Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 10, 2023
October 3, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
After the emotionally charged exchange between Valmont and Tourvel, Cécile's letter to the Marquise de Merteuil (Letter Twenty-seven) comes as a breath of fresh air. She writes to ask for advice about how to conduct herself in her budding affair with the Chevalier Danceny and includes the letter he has recently sent her (Letter Seventeen).
The Chevalier's most recent correspondence with Cécile follows directly after (Letter Twenty-eight). He now wants her to show him greater proof of her affection for him, claiming that he has already revealed himself to her. He complains that she must feel nothing at all for him, since she refuses to write.
Cécile worries and frets to Sophie over Danceny's complaints (Letter Twenty-nine). She finds fault with her own reluctance to reply, as well as fault with Sophie, who had encouraged her to remain silent. Fortunately, the Marquise de Merteuil has given her some solid advice, which she passes on the Sophie, "One should never admit to love until one can no longer help it" ("...qu'il ne fallait pas convenir d'avoir de l'amour, que quand on ne pouvait plus s'en empêcher...").
Apparently, Cécile can help it no longer. She composes a very strange avowal of love to her Chevalier (Letter Thirty) saying, "I...assure you of my love, since otherwise you are unhappy" ("Je...vous [assure] de mon amour, puisque, sans cela, vous seriez malheureux"). She invites him over for dinner that very night.
Danceny's reply is equally wooden (Letter Thirty-one), stating his confidence in their passion and his optimism for the future.
Letter Thirty-two changes the direction of the plot a little. Madame de Volanges writes to the Présidente de Tourvel to announce that no matter what the Présidente may say, she will not alter her bad opinion of the Vicomte de Valmont. She advises to Tourvel not to remain isolated on an estate with him.
Letter thirty-three returns us to the correspondence of Madame de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont. Merteuil is writing to Valmont to inform him that he is using the wrong tactics entirely to seduce Tourvel. She tells him that he should stop writing letters and starting speaking to the Présidente, since in his writing he is only defeating himself.
Valmont replies (in Letter Thirty-four) that he is having difficulty either seeing Tourvel in person or getting her to receive his letters. He has finally had to resort to the trick of falsifying a Dijon postmark and having one of his servants plant his letter in the mailbox. Since Tourvel's husband lives in Dijon, she will naturally be required to open this letter. On the day that she does, at breakfast, she tears up the letter in disgust upon reading it. Valmont notes that she does take care to hide the pieces in her pockets.
The next two letters (Letters Thirty-five and Thirty-six) are the two most recent letters from Valmont to Tourvel. The first is returned to him unread; the second, mentioned above, is the one postmarked Dijon. They are both filled with language designed to seduce and ensnare, and both relate little of everyday events other than Valmont's amorous suffering.
The detailed psychology of the characters/authors of Dangerous Liaisons is especially clear in this group of letters. Cécile foreshadows this theme by remarking in Letter Twenty-seven that it is almost as if the Marquise de Merteuil had read her mind. This mind-reading on the part of the Marquise de Merteuil is in fact a special technique of citing the conversation or writings of others in her own conversation and writing. When it seems that the Marquise de Merteuil has read someone's mind, she has in fact only repeated what others have told her. It is not necessary to be able to read minds when one can read countenances, or letters, so well.
It seems probable that the Marquise de Merteuil has written many of these letters herself, even if someone else's name is signed at the bottom. Both Danceny and Cécile are thoroughly in her power, and she creates their love affair very skillfully. The desire to see someone else express his or her desire is one theme of the Marquise's machinations. The Chevalier Danceny's letter to Cécile (Letter Twenty-eight) is a perfect example, especially since we have reason to believe that the Marquise is composing his letters for him. His request for an affirmation of love from Cécile is in fact a request from the Marquise. We can also see the Marquise's hand in Letter Thirty, especially in Sophie's awkward admission of love to Danceny. Danceny's reply (Letter Thirty-one), containing a paragraph about how he sees words of love dripping from Cécile's eyes and mouth, is so ironic in its praise of the authenticity of Cécile's affection that we can imagine the Marquise de Merteuil laughing as she composes it. Cécile's words of love are the Marquise's words, just as Danceny's words are the Marquise's words. Their affair is Merteuil's composition, itself a grand letter.
The Marquise also attempts to dictate the terms of Valmont's affair with Tourvel. In Letter Thirty-Three she warns him about using too much logic in trying to corner the Présidente in his love-notes: "Above all, the presence of the beloved is a check to thought and an incentive to surrender" ("...la présence de l'objet aimé empêche la réflexion et nous fait désirer d'être vaincues"). But it is unclear whether the Marquise's suggestions are intended to help or hinder Valmont in his efforts. If she suggests that Valmont should stop writing to Tourvel, it might be because his letters are bound to succeed. His reply acknowledges this irony, "Your letter was splendid, my love, but why exhaust your energies in proving what everyone knows?" ("Vous parlez à merveille, ma belle amie: mais pourquoi vous tant fatiguer à prouver ce que personne n'ignore?"). This means both that he acknowledges the validity of the Marquise's advice and that he has noticed that she is making a special effort to prove ancient cliché true—a double-entendre and an insult she will understand if she is reading with her own letter in mind.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Dangerous Liaisons!