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Awful Disclosures by Maria Monk

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Of the


Containing, also, Many Incidents Never Before Published.


This volume embraces not only my "Awful Disclosures," but a continuation
of my Narrative, giving an account of events after my escape from the
Nunnery, and of my return to Montreal to procure a legal investigation
of my charges. It also [illegible] all the testimony that has been
published against me, or every description, as well as that which has
been given in confirmation of my story. At the close, will be found a
Review of the whole Subject, furnished by a gentleman well qualified for
the purpose; and finally, a copious Appendix, giving further particulars
interesting to the public.

I present this volume to the reader, with feelings which, I trust, will
be in some degree appreciated when it has been read and reflected upon.
A hasty perusal, and an imperfect apprehension of its contents, can
never produce such impressions as it has been my design to make by the
statements I have laid before the world. I know that misapprehensions
exist in the minds of some virtuous people. I am not disposed to condemn
their motives, for it does not seem wonderful that in a pure state of
society, and in the midst of Christian families, there should be persons
who regard the crimes I have mentioned as too monstrous to believed. It
certainly is creditable to American manners and character, that the
people are inclined, at the first sight, to turn from my story with

There is also an excuse for those who, having received only a general
impression concerning the nature of my Disclosures, question the
propriety of publishing such immorality to the world. They fear that the
minds of the young, at least, may be polluted. To such I have to say,
that this objection was examined and set aside, long before they had an
opportunity to make it. I solemnly believe it is necessary to inform
parents, at least, that the ruin from which I have barely escaped, lies
in the way of their children, even if delicacy must be in some degree
wounded by revealing the fact. I understand the case, alas! from too
bitter experience. Many an innocent girl may this year be exposed to the
dangers of which I was ignorant. I am resolved, that so far as depends
on me, not one more victim shall fall into the hands of those enemies in
whose power I so lately have been. I know what it is to be under the
dominion of Nuns and Priests; and I maintain, that it is a far greater
offence against virtue and decency to conceal than to proclaim their
crimes. Ah! had a single warning voice even whispered to me a word of
caution--had even a gentle note of alarm been sounded to me, it might
have turned back my foot from the Convent when it was upon the
threshold! If, therefore, there is any one now bending a step that way,
whom I have, not yet alarmed, I will cry _beware!_

But the virtuous reader need not fear, in the following pages, to meet
with vice presented in any dress but her own deformity. No one can
accuse me of giving a single attraction to crime. On the contrary, I
intend my book shall be a warning to those who may hereafter be tempted
by vice; and with the confidence that such it will prove to be, I
commend it to the careful examination of virtuous parents, and am
willing to abide by their unbiased opinion, with regard both to my
truth, my motives, and the interest which the public have in the
developments it contains.

I would now appeal to the world, and ask, whether I have not done all
that could have been expected of me, and all that lay in my power, to
bring to an investigation the charges I have brought against the priests
and nuns of Canada. Although it was necessary to the cause of truth,
that I should, in some degree, implicate myself, I have not hesitated to
appear as a voluntary self-accuser before the world. While there was a
hope that the authorities in Canada might be prevailed upon to bring the
subject to a legal investigation, I travelled to Montreal in a feeble
state of health, and with an infant in my arms only three weeks old. In
the face of many threats and dangers, I spent nearly a month in that
city, in vain attempts to bring my cause to a trial. When all prospect
of success in this undertaking had disappeared, and not till then, I
determined to make my accusations through the press; and although
misrepresentations and scandals, flattery and threats, have been
resorted to, to nullify or to suppress my testimony, I have persevered,
although, as many of my friends have thought, at the risk of abduction
or death.

I have, I think, afforded every opportunity that could be reasonably
expected, to judge of my credibility. I have appealed to the existence
of things in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, as the great criterion of the truth
of my story. I have described the apartments, and now, in this volume,
have added many further particulars, with such a description of them as
my memory has enabled me to make. I have offered, in case I should be
proved an impostor, to submit to any punishment which may be proposed--
even to a re-delivery into the hands of my bitterest enemies, to suffer
what they may please to inflict.

Now, in these circumstances, I would ask the people of the United
States, whether my duty has not been discharged? Have I not done what I
ought--to inform and to alarm them? I would also solemnly appeal to the
Government of Great Britain, under whose guardianship is the province
oppressed by the gloomy institution from which I have escaped, and ask
whether such atrocities ought to be tolerated, and even protected by an
enlightened and Christian power? I trust the hour is near, when the dens
of the Hotel Dieu will be laid open--when the tyrants who have polluted
it will be brought out, with the wretched victims of their oppression
and crimes.


* * * * *


Early Life--Religious Education neglected--First School--Entrance into
the School of the Congregational Nunnery--Brief Account of the Nunneries
in Montreal--The Congregational Nunnery--The Black Nunnery--The Grey
Nunnery--Public Respect for these Institutions--Instruction Received--
The Catechism--The Bible


Story told by a fellow Pupil against a Priest--Other Stories--Pretty
Mary--Confess to Father Richards--My subsequent Confessions--Left the
Congregational Nunnery


Preparations to become a Novice in the Black Nunnery--Entrance--
Occupations of the Novices--The Apartments to which they had Access--
First Interview with Jane Ray--Reverence for the Superior--Her Reliques
--The Holy Good Shepherd, or nameless Nun--Confession of Novices


Displeased with the Convent--Left it--Residence at St. Denis--Reliques--
Marriage--Return to the Black Nunnery--Objections made by some Novices--
Ideas of the Bible


Received Confirmation--Painful Feelings--Specimen of Instruction
received on the Subject


Taking the Veil--Interview afterward with the Superior--Surprise and
horror at her Disclosures--Resolution to Submit


Daily Ceremonies--Jane Ray among the Nuns


Description of Apartments in the Black Nunnery, in order.--1st Floor--2d
Floor--The Founder--Superior's Management with the Friends of Novices--
Religious Lies--Criminality of concealing Sins at Confession


Nuns with similar names--Squaw Nuns--First visit to the Cellar--
Description of it--Shocking discovery there--Superior's Instructions--
Private Signal of the Priests--Books used in the Nunnery--Opinions
expressed of the Bible--Specimens of what I know of the Scriptures


Manufacture of Bread and Wax Candles carried on in the Convent--
Superstitions--Scapularies--Virgin Mary's pincushion--Her House--The
Bishop's power over fire--My Instructions to Novices--Jane Ray--
Vaccillation of feelings


Alarming Order from the Superior--Proceed to execute it--Scene in an
upper Room--Sentence of Death, and Murder--My own distress--Reports made
to friends of St. Francis


Description of the Room of the Three States, and the pictures in it--
Jane Ray ridiculing Priests--Their criminal Treatment of us at
Confession--Jane Ray's Tricks with the Nuns' Aprons, Handkerchiefs, and


Jane Ray's Tricks continued--The Broomstick Ghost--Sleep-walking--Salted
Cider--Changing Beds--Objects of some of her Tricks--Feigned Humility--
Alarm--Treatment of a new Nun--A nun made by stratagem


Influencing Novices--Difficulty of convincing persons from the United
States--Tale of the Bishop in the City--The Bishop in the Convent--The
Prisoners in the Cells--Practice in Singing--Narratives--Jane Ray's
Hymns--The Superior's best Trick


Frequency of the Priests' Visits to the Nunnery--Their Freedom and
Crimes--Difficulty of learning their Names--Their Holy Retreat--
Objections in our minds--Means used to counteract Conscience--Ingenious


Treatment of young Infants in the Convent--Talking in Sleep--Amusements
--Ceremonies at the public interment of deceased Nuns--Sudden
disappearance of the Old Superior--Introduction of the new one--
Superstition--Alarm of a Nun--Difficulty of Communication with other


Disappearance of Nuns--St. Pierre--Gags--My temporary Confinement in a
Cell--The Cholera Season--How to avoid it--Occupations in the Convent
during the Pestilence--Manufacture of War Candles--The Election Riots--
Alarm among the Nuns--Preparations for defence--Penances


The Priests of the District of Montreal have free access to the Black
Nunnery--Crimes committed and required by them--The Pope's command to
commit indecent Crimes--Characters of the Old and New Superiors--The
timidity of the latter--I began to be employed in the Hospitals--Some
account of them--Warning given me by a sick Nun--Penance by Hanging


More visits to the imprisoned Nuns--Their fears--Others temporarily put
into the Cells--Reliques--The Agnus Dei--The Priests' private Hospital,
or Holy Retreat--Secret Rooms in the Eastern Wing--Reports of Murders in
the Convent--The Superior's private Records--Number of Nuns in the
Convent--Desire of Escape--Urgent reason for it--Plan--Deliberation--


At liberty--Doubtful what to do--Found refuge for the night--
Disappointment--My first day out of the Convent--Solitude--
Recollections, fears, and plans


Start for Quebec--Recognised--Disappointed again--Not permitted to land
--Return to Montreal--Landed and passed through the city before day--
Lachine Canal--Intended close of my life


Awake among strangers--Dr. Robertson--Imprisoned as a vagrant--
Introduction to my mother--Stay in her house--Removal from it to Mrs.
McDonald's--Return to my mother's--Desire to get to New York--
Arrangements for going


Singular concurrence of circumstances, which enabled me to get to the
United States--Intentions in going there--Commence my journey--Fears of
my companion--Stop at Whitehall--Injury received in a canal boat--
Arrival at New York--A solitary retreat


Reflections and sorrow in solitude--Night--Fears--Exposure to rain--
Discovered by strangers--Their unwelcome kindness--Taken to the Bellevue


Reception at the Almshouse--Message from Mr. Conroy, a Roman priest in
New York--His invitations to a private interview--His claims,
propositions, and threats--Mr. Kelly's message--Effects of reading the


Proposition to go to Montreal and testify against the priests--
Commencement of my journey--Stop at Troy, Whitehall, Burlington, St.
Alban's, Plattsburgh, and St. John's--Arrival at Montreal--Reflections
on passing the Nunnery.


