Maria Monk.

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Still, there was so much that disgusted me in the
discovery I had now made, of the debased charac-
ters around me, that I would most gladly have es-
caped from the niinnery, and never returned. But
that was a thing not to be thought of. I was in
their power, and this I deeply felt, while I thought
ihere was not one among the whole number of nuns
to whom I could look for kindness. There was
one, however, who began to speak to me at length
in a tone that gained something of my confidence,^—
th« nun whom I have mentioned before as distin-

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guished by her oddity, Jane Ray, who made us so
much amusement when I was a novice. Although,
as I h^ve remarked, there was nothing in her £ice,
fi)rm, or manners, to give me any pleasure, she ad-
dressed me with apparefnt friendlmess ; and while
she seemed to concur with some things spoken by'
them, took an opportunity to whisper a few words
in my ear, unheard by them, intimating that I had
better comply with every thing the Superior desired,
if I would save my life. I was somewhat alarmed
before, but I now became much more so, and deter-
mined to make no furthier resistance. The Superior
then made rae repeat the three oaths ,• and when I
had sworn them, I was shown into one of the eom-
munity rooms, and remained some time with the
nuns, who were released from their usual employ-
ments, and enjoying a recreation day, on account of
the admission of a new sister. My feelings during
the remainder of that day, I shall not attempt to
describe ; but pass on to mention the ceremonies
which took place at dinner. This description may
give an idea of the manner in which we always
took our mehls, although there were some points in
which the breakfast and supper were different.

i\t 11 o'clock the bell rung for dinner, and the
nnnt; all took their places in a double row, in the
same order as that in which they left the chapel in
the morning, except that my companion and mjrself
were stationed at the end of the line. Standing thus
for a moment, with our hands placed one on the
other*over the breast, and hidden ih our large cuiBk

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vnth om beads b^it forward, and eyes fixed on the
floor; an old pun who stood at the door, clapped,
her hands as a signal for us to proceed, and the
procession moved on, while we all commenced the.
repetition of litanies. We walked on in this order«
repeating all the way, until we reached the door of
the dining-room, where we were divided into two
linef ; those on the right passing down one side of
the long table, and those on the left the other, till all
were in, and each stopped in her place. The plates
were all ranged, eachvtritha knife, fork, and spoon,
rolled up in a napkin, and tied round with a linen
bimd marked with the owner!s name. My own
plate, knife, fork, &c., were prepared like the rest,,
and on the band around them I found my new name
written :-^** Saint Eustace."
' There we stood till aH had concluded the litany ;
when the old mm who had taken her place at the
head of the table next the door, said the prayer be-,
fore meat, beginning " Benedicite," and we s^t dowpk^
I do not remember of what our dinner consisted^
hut we usually had soup and some plain dish of
meat, the remains of which were occasionally
served up at supper as a fricassee. One of the nuns
w;ho had been appointed to read that day, rose and
began a lecture from a book put ixAo her hands by
1;he Superior, while the rest of us ate in perfect si-
lence. The nun who reads during dinner, sta^
fifterward to dine. As fast as we finished o^
meals, each rolled up her kniie, fork, and spoon
in hes napkin, and bound them together with the

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band, and set with hands folded. The old nun
then said a short prayer, rose, stepped a little aside*
clapped her hands, and we marched towards the
door, bowings as we passed before a little chapel
or glas^ box, containing a wax image of the in£mt

Nothing inqxHrtant occurred unt^^ late in the af-
ttgcn&m, when, as I was sitting in the commimity*
room, Father Dufrteie called me out, sa3ring k»
wkhed to speak with me. I feared what was his
intention; but I dared not dirobey. In a private
iq^ment, he treated me in a brutal mmmer ; and
firom two other priests, I afterward received similat
usage that ev^iing. Father Dufiresne a^rward
appeared again ; and I was comp^ed to remain in
.company with him until morning.

I am assured that the conduct of priests in our
Convent has never been exported, and is not imagined
by th0 people of the United Stfites. This induces
me to say what I do, notwithstanding the strong
leasons I have to kt it remain unknown. Still, I
eannot force mjrself to speak on such suljfcta ex*
tiBipt in the most hri^ manner.

