Saturday, July 17, 2004

Reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses yesterday, I was struck by the techniques of seduction among the 18th century French. In the novel, Vicomte de Valmont wins over a woman who initially rejected him and told him not to bother her with protestations of his love -- by writing letters in the following vein,

You forbid me, Madame, to speak to you of my love; but where shall I find the courage requisite to obey you? Occupied solely by a sentiment which should be so soft and which you render so cruel; languishing in the exile to which you have condemned me; living only upon privations and regrets; a prey to torments, the more painful in that they continually remind me of your indifference; must I be compelled to lose the one consolation that is left me, and can I have any other than sometimes to open to you a soul which you fill with distress and bitterness? Will you avert your gaze in order not to see the tears which are shed owing to you? Will you refuse even the homage of the sacrifices you exact? Would it not be more worthy of you, more worthy of your virtuous and gentle soul, to pity a wretch who is only such because of you, than to wish to aggravate his sufferings still more by a prohibition which is both unjust and harsh?

I am no expert, but I think attempts to guilt a woman into love would be more likely to backfire today.


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