Received into a hospitable family--Fluctuating feelings--Visits from
several persons--Father Phelan's declarations against me in his church--
Interviews with a Journeyman Carpenter--Arguments with him


A Milkman--An Irishwoman--Difficulty in having my Affidavit taken--Legal
objection to it when taken


Interview with the Attorney General of the Province--Attempt to abduct
me--More interviews--A mob excited against me--Protected by two
soldiers--Convinced that an investigation of my charges could not be
obtained--Departure from Montreal--Closing reflections The truth of the
work demonstrated

APPENDIX--Reception of the work--Affidavits--Criticisms of the press,


Here is the reprint of one of the most formidable books against
Nunneries ever published. It has produced powerful impressions abroad,
as well as in the United States, and appears destined to have still
greater results. It is the simple narrative of an uneducated and
unprotected female, who escaped from the old Black Nunnery of Montreal,
or Hotel Dieu, and told her tale of sufferings and horrors, without
exaggeration or embellishment. Though assailed by all the powers of the
Romish priesthood, whom she accused, and by the united influence of the
North American press, which, with very small exceptions, was then
unenlightened by the discoveries of the present day, the book remains
unimpeached, and still challenges the test of fair and open examination.

Many an American female, no doubt, is now living, who might justly
acknowledge that she was saved from exposure to the suffering, or even
the ruin, often the consequences of a Convent education, by the
disinterested warning given in this book; while its author, disheartened
at length by the powerful combination of Protestants and Papists against
her, led to distrust even the few who remained her friends, destitute of
the means of living, and alternately persecuted and tempted by her ever
watchful and insidious enemies, died some years since, under
condemnation (whether just or unjust) for one of the slightest of the
crimes which she had charged against them--thus falling at last their

American parents have here a book written for the salvation of their
daughters; American patriots, one designed to secure society against one
of the most destructive but insidious institutions of popery; American
females, an appeal to them of the most solemn kind, to beware of
Convents, and all who attempt to inveigle our unsuspecting daughters
into them, by the secret apparatus of Jesuit schools. The author of this
book was a small, slender, uneducated, and persecuted young woman, who
sought refuge in our country without a protector; but she showed the
resolution and boldness of a heroine, in confronting her powerful
enemies in their strong hold, and proved, by the simple force of truth,
victorious in the violent conflicts which were waged against her by the
Romish hierarchy of America and the popular press of the United States.

The publishers have thought the present an opportune period to place
this work again in the hands of American readers, with such information,
in a preface, as is necessary to acquaint readers of the present day
with the leading circumstances attending and succeeding its original
publication. They have examined most of the evidence supporting the
truth of the narrative, of which the public can judge as well as
themselves. The details would be voluminous, even of those portions
which have been collected since the heat of the controversy which the
book long ago excited. Suffice it to say, that undesigned and collateral
evidence in corroboration of it has been increasing to the present day;
and that the following brief review of some of the early events will
afford a fair specimen of the whole.

In the year 1835, Maria Monk was found alone, and in a wretched and
feeble condition, on the outskirts of New York city, by a humane man,
who got her admitted into the hospital at Bellevue. She then first told
the story in outline, which she afterwards and uniformly repeated in
detail, and which was carefully written down and published in the
following form:--she said she was a fugitive nun from the Hotel Dieu of
Montreal, whence she had effected her escape, in consequence of cruelty
which she had suffered, and crimes which were there committed by the
Romish priests, who had the control of the institution, and to which
they had access, by private as well as public entrances. Having
expressed a willingness to go to that city, make public accusations, and
point out evidences of their truth in the convent itself, she was taken
thither by a resolute man, who afterwards suffered for an act of great
merit; but she was unable to obtain a fair hearing, apparently through
the secret opposition of the priests. She returned to New York, where
her story was thought worthy of publication; and it was proposed to have
it carefully written down from her lips, and published in a small
pamphlet. Everything she communicated was, therefore, accurately written
down, and, when copied out, read to her for correction. But the amount
of important material in her possession, proved to be far greater than
had been supposed, and many pages of notes were accumulated on numerous
topics brought up to her attention in the course of conversation and
inquiry. All those were submitted to persons fully competent to decide
as to the reliability of the evidence, and the strictest and most
conscientious care was taken to ascertain the truth.

There were but very few Protestants in the United States acquainted with
the condition or history of convents in different countries, the
characters of those who control and direct them, the motives they have
for keeping them secret, the occupations often pursued within their
walls, in short, the shameful practices and atrocious crimes of which
they have been proved to be the theatres, in modern and ancient times,
by Romish ecclesiastics and even popes themselves. The public were,
therefore, quite unprepared to believe such accusations against men
professing sanctity of life, and a divine commission to the world,
although Miss Harrison and Miss Reed of Boston had published startling
reports respecting the character of the priests and nuns in that

The following were some of the considerations which were kept in view by
those who proposed the publication of the narrative:--

"If the story is false, it must have been forged by the narrator or some
other party. There must have been a motive in either case; and that may
be either to obtain notoriety or money, to injure the reputation of the
priests accused, or ultimately to remove the unfavorable impressions
thrown upon them by their former accusers, by first making charges of
atrocious crimes, and then disproving them. On the other hand, the story
may perhaps be true; and if so, the world ought to know it. In the
meantime, here is an unprotected, and evidently unfortunate young woman,
of an interesting appearance, who asks to be allowed to make her
complaint, voluntarily consenting to submit to punishment if she does
not speak the truth. _She must be allowed a hearing._"

It is but justice to say that the investigation was undertaken with
strong suspicions of imposture somewhere, and with a fixed resolution to
expose it if discovered. As the investigation proceeded, opinions at
first fluctuated, sometimes from day to day; but it became evident, ere
long, that if the story had been fabricated, it was not the work of the
narrator, as she had not the capacity to invent one so complex and
consistent with itself and with many historical facts entirely beyond
the limited scope of her knowledge. It was also soon perceived that she
could never have been taught it by others, as no part of it was
systematically arranged in her mind, and she communicated it in the
incidental manner common to uneducated persons, who recount past scenes
in successive conversations.

As she declared from the first that she had been trained to habits of
deception in the Convent, and accustomed to witness deceit and
criminality, no confidence could be claimed for her mere unsupported
declarations; and therefore a course of thorough cross-questioning was
pursued, every effort being made to lead her to contradict herself, but
without success. She told the same things over and over again in a
natural and consistent manner, when brought back to the same point after
intervals of weeks or months. In several instances it was thought that
contradictions had been traced, but when called on to reconcile her
statements, she cleared up all doubt by easy and satisfactory
explanations. The course pursued by the priests of Canada and their
advocates, was such as greatly to confirm the opinion that she spoke the
truth, and that they were exceedingly afraid of it. The following were
some of the contradictory grounds which they at different times assumed
in their bitter attacks upon her, her friends, and her books:

That she had never been in the nunnery.

That she had been expelled from it.

That she had fabricated everything that she published.

That several pages from her book, published in the New York "Sun," were
copied verbatim et literatim from a work published in Portugal above a
hundred years before, entitled "The Gates of Hell Opened."

That there never was a subterranean passage from the seminary to the

That there was such a passage in that direction, but that it led to the
River St. Lawrence.

That the drawings and descriptions of the nunnery, and especially of the
veiled department, were wholly unlike the reality, but applied to the
Magdalen Asylum of Montreal.

That several objects described by her were in the nunnery, but not in
those parts of it where she had placed them. (This was said by a person
who admitted that he had been lost amidst the numerous and extensive
apartments when he made his observations.)

That the book was fabricated by certain persons in New York who were
named, they being gentlemen of the highest character.

That the book was her own production, but written under the instigation
of the devil.

That the author was a layman, and ought to be hung on the first lamp-

That the nunnery was a sacred place, and ought not to be profaned by the
admission of enemies of the church.

After a committee had been appointed to examine the nunnery and report,
and their demand for admission had been published a year or more, the
editor of _L'Ami du Peuple_, a Montreal newspaper, devoted to the
priests' cause, offered to admit persons informally, and did admit
several Americans, who had been strong partisans against the
"Disclosures." Their letters on the subject, though very indefinite,
contained several important, though undesigned admissions, strongly
corroborating the book.

One of the most common charges against the book was, that it had been
written merely for the purpose of obtaining money. Of the falseness of
this there is decisive evidence. It was intended to secure to the poor
and persecuted young female, any profits which might arise from the
publication; but most of the labor and time devoted to the work were
gratuitously bestowed. Besides this they devoted much time to efforts
necessary to guard against the numerous and insidious attempts made by
friends of the priests, who by various arts endeavored to produce
dissention and delay, as well as to pervert public opinion.

The book was published, and had an almost unprecedented sale, impressing
deep convictions, wherever it went, by its simple and consistent
statements. In Canada, especially, it was extensively received as true;
but as the American newspapers were soon enlisted against it, the
country was filled with misrepresentations, which it was impossible
through those channels to follow with refutations. Her noble sacrifices
for the good of others were misunderstood, she withdrew from her few
remaining friends, and at length died in poverty and prison, a victim of
the priests of Rome. Various evidences in favor of its truth afterwards
appeared, with which the public have never been generally made
acquainted. Some of these were afforded during an interview held in New
York, August 17th, 1836, with Messrs. Jones and Le Clerc, who had came
from Montreal with a work in reply to "Awful Disclosures," which was
afterwards published. They had offered to confront Maria Monk, and prove
her an impostor, and make her confess it in the presence of her friends.
She promptly appeared; and the first exclamation of Mr. Jones proved
that she was not the person he had supposed her to be: _"This is not
Fawny Johnson!"_ said he; and he afterwards said, "There must be two
Maria Monks!" Indeed, several persons were at different times
represented to bear that name; and much confusion was caused in the
testimony by that artifice. The interview continued about two hours,
during which the Canadians made a very sorry figure, entirely failing to
gain any advantage, and exposing their own weakness. At the close, an
Episcopal clergyman from Canada, one of the company, said: "Miss Monk,
if I had had any doubts of your truth before this interview, they would
now have been entirely removed."

The book of Mr. Jones was published, and consisted of affidavits, &c.,
obtained in Canada, including those which had previously been published,
and which are contained in the Appendix to this volume. Many of them
were signed by names unknown, or those of low persons of no credit, or
devoted to the service of the priests. Evidence was afterwards obtained
that Mr. Jones was paid by the Canadian ecclesiastics, of which there
had been strong indications. What rendered his defeat highly important
was, that he was the editor of _L'Ami du Peuple_, the priests'
newspaper, in Montreal, and he was "the author of everything which had
been written there against Maria Monk," and had collected all "the
affidavits and testimony." These were his own declarations. An accurate
report of the interview was published, and had its proper effect,
especially his exclamation--"This is not Fanny Johnson!"

