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Beacon Lights of History, Volume VII by John Lord

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Love, the flower of Eden
The two Venuses of Socrates
The Venus Urania
The memory of Heloise cherished
Her birth and education
Her extraordinary gifts
Her aspirations
Peter Abelard
His wonderful genius
His early scholastic triumphs
Abelard at Paris
His wit and flippancy
His scepticism
His successes
His love for Heloise
His mad infatuation
Scandal of the intimacy
Disinterestedness of Heloise
Secret marriage of Abelard and Heloise
Marriage discovered
Retirement of Heloise and Abelard to separate convents
His renewed labors
His brilliant success
Persecution of Abelard
Letters to Heloise
Heloise cannot conquer her love
Her high social position
Her blameless life
Loves of Heloise and Abelard analyzed
Greatness of sentiment
Last days of Abelard
His retreat to Cluny
Peter the Venerable
Grief of Heloise



Heroic qualities of women in the Middle Ages
Extraordinary appearance of Joan of Arc
Her early days
Her visions
Critical state of France at this period
Appreciated by Joan
Who resolves to come to the rescue of her king and country
Difficulties which surrounded her
Her services finally accepted
Her faith in her mission
Her pure and religious life
Joan sets out for the deliverance of Orleans
Succeeds in entering the city
Joan raises the siege of Orleans
Admiration of the people for her
Veneration for women among the Germanic nations
Joan marches to the siege of Rheims
Difficulty of the enterprise
Hesitation of the king
Rheims and other cities taken
Coronation of Charles
Mission of the Maid fulfilled
Successive military mistakes
Capture of Joan
Indifference and ingratitude of the King
Trial of Joan for heresy and witchcraft
Cruelty of the English to her
The diabolical persecution
Martyrdom of Joan
Tardy justice to her memory
Effects of the martyrdom



Pleasures of the body the aim of Paganism
Aim of Christianity to elevate the soul
Mistakes of monastic life
The age of Saint Theresa
Her birth and early training
Mediaeval piety
Theresa sent to a convent to be educated
Her poor health
Religious despotism of the Middle Ages
Their gloom and repulsiveness
Faith and repentance divorced
Catholic theology
Theresa becomes a nun
Her serious illness
Her religious experience
The Confessions of Saint Augustine
The religious emancipation of Theresa
Her canticles
Her religious rhapsodies
Theresa seeks to found a convent
Opposition to her
Her discouragements
Her final success
Reformation of the Carmelite order
Convent of St. Joseph
Death of Saint Theresa
Writings of Saint Theresa
Her submission to authority
Her independence
Compared with Madame Guyon
Her posthumous influence



Birth of Madame de Maintenon
Her early life
Marriage with Scarron
Governess of Montespan's children
Introduction to the King
Her incipient influence over him
Contrast of Maintenon with Montespan
Friendship of the King for Madame de Maintenon
Made mistress of the robes to the Dauphiness
Private marriage with Louis XIV
Reasons for its concealment
Unbounded power of Madame de Maintenon
Grandeur of Versailles
Great men of the court
The King's love of pomp and ceremony
Sources of his power
His great mistakes
The penalties he reaped
Secret of Madame de Maintenon's influence
Her mistakes
Religious intolerance
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
Persecution of the Protestants
Influence of Bossuet
Foundation of the school of St. Cyr
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on education
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on morals
Influence of Madame de Maintenon on the court
Her reign a usurpation
Her greatness of character



The Duchess of Marlborough compared with Madame de Maintenon
Birth and early influence
John Churchill
Marriage of Churchill and Sarah Jennings
Colonel Churchill made a peer
The Princess Anne
Lady Churchill
Their friendship
Coronation of William and Mary
Character of William III
Treason of the Earl of Marlborough
Energy and sagacity of the Queen
Naval victory of La Hogue
Temporary retirement of Marlborough
Death of the Duke of Gloucester
Marlborough, Captain-General.
Death of William III
Accession of Anne
Power of Marlborough
Lord Godolphin
Ascendency of Lady Marlborough
Her ambition
Her pride
Renewal of war with Louis XIV
Marlborough created a duke
Whigs and Tories
Harley, Earl of Oxford
His intrigues
Abigail Hill
Supplants the Duchess of Marlborough
Coolness between the Queen and Duchess
Battle of Ramillies
Miss Hill marries Mr. Masham
Declining influence of the Duchess
Her anger and revenge
Power of Harley
Disgrace of the Duchess
The Tories in power
Dismissal of Marlborough
His persecution of the Duchess
Voluntary exile of Marlborough
Unhappiness of the Duchess
Death of Queen Anne
Return of Marlborough to power
Attacked by paralysis
Death of Marlborough
His vast wealth
Declining days of the Duchess
Her character
Her death
Reflections on her career



Queens of society first seen in Italy
Provencal poetry in its connection with chivalrous sentiments
Chivalry the origin of society
Society in Paris in the 17th Century
Marquise de Rambouillet
Her _salons_
Mademoiselle de Scuderi
Early days of Madame Recamier
Her marriage
Her remarkable beauty and grace
Her _salons_
Her popularity
Courted by Napoleon
Loss of property
Friendship with Madame de Stael
Incurs the hatred of Napoleon
Friendship with Ballanche
Madame Recamier in Italy
Return to Paris
Duke of Montmorency
Seclusion of Madame Recamier
Her intimate friends
Friendship with Chateaubriand
His gifts and high social position
His retirement from political life
His old age soothed by Recamier
Her lovely disposition
Her beautiful old age
Her death
Her character
Remarks on society
Sources of its fascinations



Literature in the 18th Century
Rise of Madame de Stael
Her precocity
Her powers of conversation
Her love of society
Her marriage
Hatred of Napoleon
Her banishment
Her residence in Switzerland
Travels in Germany
Her work on literature
Her book on Germany
Its great merits
German philosophy
Visit to Italy
Its popularity
A description of Italy
Marriage with Rocca
Madame de Stael in England
Her honors
Return to Paris
Incense offered to her
Her amazing eclat
Her death
Her merits as an author
Inaugurated a new style in literature
Her followers
Her influence
Literary women
Their future



Progress of female education
Youth of Hannah More
Her accomplishments
Teaches school
Intimacy with great men
Shines in society
Wearied of it
Her ridicule of fashionable gatherings called society
Retirement to Cowslip Green
Her patrons and friends
Labors in behalf of the poor
Foundation of schools
Works on female education
Their good influence
Their leading ideas
Christian education
Removal to Barley Wood
Views of society
Her distinguished visitors
"Coelebs in Search of a Wife"
"Christian Morals"
Her laboring at the age of eighty
The quiet elegance of her life
Removal to Clifton
Happy old age
Exalted character
Remarks on female education
The sphere of woman
What is woman to do?



Notable eras of modern civilization
Nineteenth Century, the age of novelists
Scott, Fielding, Dickens, Thackeray
Bulwer; women novelists
Charlotte Bronte, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Eliot
Early life of Marian Evans
Appearance, education, and acquirements
Change in religious views; German translations; Continental travel
Westminster Review; literary and scientific men
Her alliance with George Henry Lewes
Her life with him
Literary labors
First work of fiction, "Amos Barton," with criticism upon
her qualities as a novelist, illustrated by the story
"Mr. Gilfils Love Story"
"Adam Bede"
"The Mill on the Floss"
"Silas Marner"
"Felix Holt"
"Daniel Deronda"
"Theophrastus Such"
General characteristics of George Eliot
Death of Mr. Lewes; her marriage with Mr. Cross
Lofty position of George Eliot in literature
Religious views and philosophical opinions
Her failure as a teacher of morals
Regret at her abandonment of Christianity



Madame de Recamier
_After the painting by Baron Francois Pascal Gerard_.

Abelard Teaching in the Paraclete
_After the painting by A. Steinheil_.

Joan of Arc Hears the Voices
_After the painting by Eugene Thirion_.

The Vision of St. Therese
_After the painting by Jean Brunet_.

Reception of the Great Conde by Louis XIV
_After the painting by J. L. Gerome_.

Ministerial Conference of Louis XIV. at the Salon of Madam de Maintenon
_After the painting by John Gilbert_.

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough
_After the painting by Pieter van der Werff, Pitti Palace, Florence_.

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
_After the painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller_.

Mme. de Recamier
_After the painting by Mlle. Morin_

Madame de Stael
_After the painting by Mlle. de Godefroid, Versailles_.

Garrick and His Wife
_After the painting by William Hogarth_.

Hannah More
_After the painting by H.W. Pickersgill, A.R.A._.



* * * * *

A.D. 1101-1164.


When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, they yet found one
flower, wherever they wandered, blooming in perpetual beauty. This
flower represents a great certitude, without which few would be
happy,--subtile, mysterious, inexplicable,--a great boon recognized
alike by poets and moralists, Pagan and Christian; yea, identified not
only with happiness, but human existence, and pertaining to the soul in
its highest aspirations. Allied with the transient and the mortal, even
with the weak and corrupt, it is yet immortal in its nature and lofty in
its aims,--at once a passion, a sentiment, and an inspiration.

To attempt to describe woman without this element of our complex nature,
which constitutes her peculiar fascination, is like trying to act the
tragedy of Hamlet without Hamlet himself,--an absurdity; a picture
without a central figure, a novel without a heroine, a religion without
a sacrifice. My subject is not without its difficulties. The passion or
sentiment I describe is degrading when perverted, as it is exalting when
pure. Yet it is not vice I would paint, but virtue; not weakness, but
strength; not the transient, but the permanent; not the mortal, but the
immortal,--all that is ennobling in the aspiring soul.

"Socrates," says Legouve, "who caught glimpses of everything that he did
not clearly define, uttered one day to his disciples these beautiful
words: 'There are two Venuses: one celestial, called Urania, the
heavenly, who presides over all pure and spiritual affections; and the
other Polyhymnia, the terrestrial, who excites sensual and gross
desires.'" The history of love is the eternal struggle between these two
divinities,--the one seeking to elevate and the other to degrade. Plato,
for the first time, in his beautiful hymn to the Venus Urania, displayed
to men the unknown image of love,--the educator and the moralist,--so
that grateful ages have consecrated it by his name. Centuries rolled
away, and among the descendants of Teutonic barbarians a still lovelier
and more ideal sentiment burst out from the lips of the Christian Dante,
kindled by the adoration of his departed Beatrice. And as she courses
from star to star, explaining to him the mysteries, the transported poet

"Ah, all the tongues which the Muses have inspired could not tell the
thousandth part of the beauty of the smile of Beatrice as she presented
me to the celestial group, exclaiming, 'Thou art redeemed!' O woman, in
whom lives all my hope, who hast deigned to leave for my salvation thy
footsteps on the throne of the Eternal, thou hast redeemed me from
slavery to liberty; now earth has no more dangers for me. I cherish the
image of thy purity in my bosom, that in my last hour, acceptable in
thine eyes, my soul may leave my body."

Thus did Dante impersonate the worship of Venus Urania,--spiritual
tenderness overcoming sensual desire. Thus faithful to the traditions of
this great poet did the austere Michael Angelo do reverence to the
virtues of Vittoria Colonna. Thus did the lofty Corneille present in his
Pauline a divine model of the love which inspires great deeds and
accompanies great virtues. Thus did Shakspeare, in his portrait of
Portia, show the blended generosity and simplicity of a woman's soul:--

"For you [my Lord Bassanio]
I would be trebled twenty times myself;
A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;"

or, in his still more beautiful delineation of Juliet, paint an
absorbing devotion:--

"My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite."

