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The convent of the Black Penitents was a very different building indeed, and a very different establishment altogether from that which the imagination of the reader may have raised up from the images furnished by dark and mysterious tales of Italian superstition. It was certainly intended to be, and was, in some degree, a place of voluntary penitence for women who conceived that they had led a peculiarly sinful life: but there were two classes of nuns confined there by their own good will,—one of which consisted of persons who had mingled long with the world, and really led an irregular life therein; while the other comprised a number of young women of high rank, who had never known any thing, either of the pleasures or the vices which the others now fled from, but who, either by a natural feeling of devotion, or the urgency of relations, had devoted themselves at an early period to the cloister.

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