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Abelard And Eloisa
by [?]

What a gratification to the enthusiastic, the amorous, the vain Eloisa! of whom Lord Lyttleton, in his curious Life of Henry II., observes, that had she not been compelled to read the fathers and the legends in a nunnery, and had been suffered to improve her genius by a continued application to polite literature, from what appears in her letters, she would have excelled any man of that age.

Eloisa, I suspect, however, would have proved but a very indifferent polemic; she seems to have had a certain delicacy in her manners which rather belongs to the fine lady. We cannot but smile at an observation of hers on the Apostles which we find in her letters:–“We read that the apostles, even in the company of their Master, were so rustic and ill-bred, that, regardless of common decorum, as they passed through the corn-fields they plucked the ears, and ate them like children. Nor did they wash their hands before they sat down to table. To eat with unwashed hands, said our Saviour to those who were offended, doth not defile a man.”

It is on the misconception of the mild apologetical reply of Jesus, indeed, that religious fanatics have really considered, that, to be careless of their dress, and not to free themselves from filth and slovenliness, is an act of piety; just as the late political fanatics, who thought that republicanism consisted in the most offensive filthiness. On this principle, that it is saint-like to go dirty, ragged and slovenly, says Bishop Lavington, in his “Enthusiasm of the Methodists and Papists,” how piously did Whitfield take care of the outward man, who in his journals writes, “My apparel was mean–thought it unbecoming a penitent to have powdered hair.–I wore woollen gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes!”

After an injury, not less cruel than humiliating, Abelard raises the school of the Paraclete; with what enthusiasm is he followed to that desert! His scholars in crowds hasten to their adored master; they cover their mud sheds with the branches of trees; they care not to sleep under better roofs, provided they remain by the side of their unfortunate master. How lively must have been their taste for study!–it formed their solitary passion, and the love of glory was gratified even in that desert.

The two reprehensible lines in Pope’s Eloisa, too celebrated among certain of its readers–

“Not Cesar’s empress would I deign to prove;
No,–make me mistress to the man I love!”–

are, however, found in her original letters. The author of that ancient work, “The Romaunt of the Rose,” has given it thus naively; a specimen of the natural style in those days:–

Si l’empereur, qui est a Rome,
Souhz qui doyvent etre tout homme,
Me daignoit prendre pour sa femme,
Et me faire du monde dame!
Si vouldroye-je mieux, dist-elle
Et Dieu en tesmoing en appelle,
Etre sa Putaine appellee
Qu’etre emperiere couronnee.