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Title: Life, Letters, and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon de L'Enclos - The Celebrated Beauty of the Seventeenth Century
Author: Lenclos, Ninon de, 1620-1705
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life, Letters, and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon de L'Enclos - The Celebrated Beauty of the Seventeenth Century" ***

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The Celebrated Beauty of the Seventeenth Century






Ninon de l'Enclos as a Standard


Considered as a Parallel


Youth of Ninon de l'Enclos


The Morals of the Period


Ninon and Count de Coligny


The "Birds" of the Tournelles


Effect of Her Mother's Death


Her Increasing Popularity


Ninon's Friendships


Some of Ninon's Lovers


Ninon's Lovers (Continued)


The Villarceaux Affair


The Marquis de Sévigné


A Family Tragedy


Ninon's Bohemian Environments


A Remarkable Old Age


I--A Hazardous Undertaking
II--Why Love Is Dangerous
III--Why Love Grows Cold
IV--The Spice of Love
V--Love and Temper
VI--Certain Maxims Concerning Love
VII--Women Expect a Quid Pro Quo from Men
VIII--The Necessity for Love and Its Primitive Cause
IX--Love Is a Natural Inclination
X--The Sensation of Love Forms a Large Part of a Woman's Nature
XI--The Distinction Between Love and Friendship
XII--A Man in Love Is an Amusing Spectacle
XIII--Vanity Is a Fertile Soil for Love
XIV--Worth and Merit Are Not Considered in Love
XV--The Hidden Motives of Love
XVI--How to Be Victorious in Love
XVII--Women Understand the Difference Between Real Love and Flirtation
XVIII--When a Woman Is Loved She Need Not Be Told of It
XIX--Why a Lover's Vows Are Untrustworthy
XX--The Half-way House to Love
XXI--The Comedy of Contrariness
XXII--Vanity and Self-Esteem Obstacles to Love
XXIII--Two Irreconcilable Passions in Woman
XXIV--An Abuse of Credulity Is Intolerable
XXV--Why Virtue Is So Often Overcome
XXVI--Love Demands Freedom of Action
XXVII--The Heart Needs Constant Employment
XXVIII--Mere Beauty Is Often of Trifling Importance
XXIX--The Misfortune of Too Sudden an Avowal
XXX--When Resistance is Only a Pretence
XXXI--The Opinion and Advice of Monsieur de la Sablière
XXXII--The Advantages of a Knowledge of the Heart
XXXIII--A Heart Once Wounded No Longer Plays with Love
XXXIV--Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
XXXV--The Heart Should Be Played Upon Like the Keys of a Piano
XXXVI--Mistaken Impressions Common to All Women
XXXVII--The Allurements of Stage Women
XXXVIII--Varieties of Resistance Are Essential
XXXIX--The True Value of Compliments Among Women
XL--Oratory and Fine Phrases Do Not Breed Love
XLI--Discretion Is Sometimes the Better Part of Valor
XLII--Surface Indications in Women Are Not Always Guides
XLIII--Women Demand Respect
XLIV--Why Love Grows Weak--Marshal de Saint-Evremond's Opinion
XLV--What Favors Men Consider Faults
XLVI--Why Inconstancy Is Not Injustice
XLVII--Cause of Quarrels Among Rivals
XLVIII--Friendship Must Be Firm
XLIX--Constancy Is a Virtue Among Narrow Minded
L--Some Women Are Very Cunning
LI--The Parts Men and Women Play
LII--Love Is a Traitor with Sharp Claws
LIII--Old Age Not a Preventive Against Attack
LIV--A Shrewd But Not an Unusual Scheme
LV--A Happy Ending

       *       *       *       *       *


I--Lovers and Gamblers Have Something in Common
II--It Is Sweet to Remember Those We Have Loved
III--Wrinkles Are a Mark of Wisdom
IV--Near Hopes Are Worth as Much as Those Far Off
V--On the Death of De Charleval
VI--The Weariness of Monotony
VII--After the Death of La Duchesse de Mazarin
VIII--Love Banishes Old Age
IX--Stomachs Demand More Attention Than Minds
X--Why Does Love Diminish After Marriage?
XI--Few People Resist Age
XII--Age Has Some Consolations
XIII--Some Good Taste Still Exists in France
XIV--Superiority of the Pleasures of the Stomach
XV--Let the Heart Speak Its Own Language
XVI--The Memory of Youth
XVII--I Should Have Hanged Myself
XVIII--Life Is Joyous When It Is Without Sorrow
Letter to the Modern Leontium




The inner life of the most remarkable woman that ever lived is here
presented to American readers for the first time. Ninon, or
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, as she was known, was the most beautiful
woman of the seventeenth century. For seventy years she held
undisputed sway over the hearts of the most distinguished men of
France; queens, princes, noblemen, renowned warriors, statesmen,
writers, and scientists bowing before her shrine and doing her homage,
even Louis XIV, when she was eighty-five years of age, declaring that
she was the marvel of his reign.

How she preserved her extraordinary beauty to so great an age, and
attracted to her side the greatest and most brilliant men of the
century, is told in her biography, which has been entirely re-written,
and new facts and incidents added that do not appear in the French

Her celebrated "Letters to the Marquis de Sévigné," newly translated,
and appearing for the first time in the United States, constitute the
most remarkable pathology of the female heart, its motives, objects,
and secret aspirations, ever penned. With unsparing hand she unmasks
the human heart and unveils the most carefully hidden mysteries of
femininity, and every one who reads these letters will see herself
depicted as in a mirror.

At an early age she perceived the inequalities between the sexes, and
refused to submit to the injustice of an unfair distribution of human
qualities. After due deliberation, she suddenly announced to her
friends: "I notice that the most frivolous things are charged up to
the account of women, and that men have reserved to themselves the
right to all the essential qualities; from this moment I will be a
man." From that time--she was twenty years of age--until her death,
seventy years later, she maintained the character assumed by her,
exercised all the rights and privileges claimed by the male sex, and
created for herself, as the distinguished Abbé de Chateauneauf says,
"a place in the ranks of illustrious men, while preserving all the
grace of her own sex."



Ninon de l'Enclos as a Standard

To write the biography of so remarkable a woman as Ninon de l'Enclos
is to incur the animadversions of those who stand upon the dogma, that
whoso violates one of the Ten Commandments is guilty of violating them
all, particularly when one of the ten is conventionally selected as
the essential precept and the most important to be observed. It is
purely a matter of predilection or fancy, perhaps training and
environment may have something to do with it, though judgment is
wanting, but many will have it so, and hence, they arrive at the
opinion that the end of the controversy has been reached.

Fortunately for the common sense of mankind, there are others who
repudiate this rigid rule and excuse for human conduct; who refuse to
accept as a pattern of morality, the Sabbath breaker, tyrant,
oppressor of the poor, the grasping money maker, or charity monger,
even though his personal chastity may entitle him to canonization.
These insist that although Ninon de l'Enclos may have persistently
transgressed one of the precepts of the Decalogue, she is entitled to
great consideration because of her faithful observance of the others,
not only in their letter but in their spirit, and that her life
contains much that is serviceable to humanity, in many more ways than
if she had studiously preserved her personal purity to the sacrifice
of other qualities, which are of as equal importance as virtues, and
as essential to be observed.

Another difficulty in the way of establishing her as a model of any
kind, on account of her deliberate violations of the sixth precept of
the Decalogue, is the fact that she was not of noble birth, held no
official position in the government of France, either during the
regency or under the reign of Louis XIII, but was a private person,
retiring in her habits, faithful in her liaisons and friendships,
delicate and refined in her manners and conversations, and eagerly
sought for her wisdom, philosophy, and intellectual ability.

Had she been a Semiramis, a Messalina, an Agrippina, a Catherine II,
or even a Lady Hamilton, the glamor of her exalted political position
might have covered up a multitude of gross, vulgar practices,
cruelties, barbarities, oppressions, crimes, and acts of
misgovernment, and have concealed her spiritual deformity beneath the
grandeur of her splendid public vices and irregularities. The mantle
of royalty and nobility, like dipsomania, excuses a multitude of sins,
hypocrisy, and injustice, and inclines the world to overlook,
disregard, or even condone, what in them is considered small vices,
eccentricities of genius, but which in a private person are magnified
into mountains of viciousness, and call forth an army of well meaning
but inconsistent people to reform them by brute force.

It is time to interpose an impasse to the further spread of this
misapprehension of the nature and consequences of human acts, and to
demonstrate the possibility, in humble walks of life, of virtues worth
cultivating, and to erect models out of those who, while they may be
derelict in their ethical duties, are still worthy of being imitated
in other respects. Our standards and patterns of morality are so high
as to be unattainable, not in the details of the practice of virtue,
but in the personnel of the model. Royal and noble blood permeated
with the odor of sanctity; virtuous statesmanship, or proud political
position attained through the rigid observance of the ethical rules of
personal purity, are nothing to the rank and file, the polloi, who can
never hope to reach those elevations in this world; as well expatiate
upon the virtues of Croesus to a man who will never go beyond his
day's wages, or expect the homeless to become ecstatic over the
magnificence of Nabuchodonosor's Babylonian palace. Such extremes
possess no influence over the ordinary mind, they are the mere
vanities of the conceited, the mistakes of moralists.

The history of Ninon de l'Enclos stands out from the pages of history
as a pre-eminent character, before which all others are stale,
whatever their pretensions through position and grandeur,
notwithstanding that one great quality so much admired in
women--womanly purity--was entirely wanting in her conduct through

While no apology can be effectual to relieve her memory from that one
stigma, the other virtues connected with it, and which she possessed
in superabundance, deserve a close study, inasmuch as the trend of
modern society is in the direction of the philosophical principles and
precepts, which justified her in pursuing the course of life she
preferred to all others. She was an ardent disciple of the Epicurean
philosophy, but in her adhesion to its precepts, she added that
altruistic unselfishness so much insisted upon at the present day.


Considered as a Parallel

The birth of Ninon de l'Enclos was not heralded by salvoes of
artillery, Te Deums, or such other demonstrations of joy as are
attendant upon the arrival on earth of princes and offspring of great
personages. Nevertheless, for the ninety years she occupied the stage
of life, she accomplished more in the way of shaping great national
policies, successful military movements and brilliant diplomatic
successes, than any man or body of men in the seventeenth century.

In addition to that, her genius left an impress upon music and the
fine arts, an impress so profound that the high standard of excellence
both have attained in our day is due to her efforts in establishing a
solid foundation upon which it was possible to erect a substantial
structure. Moreover, in her hands and under her auspices and guidance,
languages, belles lettres, and rhetoric received an impetus toward
perfection, and raised the French language and its literature,
fiction, poetry and drama, to so high a standard, that its productions
are the models of the twentieth century.

It was Ninon de l'Enclos whose brilliant mentality and intellectual
genius formed the minds, the souls, the genius, of such master minds
as Saint-Evremond, La Rouchefoucauld, Molière, Scarron, La Fontaine,
Fontenelle, and a host of others in literature and fine arts; the
Great Condé, de Grammont, de Sévigné, and the flower of the chivalry
of France, in war, politics, and diplomacy. Even Richelieu was not
unaffected by her influence.

Strange power exerted by one frail woman, a woman not of noble birth,
with only beauty, sweetness of disposition, amiability, goodness, and
brilliant accomplishments as her weapons! It was not a case of the
moth and the flame, but the operation of a wise philosophy, the
precepts of which were decently, moderately and carefully inculcated;
a philosophy upon the very edge of which modern society is hanging,
afraid to accept openly, through too much attachment to ancient
doctrines which have drawn man away from happiness and comfort, and
converted him into a bitter pessimism that often leads to despair.

As has already been suggested, had Ninon de l'Enclos sat upon a
throne, or commanded an army, the pages of history would teem with the
renown of her exploits, and great victories be awarded to her instead
of to those who would have met with defeat without her inspiration.

Pompey, in his vanity, declared that he could raise an army by
stamping his foot upon the ground, but the raising of Ninon de
l'Enclos' finger could bring all the chivalry of Europe around a
single standard, or at the same gentle signal, cause them to put aside
their arms and forget everything but peace and amity. She dominated
the intellectual geniuses of the long period during which she lived,
and reigned over them as their absolute queen, through the sheer force
of her personal charms, which she never hesitated to bestow upon those
whom she found worthy, and who expressed a desire to possess them,
studiously regulated, however, by the precepts and principles of the
philosophy of Epicurus, which today is rapidly gaining ground in our
social relations through its better understanding and appreciation.

Her life bears a great resemblance to the histories in which we read
about the most celebrated women of ancient times, who occupied a
middle station between the condition of marriage and prostitution--a
class of women whose Greek name is familiarized to our ears in
translations of Aristophanes. Ninon de l'Enclos was of the order of
the French "hetaerae," and, as by her beauty and her talents, she
attained the first rank in the social class, her name has come down to
posterity with those of Aspasia and Leontium, while the less
distinguished favorites of less celebrated men have shared the common
oblivion, which hides from the memory of men, every degree of
mediocrity, whether of virtue or vice.

A class of this kind, a status of this singular nature existing
amongst accomplished women, who inspired distinguished men with lofty
ideals, and developed the genius of men who, otherwise, would have
remained in obscurity, can never be uninteresting or uninstructive;
indeed, it must afford matter for serious study. They are prefigures,
or prototypes of the influence that aims to sway mankind at the
present day in government, politics, literature, and the fine arts.

As a distinguished example of such a class, the most prominent in the
world, in fact, apart from a throne, Ninon de l'Enclos will peculiarly
engage the attention of all who, whether for knowledge or amusement,
are observers of human nature under all its varieties and

It would be idle to enter upon a historical digression on the state of
female manners in ancient Athens, or in Europe during the last three
centuries. The reader should discard them from his mind when he
peruses the life of Ninon de l'Enclos, and examine her character and
environments from every point of view as a type toward which is
trending modern social conditions.

At first blush, and to a narrow intellect, an individual woman of the
character of Ninon de l'Enclos would seem hopelessly lost to all
virtue, abandoned by every sense of shame, and irreclaimable to any
feeling of social or private duty. But only at first blush, and to the
most circumscribed of narrow minds, who, fortunately, do not control
the policy of mankind, although occasional disorders here and there
indicate that they are endeavouring to do so.

A large majority of mankind are of the settled opinion that every
virtue is bound up in that of chastity. Our manners and customs, our
laws, most of our various kinds of religions, our national sentiments
and feelings--all our most serious opinions, as well as our dearest
and best rooted prejudices, forbid the dissevering, in the minds of
women of any class, the ideas of virtue and female honor. That is,
our public opinion is along that line. To raise openly a doubt on this
head, or to disturb, on a point considered so vital, the settled
notions of society, is equally inconsistent with common prudence and
the policy of common honesty; and as tending to such an end, we are
apt to consider all discussion on the subject as at least officiously
incurring danger, without an opportunity of inculcating good.

But, however strongly we insist upon this opinion for such purposes,
there are others in which it is not useless to relax that severity for
a moment, and to view the question, not through the medium of
sentiment, but with an eye of philosophic impartiality. We are
gradually nearing the point, where it is conceded that in certain
conditions of society, one failing is not wholly incompatible with a
general practice of virtue--a remark to be met with in every homily
since homilies were written, notwithstanding that rigid rule already
alluded to in the previous chapter.

It is surprising that it has never occurred to any moralist of the
common order, who deals chiefly with such general reflections, to
apply this particular maxim to this particular social status. We
follow the wise precepts of honesty found in Cicero, although we know
that he was, at the time he was writing them, plundering his fellow
men at every opportunity. Our admiration for Bacon's philosophy and
wisdom reaches adulation although he was the "meanest of men," and was
guilty of the most flagrant crimes such as judicial bribery and
political corruption. We read that Aspasia had some great and many
amiable qualities; so too had Ninon de l'Enclos; and it is worthy of
consideration, how far we judge candidly or wisely in condemning such
characters in gross, and treating their virtues as Saint Austin was
wont to deal with those of his heathen adversaries, as no better than
"splendid vices," so unparalleled in their magnitude as to become
virtues by the operation of the law of extremes. There was no law
permitting a man to marry his sister, and there was no law forbidding
King Cambyses to do as he liked.

Another grave point to be considered is this: The world, as it now
stands, its laws, systems of government, manners and customs, and
social conditions, have been built up on these same "splendid vices,"
and whenever they have been tamed into subjection to mediocrity--let
us say to clerical, or ecclesiastical domination;--government, society
and morals have retrograded. The social condition in France during
Ninon de l'Enclos' time, and in England during the reign of Charles
II, is startling evidence of this accusation. Moreover, it is fast
becoming the condition to-day, a fact indicated by the almost
universal demand for a revolution in social ethics, the foundation to
which, for some reason, has become awry, threatening to topple down
the structure erected upon it. Society can see nothing to originate,
an incalculable number of attempts to better human conditions always
proving failures, and worsening the human status. It is dawning upon
the minds of the true lovers of humanity, that there is nothing else
to be done, but to revert to the past to find the key to any possible
reform, and to that past we are edging rapidly, though, it must be
said unwillingly, in the hope and expectation that the old foundations
are possessed of sufficient solidity to support a new or re-modeled

The life of Ninon de l'Enclos, upon this very point, furnishes food
for profitable reflection, inasmuch as it gives an insight into the
great results to be obtained by the following of the precepts of an
ancient philosophy which seems to have survived the clash of ages of
intellectual and moral warfare, and to have demonstrated its capacity
to supply defects in segregated dogmatic systems wholly incapable of
any syncretic tendencies.


Youth of Ninon de l'Enclos

Anne de l'Enclos, or "Ninon," as she has always been familiarly called
by the world at large, was born at Paris in 1615. What her parents
were, or what her family, is a matter of little consequence. To all
persons who have attained celebrity over the route pursued by her,
original rank and station are not of the least moment. By force of his
genius in hewing for himself a niche in history, Napoleon was truly
his own ancestor, as it is said he loved to remark pleasantly. So with
Ninon de l'Enclos, the novelty of the career she laid out for herself
to follow, and did follow until the end with unwavering constancy,
justifies us in regarding her as the head of a new line, or dynasty.

In the case of mighty conquerors, whose path was strewn with violence,
even lust, no one thinks of an ignoble origin as in any manner
derogatory to the eminence; on the contrary, it is considered rather
as matter to be proud of; the idea that out of ignominy, surrounded by
conditions devoid of all decency, justice, and piety, an individual
can elevate himself up to the highest pinnacle of human power and
glory, has always, and will always be regarded as an example to be
followed, and the badge of success stretched to cover the means of
its attainment. This is the universal custom where success has been
attained, the failures being relegated to a well merited oblivion as
unworthy of consideration either as lessons of warning or for any
purpose. Our youth are very properly taught only the lessons of

It is in evidence that Ninon's father was a gentleman of Touraine and
connected, through his wife, with the family of Abra de Raconis, a
race of no mean repute in the Orleanois, and that he was an
accomplished gentleman occupying a high position in society. Voltaire,
however, declares that Ninon had no claim to a parentage of such
distinction; that the rank of her mother was too obscure to deserve
any notice, and that her father's profession was of no higher dignity
than that of a teacher of the lute. This account is not less likely,
from the remarkable proficiency acquired by Ninon, at an early age, in
the use of that instrument.

It is equally certain, however, that Ninon's parents were not obscure,
and that her father was a man of many accomplishments, one of which
was his skill as a performer on the lute. A fact which may have
induced Voltaire to mistake one of his talents for his regular

Ninon's parents were as opposite in sentiments and disposition as the
Poles of the earth. Madame de l'Enclos was a prudent, pious Christian
mother, who endeavored to inspire her daughter with the same pious
sentiments which pervaded her own heart. The fact is that the mother
attempted to prepare her daughter for a conventual life, a profession
at that period of the highest honor, and one that led to preferment,
not only in religious circles, but in the world of society. At that
time, conventual and monastic dignitaries occupied a prominent place
in the formation of public and private manners and customs, and if not
regarded impeccable, their opinions were always considered valuable in
state matters of the greatest moment, even the security of thrones,
the welfare and peace of nations sometimes depending upon their
wisdom, judgment, and decisions.

With this laudable object in view, Madame de l'Enclos carefully
trained her daughter in the holy exercises of her religion, to which
she hoped to consecrate her entire life. But the fond mother met with
an impasse, an insurmountable obstacle, in the budding Ninon herself,
who, even in the temples of the Most High, when her parent imagined
her to be absorbed in the contemplation of saintly things, and
imbibing inspiration from her "Hours," the "Lives of the Saints," or
"An Introduction to a Holy Life," a book very much in vogue at that
period, the child would be devouring such profane books as Montaigne,
Scarron's romances and Epicurus, as more in accordance with her trend
of mind.

Even at the early age of twelve years, she had mastered those authors,
and had laid out a course of life, not in accord with her good
mother's ideas, for it excluded the idea of religion as commonly
understood, and crushed out the sentiment of maternity, that crowning
glory to which nearly all young female children aspire, although in
them, at a tender age, it is instinctive and not based upon knowledge
of its meaning.

This beginning of Ninon's departure from the beaten path should not be
a matter of surprise, for all the young open their hearts to ideas
that spring from the sentiments and passions, and anticipate in
imagination the parts they are to play in the tragedy or comedy of

It is this period of life which the moralist and educator justly
contend should be carefully guarded. It is really a concession to
environment, and a tacit argument against radical heredity as the
foundation upon which rest the character and disposition of the adult,
and which is the mainspring of his future moral conduct. It is
impossible to philosophize ourselves out of this sensible position.

In the case of Ninon, there was her mother, a woman of undoubted
virtue and exemplary piety, following the usual path in the training
of her only child and making a sad failure of it, or at least not
making any impression on the object of her solicitude. This was,
however, not due to the mother's intentions: her training was too weak
to overcome that coming from another quarter. It has been said that
Ninon's father and mother were as opposite as the Poles in character
and disposition, and Ninon was suspended like a pendulum to swing
between two extremes, one of which had to prevail, for there was no
midway stopping place. It may be that the disciple of heredity, the
opponent of environment will perceive in the result a strong argument
in favor of his view of humanity. Be that as it may, Ninon swung away
from the extreme of piety represented by her mother, and was caught at
the other extreme by the less intellectually monotonous ideas of her
father. There was no mental conflict in the young mind, nothing
difficult; on the contrary, she accepted his ideas as pleasanter and
less conducive to pain and discomfort. Too young to reason, she
perceived a flowery pathway, followed it, and avoided the thorny one
offered her by her mother.

Monsieur de l'Enclos was an Epicurean of the most advanced type.
According to him, the whole philosophy of life, the entire scheme of
human ethics as evolved from Epicurus, could be reduced to the four
following canons:

First--That pleasure which produces no pain is to be embraced.

Second--That pain which produces no pleasure is to be avoided.

Third--That pleasure is to be avoided which prevents a greater
pleasure, or produces a greater pain.

Fourth--That pain is to be endured which averts a greater pain, or
secures a greater pleasure.

The last canon is the one that has always appealed to the religious
sentiments, and it is the one which has enabled an army of martyrs to
submit patiently to the most excruciating torments, to reach the
happiness of Paradise, the pleasure contemplated as a reward for
enduring the frightful pain. The reader can readily infer, however,
from his daily experiences with the human family, that this
construction is seldom put upon this canon, the world at large,
viewing it from the Epicurean interpretation, which meant earthly
pleasures, or the purely sensual enjoyments. It is certain that
Ninon's father did not construe any of these canons according to the
religious idea, but followed the commonly accepted version, and
impressed them upon his young daughter's mind in all their various
lights and shades.

Imbibing such philosophy from her earliest infancy, the father taking
good care to press them deep into her plastic mind, it is not
astonishing that Ninon should discard the more distasteful fruits to
be painfully harvested by following her mother's tuition, and accept
the easily gathered luscious golden fruit offered her by her father.
Like all children and many adults, the glitter and the tinsel of the
present enjoyment were too powerful and seductive to be resisted, or
to be postponed for a problematic pleasure.

The very atmosphere which surrounded the young girl, and which she
soon learned to breathe in deep, pleasurable draughts, was surcharged
with the intoxicating oxygen of freedom of action, liberality, and
unrestrained enjoyment. While still very young she was introduced into
a select society of the choicest spirits of the age and speedily
became their idol, a position she continued to occupy without
diminution for over sixty years. No one of all these men of the world
had ever seen so many personal graces united to so much
intellectuality and good taste. Ninon's form was as symmetrical,
elegant and yielding as a willow; her complexion of a dazzling white,
with large sparkling eyes as black as midnight, and in which reigned
modesty and love, and reason and voluptuousness. Her teeth were like
pearls, her mouth mobile and her smile most captivating, resistless
and adorable. She was the personification of majesty without pride or
haughtiness, and possessed an open, tender and touching countenance
upon which shone friendship and affection. Her voice was soft and
silvery, her arms and hands superb models for a sculptor, and all her
movements and gestures manifested an exquisite, natural grace which
made her conspicuous in the most crowded drawing-room. As she was in
her youth, so she continued to be until her death at the age of ninety
years, an incredible fact but so well attested by the gravest and most
reliable writers, who testify to the truth of it, that there is no
room for doubt. Ninon attributed it not to any miracle, but to her
philosophy, and declared that any one might exhibit the same
peculiarities by following the same precepts. We have it on the most
undoubted testimony of contemporaneous writers, who were intimate with
him, that one of her dearest friends and followers, Saint-Evremond, at
the age of eighty-nine years, inspired one of the famous beauties of
the English Court with an ardent attachment.

The beauties of her person were so far developed at the age of twelve
years, that she was the object of the most immoderate admiration on
the part of men of the greatest renown, and her beauty is embalmed in
their works either as a model for the world, or she is enshrined in
song, poetry, and romance as the heroine.

