ONLINE TEXTS FROM ENGLISH RELIGIOUS HISTORY
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The Nun Who Escaped: A True Story
Josephine Bunkley

INTRODUCTION OF 1855

The history of this book is almost as remarkable as that of its subject. Shortly after Miss Bunkley escaped from St. Joseph's, the Superior of that convent published a defamatory letter against her. This decided Miss Bunkley not only to defend herself but also to give an exhibition of convent life. In this she did not act on her own judgment only, but availed herself of the advice of judicious friends who believed it a sacred duty and in the best interests of society.

In accordance with this resolution, she wrote a narrative of what she had seen and heard while in the institution of St. Joseph, and committed the same for revision, with other papers bearing on the subject, to a gentleman in Norfolk, Virginia, the city of her father's residence.

This gentleman, without consulting her, made an arrangement with a publishing house in the city of New York for the publication of the work, and sent away a large portion of the manuscript, without permitting her to read it after he had revised it. This fact came to the knowledge of a friend in New Jersey, a gentleman of position and great courage and perseverance, who has taken a deep interest in this whole affair and has enabled her to conduct the matter to a successful issue. Without delay she demanded, through legal counsel, her narrative and other papers; but this demand was refused. She was compelled, in these circumstances, to give an order to her counsel to file a bill for injunction to prevent the publication. After several weeks fruitlessly spent by them in endeavoring to obtain possession of her manuscript for examination, a bill of injunction was at length filed in the United States Court to suppress the publication of the work, which had in the meantime been printed but not yet issued.

A great deal was said in the newspapers, political and religious, Protestant and Roman Catholic, about this affair, which induced Miss Bunkley to set forth, in a card to the public, that neither the publishers referred to nor anyone else had been authorized by her to publish her book, and stating that, in view of these circumstances - not being able to recover her manuscript - she should be under the necessity of rewriting her narrative, which would, of course, occasion some delay in its publication. That she and her friends had good reason to pursue the course which she did, a very slight perusal of the work - a copy of which the publishers brought into court - abundantly proved. Another injunction was also obtained on her likeness and autograph, which it was discovered had been prepared for circulation with the book.

Foiled in their attempt to bring before the public the work just mentioned, the parties in question shortly after issued an anonymous and fictitious work, under the title of The Escaped Nun, against which Miss Bunkley felt it to be her duty to warn the public, inasmuch as it was spoken of in the papers in some quarters as her own.

Neither discouraged by these vexatious disappointments nor intimidated by threats, Miss Bunkley, with the advice of reliable friends, went forward and, having rewritten her narrative, engaged the services of a gentleman, every way competent to the task, to revise it and superintend the printing of her book. This task he has executed with ability and fidelity, and to her entire satisfaction. Not a fact has been distorted; not a sentiment has been modified; he has contented himself with performing the office of an editor. The whole book will be read, we are confident, with great interest by our American citizens. The appearance of the work, though much delayed by these circumstances, will still be opportune, and (with God's blessing) do much good.

 

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