Letter 42

Viscount de Valmont to the Presidente de Tourvel

Though the conditions you impose on me, Madam, are severe indeed, I shall not refuse to comply; for I perceive it is impossible for me to oppose any of your wishes. As we are agreed on this point, I dare flatter myself that, in return, you will permit me to make some requests, much easier to be granted than yours, and which, notwithstanding, I don’t wish to obtain but through a perfect resignation to your will.

The one, which I hope your justice will suggest, is, to name my accusers; I think the injury they have done me authorises me to demand who they are: the other request, for which I crave your indulgence, is, to permit me sometimes to renew the homage of a passion, which now, more than ever, will deserve your pity.

Reflect, Madam, that I am earnest to obey you, even at the expense of my happiness; I will go farther, notwithstanding my conviction, that you only wish my absence to rid you of the painful sight of the victim of your injustice.

Be ingenuous, Madam; you dread less the public censure, too long used to reverence you, to dare to harbour a disadvantageous opinion of you, than to be made uneasy by the presence of a man, whom it is easier to punish than to blame. You banish me on the same principle that people turn their eyes from the miserable wretches they do not choose to relieve.

And then absence will redouble my torments; to whom but you can I relate my grievances? From what other person am I to expect that consolation, which will become so necessary in my affliction? Will you, who are the cause, refuse me that consolation?

Be not surprised, neither that before my departure, I should endeavour to justify my sentiments for you, nor that I shall not have the resolution to set out, until I receive the order from your own mouth.

Those reasons oblige me to request a moment’s interview. It would be in vain to think that a correspondence by letter would answer the end. Volumes often cannot explain what a quarter of an hour’s conversation will do. You will readily find time to grant me this favour; for, notwithstanding my eagerness to obey you, as Madame de Rosemonde is well apprised of my design to spend a part of the autumn with her, I must, at all events, wait the return of the post, to pretend a letter of business obliging me to return.

Farewell, Madam; never till now did I experience the force of this expression, which recalls to me the idea of my separation from you. If you could conceive how distressingly it affects me, my obedience would find me some favour in your sight. Receive, however, with more indulgence, the homage of the most tender and respectful passion.