In fact Ninon had as tutors the most distinguished men of the age, who
vied with one another in embellishing her young mind with all the
graces, learning and accomplishments possible for the human mind to
contain. Her native brightness and active mind absorbed everything
with an almost supernatural rapidity and tact, and it was not long
before she became their peer, and her qualities of mind reached out so
far beyond theirs in its insatiable longing, that she, in her turn,
became their tutor, adviser and consoler, as well as their tender


The Morals of the Period

Examples of the precocious talents displayed by Mademoiselle de
l'Enclos are not uncommon in the twentieth century, but the
application she made of them was remarkable and uncommon. Accomplished
in music, learned and proficient in the languages, a philosopher of no
small degree, and of a personal beauty sometimes called "beauté de
diable," she appeared upon the social stage at a time when a new idol
was an imperative necessity for the salvation of moral sanity, and the
preservation of some remnants of personal decency in the sexual

Cardinal Richelieu had just succeeded in consolidating the usurpations
of the royal prerogatives on the rights of the nobility and the
people, which had been silently advancing during the preceding reigns,
and was followed by the long period of unexampled misgovernment, which
oppressed and impoverished as well as degraded every rank and every
order of men in the French kingdom, ceasing only with the Revolution.

The great Cardinal minister had built worse than he had intended, it
is to be hoped; for his clerico-political system had practically
destroyed French manhood, and left society without a guiding star to
cement the rope of sand he had spun. Unable to subject the master
minds among the nobility to its domination, ecclesiasticism had
succeeded in destroying them by augmenting royal prerogatives which it
could control with less difficulty. Public maxims of government,
connected as they were with private morals, had debauched the nation,
and plunged it into a depth of degradation out of which Richelieu and
his whole entourage of clerical reformers could not extricate a single
individual. It was a riot of theological morality.

The whole body of the French nobility and the middle class of citizens
were reduced to a servile attendance on the court, as the only means
of advancement and reward. Every species of industry and merit in
these classes was sedulously discouraged; and the motive of honorable
competition for honorable things, being withdrawn, no pursuit or
occupation was left them but the frivolous duties, or the degrading
pleasures of the palace.

Next to the king, the women naturally became the first objects of
their effeminate devotion; and it is difficult to say which were
soonest corrupted by courtiers consummate in the arts of adulation,
and unwearied in their exercise. The sovereign rapidly degenerated
into an accomplished despot, and the women into intriguers and
coquettes. Richelieu had indeed succeeded in subjecting the State to
the rule of the Church, but Ninon was destined to play an important
part in modifying the evils which afflicted society, and at least
elevate its tone. From the methods she employed to effect this
change, it may be suspected that the remedy was equivalent to the
Hanemannic maxim: "Similia similbus curantur," a strange application
of a curative agent in a case of moral decrepitude, however valuable
and effective it may be in physical ailments.

The world of the twentieth century, bound up as it is in material
progress, refuses to limit its objects and aims to the problematic
enjoyment of the pleasures of Paradise in the great hereafter, or of
suffering with stoicism the pains and misfortunes of this earth as a
means of avoiding the problematic pains of Hell. Future rewards and
punishments are no longer incentives to virtue or right living. The
only drag upon human acts of every kind is now that great political
maxim, the non-observance of which has often deluged the earth with
blood; "Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas," which is to say: So use
thine own as not to injure thy neighbor. It is a conventional
principle, one of contract in reality, but it has become a great
doctrine of equity and justice, and it is inculcated by our
educational systems to the exclusion of the purely religious idea, and
the elimination of religious dogma, which tends to oppressive
restraints, is carefully fostered.

There is another reason why men's minds are impelled away from the
purely sentimental moral doctrines insisted upon by sectarianism,
which is ecclesiasticism run riot, and the higher the education the
deeper we delve into the secret motives of that class of mankind, the
deceptive outward appearances of which dominate the pages of history,
which is, that the greatest and most glorious systems of government,
the wisest and most powerful of rulers, the greatest and most liberal
statesmen, heroes, and conspicuous conquerors, originated in
violations of the Decalogue, and those nations and kingdoms which have
been founded upon strictly ecclesiastical ideas, have all sunk beneath
the shifting sands of time, or have become so degenerate as to be
bywords and objects of derision.

From the same viewpoint, a strange phenomenon is observable in the
world of literature, arts, and sciences. The brightest, greatest
geniuses, whose works are pointed to with admiration; studied as
models and standards, made the basis of youthful education, imitated,
and even wept over by the sentimental, were, in their private lives,
persons of the most depraved morals. Why this should be the case, it
is impossible even to conjecture, the fact only remaining that it is
so. Perhaps there are so many different standards of morality, that
humanity, weary of the eternal bickering consequent upon the conflicts
entered into for their enforcement, have made for themselves a new
interpretation which they find less difficult to observe, and find
more peace and pleasure in following.

To take a further step in the same direction, it is curious that in
the lives of the Saints, those who spent their whole earthly existence
in abstinence, works of the severest penance, and mortifications of
the flesh, the tendency of demoniac influence was never in the
direction of Sabbath breaking, profanity, idolatry, robbery, murder
and covetousness, but always exerted itself to the fullest extent of
its power in attacks upon chastity. All other visions were absent in
the hair-shirted, and self-scourgings brought out nothing but sexual
idealities, sensual temptations. The reason for this peculiarity is
not far to seek. What is dominant in the minds always finds egress
when a favorable opportunity is presented, and the very thought of
unchastity as something to be avoided, leads to its contemplation, or
its creation in the form of temptation. The virtue of chastity was the
one law, and its observances and violations were studied from every
point of view, and its numberless permissible and forbidden
limitations expatiated upon to such a degree, that he who escaped them
altogether could well attribute the result to the interposition of
some supernatural power, the protection of some celestial guardian.
One is reminded of the expression of St. Paul: "I had not known lust
had the law not said: thou shalt not covet." Lord Beaconsfield's
opinion was, that excessive piety led to sexual disorders.

According to Ninon's philosophy, whatever tended to propagate
immoderation in the sexual relations was rigidly eliminated, and
chastity placed upon the same plane and in the same grade as other
moral precepts, to be wisely controlled, regulated, and managed. She
put all her morality upon the same plane, and thereby succeeded in
equalizing corporeal pleasure, so that the entire scale of human acts
produced a harmonious equality of temperament, whence goodness and
virtue necessarily followed, the pathway being unobstructed.

It is too much to be expected, or even to be hoped for, that there
will ever be any unanimity among moral reformers, or any uniformity in
their standards of moral excellence. The educated world of the present
day, reading between the lines of ancient history, and some that is
not so very ancient, see ambition for place and power as the moving
cause, the inspiration behind the great majority of revolutions, and
they have come to apply the same construction to the great majority of
moral agitations and movements for the reform of morals and the
betterment of humanity, with pecuniary reward or profit, however,
added as the sine qua non of maintaining them.

Cure the agitation by removing the occasion for it, and Othello's
occupation would be gone; hence, the agitation continues. As an
eminent theologian declared with a conviction that went home to a
multitude, at the Congress of Religions, when the Columbian Exposition
was in operation:

"If all the religions in the world are to be merged into one, who, or
what will support the clergy that will be deprived of their salaries
by the change in management?"

The Golden Calf and Aaron were there, but where was the angry Moses?


Ninon and Count de Coligny

It was impossible for a maiden trained in the philosophy of Epicurus,
and surrounded by a brilliant society who assiduously followed its
precepts to avoid being caught in the meshes of the same net spread
for other women. Beloved and even idolized on all sides, as an object
that could be worshiped without incurring the displeasure of
Richelieu, who preferred his courtiers to amuse themselves with women
and gallantries rather than meddle with state affairs, and being
disposed both through inclination and training to accept the
situation, Ninon felt the sentiments of the tender passion, but
philosophically waited for a worthy object.

That object appeared in the person of the young Gaspard, Count de
Coligny, afterwards Duc de Chatillon, who paid her assiduous court.
The result was that Ninon conceived a violent passion for the Count,
which she could not resist, in fact did not care to resist, and she
therefore yielded to the young man of distinguished family, charming
manners, and a physically perfect specimen of manhood.

It is alleged by Voltaire and repeated by Cardinal de Retz, that the
early bloom of Ninon's charms was enjoyed by Richelieu, but if this be
true, it is more than likely that Ninon submitted through policy and
not from any affection for the great Cardinal. It is certain, however,
that the great statesman's attention had been called to her growing
influence among the French nobility, and that he desired to control
her actions if not to possess her charms. She was a tool that he
imagined he could utilize to keep his rebellious nobles in his leash.
Abbé Raconis, Ninon's uncle, and the Abbé Boisrobert, her friend, who
stood close to the Cardinal, had suggested to His Eminence that the
charms of the new beauty could be used to advantage in state affairs,
and he accordingly sent for her at first through curiosity, but when
he had seen her he hoped to control her for his personal benefit.

Although occupied in vast projects which his great genius and activity
always conducted to a happy issue, the great man had not renounced the
affections of his human nature, nor his intellectual gratifications.
He aimed at everything, and did not consider anything beneath his
dignity. Every day saw him engaged in cultivating a taste for
literature and art, and some moments of every day were set apart for
social gallantries. When it came to the art of pleasing and attracting
women, we have the word of Cardinal de Retz for it, that he was not
always successful. Perhaps it is only inferior minds who possess the
art and the genius of seduction.

The intriguing Abbé, in order to bring Ninon under the influence of
his master, and to charm her with the great honor done her by a man
upon whom were fixed the eyes of all Europe, prepared a series of
gorgeous fêtes, banquets and entertainments at the palace at Rueil.
But Ninon was not in the least overwhelmed, and refused to hear the
sighs of the great man. Hoping to inspire jealousy, he affected to
love Marion de Lormes, a proceeding which gave Ninon great pleasure as
it relieved her from the importunities of the Cardinal. The end of it
was, that Richelieu gave up the chase and left Ninon in peace to
follow her own devices in her own way.

Whatever may have been the relations between Ninon and Cardinal
Richelieu, it is certain that the Count de Coligny was her first
sentimental attachment, and the two lovers, in the first intoxication
of their love, swore eternal constancy, a process common to all new
lovers and believed possible to maintain. It was not long, however,
before Ninon perceived that the first immoderate transports of love
gradually lost their activity, and by applying the precepts of her
philosophy to explain the phenomenon, came to regard love by its
effects, as a blind mechanical movement, which it was the policy of
men to ennoble according to the conventional rules of decency and
honor, to the exclusion of its original meaning.

After coldly reasoning the matter out to its only legitimate
conclusion, she tore off the mask covering a metaphysical love, which
could not reach or satisfy the light of intelligence or the sentiments
and emotions of the heart, and which appeared to her to possess as
little reality as the enchanted castles, marvels of magic, and
monsters depicted in poetry and romance. To her, love finally became a
mere thirst, and a desire for pleasure to be gratified by indulgence
like all other pleasure. The germ of philosophy already growing in her
soul, found nothing in this discovery that was essentially unnatural;
on the contrary, it was essentially natural. It was clear to her
logical mind, that a passion like love produced among men different
effects according to different dispositions, humors, temperament,
education, interest, vanity, principles, or circumstances, without
being, at the same time, founded upon anything more substantial than a
disguised, though ardent desire of possession, the essential of its
existence, after which it vanished as fire disappears through lack of
fuel. Dryden, the celebrated English poetic and literary genius,
reaches the same opinion in his Letters to Clarissa.

Having reached this point in her reasoning, she advanced a step
further, and considered the unequal division of qualities distributed
between the two sexes. She perceived the injustice of it and refused
to abide by it. "I perceive," she declared, "that women are charged
with everything that is frivolous, and that men reserve to themselves
the right to essential qualities. From this moment I shall be a man."

All this growing out of the ardour of a first love, which is always
followed by the lassitude of satiety, so far from causing Ninon any
tears of regret, nerved her up to a philosophy different from that of
other women, and makes it impossible to judge her by the same
standard. She can not be considered a woman subject to a thousand
fantasies and whims, a thousand trifling concealed proprieties of
position and custom. Her morals became the same as those of the wisest
and noblest men of the period in which she lived, and raised her to
their rank instead of maintaining her in the category of the
intriguing coquettes of her age.

It is not improbable that her experience of the suffering attendant
upon the decay of such attachments, a suffering alluded to by those
who contemplate only the intercourse of the sexes through the medium
of poetry and sentiment, had considerable influence in determining her
future conduct. At an early age, following upon her liaison with Count
Coligny, she adopted the determination she adhered to during the rest
of her life, of retaining so much only of the female character as was
forced upon her by nature and the insuperable laws of society. Acting
on this principle, her society was chiefly composed of persons of her
adopted sex, of whom the most celebrated of their time made her house
a constant place of meeting.

A curious incident in her relations with Count de Coligny was her
success in persuading him to adjure the errors of the Huguenots and
return to the Roman Catholic Church. She had no religious
predilections, feeling herself spiritually secure in her philosophic
principles, but sought only his welfare and advancement. His obstinacy
was depriving him of the advantages due his birth and personal merit.
Considering that Ninon was scarcely sixteen years of age, respiring
nothing but love and pleasure, to effect by tenderness and the
persuasive strength of her reasoning powers, such a change in a man
so obstinate as the Count de Coligny, in an obstinate and excessively
bigoted age, was something unique in the history of lovers of that
period. Women then cared very little for religious principles, and
rarely exerted themselves in advancing the cause of the dominant
religion, much less thought of the spiritual needs of their favorites.
The reverse is the rule in these modern times, when women are the most
ardent and persistent proselytizers of the various sects, a custom
which recalls the remark of a distinguished lawyer who failed to
recover any assets from a notorious bankrupt he was pursuing for the
defrauded creditors: "This man has everything in his wife's name--even
his religion."

Ninon's disinterested counsel prevailed, and the Count afterward
abjured his errors, becoming the Duc de Chatillon, Marquis d'Andelot,
and died a lieutenant general, bravely fighting for his country, at


The "Birds" of the Tournelles

Having decided upon her career, Ninon converted her property into
prudent and safe securities, and purchased a city house in the Rue des
Tournelles au Marais, a locality at that time the center of
fashionable society, and another for a summer residence at Picpusse,
in the environs of Paris. A select society of wits and gallant
chevaliers soon gathered around her, and it required influence as well
as merit to gain an entrance into its ranks. Among this élite were
Count de Grammont, Saint-Evremond, Chapelle, Molière, Fontenelle, and
a host of other no less distinguished characters, most of them
celebrated in literature, arts, sciences, and war. Ninon christened
the society "Oiseaux des Tournelles," an appellation much coveted by
the beaux and wits of Paris, and which distinguished the chosen
company from the less favored gentlemen of the great metropolis.

Among those who longed for entrance into this charming society of
choice spirits was the Count de Charleval, a polite and accomplished
chevalier, indeed, but of no particular standing as a literary
character. Nothing would do, however, but a song of triumph as a test
of his competency and he accomplished it after much labor and
consumption of midnight oil. Scarron has preserved the first stanza
in his literary works, the others being lost to the literary world,
perhaps with small regret. The sentiments expressed in the first
stanza rescued from oblivion will be sufficient to indicate the
character of the others:

"Je ne suis plus oiseau des champs,
Mais de ces oiseaux des Tournelles
Qui parlent d'amour en tout temps,
Et qui plaignent les tourterelles
De ne se baiser qu'au printemps."

Which liberally translated into English will run substantially as

No more am I a wild bird on the wing,
But one of the birds of the Towers, who
The love in their hearts always sing,
And pity the poor Turtle Doves that coo
And never kiss only in spring.

Scarron alludes to the delicacy of the Count's taste and the
refinement of his wit, by saying of him: "The muses brought him up on
blanc mange and chicken broth."

How Ninon kept together this remarkable coterie can best be understood
by an incident unparalleled in female annals. The Count de Fièsque,
one of the most accomplished nobles of the French court, had it
appears, grown tired of an attachment of long standing between Ninon
and himself, before the passion of the former had subsided. A letter,
containing an account of his change of sentiments, with reasons
therefor, was presented his mistress, while employed at her toilette
in adjusting her hair, which was remarkable for its beauty and
luxuriance, and which she regarded as the apple of her eye. Afflicted
by the unwelcome intelligence, she cut off half of her lovely tresses
on the impulse of the moment, and sent them as her answer to the
Count's letter. Struck by this unequivocal proof of the sincerity of
her devotion to him, the Count returned to his allegiance to a
mistress so devoted, and thenceforward retained it until she herself
wearied of it and desired a change.

As an illustration of her sterling honesty in money matters and her
delicate manner of ending a liaison, the following anecdote will serve
to demonstrate the hold she was able to maintain upon her admirers.

M. de Gourville, an intimate friend of Ninon's, adhered in the wars of
the Fronde to the party of the Prince of Condé, one of the "Birds of
the Tournelles." Compelled to quit Paris, to avoid being hanged in
person, as he was in effigy, he divided the care of a large sum of
ready money between Ninon de l'Enclos and the Grand Pénitencier of
Notre Dame. The money was deposited in two caskets. On his return from
exile, he applied to the priest for the return of his money, but to
his astonishment, all knowledge of the deposit was denied, and that if
any such deposit had been made, it was destined for charitable
purposes under the rules of the Pénitencier, and had most probably
been distributed among the poor of Paris. De Gourville protested in
vain, and when he threatened to resort to forcible means, the power
of the church was invoked to compel him to abandon his attempt. So
cruelly disappointed in a man whom all Paris deemed incorruptibly
honest, de Gourville suspected nothing else from Mademoiselle de
l'Enclos. It was absurd to hope for probity in a woman of
reprehensible habits when that virtue was absent in a man who lived a
life of such austerity as the Grand Pénitencier, hence he determined
to abstain from visiting her altogether, lest he might hate the woman
he had so fondly loved.

Ninon, however, had other designs, and learning that he had returned,
sent him a pressing invitation to call upon her.

"Ah! Gourville," she exclaimed as soon as he appeared, "a great
misfortune has happened me in consequence of your absence."

That settled the matter in de Gourville's mind, his money was gone and
he was a pauper. Plunged in mournful reflections, de Gourville dared
not raise his eyes to those of his mistress. But she, mistaking his
agitation, went on hastily:

"I am sorry if you still love me, for I have lost my love for you, and
though I have found another with whom I am happy, I have not forgotten
you. Here," she continued, turning to her escritoire, "here are the
twenty thousand crowns you intrusted to me when you departed. Take
them, my friend, but do not ask anything from a heart which is no
longer disposed in your favor. There is nothing left but the most
sincere friendship."

Astonished at the contrast between her conduct and that of her
reverend co-depositary, and recognizing that he had no right to
complain of the change in her heart because of his long absence, de
Gourville related the story of the indignity heaped upon him by a man
of so exalted a character and reputation.

"You do not surprise me," said Ninon, with a winning smile, "but you
should not have suspected me on that account. The prodigious
difference in our reputations and conditions should have taught you
that." Then adding with a twinkle in her eye: "Ne suis-je pas la
gardeuse de la cassette?"

Ninon was afterward called "La belle gardeuse de cassette," and
Voltaire, whose vigilance no anecdote of this nature could escape, has
made it, with some variations, the subject of a comedy, well known to
every admirer of the French drama, under the name of "La Dépositaire."

Ninon had her preferences, and when one of her admirers was not to her
taste, neither prayers nor entreaties could move her. Hers was not a
case of vendible charms, it was le bon appetit merely, an Epicurean
virtue. The Grand Prior of Vendôme had reason to comprehend this trait
in her character.

The worthy Grand Prior was an impetuous wooer, and he saw with great
sorrow that Ninon preferred the Counts de Miossens and de Palluan to
his clerical attractions. He complained bitterly to Ninon, but instead
of being softened by his reproaches, she listened to the voice of some
new rival when the Grand Prior thought his turn came next. This put
him in a great rage and he resolved to be revenged, and this is the
way he fancied he could obtain it. One day shortly after he had left
Ninon's house, she noticed on her dressing table a letter, which she
opened to find the following effusion:

"Indigne de mes feux, indigne de mes larmes,
Je renonce sans peine à tes faibles appas;
  Mon amour te prêtait des charmes,
  Ingrate, que tu n'avais pas."

Or, as might be said substantially in English:

Unworthy my flame, unworthy a tear,
I rejoice to renounce thy feeble allure;
  My love lent thee charms that endear,
  Which, ingrate, thou couldst not procure.

Instead of being offended, Ninon took this mark of unreasonable spite
good naturedly, and replied by another quatrain based upon the same
rhyme as that of the disappointed suitor:

"Insensible à tes feux, insensible à tes larmes,
Je te vois renoncer à mes faibles appas;
  Mais si l'amour prête des charmes,
  Pourquoi n'en empruntais-tu pas."

Which is as much as to say in English:

Caring naught for thy flame, caring naught for thy tear,
I see thee renounce my feeble allure;
  But if love lends charms that endear,
  By borrowing thou mightst some procure.


Effect of Her Mother's Death

It is not to be wondered at that a girl under such tutelage should
abandon herself wholly, both mind and body, to a philosophy so
contrary in its principles and practices to that which her mother had
always endeavored to instill into her young mind. The father was
absent fighting for Heaven alone knew which faction into which France
was broken up, there were so many of them, and the mother and daughter
lived apart, the disparity in their sentiments making it impossible
for them to do otherwise. For this reason, Ninon was practically her
own mistress, and not interfered with because the husband and wife
could not agree upon any definite course of life for her to follow.
Ninon's heart, however, had not lost any of its natural instincts, and
she loved her mother sincerely, a trait in her which all Paris learned
with astonishment when her mother was taken down with what proved to
be a fatal illness.

Madame de l'Enclos, separated from both her husband and daughter, and
devoting her life to pious exercises, acquired against them the
violent prejudices natural in one who makes such a sacrifice upon the
altar of sentiment. The worldly life of her daughter gave birth in her
mind to an opinion which she deemed the natural consequence of it.
The love of pleasure, in her estimation, had destroyed every vestige
of virtue in her daughter's soul and her neglect of her religious
duties had converted her into an unnatural being.

But she was agreeably diverted from her ill opinion when her malady
approached a dangerous stage. Ninon flew to heir mother's side as soon
as she heard of it, and without becoming an enemy of her philosophy of
pleasure, she felt it incumbent upon her to suspend its practice.
Friendship, liaisons, social duties, pleasure, everything ceased to
amuse her or give her any satisfaction. The nursing of her sick mother
engaged her entire attention, and her fervor in this dutiful
occupation astonished Madame de l'Enclos and softened her heart to the
extent of acknowledging her error and correcting her estimate of her
daughter's character. She loved her daughter devotedly and was happy
in the knowledge that she was as devotedly loved. But this was not the
kind of happiness that could prolong her days.

Notwithstanding all her philosophy, Ninon could not bear the spectacle
presented by her dying parent. Her soul was rent with a grief which
she did not conceal, unashamed that philosophy was impotent to
restrain an exhibition of such a natural weakness. Moreover, her dying
mother talked to her long and earnestly, and with her last breath gave
her loving counsel that sank deep into her heart, already softened by
an uncontrollable sorrow and weakened by long vigils.

Scarcely had Madame de l'Enclos closed her eyes upon the things of
earth, than Ninon conceived the project of withdrawing from the world
and entering a convent. The absence of her father left her absolute
mistress of her conduct, and the few friends who reached her, despite
her express refusal to see any one, could not persuade her to alter
her determination. Ninon, heart broken, distracted and desolate, threw
herself bodily into an obscure convent in the suburbs of Paris,
accepting it, in the throes of her sorrow, as her only refuge and home
on earth.

Saint-Evremond, in a letter to the Duke d'Olonne, speaks of the
sentiment which is incentive to piety:

"There are some whom misfortunes have rendered devout through a
certain kind of pity for themselves, a secret piety, strong enough to
dispose men to lead more religious lives."

Scarron, one of Ninon's closest friends, in his Epistle to Sarrazin,
thus alludes to this conventual escapade:

"Puis j'aurais su * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
Ce que l'on dit du bel et saint exemple
Que la Ninon donne à tous les mondains,
En se logeant avecque les nonais,
Combien de pleurs la pauvre jouvencelle
A répandus quand sa mère, sans elle,
Cierges brûlants et portant écussons,
Prêtres chantant leurs funèbres chanson,
Voulut aller de linge enveloppée
Servir aux vers d'une franche lippée."

Which, translated into reasonable English, is as much as saying:

But I might have known * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
What they say of the example, so holy, so pure,
That Ninon gives to worldlings all,
By dwelling within a nunnery's wall.
How many tears the poor lorn maid
Shed, when her mother, alone, unafraid,
Mid flaming tapers with coats of arms,
Priests chanting their sad funereal alarms,
Went down to the tomb in her winding sheet
To serve for the worms a mouthful sweet.

But the most poignant sorrow of the human heart is assuaged by time.
Saint-Evremond and Marion de Lormes, Richelieu's "belle amie,"
expected to profit by the calm which they knew would not be long in
stealing over the heart of their friend. Marion, however, despaired of
succeeding through her own personal influence, and enlisted the
sympathies of Saint-Evremond, who knew Ninon's heart too well to
imagine for a moment that the mournful, monotonous life she had
embraced would satisfy her very long. It was something to be admitted
to her presence and talk over matters, a privilege they were accorded
after some demur. The first step toward ransoming their friend was
followed by others until they finally made great strides through her
resolution. They brought her back in triumph to the world she had
quitted through a species of "frivolity," so they called it, of which
she was never again guilty as long as she lived.

