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- Life in the Grey Nunnery at Montreal - 1/58 -


Life in the Grey Nunnery was first published in Boston, in 1857 by Edward P. Hood, who was credited as the book's editor. It is likely that this account is by Sarah J. Richardson "as told to" Edward Hood, though it may in fact be completely fictional. It is clearly an anti-Catholic book, an example of the genre of fiction referred to as "the convent horror story." Anti-Catholic sentiments were common in the United States during the middle part of the 1800s probably directed at the relatively large number of Catholic immigrants arriving from Germany, and particularly Ireland during this period. These sentiments resulted in riots and the burning of churches, including the destruction by a mob of the Ursuline convent and girl's school in Charlestown Massachusetts. During this period a powerful nationalist political party the "Know Nothings" also emerged, and won a number of influential positions in the 1850s, particularly in New England. They succeeded in creating legislation hostile to the Catholic church, barring Catholics from various positions and requiring Catholic institutions to submit to hostile "inspections." The interested reader is encouraged to use a literature search for the terms MARIA MONK or KNOW NOTHINGS to learn more about this genre of literature and the social circumstances in which it was created.

LIFE IN THE GREY NUNNERY AT MONTREAL

An authentic narrative of the horrors, mysteries, and cruelties of convent life by Sarah J. Richardson, an escaped nun.

Edited by Edward P. Hood

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I PARENTAGE--FATHER'S MARRIAGE CHAPTER II THE WHITE NUNNERY CHAPTER III THE NURSERY CHAPTER IV A SLAVE FOR LIFE CHAPTER V CEREMONY OF CONFIRMATION CHAPTER VI THE GREY NUNNERY CHAPTER VII ORPHAN'S HOME CHAPTER VIII CONFESSION AND SORROW OF NO AVAIL CHAPTER IX ALONE WITH THE DEAD CHAPTER X THE SICK NUN CHAPTER XI THE JOY OF FREEDOM CHAPTER XII STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND CHAPTER XIII LANDLADY'S STORY CONTINUED CHAPTER XIV THE TWO SISTERS CHAPTER XV CHOICE OF PUNISHMENTS CHAPTER XVI HORRORS OF STARVATION CHAPTER XVII THE TORTURE ROOM CHAPTER XVIII RETURN TO THE NUNNERY CHAPTER XIX SICKNESS AND DEATH OF A SUPERIOR CHAPTER XX STUDENTS AT THE ACADEMY CHAPTER XXI SECOND ESCAPE FROM THE NUNNERY CHAPTER XXII LONELY MIDNIGHT WALK CHAPTER XXIII FLIGHT AND RECAPTURE CHAPTER XXIV RESOLVES TO ESCAPE CHAPTER XXV EVENTFUL JOURNEY CHAPTER XXVI CONCLUSION

APPENDIX I ABSURDITIES OF ROMANISTS APPENDIX II CRUELTY OF ROMANISTS APPENDIX III INQUISITION OF GOA--IMPRISONMENT OF M. DELLON, 1673 APPENDIX IV INQUISITION OF GOA, CONCLUDED APPENDIX V INQUISITION AT MACERATA, ITALY APPENDIX VI ROMANISM OF THE PRESENT DAY APPENDIX VII NARRATIVE OP SIGNORINA FLORIENCIA D' ROMANI

LIFE IN THE GREY NUNNERY.

CHAPTER I.

PARENTAGE.--FATHER'S MARRIAGE.

I was born at St. John's, New Brunswick, in the year 1835. My father was from the city of Dublin, Ireland, where he spent his youth, and received an education in accordance with the strictest rules of Roman Catholic faith and practice. Early manhood, however, found him dissatisfied with his native country, longing for other scenes and distant climes. He therefore left Ireland, and came to Quebec.

