highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (kitty)
[personal profile] highlyeccentric

Last week: Peter Abelard, an up and coming scholar, desired a girlfriend. He became the tutor of Heloise, daughter of Fulbert (one of the canons of the cathedral) and moved into the cloister with Fulbert and Heloise. This week, he has agreed to tell us, in his own words, of their relationship.

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... He gave me complete charge over the girl, so that I could devote all the leisure time left to me by my school to teaching her by day and night, and if I found her idle I was to punish her severely. I was amazed by his simplicity- if he had entrusted a tender lamb to a ravening wolf it would not have surprised me more. In handing her over to me to punish as well as to teach, what else was he doing but giving me complete freedom to realise my desires, and providing me an opportunity, even if I did not make use of it, for me to bend her to my will by threats and blows if persuasion failed?...

Need I say more? We were united, first under one roof, then in heart; and so with our lessons as a pretext we abandoned ourselves entirely to love. Her studies allowed us to withdraw in private, as love desired, and then with our books open before us, more words of love than of reading passed between us, and more kissing than teaching. My hands strayed oftener to her bosom than to the pages; love drew our eyes to look on each other more than reading kept them on our texts. To avert suspicion I sometimes struck her, but these blows were prompted by love and tender feeling rather than anger and irritation, and were sweeter than any balm could be. In short, our desires left no stage of lovemaking untried, and if love desired something new, we welcomed it. We entered on each joy the more eagerly for our previous inexperience, and were the less easily sated.

Now the more I was taken up with these pleasures, the less time I could give to philosophy and the less attention I paid to my school. It was utterly boring for me to have to go to the school, and equally wearisome to remian there and to spend my days on study when my nights were sleepless with lovemaking... when inspiration did come to me, it was for writing love songs, not the secrets of philosophy...

Few could have failed to notice something so obvious, in fact no one, I fancy, except the man whose honour was most involved- Heloise's uncle.*

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What will happen next? Tune into Highly TV next week for another special guest blog, starring Jenny Green as Uncle Fulbert!

*Peter Abelard, Historia Calamitatum (the history of my calamities); trans Betty Radice, in The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Penguin Books, London; revised edition 2003; pp 10-11

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