This episode in Ninon's life is in direct contrast with one which
occurred when the Queen Regent, Anne of Austria, listening to the
complaints of her jealous maids of honor, attempted to dispose of
Ninon's future by immuring her in a convent. Ninon's celebrity
attained such a summit, and her drawing rooms became so popular among
the élite of the French nobility and desirable youth, that sad inroads
were made in the entourage of the Court, nothing but the culls of
humanity being left for the ladies who patronized the royal functions.
In addition to this, she excited the envy and jealousy of a certain
class of women, whom Ninon called "Jansensists of love," because they
practiced in public the puritanic virtues which they did not even have
tact enough to render agreeable. It is conceivable that Ninon's
brilliant attractions, not to say seductive charms, and her
unparalleled power to attract to her society the brightest and best
men of the nation, engendered the most violent jealousy and hatred of
those whose feebler charms were ignored and relegated to the
background. The most bitter complaints and accusations were made
against her to the Queen Regent, who was beset on all sides by loud
outcries against the conduct of a woman whom they were powerless to
imitate, until, to quiet their clamors, she deemed it her duty to act.

Anne of Austria accordingly sent Ninon, by special messenger, a
peremptory order to withdraw to a convent, giving her the power of
selection. At first Anne intended to send her to the convent of
Repentant Girls (Filles Repenties), but the celebrated Bauton, one of
the Oiseaux des Tournelles, who loved a good joke as well as he did
Ninon, told her that such a course would excite ridicule because Ninon
was neither a girl nor a repentant (ni fille, ni repentie), for which
reason, the order was changed leaving Ninon to her own choice of a

Ninon knew the source of the order, and foresaw that her numerous
distinguished admirers would not have any difficulty in protecting
her, and persuading the Queen Regent to rescind her order, and
therefore gave herself no concern, receiving the order as a

"I am deeply sensible of the goodness of the court in providing for my
welfare and in permitting me to select my place of retreat, and
without hesitation, I decide in favor of the Grands Cordeliers."

Now it so happened that the Grands Cordeliers was a monastery
exclusively for men, and from which women were rigidly excluded.
Moreover, the morals of the holy brotherhood was not of the best, as
the writers of their history during that period unanimously testify.
M. de Guitaut, the captain of the Queen's guard, who had been
intrusted with the message, happened to be one of the "Birds," and he
assured the Regent that it was nothing but a little pleasantry on the
part of Ninon, who merited a thousand marks of approval and
commendation for her sterling and brilliant qualities of mind and
heart rather than punishment or even censure.

The only comment made by the Queen Regent was: "Fie, the nasty
thing!" accompanied by a fit of laughter. Others of the "Birds" came
to the rescue, among them the Duc d'Enghien, who was known not to
value his esteem for women lightly. The matter was finally dropped,
Anne of Austria finding means to close the mouths of the envious.


Her Increasing Popularity

Ninon's return to the gayeties of her drawing rooms was hailed with
loud acclamations from all quarters. The envy and jealousy of her
female enemies, the attempt to immure her in a convent, and her
selection of the Grands Cordeliers as her place of retreat, brought
her new friends and admirers through the notoriety given her, and all
Paris resounded with the fame of her spirit, her wit, and her

Ladies of high rank sought admission into her charming circle, many of
them, it is to be imagined, because they possessed exaggerated ideas
of her influence at court. Had she not braved the Queen Regent with
impunity? Her drawing rooms soon became the center of attraction and
were nightly crowded with the better part of the brilliant society of
Paris. Ninon was the acknowledged guide and leader, and all submitted
to her sway without the slightest envy or jealousy, and it may also be
said, without the slightest compunctions or remorse of conscience.

The affair with the Queen Regent had one good effect, it separated the
desirable from the undesirable in the social scale, compelling the
latter to set up an establishment of their own as a counter
attraction, and as their only hope of having any society at all. They
established a "little court" at the Hôtel Rambouillet, where
foppishness was a badge of distinction, and where a few narrow minded,
starched moralists, poisoned metaphysics and turned the sentiments of
the heart into a burlesque by their affectation and their unrefined,
even vulgar attempts at gallantry. They culled choice expressions and
epigrams from the literature of the day, employing their memories to
conceal their paucity of original wit, and practised upon their
imaginations to obtain a salacious philosophy, which consisted of
sodden ideas, flat in their expression, stale and unattractive in
their adaptation.

Ninon's coterie was the very opposite, consisting as it did of the
very flower of the nobility and the choicest spirits of the age, who
banished dry and sterile erudition, and sparkled with the liveliest
wit and polite accomplishments. There were some who eluded the
vigilance of Ninon's shrewd scrutiny, and made their way into her
inner circle, but they were soon forced to abandon their pretensions
by their inability to maintain any standing among a class of men who
were so far beyond them in rank and attainments.

Not long after her return to the pleasures of society, after the
convent episode, Ninon was called upon to mourn the demise of her
father. M. de l'Enclos was one of the fortunate men of the times who
escaped the dangers attendant upon being on the wrong side in
politics. For some inscrutable reason, he took sides with Cardinal de
Retz, and on that account was practically banished from Paris and
compelled to be satisfied with the rough annoyances of camp life
instead of being able to put in practice the pleasant precepts of his
philosophy. He was finally permitted to return to Paris with his head
safe upon his shoulders, and flattered himself with the idea that he
could now make up for lost time, promising himself to enjoy to the
full the advantages offered by his daughter's establishment. He
embraced his daughter with the liveliest pleasure imaginable, taking
upon himself all the credit for her great reputation as due to his
efforts and to his philosophical training. He was flattered at the
success of his lessons and entered upon a life of joyous pleasure with
as much zest as though in the bloom of his youth. It proved too much
for a constitution weakened by the fatigues of years of arduous
military campaigns and he succumbed, the flesh overpowered by the
spirit, and took to his bed, where he soon reached a condition that
left his friends no hope of his recuperation.

Aware that the end was approaching, he sent for his daughter, who
hastened to his side and shed torrents of tears. But he bade her
remember the lessons she had learned from his philosophy, and wishing
to give her one more lesson, said in an almost expiring voice:

"Approach nearer, Ninon; you see nothing left me but a sad memory of
the pleasures that are leaving me. Their possession was not of long
duration, and that is the only complaint I have to make against
nature. But, alas! my regrets are vain. You who must survive me,
utilize precious time, and have no scruples about the quantity of your
pleasures, but only of their quality."

Saying which, he immediately expired. The philosophical security
exhibited by her father in his very last moments, inspired Ninon with
the same calmness of spirit, and she bore his loss with equanimity,
disdaining to exhibit any immoderate grief lest she dishonor his
memory and render herself an unworthy daughter and pupil.

The fortune left her by her father was not so considerable as Ninon
had expected. It had been very much diminished by extravagance and
speculation, but as she had in mind de la Rochefoucauld's maxim:
"There are some good marriages, but no delicious ones," and did not
contemplate ever wearing the chains of matrimony, she deposited her
fortune in the sinking funds, reserving an income of about eight
thousand livres per annum as sufficient to maintain her beyond the
reach of want. From this time on she abandoned herself to a life of
pleasure, well regulated, it must be confessed, and in strict
accordance with her Epicurean ideas. Her light heartedness increased
with her love and devotion to pleasure, which is not astonishing, as
there are privileged souls who do not lose their tender emotions by
such a pursuit, though those souls are rare. Ninon's unrestrained
freedom, and the privilege she claimed to enjoy all the rights which
men assumed, did not give her the slightest uneasiness. It was her
lovers who became anxious unless they regulated their love according
to the rules she established for them to follow, rules which it can
not be denied, were held in as much esteem then as nowadays. The
following anecdote will serve as an illustration:

The Marquis de la Châtre had been one of her lovers for an
unconscionably long period, but never seemed to cool in his fidelity.
Duty, however, called him away from Ninon's arms, but he was
distressed with the thought that his absence would be to his
disadvantage. He was afraid to leave her lest some rival should appear
upon the scene and dispossess him in her affections. Ninon vainly
endeavored to remove his suspicions.

"No, cruel one," he said, "you will forget and betray me. I know your
heart, it alarms me, crushes me. It is still faithful to my love, I
know, and I believe you are not deceiving me at this moment. But that
is because I am with you and can personally talk of my love. Who will
recall it to you when I am gone? The love you inspire in others,
Ninon, is very different from the love you feel. You will always be in
my heart, and absence will be to me a new fire to consume me; but to
you, absence is the end of affection. Every object I shall imagine I
see around you will be odious to me, but to you they will be

Ninon could not deny that there was truth in the Marquis' logic, but
she was too tender to assassinate his heart which she knew to be so
loving. Being a woman she understood perfectly the art of
dissimulation, which is a necessary accomplishment, a thousand
circumstances requiring its exercise for the sake of her security,
peace, and comfort. Moreover, she did not at the moment dream of
deceiving him; there was no present occasion, nobody else she had in
mind. Ninon thought rapidly, but could not find any reason for
betraying him, and therefore assured him of her fidelity and

Nevertheless, the amorous Marquis, who might have relied upon the
solemn promise of his mistress, had it not been for the intense fears
which were ever present in his mind, and becoming more violent as the
hour for his departure drew nearer, required something more
substantial than words. But what could he exact? Ah! an idea, a novel
expedient occurred to his mind, one which he imagined would restrain
the most obstinate inconstancy.

"Listen, Ninon, you are without contradiction a remarkable woman. If
you once do a thing you will stand to it. What will tend to quiet my
mind and remove my fears, ought to be your duty to accept, because my
happiness is involved and that is more to you than love; it is your
own philosophy, Ninon. Now, I wish you to put in writing that you will
remain faithful to me, and maintain the most inviolable fidelity. I
will dictate it in the strongest form and in the most sacred terms
known to human promises. I will not leave you until I have obtained
such a pledge of your constancy, which is necessary to relieve my
anxiety, and essential to my repose."

Ninon vainly argued that this would be something too strange and
novel, foolish, in fact, the Marquis was obstinate and finally
overcame her remonstrances. She wrote and signed a written pledge
such as no woman had ever executed, and fortified with this pledge,
the Marquis hastened to respond to the call of duty.

Two days had scarcely elapsed before Ninon was besieged by one of the
most dangerous men of her acquaintance. Skilled in the art of love, he
had often pressed his suit, but Ninon had other engagements and would
not listen to him. But now, his rival being out of the field, he
resumed his entreaties and increased his ardor. He was a man to
inspire love, but Ninon resisted, though his pleading touched her
heart. Her eyes at last betrayed her love and she was vanquished
before she realized the outcome of the struggle.

What was the astonishment of the conqueror, who was enjoying the
fruits of his victory, to hear Ninon exclaim in a breathless voice,
repeating it three times: "Ah! Ah! le bon billet qu'a la Châtre!" (Oh,
the fine bond that la Châtre has.)

Pressed for an explanation of the enigma, Ninon told him the whole
story, which was too good to keep secret, and soon the "billet de la
Châtre" became, in the mouth of everybody, a saying applied to things
upon which it is not wise to rely. Voltaire, to preserve so charming
an incident, has embalmed it in his comedy of la Prude, act I, scene
III. Ninon merely followed the rule established by Madame de Sévigné:
"Les femmes ont permission d'être faibles, et elles se servent sans
scrupule de ce privilège."


Ninon's Friendships

Mademoiselle de l'Enclos never forgot a friend in a lover, indeed, the
trait that stands out clear and strong in her character, is her whole
hearted friendship for the men she loved, and she bestowed it upon
them as long as they lived, for she outlived nearly all of them, and
cherished their memories afterward. As has been said, Ninon de
l'Enclos was Epicurean in the strictest sense, and did not rest her
entire happiness on love alone, but included a friendship which went
to the extent of making sacrifices. The men with whom she came in
contact from time to time during her long life, were nothing to her
from a pecuniary point of view, for she possessed an income
sufficiently large to satisfy her wants and to maintain the social
establishment she never neglected.

There was never, either directly or indirectly, any money
consideration asked or expected in payment of her favors, and the man
who would have dared offer her money as a consideration for anything,
would have met with scorn and contempt and been expelled from her
house and society without ever being permitted to regain either. The
natural wants of her heart and mind, and what she was pleased to call
the natural gratifications of physical wants, were her mentors, and to
them she listened, never dreaming of holding them at a pecuniary

One of her dearest friends was Scarron, once the husband of Madame de
Maintenon, the pious leader of a debased court and the saintly
mistress of the king of France. In his younger days, Scarron
contributed largely to the pleasures of the Oiseaux des Tournelles,
the ecclesiastical collar he then wore not being sufficient to prevent
his enjoying worldly pleasures.

In the course of time Scarron fell ill, and was reduced to a dreadful
condition, no one coming to his succor but Ninon. Like a tender,
compassionate friend, she sympathized deeply with him, when he was
carried to the suburb Saint Germain to try the effects of the baths as
an alleviation of his pains. Scarron did not complain, on the
contrary, he was cheerful and always gay even when suffering tortures.
There was little left of him, however, but an indomitable spirit
burning in a crushed tenement of mortal clay. Not being able to come
to her, Ninon went to him, and passed entire days at his side. Not
only that, she brought her friends with her and established a small
court around his bed, thus cheering him in his pain and doing him a
world of good, which finally enabled his spirit to triumph over his
mortal shell.

Instances might be multiplied, enough to fill a volume, of her
devotion to her friends, whom she never abandoned and whom she was
always ready with purse and counsel to aid in their difficulties. A
curious instance is that of Nicolas Vauquelin, sieur de Desyvetaux,
whom she missed from her circle for several days. Aware that he had
been having some family troubles, and that his fortune was menaced,
she became alarmed, thinking that perhaps some misfortune had come
upon him, for which reason she resolved to seek him and help him out
of his difficulties. But Ninon was mistaken in supposing that so wise
and gay an Epicurean could be crushed by any sorrow or trouble.
Desyvetaux was enjoying himself in so singular a fashion that it is
worth telling.

This illustrious Epicurean, finding one night a young girl in a
fainting condition at his door, brought her into his house to succor
her, moved by an impulse of humanity. But as soon as she had recovered
her senses, the philosopher's heart was touched by her beauty. To
please her benefactor the girl played several selections on a harp and
accompanied the instrument with a charming and seductive voice.

Desyvetaux, who was a passionate admirer of music, was captivated by
this accomplishment, and suddenly conceived the desire to spend the
rest of his days in the company of this charming singer. It was not
difficult for a girl who had been making it her business to frequent
the wineshops of the suburbs with a brother, earning a precarious
living by singing and playing on the harp, to accept such a
proposition, and consent to bestow happiness upon an excessively
amorous man, who offered to share with her a luxurious and tranquil
life in one of the finest residences in the suburb Saint Germain.

Although most of his life had been passed at court as the governor of
M. de Vendôme, and tutor of Louis XIII, he had always desired to lead
a life of peace and quiet in retirement. The pleasures of a sylvan
life which he had so often described in his lectures, ended by leading
his mind in that direction. The young girl he found on his doorstep
had offered him his first opportunity to have a Phyllis to his Corydon
and he eagerly embraced it. Both yielded to the fancy, she dressed in
the garb of a shepherdess, he playing the rôle of Corydon at the age
of seventy years.

Sometimes stretched out on a carpet of verdure, he listened to the
enchanting music she drew from her instrument, or drank in the sweet
voice of his shepherdess singing melodious pastorals. A flock of
birds, charmed with this harmony, left their cages to caress with
their wings, Dupuis' harp, or intoxicated with joy, fluttered down
into her bosom. This little gallantry in which they had been trained
was a delicious spectacle to the shepherd philosopher and intoxicated
his senses. He fancied he was guiding with his mistress innumerable
bands of intermingled sheep; their conversation was in tender eclogues
composed by them both extemporaneously, the attractive surroundings
inspiring them with poetry.

Ninon was amazed when she found her "bon homme," as she called him, in
the startlingly original disguise of a shepherd, a crook in his hand,
a wallet hanging by his side, and a great flapping straw hat, trimmed
with rose colored silk on his head. Her first impression was that he
had taken leave of his senses, and she was on the point of shedding
tears over the wreck of a once brilliant mind, when Desyvetaux,
suspending his antics long enough to look about him, perceived her and
rushed to her side with the liveliest expressions of joy. He removed
her suspicions of his sanity by explaining his metamorphosis in a
philosophical fashion:

"You know, my dear Ninon, there are certain tastes and pleasures which
find their justification in a certain philosophy when they bear all
the marks of moral innocence. Nothing can be said against them but
their singularity. There are no amusements less dangerous than those
which do not resemble those generally indulged in by the multitude."

Ninon was pleased with the amiable companion of her old friend. Her
figure, her mental attainments, and her talents enchanted her, and
Desyvetaux, who appeared in a ridiculous light when she first saw him
in his masquerade, now seemed to her to be on the road to happiness.
She made no attempt to persuade him to return to his former mode of
life, which she could not avoid at this moment, however, as
considering more agreeable than the new one he had adopted. But what
could she offer in the way of superior seductive pleasures to a pair
who had tasted pure and natural enjoyments? The vain amusements and
allurements of the world have no sympathy with anything but
dissipation, in which, the mind, yielding to the fleeting seductions
of art, leaves the heart empty as soon as the illusion disappears.

The strange conduct of Desyvetaux gave birth to numerous reflections
of this nature in Ninon's mind, but she did not cease to be his
friend, on the contrary, she entered into the spirit of his simple
life and visited him from time to time to enjoy the spectacle of such
a tender masquerade which Desyvetaux continued up to the time of his
death. It gave Mademoiselle Dupuis nearly as much celebrity as her
lover attained, for when the end came, she obeyed his desire to play a
favorite dance on her harp, to enable his soul to take flight in the
midst of its delicious harmony. It should be mentioned, that
Desyvetaux wore in his hat as long as he lived, a yellow ribbon, "out
of love for the gentle Ninon who gave it to me."

Socrates advises persons of means to imitate the swans, which,
realizing the benefit of an approaching death, sing while in their
death agony. The Abbé Brantôme relates an interesting story of the
death of Mademoiselle de Lineul, the elder, one of the queen's
daughters, which resembles that of Desyvetaux.

"When the hour of her death had arrived," says Brantôme, "Mademoiselle
sent for her valet, Julian, who could play the violin to perfection.
'Julian,' quoth she, 'take your violin and play on it until you see me
dead--for I am going--the Defeat of the Swiss, and play it as well as
you know how; and when you shall reach the words "tout est perdu,"
play it over four or five times as piteously as you can:' which the
other did. And when he came to 'tout est perdu' she sang it over
twice; then turning to the other side of the couch, she said to those
who stood around: 'Tout est perdu à ce coup et à bon escient;' all is
lost this time, sure.'"


Some of Ninon's Lovers

Notwithstanding her love of pleasure, and her admiration for the
society of men, Ninon was never vulgar or common in the distribution
of her favors, but selected those upon whom she decided to bestow
them, with the greatest care and discrimination. As has been already
said, she discovered in early life, that women were at a discount, and
she resolved to pursue the methods of men in the acceptance or
rejection of friendship, and in distributing her favors and
influences. As she herself declared:

"I soon saw that women were put off with the most frivolous and unreal
privileges, while every solid advantage was retained by the stronger
sex. From that moment I determined on abandoning my own sex and
assuming that of the men."

So well did she carry out this determination that she was regarded by
her masculine intimates as one of themselves, and whatever pleasures
they enjoyed in her society, were enjoyed upon the same principle as
they would have delighted in a good dinner, an agreeable theatrical
performance, or exquisite music.

To her and to all her associates, love was a taste emanating from the
senses, a blind sentiment which assumes no merit in the object which
gives it birth, as is the case of hunger, thirst, and the like. In a
word, it was merely a caprice the domination of which depends upon
ourselves, and is subject to the discomforts and regrets attendant
upon repletion or indulgence.

After her first experience with de Coligny, which was an abandonment
of her cold philosophy for a passionate attachment she thought would
endure forever, Ninon cast aside all that element in love which is
connected with passion and extravagant sentiment, and adhered to her
philosophical understanding of it, and kept it in its proper place in
the category of natural appetites. To illustrate her freedom from
passionate attachments in the distribution of her favors, the case of
her friend Scarron will give an insight into her philosophy. Scarron
had received numerous favors from her, and being one of her select
"Birds," who had always agreed with la Rochefoucauld that, "There are
many good marriages but none that are delicious," she assumed that her
friend would never entangle himself in the bonds of matrimony. But he
did and to his sorrow.

When Ninon had returned to Paris after a long sojourn with the Marquis
de Villarceaux, she found to her astonishment that Scarron had married
the amiable but ignoble Mademoiselle d'Aubigne. This young lady was in
a situation which precluded all hope of her ever attaining social
eminence, but aspiring to rise, notwithstanding her common origin, she
married Scarron as the first step upon the social ladder. Without
realizing that this woman was to become the celebrated Madame de
Maintenon, mistress of the king and the real power behind the throne,
Ninon took her in charge and they soon became the closest and most
affectionate friends, always together even occupying the same bed.
Ninon's tender friendship for the husband continued in spite of his
grave violation of the principles of his accepted philosophy, and when
he was deserted, sick and helpless, she went to him and brought him
cheer and comfort.

Ninon was so little imbued with jealousy that when she discovered a
liaison between her own lover, Marquis de Villarceaux and her friend,
Madame Scarron, she was not even angry. The two were carrying on their
amour in secret, and as they supposed without Ninon's knowledge, whose
presence, indeed, they deemed a restraint upon their freedom of
action. The Marquis considered himself a traitor to Ninon, and Madame
Scarron stood in fear of her reproaches for her betrayal. But Ninon,
instead of taking either of them to task, as she would have been
justified in doing, gently remonstrated with them for their secrecy,
and by her kindness reassured both of them and relieved them from
their embarrassment, making them understand that she desired nothing
so much as their happiness. Both the Marquis and his mistress made
Ninon their confidante, and thereafter lived in perfect amity until
the lovers grew tired of each other, Madame Scarron aiming higher than
an ordinary Marquis, now that she saw her way clear to mounting the
social ladder.

It was perhaps due to Ninon's kindness in the Villarceaux episode,
that enabled her to retain the friendship of Madame de Maintenon when
the latter had reached the steps of the throne. The mistress of
royalty endeavored to persuade Ninon to appear at court but there was
too great a difference in temper and constitution between the two
celebrated women to admit of any close relations. Ninon made use of
the passion of love for the purpose of pleasure only, while her more
exalted rival made it subservient to her ambitious projects, and did
not hesitate with that view to cloak her licentious habits beneath the
mantle of religion, and add hypocrisy to frailty. The income of Ninon
de l'Enclos was agreeably and judiciously spent in the society of men
of wit and letters, but the revenues of the Marchioness de Maintenon
were squandered on the useless decoration of her own person, or
hoarded for the purpose of elevating into rank and notice an
insignificant family, who had no other claim to such distinction than
that derived from the easy honesty of a female relation, and the
dissolute extravagance of a vain and licentious sovereign.

While Ninon de l'Enclos was receiving and encouraging the attentions
of the most distinguished men of her time, literati, nobles, warriors,
statesmen, and sages, in her house in the Rue des Tournelles, the
mistress of the sovereign, the dear friend who had betrayed her to the
Marquis de Villarceaux, was swallowing, at Versailles, the adulations
of degraded courtiers of every rank and profession. There were met
together there the vain and the ambitious, the designing and the
foolish, the humblest and the proudest of those who, whether proud or
humble, or ambitious, or vain, or crafty, were alike the devoted
servants of the monarch or the monarch's mistress--princes, cardinals,
bishops, dukes and every kind of nobility, excisemen and priests,
keepers of the royal conscience and necessary--all ministers of filth,
each in his degree, from the secretaries of state to the lowest
underlings in office--clerks of the ordnance, victualing, stamps,
customs, colonies, and postoffice, farmers and receivers general,
judges and cooks, confessors and every other caterer to the royal
appetite. This was the order of things that Ninon de l'Enclos was
contending against, and that she succeeded by methods that must be
considered saintly compared with the others, stands recorded in the
pages of history.

After Ninon had suffered from the indiscretion of the lover who made
public the story of the famous pledge given la Châtre, she lost her
fancy for the recreant, and though friendly, refused any closer tie.
He knew that he had done Ninon an injury and begged to be reinstated
in her favor. He was of charming manners and fascinating in his
pleading, but he made no impression on her heart. She agreed to pardon
him for his folly and declined to consider the matter further. Nor
would she return to the conversation, although he persisted in
referring to the matter as one he deeply regretted. When he was
departing after Ninon had assured him of her pardon, she ran after him
and called out as he was descending the stairs: "At least, Marquis,
we have not been reconciled."

Her good qualities were embalmed in the literature of the day, very
few venturing to lampoon her. Those who did so were greeted with so
much derisive laughter that they were ashamed to appear in society
until the storm had blown over.

M. de Tourielle, a member of the French Academy, and a very learned
man, became enamored of her and his love-making assumed a curious
phase. To show her that he was worthy of her consideration, he deemed
it incumbent upon him to read her long dissertations on scientific
subjects, and bored her incessantly with a translation of the orations
of Demosthenes, which he intended dedicating to her in an elaborate
preface. This was more than Ninon could bear with equanimity--a lover
with so much erudition, and his prosy essays, appealed more to her
sense of humor than to her sentiments of love, and he was laughed out
of her social circle. This angered the Academician and he thought to
revenge himself by means of an epigram in which he charged Ninon with
admiring figures of rhetoric more than a sensible academic discourse
full of Greek and Latin quotations. It would have proved the ruin of
the poor man had Ninon not come to his rescue, and explained to him
the difference between learning and love. After which he became
sensible and wrote some very good books.

