LETTERS TO FATHER: Suor Maria Celeste to Galileo, 1623–1633
Suor Maria Celeste's story is well known to readers of Sobel's bestselling Galileo's Daughter. At 13, she boarded as a student at the Convent of San Matteo, near Florence, Italy; three years later she professed her vows. During her two decades with the Franciscan order known as the Poor Clares, Suor Maria Celeste and her sisters prayed constantly for the well-being of the world's souls (among other things, asking God to rid Florence of the bubonic plague), and Suor Maria Celeste maintained a close correspondence with her father during those years (124 letters are offered here both in the original Italian and in translation). Suor Maria Celeste urged her " 'Most Illustrious Lord Father'" to guard his health, encouraged his work, and asked him for favors, such as food and wine, and, one time, for funds that would allow her to purchase a private cell within the convent. In an early letter, she promised to write him daily, read his letters eagerly and think of him always. Once, she described the indiscreet behavior of some confessors "who fraternize" with several nuns. She reproved Galileo for not writing her often enough; in fact, none of his letters to her now exist. Suor Maria Celeste mentions Galileo's heresy charge and imprisonment only once in these letters. However, while the letters are models of fervent filial devotion and shed some light on the daily life of a convent, they reveal little about the milieu in which they were written or their addressee. (Nov. 16)
Forecast:These letters may have been eagerly awaited by Sobel's readers, but the book's high price (the attractive design pads the book out with wide margins), may dissuade some buyers. Both Sobel and Walker will donate all profits from the book to the Poor Clares in Roswell, N.Mex.
Release date: 11/01/2001