Sadly, only half of the long correspondence between father and daughter has been preserved. Galileo saved his daughter’s letters. Celeste saved his to her as well, but they were apparently destroyed by an overzealous of fearful mother abbess after Celeste’s untimely death (age 34) from dysentery. But from Celeste’s letters and other accounts of the time, we can learn a lot about the life and times of Galileo. I think most of us today would see his world as harsh, oppressive, a place where everything you do, even your thoughts, are subject to judgement and punishment by established authorities. I am often struck by how subservient, how obsequious, the tone of letters are from this time. Today, sucking up to the boss is viewed as demeaning. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was apparently not only expected but necessary. It is only by viewing Galileo’s accomplishments in this context that we can fully appreciate his bravery and his contribution to shaping our world today. It’s a better place because of him.
Galileo christened his daughter Virginia, in honor of his "cherishedsister." But because he never married Virginia's mother, hedeemed the girl herself unmarriageable. Soon after her thirteenthbirthday, he placed her at the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri,where she lived out her life in poverty and seclusion.