Letters of Maria Celeste:
21 January 1630
Most Beloved Lord Father
In response to your most welcome letter, I can tell you that Suor Arcangela fares well, and I am almost better, now that your Doctor Ronconi prescribed a modicum of pleasant purgative, in order to try to remove an obstruction that has troubled me (aside from my usual ailments) for the past six months, and I believe that tomorrow morning I am to take an assortment of pills. I do not really suffer any particular pain; but being in this condition, I doubt that one will fail to strike me. Suor Violante feels much improved, and continues purging. Suor Giulia gives us quite enough to do, as she is unable to fend for herself at all, and, every time she gets out of bed, three or four of us are required to hold her up. I cannot believe that she will survive this illness, what with the unrelenting fever and her body always emptying itself. I help her constantly, as now seems to be the time to prove my affection for Suor Luisa, by relieving her of as much of the care of Suor Giulia as I can.
Vincenzio worked on our clock for a few days, but since then it sounds worse than ever. For my part, I would judge the defect to be in the cord, which, owing to its being old, no longer glides. Still, since I am unable to fix it, I turn it over to you, so that you can diagnose its deficiency, and repair it. Perhaps the real defect was with me, in not knowing the right action to take, which is the reason I have left the counterweights attached this time, suspecting that perhaps they are not in their proper place; but I beseech you to send it back as quickly as you possibly can, because otherwise these nuns will not let me live.
Suor Brigida reminds you of the favor you promised her, namely the dowry for that poor young girl, and I would love to know if La Porzia has given you what I asked her to get for me. I do not mention this to press you, Sire, but only as a helpful reminder.
I would also very much like to hear if the letter I wrote for Suor Maria Grazia met your expectations, Sire, because, if it were not suitable, I would attempt to correct any errors by writing another, having composed that one in a great rush, as I never find enough time even to finish my chores, and unfortunately I cannot wrench one additional hour from my sleep without seriously threatening my health.
I thank you for the use of the little mule, which I sat on this time, to save Suor Chiara the trouble of doing so, and thus show her that I want only to help her. I am returning the empty flask, as Suor Violante very much enjoyed the fine wine it contained, and she thanks you for that. Suor Arcangela, when she saw the package of caviar that came from you the other day, felt cheated, convinced as she was that it must be the cheese from Holland you usually send at this time of year, so that, if you want her to rest easy, Sire, you will please send a little cheese before Carnival ends.
Now, seeing how I have chattered on, I would not sign off thus abruptly if I did not fear I were beginning to disturb you, or rather wear you out: therefore I close by sending all of you a thousand loving wishes, together with Suor Luisa and everyone else in the room. May the Lord bless you always.
The 21st day of January 1629.*
Your most affectionate daughter,
*On the Florentine calendar the new year began on 25 March
©1995 Al Van Helden