Dangerous Liaisons


Part Three, Exchange Nine: Letters 88–99

Summary Part Three, Exchange Nine: Letters 88–99

In Letter Ninety-nine, Valmont informs the Marquise that he seems to be making progress with the Présidente de Tourvel, even if little Cécile has begun to lock her door from the inside at night.


Valmont's composition of the correspondence among himself, Cécile Volanges, and the Chevalier Danceny is extremely skilled. He places a particular vagueness in exactly the right place in his Letter Eighty-nine to Danceny. He does not specify how Cécile has passed up an opportunity to make contact with Danceny, just that she has passed up some opportunity. Naturally, Danceny must go to Cécile for greater specifics, and the Chevalier's suggestion that she may have grown somewhat relaxed in her ardor catapults her into action. Valmont gets exactly what he wants, namely the key to her room. The result is almost melodramatic: Valmont's "possession of the key to Cécile's room" is symbolically, and literally, equivalent to Valmont's "possession of Cécile."

As the supposed facilitator of Danceny and Cécile's communication, Valmont is obscuring their intentions toward one another—he even uses their intentions to accomplish what he wants. Since he recognizes that Cécile and Danceny only wish to express their affection for one another, he has only to a invent a situation in which Cécile's affection for Danceny will leave her open to his own advances. Valmont claims to play the part of a helper, but he intends to hinder as profoundly as he can.

Valmont is obsessed with acquiring power, but only the kind of power that can be acquired in social situations. He studies people's emotions intensely, often to the exclusion of caring about the human being as a whole. It is not all that strange that he should think of his own emotions as agents in their own right, as people. For example, Valmont writes in Letter Ninety-six, about the sensation of making love to Cécile. To better study the sex-act, Valmont imagines it in the form of various actors or agents. He personifies his emotions, as if they were soldiers. Just as the game through which power is acquired is often described in terms of the theater.