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Translated from the original Latin and now reprinted from the edition of 1722: together with a brief account of their lives and work.
"That things proved as any sane person could have foreseen these letters are witness. Yet it in these that the pair capture the sympathies which we, at least, could not previously feel for so common an intrigue. The perfectly sincere record of two souls that - even through their own fault - suffer and love is ever irresistible. Here there is added the conflict between heaven and earth, religion and affection. And one's sympathy for the woman is heightened by exasperation at the senseless wrong of the man who put her in that position, and the senseless laxity of those who so easily received her....But it is not the externals of literature which make the letters for ever valuable. It is their value as the documents of two souls, whom we learn to understand and feel with across the centuries. Abelard, the embittered, all too-Gallic egotist, here in his letters compels our sympathy and even our admiration. They have nobility: they are only less attractive than hers. We see a man dong a terrible task which must have been torture to such a nature; yet in the end and in the sum, not flinching. Many things become thinkable when we live a few hours in a man's heart. We close the book, feeling that when all tinsel has been stripped from the tale and the man, they were, after all, a remarkable and tragic pair - in some sense, perhaps, great. To go to Pope after them is impossible, though Pope has passages not less than beautiful. For we have felt the reality." -The Academy
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Abelard and Heloise are nearly as famous a pair of tragic lovers as the fictional Romeo and Juliet; their shared passion for knowledge, religious faith, and one another sealed their destiny. Abelard was a well-respected, 12th-century Parisian scholar and teacher, and Heloise was his talented young student. The two relate their story through a set of letters to one another and intimate acquaintances. Their ardor is unmistakable; as Abelard writes to his love, "So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself..." This forbidden lust resulted in a pregnancy and secret marriage, and when their union could no longer withstand the challenges in its path, each lover sought refuge in the church--Abelard became a monk and Heloise an abbess. Their correspondence continued as both achieved success in their new careers but continued to struggle with their feelings for one another; the set of letters powerfully articulates the wide range of emotions they experienced. So timeless is their love story that--after eight centuries--their passion, their devotion, and their struggle still resonate with readers.
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