The exciting controversy has long passed, but the authentic records of
it are imperishable, and will ever be regarded as an instructive study.
The corruptions and crimes of nunneries, and the hypocrisy and chicanery
of those who control them, with the varied and powerful means at their
command, are there displayed to an attentive reader, in colors as dark
and appalling as other features of the popish system are among us, by
the recent exposures of the impudent arrogance of the murderer Bedini,
and the ambitious and miserly spirit of his particular friend, the
Romish Archbishop of New York.

Among the recent corroborates of the "Awful Disclosures," may be
particularly mentioned the two narratives entitled "Coralla," and
"Confessions of a Sister of Charity," contained in the work issued this
season by the publishers of the present volume, viz.: "_The Escaped
Nun_; or, Disclosures of Convent Life," &c. Of the authenticity of
those two narratives we can give the public the strongest assurance.

After the city of Rome had been taken by siege by the French army, in
1849, the priests claimed possession of a female orphan-asylum, which
had something of the nature of a nunnery. The republican government had
given liberty to all recluses, and opened all _secret institutions_.
(When will Americans do the same?)

Subsequently, when the papists attempted to reinstate the old system,
the females remonstrated, barred the doors, and armed themselves with
knives and spits from the kitchen, but the French soldiers succeeded in
reducing them by force. During the contest the cry of the women was, "We
will not be the _wives_ of the priests!"

In one of the convents in that city, opened by the republicans, were
found evidences of some of the worst crimes mentioned by Maria Monk; and
in another were multitudes of bones, including those of children.

A strong effort will probably be made again, by the parties exposed by
this book, to avoid the condemnation which it throws upon convents--the
strongholds of superstition, corruption, and _foreign influence_,
in the United States. The Romish publications, although greatly reduced
in number within a few years, will probably pour out much of their
unexhausted virulence, as it is their vocation to misrepresent, deny,
and vilify. They will be ready to pronounce a general anathema on all
who dare to reprint, or even to read or believe, such strong accusations
against the "holy retreats" of those whom they pretend are "devoted to
lives of piety." But we will challenge them to do it again, by placing
some of their iron bishops and even popes in the forefront.

In the year 1489, in the reign of Henry VII, Pope Innocent VIII
published a bull for the Reformation of Monasteries, entitled, in Latin,
"_De Reformatione Monasceriorum_," in which he says that, "members
of monasteries and other religious places, both Clemian, Cistercian, and
Praemonstratensian, and various other orders in the Kingdom of England"
--"lead a lascivious and truly dissolute life." And that the papist
reader may receive this declaration with due reverence, we copy the
preceding words in Latin, as written by an infallible pope, the man
whose worshippers address him as "Vicegerent of God on earth." Of course
his words must convince them, if ours do not: "Vitam lascivam ducunt, et
nimium dissolutam." "Swine Priory," in 1303, had a Prioress named
Josiana, whose conduct made the name of her house quite appropriate. In
France, in the Council of Troyes, A. D. 999, the Archbishop said, "In
convents of monks, canons, and nuns, we have lay abbots residing with
their wives, sons, daughters, soldiers and dogs;" and he charges the
whole clergy with being in a deprived and sinful state. But the
particulars now before us, of such shameful things in Germany, Italy,
&c., for ages, would fill a larger volume than this.

Now, let the defenders of nunneries repeat, if they dare, their
hackneyed denunciations of those who deny their sanctity. Here stand
some of their own bishops and popes before us; and the anathemas must
fall first upon mitres and tiaras! Americans will know how much
confidence to place in the pretended purity of institutions, whose
iniquity and shame have been thus proclaimed, age after age, in a far
more extensive manner than by this book. But we can at any time shut
their mouths by the mere mention of "_Den's Theology_," which they
must not provoke us to refer to.




Early Life--Religious Education neglected--First Schools--Entrance into
the School of the Congregational Nunnery--Brief Account of the Nunneries
in Montreal--The Congregational Nunnery--The Black Nunnery--The Grey
Nunnery--Public Respect for these Institutions--Instruction Received--
The Catechism--The Bible.

My parents were both from Scotland, but had been resident in Lower
Canada some time before their marriage, which took place in Montreal;
and in that city I spent most of my life. I was born at St. John's,
where they lived for a short time. My father was an officer under the
British Government, and my mother has enjoyed a pension on that account
ever since his death. [Footnote: See the affidavit of William Miller, in
the Appendix.]

According to my earliest recollections, he was attentive to his family;
and a particular passage from the Bible, which often occurred to my mind
in after life, I may very probably have been taught by him, as after his
death I do not recollect to have received any religious instruction at
home; and was not even brought up to read the scriptures: my mother,
although nominally a Protestant, not being accustomed to pay attention
to her children in this respect. She was rather inclined to think well
of the Catholics, and often attended their churches. To my want of
religious instruction at home, and the ignorance of my Creator, and my
duty, which was its natural effect. I think I can trace my introduction
to Convents, and the scenes which I am to describe in this narrative.

When about six or seven years of age, I went to school to a Mr. Workman,
a Protestant, who taught in Sacrament street, and remained several
months. There I learned to read and write, and arithmetic as far as
division. All the progress I ever made in those branches was gained in
that school, as I have never improved in any of them since.

A number of girls of my acquaintance went to school to the nuns of the
Congregational Nunnery, or Sisters of Charity, as they are sometimes
called. The schools taught by them are perhaps more numerous than some
of my readers may imagine. Nuns are sent out from that Convent to many
of the towns and villages of Canada to teach small schools; and some of
them are established as instructresses in different parts of the United
States. When I was about ten years old, my mother asked me one day if I
should not like to learn to read and write French; and I then began to
think seriously of attending the school in the Congregational Nunnery. I
had already some acquaintance with that language, sufficient to speak it
a little, as I heard it every day, and my mother knew something of it.

I have a distinct recollection of my first entrance into the Nunnery;
and the day was an important one in my life, as on it commenced my
acquaintance with a Convent. I was conducted by some of my young friends
along Notre Dame street till we reached the gate. Entering that, we
walked some distance along the side of a building towards the chapel,
until we reached a door, stopped, and rung a bell. This was soon opened,
and entering, we proceeded through a long covered passage till we took a
short turn to the left, soon after which we reached the door of the
school-room. On my entrance, the Superior met me, and told me first of
all that I must always dip my fingers into the holy water at her door,
cross myself, and say a short prayer; and this she told me was always
required of Protestant as well as Catholic children.

There were about fifty girls in the school, and the nuns professed to
teach something of reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography. The
methods, however, were very imperfect, and little attention was devoted
to them, the time being in a great degree engrossed with lessons in
needle-work, which was performed with much skill. The nuns had no very
regular parts assigned them in the management of the schools. They were
rather rough and unpolished in their manners, often exclaiming, "c'est
un menti" (that's a lie), and "mon Dieu" (my God), on the most trivial
occasions. Their writing was quite poor, and it was not uncommon for
them to put a capital letter in the middle of a word. The only book on
geography which we studied, was a catechism of geography, from which we
learnt by heart a few questions and answers. We were sometimes referred
to a map, but it was only to point out Montreal or Quebec, or some other
prominent name, while we had no instruction beyond.

It may be necessary for the information of some of my readers, to
mention that there are three distinct Convents in Montreal, all of
different kinds; that is, founded on different plans, and governed by
different rules. Their names are as follows:--

1st. The Congregational Nunnery.

2d. The Black Nunnery, or Convent of Sister Bourgeoise.

3d The Grey Nunnery.

The first of these professes to be devoted entirely to the education of
girls. It would require however only a proper examination to prove that,
with the exception of needle-work, hardly anything is taught excepting
prayers and the catechism; the instruction in reading, writing, &c., in
fact, amounting to very little, and often to nothing. This Convent is
adjacent to that next to be spoken of, being separated from it only by a
wall. The second professes to be a charitable institution for the care
of the sick, and the supply of bread and medicines for the poor; and
something is done in these departments of charity, although but an
insignificant amount, compared with the size of the buildings, and the
number of the inmates.

The Grey Nunnery, which is situated in a distant part of the city, is
also a large edifice, containing departments for the care of insane
persons and foundlings. With this, however, I have less personal
acquaintance than with either of the others. I have often seen two of
the Grey nuns, and know that their rules, as well as those of the
Congregational Nunnery, do not confine them always within their walls,
like those of the Black Nunnery. These two Convents have their common
names (Black and Grey) from the colours of the dresses worn by their

In all these three Convents, there are certain apartments into which
strangers can gain admittance, but others from which they are always
excluded. In all, large quantities of various ornaments are made by the
nuns, which are exposed for sale in the _Ornament_ Rooms, and
afford large pecuniary receipts every year, which contribute much to
their incomes. In these rooms visitors often purchase such things as
please them from some of the old [Footnote: The term "old nun," does not
always indicate superior age.] and confidential nuns who have the charge
of them.

From all that appears to the public eye, the nuns of these Convents are
devoted to the charitable objects appropriate to each, the labour of
making different articles, known to be manufactured by them, and the
religious observances, which occupy a large portion of their time. They
are regarded with much respect by the people at large; and now and then
when a novice takes the veil, she is supposed to retire from the
temptations and troubles of this world into a state of holy seclusion,
where, by prayer, self-mortification, and good deeds, she prepares
herself for heaven. Sometimes the Superior of a Convent obtains the
character of working miracles; and when such a one dies, it is published
through the country, and crowds throng the Convent, who think
indulgences are to be derived from bits of her clothes or other things
she has possessed; and many have sent articles to be touched to her bed
or chair, in which a degree of virtue is thought to remain. I used to
participate in such ideas and feelings, and began by degrees to look
upon a nun as the happiest of women, and a Convent as the most peaceful,
holy, and delightful place of abode. It is true, some pains were taken
to impress such views upon me. Some of the priests of the Seminary often
visited the Congregation Nunnery, and both catechised and talked with us
on religion. The Superior of the Black Nunnery adjoining, also,
occasionally came into the School, enlarged on the advantages we enjoyed
in having such teachers, and dropped something now and then relating to
her own Convent, calculated to make us entertain the highest ideas of
it, and to make us sometimes think of the possibility of getting into

Among the instructions given us by the priests, some of the most pointed
were those directed against the Protestant Bible. They often enlarged
upon the evil tendency of that book, and told us that but for it many a
soul now condemned to hell, and suffering eternal punishment, might have
been in happiness. They could not say any thing in its favour: for that
would be speaking against religion and against God. They warned us
against it, and represented it as a thing very dangerous to our souls.
In confirmation of this, they would repeat some of the answers taught us
at catechism, a few of which I will here give. We had little catechisms
("Le Petit Catechism") put into our hands to study; but the priests soon
began to teach us a new set of answers, which were not to be found in
our books, and from some of which I received new ideas, and got, as I
thought, important light on religious subjects, which confirmed me more
and more in my belief in the Roman Catholic doctrines. These questions
and answers I can still recall with tolerable accuracy, and some of them
I will add here. I never have read them, as we were taught them only by
word of mouth.