Thus did Milton, in his transcendent epic, show how a Paradise was
regained when woman gave her generous sympathy to man, and reproduced
for all coming ages the image of Spiritual Love,--the inamorata of Dante
and Petrarch, the inspired and consoling guide.

But the muse of the poets, even when sanctified by Christianity, never
sang such an immortal love as the Middle Ages in sober prose have handed
down in the history of Heloise,--the struggle between the two Venuses of
Socrates, and the final victory of Urania, though not till after the
temporary triumph of Polyhymnia,--the inamorata of earth clad in the
vestments of a sanctified recluse, and purified by the chastisements of
Heaven. "Saint Theresa dies longing to join her divine spouse; but Saint
Theresa is only a Heloise looking towards heaven." Heloise has an
earthly idol; but her devotion has in it all the elements of a
supernatural fervor,--the crucifixion of self in the glory of him she
adored. He was not worthy of her idolatry; but she thought that he was.
Admiration for genius exalted sentiment into adoration, and imagination
invested the object of love with qualities superhuman.

Nations do not spontaneously keep alive the memory of those who have
disgraced them. It is their heroes and heroines whose praises they
sing,--those only who have shone in the radiance of genius and virtue.
They forget defects, if these are counterbalanced by grand services or
great deeds,--if their sons and daughters have shed lustre on the land
which gave them birth. But no lustre survives egotism or vice; it only
lasts when it gilds a noble life. There is no glory in the name of
Jezebel, or Cleopatra, or Catherine de' Medici, brilliant and
fascinating as were those queens; but there is glory in the memory of
Heloise. There is no woman in French history of whom the nation is
prouder; revered, in spite of early follies, by the most austere and
venerated saints of her beclouded age, and hallowed by the tributes of
succeeding centuries for those sentiments which the fires of passion
were scarcely able to tarnish, for an exalted soul which eclipsed the
brightness of uncommon intellectual faculties, for a depth of sympathy
and affection which have become embalmed in the heart of the world, and
for a living piety which blazes all the more conspicuously from the sins
which she expiated by such bitter combats. She was human in her
impulses, but divine in her graces; one of those characters for whom we
cannot help feeling the deepest sympathy and the profoundest
admiration,--a character that has its contradictions, like that
warrior-bard who was after God's own heart, in spite of his crimes,
because his soul thirsted for the beatitudes of heaven, and was bound in
loving loyalty to his Maker, against whom he occasionally sinned by
force of mortal passions, but whom he never ignored or forgot, and
against whom he never persistently rebelled.

As a semi-warlike but religious age produced a David, with his
strikingly double nature perpetually at war with itself and looking for
aid to God,--his "sun," his "shield," his hope, and joy,--so an equally
unenlightened but devout age produced a Heloise, the impersonation of
sympathy, disinterestedness, suffering, forgiveness, and resignation. I
have already described this dark, sad, turbulent, superstitious,
ignorant period of strife and suffering, yet not without its poetic
charms and religious aspirations; when the convent and the castle were
its chief external features, and when a life of meditation was as marked
as a life of bodily activity, as if old age and youth were battling for
supremacy,--a very peculiar state of society, in which we see the
loftiest speculations of the intellect and the highest triumphs of faith
blended with puerile enterprises and misdirected physical forces.

In this semi-barbaric age Heloise was born, about the year 1101. Nobody
knew who was her father, although it was surmised that he belonged to
the illustrious family of the Montmorencies, which traced an unbroken
lineage to Pharimond, before the time of Clovis. She lived with her
uncle Fulbert, an ignorant, worldly-wise old canon of the Cathedral
Church of Notre Dame in Paris. He called her his niece; but whether
niece, or daughter, or adopted child, was a mystery. She was of
extraordinary beauty, though remarkable for expression rather than for
regularity of feature. In intellect she was precocious and brilliant;
but the qualities of a great soul shone above the radiance of her wit.
She was bright, amiable, affectionate, and sympathetic,--the type of an
interesting woman. The ecclesiastic was justly proud of her, and gave to
her all the education the age afforded. Although not meaning to be a
nun, she was educated in a neighboring convent,--for convents, even in
those times, were female seminaries, containing many inmates who never
intended to take the veil. But the convent then, as since, was a living
grave to all who took its vows, and was hated by brilliant women who
were not religious. The convent necessarily and logically, according to
the theology of the Middle Ages, was a retreat from the world,--a cell
of expiation; and yet it was the only place where a woman could
be educated.

Heloise, it would seem, made extraordinary attainments, and spoke Latin
as well as her native tongue. She won universal admiration, and in due
time, at the age of eighteen, returned to her uncle's house, on the
banks of the Seine, on the island called the Cite, where the majestic
cathedral and the castle of the king towered above the rude houses of
the people. Adjoining the church were the cloisters of the monks and
the Episcopal School, the infant university of Paris, over which the
Archdeacon of Paris, William of Champeaux, presided in scholastic
dignity and pride,--next to the bishop the most influential man in
Paris. The teachers of this school, or masters and doctors as they were
called, and the priests of the cathedral formed the intellectual
aristocracy of the city, and they were frequent visitors at the house of
Fulbert the canon. His niece, as she was presumed to be, was the great
object of attraction. There never was a time when intellectual Frenchmen
have not bowed down to cultivated women. Heloise, though only a girl,
was a queen of such society as existed in the city, albeit more admired
by men than women,--poetical, imaginative, witty, ready, frank, with a
singular appreciation of intellectual excellence, dazzled by literary
fame, and looking up to those brilliant men who worshipped her.

In truth, Heloise was a prodigy. She was vastly superior to the men who
surrounded her, most of whom were pedants, or sophists, or bigots;
dignitaries indeed, but men who exalted the accidental and the external
over the real and the permanent; men who were fond of quibbles and
sophistries, jealous of each other and of their own reputation, dogmatic
and positive as priests are apt to be, and most positive on points which
either are of no consequence or cannot be solved. The soul of Heloise
panted for a greater intellectual freedom and a deeper sympathy than
these priests could give. She pined in society. She was isolated by her
own superiority,--superior not merely in the radiance of the soul, but
in the treasures of the mind. Nor could her companions comprehend her
greatness, even while they were fascinated by her presence. She dazzled
them by her personal beauty perhaps more than by her wit; for even
mediaeval priests could admire an expansive brow, a deep blue eye, _doux
et penetrant,_ a mouth varying with unconscious sarcasms, teeth strong
and regular, a neck long and flexible, and shoulders sloping and
gracefully moulded, over which fell ample and golden locks; while the
attitude, the complexion, the blush, the thrilling accent, and the
gracious smile, languor, and passion depicted on a face both pale and
animated, seduced the imagination and commanded homage. Venus Polyhymnia
stood confessed in all her charms, for the time triumphant over that
Venus Urania who made the convent of the Paraclete in after times a
blessed comforter to all who sought its consolations.

Among the distinguished visitors at the house of her uncle the canon,
attracted by her beauty and accomplishments, was a man thirty-eight
years of age, of noble birth, but by profession an ecclesiastic; whose
large forehead, fiery eye, proud air, plain, negligent dress, and
aristocratic manners, by turns affable and haughty, stamped him as an
extraordinary man. The people in the streets stopped to gaze at him as
he passed, or rushed to the doors and windows for a glimpse; for he was
as famous for genius and learning as he was distinguished by manners and
aspect. He was the eldest son of a Breton nobleman, who had abandoned
his inheritance and birthright for the fascinations of literature and
philosophy. His name was Peter Abelard, on the whole the most brilliant
and interesting man whom the Middle Ages produced,--not so profound as
Anselm, or learned as Peter Lombard, or logical as Thomas Aquinas, or
acute as Albertus Magnus, but the most eloquent expounder of philosophy
of whom I have read. He made the dullest subjects interesting; he
clothed the dry bones of metaphysics with flesh and blood; he invested
the most abstruse speculations with life and charm; he filled the minds
of old men with envy, and of young men with admiration; he thrilled
admirers with his wit, sarcasm, and ridicule,--a sort of Galileo,
mocking yet amusing, with a superlative contempt of dulness and
pretension. He early devoted himself to dialectics, to all the arts of
intellectual gladiatorship, to all the sports of logical tournaments
which were held in such value by the awakened spirits of the new

Such was Abelard's precocious ability, even as a youth, that no champion
could be found to refute him in the whole of Brittany. He went from
castle to castle, and convent to convent, a philosophical
knight-errant, seeking intellectual adventures; more intent, however, on
_eclat_ and conquest than on the establishment of the dogmas which had
ruled the Church since Saint Augustine. He was a born logician, as
Bossuet was a born priest, loving to dispute as much as the Bishop of
Meaux loved to preach; not a serious man, but a bright man, ready, keen,
acute, turning fools into ridicule, and pushing acknowledged doctrines
into absurdity; not to bring out the truth as Socrates did, or furnish a
sure foundation of knowledge, but to revolutionize and overturn. His
spirit was like that of Lucien,--desiring to demolish, without
substituting anything for the dogmas he had made ridiculous.
Consequently he was mistrusted by the old oracles of the schools, and
detested by conservative churchmen who had intellect enough to see the
tendency of his speculations. In proportion to the hatred of orthodox
ecclesiastics like Anselme of Laon and Saint Bernard, was the admiration
of young men and of the infant universities. Nothing embarrassed him. He
sought a reason for all things. He appealed to reason rather than
authority, yet made the common mistake of the scholastics in supposing
that metaphysics could explain everything. He doubtless kindled a spirit
of inquiry, while he sapped the foundation of Christianity and
undermined faith. He was a nominalist; that is, he denied the existence
of all eternal ideas, such as Plato and the early Fathers advocated. He
is said to have even adduced the opinions of Pagan philosophers to prove
the mysteries of revelation. He did not deny revelation, nor authority,
nor the prevailing doctrines which the Church indorsed and defended; but
the tendency of his teachings was to undermine what had previously been
received by faith. He exalted reason, therefore, as higher than faith.
His spirit was offensive to conservative teachers. Had he lived in our
times, he would have belonged to the most progressive schools of thought
and inquiry,--probably a rationalist, denying what he could not prove by
reason, and scorning all supernaturalism; a philosopher of the school of
Hume, or Strauss, or Renan. And yet, after assailing everything
venerable, and turning his old teachers into ridicule, and creating a
spirit of rationalistic inquiry among the young students of divinity,
who adored him, Abelard settled back on authority in his old age,
perhaps alarmed and shocked at the mischief he had done in his more
brilliant years.

