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Letter 6: what does Valmont see in Mme de T? - The Epistolary Novel

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August 9th, 2005

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11:39 pm - Letter 6: what does Valmont see in Mme de T?
1. She's ill-dressed: yes, but she'll be lovely naked.
2. She's sincere, modest, unable to dissemble, chaste, devout, and all the other things their set despises including loving her husband. No wonder the Marquise is gritting her teeth at this. Do you think he's putting it on to annoy her?
3. She lectures him and preaches at him. Each is trying to "convert" the other and enjoying it.

It's looking a lot like novelty value, although similar attributes fail to hold his attention with Cecile, perhaps because with Cecile they are more shallowly-rooted. He claims that he wants to destroy her modesty etc., but at the same time is finding happiness in it. She sounds like a nice enough woman, but you do wonder what is so enthralling. Perhaps it's just because it's sexual attraction to the last person you'd expect to inspire it? You'd think that any self-respecting rake would have cut his teeth on virtuous wives and would be bored stiff with them by now.

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[User Picture]
Date:August 10th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC)
You'd think that any self-respecting rake would have cut his teeth on virtuous wives and would be bored stiff with them by now.

Good point; not something I really thought about my first time through.

On another note, we get a rare editorial comment in this letter, denouncing Valmont's punning. Considering how relatively sparse the editorial commentary is through the text--especially given that most of the notes are for the purpose of supplying background information or justifying the omission/elision of certain letters and exchanges--I wonder what inspires an intervention such as this. I think it should be interesting to pay attention to these when they do come up and develop a theory of the "character" of the editor. (I should go back and reread the Editor's Preface . . . )

Oh, and on a logistical matter, note that letters 7 and 8 are dated August 7th and 9th, respectively, so let's be careful we don't let those slip by. (I'll try to get more involved, too, so you won't have to carry the burden of starting all the discussions.)
[User Picture]
Date:August 10th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
Please do, Laclos and I have been feeling most neglected.

I think I'm reading them in the right order, that's why I went through the whole lot and put up a chart (of sorts) with the dates a while back.

I love the snarky footnotes! There was that one about suppressing the Cecile-Sophie correspondence too. Not to mention some serious bitchery in the Preface, which we never actually discussed. Maybe we should start a post just for footnotes and keep it in the Memories section for easy reference?

To give him his due, it's a fairly bad pun. The next question is why he gave Valmont this rather contrived situation complete with bad pun, of course. There are a few parallel situations in Persuasion, Wentworth handing women over stiles or into carriages or catching them when they jump down steps, but Austen never actually mentions the groping part of it openly. Shameless hussy, that Louisa Musgrove.
[User Picture]
Date:August 10th, 2005 06:09 pm (UTC)
Maybe she's the only one who's putting up a decent, principled resistance, and he's one of those nice misogynist who seduces a woman and then decides that because he's succeeded in pressurising her into having sex with him, all women are sluts/hypocrites, and proceeds to keep seducing women in the hope that he might find one who isn't (and then try even hard)? Cf. Lovelace.
[User Picture]
Date:August 17th, 2005 04:28 pm (UTC)
I think this is where it starts. She appears to be immune to his first pass at easy charm. By making him work at it, she becomes ever more enticing to him. His past conquests have been very easy to him. With the exception of the Marquise herself, he has always been in complete control of the situations. This is new to him, something to hold his interest longer.

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