_Question_. "Pourquoi le bon Dieu n'a pas fait tous les

_Reponse_. "Parce que l'homme n'est pas si fort qu'il peut garder
tous ses commandemens."

_Q_. "Why did not God make all the commandments?"

_A_. "Because man is not strong enough to keep them."

And another. _Q_. "Pourquoi l'homme ne lit pas l'Evangile?"

_R_. "Parce que l'esprit de l'homme est trop borne et trop faible
pour comprendre qu'est ce que Dieu a ecrit."

_Q_. "Why are men not to read the New Testament?"

_A_. "Because the mind of man is too limited and weak to understand
what God has written."

These questions and answers are not to be found in the common catechisms
in use in Montreal and other places where I have been, but all the
children in the Congregational Nunnery were taught them, and many more
not found in these books.



Story told by a fellow Pupil against a Priest--Other Stories--Pretty
Mary--Confess to Father Richards--My subsequent Confessions--Left the
Congregational Nunnery.

There was a girl thirteen years old whom I knew in the School, who
resided in the neighborhood of my mother, and with whom I had been
familiar. She told me one day at school of the conduct of a priest with
her at confession, at which I was astonished. It was of so criminal and
shameful a nature, I could hardly believe it, and yet I had so much
confidence that she spoke the truth, that I could not discredit it.

She was partly persuaded by the priest to believe that he could not sin,
because he was a priest, and that anything he did to her would sanctify
her; and yet she seemed doubtful how she should act. A priest, she had
been told by him, is a holy man, and appointed to a holy office, and
therefore what would be wicked in other men, could not be so in him. She
told me that she had informed her mother of it, who expressed no anger
nor disapprobation, but only enjoined it upon her not to speak of it;
and remarked to her, that as priests were not like other men, but holy,
and sent to instruct and save us, whatever they did was right.

I afterward confessed to the priest that I had heard the story, and had
a penance to perform for indulging a sinful curiosity in making
inquiries; and the girl had another for communicating it. I afterward
learned that other children had been treated in the same manner, and
also of similar proceedings in other places.

Indeed, it was not long before such language was used to me, and I well
remember how my views of right and wrong were shaken by it. Another girl
at the School, from a place above Montreal, called the Lac, told me the
following story of what had occurred recently in that vicinity. A young
squaw, called la Belle Marie,(pretty Mary,) had been seen going to
confession at the house of the priest, who lived a little out of the
village. La Belle Marie was afterwards missed, and her murdered body was
found in the river. A knife was also found covered with blood, bearing
the priest's name. Great indignation was excited among the Indians, and
the priest immediately absconded, and was never heard from again. A note
was found on his table addressed to him, telling him to fly if he was

It was supposed that the priest was fearful that his conduct might be
betrayed by this young female; and he undertook to clear himself by
killing her.

These stories struck me with surprise at first, but I gradually began to
feel differently, even supposing them true, and to look upon the priests
as men incapable of sin; besides, when I first went to confession, which
I did to Father Richards, in the old French church (since taken down), I
heard nothing improper; and it was not until I had been several times,
that the priests became more and more bold, and were at length indecent
in their questions and even in their conduct when I confessed to them in
the Sacristie. This subject I believe is not understood nor suspected
among Protestants; and it is not my intention to speak of it very
particularly, because it is impossible to do so without saying things
both shameful and demoralizing.

I will only say here, that when quite a child, I had from the mouths of
the priests at confession what I cannot repeat, with treatment
corresponding; and several females in Canada have recently assured me,
that they have repeatedly, and indeed regularly, been required to answer
the same and other like questions, many of which present to the mind
deeds which the most iniquitous and corrupt heart could hardly invent.

There was a frequent change of teachers in the School of the Nunnery;
and no regular system was pursued in our instruction. There were many
nuns who came and went while I was there, being frequently called in and
out without any perceptible reason. They supply school teachers to many
of the country towns, usually two for each of the towns with which I was
acquainted, besides sending Sisters of Charity to different parts of the
United States. Among those whom I saw most, was Saint Patrick, an old
woman for a nun (that is, about forty), very ignorant, and gross in her
manners, with quite a beard on her face, and very cross and
disagreeable. She was sometimes our teacher in sewing, and was appointed
to keep order among us. We were allowed to enter only a few of the rooms
in the Congregational Nunnery, although it was not considered one of the
secluded Convents.

In the Black Nunnery, which is very near the Congregational, is an
hospital for sick people from the city; and sometimes some of our
boarders, such as are indisposed, were sent there to be cured. I was
once taken ill myself and sent there, where I remained a few days.

There were beds enough for a considerable number more. A physician
attended it daily; and there are a number of the veiled nuns of that
Convent who spend most of their time there.

These would also sometimes read lectures and repeat prayers to us.

After I had been in the Congregational Nunnery about two years, I left
it,[Footnote: See the 2d affidavit.] and attended several different
schools for a short time; but I soon became dissatisfied, having many
and severe trials to endure at home, which my feelings will not allow me
to describe; and as my Catholic acquaintances had often spoken to me in
favour of their faith, I was inclined to believe it true, although, as I
before said, I knew little of any religion. While out of the nunnery, I
saw nothing of religion. If I had, I believe I should never have thought
of becoming a nun.



Preparations to become a Novice in the Black Nunnery--Entrance--
Occupations of the Novices--The Apartments to which they had Access--
First Interview with Jane Ray--Reverence for the Superior--Her Reliques
--The Holy Good Shepherd or nameless Nun--Confession of Novices.

At length I determined to become a Black nun, and called upon one of the
oldest priests in the Seminary, to whom I made known my intention.

The old priest to whom I applied was Father Rocque. He is still alive.
He was at that time the oldest priest in the Seminary, and carried the
Bon Dieu, (Good God,) as the sacramental wafer is called. When going to
administer it in any country place, he used to ride with a man before
him, who rang a bell as a signal. When the Canadians heard it, whose
habitations he passed, they would come and prostrate themselves to the
earth, worshipping it as God. He was a man of great age, and wore large
curls, so that he somewhat resembled his predecessor, Father Roue. He
was at that time at the head of the Seminary. This institution is a
large edifice, situated near the Congregational and Black Nunneries,
being on the east side of Notre Dame street. It is the general
rendezvous and centre of all the priests in the District of Montreal,
and, I have been told, supplies all the country with priests as far down
as Three Rivers, which place, I believe, is under the charge of the
Seminary of Quebec. About one hundred and fifty priests are connected
with that of Montreal, as every small place has one priest, and a number
of larger ones have two.

Father Rocque promised to converse with the Superior of the Convent, and
proposed my calling again, at the end of two weeks, at which time I
visited the Seminary again, and was introduced by him to the Superior of
the Black Nunnery. She told me she must make some inquiries, before she
could give me a decided answer; and proposed to me to take up my abode a
few days at the house of a French family in St. Lawrence suburbs, a
distant part of the city. Here I remained about a fortnight; during
which time I formed some acquaintance with the family, particularly with
the mistress of the house, who was a devoted Papist, and had a high
respect for the Superior, with whom she stood on good terms.

At length, on Saturday morning about ten o'clock, I called and was
admitted into the Black Nunnery, as a novice, much to my satisfaction,
for I had a high idea of a life in a Convent, secluded, as I supposed
the inmates to be, from the world and all its evil influences, and
assured of everlasting happiness in heaven. The Superior received me,
and conducted me into a large room, where the novices, (who are called
in French Postulantes,) were assembled, and engaged in their customary
occupation of sewing.

Here were about forty of them, and they were collected in groups in
different parts of the room, chiefly near the windows; but in each group
was found one of the veiled nuns of the Convent, whose abode was in the
interior apartments, to which no novice was to be admitted. As we
entered, the Superior informed the assembly that a new novice had come,
and she desired any present who might have known me in the world to
signify it.

Two Miss Fougnees, and a Miss Howard, from Vermont, who had been my
fellow-pupils in the Congregational Nunnery, immediately recognised me.
I was then placed in one of the groups, at a distance from them, and
furnished by a nun called Sainte Clotilde, with materials to make a kind
of purse, such as the priests use to carry the consecrated wafer in,
when they go to administer the sacrament to the sick. I well remember my
feelings at that time, sitting among a number of strangers, and
expecting with painful anxiety the arrival of the dinner hour. Then, as
I knew, ceremonies were to be performed, for which I was but ill
prepared, as I had not yet heard the rules by which I was to be
governed, and knew nothing of the forms to be repeated in the daily
exercises, except the creed in Latin, and that imperfectly. This was
during the time of recreation, as it is called. The only recreation
there allowed, however, is that of the mind, and of this there is but
little. We were kept at work, and permitted to speak with each other
only on such subjects as related to the Convent, and all in the hearing
of the old nuns who sat by us. We proceeded to dinner in couples, and
ate in silence while a lecture was read.

The novices had access to only eight of the apartments of the Convent;
and whatever else we wished to know, we could only conjecture. The
sleeping room was in the second story, at the end of the western wing.
The beds were placed in rows, without curtains or anything else to
obstruct the view; and in one corner was a small room partitioned off,
in which was the bed of the night-watch, that is, the old nun that was
appointed to oversee us for the night. In each side of the partition
were two holes, through which she could look out upon us whenever she
pleased. Her bed was a little raised above the level of the others.
There was a lamp hung in the middle of our chamber which showed every
thing to her distinctly; and as she had no light in her little room, we
never could perceive whether she was awake or asleep. As we knew that
the slightest deviation from the rules would expose us to her
observation, as well as to that of our companions, in whom it was a
virtue to betray one another's faults, as well as to confess our own, I
felt myself under a continual exposure to suffer what I disliked, and
had my mind occupied in thinking of what I was to do next, and what I
must avoid.

I soon learned the rules and ceremonies we had to regard, which were
many; and we had to be very particular in their observance. We were
employed in different kinds of work while I was a novice. The most
beautiful specimen of the nuns' manufacture which I saw was a rich
carpet made of fine worsted, which had been begun before my acquaintance
with the Convent, and was finished while I was there. This was sent as a
present to the King of England, as an expression of gratitude for the
money annually received from the government. It was about forty yards in
length, and very handsome. We were ignorant of the amount of money thus
received. The Convent of Grey Nuns has also received funds from the
government, though on some account or other, had not for several years.