This exceedingly interesting man, with all his vanity, conceit, and
arrogance, had turned his steps to Paris, the centre of all intellectual
life in France, after he had achieved a great provincial reputation. He
was then only twenty, a bright and daring youth, conscious of his
powers, and burning with ambition. He was not ambitious of
ecclesiastical preferment, for aristocratic dunces occupied the great
sees and ruled the great monasteries. He was simply ambitious of
influence over students in philosophy and religion,--fond of _eclat_ and
fame as a teacher. The universities were not then established; there
were no chairs for professors, nor even were there scholastic titles,
like those of doctor and master; but Paris was full of students,
disgusted with the provincial schools. The Cathedral School of Paris was
the great attraction to these young men, then presided over by William
of Champeaux, a very respectable theologian, but not a remarkable genius
like Aquinas and Bonaventura, who did not arise until the Dominican and
Franciscan orders were established to combat heresy. Abelard, being
still a youth, attended the lectures of this old theologian, who was a
Realist, not an original thinker, but enjoying a great reputation, which
he was most anxious to preserve. The youthful prodigy at first was
greatly admired by the veteran teacher; but Abelard soon began to
question him and argue with him. Admiration was then succeeded by
jealousy. Some sided with the venerable teacher, but more with the
flippant yet brilliant youth who turned his master's teachings into
ridicule, and aspired to be a teacher himself. But as teaching was under
the supervision of the school of Notre Dame, Paris was interdicted to
him; he was not allowed to combat the received doctrines which were
taught in the Cathedral School. So he retired to Melun, about thirty
miles from Paris, and set up for a teacher and lecturer on philosophy.
All the influence of William of Champeaux and his friends was exerted to
prevent Abelard from teaching, but in vain. His lecture-room was
crowded. The most astonishing success attended his lectures. Not
contented with the _eclat_ he received, he now meditated the
discomfiture of his old master. He removed still nearer to Paris. And so
great was his success and fame, that it is said he compelled William to
renounce his Realism and also his chair, and accept a distant bishopric.
William was conquered by a mere stripling; but that stripling could have
overthrown a Goliath of controversy, not with a sling, but with a
giant's sword.

Abelard having won a great dialectical victory, which brought as much
fame as military laurels on the battlefield, established himself at St.
Genevieve, just outside the walls of Paris, where the Pantheon now
stands, which is still the centre of the Latin quarter, and the
residence of students. He now applied himself to the study of divinity,
and attended the lectures of Anselm of Laon. This celebrated
ecclesiastic, though not so famous or able as Anselm of Canterbury, was
treated by Abelard with the same arrogance and flippancy as he had
bestowed on William of Champeaux. "I frequented," said the young
mocker, "the old man's school, but soon discovered that all his power
was in length of practice. You would have thought he was kindling a
fire, when instantly the whole house was filled with smoke, in which not
a single spark was visible. He was a tree covered with thick foliage,
which to the distant eye had charms, but on near inspection there was no
fruit to be found; a fig-tree such as our Lord did curse; an oak such as
Lucan compared Pompey to,--_Stat magni nominis umbra_."

What a comment on the very philosophy which Abelard himself taught! What
better description of the scholasticism of the Middle Ages! But original
and brilliant as was the genius of Abelard, he no more could have
anticipated the new method which Bacon taught than could Thomas Aquinas.
All the various schools of the mediaeval dialecticians, Realists and
Nominalists alike, sought to establish old theories, not to discover new
truth. They could not go beyond their assumptions. So far as their
assumptions were true, they rendered great service by their inexorable
logic in defending them. They did not establish premises; that was not
their concern or mission. Assuming that the sun revolved around the
earth, all their astronomical speculations were worthless, even as the
assumption of the old doctrine of atoms in our times has led scientists
to the wildest conclusions. The metaphysics of the Schoolmen, whether
they were sceptical or reverential, simply sharpened the intellectual
faculties without advancing knowledge.

Abelard belonged by nature to the sceptical school. He delighted in
negations, and in the work of demolition. So far as he demolished or
ridiculed error he rendered the same service as Voltaire did: he
prepared the way for a more inquiring spirit. He was also more liberal
than his opponents. His spirit was progressive, but his method was
faulty. Like all those who have sought to undermine the old systems of
thought, he was naturally vain and conceited. He supposed he had
accomplished more than he really had. He became bold in his
speculations, and undertook to explain subjects beyond his grasp. Thus
he professed to unfold the meaning of the prophecies of Ezekiel. He was
arrogant in his claims to genius. "It is not by long study," said he,
"that I have mastered the heights of science, but by the force of my
mind." This flippancy, accompanied by wit and eloquence, fascinated
young men. His auditors were charmed. "The first philosopher," they
said, "had become the first divine." New pupils crowded his
lecture-room, and he united lectures on philosophy with lectures on
divinity. "Theology and philosophy encircled his brow with a double
garland." So popular was he, that students came from Germany and Italy
and England to hear his lectures. The number of his pupils, it is said,
was more than five thousand; and these included the brightest intellects
of the age, among whom one was destined to be a pope (the great Innocent
III.), nineteen to be cardinals, and one hundred to be bishops. What a
proud position for a young man! What an astonishing success for that
age! And his pupils were as generous as they were enthusiastic. They
filled his pockets with gold; they hung upon his lips with rapture; they
extolled his genius wherever they went; they carried his picture from
court to court, from castle to castle, and convent to convent; they
begged for a lock of his hair, for a shred of his garment. Never was
seen before such idolatry of genius, such unbounded admiration for
eloquence; for he stood apart and different from all other
lights,--pre-eminent as a teacher of philosophy. "He reigned," says
Lamartine, "by eloquence over the spirit of youth, by beauty over the
regard of women, by love-songs which penetrated all hearts, by musical
melodies repeated by every mouth. Let us imagine in a single man the
first orator, the first philosopher, the first poet, the first musician
of the age,--Cicero, Plato, Petrarch, Schubert,--all united in one
living celebrity, and we can form some idea of his attractions and fame
at this period of his life."

Such was that brilliant but unsound man, with learning, fame, personal
beauty, fascinating eloquence, dialectical acumen, aristocratic
manners, and transcendent wit, who encountered at thirty-eight the most
beautiful, gracious, accomplished, generous, and ardent woman that
adorned that time,--only eighteen, thirsting for knowledge, craving for
sympathy, and intensely idolatrous of intellectual excellence. But one
result could be anticipated from such a meeting: they became
passionately enamored of each other. In order to secure a more
uninterrupted intercourse, Abelard sought and obtained a residence in
the house of Fulbert, under pretence of desiring to superintend the
education of his niece. The ambitious, vain, unsuspecting priest was
delighted to receive so great a man, whose fame filled the world. He
intrusted Heloise to his care, with permission to use blows if they were
necessary to make her diligent and obedient!

And what young woman with such a nature and under such circumstances
could resist the influence of such a teacher? I need not dwell on the
familiar story, how mutual admiration was followed by mutual friendship,
and friendship was succeeded by mutual infatuation, and the gradual
abandonment of both to a mad passion, forgetful alike of fame and duty.

"It became tedious," said Abelard, "to go to my lessons. I gave my
lectures with negligence. I spoke only from habit and memory. I was only
a reciter of ancient inventions; and if I chanced to compose verses,
they were songs of love, not secrets of philosophy." The absence of his
mind evinced how powerfully his new passion moved his fiery and
impatient soul. "He consumed his time in writing verses to the canon's
niece; and even as Hercules in the gay court of Omphale threw down his
club in order to hold the distaff, so Abelard laid aside his sceptre as
a monarch of the schools to sing sonnets at the feet of Heloise." And
she also, still more unwisely, in the mighty potency of an absorbing
love, yielded up her honor and her pride. This mutual infatuation was,
it would seem, a gradual transition from the innocent pleasure of
delightful companionship to the guilt of unrestrained desire. It was not
premeditated design,--not calculation, but insidious dalliance:--

"Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame,
When love approached me under friendship's name.
Guiltless I gazed; heaven listened when you sung,
And truths divine came mended from your tongue.
From lips like those, what precept failed to move?
Too soon they taught me 't was no sin to love."

In a healthy state of society this mutual passion would have been
followed by the marriage ties. The parties were equal in culture and
social position. And Abelard probably enjoyed a large income from the
fees of students, and could well support the expenses of a family. All
that was needed was the consecration of emotions, which are natural and
irresistible,--a mystery perhaps but ordained, and without which
marriage would be mere calculation and negotiation. Passion, doubtless,
is blind; but in this very blindness we see the hand of the Creator,--to
baffle selfishness and pride. What would become of our world if men and
women were left to choose their partners with the eye of unclouded
reason? Expediency would soon make a desert of earth, and there would be
no paradise found for those who are unattractive or in adverse
circumstances. Friendship might possibly bring people together; but
friendship exists only between equals and people of congenial tastes.
Love brings together also those who are unequal. It joins the rich to
the poor, the strong to the weak, the fortunate to the unfortunate, and
thus defeats the calculations which otherwise would enter into
matrimonial life. Without the blindness of passionate love the darts of
Cupid would be sent in vain; and the helpless and neglected--as so many
are--would stand but little chance for that happiness which is
associated with the institution of marriage. The world would be filled
with old bachelors and old maids, and population would hopelessly
decline among virtuous people.

No scandal would have resulted from the ardent loves of Abelard and
Heloise had they been united by that sacred relation which was ordained
in the garden of Eden. "If any woman," says Legouve, "may stand as the
model of a wife in all her glory, it is Heloise. Passion without bounds
and without alloy, enthusiasm for the genius of Abelard, jealous care
for his reputation, a vigorous intellect, learning sufficient to join in
his labors, and an unsullied name."

But those false, sophistical ideas which early entered into monastic
life, and which perverted the Christianity of the Middle Ages, presented
a powerful barrier against the instincts of nature and the ordinances of
God. Celibacy was accounted as a supernal virtue, and the marriage of a
priest was deemed a lasting disgrace. It obscured his fame, his
prospects, his position, and his influence; it consigned him to ridicule
and reproach. He was supposed to be married only to the Church, and
would be unfaithful to Heaven if he bound himself by connubial ties.
Says Saint Jerome, "Take axe in hand and hew up by the roots the sterile
tree of marriage. God permits it, I grant; but Christ and Mary
consecrated virginity." Alas, what could be hoped when the Church
endorsed such absurd doctrines! Hildebrand, when he denounced the
marriage of priests, made war on the most sacred instincts of human
nature. He may have strengthened the papal domination, but he weakened
the restraints of home. Only a dark and beclouded age could have upheld
such a policy. Upon the Church of the Middle Ages we lay the blame of
these false ideas. She is in a measure responsible for the follies of
Abelard and Heloise. They were not greater than the ideas of their age.
Had Abelard been as bold in denouncing the stupid custom of the Church
in this respect as he was in fighting the monks of St. Denis or the
intellectual intolerance of Bernard, he would not have fallen in the
respect of good people. But he was a slave to interest and
conventionality. He could not brave the sneers of priests or the
opinions of society; he dared not lose caste with those who ruled the
Church; he would not give up his chances of preferment. He was unwilling
either to renounce his love, or to avow it by an honorable, open union.

