These letters were first published anonymously in 1669. Ostensibly they were translations into French of five love letters written by a nun, cloistered in a provincial Portuguese convent, to a French officer who had loved her and left her. More than a hundred years later the nun was identified as Mariana Alfocorado, a gentlewoman who had lived in the Franciscan convent of Beja. The officer was thought to be NoŽl Bouton de Chamilly who went to Portugal in 1663 to support the Portuguese in their war against the Spanish. Recently scholars have identified the author as the Vicomte de Guilleragues, a nobleman at Louis XIVís court, who wrote them as a literary exercise. The letters display a remarkable psychological insight into the mind of a woman in love, attesting to a slow but crucial development of self-awareness and a beautifully controlled treatment of passion on the edge of hysteria.
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