1. Mirrors.


Pope Innocent X. appointed a religioner of great virtue, discretion, and experience, secretly to visit the nunneries, and inspect not merely their general discipline, but look at the separate cells, and persuade the nuns to discard every thing that was not perfectly consistent with the state which they had embraced. After some months had been employed in this commission, the visitor made his report to his holiness. He returned, he said, greatly edified with what he had seen, but not altogether satisfied; edified, 2because he had found such penances, such lasting, such discipling, such cilices, such praying and devotions, that it had been necessary for him to moderate the excess of the sisters in these things, and to check their ardour. Edified also, because, having found in the cells some articles of furniture more costly, or of better kind than suited with religious poverty and simplicity, he had succeeded, notwithstanding some repugnance on the part of the nuns, in persuading them to part with all these things,.. except one. And because he had not been able to make them part with that one from their walls, and still more from their affections (except in a very few rare instances) he was not altogether satisfied with the success of his commission. And what was the piece of furniture, said his holiness. It was the Looking Glass. Vieyra[1] heard this story from Pope Innocent himself, and made a resolution at the time that he 3would repeat it when next he preached in a Portugueze nunnery.

Vieyra’s rhetoric seems to have been efficacious. One of the sisters of S. Clara at Coimbra, seeing herself by accident in some water, observed that she had just seen the face of a nun in that convent, which she had not seen there for more than thirty years[2]. When I was last at * * a nun made her escape from the Irish nunnery. The first thing for which she enquired, when she reached the house in which she was to be secreted till she could be conveyed on board ship, was a looking glass. She had entered the convent when only five years old, and from that time had never seen her own face. This was not vanity. A man in the same situation might have been allowed to interpret γνωθι σεαιυτον in the same manner.

The Hindoo women wear a small 4mirror in a ring,—the Chury, Sir William Jones calls it. We have them in pocket books; and the ladies at Antwerp had them set in prayer books, for the purpose of what old Latimer calls prinking and pranking at mass. Etiam[3] in libellis, quos ad Ecclesiam deprecaturæ adferunt, specula componant, quibus mundum muliebrem, et phaleras suus, ac capellitium inter fervidas scilicet suas preces adornent.

There was however a degree of modesty in concealing the mirror; a few generations earlier it was the fashion to wear them pendant from the waist[4], a fashion far more probably alluded to by Tasso, than as his biographer supposes introduced by him, in his picture of Rinaldo.

Dal fianco de l’amante, estranio arnese,
Un christallo pendea, lucido e netto.

Gier. Lib. Cant. xvi.

5Lope de Vega curses the inventor of looking glasses—

O quanto mal han hecho espejos vanos!
Maldiga el cielo el inventor primero.

from whence it may be inferred that he did not, like Zebedee, shave himself. But he goes on to say, that if Venetian mirrors had not been invented, water would have been applied to the same purpose.

Mas que inportaran vidros Venecianos
Si el agua supo hazer caso tan fiero.

Hermosura de Angelica, Cant 3.

No poet or romancer with whom I am acquainted has made so beautiful a use of the looking glass, as Francisco Botello in his Alphonso. (Salamanca edition L. 7, st. 20.) Cydipe is contemplating herself in one, and by the agency of Venus, the living portraiture is rendered permanent in the mirror.

  1. Serm. t. 11. p. 284.
  2. Manoel da Esperanca, Hist. Serafica. l. 6. c. 24 §2.
  3. Theatrum humanæ Vitæ, quoted by Vieyra, t. II. p. 299.
  4. Des Coures. Cur. of Literature; quoted in Black's Life of Tasso. Vol I. p. 382.


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