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161 GEORGE MOORE'S USE OF SOURCES IN HELPISE AND ABÉLARD By Francis L. Nye (University of Minnesota) George Moore's Héloise and Abélard was first published in a limited edition in 1921, after almost three years of contemplation and nearly two years of writing, In it Moore fused a wealth of historical and personal materials into a surprisingly cohesive whole. Jean Noël has indicated some of the changes which Moore made in the facts of the story as found in Abélard's Historia Calamitatum and the letters of the two lovers, and Noël and Robert P. Sechler have pointed out that Moore's general conception of the characters of his two protagonists is probably based on Walter Pater's "Two Early French Stories" » but it has not been noted that Moore probably made most of the changes he did in order to fit the characters more closely into the romantic mold which Pater had cast of them. Furthermore, the presence of some autobiographical materials in the novel, and Moore's wholesale use of paraphrase and direct translation from other works - most notably from two works of the nineteenth-century French historian, Charles de Rémusat - have gone unnoticed by previous critics. Pater's interpretation of Abélard is the standard one found in most nineteenth-century historians, such as Rémusat and Jules Michelet (both of whom he mentions in "Two Early French Stories")» all three saw Abélard as a man born before his time, a harbinger of the greater freedom of thought and expression that was to arrive eventually with the Renaissance. According to Pater, Abélard, as a precursor of the Renaissance, exemplified in his life and writings two characteristics of that later movement, sensuousness and intellectual freedom. By seeking a new world of the senses and the intellect, he placed himself in sharp opposition to the medieval church, but never actually made a break with it» he was a "true child of light," in opposition to "the merely professional, official, hireling ministers of that system, with their ignorant,,worship of system for its own sake."·3 Pater says less about Héloise, but he stresses her learning,¿,her remarkable education, and "her great and energetic nature." Moore's conception of Abélard is similar to Pater's« Abélard's conflict is with the Church, not Christianity, and his real opponents are fanaticism and narrow-mindedness, as personified by Saints Bernard and Norbert, and Canon Fulbert. Moore's Abélard has a free and liberal attitude toward sex, but he is not a lecher. Consistent with Pater's opinion that Abélard prefigured the men of the Renaissance, Moore accentuates his humanism« he discusses Plato with Heloise, and brings Homer into his lecture on faith and reason. Moore also brings out Heloise's learning. Her reading of Virgil first opens her eyes to the things of this world, nature and physical love, and causes her to reject the world which the Church had taught her to see« "If it had not been for Virgil I should only have known the story of the world as told in relations of martyrdoms and miracles, and have seen the world only in relics of the saints."5 Moore wrote two letters to 162 the Times Literary Supplement (10 Dec 1925t Ρ· 861, and 31 Dec I925, p. 909) on the subject of Heloise and Abelard. In both, he mentions Pater and refers to Hélolse's "great energetic nature," paraphrasing Pater's words. Moore brings out her "great energetic nature" in her impulsiveness and her passion, about which he elsewhere remarks that "nobody, not even Sappho herself, has declared her body's lust more openly than Heloise." Moore read other works on Heloise and Abélard, but given his well-known almost life-long admiration for Pater, and the similarities between his and Pater's conceptions of the two lovers, it is likely that the author of The Renaissance exerted the strongest influence on Moore's shaping of the raw materials of the story into a novel. The facts of the Historia Calamitatum and the letters do not completely support Pater's and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 161-180
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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