I was sitting by a window at one time, with a girl named Jane M'Coy,
when one of the old nuns cams up and spoke to us in a tone of liveliness
and kindness which seemed strange, in a place where everything seemed so
cold and reserved. Some remark which she made was evidently intended to
cheer and encourage me, and made me think that she felt some interest in
me. I do not recollect what she said, but I remember it gave me
pleasure. I also remember that her manner struck me singularly. She was
rather old for a nun, that is, probably thirty; her figure large, her
face wrinkled, and her dress careless. She seemed also to be under less
restraint than the others, and this, I afterward found, was the case.
She sometimes even set the rules at defiance. She would speak aloud when
silence was required, and sometimes walk about when she ought to have
kept her place: she would even say and do things on purpose to make us
laugh; and although often blamed for her conduct, had her offences
frequently passed over, when others would have been punished with

I learnt that this woman had always been singular. She never would
consent to take a saint's name on receiving the veil, and had always
been known by her own, which was Jane Ray. Her irregularities were found
to be numerous, and penances were of so little use in governing her,
that she was pitied by some, who thought her partially insane. She was,
therefore, commonly spoken of as mad Jane Ray; and when she committed a
fault, it was often apologized for by the Superior or other nuns, on the
ground that she did not know what she did.

The occupations of a novice in the Black Nunnery are not such as some of
my readers may suppose. They are not employed in studying the higher
branches of education; they are not offered any advantages for storing
their mind, or polishing their manners; they are not taught even
reading, writing, or arithmetic; much less any of the more advanced
branches of knowledge. My time was chiefly employed, at first, in work
and prayers. It is true, during the last year I studied a great deal,
and was required to work but very little; but it was the study of
prayers in French and Latin, which I had merely to commit to memory, to
prepare for the easy repetition of them on my reception, and after I
should be admitted as a nun.

Among the wonderful events which had happened in the Convent, that of
the sudden conversion of a gay young lady of the city into a nun,
appeared to me one of the most remarkable. The story which I first
heard, while a novice, made a deep impression upon my mind. It was
nearly as follows:

The daughter of a wealthy citizen of Montreal was passing the church of
Bon Secours, one evening, on her way to a ball, when she was suddenly
thrown down upon the steps or near the door, and received a severe
shock. She was taken up, and removed first, I think, into the church,
but soon into the Black Nunnery, which she soon determined to join as a
nun; instead, however, of being required to pass through a long
novitiate (which usually occupies about two years and a-half, and is
abridged only where the character is peculiarly exemplary and devout),
she was permitted to take the veil without delay; being declared by God
to a priest to be in a state of sanctity. The meaning of this expression
is, that she was a real saint, and already in a great measure raised
above the world and its influences, and incapable of sinning, possessing
the power of intercession, and being a proper object to be addressed in
prayer. This remarkable individual, I was further informed, was still in
the Convent, though I never was allowed to see her; she did not mingle
with the other nuns, either at work, worship, or meals; for she had no
need of food, and not only her soul, but her body, was in heaven a great
part of her time. What added, if possible, to the reverence and
mysterious awe with which I thought of her, was the fact I learned, that
she had no name. The titles used in speaking of her were, the holy
saint, reverend mother, or saint bon pasteur (the holy good shepherd).

It is wonderful that we could have carried our reverence for the
Superior as far as we did, although it was the direct tendency of many
instructions and regulations, indeed of the whole system, to permit,
even to foster a superstitious regard for her.

One of us was occasionally called into her room, to cut her nails or
dress her hair; and we would often collect the clippings, and distribute
them to each other, or preserve them with the utmost care. I once picked
up all the stray hairs I could find, after combing her head, bound them
together, and kept them for some time, until she told me I was not
worthy to possess things so sacred. Jane McCoy and I were once sent to
alter a dress for the Superior. I gathered up all the bits of thread,
made a little bag, and put them into it for safe preservation. This I
wore a long time around my neck, so long, indeed, that I wore out a
number of strings, which, I remember, I replace with new ones. I
believed it to possess the power of removing pain, and often prayed to
it to cure the tooth-ache, &c. Jane Ray sometimes professed to outgo us
all in devotion to the Superior, and would pick up the feathers after
making her bed. These she would distributed among us, saying, "When the
Superior dies, reliques will begin to grow scarce, and you had better
supply yourselves in season." Then she would treat the whole matter in
some way to turn it into ridicule. Equally contradictory would she
appear, when occasionally she would obtain leave from the Superior to
tell her dreams. With a serious face, which sometimes imposed upon all
of us, and made us half believe she was in a perfect state of sanctity,
she would narrate in French some unaccountable vision which she said she
had enjoyed. Then turning round, would say, "There are some who do not
understand me; you all ought to be informed." And then she would say
something totally different in English, which put us to the greatest
agony for fear of laughing. Sometimes she would say that she expected to
be Superior herself, one of these days, and other things which I have
not room to repeat.

While I was in the Congregational Nunnery, I had gone to the parish
church whenever I was to confess; for although the nuns had a private
confession-room in the building, the boarders were taken in parties
through the streets on different days by some of the nuns, to confess in
the church; but in the Black Nunnery, as we had a chapel and priests
attending in the confessionals, we never left the building.

Our confessions there as novices, were always performed in one way, so
that it may be sufficient to describe a single case. Those of us who
were to confess at a particular time, took our places on our knees near
the confessional-box, and after having repeated a number of prayers,
&c., prescribed in our books, came up one at a time and kneeled beside a
fine wooden lattice-work, which entirely separated the confessor from
us, yet permitted us to place our faces almost to his ear, and nearly
concealed his countenance from view, even when so near. I recollect how
the priests used to recline their heads on one side, and often covered
their faces with their handkerchiefs, while they heard me confess my
sins, and put questions to me, which were often of the most improper and
even revolting nature, naming crimes both unthought of and inhuman.
Still, strange as it may seem, I was persuaded to believe that all this
was their duty, or at least that it was done without sin.

Veiled nuns would often appear in the chapel at confession; though, as I
understood, they generally confessed in private. Of the plan of their
confession-rooms I had no information; but I supposed the ceremony to be
conducted much on the same plan as in the chapel and in the church, viz.
with a lattice interposed between the confessor and the confessing.

Punishments were sometimes resorted to, while I was a novice, though but
seldom. The first time I ever saw a gag, was one day when a young novice
had done something to offend the Superior. This girl I always had
compassion for; because she was very young, and an orphan. The Superior
sent for a gag, and expressed her regret at being compelled, by the bad
conduct of the child, to proceed to such a punishment; after which she
put it into her mouth, so far as to keep it open, and then let it remain
some time before she took it out. There was a leathern strap fastened to
each end, and buckled to the back part of the head.


Displeased with the Convent--Left it--Residence at St. Denis--Reliques--
Marriage--Return to the Black Nunnery--Objections made by some Novices--
Ideas of the Bible.

After I had been in the nunneries four or five years, from the time I
commenced school at the Congregational Convent, one day I was treated by
one of the nuns in a manner which displeased me, and because I expressed
some resentment, was required to beg her pardon. Not being satisfied
with this, although I complied with the command, nor with the coolness
with which the Superior treated me, I determined to quit the Convent at
once, which I did without asking leave. There would have been no
obstacle to my departure, I presume, novice as I then was, if I had
asked permission; but I was too much displeased to wait for that, and
went home without speaking to any one on the subject.

I soon after visited the town of St. Denis, where I saw two young ladies
with whom I had formerly been acquainted in Montreal, and one of them a
former schoolmate at Mr. Workman's school. After some conversation with
me, and learning that I had known a lady who kept school in the place,
they advised me to apply to her to be employed as her assistant teacher;
for she was then instructing the government school in that place. I
visited her, and found her willing, and I engaged at once as her

The government society paid her 20_l_: a-year: she was obliged to
teach ten children gratuitously; might receive fifteen pence a month
(about a quarter of a dollar), for each of ten scholars more; and then
she was at liberty, according to the regulations, to demand as much as
she pleased for the other pupils. The course of instruction, as required
by the society, embraced only reading, writing, and what was called
ciphering, though I think improperly. The only books used were a
spelling-book, l'Instruction de la Jeunesse, the Catholic New Testament,
and l'Histoire de Canada. When these had been read through, in regular
succession, the children were dismissed as having completed their
education. No difficulty is found in making the common French Canadians
content with such an amount of instruction as this; on the contrary, it
is often very hard indeed to prevail upon them to send their children at
all, for they say it takes too much of the love of God from them to sent
them to school. The teacher strictly complied with the requisitions of
the society in whose employment she was, and the Roman Catholic
catechism was regularly taught in the school, as much from choice as
from submission to authority, as she was a strict Catholic. I had
brought with me the little bag I have before mentioned, in which I had
so long kept the clippings of the thread left after making a dress for
the Superior. Such was my regard for it, that I continued to wear it
constantly round my neck, and to feel the same reverence for its
supposed virtues as before. I occasionally had the toothache during my
stay at St. Denis, and then always relied on the influence of my little
bag. On such occasions I would say--

"By the virtue of this bag, may I be delivered from the toothache;" and
I supposed that when it ceased, it was owing to that cause.

While engaged in this manner, I became acquainted with a man who soon
proposed marriage; and young and ignorant of the world as I was, I heard
his offers with favour. On consulting with my friend, she expressed an
interest for me, advised me against taking such a step, and especially
as I knew little about the man, except that a report was circulated
unfavorable to his character. Unfortunately, I was not wise enough to
listen to her advice, and hastily married. In a few weeks, I had
occasion to repent of the step I had taken, as the report proved true--a
report which I thought justified, and indeed required, our separation.
After I had been in St. Denis about three months, finding myself thus
situated, and not knowing what else to do, I determined to return to the
Convent, and pursue my former intention of becoming a Black nun, could I
gain admittance. Knowing the many inquiries that the Superior would make
relative to me, during my absence before leaving St. Denis, I agreed
with the lady with whom I had been associated as a teacher (when she
went to Montreal, which she did very frequently), to say to the Lady
Superior that I had been under her protection during my absence, which
would satisfy her, and stop further inquiry; as I was sensible, that,
should they know I had been married, I should not gain admittance.

I soon returned to Montreal, and on reaching the city, I visited the
Seminary, and in another interview with the Superior of it, communicated
my wish, and desired him to procure my re-admission as a novice. Little
delay occurred.

