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is, that she was facie non infima, 'not ill-looking :'-her chief charm was evidently in her acquirements: those, for any age, were remarkable; and in an age, when to read and write were not universal even among the priesthood, must have been considered prodigious. Abelard declares that her literature had made her universally known;in toto regno nominatissimam effecerat. She was thoroughly in possession of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: and the language of her letters is that of a powerful, glowing, and eloquent, mind. Criticism may object to occasional deviations from pure Latinity, the use of Hebraisms, and the adoption of unclassic words; but the vividness and fluency of her style are conspicuous. Its lapses from moral decorum are liable to a higher censure; yet to forget its palliations in the individual might be some offence to justice. Morality, in the age of Eloisa, had not attained the standard of later times: the general language of society was comparatively impure; allusions were then common which are now excluded; and when the first writers abounded in high-colored descriptions of passion under the pretext of satirising vice, much may be forgiven to a woman, whose education placed her in the midst of this hazardous familiarity with evil. It is also to be remembered, that those letters were probably never intended to meet the public eye; that they were the effusions of a mind rendered contemptuous of the world by a sense of its injuries; shut up by her vows from all possibility of realising her pictures of ideal happiness; and laboring to revive, by the ardor of her language, the affections of a being, like herself, extinguished in the cloister. Something too may fairly be allowed to her country as well as to her time: she lived in a land where romance has formed and asserted a language of its own in every age. Eloisa's style bears a deep tinge of her country she writes like a Frenchwoman; with the
same singular mixture of constancy and caprice; the same alternate negligence and vigor; the same quickness to personal slight, and disregard of public opinion; the same keen sense of the minute observances of love and life, and rash forgetfulness of the larger and nobler principles that make both secure and honorable. The letters of Madame L'Espinasse would form the counterpart of Eloisa's: thrown into Latin, they might almost pass for manuscripts from the cells of the Paraclete.
Eloisa's convent was in the parish of Quincey, on the river Arduzon, near Nogent sur Seine.
The following was the rude inscription originally placed on the tomb :
Hoc tumulo abbatissa jacet prudens Heloisa :
But on the removal of the bodies from the vaults to the altar, the abbess, Madame de Rochefoucault, applied to the Academie de Belles Lettres for the more suitable inscription, which was subsequently engraved on their monument by her successor :
Sub eodem marmore jacent
Conditor, Petrus Abelardus,
Nunc eterna, ut speramus, felicitate
Petrus Abelardus obiit vigesima prima
Heloisa decima septima Maii, 1163.
Curis Carolæ de Roucy, Paracleti
As a poem, the beauty of the epistle has exhausted panegyric: it has long been acknowleged to be the richest, most varied, and most pathetic, display of Pope. Abandoning for once the stateliness and severe dignity of his style, he gave way to his feelings, and showed himself a master of unsuspected passion. With the exception of the Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady,' it is the only instance in which he thus let loose his sensibilities; and it is equally the only instance in which he changed the strict model of his language for the luxuriant epithets and picturesque beauty of the old English versification. His betrayal into passion may not improbably be accounted for by his correspondence with lady Wortley Montague. With this celebrated woman Pope evidently either was, or imagined himself to be, in love. The epistle was written in 1716, immediately after her departure with her husband on the embassy to Constantinople. In a letter to Martha Blount from Oxford, he says, "I am here, studying ten hours a day, but thinking of you in spite of all the learned. The epistle of Eloisa grows warm, and begins to have some breathings of the heart in it, which may make posterity think I was in love: I can scarce find in my heart to leave out the conclusion I once intended for it.' To this conclusion he alludes, with a still more direct reference, in a letter to lady Mary, accompanying the volume of his Miscellaneous Works,' published in 1717. I send you with this the third volume of the Iliad, and as many other things as fill a wooden box, directed to Mr. Wortley: among the rest, you have all I am worth, that is, my works: there are few things in them but what you have already seen, except the epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, in which you will find one passage that I cannot tell whether to wish you to understand or not.' The passage thus doubly marked, as containing the poet's purpose in the work, is the well-known close of the poem :
And sure, if fate some future bard shall join
Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore,
The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost:
He best can paint them who shall feel them most.