Dangerous Liaisons


Part Three, Exchange Eleven: Letters 112–124

Summary Part Three, Exchange Eleven: Letters 112–124

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.


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.