After leaving me for a short time, he returned, and told me that the
Superior of the Convent had consented, and I was soon introduced into
her presence. She blamed me for my conduct in leaving the nunnery, but
told me that I ought to be ever grateful to my guardian angel for taking
care of me, and bringing me in safety back to that retreat. I requested
that I might be secured against the reproaches and ridicule of all the
novices and nuns, which I thought some might be disposed to cast upon me
unless prohibited by the Superior; and this she promised me. The money
usually required for the admission of novices had not been expected from
me. I had been admitted the first time without any such requisition; but
now I chose to pay it for my re-admission. I knew that she was able to
dispense with such a demand as well in this as the former case, and she
knew that I was not in possession of any thing like the sum required.

But I was bent on paying to the Nunnery, and accustomed to receive the
doctrine often repeated to me before that time, that when the advantage
of the church was consulted, the steps taken were justifiable, let them
be what they would, I therefore resolved to obtain money on false
pretences, confident that if all were known, I should be far from
displeasing the Superior. I went to the brigade major, and asked him to
give me the money payable to my mother from her pension, which amounted
to about thirty dollars, and without questioning my authority to receive
it in her name, he gave it me.

From several of her friends I obtained small sums under the name of
loans, so that altogether I had soon raised a number of pounds, with
which I hastened to the nunnery, and deposited a part in the hands of
the Superior. She received the money with evident satisfaction, though
she must have known that I could not have obtained it honestly; and I
was at once re-admitted as a novice.

Much to my gratification, not a word fell from the lips of any of my old
associates in relation to my unceremonious departure, nor my voluntary
return. The Superior's orders, I had not a doubt, had been explicitly
laid down, and they certainly were carefully obeyed, for I never heard
an allusion made to that subject during my subsequent stay in the
Convent, except that, when alone, the Superior would herself sometimes
say a little about it.

There were numbers of young ladies who entered awhile as novices, and
became weary or disgusted with some things they observed, and remained
but a short time. One of my cousins, who lived at Lachine, named Reed,
spent about a fortnight in the Convent with me. She, however, conceived
such an antipathy against the priests, that she used expressions which
offended the Superior.

The first day she attended mass, while at dinner with us in full
community, she said before us all: "What a rascal that priest was, to
preach against his best friend!"

All stared at such an unusual exclamation, and some one inquired what
she meant.

"I say," she continued, "he has been preaching against him who gives him
his bread. Do you suppose that if there were no devil, there would be
any priests?"

This bold young novice was immediately dismissed: and in the afternoon
we had a long sermon from the Superior on the subject.

It happened that I one day got a leaf of an English Bible, which had
been brought into the Convent, wrapped round some sewing silk, purchased
at a store in the city. For some reason or other, I determined to commit
to memory a chapter it contained, which I soon did. It is the only
chapter I ever learnt in the Bible, and I can now repeat it. It is the
second of St. Matthew's gospel, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of
Judea," &c.

It happened that I was observed reading the paper, and when the nature
of it was discovered, I was condemned to do penance for my offence.

Great dislike to the Bible was shown by those who conversed with me
about it, and several have remarked to me, at different times, that if
it were not for that book, Catholics would never be led to renounce
their own faith.

I heard passages read from the Evangile, relating to the death of
Christ; the conversion of Paul; a few chapters from St. Matthew, and
perhaps a few others. The priest would also sometimes take a verse or
two, and preach from it. I read St. Peter's Life, but only in the book
called the "Lives of the Saints." He, I understand, has the keys of
heaven and hell, and has founded our church. As for St. Paul, I
remember, as I was taught to understand it, that he was once a great
persecutor of the Roman _Catholics_, until he became convicted, and
confessed to one of the _father confessors_, I don't know which.
For who can expect to be forgiven who does not become a Catholic, and


Received Confirmation--Painful Feelings--Specimen of Instruction
received on the Subject.

The day on which I received confirmation was a distressing one to me. I
believed the doctrine of the Roman Catholics, and according to them I
was guilty of three mortal sins; concealing something at confession,
sacrilege, in putting the body of Christ in the sacrament under my feet,
and receiving it while not in a state of grace; and now, I had been led
into all those sins in consequence of my marriage, which I never had
acknowledged, as it would cut me off from being admitted as a nun.

On the day, therefore, when I went to the church to be confirmed, with a
number of others, I suffered extremely from the reproaches of my
conscience. I knew, at least I believed, as I had been told, that a
person who had been anointed with the holy oil of confirmation on the
forehead, and dying in the state in which I was, would go down to hell,
and in the place where the oil had been rubbed, the names of my sins
would blaze out on my forehead; these would be a sign by which the
devils would know me; and they would torment me the worse for them. I
was thinking of all this, while I sat in the pew, waiting to receive the
oil. I felt, however, some consolation, as I often did afterward when my
sins came to mind; and this consolation I derived from another doctrine
of the same church: viz. that a bishop could absolve me from all these
sins any minute before my death; and I intended to confess them all to a
bishop before leaving the world. At length, the moment for administering
the "sacrament" arrived, and a bell was rung. Those who had come to be
confirmed had brought tickets from their confessors, and these were
thrown into a hat, carried around by a priest who in turn handed each to
the bishop, by which he learnt the name of each of us, and applied a
little of the oil to our foreheads. This was immediately rubbed off by a
priest with a bit of cloth, quite roughly.

I went home with some qualms of conscience, and often thought with dread
of the following tale, which I have heard told to illustrate the
sinfulness of conduct like mine.

A priest was once travelling, when, just as he was passing by a house,
his horse fell on his knees, and would not rise. His rider dismounted,
and went in to learn the cause of so extraordinary an occurrence. He
found there a woman near death, to whom a priest was trying to
administer the sacrament, but without success; for every, time she
attempted to swallow it, it was thrown back out of her mouth into the
chalice. He perceived it was owing to unconfessed sin, and took away the
holy wafer from her: on which his horse rose from his knees, and he
pursued his journey.

I often remembered also that I had been told, that we shall have as many
devils biting us, if we go to hell, as we have unconfessed sins on our

I was required to devote myself for about a year, to the study of the
prayers and the practice of the ceremonies necessary on the reception of
a nun. This I found a very tedious duty; but as I was released in a
great degree from the daily labors usually demanded of novices, I felt
little disposition to complain.


Taking the Veil--Interview afterward with the Superior--Surprise and
horror at her Disclosure--Resolution to Submit.

I was introduced into the Superior's room on the evening preceding the
day on which I was to take the veil, to have an interview with the
Bishop. The Superior was present, and the interview lasted about half an
hour. The Bishop on this as on other occasions appeared to me habitually
rough in his manners. His address was by no means prepossessing.

Before I took the veil, I was ornamented for the ceremony, and was
clothed in a rich dress belonging to the Convent, which was used on such
occasions; and placed not far from the altar in the chapel, in the view
of a number of spectators who had assembled, perhaps about forty. Taking
the veil is an affair which occurs so frequently in Montreal, that it
has long ceased to be regarded as a novelty; and, although notice had
been given in the French parish church as usual, only a small audience
had assembled, as I have mentioned.

Being well prepared with a long training, and frequent rehearsals, for
what I was to perform, I stood waiting in my large flowing dress for the
appearance of the Bishop. He soon presented himself, entering by the
door behind the altar; I then threw myself at his feet, and asked him to
confer upon me the veil. He expressed his consent, and threw it over my
head, saying, "Receive the veil, O thou spouse of Jesus Christ;" and
then turning to the Superior, I threw myself prostrate at her feet,
according to my instructions, repeating what I had before done at
rehearsals, and made a movement as if to kiss her feet. This she
prevented, or appeared to prevent, catching me by a sudden motion of her
hand, and granted my request. I then kneeled before the Holy Sacrament,
that is, a very large round wafer held by the Bishop between his fore-
finger and thumb, and made my vows.

This wafer I had been taught to regard with the utmost veneration, as
the real body of Jesus Christ, the presence of which made the vows
uttered before it binding in the most solemn manner.

After taking the vows, I proceeded to a small apartment behind the
altar, accompanied by four nuns, where was a coffin prepared with my nun
name engraven upon it:


My companions lifted it by four handles attached to it, while I threw
off my dress, and put on that of a nun of Soeur Bourgeoise; and then we
all returned to the chapel. I proceeded first, and was followed by the
four nuns; the Bishop naming a number of worldly pleasures in rapid
succession, in reply to which I as rapidly repeated--"Je renonce, je
renonce, je renonce"--[I renounce, I renounce, I renounce.]

The coffin was then placed in front of the altar, and I advanced to lay
myself in it. This coffin was to be deposited, after the ceremony, in an
outhouse, to be preserved until my death, when it was to receive my
corpse. There were reflections which I naturally made at the time, but I
stepped in, extended myself, and lay still. A pillow had been placed at
the head of the coffin, to support my head in a comfortable position. A
large, thick black cloth was then spread over me, and the chanting of
Latin hymns immediately commenced. My thoughts were not the most
pleasing during the time I lay in that situation. The pall, or Drap
Mortel, as the cloth is called, had a strong smell of incense, which was
always disagreeable to me, and then proved almost suffocating. I
recollected also a story I had heard of a novice, who, in taking the
veil, lay down in her coffin like me, and was covered in the same
manner, but on the removal of the covering was found dead.

When I was uncovered, I rose, stepped out of my coffin, and kneeled. The
Bishop then addressed these words to the Superior, "Take care and keep
pure and spotless this young virgin, whom Christ has consecrated to
himself this day." After which the music commenced, and here the whole
was finished. I then proceeded from the chapel, and returned to the
Superior's room, followed by the other nuns, who walked two by two, in
their customary manner, with their hands folded on their breasts, and
their eyes cast down upon the floor. The nun who was to be my companion
in future, then walked at the end of the procession. On reaching the
Superior's door, they all left me, and I entered alone, and found her
with the Bishop and two priests.

