Letter 50

The Presidente de Tourvel to the Viscount de Valmont

Is it thus, then, Sir, you fulfil the conditions on which I consented to receive your letters sometimes? And have I not reason to complain, when you mention a sentiment which I should dread to harbour, even were it not inconsistent with every idea of my duty.

If there was a necessity of fresh arguments to preserve this salutary fear, I think I may find sufficient in your last letter; for really, at the time you think to apologise for your passion, you, on the contrary, convince me of its multiplied horrors, for who would wish to purchase pleasure at the expense of reason? Pleasures so transitory, and that are always followed by regret, and often by remorse.

Even yourself, in whom the habitude of this dangerous delirium ought to diminish the effect, are notwithstanding obliged to agree, that it often becomes too strong for you, and you are the first to complain of the involuntary disturbance it causes in you. What horrible ravages would it not then make in an unexperienced and sensible heart, which would augment its force by the greatness of the sacrifices it would be obliged to make?

You believe, or feign to believe, Sir, that love leads to happiness; but I am fully persuaded that it would make me so totally miserable, that I wish never to hear the word mentioned. I think that even speaking of it hurts tranquillity; and it is as much from inclination as duty, that I beseech you to be hereafter silent on that subject: this requisition you may very easily grant at this time. You are now returned to Paris, where you will find opportunities enough to forget a sentiment which probably owed its birth to the habit you have of making this your whole employment; and the strength of your present passion, is probably to be ascribed to your want of other objects in the country. Are you not now in that place where you often saw me with indifference? Can you take a step there without meeting an example of your mutability? Are you not there surrounded by women, who, all more amiable than me, have a greater right to your homage? I have not the vanity with which my sex is reproached; I have still less of that false modesty, which is nothing less than a refinement of pride; and it is with sincerity I assure you, that I am not conscious of possessing attractions: had I the greatest, I should not think them sufficient to fix you. To request of you, then, to think no more of me is only to beg of you to do now what you did before, and what you certainly would do in a very short time, were I even to make a contrary request.

This truth, which I do not lose sight of, would be alone a sufficient reason to listen to you no longer. I have a thousand other reasons; but without entering into long discussion, I shall once more entreat, as I have already done, that you will not write to me more upon a sentiment to which I ought not to listen, much less make any return.