At last his intimacy created scandal. In the eyes of the schools and of
the Church he had sacrificed philosophy and fame to a second Delilah.
And Heloise was even more affected by his humiliation than himself. She
more than he was opposed to marriage, knowing that this would doom him
to neglect and reproach. Abelard would perhaps have consented to an open
marriage had Heloise been willing; but with a strange perversity she
refused. His reputation and interests were dearer to her than was her
own fair name. She sacrificed herself to his fame; she blinded herself
to the greatest mistake a woman could make. The excess of her love made
her insensible to the principles of an immutable morality. Circumstances
palliated her course, but did not excuse it. The fatal consequences of
her folly pursued her into the immensity of subsequent grief; and though
afterwards she was assured of peace and forgiveness in the depths of her
repentance, the demon of infatuated love was not easily exorcised. She
may have been unconscious of degradation in the boundless spirit of
self-sacrifice which she was willing to make for the object of her
devotion, but she lost both dignity and fame. She entreated him who was
now quoted as a reproach to human weakness, since the languor of passion
had weakened his power and his eloquence, to sacrifice her to his fame;
"to permit her no longer to adore him as a divinity who accepts the
homage of his worshippers; to love her no longer, if this love
diminished his reputation; to reduce her even, if necessary, to the
condition of a woman despised by the world, since the glory of his love
would more than compensate for the contempt of the universe."

"What reproaches," said she, "should I merit from the Church and the
schools of philosophy, were I to draw from them their brightest star!
And shall a woman dare to take to herself that man whom Nature meant to
be the ornament and benefactor of the human race? Then reflect on the
nature of matrimony, with its littleness and cares. How inconsistent it
is with the dignity of a wise man! Saint Paul earnestly dissuades from
it. So do the saints. So do the philosophers of ancient times. Think a
while. What a ridiculous association,--the philosopher and the
chambermaids, writing-desks and cradles, books and distaffs, pens and
spindles! Intent on speculation when the truths of nature and revelation
are breaking on your eye, will you hear the sudden cry of children, the
lullaby of nurses, the turbulent bustling of disorderly servants? In the
serious pursuits of wisdom there is no time to be lost. Believe me, as
well withdraw totally from literature as attempt to proceed in the midst
of worldly avocations. Science admits no participation in the cares of
life. Remember the feats of Xanthippe. Take counsel from the example of
Socrates, who has been set up as a beacon for all coming time to warn
philosophers from the fatal rock of matrimony."

Such was the blended truth, irony, and wit with which Heloise dissuaded
Abelard from open marriage. He compromised the affair, and contented
himself with a secret marriage. "After a night spent in prayer," said
he, "in one of the churches of Paris, on the following morning we
received the nuptial blessing in the presence of the uncle of Heloise
and of a few mutual friends. We then retired without observation, that
this union, known only to God and a few intimates, should bring neither
shame nor prejudice to my renown." A cold and selfish act, such as we
might expect in Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon,--yet, nevertheless,
the feeble concession which pride and policy make to virtue, the
triumph of expediency over all heroic and manly qualities. Like
Maintenon, Heloise was willing to seem what she was not,--only to be
explained on the ground that concubinage was a less evil, in the eyes of
the Church, than marriage in a priest.

But even a secret marriage was attended with great embarrassment. The
news of it leaks out through the servants. The envious detractors of
Abelard rejoice in his weakness and his humiliation. His pride now takes
offence, and he denies the ties; and so does Heloise. The old uncle is
enraged and indignant. Abelard, justly fearing his resentment,--yea,
being cruelly maltreated at his instigation,--removes his wife to the
convent where she was educated, and induces her to take the veil. She
obeys him; she obeys him in all things; she has no will but his. She
thinks of nothing but his reputation and interest; she forgets herself
entirely, yet not without bitter anguish. She accepts the sacrifice, but
it costs her infinite pangs. She is separated from her husband forever.
Nor was the convent agreeable to her. It was dull, monotonous, dismal;
imprisonment in a tomb, a living death, where none could know her
agonies but God; where she could not even hear from him who was
her life.

Yet immolation in the dreary convent, where for nearly forty years she
combated the recollection of her folly, was perhaps the best thing for
her. It was a cruel necessity. In the convent she was at least safe from
molestation; she had every opportunity for study and meditation; she was
free from the temptations of the world, and removed from its scandals
and reproach. The world was crucified to her; Christ was now her spouse.

To a convent also Abelard retired, overwhelmed with shame and penitence.
At St. Denis he assumed the strictest habits, mortified his body with
severe austerities, and renewed with ardor his studies in philosophy and
theology. He was not without mental sufferings, but he could bury his
grief in his ambition. It would seem that a marked change now took place
in the character of Abelard. He was less vain and conceited, and sought
more eagerly the consolations of religion. His life became too austere
for his brother monks, and they compelled him to leave this aristocratic
abbey. He then resumed his lectures in the wilderness. He retreated to a
desert place in Champagne, where he constructed a small oratory with his
own hands. But still students gathered around him. They, too,
constructed cells, like ancient anchorites, and cultivated the fields
for bread. Then, as their numbers increased, they erected a vast edifice
of stone and timber, which Abelard dedicated to the Holy Comforter, and
called the Paraclete. It was here that his best days were spent. His
renewed labors and his intellectual boldness increased the admiration of
his pupils. It became almost idolatry. It is said that three thousand
students assembled at the Paraclete to hear him lecture. What admiration
for genius, when three thousand young men could give up the delights of
Paris for a wilderness with Abelard! What marvellous powers of
fascination he must have had!

This renewed success, in the midst of disgrace, created immeasurable
envy. Moreover, the sarcasms, boldness, and new views of the philosopher
raised a storm of hatred. Galileo was not more offensive to the pedants
and priests of his generation than Abelard was to the Schoolmen and
monks of his day. They impeached both his piety and theology. He was
stigmatized as unsound and superficial. Yet he continued his attacks,
his ridicule, and his sarcasms. In proportion to the animosities of his
foes was the zeal of his followers, who admired his boldness and
arrogance. At last a great clamor was raised against the daring
theologian. Saint Bernard, the most influential and profound
ecclesiastic of the day, headed the opposition. He maintained that the
foundations of Christianity were assailed. Even Abelard could not stand
before the indignation and hostility of such a saint,--a man who kindled
crusades, who made popes, who controlled the opinions of the age.
Abelard was obliged to fly, and sought an asylum amid the rocks and
sands of Brittany. The Duke of this wild province gave him the abbey of
St. Gildas; but its inmates were ignorant and disorderly, and added
insubordination to dissoluteness. They ornamented their convent with the
trophies of the chase. They thought more of bears and wild boars and
stags than they did of hymns and meditations. The new abbot, now a grave
and religious man, in spite of his opposition to the leaders of the
orthodox party, endeavored to reform the monks,--a hopeless task,--and
they turned against him with more ferocity than the theologians. They
even poisoned, it is said, the sacramental wine. He was obliged to hide
among the rocks to save his life. Nothing but aid from the neighboring
barons saved him from assassination.

Thus fifteen years were passed in alternate study, glory, suffering, and
shame. In his misery Abelard called on God for help,--his first great
advance in that piety which detractors depreciated. He wrote also to a
friend a history of his misfortunes. By accident this history fell into
the hands of Heloise, then abbess of the Paraclete, which Abelard had
given her, and where she was greatly revered for all those virtues most
esteemed in her age. It opened her wound afresh, and she wrote a letter
to her husband such as has seldom been equalled for pathos and depth of
sentiment. It is an immortal record of her grief, her unsubdued
passion, her boundless love, not without gentle reproaches for what
seemed a cold neglect and silence for fifteen long and bitter years, yet
breathing forgiveness, admiration, affection. The salutation of that
letter is remarkable: "Heloise to her lord, to her father, to her
husband, to her brother: his servant,--yes, his daughter; his
wife,--yes, his sister." Thus does she begin that tender and long
letter, in which she describes her sufferings, her unchanged affections,
her ardent wishes for his welfare, revealing in every line not merely
genius and sensibility, but a lofty and magnanimous soul. She glories in
what constitutes the real superiority of her old lover; she describes
with simplicity what had originally charmed her,--his songs and
conversation. She professes still an unbounded obedience to his will,
and begs for a reply, if for nothing else that she may be stimulated to
a higher life amid the asperities of her gloomy convent.

Yet write, oh, write all, that I may join
Grief to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine!
Years still are mine, and these I need not spare,
Love but demands what else were shed in prayer;
No happier task these faded eyes pursue,--
To read and weep is all I now can do.

Abelard replies to this touching letter coldly, but religiously, calling
her his "sister in Christ," but not attempting to draw out the earthly
love which both had sought to crush. He implores her prayers in his
behalf. The only sign of his former love is a request to be buried in
her abbey, in anticipation of a speedy and violent death. Most critics
condemn this letter as heartless; yet it is but charitable to suppose
that he did not wish to trifle with a love so great, and reopen a wound
so deep and sacred. All his efforts now seem to have been directed to
raise her soul to heaven. But his letter does not satisfy her, and she
again gives vent to her passionate grief in view of the separation:--

"O inclement Clemency! O unfortunate Fortune! She has so far consumed
her weakness upon me that she has nothing left for others against whom
she rages. I am the most miserable of the miserable, the most unhappy of
the unhappy!"

This letter seems to have touched Abelard, and he replied to it more at
length, and with great sympathy, giving her encouragement and
consolation. He speaks of their mutual sufferings as providential; and
his letter is couched in a more Christian spirit than one would
naturally impute to him in view of his contests with the orthodox
leaders of the Church; and it also expresses more tenderness than can be
reconciled with the selfish man he is usually represented. He writes:--

"See, dearest, how with the strong nets of his mercy God has taken us
from the depths of a perilous sea. Observe how he has tempered mercy
with justice; compare our danger with the deliverance, our disease with
the remedy. I merit death, and God gives me life. Come, and join me in
proclaiming how much the Lord has done for us. Be my inseparable
companion in an act of grace, since you have participated with me in the
fault and the pardon. Take courage, my dear sister; whom the Lord loveth
he chastiseth. Sympathize with Him who suffered for your redemption.
Approach in spirit His sepulchre. Be thou His spouse."

Then he closes with this prayer:--

"When it pleased Thee, O Lord, and as it pleased Thee, Thou didst join
us, and Thou didst separate us. Now, what Thou hast so mercifully begun,
mercifully complete; and after separating us in this world, join us
together eternally in heaven."

No one can read this letter without acknowledging its delicacy and its
loftiness. All his desires centred in the spiritual good of her whom the
Church would not allow him to call any longer his wife, yet to whom he
hoped to be reunited in heaven. As a professed nun she could no longer,
with propriety, think of him as an earthly husband. For a priest to
acknowledge a nun for his wife would have been a great scandal. By all
the laws of the Church and the age they were now only brother and sister
in Christ. Nothing escaped from his pen which derogates from the
austere dignity of the priest.

But Heloise was more human and less conventional. She had not conquered
her love; once given, it could not be taken back. She accepted her
dreary immolation in the convent, since she obeyed Abelard both as
husband and as a spiritual father; but she would have left the convent
and rejoined him had he demanded it, for marriage was to her more sacred
than the veil. She was more emancipated from the ideas of her
superstitious age than even the bold and rationalistic philosopher. With
all her moral and spiritual elevation, Heloise could not conquer her
love. And, as a wedded wife, why should she conquer it? She was both nun
and wife. If fault there was, it was as wife, in immuring herself in a
convent and denying the marriage. It should have been openly avowed; the
denial of it placed her in a false position, as a fallen woman. Yet, as
a fallen woman, she regained her position in the eyes of the world. She
was a lady abbess. It was impossible for a woman to enjoy a higher
position than the control of a convent. As abbess, she enjoyed the
friendship and respect of some of the saintliest and greatest characters
of the age, even of such a man as Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny.
And it is impossible that she should have won the friendship of such a
man, if she herself had not been irreproachable in her own character.
The error in judging Heloise is, that she, as nun, had no right to love.
But the love existed long before she took the veil, and was consecrated
by marriage, even though private. By the mediaeval and conventional
stand point, it is true, the wife was lost in the nun. That is the view
that Abelard took,--that it was a sin to love his wife any longer. But
Heloise felt that it was no sin to love him who was her life. She
continued to live in him who ruled over her, and to whose desire her
will was subject and obedient, according to that eternal law declared in
the garden of Eden.

