This volume comprises two books: Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk and The Nun; or, Six Months’ Residence in a Convent by Rebecca Theresa Reed. The former caused a sensation when it was first published in 1836 because Maria Monk claimed to have been a nun in the Hôtel Dieu convent in Montreal where she said she had witnessed torture, rape and murder, including infanticide. She alleged that the children born to nuns as a result of liaisons with priests were baptised, suffocated, and then disposed of in a pit in the nunnery cellar. The accusations were hotly contested and it was stated that Monk had never been a nun at the convent, but rather that she was a prostitute and insane into the bargain. Two inspections were made of the convent which concluded that Monk had never been there, but her adherents insisted that both were ex parte and that the results had been fudged. Arguments over the genuineness of Maria Monk’s disclosures continued to rage for a considerable time and demand for her book was such that numerous editions were produced over the course of the next hundred years.
Six Months in a Convent, published in the previous year to Awful Disclosures, although less lurid in content, was also a source of great controversy. Reed depicted the harsh discipline and practice of deceit in an Ursuline convent on Mount Benedict, Charlestown, Massachusetts, from which she eventually made an escape. The accusations made against the Superior and clergy were flatly denied in her case too, but the controversy refused to die. Some held Reed at least partly responsible for the convent being attacked and burned down by a mob.
In addition to the texts of both books is much further material, including extracts from public journals relating to Maria Monk, additional information on what happened after her alleged escape, the case in her favour, and testimony of others in confirmation of her claims. There is also a supplement to Rebecca Reed’s account.
Among the refutations of Awful Disclosures was The True History of Maria Monk (ISBN: 978-1910375563), first published by the Catholic Truth Society in the late 19th Century.