It should be understood that Ninon had no secrets in which her merry
and wise "Birds" did not share. She confided to them all her love
affairs, gave them the names of her suitors, in fact, every wooer was
turned over to this critical, select society, as a committee of
investigation into quality and merit both of mind and body. In this
way she was protected from the unworthy, and when she made a
selection, they respected her freedom of choice, carefully guarding
her lover and making him one of themselves after the fitful fever was
over. They were all graduates in her school, good fellows, and had
accepted Ninon's philosophy without question.

Her lovers were always men of rank and station or of high talents, but
she was caught once by the dazzle of a famous dancer named Pécour, who
pleased her exceedingly, and who became the fortunate rival of the Duc
de Choiseul, afterward a marshal of France. It happened that Choiseul
was more remarkable for his valor than for his probity and solid
virtues, and could not inspire in Ninon's heart anything but the
sterile sentiments of esteem and respect. He was certainly worthy of
these, but he was too cold in his amorous desires to please Ninon.

"He is a very worthy gentleman," said she, "but he never gives me a
chance to love him."

The frequent visits of Pécour excited the jealousy of the warrior, but
he did not dare complain, not knowing whether things had reached a
climax and fearing that if he should mention the matter he might help
them along instead of stopping them. One day, however, he attempted to
goad his unworthy rival into some admission, and received a response
that was enough to settle his doubts.

Pécour was in the habit of wearing a costume much resembling that of
the military dandies of the period. Choiseul meeting him in this
equivocal garb, proceeded to be funny at his expense by putting to him
all sorts of ironical and embarrassing questions. But Pécour felt all
the vanity of a successful rival and was good natured. Then the Duke
began to make sneering remarks which roused the dancer's anger.

"Pray, what flag are you fighting under, and what body do you
command?" asked Monseigneur with a sarcastic smile.

Quick as a flash came the answer which gave the Duke an inkling into
the situation.

"Je commande un corps où vous servez depuis longtemps," replied


Ninon's Lovers--Continued

A counter attraction has been referred to in speaking of the Hôtel
Rambouillet, where a fashionable court was established for the purpose
of drawing away from Ninon the elite who flocked to her standard.
Mademoiselle de Scudery gives a fine description of this little court
at Rambouillet in her romance, entitled "Cyrus." There was not and
could not be any rivalry between the court in the Rue des Tournelles
and that at Rambouillet, for the reason that Ninon's coterie consisted
of men exclusively, while that of Rambouillet was thronged with women.
But this, quite naturally, occasioned much envy and jealousy among the
ladies who devised all sorts of entertainments to attract masculine
society. One of their performances was the famous "Julia Garland," so
named in honor of Mademoiselle de Rambouillet, who was known by the
name of "Julie d'Angennes." Each one selected a favorite flower, wrote
a sonnet in its praise, and when all were ready, they stood around
Mademoiselle de Rambouillet in a circle and alternately recited the
poem, the reward for the best one being the favor of some fair lady.
Among those who were drawn to the Hôtel Rambouillet by this pleasing
entertainment was the Duke d'Enghien, afterward known as the "Great
Condé," a prince of the highest renown as a victorious warrior. He
was a great acquisition, and the Garland Play was repeated every night
in the expectation that his pleasure would continue, and the constant
attraction prove adequate to hold him. Once or twice, however, was
sufficient for the Duke, its constant repetition becoming flat and
tiresome. He did not scruple to express his dissatisfaction with a
society that could not originate something new. He was a broad minded
man, with a comprehensive knowledge, but had little taste for poetry
and childish entertainments. But the good ladies of Rambouillet,
unable to devise any other entertainment, persisted in their Garland
Play, until the Duke's human nature rebelled at the monotony, and he
begged his friends de Moissens and Saint-Evremond to suggest some
relief. They immediately brought him in touch with the Birds of the
Tournelles, with the result that he abandoned the Hôtel Rambouillet
and found scope for his social desires at Ninon's house and in her
more attractive society. The conquest of his heart followed that of
his intelligence, the hero of Rocroi being unable to resist a
tenderness which is the glory of a lover and the happiness of his

It is a curious fact, known to some, that all the heroes of Bellona
are not expert in the wars of Venus, the strongest and most valiant
souls being weak in combats in which valor plays an unimportant part.
The poet Chaulieu says upon this point:

"Pour avoir la valeur d'Hercule,
On n'est pas obligé d'en avoir la vigueur."

(To have the valor of Hercules, one need not have his vigor.)

The young Prince was born to attain immortal glory on the field of
Mars. To that all his training had tended, but notwithstanding his
robust physique, and the indicia of great strength with which nature
had endowed him, he was a weakling in the field of Venus. He came
within the category of a Latin proverb with which Ninon was familiar:
"Pilosus aut fortis, aut libidinosus." (A hairy man is either strong
or sensual.) Wherefore, one day when Ninon was enjoying his society,
she looked at him narrowly and exclaimed: "Ah, Monseigneur, il faut
que vous soyez bien fort!" (Ah, Monseigneur, you must be very strong.)

Notwithstanding this, the two dwelt together for a long time in
perfect harmony, the intellectual benefit the Duke derived from the
close intimacy being no less than the pleasure he derived from her
affection. Naturally inclined to deserve the merit and esteem as well
as the love of her admirers, Ninon used all the influence she
possessed to regulate their lives and to inspire them with the true
desire to perform faithfully the duties of their rank and station.
What power over her intimates does not possess a charming woman
disembarrassed of conventional prudery, but vested with grace, high
sentiments, and mental attainments! It was through the gentle exercise
of this power that the famous Aspasia graved in the soul of Pericles
the seductive art of eloquent language, and taught him the most solid
maxims of politics, maxims of which he made so noble a use.

The young Duke, penetrated with love and esteem for Ninon, passed at
her side every moment he could steal away from the profound studies
and occupations required by his rank and position. Although he
afterward became the Prince de Condé, the Lion of his time, and the
bulwark of France, he never ceased expressing for her the liveliest
gratitude and friendship. Whenever he met her equipage in the streets
of Paris, he never failed to descend from his own and go to pay her
the most affectionate compliments.

The Prince de Marsillac, afterward the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, less
philosophical then than later in life, and who prided himself on his
acquaintance with all the vices and follies of youth, could not long
withhold his admiration for the solid and estimable qualities he
perceived in Ninon, whom he often saw in the company of the Duke
d'Enghein. The result of his admiration was that he formed a tender
attachment which lasted as long as he lived. It was Ninon who
continued the good work begun by Madame de La Fayette, who confessed
that her social relations with la Rochefoucauld had been the means of
embellishing her mind, and that in compensation for this great service
she had reformed his heart. Whatever share Madame de La Fayette may
have had in reforming the heart of this great man, it is certain that
Ninon de l'Enclos had much to do with reforming his morals and
elevating his mind up to the point it is evident he reached, to judge
from his "Maxims," in which the human heart is bared as with a scalpel
in the most skilfully devised epigrams that never cease to hold the
interest of every reader.

Chapelle, the most celebrated voluptuary in Paris, did everything in
his power to overcome Ninon's repugnance, but without success. There
was nothing lacking in his mental attainments, for he was a poet of
very high order, inimitable in his style; moreover, he was presentable
in his person. Yet he could not make the slightest impression on
Ninon's heart. He openly declared his love, and, receiving constant
rebuffs, resolved to have revenge and overcome her resistance by
punishing her. This he attempted to do in a very singular manner
without regard to consistency.

All Paris knew his verses in which he did not conceal his ardent love
for Ninon, and in which were expressed the highest admiration for her
estimable qualities and the depth of her philosophy. He now proceeded
to take back everything good he had said about her and made fun of her
love, her friendship, and her attainments. He ridiculed her in every
possible manner, even charging up against her beauty, her age. A verse
or so will enable the reader to understand his methods:

"Il ne faut pas qu'on s'étonne,
Si souvent elle raisonne
De la sublime vertu
Dont Platon fut revêtu:
Car à bien compter son âge,
Elle peut avoir vécu
Avec ce grand personnage."

Or, substantially in the English language:

Let no one be surprised,
If she should be advised
Of the virtue most renowned
In Plato to be found:
For, counting up her age,
She lived, 'tis reason sound,
With that great personage.

Ninon had no rancor in her heart toward any one, much less against an
unsuccessful suitor, hence she only laughed at Chapelle's effusions
and all Paris laughed with her. The truth is, la Rochefoucauld had
impressed her mind with that famous saying of his: "Old age is the
hell of women," and not fearing any hell, reference to her age neither
alarmed her, nor caused the slightest flurry in her peaceful life. She
was too philosophical to regret the loss of what she did not esteem of
any value, and saw Chapelle slipping away from her with tranquillity
of mind. It was only during moments of gayety when she abandoned
herself to the play of an imagination always laughing and fertile,
that she repeated the sacrilegious wish of the pious king of Aragon,
who wished that he had been present at the moment of creation, when,
among the suggestions he could have given Providence, he would have
advised him to put the wrinkles of old age where the gods of Pagandom
had located the feeble spot in Achilles.

If Ninon ever felt a pang on account of the ungenerous conduct of
Chapelle, his disciple, the illustrious Abbé de Chaulieu, the Anacreon
of the age, who was called, when he made his entrée into the world of
letters "the poet of good fellowship," more than compensated her for
the injury done by his pastor. The Abbé was the Prior of Fontenay,
whither Ninon frequently accompanied Madame the Duchess de Bouillon
and the Chevalier d'Orléans. The Duchess loved to joke at the expense
of the Abbé, and twit him about his wasted talents, which were more
adapted to love than to his present situation. It may be that the
worthy Abbé, after thinking over seriously what was intended to be a
mere pleasantry, concluded that Madame the Duchess was right, and that
he possessed some talent in the direction of love. However that might,
have been, it is certain that he had cast an observant and critical
eye on Ninon, and he now openly paid her court, not unsuccessfully it
should be known.

The Abbé Gedoyn was her last lover so far as there is any account of
her amours. The story is related by Remond, surnamed "The Greek," and
must be taken with a grain of salt as Ninon was at that time
seventy-nine years of age. This Remond, notwithstanding her age, had
made violent love to Ninon without meeting with any success. Perhaps
he was trying an experiment, being a learned man, anxious to ascertain
when the fire of passion became extinct in the human breast. Ninon
evidently suspected his ardent professions for she refused to listen
to him and forbade his visits altogether.

"I was the dupe of his Greek erudition," she explained, "so I banished
him from my school. He was always wrong in his philosophy of the
world, and was unworthy of as sensible a society as mine." She often
added to this: "After God had made man, he repented him; I feel the
same about Rémond."

But to return to the Abbé Gedoyn: he left the Jesuits with the Abbé
Fraguier in 1694, that is to say, when Mademoiselle de l'Enclos was
seventy-eight years of age. Both of them immediately made the
acquaintance of Ninon and Madame de la Salière, and, astonished at the
profound merit they discovered, deemed it to their advantage to
frequent their society for the purpose of adding to their talents
something which the study of the cloister and experience in the king's
cabinet itself had never offered them. Abbé Gedoyn became particularly
attached to Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, whose good taste and
intellectual lights he considered such sure and safe guides. His
gratitude soon received the additions of esteem and admiration, and
the young disciple felt the growth of desires which it is difficult to
believe were real, but which became so pressing, that they revived in
a heart nearly extinct a feeble spark of that fire with which it had
formerly burned. Mademoiselle de l'Enclos refused to accede to the
desires of her lover until she was fully eighty years of age, a term
which did not cool the ardor of the amorous Abbé, who waited
impatiently and on her eightieth birthday compelled his benefactress
to keep her word.

This incident recalls the testimony of a celebrated Countess of
Salisbury, who was called to testify as an expert upon the subject of
love in a celebrated criminal case that was tried over a hundred years
ago in the English House of Lords. The woman correspondent was of an
age when human passion is supposed to be extinct, and her counsel was
attempting to prove that fact to relieve her from the charge. The
testimony of the aged Countess, who was herself over seventy-five
years of age, was very unsatisfactory, and the court put this question
to her demanding an explicit answer.

"Madame," he inquired, "at what age does the sentiment, passion, or
desire of love cease in the female heart?"

Her ladyship, who had lived long in high society and had been
acquainted with all of the gallants and coquettes of the English court
for nearly two generations, and who, herself, had sometimes been
suspected of not having been averse to a little waywardness, looked
down at her feet for a moment thoughtfully, then raising her eyes and
locking squarely into those of the judge, answered:

"My Lord, you will have to ask a woman older than I."


The Villarceaux Affair

Party politics raged around Ninon, her "Birds" being men of high rank
and leaders with a large following. They were all her dearest friends,
however, and no matter how strong personal passion was beyond her
immediate presence, her circle was a neutral ground which no one
thought of violating. It required her utmost influence and tenderness,
however, to prevent outbreaks, but her unvarying sweetness of temper
and disposition to all won their hearts into a truce for her sake.
There were continual plots hatched against the stern rule of
Richelieu, cabals and conspiracies without number were entered upon,
but none of them resulted in anything. Richelieu knew very well what
was going on, and he realized perfectly that Ninon's drawing-rooms
were the center of every scheme concocted to drag him down and out of
the dominant position he was holding against the combined nobility of
France. But he never took a step toward suppressing her little court
as a hot-bed of restlessness, he rather encouraged her by his silence
and his indifference. Complaints of her growing coterie of uneasy
spirits brought nothing from him but: "As long as they find amusements
they are not dangerous." It was the forerunner of Napoleon's idea
along the same line: "We must amuse the people; then they will not
meddle with our management of the government."

It is preposterous to think of this minister of peace, this restless
prelate, half soldier, half pastor, meddling in all these cabals and
seditious schemes organized for his own undoing, but nevertheless, he
was really the fomenter of all of them. They were his devices for
preventing the nobility from combining against him. He set one cabal
to watch another, and there was never a conspiracy entered into that
he did not prepare a similar conspiracy through his numerous secret
agents and thus split into harmless nothings and weak attempts what
would have been fatal to a continuance of his power. His tricks were
nothing but the ordinary everyday methods of the modern ward
politician making the dear people believe he is doing one thing when
he is doing another. The stern man pitted one antagonist against
another until both sued for peace and pardon. The nobility were honest
in their likes and dislikes, but they did not understand double
dealings and therefore the craft of Richelieu was not even suspected.

Soon he corrupted by his secret intrigues the fidelity of the nobles
and destroyed the integrity of the people. Then it was, as Cyrano
says: "The world saw billows of scum vomited upon the royal purple and
upon that of the church." Vile rhyming poets, without merit or virtue,
sold their villainous productions to the enemies of the state to be
used in goading the people to riot. Obscene and filthy vaudevilles,
defamatory libels and infamous slanders were as common as bread, and
were hurled back and forth as evidence of an internecine strife which
was raging around the wearer of the Roman scarlet, who was thereby
justified in continuing his ecclesiastical rule to prevent the
wrecking of the throne.

Ninon had always been an ardent supporter of the throne, and on that
account imagined herself to be the enemy of Richelieu. There were many
others who believed the same thing. They did not know that should the
great Cardinal withdraw his hand for a single moment there would not
be any more throne. When the human hornets around him became annoying
he was accustomed to pretend to withdraw his sustaining hand, then the
throne would tremble and totter, but he always came to the rescue;
indeed, there was no other man who could rescue it. Cabals, plots, and
conspiracies became so thick around Ninon at one period that she was
frightened. Scarron's house became a rendezvous for the factious and
turbulent. Madame Scarron was aiming at the throne, that is, she was
opening the way to capture the heart of the king. This was too much
for Ninon, who was more modest in her ambitions, and she fled

The Marquis de Villarceaux received her with open arms at his château
some distance from Paris, and that was her home for three years. There
were loud protests at this desertion from her coterie of friends, and
numerous dark threats were uttered against the gallant Marquis who had
thus captured the queen of the "Birds," but Ninon explained her
reason in such a plausible manner that their complaints subsided into
good-natured growls. She hoped to prevent a political conflagration
emanating from her social circle by scattering the firebrands, and she
succeeded admirably. The Marquis was constantly with her, permitting
nobody to intervene between them, and provided her with a perpetual
round of amusements that made the time pass very quickly. Moreover,
she was faithful to the Marquis, so wonderful a circumstance that her
friend and admirer wrote an elegy upon that circumstance, in which he
draws a picture of the pleasures of the ancients in ruralizing, but
reproaches Ninon for indulging in a passion for so long a period to
the detriment of her other friends and admirers. But Ninon was happy
in attaining the summit of her desire, which was to defeat Madame
Scarron, her rival in the affections of the Marquis, keeping the
latter by her side for three whole years as has already been said.

However delighted Ninon may have been with this arrangement, the
Marquis, himself, did not repose upon a bed of roses. The jealousy of
the "Birds" gave him no respite, he being obliged in honor to respond
to their demands for an explanation of his conduct in carrying off
their leader, generally insisting upon the so-called field of honor as
the most appropriate place for giving a satisfactory answer. They even
invaded his premises until they forced him to make them some
concessions in the way of permission to see the object of their
admiration, and to share in her society. The Marquis was proud of his
conquest, the very idea of a three years' tête à tête with the most
volatile heart in France being sufficient to justify him in boasting
of his prowess, but whenever he ventured to do so a champion on the
part of Ninon always stood ready to make him either eat his words or
fight to maintain them.

Madame Scarron, whom he so basely deserted for the superior charms of
her friend Ninon, often gave him a bad quarter of an hour. When she
became the mistress of the king and, as Madame de Maintenon, really
held the reins of power, visions of the Bastile thronged his brain. He
knew perfectly well that he had scorned the charms of Madame Scarron,
who believed them irresistible, and that he deserved whatever
punishment she might inflict upon him. She might have procured a
lettre de cachet, had him immured in a dungeon or his head removed
from his shoulders as easily as order a dinner, but she did nothing to
gratify a spirit of revenge, utterly ignoring his existence.

Added to these trifling circumstances, trifling in comparison with
what follows, was the furious jealousy of his wife, Madame la
Marquise. She was violently angry and did not conceal her hatred for
the woman who had stolen her husband's affections. The Marquise was a
trifle vulgar and common in her manner of manifesting her displeasure,
but the Marquis, a very polite and affable gentleman, did not pay the
slightest attention to his wife's daily recriminations, but continued
to amuse himself with the charming Ninon.

Under such circumstances each was compelled to have a separate social
circle, the Marquis entertaining his friends with the adorable Ninon
as the center of attraction, and Madame la Marquise doing her best to
offer counter attractions. Somehow, Ninon drew around her all the most
desirable partis among the flower of the nobility and wits, leaving
the social circle managed by la Marquise to languish for want of
stamina. It was a constant source of annoyance to the Marquise to see
her rival's entertainments so much in repute and her own so poorly
attended, and she was at her wits' end to devise something that would
give them éclat. One of her methods, and an impromptu scene at one of
her drawing-rooms, will serve to show the reason why Madame la
Marquise was not in good repute and why she could not attract the
élite of Paris to her entertainments.

La Marquise was a very vain, moreover, a very ignorant woman, a
"nouvelle riche" in fact, or what might be termed in modern parlance
"shoddy," without tact, sense, or savoir faire. One day at a grand
reception, some of her guests desired to see her young son, of whom
she was very proud, and of whose talents and virtues she was always
boasting. He was sent for and came into the presence accompanied by
his tutor, an Italian savant who never left his side. From praising
his beauty of person, they passed to his mental qualities. Madame la
Marquise, enchanted at the caresses her son was receiving and aiming
to create a sensation by showing off his learning, took it into her
head to have his tutor put him through an examination in history.

"Interrogate my son upon some of his recent lessons in history," said
she to the tutor, who was not at all loth to show his own attainments
by the brilliancy of his pupil.

"Come, now, Monsieur le Marquis," said the tutor with alacrity, "Quem
habuit successorem Belus rex Assiriorum?" (Whom did Belus, king of the
Assyrians, have for successor?)

It so happened that the tutor had taught the boy to pronounce the
Latin language after the Italian fashion. Wherefore, when the lad
answered "Ninum," who was really the successor of Belus, king of the
Assyrians, he pronounced the last two letters "um" like the French
nasal "on," which gave the name of the Assyrian king the same sound as
that of Ninon de l'Enclos, the terrible bête noir of the jealous
Marquise. This was enough to set her off into a spasm of fury against
the luckless tutor, who could not understand why he should be so
berated over a simple question and its correct answer. The Marquise
not understanding Latin, and guided only by the sound of the answer,
which was similar to the name of her hated rival, jumped at the
conclusion that he was answering some question about Ninon de

"You are giving my son a fine education," she snapped out before all
her guests, "by entertaining him with the follies of his father. From
the answer of the young Marquis I judge of the impertinence of your
question. Go, leave my sight, and never enter it again."

The unfortunate tutor vainly protested that he did not comprehend her
anger, that he meant no affront, that there was no other answer to be
made than "Ninum," unfortunately, again pronouncing the word "Ninon,"
which nearly sent the lady into a fit of apoplexy with rage at hearing
the tabooed name repeated in her presence. The incensed woman carried
the scene to a ridiculous point, refusing to listen to reason or

"No, he said 'Ninon,' and Ninon it was."

The story spread all over Paris, and when it reached Ninon, she
laughed immoderately, her friends dubbing her "The successor of
Belus." Ninon told Molière the ridiculous story and he turned it to
profit in one of his comedies in the character of Countess

At the expiration of three years, peace had come to France after a
fashion, the cabals were not so frequent and the rivalry between the
factions not so bitter. Whatever differences there had been were
patched up or smoothed over. Ninon's return to the house in the Rue
des Tournelles was hailed with joy by her "Birds," who received her as
one returned from the dead. Saint-Evremond composed an elegy beginning
with these lines:

Chère Philis, qu'êtes vous devenues?
Cet enchanteur qui vous a retenue
Depuis trois ans par un charme nouveau
Vous retient-il en quelque vieux château?


The Marquis de Sévigné

It has been attempted to cast odium upon the memory of Mademoiselle de
l'Enclos because of her connection with the second Marquis de Sévigné,
son of the celebrated Madame de Sévigné, whose letters have been read
far and wide by those who fancy they can find something in them with
reference to the morals and practices of the court of Versailles
during her period.

The Marquis de Sévigné, by a vitiated taste quite natural in men of
weak powers, had failed to discover in a handsome woman, spirited,
perhaps of too jealous a nature or disposition to be esteemed, the
proper sentiments, or sentiments strong enough to retain his
affections. He implored Ninon to aid him in preserving her affections
and to teach him how to secure her love. Ninon undertook to give him
instructions in the art of captivating women's hearts, to show him the
nature of love and its operations, and to give him an insight into the
nature of women. The Marquis profited by these lessons to fall in love
with Ninon, finding her a thousand times more charming than his
actress or his princess. Madame de Sévigné's letter referring to the
love of her son for Ninon testifies by telling him plainly "Ninon
spoiled your father," that this passion was not so much unknown to
her as it was a matter of indifference.

The young Chevalier de Vassé often gave brilliant receptions in honor
of Ninon at Saint Cloud, which the Marquis de Sévigné always attended
as the mutual friend of both. De Vassé was well acquainted with
Ninon's peculiarities and knew that the gallantry of such a man as de
Sévigné was a feeble means of retaining the affections of a heart that
was the slave of nothing but its own fugitive desires. But he was a
man devoted to his friends and, being Epicurean in his philosophy, he
did not attempt to interfere with the affection he perceived growing
between Ninon and his friend. It never occurred to the Marquis that he
was guilty of a betrayal of friendship by paying court to Ninon, and
the latter took the Marquis' attentions as a matter of course without
considering the ingratitude of her conduct. She rather flattered
herself at having been sufficiently attractive to capture a man of de
Seine's family distinction. She had captured the heart of de Soigné,
the father, and had received so many animadversions upon her conduct
from Madame de Sévigné, that it afforded her great pleasure to "spoil"
the son as she had the father.

But her satisfaction was short-lived, for she had the chagrin to learn
soon after her conquest that de Sévigné had perished on the field of
honor at the hands of Chevalier d'Albret. Her sorrow was real, of
course, but the fire lighted by the senses is small and not enduring,
and when the occasion arises regret is not eternalized, besides there
were others waiting with impatience. His successful rival out of the
way, de Vassé supposed he had a clear field, but he did not attain his
expected happiness. He was no longer pleasing to Ninon and she did no:
hesitate to make him understand that he could never hope to win her
heart. According to her philosophy there is nothing so shameful in a
tender friendship as the art of dissimulation.

As has been said, much odium has been cast upon Mademoiselle de
l'Enclos in this de Sévigné matter. It all grew out of the dislike of
Madame de Sévigné for a woman who attracted even her own husband and
son from her side and heart, and for whom her dearest friends
professed the most intimate attachment. Madame de Grignan, the proud,
haughty daughter of the house of de Sévigné, did not scruple to array
herself on the side of Mademoiselle de l'Enclos with Madame de
Coulanges, another bright star among the noble and respectable
families of France.

"Women have the privilege of being weak," says Madame de Sévigné, "and
they make use of that privilege without scruple."

Women had never, before the time of Ninon, exercised their rights of
weakness to such an unlimited extent. There was neither honor nor
honesty to be found among them. They were common to every man who
attracted their fancy without regard to fidelity to any one in
particular. The seed sown by the infamous Catherine de Medici, the
utter depravity of the court of Charles IX, and the profligacy of
Henry IV, bore an astonishing supply of bitter fruit. The love of
pleasure had, so to speak, carried every woman off her feet, and there
was no limit to their abuses. Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, while devoting
herself to a life of pleasure, followed certain philosophical rules
and regulations which removed from the unrestrained freedom of the
times the stigma of commonness and conferred something of
respectability upon practices that nowadays would be considered
horribly immoral, but which then were regarded as nothing uncommon,
nay, were legitimate and proper. The cavaliers cut one another's
throats for the love of God and in the cause of religion, and the
women encouraged the arts, sciences, literature, and the drama, by
conferring upon talent, wit, genius and merit favors which were deemed
conducive as encouragements to the growth of intellect and

Ninon was affected by the spirit of the times, and being a woman, it
was impossible for her to resist desire when aided by philosophy and
force of example. Her intimacy with de Sévigné grew out of her attempt
to teach a young, vigorous, passionate man how to gain the love of a
cold-blooded, vain and conceited woman. Her letters will show the
various stages of her desires as she went along vainly struggling to
beat something like comprehension into the dull brain of a clod, who
could not understand the simplest principle of love, or the smallest
point in the female character. At last she resolved to use an argument
that was convincing with the brightest minds with whom she had ever
dealt, that is, the power of her own love, and if the Marquis had
lived, perhaps he might have become an ornament to society and an
honor to his family.

