The Poor Poor Clares

An unexpected moment of hilarity from my reading.  Sitting in a darkened pub eating bangers and mash and reading alternately from the two books I had brought with me, I found this passage:

from "The Barrel of Rumors"
in Springs of Affection
Maeve Brennan

I had heard that the Poor Clares slept in their coffins, with stones under their heads. I had been told that they were measured for their coffins the first day they entered the convent and that they never knew any other bed afterward. My mother liked to throw cold water on this story, but I could not forget it. I used to wonder if they had separate cells for sleeping, with a coffin in each cell, or if they slept in a dormitory, and if they had sheets and blankets and pillowcases, and, if so, how they made their beds in the morning. Also I wondered, what about the coffin lids? Where were they kept? On the floor alongside the coffin? Or leaning, like hockey sticks and bicycles, against the wall? I knew that the nuns never slept more that a couple of hours at a time and that they arose in intervals during the night, even in the dead of winter to go to their chapel and pray. It was a picture to dwell upon.

The first seven stories in the collection are autobiographical, or at least seemingly so, and have a number of highly amusing incidents--this among them.  The conversation that follows closely after shows her Uncle Matt egging her on in a very amusing fashion.  Difficult though it may be to get, my experience thus far suggests that it would be worth your while to try to obtain it!


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