Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Cruz, Juana Inés de la

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CRUZ, Sor Juana Inés de la, Mexican poet, b. in San Miguel de Nepantla, near the city of Mexico, 12 Nov., 1651; d. in Mexico, 17 April, 1695. At the age of five she could read, write, and keep accounts, and at the age of eight composed a poem on the holy sacrament. Soon afterward she was sent to the city of Mexico, learned Latin and other branches rapidly, and asked her parents' permission to disguise herself as a student so that she could enter the university. Not being allowed to do this, she continued her studies privately, and her literary accomplishments soon made her famous in Mexico. The vice-queen retained her as one of the ladies of the household. The viceroy, the Marquis de Mancera, wishing to test her learning and intelligence (she being then seventeen years old), invited several theologians, jurists, philosophers, and poets to a meeting, during which she had to answer, unprepared, many questions, and explain several difficult points on various scientific and literary subjects. The manner in which she acquitted herself astonished all present, and greatly increased her reputation. She was much admired in the vice-royal court for her beauty, but refused several proposals of marriage, and entered first the convent of San José, and subsequently that of San Jerónimo, where she finally took the veil. She then devoted herself for twenty-seven years to her religious duties, as well as to her favorite studies, of theology, interpretation of the Scriptures, logic, rhetoric, natural philosophy, mathematics, history, music, and poetry. In 1693 she gave up all studies and exercises unconnected with her religious duties in the convent, and sold her splendid library to help the poor. Two years afterward a terrible scourge desolated the city of Mexico, and Sister Juana Inés, while personally assisting other nuns suffering from the epidemic, became its victim and died. Her remains were buried with extraordinary ceremonies. She was generally known as “The Nun of Mexico,” and was also called “The Tenth Muse.” Her writings, mostly in verse, include “Amor es laberinto,” a classical drama; “Los empeños de una casa,” a comedy; “Ovillejos,” a satirical poem; “El Neptuno alegórico,” and two volumes entitled “Poesías sagradas y profanas.”