Here he soon became acquainted with Capt. Willard, a wealthy English gentleman, who, finding him a stranger in a strange land, kindly opened his door, and gave him employment and a home. Little did he think that in so doing he was warming in his bosom a viper whose poisonous fangs would, ere long, fasten on his very heart-strings, and bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. His only child was a lovely daughter of fourteen. From what I have heard of her, I think she must have been very beautiful in person, quiet, gentle and unassuming in her deportment, and her disposition amiable and affectionate. She was exceedingly romantic, and her mental powers were almost, if not entirely uncultivated; still, she possessed sufficient strength of character to enable her to form a deep, ardent, and permanent attachment.

The young stranger gazed upon her with admiring eyes, and soon began to whisper in her ear the flattering tale of love. This, of course, her parents could not approve. What! give their darling to a stranger? Never, no, never. What could they do without her? Grieved that their kindness should have been thus returned, they bade him go his way, and leave their child in peace. He did go, but like a thief he returned. In the darkness of midnight he stole to her chamber, and bore away from the home of her childhood, "a father's joy, a mother's pride."

Who can tell the anguish of their souls when they entered that deserted chamber? How desolate their lonely hearthstone! How dark the home where her presence had scattered rainbow hues! A terrible blow it was to Capt. Willard; a very bitter thing thus to have his cherished plans frustrated, his brightest hopes destroyed; to see the very sun of his existence go down at midday in clouds and darkness. Yes, to the stern father this sad event brought bitter, bitter grief. But to the mother--that tender, affectionate mother, it was death. Yea, more than death, for reason, at the first shock, reeled and tottered on its throne; then, as days and weeks passed by, and still the loved one did not return, when every effort to find her had been made in vain, then, the dread certainty settled down upon her soul that her child was lost to her forever. Hope, gave place to despair, and she became, from that time, a raving maniac. At length death came to her relief, and her husband was left alone.

Six weary years passed over the lonely man, and then he rejoiced in the intelligence that his child was still living with her husband at St. John's. He immediately wrote to her imploring her to return to her old home, and with the light of her presence dispel the gloom of his dwelling. Accordingly she left St. John's, and in company with her husband returned to her father. I was then about a year and a half old, but I have so often heard these facts related by my father and grandfather, they are indelibly impressed on my mind, and will never be erased from my memory.

My mother now thought her trouble at an end, that in future she should enjoy the happiness she once anticipated. But, alas for all human prospects! Ere one short month had passed, difficulties arose in consequence of the difference in their religious opinions. Capt. Willard was a firm Protestant, while my father was quite as firm in his belief of the principles of the Roman Catholics. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" They parted in anger, and my father again became a wanderer, leaving his wife and child with his father-in-law. But my mother was a faithful, devoted wife. Her husband was her heart's chosen idol whom she loved too well to think of being separated from. She therefore left her father's house, with all its luxuries and enjoyments, to follow the fortunes of one, who was certainly unworthy of the pure affection thus lavished upon him. As her health had been delicate for the last two years, she concluded to leave me with her father for a short time, intending to send for me, as soon as she was in a situation to take care of me. But this was not to be. Death called her away, and I saw my mother no more till her corpse was brought back, and buried in her father's garden.

Two years I remained with my grandfather, and from him, I received the most affectionate and devoted attention. My father at length opened a saloon, for the sale of porter, and hired a black woman to do his work. He then came for me. My grandfather entreated that I might be allowed to remain. Well he knew that my father was not the man to be entrusted with the care of a child--that a Porter House was no place for me, for he was quite sure that stronger liquors than porter were there drank and sold. In fact, it was said, that my father was himself a living evidence of this. But it is of a parent I am speaking, and, whatever failings the world may have seen in him, to me he was a kind and tender father. The years I spent with him were the happiest of my life. On memory's page they stand out in bold relief, strikingly contrasting with the wretchedness of my after life. And though I cannot forget that his own rash act brought this wretchedness upon me, still, I believe his motives were good. I know that he loved me, and every remembrance of his kindness, and those few bright days of childhood, I have carefully cherished as a sacred thing. He did not, however, succeed in the business he had undertaken, but


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