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Daily CeremohUg^Jane jRoy among the NtmM,

On Thursday morning, the bell rung at half-past
six to awaken us. The old nun who was actmg «g
night-watch immedis^y spoke aloiid:
^ *' Voici le Seigneur qui yient" (B^old the Lend
e<Hneth.) The nuns all responded :

'*Allon8ty deimnt lui;" (Let us go and meet

We then rose immediatdy, and dtessed i^ expe^
dtously as possible, st^^ng into the7;)a8sage^way
at the foot of our beds as soon as we were ready,
and taking places each beside her opposite com-
panion. Thus we were soon drawn up in a double
row the whole length of t^ ro(»n, with our hands
felded across our breasts, and concealed in ^
Iroad cuffe of o«rr sleeves. Not a word was uttered^
Wh^i theeigiial was give», we aU paroce^ded to ^e
communily-room, which is spacious, and took our
places in rows feeing the entrance, near which the
Superior was seated in a vergiere, or large chair.

We first repeated, " Au nom du Pere, du Fils, et
du Saint Esprit — ^Ainsi soit il." (In the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost — Amen.)

We then kneeled and kissed the floor ; then, still
on our knees, we said a very long prayer, begin^
ing: Divin Jesus, Sauveur de mon Ame, (Kvine

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^J^BUf, Saviaur of my soul.) Then cam^ the Lor4'»
prayer, three Hail Marys, four creeds, and five

,. epn&ssious, (cou&sseji Dieu.)

Next we repeated the ten conunandments. Then we
jrpeated the Acts of Faith, and a prayer to the Vir-
gin in Latin, (which, like every thing else in Lot-

^ in, I never undjeratood a word of.) Next we smd
the litanies of the holy name of Jesus, in Latin,
which was afterward to be repeasted several times
in the course of the 4ay. Then came the prayer
for the beginning of the day; then bending dowfr,
.we commenced the Orison Mental, (or Mental Ori-
fion^) which lasted about an hpur and a half.

This exercise was considered peculiarly solemn.
;We were told in the nunnery that a certain saint

- was saved by the use of it, as be never omitted it.
rlt consists of several parts : First, the Superior
read to us a chapter from a book, which occupied

^ fiv^ minutes. Then profound silence prevailed for

, fifteen minutes, during which we were meditating

,^ Tiipon it, Then she read another chapter of equal
length, on a different subject, and we meditated upon
that miother quarter of an hour; and after a third
riding and meditation, we finished the exercise

. with a prayer, called an act of contrition, in which

; we adeed forgiveness for the sins committed during

^ thQ Orison.

During this hour and a half. I became very weary,
.having b^ore been .kneeling for some time, and hav-
ing theu to sit in another position more uncomfbrt.

^ ^le^ with my feet under me, my hands clasped.

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and my body b^t humbly forward, with my head
bowed down.

When the Orison was over, we all rose' to the
upright kneeKng posture, and repeated several pray-
ers, and the litanies of the providences, "provi-
dence de Dieu," &c. ; then followed a number of
Latin prayers, which we repeated on the way to
mass, for in the nunnery we had mass daily.

When mass was over we proceeded in our usual
order to the eating-room to breakfast, practising the
same forms which I have described at dinner. Hav-
ing made our meal in silence, we repeated the litanies
of the ** holy name of Jesus** as we, proceeded -to the
community-room; and such as had not finished
them on their arrival, threw themselves upon their
kn^s, and remained there until they had gone
through with them, and then kissing the floor, rose

At nine o'clock commenced the lecture, which
was read by a nun appointed to perform that duty
Uiat day ; all the rest of us in the room being en-
gaged in work.

The nims were at this time distributed in difier-
ent community-rooms, at different kinds of work, and
in each were listening to a lecture. This exercise
continued until ten o'clock, when the recreation-bell
rang. We still continued our work, but the nuns
began to converse with each other, on subjects per-
mitted by the rules, in the hearing of the old nuns,
one of whom was seated in each of the groups.

At half-past ten the siience-bell rang, and thsn

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emvnvtt^^iQn iimtently ceased, and ^ recjtatioo irf*
rnm^ JLa^ prayers commenced, which coDtioued

. Ateleveii o'doek the dinner-bell rang, and then
•:vi^ p^C0ceeded t^ibe dimng-room, and went throqgh
the forms and ceremonies of the preceding day. We
^rocea^ two hy two. The oM nun who had the
^Kunnnad of i^fs, claj^i^ed her hands as the first cou-
]pib le^hed the door, when we stopped. The £n;t
^wo dipped their fingers mto the font, touched the
holy waiter to the teeast, forehead, and each side,,
thus fopning a cross, said, ** In the name oi the
^atherfc Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen," and then
H^ke^ on to ^e, dining-room, reputing the litanies^
:!rhe vest followed their example. On reaching the
/^oof the couples divided, and the two rows of nuna
mkrching up, stopped and faced the table against
ifaeir plate& There we stood, sepes^g th^ close of
jthe litany aloud^ The old nnn th^ii pronounced ^