Nor could this have been otherwise so long as Abelard retained the
admiration of Heloise, and was worthy of her devotion. We cannot tell
what changes may have taken place in her soul had he been grovelling, or
tyrannical, a slave of degrading habits, or had he treated her with
cruel harshness, or ceased to sympathize with her sorrows, or
transferred his affections to another object. But whatever love he had
to give, he gave to her to the end, so far as the ideas of his age would
permit. His fault was in making a nun of his wife, which was in the eyes
of the world a virtual repudiation; even though, from a principle of
sublime obedience and self-sacrifice, she consented to the separation.
Was Josephine to blame because she loved a selfish man after she was
repudiated? Heloise was simply unable to conquer a powerful love. It
was not converted into hatred, because Abelard, in her eyes, seemed
still to be worthy of it. She regarded him as a saint, forced by the
ideas of his age to crush a mortal love,--which she herself could not
do, because it was a sentiment, and sentiment is eternal. She was
greater than Abelard, because her love was more permanent; in other
words, because her soul was greater. In intellect he may have been
superior to her, but not in the higher qualities which imply generosity,
self-abnegation, and sympathy,--qualities which are usually stronger in
women than in men. In Abelard the lower faculties--ambition, desire of
knowledge, vanity--consumed the greater. _He_ could be contented with
the gratification of these, even as men of a still lower type can
renounce intellectual pleasures for the sensual. It does not follow that
Heloise was weaker than he because she could not live outside the world
of sentiment, but rather loftier and nobler. These higher faculties
constituted her superiority to Abelard. It was sentiment which made her
so pre-eminently great, and it was this which really endeared her to
Abelard. By reason and will he ruled over her; but by the force of
superior sentiment she ruled over him.

Sentiment, indeed, underlies everything that is great or lovely or
enduring on this earth. It is the joy of festivals, the animating soul
of patriotism, the bond of families, the beauty of religious,
political, and social institutions. It has consecrated Thermopylae, the
Parthenon, the Capitol, the laurel crown, the conqueror's triumphal
procession, the epics of Homer, the eloquence of Demosthenes, the muse
of Virgil, the mediaeval cathedral, the town-halls of Flanders, the
colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the struggles of the Puritans, the
deeds of Gustavus Adolphus, the Marseilles hymn, the farewell address of
Washington. There is no poetry without it, nor heroism, nor social
banqueting. What is Christmas without the sentiments which hallow the
evergreen, the anthem, the mistletoe, the family reunion? What is even
tangible roast-beef and plum-pudding without a party to enjoy them; and
what is the life of the party but the interchange of sentiments? Why is
a cold sleigh-ride, or the ascent of a mountain, or a voyage across the
Atlantic, or a rough journey under torrid suns to the consecrated
places,--why are these endurable, and even pleasant? It is because the
sentiments which prompt them are full of sweet and noble inspiration.
The Last Supper, and Bethany, and the Sepulchre are immortal, because
they testify eternal love. Leonidas lives in the heart of the world
because he sacrificed himself to patriotism. The martyrs are objects of
unfading veneration, because they died for Christianity.

In the same way Heloise is embalmed in the affections of all nations
because she gave up everything for an exalted sentiment which so
possessed her soul that neither scorn, nor pity, nor ascetic severities,
nor gloomy isolation, nor ingratitude, nor a living death could
eradicate or weaken it,--an unbounded charity which covered with its
veil the evils she could not remove. That all-pervading and
all-conquering sentiment was the admiration of ideal virtues and
beauties which her rapt and excited soul saw in her adored lover; such
as Dante saw in his departed Beatrice. It was unbounded admiration for
Abelard which first called out the love of Heloise; and his undoubted
brilliancy and greatness were exaggerated in her loving eyes by her
imagination, even as mothers see in children traits that are hidden from
all other mortal eyes. So lofty and godlike did he seem, amidst the
plaudits of the schools, and his triumph over all the dignitaries that
sought to humble him; so interesting was he to her by his wit, sarcasm,
and eloquence,--that she worshipped him, and deemed it the most exalted
honor to possess exclusively his love in return, which he gave certainly
to no one else. Satisfied that he, the greatest man of the world,--as he
seemed and as she was told he was,--should give to her what she gave to
him, she exulted in it as her highest glory. It was all in all to her;
but not to him. See, then, how superior Heloise was to Abelard in
humility as well as self-abnegation. She was his equal, and yet she
ever gloried in his superiority. See how much greater, too, she was in
lofty sentiments, since it was the majesty of his mind and soul which
she adored. He was comparatively indifferent to her when she became no
longer an object of desire; but not so with her, since she was attracted
by his real or supposed greatness of intellect, which gave permanence to
her love, and loftiness also. He was her idol, since he possessed those
qualities which most powerfully excited her admiration.

This then is love, when judged by a lofty standard,--worship of what is
most glorious in mind and soul. And this exalted love is most common
among the female sex, since their passions are weaker and their
sentiments are stronger than those of most men. What a fool a man is to
weaken this sympathy, or destroy this homage, or outrage this
indulgence; or withhold that tenderness, that delicate attention, that
toleration of foibles, that sweet appreciation, by which the soul of
woman is kept alive and the lamp of her incense burning! And woe be to
him who drives this confiding idolater back upon her technical
obligations! The form that holds these certitudes of the soul may lose
all its beauty by rudeness or neglect. And even if the form remains,
what is a mortal body without the immortal soul which animates it? The
glory of a man or of a woman is the real presence of spiritual love,
which brings peace to homes, alleviation to burdens, consolation to
sufferings, rest to labors, hope to anxieties, and a sublime repose amid
the changes of the world,--that blessed flower of perennial sweetness
and beauty which Adam in his despair bore away from Eden, and which
alone almost compensated him for the loss of Paradise.

It is not my object to present Abelard except in his connection with the
immortal love with which he inspired the greatest woman of the age. And
yet I cannot conclude this sketch without taking a parting glance of
this brilliant but unfortunate man. And I confess that his closing days
strongly touch my sympathies, and make me feel that historians have been
too harsh in their verdicts. Historians have based their opinions on the
hostilities which theological controversies produced, and on the neglect
which Abelard seemed to show for the noble woman who obeyed and adored
him. But he appears to have employed his leisure and tranquil days in
writing hymns to the abbess of the Paraclete, in preparing homilies, and
in giving her such advice as her circumstances required. All his later
letters show the utmost tenderness and zeal for the spiritual good of
the woman to whom he hoped to be reunited in heaven, and doing for
Heloise what Jerome did for Paula, and Fenelon for Madame Guyon. If no
longer her lover, he was at least her friend. And, moreover, at this
time he evinced a loftier religious life than he has the credit of
possessing. He lived a life of study and meditation.

But his enemies would not allow him to rest, even in generous labors.
They wished to punish him and destroy his influence. So they summoned
him to an ecclesiastical council to answer for his heresies. At first he
resolved to defend himself, and Bernard, his greatest enemy, even
professed a reluctance to contend with his superior in dialectical
contests. But Abelard, seeing how inflamed were the passions of the
theologians against him, and how vain would be his defence, appealed at
once to the Pope; and Rome, of course, sided with his enemies. He was
condemned to perpetual silence, and his books were ordered to be burned.

To this sentence it would appear that Abelard prepared to submit with
more humility than was to be expected from so bold and arrogant a man.
But he knew he could not resist an authority based on generally accepted
ideas any easier than Henry IV. could have resisted Hildebrand. He made
up his mind to obey the supreme authority of the Church, but bitterly
felt the humiliation and the wrong.

Broken in spirit and in reputation, Abelard, now an old man, set out on
foot for Rome to plead his cause before the Pope. He stopped on his way
at Cluny in Burgundy, that famous monastery where Hildebrand himself had
ruled, now, however, presided over by Peter the Venerable,--the most
benignant and charitable ecclesiastical dignitary of that age. And as
Abelard approached the gates of the venerable abbey, which was the pride
of the age, worn out with fatigue and misfortune, he threw himself at
the feet of the lordly abbot and invoked shelter and protection. How
touching is the pride of greatness, when brought low by penitence or
grief, like that of Theodosius at the feet of Ambrose, or Henry II. at
the tomb of Becket! But Peter raises him up, receives him in his arms,
opens to him his heart and the hospitalities of his convent, not as a
repentant prodigal, but as the greatest genius of his age, brought low
by religious persecution. Peter did all in his power to console his
visitor, and even privately interceded with the Pope, remembering only
Abelard's greatness and his misfortunes. And the persecuted philosopher,
through the kind offices of the abbot, was left in peace, and was even
reconciled with Bernard,--an impossibility without altered opinions in
Abelard, or a submission to the Church which bore all the marks
of piety.

The few remaining days of this extraordinary man, it seems, were spent
in study, penitence, and holy meditation. So beloved and revered was he
by the community among whom he dwelt, that for six centuries his name
was handed down from father to son among the people of the valley and
town of Cluny. "At the extremity of a retired valley," says Lamartine,
"flanked by the walls of the convent, on the margin of extensive
meadows, closed by woods, and near to a neighboring stream, there exists
an enormous lime-tree, under the shade of which Abelard in his closing
days was accustomed to sit and meditate, with his face turned towards
the Paraclete which he had built, and where Heloise still discharged the
duties of abbess."

But even this pensive pleasure was not long permitted him. He was worn
out with sorrows and misfortunes; and in a few months after he had
crossed the hospitable threshold of Cluny he died in the arms of his
admiring friend. "Under the instinct of a sentiment as sacred as
religion itself, Peter felt that Abelard above and Heloise on earth
demanded of him the last consolation of a reunion in the grave. So,
quietly, in the dead of night, dreading scandal, yet true to his
impulses, without a hand to assist or an eye to witness, he exhumed the
coffin which had been buried in the abbey cemetery, and conveyed it
himself to the Paraclete, and intrusted it to Heloise."

She received it with tears, shut herself up in the cold vault with the
mortal remains of him she had loved so well; while Peter, that aged
saint of consolation, pronounced the burial service with mingled tears
and sobs. And after having performed this last sad office, and given his
affectionate benediction to the great woman to whom he was drawn by ties
of admiration and sympathy, this venerable dignitary wended his way
silently back to Cluny, and, for the greater consolation of Heloise,
penned the following remarkable letter, which may perhaps modify our
judgment of Abelard:--

"It is no easy task, my sister, to describe in a few lines the holiness,
the humility, and the self-denial which our departed brother exhibited
to us, and of which our whole collected brotherhood alike bear witness.
Never have I beheld a life and deportment so thoroughly submissive. I
placed him in an elevated rank in the community, but he appeared the
lowest of all by the simplicity of his dress and his abstinence from all
the enjoyments of the senses. I speak not of luxury, for that was a
stranger to him; he refused everything but what was indispensable for
the sustenance of life. He read continually, prayed often, and never
spoke except when literary conversation or holy discussion compelled him
to break silence. His mind and tongue seemed concentrated on
philosophical and divine instructions. Simple, straightforward,
reflecting on eternal judgments, shunning all evil, he consecrated the
closing hours of an illustrious life. And when a mortal sickness seized
him, with what fervent piety, what ardent inspiration did he make his
last confession of his sins; with what fervor did he receive the
promise of eternal life; with what confidence did he recommend his body
and soul to the tender mercies of the Saviour!"

