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The Letters of Abelard and Heloise

by Peter Abelard, Heloise

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,97295,770 (3.86)40
The letters of Heloise and Abelard will remain one of the great, romantic and intellectual documents of human civilization while they, themselves, are probably second only to Romeo and Juliet in the fame accrued by tragic lovers. Here for the first time in Mart Martin McLaughlin's edition is the complete correspendence with commentary.… (more)

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» See also 40 mentions

English (8)  Swedish (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A fascinating insight into Medieval life, "The Letters" are the real-life correspondences between Peter Abelard, an arrogant (and apparently handsome) monk and writer, and the beautiful young lady, Heloise, whom he seduced. Her subsequent pregnancy caused a scandal for them both, leading to her becoming the Abbess of a convent.

In truth, the story of these people is more interesting than the letters. Heloise is the more fascinating, as she clearly still has feelings, yet has begun to question the wisdom of their relationship, and whether Abelard ever cared for her. Abelard, meanwhile, disguises his arrogance and lack of forethought in his writing, but it's there clearly. Things become interesting as a paranoia evolves around him, although his writing suggests that he is clearly either delusional or, more likely, attention-seeking.

Despite the fascinating story - which is chronicled in detail in the introduction - the letters are more about religion than love, which is understandable due to the time. What makes them a worthy read is just as often the insight into the lives of these people. If you're looking for powerful letters of two star-crossed lovers, you're in the wrong place. I'll admit I was a little disappointed by this. Yet, I'm still happy to have read the letters, if only because - despite the trappings and religion orientation of those involved - many of the feelings and thoughts echo down the centuries, so familiarly.

The translation is very strong, as is the depth of the notes and introduction. Wonderfully, the intro even investigates the possibility that the letters were faked. The most likely option is that they are real, but some academics have suspected that Abelard may have written all the letters - either to better create Heloise's real thoughts, or as a kind of Ancient Greek philosophy exercise.

The appendices include a series of much more powerful letters, from around the same time, written between two unknown lovers. The book suggests that they may be the "lost love letters", although there is no real reason to assume this, but these letters are actually a really affecting read. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. Apparently, Peter Abelard was no exception. In addition too being one of the great scholars of his time, he was like all 4 of the
Beatles, his love songs to Heloise were heard in every street. No one seems to know how Heloise felt about that. Why, I'd rather have my phone number on the men's room wall, than...oh, never mind! Seriously, this great romance was in fact a deeply flawed relationship from the start, Abelard's sense of entitlement was so out of control, he felt entitled to the very best, and took it. What's love got to do with it? Nothing. Perhaps they did come to love each other in the end, when no more could be done about it. But this so-called great love was in fact an abusive relationship in the guise of many a tabloid romance. ( )
  translynx | Aug 5, 2018 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
Thanx for letting me read it!! :-) enjoyed! ( )
  jennifferhope | May 14, 2015 |
Ah, Peter Abelard. The only person in history to have become more of a dick because he lost his dick. (Though something tells me he was a pretty narcissistic jackass even before then.) As aware as I am that these letters are a wonderful historical source, rereading them only fills me with the urge to go back in time and punch Abelard in the neck. And then to take Heloise to one side, explain the concept of 'internalised misogyny' to her, fix her a strong drink and then talk her through why emotional abusers are bad for you. (Seriously, reading through these letters for the first time since the Twilight craze hit? Inspired some comparisons between Abelard and Edward Cullen.) ( )
3 vote siriaeve | Nov 15, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (119 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Abelard, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heloisemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergh, BirgerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clanchy, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Devéria, LiloCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawthorn, RaymondIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kurtén-Lindberg, BirgittaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLaughlin, Mary MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pope, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Radice, BettyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scerbanenco, CeciliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stouff, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tazelaar, ChrisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Oft sind es eher Vorbilder als Worte, die menschliche Leidenschaften entweder erregen oder besänftigen.
There are times when example is better than precept for stirring or soothing human passions; and so I propose to follow up the words of consolation I gave you in person with the history of my own misfortunes, hoping thereby to give you comfort in absence.
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At least some of these editions also include additional writings such as Historia calamitatum, and two hymns by Abelard: Sabbato ad Vesperas and In Parasceve Domini: III. Nocturno.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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