The Superior now informed me, that having taken the black veil, it only
remained that I should swear the three oaths customary on becoming a
nun; and that some explanations would be necessary from her. I was now,
she told me, to have access to every part of the edifice, even to the
cellar, where two of the sisters were imprisoned for causes which she
did not mention. I must be informed, that one of my great duties was, to
obey the priests in all things; and this I soon learnt, to my utter
astonishment and horror, was to live in the practice of criminal
intercourse with them. I expressed some of the feelings which this
announcement excited in me, which came upon me like a flash of
lightning, but the only effect was to set her arguing with me, in favor
of the crime, representing it as a virtue acceptable to God, and
honorable to me. The priests, she said, were not situated like other
men, being forbidden to marry; while they lived secluded, laborious, and
self-denying lives for our salvation. They might, indeed, be considered
our saviours, as without their services we could not obtain the pardon
of sin, and must go to hell. Now, it was our solemn duty, on withdrawing
from the world, to consecrate our lives to religion, to practice every
species of self-denial. We could not become too humble, nor mortify our
feelings too far; this was to be done by opposing them, and acting
contrary to them; and what she proposed was, therefore, pleasing in the
sight of God. I now felt how foolish I had been to place myself in the
power of such persons as were around me.

From what she said I could draw no other conclusion, but that I was
required to act like the most abandoned of beings, and that all my
future associates were habitually guilty of the most heinous and
detestable crimes. When I repeated my expressions of surprise and
horror, she told me that such feelings were very common at first, and
that many other nuns had expressed themselves as I did, who had long
since changed their minds. She even said, that on her entrance into the
nunnery, she had felt like me.

Doubts, she declared, were among our greatest enemies. They would lead
us to question every point of duty, and induce us to waver at every
step. They arose only from remaining imperfection, and were always
evidence of sin. Our only way was to dismiss them immediately, repent,
and confess them. They were deadly sins, and would condemn us to hell,
if we should die without confessing them. Priests, she insisted, could
not sin. It was a thing impossible. Everything that they did, and
wished, was of course right. She hoped I would see the reasonableness
and duty of the oaths I was to take, and be faithful to them.

She gave me another piece of information which excited other feelings in
me, scarcely less dreadful. Infants were sometimes born in the convent;
but they were always baptized and immediately strangled! This secured
their everlasting happiness; for the baptism purified them from all
sinfulness, and being sent out of the world before they had time to do
anything wrong, they were at once admitted into heaven. How happy, she
exclaimed, are those who secure immortal happiness to such little
beings! Their little souls would thank those who kill their bodies, if
they had it in their power!

Into what a place, and among what society, had I been admitted! How
differently did a Convent now appear from what I had supposed it to be!
The holy women I had always fancied the nuns to be, the venerable Lady
Superior, what were they? And the priests of the seminary adjoining,
some of whom indeed I had had reason to think were base and profligate
men, what were they all? I now learnt they were often admitted into the
nunnery, and allowed to indulge in the greatest crimes, which they and
others called virtues.

After having listened for some time to the Superior alone, a number of
the nuns were admitted, and took a free part in the conversation. They
concurred in everything which she had told me, and repeated, without any
signs of shame or compunction, things which criminated themselves. I
must acknowledge the truth, and declare that all this had an effect upon
my mind. I questioned whether I might not be in the wrong, and felt as
if their reasoning might have some just foundation. I had been several
years under the tuition of Catholics, and was ignorant of the
Scriptures, and unaccustomed to the society, example, and conversation
of Protestants; had not heard any appeal to the Bible as authority, but
had been taught, both by precept and example, to receive as truth
everything said by the priests. I had not heard their authority
questioned, nor anything said of any other standard of faith but their
declarations. I had long been familiar with the corrupt and licentious
expressions which some of them use at confessions, and believed that
other women were also. I had no standard of duty to refer to, and no
judgment of my own which I knew how to use, or thought of using.

All around me insisted that my doubts proved only my own ignorance and
sinfulness; that they knew by experience they would soon give place to
true knowledge, and an advance in religion; and I felt something like

Still, there was so much that disgusted me in the discovery I had now
made, of the debased characters around me, that I would most gladly have
escaped from the nunnery, and never returned. But that was a thing not
to be thought of. I was in their power, and this I deeply felt, while I
thought there was not one among the whole number of nuns to whom I could
look for kindness. There was one, however, who began to speak to me at
length in a tone that gained something of my confidence,--the nun whom I
have mentioned before as distinguished by her oddity, Jane Ray, who made
us so much amusement when I was a novice. Although, as I have remarked,
there was nothing in her face, form, or manners, to give me any
pleasure, she addressed me with apparent friendliness; and while she
seemed to concur in some things spoken by them, took an opportunity to
whisper a few words in my ear, unheard by them, intimating that I had
better comply with everything the Superior desired, if I would save my
life. I was somewhat alarmed before, but I now became much more so, and
determined to make no further resistance. The Superior then made me
repeat the three oaths; and when I had sworn them, I was shown into one
of the community rooms, and remained some time with the nuns, who were
released from their usual employments, and enjoying a recreation day, on
account of the admission of a new sister. My feelings during the
remainder of that day, I shall not attempt to describe; but pass on to
mention the ceremonies which took place at dinner. This description may
give an idea of the manner in which we always took our meals, although
there were some points in which the breakfast and supper were different.

At 11 o'clock the bell rung for dinner, and the nuns all took their
places in a double row, in the same order as that in which they left the
chapel in the morning, except that my companion and myself were
stationed at the end of the line. Standing thus for a moment, with our
hands placed one on the other over the breast, and hidden in our large
cuffs, with our heads bent forward, and eyes fixed on the floor; an old
nun who stood at the door, clapped her hands as a signal for us to
proceed, and the procession moved on, while we all commenced the
repetition of litanies. We walked on in this order, repeating all the
way, until we reached the door of the dining-room, where we were divided
into two lines; those on the right passing down one side of the long
table, and those on the left the other, till all were in, and each
stopped in her place. The plates were all ranged, each with a knife,
fork, and spoon, rolled up in a napkin, and tied round with a linen band
marked with the owner's name. My own plate, knife, fork, &c., were
prepared like the rest, and on the band around them I found my new name
written:--"SAINT EUSTACE."

There we stood till all had concluded the litany; when the old nun who
had taken her place at the head of the table next the door, said the
prayer before meat, beginning "Benedicite," and we sat down. I do not
remember of what our dinner consisted, but we usually had soup and some
plain dish of meat, the remains of which were occasionally served up at
supper as a fricassee. One of the nuns who had been appointed to read
that day, rose and began to lecture from a book put into her hands by
the Superior, while the rest of us ate in perfect silence. The nun who
reads during dinner stays afterward to dine. As fast as we finished our
meals, each rolled up her knife, fork, and spoon in her napkin, and
bound them together with the band, and set with hands folded. The old
nun then said a short prayer, rose, stepped a little aside, clapped her
hands, and we marched towards the door, bowing as we passed before a
little chapel or glass box, containing a wax image of the infant Jesus.

Nothing important occurred until late in the afternoon, when, as I was
sitting in the community-room, Father Dufresne called me out, saying he
wished to speak with me. I feared what was his intention; but I dared
not disobey. In a private apartment, he treated me in a brutal manner;
and from two other priests I afterward received similar usage that
evening. Father Dufresne afterward appeared again; and I was compelled
to remain in company with him until morning.

I am assured that the conduct of the priests in our Convent has never
been exposed, and is not imagined by the people of the United States.
This induces me to say what I do, notwithstanding the strong reasons I
have to let it remain unknown. Still, I cannot force myself to speak on
such subjects except in the most brief manner.


Daily Ceremonies--Jane Ray among the Nuns.

On Thursday morning, the bell rung at half-past six to awaken us. The
old nun who was acting as night-watch immediately spoke aloud:

"Voici le Seigneur qui vient." (Behold the Lord cometh.) The nuns all

"Allons-y devant lui." (Let us go and meet him.)

We then rose immediately, and dressed as expeditiously as possible,
stepping into the passage-way at the foot of our beds as soon as we were
ready, and taking places each beside her opposite companion. Thus we
were soon drawn up in a double row the whole length of the room, with
our hands folded across our breasts, and concealed in the broad cuffs of
our sleeves. Not a word was uttered. When the signal was given, we all
proceeded to the community-room, which is spacious, and took our places
in rows facing the entranced, near which the Superior was seated in a
vergiere, or large chair.

We first repeated, "Au nom du Pere, du Fils, et du Saint Esprit--Ainsi
soit il." (In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost--

We then kneeled and kissed the floor; then, still on our knees, we said
a very long prayer, beginning: Divin Jesus, Sauveur de mon ame, (Divine
Jesus, Saviour of my soul). Then came the Lord's prayer, three Hail
Marys, four creeds, and five confessions (confesse a Dieu).

Next we repeated the ten commandments. Then we repeated the Acts of
Faith, and a prayer to the Virgin in Latin, (which, like every thing
else in Latin, I never understood a word of.) Next we said the litanies
of the holy name of Jesus, in Latin, which was afterward to be repeated
several times in the course of the day. Then came the prayer for the
beginning of the day; then bending down, we commenced the Orison Mental
(or Mental Orison), which lasted about an hour and a half.

This exercise was considered peculiarly solemn. We were told in the
nunnery that a certain saint was saved by the use of it, as he never
omitted it. It consists of several parts: First, the Superior read to us
a chapter from a book, which occupied five minutes. Then profound
silence prevailed for fifteen minutes, during which we were meditating
upon it. Then she read another chapter of equal length, on a different
subject and we meditated upon that another quarter of an hour; and after
a third reading and meditation, we finished the exercise with a prayer,
called an act of contrition, in which we asked forgiveness for the sins
committed during the Orison.

During this hour and a half I became very weary, having before been
kneeling for some time, and having then to sit in another position more
uncomfortable, with my feet under me, my hands clasped, and my body bent
humbly forward, with my head bowed down.

When the Orison was over, we all rose to the upright kneeling posture,
and repeated several prayers, and the litanies of the providences,
"providence de Dieu," &c.; then followed a number of Latin prayers,
which we repeated on the way to mass, for in the nunnery we had mass

When mass was over we proceeded in our usual order to the eating-room to
breakfast, practising the same forms which I have described at dinner.
Having made our meal in silence, we repeated the litanies of the "holy
name of Jesus" as we proceeded to the community-room; and such as had
not finished them on their arrival, threw themselves upon their knees,
and remained there until they had gone through with them, and then
kissing the floor, rose again.

At nine o'clock commenced the lecture, which was read by a nun appointed
to perform that duty that day; all the rest of us in the room being
engaged in work.

The nuns were at this time distributed in different community-rooms, at
different kinds of work, and in each were listening to a lecture. This
exercise continued until ten o'clock, when the recreation-bell rang. We
still continued our work, but the nuns began to converse with each
other, on subjects permitted by the rules in the hearing of the old
nuns, one of whom was seated in each of the groups.

At half-past ten the silence bell rang, and then conversation instantly
ceased, and the recitation of some Latin prayers commenced, which
continued half an hour.