Such was the death of Abelard, as attested by the most venerated man of
that generation. And when we bear in mind the friendship and respect of
such a man as Peter, and the exalted love of such a woman as Heloise, it
is surely not strange that posterity, and the French nation especially,
should embalm his memory in their traditions.

Heloise survived him twenty years,--a priestess of God, a mourner at the
tomb of Abelard. And when in the solitude of the Paraclete she felt the
approach of the death she had so long invoked, she directed the
sisterhood to place her body beside that of her husband in the same
leaden coffin. And there, in the silent aisles of that abbey-church, it
remained for five hundred years, until it was removed by Lucien
Bonaparte to the Museum of French Monuments in Paris, but again
transferred, a few years after, to the cemetery of Pere la Chaise. The
enthusiasm of the French erected over the remains a beautiful monument;
and "there still may be seen, day by day, the statues of the immortal
lovers, decked with flowers and coronets, perpetually renewed with
invisible hands,--the silent tribute of the heart of that consecrated
sentiment which survives all change. Thus do those votive offerings
mysteriously convey admiration for the constancy and sympathy with the
posthumous union of two hearts who transposed conjugal tenderness from
the senses to the soul, who spiritualized the most ardent of human
passions, and changed love itself into a holocaust, a martyrdom, and a
holy sacrifice."


Lamartine's Characters; Berington's Middle Ages; Michelet's History of
France; Life of St. Bernard; French Ecclesiastical Historians; Bayle's
Critical Dictionary; Biographic Universelle; Pope's Lines on Abelard and
Heloise; Letters of Abelard and Heloise.


* * * * *

A.D. 1412-1431.


Perhaps the best known and most popular of heroines is Joan of Arc,
called the Maid of Orleans. Certainly she is one of the most interesting
characters in the history of France during the Middle Ages; hence I
select her to illustrate heroic women. There are not many such who are
known to fame; though heroic qualities are not uncommon in the gentler
sex, and a certain degree of heroism enters into the character of all
those noble and strongly marked women who have attracted attention and
who have rendered great services. It marked many of the illustrious
women of the Bible, of Grecian and Roman antiquity, and especially those
whom chivalry produced in mediaeval Europe; and even in our modern times
intrepidity and courage have made many a woman famous, like Florence
Nightingale. In Jewish history we point to Deborah, who delivered Israel
from the hands of Jabin; and to Jael, who slew Sisera, the captain of
Jabin's hosts; and to Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes. It
was heroism, which is ever allied with magnanimity, that prompted the
daughter of Jephtha to the most remarkable self-sacrifice recorded in
history. There was a lofty heroism in Abigail, when she prevented David
from shedding innocent blood. And among the Pagan nations, who does not
admire the heroism of such women as we have already noticed? Chivalry,
too, produced illustrious heroines in every country of Europe. We read
of a Countess of March, in the reign of Edward III., who defended Dunbar
with uncommon courage against Montague and an English army; a Countess
of Montfort shut herself up in the fortress of Hennebon, and
successfully defied the whole power of Charles of Blois; Jane Hatchett
repulsed in person a considerable body of Burgundian troops; Altrude,
Countess of Bertinora, advanced with an army to the relief of Ancona;
Bona Lombardi, with a body of troops, liberated her husband from
captivity; Isabella of Lorraine raised an army for the rescue of her
husband; Queen Philippa, during the absence of her husband in Scotland,
stationed herself in the Castle of Bamborough and defied the threats of
Douglas, and afterwards headed an army against David, King of Scotland,
and took him prisoner, and shut him up in the Tower of London.

But these illustrious women of the Middle Ages who performed such feats
of gallantry and courage belonged to the noble class; they were
identified with aristocratic institutions; they lived in castles; they
were the wives and daughters of feudal princes and nobles whose business
was war, and who were rough and turbulent warriors, and sometimes no
better than robbers, but who had the virtues of chivalry, which was at
its height during the wars of Edward III. And yet neither the proud
feudal nobles nor their courageous wives and daughters took any notice
of the plebeian people, except to oppress and grind them down. No
virtues were developed by feudalism among the people but submission,
patience, and loyalty.

And thus it is extraordinary that such a person should appear in that
chivalric age as Joan of Arc, who rose from the humblest class, who
could neither read nor write,--a peasant girl without friends or
influence, living among the Vosges mountains on the borders of Champagne
and Lorraine. She was born in 1412, in the little obscure village of
Domremy on the Meuse, on land belonging to the French crown. She lived
in a fair and fertile valley on the line of the river, on the other side
of which were the Burgundian territories. The Lorraine of the Vosges was
a mountainous district covered with forests, which served for royal
hunting parties. The village of Domremy itself was once a dependency of
the abbey of St. Remy at Rheims. This district had suffered cruelly
from the wars between the Burgundians and the adherents of the
Armagnacs, one of the great feudal families of France in the
Middle Ages.

Joan, or Jeanne, was the third daughter of one of the peasant laborers
of Domremy. She was employed by her mother in spinning and sewing, while
her sisters and brothers were set to watch cattle. Her mother could
teach her neither to read nor write, but early imbued her mind with the
sense of duty. Joan was naturally devout, and faultless in her morals;
simple, natural, gentle, fond of attending the village church; devoting
herself, when not wanted at home, to nursing the sick,--the best girl in
the village; strong, healthy, and beautiful; a spirit lowly but poetic,
superstitious but humane, and fond of romantic adventures. But her piety
was one of her most marked peculiarities, and somehow or other she knew
more than we can explain of Scripture heroes and heroines.

One of the legends of that age and place was that the marches of
Lorraine were to give birth to a maid who was to save the
realm,--founded on an old prophecy of Merlin. It seems that when only
thirteen years old Joan saw visions, and heard celestial voices bidding
her to be good and to trust in God; and as virginity was supposed to be
a supernal virtue, she vowed to remain a virgin, but told no one of her
vow or her visions. She seems to have been a girl of extraordinary good
sense, which was as marked as her religious enthusiasm.

The most remarkable thing about this young peasant girl is that she
claimed to have had visions and heard voices which are difficult to be
distinguished from supernatural,--something like the daemon of Socrates.
She affirmed that Saint Michael the Archangel appeared to her in glory,
also Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, encouraging her in virtue, and
indicating to her that a great mission was before her, that she was to
deliver her king and country. Such claims have not been treated with
incredulity or contempt by French historians, especially Barante and
Michelet, in view of the wonderful work she was instrumental in

At this period France was afflicted with that cruel war which had at
intervals been carried on for nearly a century between the English and
French kings, and which had arisen from the claims of Edward I to the
throne of France. The whole country was distracted, forlorn, and
miserable; it was impoverished, overrun, and drained of fighting men.
The war had exhausted the resources of England as well as those of
France. The population of England at the close of this long series of
wars was less than it was under Henry II. Those wars were more
disastrous to the interests of both the rival kingdoms than even those
of the Crusades, and they were marked by great changes and great
calamities. The victories of Crecy, Poictiers, and Agincourt--which shed
such lustre on the English nation--were followed by reverses, miseries,
and defeats, which more than balanced the glories of Edward the Black
Prince and Henry V. Provinces were gained and lost, yet no decisive
results followed either victory or defeat. The French kings, driven
hither and thither, with a decimated people, and with the loss of some
of their finest provinces, still retained their sovereignty.

At one time, about the year 1347, Edward III. had seemed to have
attained the supreme object of his ambition. France lay bleeding at his
feet; he had won the greatest victory of his age; Normandy already
belonged to him, Guienne was recovered, Aquitaine was ceded to him,
Flanders was on his side, and the possession of Brittany seemed to open
his way to Paris. But in fourteen years these conquests were lost; the
plague scourged England, and popular discontents added to the
perplexities of the once fortunate monarch. Moreover, the House of
Commons had come to be a power and a check on royal ambition. The death
of the Black Prince consummated his grief and distraction, and the
heroic king gave himself up in his old age to a disgraceful profligacy,
and died in the arms of Alice Pierce, in the year 1377.

Fifty years pass by, and Henry V. is king of England, and renews his
claim to the French throne. The battle of Agincourt (1415) gives to
Henry V. the same _eclat_ that the victory of Crecy had bestowed on
Edward III. Again the French realm is devastated by triumphant
Englishmen. The King of France is a captive; his Queen is devoted to the
cause of Henry, the Duke of Burgundy is his ally, and he only needs the
formal recognition of the Estates to take possession of the French
throne. But in the year 1422, in the midst of his successes, he died of
a disease which baffled the skill of all his physicians, leaving his
kingdom to a child only nine years old, and the prosecution of the
French war to his brother the Duke of Bedford, who was scarcely inferior
to himself in military genius.

At this time, when Charles VI. of France was insane, and his oldest son
Louis dead, his second son Charles declared himself King of France, as
Charles VII. But only southern France acknowledged Charles, who at this
time was a boy of fifteen years. All the northern provinces, even
Guienne and Gascony, acknowledged Henry VI., the infant son of Henry V.
of England. Charles's affairs, therefore, were in a bad way, and there
was every prospect of the complete conquest of France. Even Paris was
the prey alternately of the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the last of
whom were the adherents of Charles the Dauphin,--the legitimate heir to
the throne. He held his little court at Bourges, where he lived as gaily
as he could, sometimes in want of the necessaries of life. His troops
were chiefly Gascons, Lombards, and Scotch, who got no pay, and who
lived by pillage. He was so hard pressed by the Duke of Bedford that he
meditated a retreat into Dauphine. It would seem that he was given to
pleasures, and was unworthy of his kingdom, which he nearly lost by
negligence and folly.

The Duke of Bedford, in order to drive Charles out of the central
provinces, resolved to take Orleans, which was the key to the south,--a
city on the north bank of the Loire, strongly fortified and well
provisioned. This was in 1428. The probabilities were that this city
would fall, for it was already besieged, and was beginning to
suffer famine.

In this critical period for France, Joan of Arc appeared on the stage,
being then a girl of sixteen (some say eighteen) years of age. Although
Joan, as we have said, was uneducated, she yet clearly comprehended the
critical condition of her country, and with the same confidence that
David had in himself and in his God when he armed himself with a sling
and a few pebbles to confront the full-armed giant of the Philistines,
inspired by her heavenly visions she resolved to deliver France. She
knew nothing of war; she had not been accustomed to equestrian
exercises, like a woman of chivalry; she had no friends; she had never
seen great people; she was poor and unimportant. To the eye of worldly
wisdom her resolution was perfectly absurd.

