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Dangerous Liaisons

Pierre Ambroise Laclos

Part Three, Exchange Eleven: Letters 112–124

Part Three, Exchange Ten: Letters 100–111

Part Four, Exchange Twelve: Letters 125–137

Summary

Madame de Rosemonde writes to the Présidente de Tourvel, dictating through her maid, Adélaide, on account of her rheumatism in Letter One Hundred and Twelve, to express her friendship for, and sympathy with, the troubled woman.

In Letter One Hundred and Thirteen, the Marquise de Merteuil informs the Vicomte de Valmont that Paris society has begun to remark upon his prolonged absence. She also mentions that she has begun to tire of her lover, the Chevalier de Belleroche, and that the Chevalier Danceny is to be his successor. Apparently, the Marquise is also awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit.

Tourvel replies to Madame de Rosemonde's kind note (Letter One Hundred and Fourteen) with more worries. She has heard that Valmont is sick, and since he has suddenly stopped writing to her, she is concerned that it may be serious.

Meanwhile, the Vicomte composes a letter to Merteuil (Letter One Hundred and Fifteen) to brag about his current exploits with Cécile and his adventures to come with the Présidente. He also advises Merteuil to leave Danceny to someone a little closer to his own age.

Danceny himself, in his latest letter to Cécile (Letter One Hundred and Sixteen), is filled with doubts. He remarks on how charming the Marquise de Merteuil has been of late, and how much he longs to hear a confirmation of Cécile's feelings for him.

Cécile replies (Letter One Hundred and Seventeen) coyly. She queries whether Danceny appreciates the trouble she has to go to communicate with him at all, and questions whether he appreciate her unhappiness, forced as she is to marry the Comte de Gercourt. She closes by complimenting the Vicomte Valmont on his efforts to keep them in communication.

Danceny addresses Merteuil as "my beloved friend" ("mon adorable amie") in his next letter (Letter One Hundred and Eighteen) and begs her to come back from her absence of two days. He compliments her on her intellect and describes the ways in which her acquaintance with Cécile has increased his feelings for Cécile.

Madame de Rosemonde labors to communicate with the Présidente de Tourvel, producing Letter One Hundred and Nineteen, in which she describes Valmont's recent activities: he has been hiding in his room and looking sad.

In a last ditch attempt to reach out to his Tourvel, Valmont writes to a certain Father Anselme (Letter One Hundred and Twenty), to ask the priest to speak to the Présidente about his recent resolution to confess and renounce his sins.

Merteuil is impressed by Danceny's latest letter. She goes so far, in Letter One Hundred and Twenty-one, as to tell him to stop flattering her and have a mind to Cécile.

Rosemonde writes again to Tourvel (Letter One Hundred and Twenty-two) to tell her how she recently found her nephew in his room looking very pathetic and dejected. When she spoke to him, he intimated that he was thinking of ending his love out of grief over the Présidente.

Father Anselme replies to the Vicomte (Letter One Hundred and Twenty-three) to tell him that he has arranged a meeting with Tourvel for him.

Tourvel herself, having learned of Valmont's plans to repent and love her no longer, writes to Madame de Rosemonde (Letter One Hundred and Twenty-four). She tells the older woman that she plans to receive him and finally resolve the conflict between them and in her own heart.

Analysis

Valmont has at long last come far enough along his path toward Tourvel. He has invented a scenario in which the Présidente de Tourvel is convinced that she must consent to his love to save him from eternal damnation, or death. Valmont's earliest tendency to imitate the Présidente's religious terminology in his letters, which became a practice of using the Présidente's values against her, has culminated in this ultimate test of her faith. We question whether she will sacrifice her own salvation with an act of adultery to save Valmont from suicide. If this seems like an overly dramatic situation, that is because it has been carefully composed by Valmont, who, as he reports it later to the Marquise, considers the scene of Tourvel's seduction a beautiful piece of theater. But as one can see from Tourvel's letter (Letter One Hundred and Twenty-four) to Madame de Rosemonde, her religious convictions are not for show, and by penetrating her moral universe, Valmont conquers her easily.

It is easier than Tourvel would like for her to confuse the pronoun "He" with "he," with Valmont. It is also much too easy for her to confuse the Christian idea of sacrifice with the sacrifice she might make to Valmont—the sacrifice of a virtue which she now sees as due only to him, since he is the only man who challenges it.

This line or reasoning or wondering recalls the convent where Cécile has spent her entire youth and where Tourvel, like as not, spent hers. Though the convent was intended as a sure-fire way to prevent young women from being debauched, or from learning too much too quickly, it clearly left them unprepared to deal with men of the world like Valmont. Indeed, any man who understood the arguments put forward by the church of the time to "educate" and protect young women, could easily use those arguments to further his own ends, so fervently were girls taught to believe in them.

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