Letter 169

The Chevalier Danceny to Madame de Rosemonde


You will perhaps think the step I now take very extraordinary; but I beseech you to hear before you condemn me, and do not look for either audacity or rashness, where there is nothing but respect and confidence. I will not dissemble the injury I have done you; and during my whole life I should never forgive myself, if I could for one moment think it had been possible for me to avoid it; I also beg, Madam, you will be persuaded, although I feel myself exempt from reproach, I am not exempt from sorrow; and I can with the greatest sincerity add, those I have caused you have a great share in those I feel. To believe in those sentiments which I now presume to assure you of, it will be enough you do yourself justice, and know, that without the honour of being known to you, yet I have that of knowing you.

Still whilst I lament the fatality which has caused at once your grief and my misfortune, I am taught to believe, that totally taken up with a thirst for revenge, you sought means to satiate it even in the severity of the laws.

Permit me first to observe on this subject, that here your grief deceives you; for my interest in this circumstance is so intimately linked with M. de Valmont’s, that his memory would be involved in the same sentence you would have excited against me. I should then reasonably suppose, Madam, I should rather expect assistance than obstacles from you, in the endeavours I should be obliged to make, that this unhappy event should remain buried in oblivion.

But this resource of complicity, which is equally favourable to the innocent and guilty, is not sufficient to satisfy my delicacy; in wishing to set you aside as a party, I call on you as my judge: the esteem of those I respect is too dear, to suffer me to lose yours without defending it, and I think I am furnished with the means.

For if you will only agree, that revenge is permitted, or rather, that a man owes it to himself, when he is betrayed in his love, in his friendship, and still more, in his confidence. If you agree to this, the wrongs I have done will disappear: I do not ask you to believe what I say; but read, if you have the resolution, the deposit I put into your hands;36 the number of original letters seem to authenticate those, of which there is only copies. Moreover, I received those letters, as I have the honour to transmit them to you, from M. de Valmont himself. I have not added to them, nor have I taken any from them but two letters, which I thought proper to publish.

The one was necessary to the mutual vengeance of M. de Valmont and myself, to which we had an equal right, and of which he expressly gave me a charge. I moreover thought, it would be doing an essential service to society, to unmask a woman so really dangerous as Madame de Merteuil is, and who, as you see, is the only, the true cause, of what happened between M. de Valmont and me.

A sentiment of justice induced me to publish the second, for the justification of M. de Prevan, whom I scarcely know; but who did not in the least deserve the rigorous treatment he has met, nor the severity of the public opinion, still more formidable, under which he has languished so long, without being able to make any defence.

You will only find copies of those two letters, as I make it a point to keep the originals. I do not think I can put into safer hands a deposit, which, perhaps, I think of consequence to me not to be destroyed, but which I should be ashamed to abuse. I think, confiding those papers to you, Madam, I serve those who are interested, as well as if I returned them to themselves, and I preserve them from the embarrassment of receiving them from me, and of knowing I am no stranger to events, which undoubtedly they wish all the world to be unacquainted with.

I should, however, inform you, the annexed correspondence is only a part of a much more voluminous collection from which M. de Valmont drew it in my presence, and which you will find at the taking off the seals, entitled as I saw, An open account between the Marchioness de Merteuil and Viscount de Valmont. On this you will take what measures your prudence will suggest. I am with great respect,