Heloise and Abelard: A Twelfth-Century Love Story by James Burge - review by A C Grayling

A C Grayling

Missives from the Monastry

Heloise and Abelard: A Twelfth-Century Love Story


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ONE OF THE most famous couples in the annals of passion, Abelard and Heloise are invariably referred to in that order: as 'Abelard and Heloise'. James Burge chooses to entitle his book 'Heloise and Abelard', and by this rearrangement succeeds in making a large and appropriate statement: for it is Heloise who is first in this story, being the one with the truly eloquent heart, to her very core the image and paradigm of a woman whose love is so profound that it rejects and defies the whole world and the wrath of God - everything, indeed, other than the beloved himself.

The story is familiar in outline because it is iconic. Abelard, the brilliant young philosopher, had an air with Heloise, the gifted and intelligent niece of a canon of Notre Dame in Paris, in whose house both she and Abelard lodged. Abelard began as her tutor, but they quickly became

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