To do this, however, she violated her compact with de Vassé, betrayed
his confidence and opened the way for the animadversions of Madame de
Sévigné. At that time de Sévigné was in love with an actress,
Mademoiselle Champmêlé, but desired to withdraw his affections, or
rather transfer them to a higher object, a countess, or a princess, as
the reader may infer from his mother's hints in one of her letters to
be given hereafter. To Ninon, therefore, he went for instruction and
advice as to the best course to pursue to get rid of one love and on
with a new. Madame de Sévigné and Madame de La Fayette vainly implored
him to avoid Ninon as he would the pest. The more they prayed and
entreated, the closer he came to Ninon until she became his ideal.
Ninon, herself was captivated by his pleasant conversation, agreeable
manners and seductive traits. She knew that he had had a love affair
with Champmêlé, the actress, and when she began to obtain an
ascendency over his mind, she wormed out of him all the letters he had
ever received from the comedienne. Some say it was jealousy on Ninon's
part, but any one who reads her letters to de Sévigné will see between
the lines a disposition on his part to wander away after a new
charmer. Others, however, say that she intended to send them to the
Marquis de Tonnerre, whom the actress had betrayed for de Sévigné.

But Madame de Sévigné, to whom her son had confessed his folly in
giving up the letters, perhaps fearing to be embroiled in a
disgraceful duel over an actress, made him blush at his cruel
sacrifice of a woman who loved him, and made him understand that even
in dishonesty there were certain rules of honesty to be observed. She
worked upon his mind until he felt that he had committed a
dishonorable act, and when he had reached that point, it was easy to
get the letters away from Ninon partly by artifice, partly by force.
Madame de Sévigné tells the story in a letter to her daughter, Madame
de Grignan:

"Elle (Ninon) voulut l'autre jour lui faire donner des lettres de la
comedienne (Champmêlé); il les lui donna; elle en était jalouse; elle
voulait les donner à un amant de la princesse, afin de lui faire
donner quelque coups de baudrier. Il me le vint dire: je lui fis voir
que c'était une infamie de couper ainsi la gorge à une petite créature
pour l'avoir aimer; je representai qu'elle n'avait point sacrifié ses
lettres, comme on voulait lui faire croire pour l'animer. Il entra
dans mes raisons; il courut chez Ninon, et moitié par adresse, et
moitié par force, il retira les lettres de cette pauvre diablesse."

It was easy for a doting mother like Madame de Sévigné to credit
everything her son manufactured for her delectation. The dramatic
incident of de Sévigné taking letters from Ninon de l'Enclos partly by
ingenuity and partly by force, resembled his tale that he had left
Ninon and that he did not care for her while all the time they were
inseparable. He was truly a lover of Penelope, the bow of Ulysses
having betrayed his weakness.

"The malady of his soul," says his mother, "afflicted his body. He
thought himself like the good Esos; he would have himself boiled in a
caldron with aromatic herbs to restore his vigor."

But Ninon's opinion of him was somewhat different. She lamented his
untimely end, but did not hesitate to express her views.

"He was a man beyond definition," was her panegyric. "He possessed a
soul of pulp, a body of wet paper, and a heart of pumpkin fricasseed
in snow."

She finally became ashamed of ever having loved him, and insisted that
they were never more than brother and sister. She tried to make
something out of him by exposing all the secrets of the female heart,
and initiating him in the mysteries of human love, but as she said:
"His heart was a pumpkin fricasseed in snow."


A Family Tragedy

Some of Ninon's engagements following upon one another in quick
succession were the cause of an unusual disagreement, not to say
quarrel, between two rivals in her affections. A Marshal of France,
d'Estrées and the celebrated Abbé Deffiat disputed the right of
parentage, the dispute waxing warm because both contended for the
honor and could not see any way out of their difficulty, neither
consenting to make the slightest concession. Ninon, however, calmed
the tempest by suggesting a way out of the difficulty through the
hazard of the dice. Luck or good fortune for the waif declared in
favor of the warrior, who made a better guardian than the Abbé could
possibly have done, and brought him greater happiness.

Ninon surrendered all her maternal rights in the child to the worthy
Marshal, who became in reality a tender and affectionate father to the
waif, cared for him tenderly and raised him up to a good position in
life. He placed him in the marine service, where, as the Chevalier de
la Bossière, he reached the grade of captain of a vessel, and died at
an advanced age respected by his brother officers and by all who knew
him. He inherited some of the talents of his mother, particularly
music, in which he was remarkably proficient. His apartments at
Toulon, where he was stationed, were crowded with musical instruments
and the works of the greatest masters. All the musicians traveling
back and forth between Italy and France made his house their
headquarters. The Chevalier accorded them a generous welcome on all
occasions; the only return demanded was an exhibition of their
proficiency in instrumental music.

The happiness of this son solaced Ninon for his unfortunate birth, and
it would have been happy for her had she never had a second. But her
profound love for the Chevalier de Gersay overcame any scruples that
might have arisen in her mind against again yielding to the maternal
instinct, and another son came to her, one who was destined to meet a
most horrible fate and cause her the most exquisite mental torture.

This de Gersay, who was famous for the temerity of his passion for the
queen, Anne of Austria, a fact he announced from the housetops of
Paris in his delirium, was as happy as a king over the boy that came
to him so unexpectedly, and lavished upon him the most extravagant
affection. He took him to his heart and trained him up in all the
accomplishments taught those of the highest rank and most noble blood.
The boy grew up and received the name of Chevalier de Villiers,
becoming a credit to his father.

His mother was beyond sixty years of age when de Villiers began to
enter society, and her beauty was still remarkable according to the
chronicles of the times and the allusions made to it in the current
literature. She was as attractive in her appearance, and as lovable as
at twenty years of age, few, even among the younger habitués of her
drawing-rooms being able to resist the charms of her person. Her house
was thronged with the élite of French society, young men of noble
families being designedly sent into her society to acquire taste,
grace, and polish which they were unable to acquire elsewhere. Ninon
possessed a singular genius for inspiring men with high and noble
sentiments, and her schooling in the art of etiquette was marvelous in
its details and perfection. Her power was practically a repetition of
the history of the Empress Theodora, whose happy admirers and
intimates could be distinguished from all others by their exquisite
politeness, culture, finish and social polish. It was the same in
Ninon's school, the graduates of which occupied the highest rank in
letters, society, statesmanship, and military genius.

De Gersay intending his son to fill a high position in society and
public honors, sent him to this school, where he was received and put
upon the same footing as other youth of high birth, and was duly
trained with them in all the arts and accomplishments of refined
society. The young man was not aware of his parentage, de Gersay
having extracted a solemn promise from Mademoiselle de l'Enclos that
she would never divulge the secret of the youth's birth without his
father's express consent, a promise which resulted in the most
disastrous consequences.

Ninon, as mother of this handsome youth, admired him, and manifested a
tenderness which he misunderstood for the emotion of love, Ninon,
herself never contemplating such a fatality, and ended by becoming
enamored of his own mother. Ninon thought nothing of his passion,
believing that it would soon pass away, but it increased in intensity,
becoming a violent flame which finally proved irresistible, forcing
the youth to fall at his mother's feet and pour forth his passion in
the most extravagant language.

Alarmed at this condition of her son's heart, Ninon withdrew from his
society, refusing to admit him to her presence. Although the Chevalier
was an impetuous wooer, he was dismayed by the loss of his inamorata,
and begged for the privilege of seeing her, promising solemnly never
to repeat his declaration of love. Ninon was deceived by his
professions and re-admitted him to her society. Insensibly, however,
perhaps in despite of his struggle to overcome his amorous
propensities, the Chevalier violated the conditions of the truce.
Ninon, on the watch for a repetition of his former manifestations,
quickly perceived the return of a love so abhorrent to nature. His
sighs, glances, sadness when in her presence, were signs to her of a
passion that she would be compelled to subdue with a strong, ruthless

"Raise your eyes to that clock," she said to him one day, "and mark
the passing of time. Rash boy, it is sixty-five years since I came
into the world. Does it become me to listen to a passion like love?
Is it possible at my age to love or be loved? Enter within yourself,
Chevalier, and see how ridiculous are your desires and those you would
arouse in me."

All Ninon's remonstrances, however, tended only to increase the
desires which burned in the young man's breast. His mother's tears,
which now began to flow, were regarded by the youth as trophies of

"What, tears?" he exclaimed, "you shed tears for me? Are they wrung
from your heart by pity, by tenderness? Ah, am I to be blessed?"

"This is terrible," she replied, "it is insanity. Leave me, and do not
poison the remainder of a life which I detest."

"What language is this?" exclaimed the Chevalier. "What poison can the
sweetness of making still another one happy instill into the loveliest
life? Is this the tender and philosophic Ninon? Has she not raised
between us that shadow of virtue that makes her sex adorable? What
chimeras have changed your heart? Shall I tell you? You carry your
cruelty to the extent of fighting against yourself, resisting your own
desires. I have seen in your eyes a hundred times less resistance than
you now set against me. And these tears which my condition has drawn
from your eyes--tell me, are they shed through indifference or hate?
Are you ashamed to avow a sensibility which honors humanity?"

"Cease, Chevalier," said Ninon, raising her hand in protest, "the
right to claim my liveliest friendship rested with you, I thought you
worthy of it. That is the cause of the friendly looks which you have
mistaken for others of greater meaning, and it is also the cause of
the tears I shed. Do not flatter yourself that you have inspired me
with the passion of love. I can see too plainly that your desires are
the effect of a passing presumption. Come now, you shall know my
heart, and it should destroy all hope for you. It will go so far as to
hate you, if you repeat your protestations of blind tenderness. I do
not care to understand you, leave me, to regret the favors you have so
badly interpreted."

When Ninon learned that her son was plunged into despair and fury on
account of her rejection of his love, her heart was torn with sorrow
and she regretted that she had not at first told him the secret of his
birth, but her solemn promise to de Gersay had stood in her way. She
determined now to remedy the evil and she therefore applied to de
Gersay to relieve her from her promise. De Gersay advised her to
communicate the truth to her son as soon as possible to prevent a
catastrophe which he prophesied was liable to happen when least
expected. She accordingly wrote the Chevalier that at a certain time
she would be at her house in the Saint Antoine suburb and prayed him
to meet her there. The impassioned Chevalier, expecting nothing less
than the gratification of his desires, prepared himself with extreme
care and flew to the assignation. He was disconcerted, however, by
finding Ninon despondent and sad, instead of smiling and joyful with
anticipation. However, he cast himself at her feet, seized her hand
and covered it with tears and kisses.

"Unfortunate," cried Ninon submitting to his embraces, "there are
destinies beyond human prudence to direct. What have I not attempted
to do to calm your agitated spirit? What mystery do you force me to

"Ah, you are about to deceive me again," interrupted the Chevalier, "I
do not perceive in your eyes the love I had the right to expect. I
recognize in your obscure language an injustice you are about to
commit; you hope to cure me of my love, but disabuse yourself of that
fancy; the cruel triumph you seek to win is beyond the united strength
of both of us, above any imaginable skill, beyond the power of reason
itself. It seems to listen to nothing but its own intoxication, and at
the same time rush to the last extremity."

"Stop," exclaimed Ninon, indignant at this unreasoning folly, "this
horrible love shall not reach beyond the most sacred duties. Stop, I
tell you, monster that you are, and shudder with dismay. Can love
flourish where horror fills the soul? Do you know who you are and who
I am? The lover you are pursuing--"

"Well! That lover?" demanded the Chevalier.

"Is your mother," replied Ninon; "you owe me your birth. It is my son
who sighs at my feet, who talks to me of love. What sentiments do you
think you have inspired me with? Monsieur de Gersay, your father,
through an excess of affection for you, wished you to remain ignorant
of your birth. Ah, my son, by what fatality have you compelled me to
reveal this secret? You know to what degree of opprobrium the
prejudiced have put one of your birth, wherefore it was necessary to
conceal it from your delicacy of mind, but you would not have it so.
Know me as your mother, oh, my son, and pardon me for having given you

Ninon burst into a flood of tears and pressed her son to her heart,
but he seemed to be crushed by the revelations he heard. Pale,
trembling, nerveless, he dared not pronounce the sweet name of mother,
for his soul was filled with horror at his inability to realize the
relationship sufficiently to destroy the burning passion he felt for
her person. He cast one long look into her eyes, bent them upon the
ground, arose with a deep sigh and fled. A garden offered him a
refuge, and there, in a thick clump of bushes, he drew his sword and
without a moment's hesitation fell upon it, to sink down dying.

Ninon had followed him dreading some awful calamity, and there, in the
dim light of the stars, she found her son weltering in his blood, shed
by his own hand for love of her. His dying eyes which he turned toward
her still spoke ardent love, and he expired while endeavoring to utter
words of endearment.

Le Sage in the romance of Gil Blas has painted this horrible
catastrophe of Ninon de l'Enclos in the characters of the old woman
Inisilla de Cantarilla, and the youth Don Valerio de Luna. The
incident is similar to that which happened to Oedipus, the Theban who
tore out his eyes after discovering that in marrying Jocasta, the
queen, he had married his own mother. Le Sage's hero, however, mourns
because he had not been able to commit the crime, which gives the case
of Ninon's son a similar tinge, his self-immolation being due, not to
the horror of having indulged in criminal love for his own mother, but
to the regret at not having been able to accomplish his purpose.


Her Bohemian Environments

The daily and nightly doings at Ninon's house in the Rue des
Tournelles, if there is anything of a similar character in modern
society that can be compared to them, might be faintly represented by
our Bohemian circles, where good cheer, good fellowship, and freedom
from restraint are supposed to reign. There are, indeed, numerous
clubs at the present day styled "Bohemian," but except so far as the
tendency to relaxation appears upon the surface, they possess very few
of the characteristics of that society of "Birds" that assembled
around Mademoiselle de l'Enclos. They put aside all conventional
restraint, and the mental metal of those choice spirits clashed and
evolved brilliant sparks, bright rays of light, the luster of which
still glitters after a lapse of more than two centuries.

Personally, Ninon was an enemy of pedantry in every form, demanding of
her followers originality at all times on penalty of banishment from
her circle. The great writer, Mynard, once related with tears in his
eyes that his daughter, who afterward became the Countess de
Feuquières, had no memory. Whereat Ninon laughed him out of his

"You are too happy in having a daughter who has no memory; she will
not be able to make citations."

That her society was sought by very good men is evidenced by the grave
theologians who found her companionship pleasant, perhaps salutary. A
celebrated Jesuit who did not scruple to find entertainment in her
social circle, undertook to combat her philosophy and show her the
truth from his point of view, but she came so near converting him to
her tenets that he abandoned the contest remarking with a laugh:

"Well, well, Mademoiselle, while waiting to be convinced that you are
in error, offer up to God your unbelief." Rousseau has converted this
incident into an epigram.

The grave and learned clergy of Port Royal also undertook the labor of
converting her, but their labor was in vain.

"You know," she told Fontenelle, "what use I make of my body? Well,
then, it would be easier for me to obtain a good price for my soul,
for the Jansenists and Molinists are engaged in a competition of
bidding for it."

She was not bigoted in the least, as the following incident will show:
One of her friends refused to send for a priest when in extremis, but
Ninon brought one to his bedside, and as the clergyman, knowing the
scepticism of the dying sinner, hesitated to exercise his functions,
she encouraged him to do his duty:

"Do your duty, sir," she said, "I assure you that although our friend
can argue, he knows no more about the truth than you and I."

The key to Mademoiselle de l'Enclos' character is to be found in her
toleration and liberality. Utterly unselfish, she had no thoughts
beyond the comfort and, happiness of her friends. For them she
sacrificed her person, an astounding sacrifice in a woman, one for
which a multitude have suffered martyrdom for refusing to make, and
are cited as models of virtue to be followed. Yet, notwithstanding her
strange misapplication or perversion of what the world calls "female
honor," her world had nothing but the most profound respect and
admiration for her. It requires an extremely delicate pencil to sketch
such a character, and even then, a hundred trials might result in
failing to seize upon its most vivid lights and shades and bring out
its best points.

Standing out clearly defined through her whole life was a noble soul
that never stooped to anything common, low, debasing or vulgar.
Brought up from infancy in the society of men, taught to consider them
as her companions and equals, and treated by them as one of
themselves, she acquired a grace and a polish that made her society
desired by the proudest ladies of the court. There is no one in the
annals of the nations of the earth that can be compared to her. The
Aspasia of Pericles has been regarded by some as a sort of prototype,
but Aspasia was a common woman of the town, her thoughts were devoted
to the aggrandizement of one man, her love affairs were bestowed upon
an open market. On the contrary, Mademoiselle de l'Enclos never
bestowed her favors upon any but one she could ever after regard as an
earnest, unselfish friend. Their friendship was a source of delight to
her and she was Epicurean, in the enjoyment of everything that goes
with friendship.

Saint-Evremond likens her to Leontium, the Athenian woman, celebrated
for her philosophy and for having dared to write a book against the
great Theophrastus, a literary venture which may have been the reason
why Saint-Evremond gave Ninon the title. Ninon's heart was weak, it is
true, but she had early learned those philosophical principles which
drew her senses away from that portion of her soul, and her
environments were those most conducive to the cultivation of the
senses which are so easily led away into seductive paths. But however
far her love of pleasure may have led her, her philosophical ideas and
practices did not succeed in destroying or even weakening any other
virtue. "The smallest fault of gallant women," says de la
Rochefoucauld, "is their gallantry."

The distinguished Abbé Châteauneuf expresses a trait in her character
which drew to her side the most distinguished men of the period.

"She reserved all her esteem, all her confidence for friendship, which
she always regarded as a respectable liaison," says the Abbé, "and to
maintain that friendship she permitted no diminution or relaxation."

In other words she was constant and true, without whims or caprice.
The Comte de Segur, in his work on "Women, their Condition and
Influence in Society," says: "While Ninon de l'Enclos was fostering
and patronizing genius, and giving it opportunities to expand, Madame
de Sévigné was at the head of a cabal in opposition to genius, unless
it was measured upon her own standard. In her self-love she wrought
against Racine and sought to diminish the literary luster of Flèchier.
But with all her ability Madame de Sévigné possessed very little
genius or tact, and her lack of discrimination is apparent in the fact
that none of her protégés ever reached any distinction. Moreover, her
virtues must have been of an appalling character since they were not
strong enough to save her husband and son from falling into the
clutches of "That horrid woman," referring to Ninon.

Ninon certainly understood men; she divined them at the first glance
and provided for their bodily and intellectual wants. If they were
deemed worthy of her favors, she bestowed them freely, and out of one
animal desire gratified, there were created a thousand intellectual
aspirations. She understood clearly that man can not be all animal or
all spiritual, and that the attempt to divert nature from its duality
of being was to wreck humanity and make of man neither fish, flesh nor
fowl. Her constant prayer in her younger days, for the truth of which
Voltaire vouches, was:

"Mon Dieu, faîtes de moi un honnête homme, et n'en faîtes jamais une
honnête femme." (My God, make me an honest man, but never an honest

Count Segur, in his book already referred to, has this to say further
concerning Ninon:

"Ninon shone under the reign of Louis XIV like a graceful plant in its
proper soil. Splendor seemed to be her element. That Ninon might
appear in the sphere that became her, it was necessary that Turenne
and Condé should sigh at her feet, that Voltaire should receive from
her his first lessons, in a word, that in her illustrious cabinet,
glory and genius should be seen sporting with love and the graces."

Had it not been for the influence of Ninon de l'Enclos--there are many
who claim it as the truth--the sombre tinge, the veil of gloominess
and hypocritical austerity which surrounded Madame de Maintenon and
her court, would have wrecked the intellects of the most illustrious
and brightest men in France, in war, literature, science, and
statesmanship. Madame de Maintenon resisted that influence but the Rue
des Tournelles strove against Saint Cyr. The world fluctuated between
these two systems established by women, both of them--shall it be
said--courtesans? The legality and morality of our modern common law
marriages and the ease and frequency of trivial divorces forbid it.
Ninon prevailed, however, and not only governed hearts but souls. The
difference between the two courts was, the royal salon was thronged
with women of the most infamous character who had nothing but their
infamy to bestow, while the drawing rooms of Ninon de l'Enclos were
crowded with men almost exclusively, and men of wit and genius.

The moral that the majority of writers draw from the three courts that
occupied society at that time, the Rue des Tournelles, Madame de
Sévigné, and Versailles, is, that men demand human nature and will
have it in preference to abnormal goodness, and female debauchery.
Ninon never hesitated to declaim against the fictitious beauty that
pretended to inculcate virtue and morality while secretly engaged in
the most corrupt practices, but Molière came with his Précieuses
Ridicules and pulverized the enemies of human nature. Ninon did not
know Molière personally at that time but she was so loud in his praise
for covering her gross imitators with confusion, that Bachaumont and
Chapelle, two of her intimate friends, ventured to introduce the young
dramatist into her society. The father of this Bachaumont who was a
twin, said of him: "My son who is only half a man, wants to do as if
he were a whole one." Though only "half a man" and extremely feeble
and delicate, he became a voluptuary according to the ideas of
Chapelle, and by devoting himself to the doctrines of Epicurus, he
managed to live until eighty years of age. Chapelle was a drunkard as
has been intimated in a preceding chapter, and although he loved Ninon
passionately, she steadily refused to favor him.

Molière and Ninon were mutually attracted, each recognizing in the
other not only a kindred spirit, but something not apparent on the
surface. Nature had given them the same eyes, and they saw men and
things from the same view point. Molière was destined to enlighten his
age by his pen, and Ninon through her wise counsel and sage
reflections. In speaking of Molière to Saint-Evremond, she declared
with fervor:

"I thank God every night for finding me a man of his spirit, and I
pray Him every morning to preserve him from the follies of the heart."

There was a great opposition to Molière's comedy "Tartuffe." It
created a sensation in society, and neither Louis XIV, the prelates of
the kingdom and the Roman legate, were strong enough to withstand the
torrents of invectives that came from those who were unmasked in the
play. They succeeded in having it interdicted, and the comedy was on
the point of being suppressed altogether, when Molière took it to
Ninon, read it over to her and asked her opinion as to what had better
be done. With her keen sense of the ridiculous and her knowledge of
character, Ninon went over the play with Molière to such good purpose
that the edict of suppression was withdrawn, the opponents of the
comedy finding themselves in a position where they could no longer
take exceptions without confessing the truth of the inuendoes.

When the comedy was nearly completed, Molière began trying to think of
a name to give the main character in the play, who is an imposter. One
day while at dinner with the Papal Nuncio, he noticed two
ecclesiastics, whose air of pretended mortification fairly represented
the character he had depicted in the play. While considering them
closely, a peddler came along with truffles to sell. One of the pious
ecclesiastics who knew very little Italian, pricked up his ears at the
word truffles, which seemed to have a familiar sound. Suddenly coming
out of his devout silence, he selected several of the finest of the
truffles, and holding them out to the nuncio, exclaimed with a laugh:
"Tartuffoli, Tartuffoli, signor Nuncio!" imagining that he was
displaying his knowledge of the Italian language by calling out
"Truffles, truffles, signor Nuncio," whereas, what he did say was
"Hypocrites, hypocrites, Signor Nuncio." Molière who was always a
close and keen observer of everything that transpired around him,
seized upon the name "Tartuffe" as suitable to the hypocritical
imposter in his comedy.

Ninon's brilliancy was so animated, particularly at table, that she
was said to be intoxicated at the soup, although she rarely drank
anything but water. Her table was always surrounded by the wittiest of
her friends and her own flashes kept their spirits up to the highest
point. The charm of her conversation was equal to the draughts of
Nepenthe which Helen lavished upon her guests, according to Homer to
charm and enchant them.

One story told about Ninon is not to her credit if true, and it is
disputed. A great preacher arose in France, the "Eagle of the Pulpit,"
as he was called, or "The great Pan," as Madame de Sévigné, loved to
designate him. His renown for eloquence and piety reached Ninon's ears
and she conceived a scheme, so it is said; to bring this great orator
to her feet. She had held in her chains from time to time, all the
heroes, and illustrious men of France, and she considered Père
Bourdaloue worthy of a place on the list. She accordingly arrayed
herself in her most fascinating costume, feigned illness and sent for
him. But Père Bourdaloue was not a man to be captivated by any woman,
and, moreover, he was a man too deeply versed in human perversity to
be easily deceived. He came at her request, however, and to her
question as to her condition he answered: "I perceive that your malady
exists only in your heart and mind; as to your body, it appears to me
to be in perfect health. I pray the great physician of souls that he
will heal you." Saying which he left her without ceremony.

The story is probably untrue and grew out of a song of the times, to
ridicule the attempts of numerous preachers to convert Ninon from her
way of living. They frequented her social receptions but those were
always public, as she never trusted herself to any one without the
knowledge and presence of some of her "Birds," taking that precaution
for her own safety and to avoid any appearance of partiality. The song
referred to, composed by some unknown scribe begins as follows:

"Ninon passe les jours au jeu:
Cours où l'amour te porte;
Le prédicateur qui t'exhorte,
S'il était au coin de ton feu,
Te parlerait d'un autre sorte."