At eleven o'clock the dinner-bell rang, and then we proceeded to the
dining-room, and went through the forms and ceremonies of the preceding
day. We proceeded two by two. The old nun who had the command of us,
clapped her hands as the first couple reached the door, when we stopped.
The first two dipped their fingers into the font, touched the holy water
to the breast, forehead, and each side, thus forming a cross, said, "In
the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen," and then walked on
to the dining-room, repeating the litanies. The rest followed their
example. On reaching the door the couples divided, and the two rows of
nuns marching up, stopped and faced the table against their plates.
There we stood, repeating the close of the litany aloud. The old nun
then pronounced


and we sat down. One of our number began to read a lecture, which
continued during the whole meal: she stays to eat after the rest have
retired. When we had dined, each of us folded up her napkin, and again
folded her hands. The old nun then repeated a short prayer in French,
and stepping aside from the head of the table, let us pass out as we
came in. Each of us bowed in passing the little chapel near the door,
which is a glass case, containing a waxen figure of the infant Jesus.
When we reached the community-room we took our places in rows, and
kneeled upon the floor, while a nun read aloud, "Douleurs de notre
Sainte Marie" (the sorrows of our holy Mary.) At the end of each verse
we responded "Ave Maria." We then repeated again the litanies of the
Providences, and the

"BENIS," &c.

Then we kissed the floor, and rising, took our work, with leave to
converse on permitted subjects; that is what is called _recreation_
till one o'clock. We then began to repeat litanies, one at a time in
succession, still engaged at sewing, for an hour.

At two o'clock commenced the afternoon lectures, which lasted till near
three. At that hour one of the nuns stood up in the middle of the room,
and asked each of us a question out of the catechism; and such as were
unable to answer correctly, were obliged to kneel down, until that
exercise was concluded, upon as many dry peas as there were verses in
the chapter out of which they were questioned. This seems like a penance
of no great importance; but I have sometimes kneeled on peas until I
suffered great inconvenience, and even pain. It soon makes one feel as
if needles were running through the skin: whoever thinks it a trifle,
had better try it.

At four o'clock recreation commenced, when we were allowed, as usual, to
speak to each other, while at work.

At half-past four we began to repeat prayers in Latin, while we worked,
and concluded about five o'clock, when we commenced repeating the
"prayers for the examination of conscience," the "prayer after
confession," the "prayer before sacrament," and the "prayer after
sacrament." Thus we continued our work until dark, when we laid it
aside, and began to go over the same prayers which we had repeated in
the morning, with the exception of the orison mental; instead of that
long exercise, we examined our consciences, to determine whether we had
performed the resolution we had made in the morning; and such as had
kept it, repeated an "acte de joie," or expression of gratitude; while
such as had not, said an "acte de contrition."

When the prayers were concluded, any nun who had been disobedient in the
day, knelt and asked pardon of the Superior and her companions "for the
scandal she had caused them;" and then requested the Superior to give
her a penance to perform. When all the penances, had been imposed, we
all proceeded to the eating-room to supper, repeating litanies on the

At supper the ceremonies were the same as at dinner, except that there
was no lecture read. We ate in silence, and went out bowing to the
chapelle, and repeating litanies. Returning to the community-room which
we had left, we had more prayers to repeat, which are called La
couronne, (crown,) which consists of the following parts:

1st, Four Paters,
2d, Four Ave Marias,
3d, Four Gloria Patris,
4th, Benis, &c.

At the close of these we kissed the floor; after which we had recreation
till half-past eight o'clock, being allowed to converse on permitted
subjects, but closely watched, and not allowed to sit in corners.

At half-past eight a bell was rung, and a chapter was read to us, in a
book of meditations, to employ our minds upon during our waking hours at

Standing near the door, we dipped our fingers in the holy water, crossed
and blessed ourselves, and proceeded up to the sleeping-room, in the
usual order, two by two. When we had got into bed, we repeated a prayer
beginning with

"Mon Dieu, je vous donne mon coeur,"
"God, I give you my heart;"

and then an old nun, bringing some holy water, sprinkled it on our beds
to drive away the devil, while we took some and crossed ourselves again.

At nine o'clock the bell rung, and all who were awake repeated a prayer,
called the offrande; those who were asleep were considered as excused.

After my admission among the nuns, I had more opportunity than before,
to observe the conduct of mad Jane Ray. She behaved quite differently
from the rest, and with a degree of levity irreconcilable with the
rules. She was, as I have described her, a large woman, with nothing
beautiful or attractive in her face, form, or manners; careless in her
dress, and of a restless disposition, which prevented her from steadily
applying herself to any thing for any length of time, and kept her
roving about, and almost perpetually talking to somebody or other. It
would be very difficult to give an accurate description of this singular
woman; dressed in the plain garments of the nuns, bound by the same
vows, and accustomed to the same life, resembling them in nothing else,
and frequently interrupting all their employments. She was apparently
almost always studying or pursuing some odd fancy; now rising from
sewing, to walk up and down, or straying in from another apartment,
looking about, addressing some of us, and passing out again, or saying
something to make us laugh, in periods of the most profound silence. But
what showed that she was no novelty, was the little attention paid to
her, and the levity with which she was treated by the old nuns; even the
Superior every day passed over irregularities in this singular person,
which she would have punished with penances, or at least have met with
reprimands, in any other. From what I saw of her, I soon perceived that
she betrayed two distinct traits of character; a kind disposition
towards such as she chose to prefer, and a pleasure in teasing those she
disliked, or such as had offended her.


Description of Apartments in the Black Nunnery, in order.--1st Floor--2d
Floor--The Founder--Superior's Management with the Friends of Novices
--Religious Lies--Criminality of Concealing Sins at Confession.

I will now give from memory, a general description of the interior of the
Convent of Black nuns, except the few apartments which I never saw. I
may be inaccurate in some things, as the apartments and passages of that
spacious building are numerous and various; but I am willing to risk my
credit for truth and sincerity on the general correspondence between my
description and things as they are. And this would, perhaps be as good a
case as any by which to test the truth of my statements, were it
possible to obtain access to the interior. It is well known, that none
but veiled nuns, the bishop, and priests, are ever admitted; and, of
course, that I cannot have seen what I profess to describe, if I have
not been a Black nun. [Footnote: I ought to have made an exception here,
which I may enlarge upon in future Certain other persons are sometimes
admitted.] The priests who read this book, will acknowledge to
themselves the truth of my description; but will, of course deny it to
the world, and probably exert themselves to destroy or discredit, I
offer to every reader the following description, knowing that time may
possibly throw open those secret recesses, and allow the entrance of
those who can satisfy themselves, with their own eyes, of its truth.
Some of my declarations may be thought deficient in evidence; and this
they must of necessity be in the present state of things. But here is a
kind of evidence on which I rely, as I see how unquestionable and
satisfactory it must prove, whenever it shall be obtained.

If the interior of the Black Nunnery, whenever it shall be examined, is
materially different from the following description, then I can claim no
confidence of my readers. If it resembles it, they will, I presume,
place confidence in some of those declarations, on which I may never be
corroborated by true and living witnesses.

I am sensible that great changes may be made in the furniture of
apartments; that new walls may be constructed, or old ones removed; and
I have been credibly informed, that masons have been employed in the
nunnery since I left it. I well know, however, that entire changes
cannot be made; and that enough must remain as it was to substantiate my
description, whenever the truth shall be known.

_The First Story_.

Beginning at the extremity of the right wing of the Convent, towards
Notre Dame-street, on the first story, there is--

1st. The nuns' private chapel, adjoining which is a passage to a small
projection of the building, extending from the upper story to the
ground, with very small windows. Into the passage we were sometimes
required to bring wood from the yard and pile it up for use.

2d. A large community-room, with plain benches fixed against the wall to
sit, and lower ones in front to place our feet upon. There is a fountain
in the passage near the chimney at the farther end, for washing the
hands and face, with a green curtain sliding on a rod before it. This
passage leads to the old nuns' sleeping-room on the right, and the
Superior's sleeping-room, just beyond it, as well as to a staircase
which conducts to the nuns' sleeping-room, or dortoir, above. At the end
of the passage is a door opening into--

3d. The dining-room; this is larger than the community-room, and has
three long tables for eating, and a chapelle, or collection of little
pictures, a crucifix, and a small image of the infant Saviour in a glass
case. This apartment has four doors, by the first of which we are
supposed to have entered, while one opens to a pantry, and the third and
fourth to the two next apartments.

4th. A large community-room, with tables for sewing, and a staircase on
the opposite left-hand corner.

5th. A community-room for prayer, used by both nuns and novices. In the
farther right-hand corner is a small room partitioned off, called the
room for the examination of conscience, which I had visited while a
novice by permission of the Superior, and where nuns and novices
occasionally resorted to reflect on their character, usually in
preparation for the sacrament, or when they had transgressed some of the
rules. This little room was hardly large enough to contain half a dozen
persons at a time.

6th. Next beyond is a large community-room for Sundays. A door leads to
the yard, and thence to a gate in the wall on the cross street.

7th. Adjoining this is a sitting-room, fronting on the cross street,
with two windows, and a store-room on the side opposite them. There is
but little furniture, and that very plain.

8th. From this room a door leads into what I may call the wax-room, as
it contains many figures in wax, not intended for sale. There we
sometimes used to pray, or meditate on the Saviour's passion. This room
projects from the main building; leaving it, you enter a long passage,
with cupboards on the right, in which are stored crockery-ware, knives
and forks, and other articles of table furniture, to replace those worn
out or broken--all of the plainest description; also, shovels, tongs,
&c. This passage leads to--

9th. A corner room, with a few benches, &c., and a door leading to a
gate on the street. Here some of the medicines were kept, and persons
were often admitted on business, or to obtain medicines with tickets
from the priests; and waited till the Superior or an old nun could be
sent for. Beyond this room we were never allowed to go; and I cannot
speak from personal knowledge of what came next.

_The Second Story_.

Beginning, as before, at the western extremity of the same wing, but on
the second story, the farthest apartment in that direction which I ever
entered was--

1st. The nuns' sleeping-room, or dormitory, which I have already
described. Here is an access to the projection mentioned in speaking of
the first story. The stairs by which we came up to bed are at the
farther end of the room; and near them a crucifix and font of holy
water. A door at the end of the room opens into a passage, with two
small rooms, and closets between them, containing bedclothes. Next you

2d. A small community-room, beyond which is a passage with a narrow

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