A new translation of one of the most notorious novels of all time Published just years before the French Revolution, Laclos’s great novel of moral and emotional depravity is a disturbing and ultimately damning portrayal of a decadent society. Aristocrats and ex-lovers Marquise de Merteuil... read more
The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel, who is living with Valmont's aunt while Monsieur de Tourvel, a magistrate, is away on a court case. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young Cécile de Volanges,... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel, who is living with Valmont's aunt while Monsieur de Tourvel, a magistrate, is away on a court case. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young Cécile de Volanges, whose mother has only recently brought her out of a convent to be married – to Merteuil's recent lover, who has become bored with her and discarded her. Cécile falls in love with the Chevalier Danceny (her music tutor) and Merteuil and Valmont pretend to want to help the secret lovers in order to gain their trust, so that they can use them later in their own schemes.
Merteuil suggests that the Vicomte seduce Cécile in order to exact her revenge on Cécile's future husband. Valmont refuses, finding the task too easy, and preferring to devote himself to seducing Madame de Tourvel. Merteuil promises Valmont that if he seduces Madame de Tourvel and provides her with written proof, she will spend the night with him. He expects rapid success, but does not find it as easy as his many other conquests. During the course of his pursuit, he discovers that Cécile's mother has written to Madame de Tourvel about his bad reputation. He avenges himself in seducing Cécile as Merteuil had suggested. In the meantime, Merteuil takes Danceny as a lover.
By the time Valmont has succeeded in seducing Madame de Tourvel, it is suggested that he might have fallen in love with her. Jealous, Merteuil tricks him into deserting Madame de Tourvel – and reneges on her promise of spending the night with him. In response Valmont reveals that he prompted Danceny to reunite with Cécile, leaving Merteuil abandoned yet again. Merteuil declares war on Valmont, and in revenge she reveals to Danceny that Valmont has seduced Cécile. Danceny and Valmont duel, and Valmont is fatally wounded. Before he dies he is reconciled with Danceny, giving him the letters proving Merteuil's own involvement. These letters are sufficient to ruin her reputation, and she flees to the countryside, where she contracts smallpox. Her face is left permanently scarred and she is rendered blind in one eye, so she loses her greatest asset: her beauty. But the innocent also suffer from the protagonist's schemes: hearing of Valmont's death, Madame de Tourvel succumbs to a fever and dies, while Cécile returns to the convent.
“One may quote bad poetry if it is by a great poet.”
Either take me back, or, at least, take someone else; and do not betray, by an exclusive caprice, the inviolate bond of friendship which we have sworn.Highlighted by 8 Kindle customers
Even more false and dangerous than he is amiable and seductive, never since his extreme youth has he taken a step or uttered a word without having some end in view which was either dishonorable or criminal.Highlighted by 7 Kindle customers
Do you not know that pleasure alone has the right to remove the bandage from Love's eyes?Highlighted by 6 Kindle customers
One must not permit one's self excesses, except with persons whom one wishes soon to leave.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
The man's pleasure lies in the happiness which he feels, the woman's in that which she bestows.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
'Monsieur surely knows better than I,' said he, 'that to lie with a girl is only to make her do what she likes to do: from that to making her do what we like is often a long way.'Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
I was obliged to flatter them during the whole of the evening in order to appease them: for one must never annoy the old women; it is they who make the young ones' reputations.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
You must remember that, when you write to anyone, it is for him and not for yourself: you must, therefore, think less of telling him what you think than what will give him most pleasure.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
I am astonished at the pleasure one experiences in doing good; and I should be tempted to believe that what we call virtuous people have not so much merit as they lead us to suppose.Highlighted by 5 Kindle customers
Do you no longer remember that love, like medicine, is nothing but the art of assisting nature?Highlighted by 4 Kindle customers
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