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cannot boast of Eight of us, all nearly of the same age, lived in the closest bond of affection, from sixteen till one-and-twenty; and four, at least, continued in the same intimacy till that of about thirty-five. Of this knot of friends not one was tainted by the breath of gross vice till the church had doomed them to a life of celibacy, and turned the best affections of their hearts into crime. It is the very refinement of church cruelty to say they were free when they deprived themselves of their natural rights. Less, indeed, would be the unfeelingness of a parent who, watching a moment of generous excitement, would deprive a son of his birthright, and doom him, by a voluntary act, to pine away through life in want and misery. A virtuous youth of one-and-twenty, who is made to believe Christian perfection inseparable from a life of celibacy, will easily overlook the dangers which beset that state of life. Those who made, and those who still support the unnatural law, which turns the mistaken piety of youth into a source of future vice; ought to have learnt mercy from their own experience: but a priest who has waded (as most do) through the miry slough of a
life of incessant temptation—falling, and rising, stumbling, struggling, and falling again, without at once casting off Catholicism with Christianity; contracts, generally, habits of mind not unlike those of the guards of oriental beauty. Their hearts have been seared with envy. I cannot think on the wanderings of the friends of my youth without heart-rending pain. One, now no more, whose talents raised him to one of the highest dignities of the church of Spain, was for many years a model of Christian purity. When, by the powerful influence of his mind and the warmth of his devotion, this man had drawn many into the clerical, and the religious life (my youngest. sister among the latter), he sunk at once into the grossest and most daring profligacy. I heard him boast that the night before the solemn procession of Corpus Christi, where he appeared nearly at the head of his chapter, one of two children had been born, which his two concubines brought to light within a few days of each other. The intrigues of ambition soon shared his mind with the pursuit of pleasure; and the fall of a potentate,
whom he took the trouble to instruct in the policy. of Machiavel, involved him in danger and distress for a time. He had risen again into court influence, when death cut him off in the flower of life. I had loved him when both our minds were pure: I loved him when Catholicism had driven us both from the path of virtue; I still love, and will love his memory, and hope that God's mercy has pardoned his life of sin, without imputing it to the abetters of the barbarous laws which occasioned his spiritual ruin. Such, more or less, has been the fate of my early friends, whose minds and hearts were much above the common standard of the Spanish clergy. What, then, need I say of the vulgar crowd of priests, who, coming, as the Spanish phrase has it, from coarse swaddling clothes, and raised by ordination to a rank of life for which they have not been prepared; mingle vice and superstition, grossness of feeling, and pride of office, in their character? I have known the best among them: I have heard their confessions; I have heard the confessions of young persons of both sexes, who fell under the influence of their suggestions and ex
ample; and I do declare that nothing can be more dangerous to youthful virtue than their company, How many souls would be saved from crime, but for the vain display of pretended superior virtue, which Rome demands of her clergy! The cares of a married life, it is said, interfere with the duties of the clergy. Do not the cares of a vicious life, the anxieties of stolen love, the contrivances of adulterous intercourse, the pains, the jealousies, the remorse, attached to a conduct in perfect contradiction with a public and solemn profession of superior virtue—do not these cares, these bitter feelings, interfere with the duties of priesthood? I have seen the most promising men of my university obtain country vicarages, with characters unimpeached, and hearts overflowing with hopes of usefulness. A virtuous wife would have confirmed and strengthened their purposes; but they were to live a life of angels in celibacy. They were, however, men, and their duties connected them with beings of no higher description. Young women knelt before them, in all the intimacy and openness of confession. A solitary house made them go abroad in search of social converse.
Love, long resisted, seized them, at length, like madness. Two I knew who died insane : hundreds might be found who avoid that fate by a life of settled systematic vice. The picture of female convents requires a more delicate pencil: yet I cannot find tints sufficiently dark and gloomy to pourtray the miseries which I have witnessed in their inmates. Crime, indeed, makes its way into those recesses, in spite of the spiked walls and prison grates, which protect the inhabitants. This I know with all the certainty which the self-accusation of the guilty can give. It is, besides, a notorious fact, that the nunneries in Estremadura and Portugal are frequently infected with vice of the grossest kind. But I will not dwell on this revolting part of the picture. The greater part of the nuns, whom I have known, were beings of a much higher description—females whose purity owed nothing to the strong gates and high walls of the cloister; but who still had a human heart, and felt, in many instances, and during a great portion of their lives, the weight of the vows which had deprived them of their liberty. Some there are, I confess, among the