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Astonishing Heloise

Barbara Newman

23 January 2014
The Letter Collection of Peter Abelard and Heloise 
edited by David Luscombe.
Oxford, 654 pp., £165, August 2013, 978 0 19 822248 4
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... Abelard came from Brittany, which wasn’t part of medieval France. The teacher in turn calls his beloved ‘the only disciple of philosophy among all the girls of our age’. Heloise? Abelard? DavidLuscombe, in his magisterial new edition of the canonical letters, is inclined to say no. Teachers of this era, he notes, commonly exchanged flirtatious letters with their female students; it was an ...

Mrs Berlioz

Patrick Carnegy

30 December 1982
Fair Ophelia: A Life of Harriet Smithson Berlioz 
by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 216 pp., £12.95, September 1982, 0 521 24421 8
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Mazeppa: The Lives, Loves and Legends of Adah Isaacs Menken 
by Wolf Mankowitz.
Blond and Briggs, 270 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 85634 119 3
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... command of French was no better than Berlioz’s command of English (in 1828 he had attended evening classes in English, but although he became a fluent reader, he learnt to speak it, according to David Cairns, no more than ‘tolerably well’). The idée fixe had been nourished by the actress’s total identification with her roles – ‘the Juliet, the Ophelia for whom my heart is searching ...

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