Wednesday, April 16, 2014

But love, o Sophie, love! (Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses)

Letter 
55
Cecile Volanges to Sophie Camay

4 September 17xx


Sophie dear, you were right. Your prophecies are better than your advice. As you forecast, Danceny beat my confessor, you, and even me. So we're back to exactly where we started. I don't feel any remorse and if you tell me off, it's because you've no idea how wonderful it is loving Danceny. It's all very well for you to say what ought to be done, there's nothing to stop you. But if you'd actually experienced how dreadful it is when someone you love is miserable and how difficult it is to say no when you want to say yes, you wouldn't be surprised at anything any more. For instance, do you imagine I can see Danceny crying without wanting to cry myself? I assure you, it's definitely impossible for me. And when he's pleased, I'm as happy as he is. You can say what you like, what people say doesn't change the way things are and I'm certain that's how it is.
I'd just like to see you in my place . . . No, that's not what I really mean, because I'd certainly hate to give up my place to anybody; but I would like you to love someone as well, not only because you'd understand me better and not keep on telling me off so much but also because you'd be happier or perhaps I should say, it's not until then that you'd start being happy.
You see, all our fun and laughter and larking about was really only childish. Once it was over, there wasn't anything left. But love, O Sophie, love! ... a word, a look, just knowing he's there, well, that's what happiness is. When I see Danceny, I don't want anything more; and when I can't see him, I don't want anybody else. I don't know how it is but it seems that everything I like looks like him. When he's not there I think of him and when I can concentrate on thinking of him without anything to distract me, for example when I'm completely alone, I'm still happy. I just close my eyes and I can see him straight away. I remember what he said and I seem to hear his voice. I start longing for him and then I get all hot and excited and restless and just can't keep still, it's agony but it's so wonderful, I just can't tell you!

I even think that once you've experienced love, it spreads to friendship as well. My friendship for you hasn't changed, of course, it's still just like it was in the convent, but what I'm talking about is my feelings towards Madame de Merteuil. I seem to love her more like I do Danceny than you and sometimes I wish she was him. Maybe that's because it's not a childhood friendship like ours or else because I see them so often together that I tend to mix them up. Anyway it's certainly true that the two of them together make me feel very happy and after all I don't think there's any great harm in what I'm doing. I'd really rather like to stay just as I am. The only thing that worries me is the thought of getting married because if Monsieur de Gercourt is the sort of man I've been told, and I feel sure he is, I don't know what will happen to me. Goodbye, Sophie mine, from your as ever very affectionate and loving Cecile.

Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Oxford University Press, 1995, translated by Douglas Parmée

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