A Remarkable Old Age

When Ninon had reached the age of sixty-five years, there were those
among the beauties of the royal court who thought she ought to retire
from society and make way for them, but there appeared to be no
diminution of her capacity for pleasure, no weakening of her powers of
attraction. The legend of the Noctambule, or the little black man, who
appeared to Ninon when she was at the age of twenty years, and
promised her perpetual beauty and the conquest of all hearts, was
revived, and there was enough probability in it to justify a strong
belief in the story. Indeed, the Abbé Servien spread it about again
when Ninon was seventy years of age, and even then there were few who
disputed the mysterious gift as Ninon showed little change.

As old age approached, Ninon ceased to be regarded with that
familiarity shown her by her intimates in her younger days, and a
respect and admiration took its place. She was no longer "Ninon," but
"Mademoiselle de l'Enclos." Her social circle widened, and instead of
being limited to men exclusively, ladies eagerly took advantage of the
privilege accorded them to frequent the charming circle. That circle
certainly became celebrated. The beautiful woman had lived the life of
an earnest Epicurean in her own way, regardless of society's
conventionalities, and had apparently demonstrated that her way was
the best. She had certainly attained a long life, and what was more to
the purpose she had preserved her beauty and the attractions of her
person were as strong as when she was in her prime. Reason enough why
the women of the age thronged her apartments to learn the secret of
her life. Moreover, her long and intimate associations with the most
remarkable men of the century had not failed to impart to her, in
addition to her exquisite femininity, the wisdom of a sage and the
polish of a man of the world.

Madame de La Fayette, that "rich field so fertile in fruits," as Ninon
said of her, and Madame de la Sablière, "a lovely garden enameled with
eye-charming flowers," another of Ninon's descriptive metaphors,
passed as many hours as they could in her society with the illustrious
Duke de la Rochefoucauld, who, up to the time of his death honored
Ninon with his constant friendship and his devoted esteem. Even Madame
de Sévigné put aside her envy and jealousy and never wearied of the
pleasure of listening to the conversation of this wise beauty, in
company with her haughty daughter, Madame de Grignan, Madame de
Coulanges, Madame de Torp, and, strange to say, the Duchess de

Her friends watched over her health with the tenderest care and
affection, and even her slightest indisposition brought them around
her with expressions of the deepest solicitude. They dreaded losing
her, for having had her so long among them they hoped to keep her
always, and they did, practically, for she outlived the most of them.
As proof of the anxiety of her friends and the delight they
experienced at her recovery from the slightest ailment, one
illustration will suffice.

On one occasion she had withdrawn from her friends for a single
evening, pleading indisposition. The next evening she reappeared and
her return was celebrated by an original poem written by no less a
personage than the Abbé Regnier-Desmarais, who read it to the friends
assembled around her chair:

"Clusine qui dans tous les temps
  Eut de tous les honnêtes gens
  L'amour et l'estime en partage:
  Qui toujours pleine de bon sens
  Sut de chaque saison de l'âge
  Faire à propos un juste usage:
Qui dans son entretien, dont on fut enchanté
  Sut faire un aimable alliage
  De l'agreable badinage,
  Avec la politesse et la solidité,
  Et que le ciel doua d'un esprit droit et sage,
  Toujours d'intelligence avec la verité,
Clusine est, grâce au ciel, en parfaite santé."

Such a poem would not be accorded much praise nowadays, but the hearts
of her friends regarded the sentiments more than the polish, as a
substantial translation into English will serve to show appeared in
the lines:

Clusine who from our earliest ken
  Had from all good and honest men
  Love and esteem a generous share:
  Who knew so well the season when
  Her heritage of sense so rare
  To use with justice and with care:
Who in her discourse, friends enchanted all-around,
  Could fashion out of playful ware
  An alloy of enduring wear,
  Good breeding and with solid ground,
  A heavenly spirit wise and fair,
  With truth and intellect profound,
Clusine, thanks be to Heaven, her perfect health has found.

Her salon was open to her friends in general from five o'clock in the
evening until nine, at which hour she begged them to permit her to
retire and gain strength for the morrow. In winter she occupied a
large apartment decorated with portraits of her dearest male and
female friends, and numerous paintings by celebrated artists. In
summer, she occupied an apartment which overlooked the boulevard, its
walls frescoed with magnificent sketches from the life of Psyche. In
one or the other of these salons, she gave her friends four hours
every evening, after that retiring to rest or amusing herself with a
few intimates. Her friendship finds an apt illustration in the case of
the Comte de Charleval. He was always delicate and in feeble health,
and Ninon when he became her admirer in his youth, resolved to
prolong his life through the application of the Epicurian philosophy.
De Marville, speaking of the Count, whom no one imagined would survive
to middle age, says: "Nature, which gave him so delicate a body in
such perfect form, also gave him a delicate and perfect intelligence."
This frail and delicate invalid, lived, however, until the age of
eighty years, and was always grateful to Ninon for her tenderness. He
never missed a reception and sang her praises on every occasion.
Writing to Saint-Evremond to announce his death, Ninon, herself very
aged, says: "His mind had retained all the charms of his youth, and
his heart all the sweetness and tenderness of a true friend." She felt
the loss of this common friend, for she again writes of him afterward:
"His life and that I live had much in common. It is like dying oneself
to meet with such a loss."

It was at this period of her life that Ninon occupied her time more
than ever in endearing herself to her friends. As says Saint-Evremond:
"She contents herself with ease and rest, after having enjoyed the
liveliest pleasures of life." Although she was never mistress of the
invincible inclination toward the pleasures of the senses which nature
had given her, it appears that Ninon made some efforts to control
them. Referring to the ashes which are sprinkled on the heads of the
penitent faithful on Ash Wednesday, she insisted that instead of the
usual prayer of abnegation there should be substituted the words: "We
must avoid the movements of love." What she wrote Saint-Evremond
might give rise to the belief that she sometimes regretted her
weakness: "Everybody tells me that I have less to complain of in my
time than many another. However that may be, if any one had proposed
to me such a life I would have hanged myself." One of her favorite
maxims, however, was: "We must provide a stock of provisions and not
of pleasures, they should be taken as they come."

That her philosophical principles did not change, is certain from the
fact that she retained all her friends and gained new ones who flocked
to her reunions. Says Madame de Coulanges in one of her letters: "The
women are running after Mademoiselle de l'Enclos now as much as the
men used to do. How can any one hate old age after such an example."
This reflection did not originate with Ninon, who regretted little her
former pleasures, and besides, friendship with her had as many sacred
rights as love. From what Madame de Coulanges says, one might suppose
that the men had deserted Ninon in her old age, leaving women to take
their place, but Madame de Sévigné was of a different opinion. She
says: "Corbinelli asks me about the new marvels taking place at
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos' house in the way of good company. She
assembles around her in her old age, whatever Madame de Coulanges may
say to the contrary, both men and women, but even if women did not
flock to her side, she could console herself for having had men in her
young days to please."

The celebrated English geometrician, Huygens, visited Ninon during a
sojourn at Paris in the capacity of ambassador. He was so charmed
with the attractions of her person, and with her singing, that he fell
into poetry to express his admiration. French verses from an
Englishman who was a geometrician and not a poet, were as surprising
to Ninon and her friends as they will be to the reader. They are not
literature but express what was in the mind of the famous scientist:

"Elle a cinq instruments dont je suis amoureux,
Les deux premiers, ses mains, les deux autres, ses yeux;
Pour le dernier de tous, et cinquième qui reste,
Il faut être galant et leste."

In the year 1696, when Ninon had reached eighty, she had several
attacks of illness which worried her friends exceedingly. The Marquis
de Coulanges writes: "Our amiable l'Enclos has a cold which does not
please me." A short time afterward he again wrote: "Our poor l'Enclos
has a low fever which redoubles in the evening, and a sore throat
which worries her friends." These trifling ailments were nothing to
Ninon, who, though growing feeble, maintained her philosophy, as she
said: "I am contenting myself with what happens from day to day;
forgetting to-day what occurred yesterday, and holding on to a used up
body as one that has been very agreeable." She saw the term of her
life coming to an end without any qualms or fear. "If I could only
believe with Madame de Chevreuse, that by dying we can go and talk
with all our friends in the other world, it would be a sweet thought."

Madame de Maintenon, then in the height of her power and influence,
had never forgotten the friend of her youth, and now, she offered her
lodgings at Versailles. It is said that her intention was to enable
the king to profit by an intimacy with a woman of eighty-five years
who, in spite of bodily infirmities, possessed the same vivacity of
mind and delicacy of taste which had contributed to her great renown,
much more than her personal charms and frailties. But Ninon was born
for liberty, and had never been willing to sacrifice her philosophical
tranquility for the hope of greater fortune and position in the world.
Accordingly, she thanked her old friend, and as the only concession
she would grant, consented to stand in the chapel of Versailles where
Louis the Great could pass and satisfy his curiosity to see once, at
least, the astonishing marvel of his reign.

During the latter years of her life, she took a fancy to young
Voltaire, in whom she detected signs of future greatness. She
fortified him with her counsel, which he prayed her to give him, and
left him a thousand francs in her will to buy books. Voltaire
attempted to earn the money by ridiculing the memory of his

At the age of ninety years, Mademoiselle de l'Enclos grew feebler
every day, and felt that death would not be long coming. She performed
all her social duties, however, until the very end, refusing to
surrender until compelled. On the last night of her life, unable to
sleep, she arose, and at her desk wrote the following verses:

"Qu'un vain espoir ne vienne point s'offrir,
Qui puisse ébranler mon courage;
Je suis en age de mourir;
Que ferais-je ici davantage?"

(Let no vain hope now come and try,
My courage strong to overthrow;
My age demands that I shall die,
What more can I do here below?)

On the seventeenth of October, 1706, she expired as gently as one who
falls asleep.







The celebrated Abbé de Châteauneuf, in his "Dialogues on Ancient
Music," refers to Mademoiselle de l'Enclos under the name of
"Leontium," a name given her by le Maréchal de Saint-Evremond, and in
his eulogy upon her character, lays great stress on the genius
displayed in her epistolary style. After censuring the affectation to
be found in the letters of Balzac and Voiture, the learned Abbé says:

"The letters of Leontium, although novel in their form of expression,
although replete with philosophy, and sparkling with wit and
intelligence contain nothing stilted, or overdrawn.

"Inasmuch as the moral to be drawn from them is always seasoned with
sprightliness, and the spirit manifested in them, displays the
characteristics of a liberal and natural imagination, they differ in
nothing from personal conversation with her choice circle of friends.

"The impression conveyed to the mind of their readers is, that she is
actually conversing with them personally."

Mademoiselle de l'Enclos writes about the heart, love, and women.
Strange subjects, but no woman ever lived who was better able to do
justice to them. In her frame of mind, she could not see men without
studying their dispositions, and she knew them thoroughly, her
experience extending over a period of seventy-five years of intimate
association with men of every stamp, from the Royal prince to the
Marquis de Sévigné, the latter wearying her to such an extent that she
designated him as "a man beyond definition; with a soul of pulp, a
body of wet paper, and a heart of pumpkin fricasseed in snow," his own
mother, the renowned Madame de Sévigné, admitting that he was "a heart

Ninon took this weak Chevalier in charge and endeavored to make a man
of him by exposing his frailties, and, entering into a long
correspondence, to instruct him in the pathology of the female heart,
with which he was disposed to tamper on the slightest provocation. Her
letters will show that she succeeded finally in bringing him to
reason, but that in doing so, she was compelled to betray her own sex
by exposing the secret motives of women in their relations with men.

That she knew women as well as men, can not be disputed, for,
beginning with Madame de Maintenon and the Queen of Sweden, Christine,
down along the line to the sweet Countess she guards so successfully
against the evil designs of the Marquis de Sévigné, including Madame
de La Fayette, Madame de Sévigné, Madame de La Sablière, and the most
distinguished and prominent society women of France, they all were her
particular friends, as well as intimates, and held her in high esteem
as their confidante in all affairs of the heart.

No other woman ever held so unique a position in the world of society
as Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, and her letters to the Marquis de Sévigné
may, therefore, be considered as standards of the epistolary art upon
the subjects she treats; as containing the most profound insight into
the female heart where love is concerned, and as forming a study of
the greatest value in everything that pertains to the relations
between the sexes.

There is an entire absence of mawkish sentimentality, of effort to
conceal the secret motives and desires of the heart beneath specious
language and words of double meaning. On the contrary, they tear away
from the heart the curtain of deceit, artifice and treachery, to
expose the nature of the machinery behind the scenes.

These letters must be read in the light of the opinions of the wisest
philosophers of the seventeenth century upon her character.

"Inasmuch as the first use she (Mademoiselle de l'Enclos) made of her
reason, was to become enfranchised from vulgar errors, it is
impossible to be further removed from the stupid mistake of those who,
under the name of "passion," elevate the sentiment of love to the
height of a virtue. Ninon understood love to be what it really is, a
taste founded upon the senses, a blind sentiment, which admits of no
merit in the object which gives it birth, and which promises no
recompense; a caprice, the duration of which does not depend upon our
volition, and which is subject to remorse and repentance."





A Hazardous Undertaking.

What, I, Marquis, take charge of your education, be your guide in the
enterprise upon which you are about to enter? You exact too much of my
friendship for you. You ought to be aware of the fact, that when a
woman has lost the freshness of her first youth, and takes a special
interest in a young man, everybody says she desires to "make a
worldling of him." You know the malignity of this expression. I do not
care to expose myself to its application. All the service I am willing
to render you, is to become your confidante. You will tell me your
troubles, and I will tell you what is in my mind, likewise aid you to
know your own heart and that of women.

It grieves me to say, that whatever pleasure I may expect to find in
this correspondence, I can not conceal the difficulties I am liable to
encounter. The human heart, which will be the subject of my letters,
presents so many contrasts, that whoever lays it bare must fall into
a flood of contradictions. You think you have something stable in your
grasp, but find you have seized a shadow. It is indeed a chameleon,
which, viewed from different aspects, presents a variety of opposite
colors, and even they are constantly shifting. You may expect to read
many strange things in what I shall say upon this subject. I will,
however, give you my ideas, though they may often seem strange;
however, that shall be for you to determine. I confess that I am not
free from grave scruples of conscience, foreseeing that I can scarcely
be sincere without slandering my own sex a little. But at least you
will know my views on the subject of love, and particularly everything
that relates to it, and I have sufficient courage to talk to you
frankly upon the subject.

I am to dine to-night with the Marquis de la Rochefoucauld. Madame de
la Sablière and La Fontaine will also be guests. If it please you to
be one of us, La Fontaine will regale you with two new stories, which,
I am told, do not disparage his former ones. Come Marquis--But, again
a scruple. Have I nothing to fear in the undertaking we contemplate?
Love is so malicious and fickle! Still, when I examine my heart, I do
not feel any apprehension for myself, it being occupied elsewhere, and
the sentiments I possess toward you resemble love less than
friendship. If the worst should happen and I lose my head some day, we
shall know how to withdraw in the easiest possible manner.

We are going to take a course of morals together. Yes, sir, MORALS!
But do not be alarmed at the mere word, for there will be between us
only the question of gallantry to discuss, and that, you know, sways
morals to so high a degree that it deserves to be the subject of a
special study. The very idea of such a project is to me infinitely
risible. However, if I talk reason to you too often, will you not grow
weary? This is my sole anxiety, for you well know that I am a pitiless
reasoner when I wish to be. With any other heart than that which you
misunderstand, I could be a philosopher such as the world never knew.

Adieu, I await your good pleasure.


Why Love is Dangerous

I assure you, Marquis, I shall keep my word, and on all occasions, I
shall speak the truth, even though it be to my own detriment. I have
more stability in my disposition than you imagine, and I fear
exceedingly that the result of our intercourse may sometimes lead you
to think that I carry this virtue into severity. But you must remember
that I have only the external appearance of a woman, and that in mind
and heart I am a man. Here is the method that I wish to follow with
you. As I ask only to acquire information for myself before
communicating to you my ideas, my intention is to propound them to the
excellent man with whom we supped yesterday. It is true that he has
none too good an opinion of poor humanity. He believes neither in
virtue nor in spiritual things. But this inflexibility, mitigated by
my indulgence for human frailties, will give you, I believe, the kind
and the quantity of philosophy which is required in all intercourse
with women. Let us come to the gist of your letter.

Since your entrance into the world it has offered you nothing, you
say, of what you had imagined you would find there. Disgust and
weariness follow you everywhere. You seek solitude, and as soon as
you are enjoying it, it wearies you. In a word, you do not know to
what cause to attribute the restlessness which torments you. I am
going to save you the trouble, I am, for my burden is to speak my
thoughts on everything that may perplex you; and I do not know but you
will often ask me questions as embarrassing for me to answer as they
may have been for you to ask.

The uneasiness which you experience is caused only by the void in your
heart. Your heart is without love, and it is trying to make you
comprehend its wants. You have really what one calls the "need of
loving." Yes, Marquis, nature, in forming us, gave us an allowance of
sentiments which must expend themselves upon some object. Your age is
the proper period for the agitations of love; as long as this
sentiment does not fill your heart, something will always be wanting;
the restlessness of which you complain will never cease. In a word,
love is the nourishment of the heart as food is of the body; to love
is to fulfill the desire of nature, to satisfy a need. But if
possible, manage it so that it will not become a passion. To protect
you from this misfortune, I could almost be tempted to disprove the
counsel given you, to prefer, to the company of women capable of
inspiring esteem rather than love, the intercourse of those who pride
themselves on being amusing rather than sedate and prim. At your age,
being unable to think of entering into a serious engagement, it is not
necessary to find a friend in a woman; one should seek to find only
an amiable mistress.

The intercourse with women of lofty principles, or those whom the
ravages of time force into putting themselves forward only by virtue
of great qualities, is excellent for a man who, like themselves, is on
life's decline. For you, these women would be too good company, if I
dare so express myself. Riches are necessary to us only in proportion
to our wants; and what you would better do, I think, is to frequent
the society of those who combine, with agreeable figure, gentleness in
conversation, cheerfulness in disposition, a taste for the pleasures
of society, and strong enough not to be frightened by one affair of
the heart.

In the eyes of a man of reason they appear too frivolous, you will
say: but do you think they should be judged with so much severity? Be
persuaded, Marquis, that if, unfortunately, they should acquire more
firmness of character, they and you would lose much by it. You require
in women stability of character! Well, do you not find it in a
friend?--Shall I tell you what is in my mind? It is not our virtues
you need; but our playfulness and our weakness. The love which you
could feel for a woman who would be estimable in every respect, would
become too dangerous for you. Until you can contemplate a contract of
marriage, you should seek only to amuse yourself with those who are
beautiful; a passing taste alone should attach you to one of them: be
careful not to plunge in too deep with her; there can nothing result
but a bad ending. If you did not reflect more profoundly than the
greater part of young people, I should talk to you in an entirely
different tone; but I perceive that you are ready to give to excess, a
contrary meaning to their ridiculous frivolity. It is only necessary,
then, to attach yourself to a woman who, like an agreeable child,
might amuse you with pleasant follies, light caprices, and all those
pretty faults which make the charm of a gallant intercourse.

Do you wish me to tell you what makes love dangerous? It is the
sublime view that one sometimes takes of it. But the exact truth is,
it is only a blind instinct which one must know how to appreciate: an
appetite which you have for one object in preference to another,
without being able to give the reason for your taste. Considered as a
friendly intimacy when reason presides, it is not a passion, it is no
longer love, it is, in truth, a warm hearted esteem, but tranquil;
incapable of drawing you away from any fixed position. If, walking in
the footsteps of our ancient heroes of romance, you aim at great
sentiments, you will see that this pretended heroism makes of love
only a sad and sometimes fatal folly. It is a veritable fanaticism;
but if you disengage it from all that opinion makes it, it will soon
be your happiness and pleasure. Believe me, if it were reason or
enthusiasm which formed affairs of the heart, love would become
insipid, or a frenzy. The only means of avoiding these two extremes is
to follow the path I have indicated. You need only to be amused, and
you will find amusement only among the women I mention to you as
capable of it. Your heart wishes occupation, they are made to fill it.
Try my recipe and you will find it good--I made you a fair promise,
and it seems to me I am keeping my word with you exactly. Adieu, I
have just received a charming letter from M. de Saint-Evremond, and I
must answer it. I wish at the same time to propose to him the ideas
which I have communicated to you, and I shall be very much mistaken if
he does not approve of them.

To-morrow I shall have the Abbé de Châteauneuf, and perhaps Molière.
We shall read again the Tartuffe, in which some changes should be
made. Take notice, Marquis, that those who do not conform to all I
have just told you, have a little of the qualities of that character.


Why Love Grows Cold

In despite of everything I may say to you, you still stick to your
first sentiment. You wish a respectable person for a mistress, and one
who can at the same time be your friend. These sentiments would
undoubtedly merit commendation if in reality they could bring you the
happiness you expect them to; but experience teaches you that all
those great expectations are pure illusions. Are serious qualities the
only question in pastimes of the heart? I might be tempted to believe
that romances have impaired your mental powers. Poor Marquis! He has
allowed himself to become fascinated by the sublime talk common in
conversation. But, my dear child, what do you mean to do with these
chimeras of reason? I willingly tell you, Marquis: it is very fine
coin, but it is a pity that it can not enter into commercial

When you wish to begin housekeeping, look for a reliable woman, full
of virtue and lofty principles. All this is becoming to the dignity of
the marriage tie; I intended to say, to its gravity. But at present,
as you require nothing but a love affair, beware of being serious, and
believe what I tell you; I know your wants better than you yourself
know them. Men usually say that they seek essential qualities in those
they love. Blind fools that they are! How they would complain could
they find them! What would they gain by being deified? They need only
amusement. A mistress as reasonable as you require would be a wife for
whom you would have an infinite respect, I admit, but not a particle
of ardor. A woman estimable in all respects is too subduing,
humiliates you too much, for you to love her long. Forced to esteem
her, and even sometimes to admire her, you can not excuse yourself for
ceasing to love her. So many virtues are a reproach too discreet, too
tiresome a critic of our eccentricities, not to arouse your pride at
last, and when that is humbled, farewell to love. Make a thorough
analysis of your sentiments, examine well your conscience, and you
will see that I speak the truth. I have but a moment left to say


The Spice of Love

Do you know, Marquis, that you will end by putting me in a temper?
Heavens, how very stupid you are sometimes! I see it in your letter;
you have not understood me at all. Take heed; I did not say that you
should take for a mistress a despicable object. That is not at all my
idea. But I said that in reality you needed only a love affair, and
that, to make it pleasant, you should not attach yourself exclusively
to substantial qualities. I repeat it; when in love, men need only to
be amused; and I believe on this subject I am an authority. Traces of
temper and caprice, a senseless quarrel, all this has more effect upon
women, and retains their affection more than all the reason
imaginable, more than steadiness of character.

Someone whom you esteem for the justice and strength of his ideas,
said one day at my house, that caprice in women was too closely allied
to beauty to be an antidote. I opposed this opinion with so much
animation, that it could readily be seen that the contrary maxim was
my sentiment, and I am, in truth, well persuaded that caprice is not
close to beauty, except to animate its charms in order to make them
more attractive, to serve as a goad, and to flavor them. There is no
colder sentiment, and none which endures less than admiration. One
easily becomes accustomed to see the same features, however regular
they may be, and when a little malignity does not give them life or
action, their very regularity soon destroys the sentiment they excite.
A cloud of temper, even, can give to a beautiful countenance the
necessary variety, to prevent the weariness of seeing it always in the
same state. In a word, woe to the woman of too monotonous a
temperament; her monotony satiates and disgusts. She is always the
same statue, with her a man is always right. She is so good, so
gentle, that she takes away from people the privilege of quarreling
with her, and this is often such a great pleasure! Put in her place a
vivacious woman, capricious, decided, to a certain limit, however, and
things assume a different aspect. The lover will find in the same
person the pleasure of variety. Temper is the salt, the quality which
prevents it from becoming stale. Restlessness, jealousy, quarrels,
making friends again, spitefulness, all are the food of love.
Enchanting variety! which fills, which occupies a sensitive heart much
more deliciously than the regularity of behavior, and the tiresome
monotony which is called "good disposition."

I know how you men must be governed. A caprice puts you in an
uncertainty, which you have as much trouble and grief in dispelling as
though it were a victory obtained over a new object. Roughness makes
you hold your breath. You do not stop disputing, but neither do you
cease to conquer and to be conquered. In vain does reason sigh. You
can not comprehend how such an imp manages to subjugate you so
tyrannically. Everything tells you that the idol of your heart is a
collection of caprices and follies, but she is a spoiled child, whom
you can not help but love. The efforts which reflection causes you to
make to loosen them, serve only to forge still tighter your chains;
for love is never so strong as when you believe it ready to break away
in the heat of a quarrel. It loves, it storms; with it, everything is
convulsive. Would you reduce it to rule? It languishes, it expires. In
a word, this is what I wanted to say; do not take for a mistress a
woman who has only reliable qualities; but one who is sometimes
dominated by temper, and silences reason; otherwise I shall say that
it is not a love affair you want, but to set up housekeeping.


Love and Temper

Oh, I agree with you, Marquis, a woman who has only temper and
caprices is very thorny for an acquaintance and in the end only
repels. I agree again that these irregularities must make of love a
never ending quarrel, a continual storm. Therefore, it is not for a
person of this character that I advise you to form an attachment. You
always go beyond my ideas. I only depicted to you in my last letter an
amiable woman, one who becomes still more so by a shade of diversity,
and you speak only of an unpleasant woman, who has nothing but
ungracious things to say. How we have drifted away from the point!

