Letter 48

The Viscount de Valmont to the Presidente de Tourvel

(Postmark, Paris.)

It is after a very stormy night, during which I have not closed my eyes; it is after having been in incessant agitations, both from uncommon ardour, and entire annihilation of all the faculties of my soul, I come to you, madam, to seek the calm I so much stand in need of, and which I cannot yet hope to enjoy; for the situation I now write of, convinces me more than ever of the irresistible power of love: I can hardly preserve command over myself, to arrange my ideas in any order; and I already foresee that I shall not be able to finish this letter, without being obliged to break off. What! cannot I then hope that you will one day experience the emotions I do at this moment! I may venture, however, to assert, that if you thoroughly experienced such emotions, you could not be totally insensible to them. Believe me, Madam, settled tranquillity, the sleep of the soul, that image of death, does not lead to happiness; the active passions alone lead the way; and notwithstanding the torments you make me suffer, I may, I think, assure myself, that I am this moment happier than you. In vain do you overwhelm me with your afflicting severities; they do not prevent me from giving a loose to my love, and forgetting, in the delirium it causes me, the despair to which you abandon me: thus I revenge myself of the exile to which you have condemned me. Never did I before experience so much pleasure in writing to you. Never did I feel in this pleasing employment so sweet, so lively an emotion! Everything conspires to raise my transports! The very air I breathe wafts me luxurious pleasure; even the table I write on, now, for the first time, consecrated by me to that use, becomes to me a sacred altar of love; how much more lustre will it not hence derive in my eyes! I will have engraven on it my oath ever to love you! Forgive, I beseech you, my disordered senses. I ought, perhaps, to moderate transports you do not share in. I must leave you a moment to dissipate a frenzy which I find growing upon me: I find it too strong for me.

I return to you, Madam, and certainly return always with the same eagerness; but the sentiment of happiness has fled from me, and gives place to the most cruel state of privation. What does it avail me to talk to you of my sentiments, if it is only in vain that I seek means of convincing you? After so many repeated efforts, my confidence and my strength both abandon me at once. If I recall to my mind the pleasures of love, that only produces a more lively sense of regret at being deprived of them. I see no resource but in your indulgence, and I too well experience at this moment how much I want it, to hope to obtain it. Yet my passion was never more respectful, or ought to give you less offence: it is such, I can venture to say, as the strictest virtue would have no reason to dread; but I am afraid any longer to take up your time with the pains I experience, certain as I am that the object who causes them, does not share them. I must not, at least, presume too far on goodness, which I should do by dwelling on this melancholy picture; I shall only implore you to give me a reply, and never to doubt the veracity of my sentiments.