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The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun

by Mariana Alcoforado, Gabriel Joseph de Lavergne (Author)

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The romance between Mariana Alcoforado, a Portuguese nun, and Nöel Bouton de Chamilly, an officer of the French Army, took place in the mid-17th century. Chamilly abandoned Mariana in 1667, after which they exchanged a series of letters. The Portuguese originals were never recovered, but a French translation was published by a Count of Guillerages and became an instant bestseller, much in the way that The Sorrows of Young Werther would a century later.

There has been much controversy about the authorship of the letters. Did she really write them, or were they forged by the Count of Guillerages? It seems like it all began as a prudish attempt to dismiss the possibility that a Nun could have had an affair with a soldier - and written him letters! Love letters, of all things!

The more I read, the more convinced I am that Mariana Alcoforado did write those letters. In those days, it wasn't unusual for love letters to be publicly read in fashionable salons and reunions – in fact, when these were published, people merely complained about the cowardice of mentioning Mariana but keeping her lover's name a secret.

Life in a 17th century convent was far from austere – these women had their own servants and private quarters inside the main enclosure, and it wasn't unusual for soldiers to visit and flirt with them more or less openly. Those behaviors were tolerated, but still had to be kept secret.

So it's not at all implausible that the affair happened, and that the letters were written and made public. But if there's something that makes the story more convincing it's the letters themselves. There's no way these were written by a man and meant as entertainment. They have the consistency of tone of a person in terrible pain, and all the little incoherencies in content that come with it.

Which is to say, these are over the top. It's so sad to think about this woman, buried alive because her family wouldn't take care of her, living in such a small world. No wonder she went all “Fatal Attraction” on the guy. For me, the initial feeling of “Whoa – get a grip, crazy lady” slowly became sort of a “What a waste. What a sad, fucking waste.” Poor girl. ( )
  beabatllori | Apr 2, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mariana Alcoforadoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lavergne, Gabriel Joseph deAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Badosa, EnriqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergemann, FritzAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bury, EmmanuelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schendel, Arthur vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Denk eens, mijn lief, in hoe hoge mate je onvoorzichtig bent geweest!
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