When I spoke of temper I only meant the kind which gives a stronger
relish, anxiety, and a little jealousy: that, in a word, which springs
from love alone, and not from natural brutality, that roughness which
one ordinarily calls "bad temper." When it is love which makes a woman
rough, when that alone is the cause of her liveliness, what sort can
the lover be who has so little delicacy as to complain of it? Do not
these errors prove the violence of passion? For myself, I have always
thought that he who knew how to keep himself within proper bounds,
was moderately amorous. Can one be so, in effect, without allowing
himself to be goaded by the fire of a devouring impetuosity, without
experiencing all the revolutions which it necessarily occasions? No,
undoubtedly. Well! who can see all these disturbances in a beloved
object without a secret pleasure? While complaining of its injustice
and its transports, one feels no less deliciously at heart that he is
loved, and with passion, and that these same aggravations are most
convincing proofs that it is voluntary.

There, Marquis, is what constitutes the secret charm of the troubles
which lovers sometimes suffer, of the tears they shed. But if you are
going to believe that I wished to tell you that a woman of bad temper,
capricious, can make you happy, undeceive yourself. I said, and I
shall always persist in my idea, that diversity is necessary,
caprices, bickerings, in a gallant intercourse, to drive away
weariness, and to perpetuate the strength of it. But consider that
these spices do not produce that effect except when love itself is the
source. If temper is born of a natural brusqueness, or of a restless,
envious, unjust disposition, I am the first one to say that such a
woman will become hateful, she will be the cause of disheartening
quarrels. A connection of the heart becomes then a veritable torment,
from which it is desirable to free oneself as quickly as possible.


Certain Maxims Concerning Love

You think, then, Marquis, that you have brought up an invincible
argument, when you tell me that one is not the master of his own
heart, in disposing of it where he wishes, and that consequently you
are not at liberty to choose the object of your attachment? Morals of
the opera! Abandon this commonplace to women who expect, in saying so,
to justify their weaknesses. It is very necessary that they should
have something to which to cling: like the gentleman of whom our
friend Montaigne speaks who, when the gout attacked him, would have
been very angry if he had not been able to say: "Cursed ham!" They say
it is a sympathetic stroke. That is too strong for me. Is anyone
master of his heart? He is no longer permitted to reply when such good
reasons are given. They have even so well sanctioned these maxims that
they wish to attract everyone to their arms in order to try to
overcome them. But these same maxims find so much approbation only
because everyone is interested in having them received. No one
suspects that such excuses, far from justifying caprices, may be a
confession that one does not wish to correct them.

For myself, I take the liberty of being of a different opinion from
the multitude. It is enough for me that it is not impossible to
conquer one's inclination to condemn all those who are unreasonable or
dishonorable. Dear me! Have we not seen women succeed in destroying in
their hearts a weakness which has taken them by surprise, as soon as
they have discovered that the object of their affections was unworthy
of them? How often have they stifled the most tender affection, and
sacrificed it to the conventionalities of an establishment? Rest,
time, absence, are remedies which passion, however ardent one may have
supposed it, can never resist; insensibly it weakens, and dies all at
once. I know that to withdraw honorably from such a liaison requires
all the strength of reason. I comprehend still more, that the
difficulties you imagine stand in the way of maintaining a victory, do
not leave you enough courage to undertake it; so that, although I may
say that there are no invincible inclinations in the speculation, I
will admit that there are few of them to be vanquished by practice;
and it happens so, only because one does not like to attempt without
success. However that may be, on the whole, I imagine that there being
here only a question of gallantry, it would be folly to put you to the
torture, in order to destroy the inclination which has seized upon you
for a woman more or less amiable; but also, because you are not
smitten with anyone, I persist in saying that I was right in
describing to you the character which I believed would be the most
capable of making you happy.

It is without doubt to be desired, that delicate sentiments, real
merit, should have more power over our hearts, and that they might be
able to occupy them and find a permanent place there forever. But
experience proves that this is not so. I do not reason from what you
should be, but from what you really are. My intention is to give you a
knowledge of the heart such as it is, and not what it ought to be. I
am the first one to regret the depravity of your taste, however
indulgent I may be to your caprices. But not being able to reform the
vices of the heart, I would at least teach you to draw out of them
whatever good you can. Not being able to render you wise, I try to
make you happy. It is an old saying: to wish to destroy the passions
would be to undertake our annihilation. It is only necessary to
regulate them. They are in our hands like the poison in a pharmacy;
compounded by a skillful chemist they become beneficent remedies.


Women Expect a Quid Pro Quo From Men

Oh, who doubts, Marquis, that it may be only by essential qualities
that you can succeed in pleasing women? It is simply a question of
knowing what meaning you attach to this expression. Do you call
essential qualities, worth, firmness of character, precision of
judgment, extent of learning, prudence, discretion, how can I tell the
number of virtues which often embarrass you more than they make you
happy? Our minds are not in accord upon this matter. Reserve all the
qualities I have specified for the intercourse you are obliged to have
with men, they are quite proper under such circumstances. But when it
comes to gallantry, you will have to change all such virtues for an
equal number of charming traits; those that captivate, it is the only
coin that passes current in this country; it is the only merit, and
you must be on your guard against calling it spurious money. It may be
that true merit consists less in real perfection than in that which
the world requires. It is far more advantageous to possess the
qualities agreeable to those whom we desire to please, than to have
those we believe to be estimable. In a word, we must imitate the
morals and even the caprices of those with whom we associate, if we
expect to live in peace with them.

What is the destiny of women? What is their rôle on earth? It is to
please. Now, a charming figure, personal graces, in a word, all the
amiable and brilliant qualities are the only means of succeeding in
that role. Women possess them to a superlative degree, and it is in
these qualities that they wish men to resemble them. It will be vain
for you to accuse them of frivolity, for they are playing the beauty
rôle, since they are destined to make you happy. Is it not, indeed,
due to the charm of our companionship, to the gentleness of our
manners, that you owe your most satisfying pleasures, your social
virtues, in fact, your whole happiness? Have some good faith in this
matter. Is it possible for the sciences of themselves, the love of
glory, valor, nay, even that friendship of which you boast so much, to
make you perfectly happy? The pleasure you draw from any of them, can
it be keen enough to make you feel happy? Certainly not. None of them
have the power to relieve you from a wearisome monotony which crushes
you and makes you an object of pity.

It is women who have taken upon themselves to dissipate these mortal
languors by the vivacious gayety they inject into their society; by
the charms they know so well how to lavish where they will prove
effectual. A reckless joy, an agreeable delirium, a delicious
intoxication, are alone capable of awakening your attention, and
making you understand that you are really happy, for, Marquis, there
is a vast difference between merely enjoying happiness and relishing
the sensation of enjoying it. The possession of necessary things does
not make a man comfortable, it is the superfluous which makes him
rich, and which makes him feel that he is rich.

It is not because you possess superior qualities that you are a
pleasant companion, it may be a real defect which is essential to you.
To be received with open arms, you must be agreeable, amusing,
necessary to the pleasure of others. I warn you that you can not
succeed in any other manner, particularly with women. Tell me, what
would you have me do with your learning, the geometry of your mind,
with the precision of your memory, etc.? If you have only such
advantages, Marquis, if you have no charming accomplishments to offset
your crudity--I can vouch for their opinion--far from pleasing women,
you will seem to them like a critic of whom they will be afraid, and
you will place them under so much constraint, that the enjoyment they
might have permitted themselves in your society will be banished. Why,
indeed, try to be amiable toward a man who is a source of anxiety to
you by his nonchalance, who does not unbosom himself? Women are not at
their ease except with those who take chances with them, and enter
into their spirit. In a word, too much circumspection gives others a
chill like that felt by a man who goes out of a warm room into a cold
wind. I intended to say that habitual reserve locks the doors of the
hearts of those who associate with us; they have no room to expand.

You must also bear this in mind, Marquis, that in cases of gallantry,
your first advances must be made under the most favorable
circumstances. You must have read somewhere, that one pleases more by
agreeable faults than by essential qualities. Great virtues are like
pieces of gold of which one makes less use than of ordinary currency.

This idea calls to my mind those people who, in place of our kind of
money, use shells as their medium of exchange. Well, do you imagine
that these people are not so rich as we with all the treasures of the
new world? We might, at first blush, take this sort of wealth as
actual poverty, but we should be quickly undeceived upon reflection,
for metals have no value except in opinion. Our gold would be false
money to those people. Now, the qualities you call essential are not
worth any more in cases of gallantry, where only pebbles are
sufficient. What matters the conventional mark provided there is

Now, this is my conclusion: If it be true, as you can not doubt, that
you ought not to expect happiness except from an interchange of
agreeable qualities in women, you may be sure that you will never
please them unless you possess advantages similar to theirs. I stick
to the point. You men are constantly boasting about your science, your
firmness, etc., but tell me, how weary would you not be, how disgusted
even, with life, if, always logical, you were condemned to be forever
learned and sordid, to live only in the company of philosophers? I
know you, you would soon become weary of admiration for your good
qualities, and the way you are made, you would rather do without
virtue than pleasure. Do not amuse yourself, then, by holding
yourself out as a man with great qualities in the sense you consider
them. True merit is that which is esteemed by those we aim to please.
Gallantry has its own laws, and Marquis, amiable men are the sages of
this world.


The Necessity for Love and Its Primitive Cause.

This time, Marquis, you have not far to go, your hour has come. The
diagnosis you give me of your condition tells me that you are in love.
The young widow you mention is certainly capable of rousing an
inspiration in your heart. The Chevalier de ---- has given me a very
favorable portrait of her. But scarcely do you begin to feel a few
scruples, than you turn into a crime the advice I have been giving
you. The disorder which love brings to the soul, and the other evils
which follow in its train, appear to you, so you say, more to be
feared than the pleasures it gives are to be desired.

It is true that some very good people are of the opinion that the
sorrows of love are about equal to its pleasures, but without entering
upon a tiresome discussion to ascertain whether they are right or
wrong, if you would have my opinion, here it is: Love is a passion
which is neither good nor bad of itself; it is only those who are
affected by it that determine whether it is good or bad. All that I
shall say in its favor is, that it gives us an advantage with which
any of the discomforts of life can not enter into comparison. It drags
us out of the rut, it stirs us up, and it is love which satisfies one
of our most pressing wants. I think I have already told you that our
hearts are made for emotion; to excite it therefore, is to satisfy a
demand of nature. What would vigorous youth be without love? A long
illness: it would not be existence, it would be vegetating. Love is to
our hearts what winds are to the sea. They grow into tempests, true;
they are sometimes even the cause of shipwrecks. But the winds render
the sea navigable, their constant agitation of its surface is the
cause of its preservation, and if they are often dangerous, it is for
the pilot to know how to navigate in safety.

But I have wandered from my text, and return to it. Though I shock
your sensitive delicacy by my frank speaking, I shall add, that
besides the need of having our emotions stirred, we have in connection
with them a physical machinery, which is the primitive cause and
necessity of love. Perhaps it is not too modest for a woman to use
such language to you, but you will understand that I would not talk to
every one so plainly. We are not engaged in what may be called "nice"
conversation, we are philosophizing. If my discussions seem to you to
be sometimes too analytical for a woman, remember what I told you in
my last letter. From the time I was first able to reason, I made up my
mind to investigate and ascertain which of the two sexes was the more
favored. I saw that men were not at all stinted in the distribution of
the roles to be played, and I therefore became a man.

If I were you, I would not investigate whether it be a good or a bad
thing to fall in love. I would prefer to have you ask whether it is
good or bad to be thirsty; or, that it be forbidden to give one a
drink because there are men who become intoxicated. Inasmuch as you
are not at liberty to divest yourself of an appetite belonging to the
mechanical part of your nature, as could our ancient romancers, do not
ruin yourself by speculating and meditating on the greater or less
advantages in loving. Take love as I have advised you to take it, only
do not let it be to you a passion, only an amusement.

I understand what you are going to say: you are going to overwhelm me
again with your great principles, and tell me that a man has not
sufficient control over his feelings to stop when he would. Pooh! I
regard those who talk in that fashion in the same light as the man,
who believes he is in honor bound to show great sorrow on the occasion
of a loss or accident, which his friends consider great, but which is
nothing to him. Such a man feels less than any one the need of
consolation, but he finds pleasure in showing his tears. He rejoices
to know that he possesses a heart capable of excessive emotion, and
this softens it still more. He feeds it with sorrow, he makes an idol
of it, and offers it incense so often that he acquires the habit. All
such admirers of great and noble sentiments, spoiled by romances or by
prudes, make it a point of honor to spiritualize their passion. By
force of delicate treatment, they become all the more infatuated with
it, as they deem it to be their own work, and they fear nothing so
much as the shame of returning to common sense and resuming their

Let us take good care, Marquis, not to make ourselves ridiculous in
this way. This fashion of straining our intelligence is nothing more,
in the age in which we are living, than playing the part of fools. In
former times people took it into their heads that love should be
something grave, they considered it a serious matter, and esteemed it
only in proportion to its dignity. Imagine exacting dignity from a
child! Away would go all its graces, and its youth would soon become
converted into old age. How I pity our good ancestors! What with them
was a mortal weariness, a melancholy frenzy, is with us a gay folly, a
delicious delirium. Fools that they were, they preferred the horrors
of deserts and rocks, to the pleasures of a garden strewn with
flowers. What prejudices the habit of reflection has brought upon us!

The proof that great sentiments are nothing but chimeras of pride and
prejudice, is, that in our day, we no longer witness that taste for
ancient mystic gallantry, no more of those old fashioned gigantic
passions. Ridicule the most firmly established opinions, I will go
further, deride the feelings that are believed to be the most natural
and soon both will disappear, and men will stand amazed to see that
ideas for which they possessed a sort of idolatry, are in reality
nothing but trifles which pass away like the ever changing fashions.

You will understand, then, Marquis, that it is not necessary to
acquire the habit of deifying the fancy you entertain for the
Countess. You will know, at last, that love to be worthy of the name,
and to make us happy, far from being treated as a serious affair,
should be fostered lightly, and above all with gayety. Nothing can
make you understand more clearly the truth of what I am telling you,
than the result of your adventure, for I believe the Countess to be
the last woman in the world to harbor a sorrowful passion. You, with
your high sentiments will give her the blues, mark what I tell you.

My indisposition continues, and I would feel like telling you that I
never go out during the day, but would not that be giving you a
rendezvous? If, however, you should come and give me your opinion of
the "Bajazet" of Racine, you would be very kind. They say that the
Champmesle has surpassed herself.

I have read over this letter, Marquis, and the lecture it contains
puts me out of humor with you. I recognize the fact that truth is a
contagious disease. Judge how much of it goes into love, since you
bestow it even upon those who aim to undeceive you. It is quite
strange, that in order to prove that love should be treated with
levity, it was necessary to assume a serious tone.


Love is a Natural Inclination

So you have taken what I said about love in my last letter as a crime?
I have blasphemed love; I have degraded it by calling it a
"necessity?" You have such noble thoughts, Marquis. What is passing in
your mind is proof of it. You can not realize, or imagine anything
less than the pure and delicate sentiments which fill your heart. To
see the Countess, hold sweet discourse with her, listen to the sound
of her gentle voice, dance attendance upon her, that is the height of
your desires, it is your supreme happiness. Far from you are those
vulgar sentiments which I unworthily substitute for your sublime
metaphysics; sentiments created for worldly souls occupied solely with
sensual pleasures. What a mistake I made! Could I imagine that the
Countess was a woman to be captured by motives so little worthy of
her? To raise the suspicion in her mind that you possessed such views,
would it not inevitably expose you to her hate, her scorn, etc.?

Are not these the inconveniences which my morality leads you to
apprehend? My poor Marquis! you are yourself deceived by your
misunderstanding of the real cause of your sentiments. Give me all
your attention: I wish to draw you away from error, but in a manner
that will best accord with the importance of what I am about to say. I
mount the tribune; I feel the presence of the god who inspires me. I
rub my forehead with the air of a person who meditates on profound
truths, and who is going to utter great thoughts. I am going to reason
according to rule.

Men, I know not by what caprice, have attached shame to the indulgence
of that reciprocal inclination which nature has bestowed upon both
sexes. They knew, however, that they could not entirely stifle its
voice, so what did they do to relieve themselves of their
embarrassment? They attempted to substitute the mere shell of an
affection wholly spiritual for the humiliating necessity of appearing
in good faith to satisfy a natural want. Insensibly, they have grown
accustomed to meddle with a thousand little sublime nothings connected
with it, and as if that were not enough, they have at last succeeded
in establishing the belief that all these frivolous accessories, the
work of a heated imagination, constitute the essence of the
inclination. There you are; love erected into a fine virtue; at least
they have given it the appearance of a virtue. But let us break
through this prestige and cite an example.

At the beginning of their intercourse, lovers fancy themselves
inspired by the noblest and most delicate sentiments. They exhaust
their ingenuity, exaggerations, the enthusiasm of the most exquisite
metaphysics; they are intoxicated for a time with the idea that their
love is a superior article. But let us follow them in their liaison:
Nature quickly recovers her rights and re-assumes her sway; soon,
vanity, gorged with the display of an exaggerated purpose, leaves the
heart at liberty to feel and express its sentiments without restraint,
and dissatisfied with the pleasures of love, the day comes when these
people are very much surprised to find themselves, after having
traveled around a long circuit, at the very point where a peasant,
acting according to nature, would have begun. And thereby hangs a

A certain Honesta, to give her a fictitious name, in whose presence I
was one day upholding the theory I have just been maintaining, became

"What!" she exclaimed in a transport of indignation, "do you pretend,
Madame, that a virtuous person, one who possesses only honest
intentions, such as marriage, is actuated by such vulgar motives? You
would believe, in that case, that I, for instance, who 'par vertu,'
have been married three times, and who, to subdue my husbands, have
never wished to have a separate apartment, that I only acted thus to
procure what you call pleasure? Truly you would be very much mistaken.
Indeed, never have I refused to fulfill the duties of my state, but I
assure you that the greater part of the time, I yielded to them only
through complaisance, or as a distraction, always with regret at the
importunities of men. We love men and marry them because they have
certain qualities of mind and heart; and no woman, with the exception
of those, perhaps, whom I do not care to name, even attaches any
importance to other advantages----"

I interrupted her, and more through malice than good taste, carried
the argument to its logical conclusion. I made her see that what she
said was a new proof of my contention:

"The reasons you draw from the legitimate views of marriage," said I,
"prove that those who hold them, fend to the same end as two ordinary
lovers, perhaps, even in better faith, with this difference only, that
they wish an extra ceremony attached to it."

This shot roused the indignation of my adversary.

"You join impiety to libertinage," said she, moving away from me.

I took the liberty of making some investigations, and would you
believe it, Marquis? This prude so refined, had such frequent
'distractions' with her three husbands, who were all young and
vigorous, that she buried them in a very short time.

Come now, Marquis, retract your error; abandon your chimera, reserve
delicacy of sentiment for friendship; accept love for what it is. The
more dignity you give it, the more dangerous you make it; the more
sublime the idea you form of it, the less correct it is. Believe de la
Rochefoucauld, a man who knows the human heart well: "If you expect to
love a woman for love of herself," says he, "you will be much


The Sensation of Love Forms a Large Part of a Woman's Nature

The commentaries the Countess has been making you about her virtue,
and the refinement she expects in a lover, have certainly alarmed you.
You think she will always be as severe as she now appears to you. All
I have told you does not reassure you. You even esteem it a favor to
me that you stop with doubting my principles. If you dared you would
condemn them entirely. When you talk to me in that fashion, I feel at
liberty to say that I believe you. It is not your fault if you do not
see clearly into your own affair, but in proportion as you advance,
the cloud will disappear, and you will perceive with surprise the
truth of what I have been telling you.

The more cold blooded you are, or at least, as long as passion has not
yet reached that degree of boldness its progress will ultimately lead
you to, the mere hope of the smallest favor is a crime; you tremble at
the most innocent caress. At first you ask for nothing, or for so
slight a favor, that a woman conscientiously believes herself obliged
to grant it, delighted with you on account of your modesty. To obtain
this slight favor, you protest never to ask another, and yet, even
while making your protestations, you are preparing to exact more. She
becomes accustomed to it and permits further trifling, which seems to
be of so little importance that she would endure it from any other
man, if she were on the slightest terms of intimacy with him. But, to
judge from the result, what appears to be of so little consequence on
one day when compared with the favor obtained the day before, becomes
very considerable when compared with that obtained on the first day. A
woman, re-assured by your discretion, does not perceive that her
frailties are being graduated upon a certain scale. She is so much
mistress of herself, and the little things which are at first exacted,
appear to her to be so much within her power of refusal, that she
expects to possess the same strength when something of a graver
character is proposed to her. It is just this way: she flatters
herself that her power of resistance will increase in the same
proportion with the importance of the favors she will be called upon
to grant. She relies so entirely upon her virtue, that she challenges
danger by courting it. She experiments with her power of resistance;
she wishes to see how far the granting of a few unimportant favors can
lead her. Here is where she is imprudent, for by her very rashness she
accustoms her imagination to contemplate suggestions which are the
final cause of her seduction. She travels a long way on the road
without perceiving that she has moved a single step. If upon looking
back along the route, she is surprised at having yielded so much, her
lover will be no less surprised at having obtained so much.

But I go still further. I am persuaded that love is not always
necessary to bring about the downfall of a woman. I knew a woman, who,
although amiable in her manner with everybody, had never been
suspected of any affair of the heart. Fifteen years of married life
had not diminished her tenderness for her husband, and their happy
union could be cited as an example to imitate.

One day at her country place, her friends amused themselves so late
that they were constrained to remain at her house all night. In the
morning, her servants happening to be occupied with her guests, she
was alone in her apartment engaged in making her toilet. A man whom
she knew quite well, but who was without social position, dropped in
for a short visit and to pass the compliments of the day. Some
perplexity in her toilette, induced him to offer his services. The
neglige dress she wore, naturally gave him an opportunity to
compliment her upon her undiminished charms. Of course she protested,
but laughingly, claiming they were unmerited. However, one thing
followed another, they became a trifle sentimental, a few
familiarities which they did not at first deem of any consequence,
developed into something more decided, until, finally, unable to
resist, they were both overcome, the woman being culpable, for she
regarded his advances in the nature of a joke and let them run on.
What was their embarrassment after such a slip? They have never since
been able to understand how they could have ventured so far without
having had the slightest intention of so doing.

I am tempted to exclaim here: Oh, you mortals who place too much
reliance upon your virtue, tremble at this example! Whatever may be
your strength, there are, unfortunately, moments when the most
virtuous is the most feeble. The reason for this strange phenomenon
is, that nature is always on the watch; always aiming to attain her
ends. The desire for love is, in a woman, a large part of her nature.
Her virtue is nothing but a piece of patchwork.

The homilies of your estimable Countess may be actually sincere,
although in such cases, a woman always exaggerates, but she deludes
herself if she expects to maintain to the end, sentiments so severe
and so delicate. Fix this fact well in your mind, Marquis, that these
female metaphysicians are not different in their nature from other
women. Their exterior is more imposing, their morals more austere, but
inquire into their acts, and you will discover that their heart
affairs always finish the same as those of women less refined. They
are a species of the "overnice," forming a class of their own, as I
told Queen Christine of Sweden, one day: "They are the Jansenists of
love." (Puritans.)

You should be on your guard, Marquis, against everything women have to
say on the chapter of gallantry. All the fine systems of which they
make such a pompous display, are nothing but vain illusions, which
they utilize to astonish those who are easily deceived. In the eyes of
a clear sighted man, all this rubbish of stilted phrases is but a
parade at which he mocks, and which does not prevent him from
penetrating their real sentiments. The evil they speak of love, the
resistance they oppose to it, the little taste they pretend for its
pleasures, the measures they take against it, the fear they have of
it, all that springs from love itself. Their very manner renders it
homage, indicates that they harbor the thought of it. Love assumes a
thousand different forms in their minds. Like pride, it lives and
flourishes upon its own defeat; it is never overthrown that it does
not spring up again with renewed force.

What a letter, good heavens! To justify its length would be to
lengthen it still more.


The Distinction Between Love and Friendship

I was delighted with your letter, Marquis. Do you know why? Because it
gives me speaking proof of the truth of what I have been preaching to
you these latter days. Ah! for once you have forgotten all your
metaphysics. You picture to me the charms of the Countess with a
complacency which demonstrates that your sentiments are not altogether
so high flown as you would have me believe, and as you think down in
your heart. Tell me frankly: if your love were not the work of the
senses, would you take so much pleasure in considering that form,
those eyes which enchant you, that mouth which you describe to me in
such glowing colors? If the qualities of heart and mind alone seduce
you, a woman of fifty is worth still more in that respect than the
Countess. You see such a one every day, it is her mother; why not
become enamored of her instead? Why neglect a hundred women of her
age, of her plainness, and of her merit, who make advances to you, and
who would enact the same role with you that you play with the
Countess? Why do you desire with so much passion to be distinguished
by her from other men? Why are you uneasy when she shows them the
least courtesy? Does her esteem for them diminish that which she
pretends for you? Are rivalries and jealousies recognized in
metaphysics? I believe not I have friends and I do not observe such
things in them; I feel none in my own heart when they love other

Friendship is a sentiment which has nothing to do with the senses; the
soul alone receives the impression of it, and the soul loses nothing
of its value by giving itself up to several at the same time. Compare
friendship with love, and you will perceive the difference between a
desire which governs a friend, and that which offers itself to a
lover. You will confess, that at heart, I am not so unreasonable as
you at first thought, and that it might be very well if it should
happen that in love, you might have a soul as worldly as that of a
good many people, whom it pleases you to accuse of very little

I do not wish, however, to bring men alone to trial. I am frank, and I
am quite sure that if women would be honest, they would soon confess
that they are not a bit more refined than men. Indeed, if they saw in
love only the pleasures of the soul, if they hoped to please only by
their mental accomplishments and their good character, honestly, now,
would they apply themselves with such particular care to please by the
charms of their person? What is a beautiful skin to the soul; an
elegant figure; a well shaped arm? What contradictions between their
real sentiments and those they exhibit on parade! Look at them, and
you will be convinced that they have no intention of making themselves
valued except by their sensual attractions, and that they count
everything else as nothing. Listen to them: you will be tempted to
believe that it is not worldly things which they consider the least. I
think I deserve credit for trying to dispel your error in this
respect, and ought I not to expect everything from the care they will
take to undeceive you themselves? Perhaps they will succeed only too
easily in expressing sentiments entirely contrary to those you have
heard to-day from me.