•* BSNEPiCtT^"

md we sat idown. One of our number began to r^d
;ft lecture, whiph continued during the whole meal f
file stays to eat ^after the rest have retired. When
we had dined, each of us folded \fp her naj^i^
«itd again folded her hands. The old nun then
,;rf»peatc4 ft short prayer in French, and stepping
^fide pcom, t^ head of the tied^le, hi Us pass out aa
we came in. Each of us bowed in passing the litt^
i«ihapel near the door, which is a glass case, 'con-
fai^iup^g a waxefa figure of the in&nt Jesus. WheR
me reached the c<Hnmunity'OroQm we took our pla-

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ces in rows, and kneeled upon the floor, while a mm
read aloud, *» Douleurs de n6tre Sainte Marie," (the
sorrows of our holy Mary.) At the end of each
Terse we responded "Ave Maria." We then re-
peated again the litanies of the Proridences, and tbt

"Benis, &c.
Then we kissed the floor, and rising, took our
work, with leave to converse on permitted subjects ;
this is what is called recreation till one o'clock.
We then began to repeat litanies, one at a time in
succession, still engaged at sewing, for an hour.

At two o'clock commenced the afternoon lectures,
which lasted till near three. At that hour one oi
the nuns stood up in the middle of the room, and
asked each of us a question out of the catechism;
and such as were unable to answer correctly, were
obliged to kneel down, until that exercise was con-
cluded, upon as many dry peas as there were ver-
ses in the chapter out of which they were qu^
tioned. This seems like a penance of no great im-
portance; but I have sometimes kneeled on peas
until I sufiered great inconvenience, and even pain.
It soon makes one feel as if needles were running
through the skin: whoever thinks it a trifle, had
better try it. • '*

At four o'clock recreation commenced, when we
were allowed, as usual, to speak to each other, while
at work.

At half-past four we began to repeat prayers in
Latin, while we worked, and concluded about five
o^clock, when we commenced repeating the "prayers

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|l^ the ^xmni^tion of coDsdence/^ the *' prayer after
confession," the "prayer before sacrament," and the
t* prayer after sacrament." Thus we conttoued out
work until darjc, when we laid it aside, and began
to go over the same prayers which we had repeated
in the morning, with the exception of the. orison
mental ; instead of that long exercise, we examined
our consciences, to determine whether we had per-
formed the resolution we had Jiiade in the morning ;
and such as had kept it, repeated an " acte de joie,"
or expression of gratitude ; while such as had not,
said an " acte de contrition,"

When the prayers were concluded, any nun who
had been disobedient in the day, knelt and asked
pardon of ihe Superior and her companions "for the
scandal she had caused them ;" and then requested
the Sii^perior to give - her a penance to perform*
When all the penances had been ifl^posed, we all
jwrooeeded to the eating-room to supper, repeating
litanies on the way.

At supper the ceremonies were the same as at
dinner, except that there was no lecture read. Wh
ate in silence, and went out bowing to the chapcllei
and repeating litanies. Returning to the commu-
nity-room which we had left, we had more prayera
to repeat, which are called La couronrae, (crown4
which consists of the following parts :

1st, Four Paters,

2d, Four Ave Marias, -

3d, Four Gloria Patris,

4lh, Benis, &c.

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At the dose of these we kissed the floor ; after
which we had recreation till half-past eight o^cIock,
being allowed to converse on permitted subjects, but
closely watched, and not allowed to sit in comers.

At half-past eight a bell was rung, and a chapter
was read to us, in a book of meditations, to employ
4fUT minds upon during our waking hours at night

Standing near the door, we dipped our fingers in
the holy water, crossed and blessed ourselves, and
'proceeded up to the sleeping-room, in the usual
order, two by twa When we had got into bed, we
repeated a prayer beginning with

** Mon Dieu, je vous donne mon ccbut,"
•• My God, I give you my heart ;"
and then an old nan, bringing some holy water,
«prinkled it on our beds to drive away the devil,
while we took some and crossed ourselves again.

At nine o'clock the bell rung, and all who were
^wake repeated a prayer, called the offrande ; those
who were asleep, were considered as excused.

