In truth, I am not sure how take the third tale of the second Decade of Honoré de Balzac’s scurrilous stories. And I am not sure that the publishers and their illustrators are either.
No doubt packed with the author’s double entendre one could take this as what The Folio Society edition entitles “The Edificatory Conversation of the Nuns of Poissy” – perhaps that is also tongue in cheek? – or do we understand the warnings against male fleas to be the consequences of consorting with men? Repeated reading suggests the latter to me – but also that there are many ways of getting round the difficulty. After all, this convent was the butt of jokes.
Mervyn Peake’s illustration demonstrates one refuge for disappointed suitors.
“The Merry Tattle of the Nuns of Poissy” is the preferred title of Gustave Doré’s publishers, while those of
Jean de Bosschère who, true to type is sure of how to interpret the prose, prefer “The Merry Quips of the Nuns of Poissy”
Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/ except that the second Decade is published by New York’s Covici, Friede in 1929. It is America’s first edition thus and is a limited copy. The illustrations are not protected by tissue but the book’s condition is good and is covered by a cellophane wrapper.