Letter 150

Chevalier Danceny to the Marchioness de Merteuil

In expectation of the happiness of seeing you, I indulge myself, my tender friend, in the pleasure of writing to you; and thus by occupying myself with you, I dispel the gloom that otherwise would be occasioned by your absence. To delineate to you my sentiments, to recall yours to my mind, is a true enjoyment to my heart; and thus even the time of privation affords me a thousand ideas precious to my love⁠—Yet, if I am to believe you, I shall not obtain any answer from you, even this letter shall be the last, and we shall abandon a correspondence which, according to you, is dangerous, and of which we have no need⁠—Certainly I shall believe you if you persist; for what can you desire that does not of course become my desire? But before you ultimately decide upon it, will you not permit a slight conversation on the subject.

Of the head of danger you are the only judge⁠—I can frame no calculation of it⁠—and I shall confine myself to requesting you would look to your own safety, for I can have no tranquillity while you are disquieted⁠—As to this object, it is not we two that are but one, it is thou that art us both.

As to the matter of necessity, we can have but one thought; and if we differ in opinion, it can only rise from a want of proper explanation, or from not understanding one another. I shall therefore state to you what I think is my sensation.

Without doubt a letter appears very unnecessary when we can see one another freely⁠—What could it say that a word, or look, or even silence itself, could not express? A hundred times before, this appeared to me so clear, that in the very moment that you spoke to me of not writing any more, that idea my mind immediately adopted⁠—It was a restraint upon it perhaps, but did not affect it⁠—Thus, when I have offered a kiss upon your bosom, and found a ribbon or piece of gauze in my way, I only turn it aside, and have not the least sentiment of an obstacle.

But since we have separated, and you are no longer there, this idea of correspondence by letters has returned to torment me⁠—What is the reason, I have said to myself, of this additional privation? Why is it, because we are at some distance, we have nothing more to say to each other? Suppose that a fortunate concurrence of circumstances should bring us together for a day, shall we then employ in conversation the time that ought to be wholly dedicated to enjoyment, which letters between us would prevent? I say enjoyment, my dear friend; for with you the very moments of repose furnish, too, a delicious enjoyment; in a word, whenever such a happy opportunity offers, the conclusion is still separation; and one is so solitary, it is then a letter becomes truly precious: if not read, it is sure to be the only object that employs the eye. Ah! there can be no doubt, but one may look at a letter without reading it; as I think that I even could have some pleasure at night by barely touching your portrait.

Your portrait have I said? but a letter is the portrait of the soul; it has not, like a cold image, that degree of stagnation so opposite to love; it yields to all our actions by turns; it becomes animated, gives us enjoyment, and sinks into repose⁠—All your sentiments are precious to me; and will you deprive me of the means of becoming possessed of them?

Are you quite sure that a desire to write to me will never torment you? If in the midst of your solitude your heart should be too much compressed or desolated; if a joyous emotion should pass to your soul; if an involuntary sadness should disturb it for a moment, it would not then be in the bosom of your friend that you would pour out your happiness or distress; you would then have a sensation he should not share; and you would punish him to wander in solitude and distrust far from you. My friend, my dearest friend! you are to pronounce⁠—I have only proposed to myself to discuss the question with you, and not to overrule you⁠—I have only offered you reasons⁠—I dare hope I should have stood on stronger ground if I had proceeded to entreaties⁠—I shall endeavour, then, if you should persist, not to be afflicted; I shall use my efforts to tell myself what you would have wrote to me; but you would tell it better than I, and I should have a much higher gratification in hearing it from you.

Adieu, my charming friend! The hour approaches at last, when I shall be able to see you: I fly from you with the more haste, in order the sooner to meet you again.