No one can deny the influence of woman, which has been a potent factor in society, directly or indirectly, ever since the days of Mother Eve. Whether living in Oriental seclusion, or enjoying the freer life of the Western world, she has always played an important part in the onward march of events, and exercised a subtle power in all things, great and small. To appreciate this power properly, and give it a worthy narrative, is ever a difficult and well-nigh impossible task, at least for mortal man. Under the most favorable circumstances, the subject is elusive and difficult of approach, lacking in sequence, and often shrouded in mystery. (Illustrated version available at Project Gutenberg)
, and the priests themselves were steeped in crime and debauchery. In former generations, the Church at Rome had many times issued strict orders against the marriage of the clergy, and, doubtless as one of the consequences of this regulation, it had become the custom for many of the priests to have one or more concubines with whom they, in most cases, lived openly and without shame. The monasteries became, under these conditions, dens of iniquity, and the nunneries were no better. The nunnery of Saint Fara in the eleventh century, according to a contemporary description, was no longer the residence of holy virgins, but a brothel of demoniac females who gave themselves up to all sorts of shameless conduct; and there are many other accounts of the same general tenor. Pope Gregory VII. tried again to do something for the cause of public morality, in 1074, when he issued edicts against both concubinage and simony--or the then prevalent custom of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment; but the edict was too h
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