It was with the greatest difficulty that Joan finally obtained an
interview with Boudricourt, the governor of Vaucouleurs; and he laughed
at her, and bade her uncle take her home and chastise her for her
presumption. She returned to her humble home, but with resolutions
unabated. The voices encouraged her, and the common people believed in
her. Again, in the red coarse dress of a peasant girl, she sought the
governor, claiming that God had sent her. There was something so
strange, so persistent, so honest about her that he reported her case to
the King. Meanwhile, the Duke of Lorraine heard of her, and sent her a
safe-conduct, and the people of Vaucouleurs came forward and helped her.
They gave her a horse and the dress of a soldier; and the governor,
yielding to her urgency, furnished her with a sword and a letter to the
King. She left without seeing her parents,--which was one of the
subsequent charges against her,--and prosecuted her journey amid great
perils and fatigues, travelling by night with her four armed attendants.

After twelve days Joan reached Chinon, where the King was tarrying. But
here new difficulties arose: she could not get an interview with the
King; it was opposed by his most influential ministers and courtiers.
"Why waste precious time," said they, "when Orleans is in the utmost
peril, to give attention to a mad peasant-girl, who, if not mad, must be
possessed with a devil: a sorceress to be avoided; what can she do for
France?" The Archbishop of Rheims, the prime-minister of Charles,
especially was against her. The learned doctors of the schools derided
her claims. It would seem that her greatest enemies were in the Church
and the universities. "Not many wise, not many mighty are called." The
deliverers of nations in great exigencies rarely have the favor of the
great. But the women of the court spoke warmly in Joan's favor, for her
conduct was modest and irreproachable; and after two days she was
admitted to the royal castle, the Count of Vendome leading her to the
royal presence. Charles stood among a crowd of nobles, all richly
dressed; but in her visions this pure enthusiast had seen more glories
than an earthly court, and she was undismayed. To the King she repeated
the words which had thus far acted liked a charm: "I am Joan the Maid,
sent by God to save France;" and she demanded troops. But the King was
cautious; he sent two monks to her native village to inquire all about
her, while nobles and ecclesiastics cross-questioned her. She was,
however, treated courteously, and given in charge to the King's
lieutenant, whose wife was a woman of virtue and piety. Many
distinguished people visited her in the castle to which she was
assigned, on whom she made a good impression by her modesty, good sense,
and sublime enthusiasm. It was long debated in the royal council whether
she should be received or rejected; but as affairs were in an
exceedingly critical condition, and Orleans was on the point of
surrender, it was concluded to listen to her voice.

It must be borne in mind that the age was exceedingly superstitious, and
the statesmen of the distracted and apparently ruined country probably
decided to make use of this girl, not from any cordial belief in her
mission, but from her influence on the people. She might stimulate them
to renewed efforts. She was an obscure and ignorant peasant-girl, it was
true, but God might have chosen her as an instrument. In this way very
humble people, with great claims, have often got the ear and the
approval of the wise and powerful, as instruments of Almighty
Providence. When Moody and Sankey first preached in London, it was the
Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief-Justice--who happened to be religious
men--that, amid the cynicism of ordinary men of rank, gave them the most
encouragement, and frequently attended their meetings.

And the voices which inspired the Maid of Orleans herself,--what were
these? Who can tell? Who can explain such mysteries? I would not
assert, nor would I deny, that they were the voices of inspiration. What
is inspiration? It has often been communicated to men. Who can deny that
the daemon of Socrates was something more than a fancied voice? When did
supernatural voices first begin to utter the power of God? When will the
voices of inspiration cease to be heard on earth? In view of the fact
that _she did_ accomplish her mission, the voices which inspired this
illiterate peasant to deliver France are not to be derided. Who can sit
in judgment on the ways in which Providence is seen to act? May He not
choose such instruments as He pleases? Are not all His ways mysterious,
never to be explained by the reason of man? Did not the occasion seem to
warrant something extraordinary? Here was a great country apparently on
the verge of ruin. To the eye of reason and experience it seemed that
France was to be henceforth ruled, as a subjugated country, by a foreign
power. Royal armies had failed to deliver her. Loyalty had failed to
arouse the people. Feudal envies and enmities had converted vassals into
foes. The Duke of Burgundy, the most powerful vassal of France, was in
arms against his liege lord. The whole land was rent with divisions and
treasons. And the legitimate king, who ought to have been a power, was
himself feeble, frivolous, and pleasure-seeking amid all his perils.
_He_ could not save the country. Who could save it? There were no great
generals. Universal despair hung over the land. The people were
depressed. Military resources were insufficient. If France was to be
preserved as an independent and powerful monarchy, something
extraordinary must happen to save it. The hope in feudal armies had
fled. In fact, only God could rescue the country in such perils and
under such forlorn circumstances.

Joan of Arc believed in God,--that He could do what He pleased, that He
was a power to be supplicated; and she prayed to Him to save France,
since princes could not save the land, divided by their rivalries and
jealousies and ambitions. And the conviction, after much prayer and
fasting, was impressed upon her mind--no matter how, but it _was_
impressed upon her--that God had chosen _her_ as His instrument, that it
was her mission to raise the siege of Orleans, and cause the young
Dauphin to be crowned king at Rheims. This conviction gave her courage
and faith and intrepidity. How could she, unacquainted with wars and
sieges, show the necessary military skill and genius? She did not
pretend to it. She claimed no other wisdom than that which was
communicated to her by celestial voices. If she could direct a military
movement in opposition to leaders of experience, it was only because
this movement was what was indicated by an archangel. And so decided
and imperative was she, that royal orders were given to obey her. One
thing was probable, whether a supernatural wisdom and power were given
her or not,--she yet might animate the courage of others, she might
stimulate them to heroic action, and revive their hopes; for if God was
with them, who could be against them? What she had to do was simply
this,--to persuade princes and nobles that the Lord would deliver the
nation. Let the conviction be planted in the minds of a religious people
that God is with them, and in some way will come to their aid if they
themselves will put forth their own energies, and they will be almost
sure to rally. And here was an inspired woman, as they supposed, ready
to lead them on to victory, not by her military skill, but by indicating
to them the way as an interpreter of the Divine will. This was not more
extraordinary than the repeated deliverances of the Hebrew nation under
religious leaders.

The signal deliverance of the French at that gloomy period from the
hands of the English, by Joan of Arc, was a religious movement. The Maid
is to be viewed as a religious phenomenon; she rested her whole power
and mission on the supposition that she was inspired to point out the
way of deliverance. She claimed nothing for herself, was utterly without
vanity, ambition, or pride, and had no worldly ends to gain. Her
character was without a flaw. She was as near perfection as any mortal
ever was: religious, fervent, unselfish, gentle, modest, chaste,
patriotic, bent on one thing only,--to be of service to her country,
without reward; and to be of service only by way of encouragement, and
pointing out what seemed to her to be the direction of God.

So Joan fearlessly stood before kings and nobles and generals, yet in
the modest gentleness of conscious virtue, to direct them what to do, as
a sort of messenger of Heaven. What was rank or learning to her? If she
was sent by a voice that spoke to her soul, and that voice was from God,
what was human greatness to her? It paled before the greatness which
commissioned her. In the discharge of her mission all men were alike in
her eyes; the distinctions of rank faded away in the mighty issues which
she wished to bring about, even the rescue of France from foreign
enemies, and which she fully believed she could effect with God's aid,
and in the way that He should indicate.

Whether the ruling powers fully believed in her or not, they at last
complied with her wishes and prayers, though not until she had been
subjected to many insults from learned priests and powerful nobles, whom
she finally won by her modest and wise replies. Said one of them
mockingly: "If it be God's will that the English shall quit France,
there is no need for men-at-arms." To whom she replied: "The
men-at-arms must fight, and God shall give the victory." She saw no
other deliverance than through fighting, and fighting bravely, and
heroically, as the means of success. She was commissioned, she said, to
stimulate the men to fight,--not to pray, but to fight. She promised no
rescue by supernatural means, but only through natural forces. France
was not to despond, but to take courage, and fight. There was no
imposture about her, only zeal and good sense, to impress upon the
country the necessity of bravery and renewed exertions.

The Maid set out for the deliverance of the besieged city in a man's
attire, deeming it more modest under her circumstances, and exposing her
to fewer annoyances. She was arrayed in a suit of beautiful armor, with
a banner after her own device,--white, embroidered with lilies,--and a
sword which had been long buried behind the altar of a church. Under her
inspiring influence an army of six thousand men was soon collected,
commanded by the ablest and most faithful generals who remained to the
King, and accompanied by the Archbishop of Rheims, who, though he had no
great faith in her claims, yet saw in her a fitting instrument to arouse
the people from despair. Before setting out from Blois she dictated a
letter to the English captains before the besieged city, which to them
must have seemed arrogant, insulting, and absurd, in which she
commanded them in God's name to return to their own country, assuring
them that they fought not merely against the French, but against Him,
and hence would be defeated.

The French captains had orders to obey their youthful leader, but not
seeing the wisdom of her directions to march to Orleans on the north
side of the Loire, they preferred to keep the river between them and the
forts of the English. Not daring to disobey her, they misled her as to
the position of Orleans, and advanced by the south bank, which proved a
mistake, and called forth her indignation, since she did not profess to
be governed by military rules, but by divine direction. The city had
been defended by a series of forts and other fortifications of great
strength, all of which had fallen into the hands of the besiegers; only
the walls of the city remained. Joan succeeded in effecting an entrance
for herself on a white charger through one of the gates, and the people
thronged to meet her as an angel of deliverance, with the wildest
demonstrations of joy. Her first act was to repair to the cathedral and
offer up thanks to God; her next was to summon the enemy to retire. In
the course of a few days the French troops entered the city with
supplies. They then issued from the gates to retake the fortifications,
which were well defended, cheered and encouraged by the heroic Maid, who
stimulated them to daring deeds. The French were successful in their
first assault, which seemed a miracle to the English yeomen, who now
felt that they were attacked by unseen forces. Then other forts were
assailed with equal success, Joan seeming like an inspired heroine, with
her eyes flashing, and her charmed standard waving on to victory. The
feats of valor which the French performed were almost incredible. Joan
herself did not fight, but stimulated the heroism of her troops. The
captains led the assault; the Maid directed their movements. After most
of the forts were retaken, the troops wished to rest. Joan knew no rest,
nor fear, nor sense of danger. She would hear of no cessation from
bloody strife until all the fortifications were regained. At the assault
on the last fort she herself was wounded; but she was as insensible to
pain as she was to fear. As soon as her wound was dressed she hurried to
the ramparts, and encouraged the troops, who were disposed to retire. By
evening the last fort or bastile was taken, and the English retired,
baffled and full of vengeance. The city was delivered. The siege was
raised. Not an Englishman survived south of the Loire.

But only part of the mission of this heroic woman was fulfilled. She had
delivered Orleans and saved the southern provinces. She had now the more
difficult work to perform of crowning the King in the consecrated city,
which was in the hands of the enemy, as well as the whole country
between Orleans and Rheims. This task seemed to the King and his court
to be absolutely impossible. So was the raising of the siege of Orleans,
according to all rules of war. Although priests, nobles, and scholars
had praised the courage and intrepidity of Joan, and exhorted the nation
to trust her, since God seemed to help her, yet to capture a series of
fortified cities which were in possession of superior forces seemed an
absurdity. Only the common people had full faith in her, for as she was
supposed to be specially aided by God, nothing seemed to them an
impossibility. They looked upon her as raised up to do most wonderful
things,--as one directly inspired. This faith in a girl of eighteen
would not have been possible but for her exalted character. Amid the
most searching cross-examinations from the learned, she commanded
respect by the wisdom of her replies. Every inquiry had been made as to
her rural life and character, and nothing could be said against her, but
much in her favor; especially her absorbing piety, gentleness, deeds of
benevolence, and utter unselfishness.

