Dangerous Liaisons

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9780451523044: Dangerous Liaisons

LETTER IV. The VISCOUNT DE VALMONT to the MARCHIONESS DE MERTEUIL Your orders are enchanting, and your manner of giving them still more delightful; you would even make one in love with despotism. It is not the first time, you know, that I regret I am no longer your slave; and yet, monster as you style me, I recall with rapture the time when you honoured me with softer names. I have often even wish'd again to deserve them, and to terminate, by giving along with you an example of constancy to the world. But matters of greater moment call us forth; conquest is our destiny, and we must follow it: we may, perhaps, meet again at the end of our career; for permit me to say, without putting you out of temper, my beautiful Marchioness! you follow me with a pretty equal pace; and since, for the happiness of the world, we have separated to preach the faith, I am inclined to think, that in this mission of love, you have made more proselytes than I. I am well convinced of your zeal and fervour; and if the God of Love judged us according to our works, you would be the patron saint of some great city, whilst your friend would be at most a common village saint. This language no doubt will surprise you; but you must know, that for these eight days I hear and speak no other; and to make myself perfect in it, I am obliged to disobey you. Don't be angry, and hear me. As you are the depository of all the secrets of my heart, I will intrust you with the greatest project I ever formed. What do you propose to me? To seduce a young girl, who has seen nothing, knows nothing, and would in a manner give herself up without making the least defence, intoxicated with the first homage paid to her charms, and perhaps incited rather by curiosity than love; there twenty others may be as successful as I. Not so with the enterprise that engrosses my mind; its success insures me as much glory as pleasure; and even almighty Love, who prepares my crown, hesitates between the myrtle and laurel, or will rather unite them to honour my triumph. Even you yourself, my charming friend, will be struck with a holy respect, and in a fit of enthusiasm, will exclaim, This is the man after my own heart! You know the Presidente Tourvel, her devout life, her conjugal love, and the austerity of her principles; that is the object I attack; that is the enemy worthy of me; that is the point I intend to carry. I must tell you, the President is in Burgundy, prosecuting a considerable suit, (I hope to make him lose one of greater importance,) his inconsolable partner is to remain here the whole time of this afflicting widowhood. A mass each day, a few visits to the neighbouring poor, prayers morning and evening, a few solitary walks, pious conferences with my old aunt, and sometimes a melancholy game at whist, are her only amusements: but I am preparing some of a more efficacious nature for her. My guardian angel led me here for our mutual happiness. Fool that I was! I used to regret the time that I sacrificed to the customary ceremonies. How should I now be punished, by being obliged to return to Paris! Fortunately there must be four to make a whist party; and as there is no one here but the curate of the place, my eternal aunt has pressed me much to sacrifice a few days to her; you may judge, I did not refuse her. You can't conceive how much she caresses me ever since; and above all, how much she is edified by seeing me so regular at mass and at prayers. But little does she imagine the divinity I adore there. Thus, in the space of four days, have I given myself up to a violent passion. You are no stranger to the impetuosity of my desires, and how readily all obstacles fly before me: but I'll tell you what you don't know, that solitude adds immensely to the ardour of desire. I have but one idea; I cherish it by day, and dream on't by night. I must possess this woman, lest I should be so ridiculous as to be in love; for whither may we not be led by frustrated desire?

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From the Back Cover:

The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. Its prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, gifted, wealthy, and bored, form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game - a game which they must win. And they play with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them - until they discover that the game has mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing vicious battle there can be no victors, and the innocent will suffer with the guilty. This new translation gives Laclos a modern voice, and readers will be able to judge whether the novel is as 'diabolical' and 'infamous' as its critics have claimed, or whether it has much to tell us about the kind of world we ourselves live in.

About the Author:

Pierre Ambrose Francois Choderlos De Laclos was born in 1741, in Amiens. His family was respectable but not distinguished, and at eighteen he entered the army and spent the next twenty years in various garrison towns, and reached the rank of capitaine-commandant without ever seeing battle. He cut a dash in provincial society, however, and in his spare time wrote light verse, some of which was published. In 1779 he was sent to the island of Aix, off La Rochelle, where Les Liaisons Dangereuses was conceived and written. He went to Paris in 1781 to supervise the publishing of his book, overstayed his leave and was promptly ordered back to his regiment. He married Marie-Solange Duperre in 1786 and proved to be an exemplary husband and father. He lfet the army in 1788, entering politics, and was imprisoned twice during the Reign of Terros, but returned to the army as a general under Napoleon in 1800. He died in Italy in 1803. Laclos also wrote a treatise on the education of women and on Vauban. Towards the end of his life he was considering writing another one to show that true happiness could only be attained in family life.

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