Letter 56

The Presidente de Tourvel to the Viscount de Valmont

What purpose would it answer, Sir, to give a reply to your request? For to agree with your opinions would be a stronger motive to beware of them; and without either attacking or defending their sincerity, it is enough for me, and ought to be so for you also, to know, that I neither ought or will answer them.

Let us suppose for a moment, that you may have a sincere affection for me, (and it is only that we may have done with this subject, that I admit this supposition), would the obstacles that separate us be the less insurmountable; and ought not my wishes to be still the same, that you should overcome this passion, and every effort of mine employed to assist you, by hastening to deprive you of all manner of hope? You agree that this idea must hurt, when the object that inspires it does not share it. You are sufficiently convinced that it is impossible for me to share it; and if even I experienced such a misfortune, I should be the more to be pitied, without adding in the least to your happiness. I hope I have such a share in your esteem, that you will not call what I now say in question. Cease, then, I conjure you, cease to disturb a heart to which tranquillity is so necessary; do not oblige me to regret my acquaintance with you.

Beloved and esteemed by a husband, who I love and respect, my duty and pleasure are united in the same object; I am happy; I ought to be so. If there are more lively pleasures existing, I wish them not; I will not be acquainted with them. Can any be so pleasing as to be at peace with oneself, to enjoy days of serenity, to sleep without disturbance, and to awake without remorse? What you call happiness, is the tumult of the senses, the storm of passions, the aspect of which is dreadful, even viewing it from the shore; and who then would encounter such storms? Who would dare embark upon a sea spread with thousands and thousands of wrecks, and with whom? No, Sir, I will remain upon land; I cherish the links with which I am attached; I would not break them if I could; and if even I was not bound, I would speedily wear them.

Why do you pursue my steps? Why do you obstinately follow me? Your letters, which were to be but seldom, succeed each other with rapidity; they were to be discreet, and you entertain me with nothing but your mad passion. You surround me with your ideas, more than you did with your person; put away under one form, you again appear under another. The things I desire you to be silent upon, you say over again in another manner. You take a pleasure in perplexing me, by captious reasons, and you evade mine. I will not reply to you any more:⁠—how you treat the women you have seduced! how contemptibly do you speak of them! I will readily believe some of them deserve it; but are they all then so contemptible? Ah, doubtless they are, since they have relinquished virtue, to give themselves up to a criminal passion; in that moment they lost all, even the esteem of him to whom they sacrificed everything! This punishment is just; but the idea alone is enough to make one shudder; but what is all this to me? Why should I trouble myself about you or them; what right have you to disturb my peace? Leave me. See me no more; write me no more, I beseech you; I even require it. This letter shall be the last you will ever receive from me.