Letter 132

The Presidente de Tourvel to Madame de Rosemonde

Deeply impressed, Madam, with your goodness, to which I would entirely abandon myself, if I was not restrained from accepting by the dread of profaning it. Why, convinced of its inestimable value, must I know myself no longer worthy of it? Let me, at least, attempt to testify my gratitude. I shall admire, above all, the lenity of virtue, which views weakness with the eye of compassion; whose powerful charm preserves its forcible but mild authority over hearts, even by the side of the charm of love.

Can I still be worthy a friendship, which is no longer useful to my happiness? I must say the same of your advice. I feel its force, but cannot follow it. How is it possible to discredit perfect happiness, when I experience it this moment? If men are such as you describe them, they must be shunned, they are hateful: but where is the resemblance between Valmont and them? If, in common with them, he has that violence of passion you call transport, is it not restrained by delicacy? My dear friend, you talk of sharing my troubles; take a part, then, in my happiness; to love I am indebted for it, and how immensely does the object raise its value! You love your nephew, you say, perhaps, with fondness: ah! if you knew him as I do, you would idolize him, and yet even less than he deserves. He has undoubtedly been led astray by some errors; he does not conceal it; but who like him ever knew what was love? What can I say more? He feels it as he inspires it. You will think this is one of the chimerical ideas with which love never fails to abuse our imagination: but in my case, why should he be more tender, more earnest, when he has nothing farther to obtain? I will own, I formerly thought I observed an air of reflection and reserve, which seldom left him, and which often, contrary to my inclination, recalled to me the false and cruel impressions that were given me of him; but since he has abandoned himself without constraint to the emotions of his heart, he seems to guess at all my desires. Who knows but we were born for each other? If this happiness was not reserved for me to be necessary to his!⁠—Ah! if it be an illusion, let me die before it ends.⁠—No, I must live to cherish, to adore him. Why should he cease loving me? What woman on earth could he make happier than me? And I experience it by myself, this happiness that he has given rise to, is the only and the strongest tie. It is this delicious sentiment that exalts and purifies love, and becomes truly worthy a tender and generous mind, such as Valmont’s.

Adieu, my dear, my respectable, my indulgent friend! Vainly should I think of continuing my letter. This is the hour he promised to come, and every idea flies before him. Your pardon. But you wish me happiness; it is now so great I can scarce support it.