["Abelard and Heloise," Roman de la Rose, 14th century]
[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Except it’s a lot more complicated than that. Abelard freely admitted that he went into Héloïse’s household intending to seduce her. He stopped writing to Héloïse shortly after she took her vows and didn’t actually write again until she wrote to him after coming into possession of a letter he’d written to someone else describing his travails** in the years since he turned monk. He even admitted that he never intended for her to see that letter. He later said that the reasons he talked her into taking the veil were that he did not trust her and his own jealousy that she might find someone else after his castration.
Also? She called him out on his shit. Multiple times. You will not find here a woman so desperate for word of her lover that she would take anything he sends her. She flat out told him he was being a self-centered dick.
Yes, I do think she loved him. I also think he loved her. But to view their lives merely as a romantic medieval story of two lovers forever longing for each other is to ignore both their brilliance as scholars and the complexity of their lives. Also, Abelard was kind of an ass.
*They named him Astrolabe. Yeah, like the navigational tool.
**To be honest, it reads a lot like whining after a while. Brilliant philosopher and scholar he may have been, but I quickly lost patience with his “they all hate me because I’m so awesome and smart” crap.