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sword. The Duc de la Rochefoucault says of Madam de Longueville: “ Pour meriter son cour, pour plaire à ses beaux yeur,
J'ai fait la guerre aux Rois ; je l'aurois fail aux Dieur." During the reign of James the Second, a singular instance of female heroism occurred in Scotland Sir John Cochrane being condemned to be hung for joining in Argyle's rebellion, his daughter twice disguised herself and robbed the mail that brought his death-warrant. In the mean time his pardon was obtained from the king.
A spirit of superstitious devotion manifested itself in those times to an extent quite as remarkable as the military enthusiasm. No guest was so welcome in bower and hall as the pilgrim returned from the Holy Land, with many a tale to tell of victories gained by Knights of the Holy Cross over the worth. less infidel. The troubadours, after a youth spent in love and minstrelsy, almost invariably retired to the silence of the cloister. Noble and beautiful ladies, upon the slightest disgust with life, or remorse of conscience, took the vow that separated them forever from the world, and pledged them to perpetual chastity and poverty. When this vow was taken, all jewels and rich garments were laid aside, and the head shorn of its beautiful ornament of hair. The building in which they secluded themselves was guarded by massive walls, and iron-grated windows. The rich and the noble seldom died without leaving something to endow a convent. At last, they became powerful instruments of oppression; for if a
nobleman had numerous daughters, and wished, in the pride of his heart, to centre his wealth upon one only, he could compel all the others to take the veil ; if they were not sufficiently beautiful to aid his ambitious views, or dared to form an attachment contrary to his wishes the same fate awaited them. If a nun violated her vow of chastity, she suffered a penalty as severe as that imposed on the vestal virgins; being placed in an opening of the walls, which was afterwards bricked up, and thus left to perish slowly with hunger. The priests, with some honorable exceptions, were not remarkable for purity, and as the nature of their office gave them free ingress to the nunneries, the results took place which might have been expected from people bound by unnatural vows. The licentiousness of the priesthood gradually made the holy orders a by-word and a reproach, and prepared the way for the stern reformers of the sixteenth century.
But the influence of convents was far from being all evil. Their gates were ever open to the sick, the wounded, and the destitute; in the most turbulent times, the sweet charities of life there found a kindly nursery; and many a young mind was trained to virtue and learning, under the fostering care of some worthy abbess.
As chivalry declined, men began to take pride in literature, instead of leaving all “book learning to the meaner folk ;” and women, of course, assumed a corresponding character. The merits of Aristotle and Plato divided the attention of the learned. The universities declared in favor of Aristotle; but poets, lovers, and women, were enamored of the ethereal Plato. Women preached in public, supported controversies, published and defended theses, filled the chairs of philosophy and law, harangued the popes in Latin, wrote Greek, and read Hebrew. Nuns wrote poetry, women of rank became divines, and young girls publicly exhorted. Christian princes to take up arms for the recovery of the holy sepulchre.
Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, is said to have exceeded her father in astronomy, and well understood other parts of philosophy. She succeeded her father in the government of the Platonic school, and filled with reputation a seat where many celebrated philosophers had taught. The people regarded her as an oracle, and magistrates consulted her in all important cases. No reproach was ever uttered against the perfect purity of her manners. She was unembarrassed in large assemblies of men, because their admiration was tempered with the most scrupulous respect.
In the thirteenth century, a young lady of Bologna, who had great beauty of person, pronounced a Latin funeral oration at the age of twenty-three. At twenty-six she took the degree of doctor of laws, and began publicly to expound the laws of Justinian. At thirty, she was elevated to a professor's chair, and taught the law to a crowd of scholars from all nations.
Marguerite Clotilde de Surville, in the early part of the fifteenth century, wrote poetry remarkable for
its freshness and simplicity, and for the tender affection toward her husband and child which breathes on every page. After her husband's death, she did bet. ter than to enter a nunnery, according to the fashion of the times—she lived unmarried, and devoted herself to the education of her son. When some of her verses were repeated to Margaret of Scotland, the first wife of Louis the Eleventh, she sent her a wreath of laurel, surmounted with a bouquet of daisies, (in French called marguérites,) in which the flowers were of gold, and the leaves silver. It bore this inscription : " Marguérite d' Ecosse à Marguérite d' Helicon."
Italy produced many learned and gifted women, among whom perhaps none was more celebrated than Victoria Colonna, marchioness of Pescara. She was passionately fond of poetry, and being early left to mourn the loss of a husband dearly beloved, she -spent the remainder of her life amid the quiet pur. suits of literature. Nearly all her sonnets bear allusion to her husband. In one of these she says: “Since I was not permitted to be the mother of sons, to inherit their father's glory, I may at least, by uniting my name with his in verse, become the mother of his illustrious deeds and lofty fame." Ariosto says that the marquis of Pescara was more to be envied for the strains in which his gifted wise eles vated him above cotemporary heroes, than Achilles, whose warlike deeds were sung by Homer.
In Spain, Isabella of Rosera converted Jews by her eloquent preaching, and commented upon the learned Scotue before cardinals and archhishons.
In England, Lady Jane Grey had great fame as a scholar. She was found poring over Plato with delight, while other members of her family were engaged in diversions; and the night before the blameless creature was executed for the fault of her ambitious parents, she wrote to her sister in Greek, exhorting her to live and die in the true faith of the reformers.
Roger Ascham said of his royal pupil, Elizabeth, “ Yea, I believe that, besides her perfect readiness in Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, she readeth more Greek every day than some prebendary of this church doth Latin in a whole week.”
The eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More had learning equalled only by her virtues. She corresponded with the celebrated Erasmus, who styled her "the ornament of Britain."
Mary, queen of Scots, could write and speak six languages. She made graceful verses in French, and, when very young, delivered a Latin oration to the court of France, to prove that there was nothing unfeminine in the pursuit of letters.
The spirit of chivalry blazed forth anew in the literature of that period. Many pens were employed in framing the panegyrics of illustrious women; and Italy was peculiarly distinguished for these perforinances. Boccacio set the example in his Panegyric de Claris Mulieribus. After this, innumerable writers published eulogies on the celebrated women of all nations. These volumes paved the way for the discussion of the merits of women in general; and the