of her uncle and some of his friends as well as mine, we received the nuptial benediction."
From this time they only met in secret; but all precautions soon became useless, as Fulbert and his servants divulged the secret in violation of their word.' But Heloise loudly denied that she was married. Violently provoked at this denial, her uncle loaded her with reproaches, and made the house quite insupportable to her. Abelard removed her to a nunnery, named Argenteuil. There she assumed the monastic dress, but without taking the veil; and there her husband furtively visited her, not always respecting the sanctity of the spot.* Fulbert regarded this seclusion in the nunnery with suspicion. He thought it was but the first step towards her taking the veil, and that Abelard would thus rid himself of her. His projects of vengeance revived; and having bribed a servant, who admitted him and his friends into the chamber where Abelard was sleeping, they there inflicted on him that atrocious mutilation, which Origen, in a fit of spiritual exaltation, inflicted upon himself. All Paris was struck with horror and surprise; and in mingled curiosity and consternation crowded round Abelard's house, redoubling his agony by their noisy pity. There, as he lay on his wretched couch, he reflected on his sad condition. Henceforth the world was shut against him. What path was open to him? With what face could he again present himself before men? Condemned to be pointed at by every finger-to be lacerated by every tongue-to be to all a monstrous spectacle! He, so lately the gay and gallant, to whom women, no less than men, were
*Nosti...quid ibi tecum mea libidinis egerit intemperantia in quadam etiam parte ipsius refectorii. Nosti id impudentissime tunc actum esse in tam reverendo loco et summæ Virgini consecrato.-Abelard, Epist. v., p. 69.
Her Second Sacrifice.
proud to show allegiance-he was an outcast and a mark for How his enemies would triumph!
His resolution was easily fixed. He would find refuge in the cloister; he would become a monk, and renounce the world. To this he confesses that he was impelled by shame rather than by devotion. But the intense selfishness of this man would not permit him to renounce the world alone; he demanded that Heloise also should renounce it; and she renounced it. Obedient to his commands (ad imperium nostrum), she took the veil: thus once more sacrificing herself to his will, whom, with regret, she had accepted as a husband, and whom she abandoned in trembling, to devote herself, without faith, without hope, and without love, to her divine husband. Pope is here equal to his subject:
"Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day
Heloise submitted without an inquiry, without a murmur; it was enough for her to know that Abelard desired it. In renouncing the world thus in the plenitude of youth and passion, she was actuated by no devotional fervour. She was, heart and soul, a great woman, and, as such, clung tenaciously to life, and to the world, which she was made to adorn. She had no mystic aspirations, no ascetic ideas. Her harmonious being was free from all such dissonances; it was bounding with life and love, with activity and enjoyment. Yet she relinquished the world, at an order from her lord; cruel and tyrannical as that order was, she saw nothing in it but the expression of his will, and was content to obey. Her friends endeavoured in vain to dissuade her, and to their tears and entreaties she replied, in a voice broken by sobs, with the words which Lucan places in the mouth of Cornelia, after the disaster of Pharsalia:
"O maxime conjux,
O thalamis indigne meis, hoc juris habebat
This quotation is remarkable, as showing how, in those days, pedantry was mixed up with the purest passion; as showing how masterly was her command over the classics, that, in such a
moment, she should have selected so apt a passage; and, finally, as showing how completely her love absorbed her soul, and how little religion could occupy it.
Before closing the door of the convent upon this singular creature, let us ask what could be Abelard's motives for thus secluding her? We have already hinted that his intense selfishness could not allow him to think of her some day belonging to another. The author of the admirable article on Abelard, which appeared in the London and Westminster Review' (December, 1838), has suggested that, inasmuch as Abelard was so cruelly punished because Fulbert suspected him of wishing to make Heloise take the veil, "probably the chief satisfaction that he found in commanding Heloise to final seclusion, was that he thereby carried into effect the intention for which her relatives had so violently punished him. As regards his second motive, feeling himself now dead to her, he supposed she would soon be dead to him, and felt a selfish, at least, if not malignant satisfaction, in remorselessly exercising his all-powerful influence over her, before, as he unworthily thought, her consideration of his altered state should have time to diminish it: to place her warm and blooming youth under that lasting combination of physical and religious restraint, which, in spite of any change in her own inclination, should keep her dead to others as well as to himself." To one so vain, so selfish, and so fond of power, this exercise of his imperious will afforded a diseased delight. Reckless of consequences, he thought only of proving that he still possessed resistless power over the fond girl: and so, at the age of twenty, Heloise quitted the world. MM. Villenave and Remusat pass over this episode without a comment: excuse it they could not, and they would not blame their hero.
The doors of the convent have closed on Heloise. She retires to her cell to doat upon the image of her lord; to recall the hours of rapture spent with him, and to feel that
"Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
And he upon whom her sorrowing thoughts were fixed, scarcely ever bestowed a thought on her, and never wrote to her. He entered upon a new career; he was a monk at St. Denis, and had resumed his studies, now, as he says, no longer disturbed by the provocations of his senses. Mais il lui arriva,' remarks M. Villenave, lorsqu'il ne put plus être un sujet de scandale dans le monde, de vouloir bannir le scandale de son convent.' The monks were dissolute; their monastery was wealthy; and they had no one willing to curb their licentiousness, for the abbot