Brantome mentions this tale in both the First and the Fourth Discourse of his Dames Galantes. In the former, after contending that all women are naturally inclined to vice—a view which he borrows from the Roman de la Rose, and which Pope afterwards re-echoed in the familiar line, “Every woman is at heart a rake”—he proceeds to speak of those who overcome their inclinations and remain virtuous:—
“Of this,” says he, “we have a very fine story in the Hundred Tales of the Queen of Navarre; the one in which that worthy Lady of Pampeluna, vicious at heart and by inclination, burning too with love for that handsome Prince, Monsieur d’Avannes, preferred to die consumed by the fire that possessed her rather than seek a remedy for it, as she herself declared in her last words on her deathbed. This worshipful and beautiful lady dealt herself death most iniquitously and unjustly; and as I once heard a worthy man and worthy lady say of this very passage, she did really offend against God, since it was in her power to deliver herself from death; whereas in seeking it and advancing it as she did, she really killed herself. And thus have done many similar to her, who by excessive continence and abstinence have brought about the destruction both of their souls and bodies.”—Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantome, vol. ix. pp. 209-n.
In the Fourth Discourse of his work, Brantome mentions the case of a “fresh and plump” lady of high repute, who, through love-sickness for one of her admirers, so wasted away that she became seriously alarmed, and for fear of worse resolved to satisfy her passion, whereupon she became “plump and beautiful as she had been before.”
“I have heard speak,” adds Brantome, “of another very great lady, of very joyous humour, and great wit, who fell ill and whose doctor told her that she would never recover unless she yielded to the dictates of nature, whereupon she instantly rejoined: ‘Well then, let it be so;’ and she and the doctor did as they listed.... One day she said to him: ’It is said everywhere that you have relations with me; but that is all the same to me, since it keeps me in good health... and it shall continue so, as long as may be, since my health depends on it.’ These two ladies in no wise resemble that worthy lady of Pampeluna, in the Queen of Navarre’s Hundred Tales, who, as I have previously said, fell madly in love with Monsieur d’Avannes, but preferred to hide her flame and nurse it in her burning breast rather than forego her honour. And of this I have heard some worthy ladies and lords discourse, saying that she was a fool, caring but little for the salvation of her soul, since she dealt herself death, when it was in her power to drive death away, at very trifling cost."-Lalanne’s OEuvres de Brantome, vol. xi. pp. 542-5.
To these extracts we may add that the problem discussed by Brantome, three hundred years ago, is much the same as that which has so largely occupied the attention of modern medical men, namely the great spread of nervous disease and melancholia among women, owing to the unnatural celibacy enforced upon them by the deficiency of husbands.—Ed.