There was, therefore, a great admiration and respect for this girl,
leading to the kindest and most honorable treatment of her from both
prelates and nobles. But it was not a chivalric admiration; she did not
belong to a noble family, nor did she defend an institution. She was
regarded as a second Deborah, commissioned to deliver a people. Nor
could a saint have done her work. Bernard could kindle a crusade by his
eloquence, but he could not have delivered Orleans; it required some one
who could excite idolatrous homage. Only a woman, in that age, was
likely to be deified by the people,--some immaculate virgin. Our remote
German ancestors had in their native forests a peculiar reverence for
woman. The priestesses of Germanic forests had often incited to battle.
Their warnings or encouragements were regarded as voices from Heaven.
Perhaps the deification and worship of the Virgin Mary--so hearty and
poetical in the Middle Ages--may have indirectly aided the mission of
the Maid of Orleans. The common people saw one of their own order arise
and do marvellous things, bringing kings and nobles to her cause. How
could she thus triumph over all the inequalities of feudalism unless
divinely commissioned? How could she work what seemed to be almost
miracles if she had not a supernatural power to assist her? Like the
_regina angelorum_, she was _virgo castissima_. And if she was unlike
common mortals, perhaps an inspired woman, what she promised would be
fulfilled. In consequence of such a feeling an unbounded enthusiasm was
excited among the people. They were ready to do her bidding, whether
reasonable or unreasonable to them, for there was a sacred mystery
about her,--a reverence that extorted obedience. Worldly-wise statesmen
and prelates had not this unbounded admiration, although they doubtless
regarded her as a moral phenomenon which they could not understand. Her
advice seemed to set aside all human prudence. Nothing seemed more rash
or unreasonable than to undertake the conquest of so many fortified
cities with such feeble means. It was one thing to animate starving
troops to a desperate effort for their deliverance; it was another to
assault fortified cities held by the powerful forces which had nearly
completed the conquest of France.

The King came to meet the Maid at Tours, and would have bestowed upon
her royal honors, for she had rendered a great service. But it was not
honors she wanted. She seemed to be indifferent to all personal rewards,
and even praises. She wanted only one thing,--an immediate march to
Rheims. She even pleaded like a sensible general. She entreated Charles
to avail himself of the panic which the raising of the siege of Orleans
had produced, before the English could recover from it and bring
reinforcements. But the royal council hesitated. It would imperil the
King's person to march through a country guarded by hostile troops; and
even if he could reach Rheims, it would be more difficult to take the
city than to defend Orleans. The King had no money to pay for an army.
The enterprise was not only hazardous but impossible, the royal
counsellors argued. But to this earnest and impassioned woman, seeing
only one point, there was no such thing as impossibility. The thing
_must_ be done. The council gave reasons; she brushed them away as
cobwebs. What is impossible for God to do? Then they asked her if she
heard the voices. She answered, Yes; that she had prayed in secret,
complaining of unbelief, and that the voice came to her, which said,
"Daughter of God, go on, go on! I will be thy help!" Her whole face
glowed and shone like the face of an angel.

The King, half persuaded, agreed to go to Rheims, but not until the
English had been driven from the Loire. An army was assembled under the
command of the Duke of Alencon, with orders to do nothing without the
Maid's advice. Joan went to Selles to prepare for the campaign, and
rejoined the army mounted on a black charger, while a page carried her
furled banner. The first success was against Jargeau, a strongly
fortified town, where she was wounded; but she was up in a moment, and
the place was carried, and Joan and Alencon returned in triumph to
Orleans. They then advanced against Bauge, another strong place, not
merely defended by the late besiegers of Orleans, but a powerful army
under Sir John Falstaff and Talbot was advancing to relieve it. Yet
Bauge capitulated, the English being panic-stricken, before the city
could be relieved. Then the French and English forces encountered each
other in the open field: victory sided with the French; and Falstaff
himself fled, with the loss of three thousand men. The whole district
then turned against the English, who retreated towards Paris; while a
boundless enthusiasm animated the whole French army.

Soldiers and leaders now were equally eager for the march to Rheims; yet
the King ingloriously held back, and the coronation seemed to be as
distant as ever. But Joan with unexampled persistency insisted on an
immediate advance, and the King reluctantly set out for Rheims with
twelve thousand men. The first great impediment was the important city
of Troyes, which was well garrisoned. After five days were spent before
it, and famine began to be felt in the camp, the military leaders wished
to raise the siege and return to the south. The Maid implored them to
persevere, promising the capture of the city within three days. "We
would wait six," said the Archbishop of Rheims, the chancellor and chief
adviser of the King, "if we were certain we could take it." Joan mounted
her horse, made preparations for the assault, cheered the soldiers,
working far into the night; and the next day the city surrendered, and
Charles, attended by Joan and his nobles, triumphantly entered the city.

The prestige of the Maid carried the day. The English soldiers dared
not contend with one who seemed to be a favorite of Heaven. They had
heard of Orleans and Jargeau. Chalons followed the example of Troyes.
Then Rheims, when the English learned of the surrender of Troyes and
Chalons, made no resistance; and in less than a month after the march
had begun, the King entered the city, and was immediately crowned by the
Archbishop, Joan standing by his side holding her sacred banner. This
coronation was a matter of great political importance. Charles had a
rival in the youthful King of England. The succession was disputed.
Whoever should first be crowned in the city where the ancient kings were
consecrated was likely to be acknowledged by the nation.

The mission of Joan was now accomplished. She had done what she
promised, amid incredible difficulties. And now, kneeling before her
anointed sovereign, she said, "Gracious King, now is fulfilled the
pleasure of God!" And as she spoke she wept. She had given a king to
France; and she had given France to her king. Not by might, not by power
had she done this, but by the Spirit of the Lord. She asked no other
reward for her magnificent service than that her native village should
be forever exempt from taxation. Feeling that the work for which she was
raised up was done, she would willingly have retired to the seclusion of
her mountain home, but the leaders of France, seeing how much she was
adored by the people, were not disposed to part with so great an
instrument of success.

And Joan, too, entered with zeal upon those military movements which
were to drive away forever the English from the soil of France. Her
career had thus far been one of success and boundless enthusiasm; but
now the tide turned, and her subsequent life was one of signal failure.
Her only strength was in the voices which had bidden her to deliver
Orleans and to crown the King. She had no genius for war. Though still
brave and dauntless, though still preserving her innocence and her
piety, she now made mistakes. She was also thwarted in her plans. She
became, perhaps, self-assured and self-confident, and assumed
prerogatives that only belonged to the King and his ministers, which had
the effect of alienating them. They never secretly admired her, nor
fully trusted her. Charles made a truce with the great Duke of Burgundy,
who was in alliance with the English. Joan vehemently denounced the
truce, and urged immediate and uncompromising action; but timidity, or
policy, or political intrigues, defeated her counsels. The King wished
to regain Paris by negotiation; all his movements were dilatory. At last
his forces approached the capital, and occupied St. Denis. It was
determined to attack the city. One corps was led by Joan; but in the
attack she was wounded, and her troops, in spite of her, were forced to
retreat. Notwithstanding the retreat and her wound, however, she
persevered, though now all to no purpose. The King himself retired, and
the attack became a failure. Still Joan desired to march upon Paris for
a renewed attack; but the King would not hear of it, and she was sent
with troops badly equipped to besiege La Charite, where she again
failed. For four weary months she remained inactive. She grew desperate;
the voices neither encouraged nor discouraged her. She was now full of
sad forebodings, yet her activity continued. She repaired to Compiegne,
a city already besieged by the enemy, which she wished to relieve. In a
sortie she was outnumbered, and was defeated and taken prisoner by John
of Luxemburg, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy.

The news of this capture produced great exhilaration among the English
and Burgundians. Had a great victory been won, the effect could not have
been greater. It broke the spell. The Maid was human, like other women;
and her late successes were attributed not to her inspiration, but to
demoniacal enchantments. She was looked upon as a witch or as a
sorceress, and was now guarded with especial care for fear of a rescue,
and sent to a strong castle belonging to John of Luxemburg. In Paris, on
receipt of the news, the Duke of Bedford caused _Te Deums_ to be sung
in all the churches, and the University and the Vicar of the Inquisition
demanded of the Duke of Burgundy that she should be delivered to
ecclesiastical justice.

The remarkable thing connected with the capture of the Maid was that so
little effort was made to rescue her. She had rendered to Charles an
inestimable service, and yet he seems to have deserted her; neither he
nor his courtiers appeared to regret her captivity,--probably because
they were jealous of her. Gratitude was not one of the virtues of feudal
kings. What sympathy could feudal barons have with a low-born peasant
girl? They had used her; but when she could be useful no longer, they
forgot her. Out of sight she was out of mind; and if remembered at all,
she was regarded as one who could no longer provoke jealousy. Jealousy
is a devouring passion, especially among nobles. The generals of Charles
VII. could not bear to have it said that the rescue of France was
effected, not by their abilities, but by the inspired enthusiasm of a
peasant girl. She had scorned intrigues and baseness, and these marked
all the great actors on the stage of history in that age. So they said
it was a judgment of Heaven upon her because she would not hear counsel.
"No offer for her ransom, no threats of vengeance came from beyond the
Loire." But the English, who had suffered most from the loss of Orleans,
were eager to get possession of her person, and were willing even to
pay extravagant rewards for her delivery into their hands. They had
their vengeance to gratify. They also wished it to appear that Charles
VII. was aided by the Devil; that his cause was not the true one; that
Henry VI. was the true sovereign of France. The more they could throw
discredit and obloquy upon the Maid of Orleans, the better their cause
would seem. It was not as a prisoner of war that the English wanted her,
but as a victim, whose sorceries could only be punished by death. But
they could not try her and condemn her until they could get possession
of her; and they could not get possession of her unless they bought her.
The needy John of Luxemburg sold her to the English for ten thousand
livres, and the Duke of Burgundy received political favors.

The agent employed by the English in this nefarious business was
Couchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, who had been driven out of his city by
Joan,--an able and learned man, who aspired to the archbishopric of
Rouen. He set to work to inflame the University of Paris and the
Inquisition against her. The Duke of Bedford did not venture to bring
his prize to Paris, but determined to try her in Rouen; and the trial
was intrusted to the Bishop of Beauvais, who conducted it after the
forms of the Inquisition. It was simply a trial for heresy.

Joan tried for heresy! On that ground there was never a more innocent
person tried by the Inquisition. Her whole life was notoriously
virtuous. She had been obedient to the Church; she had advanced no
doctrines which were not orthodox. She was too ignorant to be a heretic;
she had accepted whatever her spiritual teacher had taught her; in fact,
she was a Catholic saint. She lived in the ecstasies of religious faith
like a Saint Theresa. She spent her time in prayer and religious

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