...open coqueterie can maintain a defense for longer than the most ascetic virtue.
[La franche coquetterie a plus de défense que l'austère vertu.]
In Letter Ninety-nine, the Vicomte de Valmont explains to the Marquise de Merteuil that his struggle with the Présidente de Tourvel has now begun to be a dispute over words. Where she says, "friendship," he says, "love." The Vicomte's hope is that eventually the Présidente's sympathy and honesty will force her to love him, in sympathy with his own tragic love for her, and that eventually she will be forced to admit this love. Tourvel's characteristic sympathy and honesty are produced by the "ascetic virtue" which Valmont ascribes to her. Whether he is just bragging about the cleverness of his strategy for the benefit of the Marquise de Merteuil is another question, but the irony of the situation is clear. According to Valmont, if Tourvel had been a well-traveled coquette, it would have been much more difficult for him to win her over. The Présidente's religious convictions only render her all the more vulnerable to seduction.