After my admission among the nuns, I had more
opportunity than before, to observe the conduct of
mad Jane Ray. She behaved quite differently from
the rest, and with a degree of levity irreconcilable
with the rules. She was, as I have described her,
a large woman, with nothing beautiful or attractive
in her face, form, or manners; careless in her dress,
and of a restless disposition, which prevented her
from steadily appljring herself to any thing for any
length of time, and kept her roving about, and al-
most perpetually talking to somebody or other. J$

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BLACK HtfirsriftT. 6t

would be rery difficult to give an accurate descrip-
tion of this singular woman ; dressed in the plain
garments of the nun^, bound by tbe same tows, and
accu8t(»ned to the same life, resembling them in
noting dbe^ <tf^d irequaitly interrupting all their
Om|>Ioyments. She was apparently almost always
studying or pursuing some odd fancy ; now rising
^m sewing, to walk up and down, or i^raying in
from anodier apartment, Jooking about, addressing
some of us, and passing out again, or saying some-
thing to make us latighj in period of the moi^ pro-
feund sHence. But wiiat ehowed thi^ she was no
novelty, was the Httle f^ention paid lo her, and the
levity wi€h whrch she was treated by the old nuns ;
even the Superior every day passed over irregidax-
Ities in ^is singular peMon, which she wouM have
punished with peimnces, or at hoist have met with
reprimands, in any oCh^. Pr^ittwhat I saw of her,
I soon perceived that slw betrayed two distinct tiuks
of cimraeter; a kind disposilicHi towards such as she
chose to pt^&r, and a pleeiMire in teasing those she
disUke^ or such as had ofbaded her.

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DeaeripHon qf ApartnunU in ffu Blade iVsunery, in onfen-*-
Ut F^oof'-^ Floor— Tkt Founder^i^uperior^s Managp'
mcni with tfu Friends q/" Novices — Religious lAes — Crimi-
naliiy qf concealing Sins at Confession.

I WILL Qow give £rom memory, a general de-
flcjription of the interior of the Ocmyent of Black
umiB, except the few apartments which i aever saw.
I may be inaccurate m some things, as the apart-
ments and passages of that spacious building are
numerous and various ; but I am willing to risk my
ensdit fer truth and sincerity on the general corres-
pondence, betweai my description and things as they
are. And this would, perhaps, be as good a case
mn any by which Jto test the tnith of my statements,
were it possible to obtain access to the interior. It
*is well known, that none but veiled nuns, the bishop,
and priests, are ever admitted; and, of course, that I
cannot have seen what I profess to describe, i£ I
have not been a Black nun.* The priests who
read this book, will acknowledge to themselves the
truth of my description ; but will, of course, deny it to
the world, and probably exert themselves to destroy
my credit. I offer to every reader the following

* I ought to have made an excq;>tion here, which I may en-
large upon in ftiture. Certain other persons are sometimes ad*

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Bi.Aex jrewirxmT* it

(tefteriptiOB, knowing tlu^ tine no^ pomUy IkrovR
open diose s^ieret recesses, and allow the entnuie#
of those who ean satisfy themselves, with theif own
eyes, of its truth. Some of my declarations may
bethonght^efieient in evidence ; and this they must
of necessity be in the pres^it state of things. But
here is a kind of evidence on which I rely, as I
see how unquestionable and satisfactory it must
prove, whenever it shall be obtained.

If the interior of the Black Nunnery, wh^aever
it shall be examined, is sralefially d^erent firpm the
Mkwing desciription, then I can claim no confidence
of my readers^ If it resembles it, they will, I pre-
stime, place confidence in some of those declara-
tions, on which I may never be corroborated by tm»
and living witeiesses.

I am sensible that great changes may be made in
ftie furniture of apartments ; that new wails nmy be
constructed, or old ones removed ; and I have been
credibly informed, that masons have been «uployed
m the nunnery since I left^it I well know, how-
ever, tiiat eoitire changes cannot be made \ and that
enough must remain as it was to substuitiate my
descf^idn, whenever the truth shall be knowiL-

The First Story.

Beginning at the extremity of the right wing
of the Convent^ towards Notre Dame-street, on the
first story, there is — ^

1st The nu»e' private chapel, adjoining which
itapjftssage to a small pcojecticm of the biuUo^,

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Mttfndiiif ftom tlie xxpipa atory to the gro<iii4 ^^i^
very small wmdows. Into the pumgo we were
tomedmes requiied to ^ing wood frcm ^ yer4,
«ad pile k vp fer uoa

2d. A large commuBily-room, wkh jdaia henchee
foed agamat the Wall to sk, and lower o»ea m firom
to place oar feet upon. There is a Ibimtain in the
pifflsage near ^e chimney at the &cther end. foi
washing the hands aiad face, wkh a green curtaui
didiag cm a rod before k. This passage lead$ to
the old niuns' sieqiing<«oom on the right aiul U)#
Snperior's sleeping-ioma, just bejrond it, as well af
to a staircase which conchicts to die nuns' sleep^ig*
roonif or dortoir, above. At die end of the paa-
sage is a door opening into**—

3d. The dining-room; this » larger than tjbe
eommunityHroom, asd liaslhree kmg JtaUes for eat-
ing, wad a chicle, or coUecdoa of little pustureib
m crucifix, and a small image of the in&nt Saviaur
in a g^ass case. This apavtment has tonx dppits, by
the first of whi^ we ane si^posed to have eiit^Q(i
'vririle one opens to a pantry; aod the third andibnrtb
to the two next apartments.

