28 / CHRONICLESntheir graceful practice of the aristocraticnvirtues suffuses their existence withna special poignancy, for as we—butnnot they—know, their world isndoomed. None but a purblind apologistnwould mourn the passing ofnMarthe’s class; but the Lees: now therenis an aristocracy worthy of nostalgia;nonly the bitter reminder that Virginia’sngentry flourished on a foundation ofnhuman bondage blemishes our admiration.nAll was not serene and idyllic innAgnes’ world, however: a namelessnand free-floating guilt cursed hernyoung life. With a moral agony worthynof a 17th-century Puritan she searchesnher heart for the hidden source of hernunworthiness. In a burst of selfrecriminationnshe anguishes that “mynpoor weak, miserable nature makes mendespise myself with a force which nonlanguage of mine can describe.” Evenna wrenching emotional experiencenthat leads to confirmation in the EpiscopalnChurch does not completelynstaunch the flow of guilt; only monthsnafter her conversion she cries out: “OnMay I love Jesus more, my heart is sonhard & cold.” Agnes Lee writhednunder an almost morbid sense of spiritualninadequacy that seems to havenwarped her psyche. But is such agonynreally “warped”? Is not the Christiannsoul always tormented by an acutensensitivity to its own imperfection? Is itnnot appalled by the glaring blotch thatncompels it to quail before the ineflablenpurity of the stainless Christ?nMarthe de Montbourg gave evidencenof a spiritual condition morenprized by Americans of the late 20thncentury. Her letters express no guilt ornremorse for her sins; she mainly longsnfor a man who will prod her to multiplenecstacies. Emilie’s judgment uponnher daughter is close to the mark: “Butnthis creature thinks only of eating,ndrinking, and sensual amours!” Yetnthere is something else. Louise Galouret,nMarthe’s faithful companion innthe last year of Marthe’s life, writes tonCharles de Cerilley: “She was esteemednand loved by all those whoncame near her, and in the eyes of Godnshe may perhaps have been greaternthan many of those whose religion isnso hypocritical. She was frank, loyal.nand charitable, qualities that are rarelynmet with.”nEach will make of Marthe de Montbourgnand Agnes Lee what he will. Tonthe feminist, they are victims; to thenFreudian, case studies; to the Marxist,nmembers of the oppressor class. Innsome sense, they may have been all ofnthese, but they were something morenas well. Marthe sinned grievously, hernunsatiated compulsions driving herninto fornication and adultery; Agnes,ntoo, transgressed, not in matters of thenflesh but in a despairing reluctance tontrust in grace. Mildred Lee, Agnes’nyounger sister, kept her own journal,nand in 1884, 11 years after Agnes’ndemise, she described her sister’sndeathbed scene. “I managed,” Mildrednwrites, “to repeat the Lord’snPrayer, & she joined in at ‘Forgive usnour trespasses,’ murmuring ‘ah that’snthe part.'” Whatever Marthe andnAgnes suffered as females in a maledominatednsociety, women’s liberationnwould not have solved their problems.nAs Agnes Lee realized as she lay dying,nonly divine forgiveness suffices. Trulynthat is the part.nPOETRY lOURNALnPlains Poetry Journal is committed to the theory that poetry is art and art is made. It’s the most refreshing concoctionnof real poetry you’ll find between the soft pages of a “little” magazine, by talented well-known and un-knownnpoets determined to use classical poetic traditions in vigorous, compelling new ways. Quarterly; $3.50/issue,n$14/year. Heartening editorial manifesto for SASE. Plains Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 2337, Bismarck, ND 58502.nnn