4th. A krge oommuai^-rocHoa* with tables fiir
sewing, and a staircase on the opposite left-hand

dth. A community-room for prayer, \m^ by bodi
sane and novices. In the fiurther right-hand conw
is a small room partitioned ofi| called die room bft
the exaaanatioa of conscience* which I had yiated
^i^iile a novice by petmssipii. of the Sup^^r, imd

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wkere nuns and novices occaskmally resorted to re-
flect on their character, usually in preparation for
tile sacrament, or when they had transgressed 8<m»
of tile rules. Thir Iktle room was hardly large
enough to contain half a dozen persons at a time.

6th. Next heyond is a large community-room for
Sunda5rs. A door leads to the yard, and th^ce to
a gate in the wall on the crosd street

7th. Adjoining tills is a sitting-room, fhmting on
the cross street, with two windows, and a storeroom
on the side opposite them. There is hut little fur-
niture, and that very pliun.

8th. From this room a door leads into what I
may call the wax-room, as it contains many figures
in wax, not intended for sale. There we some-
times used to pray, or meditate on the Saviour's
passion. This room projects from the main huild-
ing ; leaving it, you enter a long passage, with cup-
boards on the right, in which are stored crockery-
ware, knives and forks, and other articles of table
finmiture, to replace those worn out or broken — all
oi the plainest description ; also, shovels, tongr, dbc.
This passage leads to—

9th. A comer room, with a few benches, Ase.
and a door leading to a gate on the street. Here
some of the medicines were kept, and persons were
often admitted on business, or to obtain medicines
with tickets from the priests ; and waited till the
Superior or an old nun could be sent for. Beyond thk
room we were never allowed to go ; and I cannot
speak from personal knowledge of what came next.

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Tke Sicpnd Story,
Beg^mogt 9B before, at the western extremity of
ibesame wing, but on the second story, the fiur^ept
apartnaent in tbat direction wbkh I ever ei^^^

ist The. nuns' sleeping-room, or dormitory, which
I have already described. Here is an access to the
projection mentioned in speaking of the first stoiy
The stairs by which we came up to bed are at the
.&rther end of the room ; and near them a crucifix
and fimt of holy water. A door at the end of the
room opens into a passes ^th two small rooms,
and clooets between them, containing bedclothes.
Next you enter —

2d. A small community-room, beyond which is a
passage with a narrow staircase, seldom used* whi<^
leads into the ^urth conununity-ioom, in the first
story. Following^ the passage just mentioned, you
enter by a door —

3d. A little sitting-room, furnished in the follow-
ing manner : with chairs, a so&, on the north side,
covered with a red-figured cover and fringe, a table
in the middle, commonly bearing one or two books,
an inkstand; pens. &c. At one comer is a little
INtojection into the room, caused by a staircase lead-
ing from above to the floor below, without any amr
munication with the second story. This room has
a door opening upon a staircase leading down to
the yard, on the opposite side of which is a gale
opening into the cross street By this way the phy-
sician is admitted, except when he comes la^er than

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.mmaJL When h^ i^ome^ in» he usually sits .a little
.while, until a nun goes into the adjoining nuns'
sick-Toooiy to see if all is ready, and returns to ad-
mit him. A^r prescril^ing &r.the patients he goes
no %theiCi hut return? by the way he enters; and
these two are the only rotnns into wh^^h he is evc^
admitted, except the public hospital.

ith. The nuns' sick-room adjoins the little sitting-
room on the east, and has, I think, four windows
toward? the north, with li^ds ranged in two rows
j&om end to end, and a few more b^ween them, near
the opposite extremity. The door from the sitting-
j^oom swings to the left, and behind it is a table,
whil^. a glafis^ case, to the right, contains a wax
figure of the in&nt Saviour, with several sheep.
Neai the northeastern comer of this room are two

Online LibraryMaria MonkAwful disclosures → online text (page 4 of 25)