I am due at Mademoiselle de Raymond's this evening, to hear the two
Camus and Ytier who are going to sing. Mesdames de la Sablière, de
Salins, and de Monsoreau will also be there. Would you miss such a
fine company?


A Man in Love is an Amusing Spectacle

You take things too much to heart, Marquis. Already two nights that
you have not slept. Oh! it is true love, there is no mistaking that.
You have made your eyes speak, you, yourself, have spoken quite
plainly, and not the slightest notice has been taken of your
condition. Such behavior calls for revenge. Is it possible that after
eight whole days of devoted attention she has not given you the least
hope? Such a thing can not be easily imagined. Such a long resistance
begins to pass beyond probability. The Countess is a heroine of the
last century. But if you are beginning to lose patience, you can
imagine the length of time you would have had to suffer, if you had
continued to proclaim grand and noble sentiments. You have already
accomplished more in eight days than the late Celadon could in eight
months. However, to speak seriously, are your complaints just? You
call the Countess ungrateful, insensible, disdainful, etc. But by what
right do you talk thus? Will you never believe what I have told you a
hundred times? Love is a veritable caprice, involuntary, even in one
who experiences its pangs. Why should, you say that the beloved object
is bound to recompense a blind sentiment acquired without her

You are very queer, you men. You consider yourselves offended because
a woman does not respond with eagerness to the languishing looks you
deign to cast upon her. Your revolted pride immediately accuses her of
injustice, as if it were her fault that your head is turned; as if she
were obliged, at a certain stage, to be seized with the same disease
as you. Tell me this: is the Countess responsible if she is not
afflicted with the same delirium as soon as you begin to rave? Cease,
then, to accuse her and to complain, and to try to communicate your
malady to her; I know you, you are seductive enough. Perhaps she will
feel, too soon for her peace of mind, sentiments commensurate with
your desires. I believe she has in her everything to subjugate you,
and to inspire you with the taste I hope will be for your happiness,
but so far, I do not think she is susceptible of a very serious

Vivacious, inconsistent, positive, decided, she can not fail to give
you plenty of exercise. An attentive and caressing woman would weary
you; you must be handled in a military fashion, if you are to be
amused and retained. As soon as the mistress assumes the rôle of
lover, love begins to weaken; it does more, it rises like a tyrant,
and ends in disdain which leads directly to disgust and inconstancy.
Have you found, perchance, everything you required in the little
mistress who is the cause of your dolorous martyrdom? Poor Marquis!
What storms will blow over you. What quarrels I foresee! How many
vexations, how many threats to leave her! But do not forget this: So
much emotion will become your punishment, if you treat love after the
manner of a hero of romance, and you will meet a fate entirely the
contrary if you treat it like a reasonable man.

But ought I to continue to write you? The moments you employ to read
my letters will be so many stolen from love. Great Heavens! how I
should like to be a witness of your situations! Indeed, for a
sober-minded person, is there a spectacle more amusing than the
contortions of a man in love?


Vanity Is a Fertile Soil for Love.

You are not satisfied, then, Marquis, with what I so cavalierly said
about your condition? You wish me by all means to consider your
adventure as a serious thing, but I shall take good care not to do so.
Do you not see that my way of treating you is consistent with my
principles? I speak lightly of a thing I believe to be frivolous, or
simply amusing. When it comes to an affair on which depends a lasting
happiness, you will see me take on an appropriate tone. I do not want
to pity you, because it depends upon yourself whether you are to be
pitied or not. By a trick of your imagination, what now appears to be
a pain to you may become a pleasure. To succeed, make use of my recipe
and you will find it good. But to refer to the second paragraph of
your letter:

You say you are all the more surprised at the coldness of the Countess
as you did not think it in earnest. According to what you say, your
conjectures are based on the indiscretions of her friends. The good
she spoke about you to them, was the main cause of your taking a fancy
to her. I know men by this trait. The smallest word that escapes a
woman's lips leads them into the belief that she has designs upon
them. Everything has some reference to their merits; their vanity
seizes upon everything, and they turn everything into profit. To
examine them closely, nearly all of them love through gratitude, and
on this point, women are not any more reasonable. So that gallantry is
an intercourse in which we want the others to go along with us, always
want to be their debtors. And you know pride is much more active in
paying back than in giving. If two lovers would mutually explain,
without reservation, the beginning and progress of their passion, what
confidences would they not exchange?

Elise, to whom Valère uttered a few general compliments, responded,
perhaps without intending to, in a more affectionate manner than is
usual in the case of such insipidities. It was enough. Valère is
carried away with the idea that from a gallant he must become a lover.
The fire is insensibly kindled on both sides; finally, it bursts
forth, and there you are, a budding passion. If you should charge
Elise with having made the first advances, nothing would appear more
unjust to her, and yet nothing could be more true. I conclude from
this that to take love for what it really is, it is less the work of
what is called invincible sympathy, than that of our vanity. Notice
the birth of all love affairs. They begin by the mutual praises we
bestow upon each other. It has been said that it is folly which
conducts love; I should say that it is flattery, and that it can not
be introduced into the heart of a belle until after paying tribute to
her vanity. Add to all this, the general desire and inclination we
have to be loved, and we are bravely deceived. Like those enthusiasts
who, by force of imagination, believe they can really see the images
they conjure up in their minds, we fancy that we can see in others the
sentiments we desire to find there.

Be careful, then, Marquis, not to let yourself be blinded by a false
notion. The Countess may have spoken well of you with the sole object
of doing you justice, without carrying her intention any farther. And
be sure you are wrong when you suspect her of insincerity in your
regard. After all, why should you not prefer to have her dissemble her
sentiments toward you, if you are the source of their inspiration? Are
not women in the right to hide carefully their sentiments from you,
and does not the bad use you make of the certainty of their love
justify them in so doing?


Worth and Merit Are Not Considered in Love

No, Marquis, the curiosity of Madame de Sévigné has not offended me.
On the contrary, I am very glad that she wished to see the letters you
receive from me. Without doubt, she thought that if it were a question
of gallantry, it could only be to my profit; she now knows the
contrary. She will also know that I am not so frivolous as she
imagined, and I believe her just enough to form hereafter another idea
of Ninon than the one she has heretofore had of her, for I am not
ignorant of the fact that she does not speak of me much to my
advantage. But her injustice will never influence my friendship for
you. I am philosophic enough to console myself for not securing the
commendation of people who judge me without knowing me. Whatever may
happen, I shall continue to talk to you with my ordinary frankness,
and I am sure that Madame de Sévigné, in spite of her refined mind,
will, at heart, be more of my opinion than she cares to show. Now, I
come to what relates to you.

Well, Marquis, after infinite care and trouble, you think you have at
last softened that stony heart? I am glad of it; but I laugh at your
interpretation of the Countess' sentiments. You share with all men a
common error which it is necessary to remove, however flattering it
may be to you to foster it. You believe, every one of you, that it is
your worth alone that kindles passion in the heart of women, and that
qualities of heart and mind are the causes of the love they feel
toward you. What a mistake! You only think so, it is true, because
your pride finds satisfaction in the thought. But, if you can do so
without prejudice, inquire into the motives that actuate you, and you
will soon perceive that you are laboring under a delusion, and that we
deceive you; that, everything well considered, you are the dupe of
your vanity and of ours; that the worth of the person loved is only an
excuse which gives an occasion for love, and is not the real cause.
Finally, that all this sublime by-play, which is paraded on both
sides, is a mere preliminary which enters into the desire to satisfy
the need I first indicated to you as the prime exciting cause of this
passion. I tell you this is a hard and humiliating truth, but it is
none the less certain. We women enter the world with this necessity of
loving undefined, and if we take one man in preference to another, let
us say so honestly, we yield less to the knowledge of merit than to a
mechanical instinct which is nearly always blind.

For proof of this I need only refer to the foolish passions with which
we sometimes become intoxicated for strangers, or at least for men
with whom we are not sufficiently acquainted, to relieve our selection
of them from the odium of imprudence from the beginning; in which case
if there is a mutual response, well, it is pure chance. We are always
forming attachments without sufficient circumspection, hence I am not
wrong in comparing love to an appetite which one sometimes feels for
one kind of food rather than for another, without being able to give
the reason. I am very cruel to thus dissipate the phantoms of your
self love, but I am telling you the truth. You are flattered by the
love of a woman, because you believe it implies the worthiness of the
object loved. You do her too much honor: let us say rather, that you
have too good an opinion of yourself. Understand that it is not for
yourself that we love you, to speak with sincerity, it is our own
happiness we seek. Caprice, interest, vanity, disposition, the
uneasiness that affects our hearts when they are unoccupied, these are
the sources of the great sentiment we wish to deify! It is not great
qualities that affect us; if they enter for anything into the reasons
which determine us in your favor, it is not the heart which receives
the impression, it is vanity; and the greater part of the things in
you which please us, very often makes you ridiculous or contemptible.

But, what will you have? We need an admirer who can entertain us with
ideas of our perfections; we need an obliging person who will submit
to our caprices; we need a man! Chance presents us with one rather
than another; we accept him, but we do not choose him. In a word, you
believe yourselves to be the objects of our disinterested affection. I
repeat: You think women love you for yourselves. Poor dupes! You are
only the instruments of their pleasures, the sport of their caprices.
I must, however, do women justice; it is not that you are what I have
just enumerated with their consent, for the sentiments which I develop
here are not well defined in their minds, on the contrary, with the
best faith in the world, women imagine themselves influenced and
actuated only by the grand ideas which your vanity and theirs has
nourished. It would be a crying injustice to accuse them of deceit in
this respect; but, without being aware of it, they deceive themselves,
and you are equally deceived.

You see that I am revealing the secrets of the good goddess. Judge of
my friendship, since, at the expense of my own sex, I labor to
enlighten you. The better you know women, the fewer follies they will
lead you to commit.


The Hidden Motives of Love

Really, Marquis, I do not understand how you can meekly submit to the
serious language I sometimes write you. It seems as if I had no other
aim in my letters than to sweep away your agreeable illusions and
substitute mortifying truths. I must, however, get rid of my mania for
saying deeply considered things. I know better than any one else that
pleasant lies are more agreeable than the most reasonable
conversation, but my disposition breaks through everything in spite of
me. I feel a fit of philosophy upon me again to-day, and I must ask
you to prepare to endure the broadside of morality I am making ready
to give you. Hereafter, I promise you more gayety. So now to answer
your letter.

No, I will not take back anything. You may make war on me as much as
it please you, because of the bad opinion of my sex I expressed in my
last letter. Is it my fault if I am furnished with disagreeable truths
to utter? Besides, do you not know, Marquis, that the being on earth
who thinks the most evil of women, is a woman?

I wish, however, very seriously, to justify the ideas, to my manner of
expressing which you have taken an exception. I am neither envious nor
unjust. Because I happened to mention my own sex rather than yours,
you must not imagine that it is my intention to underrate women. I
hoped to make you understand that, without being more culpable than
men, they are more dangerous because they are accustomed more
successfully to hide their sentiments. In effect, you will confess the
object of your love sooner than they will acknowledge theirs. However,
when they assure you that their affection for you has no other source
than a knowledge of your merit and of your good qualities, I am
persuaded that they are sincere. I do not even doubt that when they
realize that their style of thought is becoming less refined, they do
everything in their power to hide the fact from themselves. But the
motives, about which I have been telling you, are in the bottom of
their hearts just the same. They are none the less the true causes of
the liking they have for you, and whatever efforts they may make to
persuade themselves that the causes are wholly spiritual, their desire
changes nothing in the nature of things. They hide this deformity with
as much care as they would conceal teeth that might disfigure an
otherwise perfect face. In such case, even when alone they would be
afraid to open their mouth, and so, by force of habit in hiding this
defect from others as well as from themselves, they succeed in
forgetting all about it or in considering that it is not much of a

I agree with you that you would lose too much if men and women were to
show themselves in their true colors. The world has agreed to play a
comedy, and to show real, natural sentiments would not be acting, it
would be substituting the real character for the one it has been
agreed to feign. Let us then enjoy the enchantment without seeking to
know the cause of the charm which amuses and seduces us. To anatomize
love would be to enter upon its cure. Psyche lost it for having been
too curious, and I am tempted to believe that this fable is a lesson
for those who wish to analyze pleasure.

I wish to make some corrections in what I have said to you: If I told
you that men are wrong in priding themselves on their choice of a
woman, and their sentiments for her; if I said that the motives which
actuate them are nothing less than glorious for the men, I desire to
add, that they are equally deceived if they imagine that the
sentiments which they show with so much pompous display are always
created by force of female charms, or by an abiding impression of
their merits. How often does it happen that those men who make
advances with such a respectful air, who display such delicate and
refined sentiments, so flattering to vanity, who, in a word, seem to
breathe only through them, only for them, and have no other desire
than their happiness; how often, I repeat, are those men, who adorn
themselves with such beautiful sentiments, influenced by reasons
entirely the contrary? Study, penetrate these good souls, and you will
see in the heart of this one, instead of a love so disinterested, only
desire; in that one, it will be only a scheme to share your fortune,
the glory of having obtained a woman of your rank; in a third you
will discover motives still more humiliating to you; he will use you
to rouse the jealousy of some woman he really loves, and he will
cultivate your friendship merely to distinguish himself in her eyes by
rejecting you. I can not tell you how many motives, there are so many.
The human heart is an insolvable enigma. It is a whimsical combination
of all the known contrarieties. We think we know its workings; we see
their effects; we ignore the cause. If it expresses its sentiments
sincerely, even that sincerity is not reassuring. Perhaps its
movements spring from causes entirely contrary to those we imagine we
feel to be the real ones. But, after all, people have adopted the best
plan, that is, to explain everything to their advantage, and to
compensate themselves in imagination for their real miseries, and
accustom themselves, as I think I have already said, to deifying all
their sentiments. Inasmuch as everybody finds in that the summit of
his vanity, nobody has ever thought of reforming the custom, or of
examining it to see whether it is a mistake.

Adieu; if you desire to come this evening you will find me with those
whose gayety will compensate you for this serious discourse.


How to Be Victorious in Love

Is what you write me possible, Marquis, what, the Countess continues
obdurate? The flippant manner in which she receives your attentions
reveals an indifference which grieves you? I think I have guessed the
secret of the riddle. I know you. You are gay, playful, conceited
even, with women as long as they do not impress you. But with those
who have made an impression upon your heart, I have noticed that you
are timid. This quality might affect a bourgeoise, but you must attack
the heart of a woman of the world with other weapons. The Countess
knows the ways of the world. Believe me, and leave to the Celadons,
such things as sublime talk, beautiful sentiments; let them spin out
perfection. I tell you on behalf of women: there is not one of us who
does not prefer a little rough handling to too much consideration. Men
lose through blundering more hearts than virtue saves.

The more timidity a lover shows with us the more it concerns our pride
to goad him on; the more respect he has for our resistance, the more
respect we demand of him. We would willingly say to you men: "Ah, in
pity's name do not suppose us to be so very virtuous; you are forcing
us to have too much of it. Do not put so high a price upon your
conquest; do not treat our defeat as if it were something difficult.
Accustom our imagination by degrees to seeing you doubt our

When we see a lover, although he may be persuaded of our gratitude,
treat us with the consideration demanded by our vanity, we shall
conclude without being aware of it, that he will always be the same,
although sure of our inclination for him. From that moment, what
confidence will he not inspire? What flattering progress may he not
make? But if he notifies us to be always on our guard, then it is not
our hearts we shall defend; it will not be a battle to preserve our
virtue, but our pride; and that is the worst enemy to be conquered in
women. What more is there to tell you? We are continually struggling
to hide the fact that we have permitted ourselves to be loved. Put a
woman in a position to say that she has yielded only to a species of
violence, or to surprise; persuade her that you do not undervalue her,
and I will answer for her heart.

You must manage the Countess as her character requires; she is lively,
and playful, and by trifling follies you must lead her to love. Do not
even let her see that she distinguishes you from other men, and be as
playful as she is light hearted. Fix yourself in her heart without
giving her any warning of your intention. She will love you without
knowing it, and some day she will be very much astonished at having
made so much headway without really suspecting it.


Women Understand the Difference Between Real Love and Flirtation

Perhaps, Marquis, you will think me still more cruel than the
Countess. She is the cause of your anxieties, it is true, but I am the
cause of something worse; I feel a great desire to laugh at them. Oh,
I enter into your troubles seriously enough, I can not do more, and
your embarrassment appears great to me. Really, why risk a declaration
of love to a woman who takes a wicked pleasure in avoiding it on every
occasion? Now, she appears affected, and then again, she is the most
unmindful woman in the world in spite of all you do to please her. She
listens willingly and replies gaily to the gallant speeches and bold
conversation of a certain Chevalier, a professional coxcomb, but to
you she speaks seriously and with a preoccupied air. If you take on a
tender and affectionate tone, she replies flippantly, or perhaps
changes the subject. All this intimidates you, troubles you, and
drives you to despair. Poor Marquis!--and I answer you, that all this
is love, true and beautiful. The absence of mind which she affects
with you, the nonchalance she puts on for a mask, ought to make you
feel at heart that she is far from being indifferent. But your lack of
boldness, the consequences which she feels must follow such a passion
as yours, the interest which she already takes in your condition, all
this intimidates the countess herself, and it is you who raise
obstacles in her path. A little more boldness on your part would put
you both at your ease. Do you remember what M. de la Rochefoucauld
told you lately: "A reasonable man in love may act like a madman, but
he should not and can not act like an idiot."

Besides, when you compare your respect and esteem with the free and
almost indecent manner of the Chevalier; when you draw from it the
conclusion that she should prefer you to him, you do not know how
incorrectly you argue. The Chevalier is nothing but a gallant, and
what he says is not worth considering, or at least appears so.
Frivolity alone, the habit of romancing to all the pretty women he
finds in his way, makes him talk. Love counts for nothing, or at least
for very little, in all his liaisons. Like the butterfly, he hovers
only a moment over each flower. An amusing episode is his only object.
So much frivolity is not capable of alarming a woman. She is delighted
at the trifling danger she incurs in listening to such a man.

The Countess knows very well how to appreciate the discourse of the
Chevalier; and to say everything in a word, she knows him to be a man
whose heart is worn out. Women, who, to hear them talk, go in more for
metaphysics, know admirably how to tell the difference between a lover
of his class and a man like you. But you will always be more
formidable and more to be dreaded by your manner of making yourself

You boast to me of your respectful esteem, but I reply that it is
nothing of the kind, and the Countess knows it well. Nothing ends with
so little respect as a passion like yours. Quite different from the
Chevalier, you require recognition, preference, acknowledgment, even
sacrifices. The Countess sees all these pretensions at a glance, or at
least, if in the cloud which still envelops them, she does not
distinguish them clearly, nature gives her a presentiment of what the
cost will be if she allows you the least opportunity to instruct her
in a passion which she doubtless already shares. Women rarely inquire
into the reasons which impel them to give themselves up or to resist;
they do not even amuse themselves by trying to understand or explain
them, but they have feelings, and sentiment with them is correct, it
takes the place of intelligence and reflection. It is a sort of
instinct which warns them in case of danger, and which leads them
aright perhaps as surely as does the most enlightened reason. Your
beautiful Adelaide wishes to enjoy an incognito as long as she can.
This plan is very congenial to her real interests, and yet I am fully
persuaded that it is not the work of reflection. She sees it only from
the point of view of a passion, outwardly constrained, making stronger
impressions and still greater progress inwardly. Let it have an
opportunity to take deep root, and give to this fire she tries to
hide, time to consume the heart in which you wish to confine it.

You must also admit, Marquis, that you deceive yourself in two ways
in your calculation. You thought you respected the Countess more than
the Chevalier does, on the contrary you see that the gallant speeches
of the Chevalier are without effect, while you begrudge them to the
heart of your beauty. On the other hand, you figure that her
preoccupied air, indifferent and inattentive manner are proofs or
forewarnings of your unhappiness. Undeceive yourself. There is no more
certain proof of a passion than the efforts made to hide it. In a
word, when the Countess treats you kindly, whatever proofs you may
give her of your affection, when she sees you without alarm on the
point of confessing your love, I tell you that her heart is caught;
she loves you, on my word.

By the way, I forgot to reply to that part of your letter concerning
myself. Yes, Marquis, I constantly follow the method which I
prescribed at the commencement of our correspondence. There are few
matters in my letters that I have not used as subjects of conversation
in my social reunions. I rarely suggest ideas of any importance to
you, without having taken the opinions of my friends on their verity.
Sometimes it is Monsieur de la Bruyère, sometimes Monsieur de
Saint-Evremond whom I consult; another time it will be Monsieur l'Abbé
de Châteauneuf. You must admire my good faith, Marquis, for I might
claim the credit of the good I write you, but I frankly avow that you
owe it only to the people whom I receive at my house.

Apropos of men of distinguished merit, M. de la Rochefoucauld has
just sent me word that he would like to call on me. I fixed to-morrow,
and you might do well to be present, but do not forget how much he
loves you. Adieu.


When a Woman Is Loved She Need Not Be Told of It

I have been engaged in some new reflections on the condition you are
in, Marquis, and on the embarrassment in which you continue. After
all, why do you deem it necessary to make a formal declaration of
love? Can it be because you have read about such things in our old
romances, in which the proceedings in courtship were as solemn as
those of the tribunals? That would be too technical. Believe me, let
it alone; as I told you in my last letter, the fire lighted, will
acquire greater force every day, and you will see, that without having
said you love, you will be farther advanced than if you were
frightened by avowals which our fathers insisted should worry the
women. Avowals absolutely useless in themselves, and which always
incumber a passion with several nebulous days. They retard its
progress. Bear this well in mind, Marquis: A woman is much better
persuaded that she is loved by what she guesses than by what she is

Act as if you had made the declaration which is costing you so much
anxiety; or imitate the Chevalier; take things easy. The way the
Countess conducts herself with him in your presence seems to be a law
in your estimation. With your circumspection and pretended respect,
you present the appearance of a man who meditates an important design,
of a man, in a word, who contemplates a wrong step. Your exterior is
disquieting to a woman who knows the consequences of a passion such as
yours. Remember that as long as you let it appear that you are making
preparations for an attack, you will find her on the defensive. Have
you ever heard of a skillful general, who intends to surprise a
citadel, announce his design to the enemy upon whom the storm is to
descend? In love as in war, does any one ever ask the victor whether
he owes his success to force or skill? He has conquered, he receives
the crown, his desires are gratified, he is happy. Follow his example
and you will meet the same fate. Hide your progress; do not disclose
the extent of your designs until it is no longer possible to oppose
your success, until the combat is over, and the victory gained before
you have declared war. In a word, imitate those warlike people whose
designs are not known except by the ravaged country through which they
have passed.


Why a Lover's Vows Are Untrustworthy

At last, Marquis, you are listened to dispassionately when you protest
your love, and swear by everything lovers hold sacred that you will
always love. Will you believe my predictions another time? However,
you would be better treated if you were more reasonable, so you are
told, and limit your sentiments to simple friendship. The name of
lover assumed by you is revolting to the Countess. You should never
quarrel over quality when it is the same under any name, and follow
the advice Madame de la Sablière gives you in the following madrigal:

  Bélise ne veut point d'amant,
  Mais voudrait un ami fidèle,
Qui pour elle eût des soins et de l'empressement,
  Et qui même la trouvât belle.
  Amants, qui soupirez pour elle,
  Sur ma parole tenez bon,
Bélise de l'amour ne hait que le nom.

  (Bélise for a lover sighed not,
  But she wanted a faithful friend,
Who would cuddle her up and care for her lot,
  And even her beauty defend.
  Oh, you lovers, whose sighs I commend,
'Pon my word, hold fast to such game,
What of love Bélise hates is only the name.)

But you are grieved by the injurious doubts cast upon your sincerity
and constancy. You are disbelieved because all men are false and
perjured, and because they are inconstant, love is withheld. How
fortunate you are! How little the Countess knows her own heart, if she
expects to persuade you of her indifference in that fashion! Do you
wish me to place a true value on the talk she is giving you? She is
very much affected by the passion you exhibit for her, but the
warnings and sorrows of her friends have convinced her that the
protestations of men are generally false. I do not conceive any
injustice in this, for I, who do not flatter men willingly, am
persuaded that they are usually sincere on such occasions. They become
amorous of a woman, that is they experience the desire of possession.
The enchanting image of that possession bewitches them; they calculate
that the delights connected with it will never end; they do not
imagine that the fire which consumes them can ever weaken or die out;
such a thing seems impossible to them. Hence they swear with the best
faith in the world to love us always; and to cast a doubt upon their
sincerity would be inflicting a mortal injury.

But the poor fellows make more promises than they can keep. They do
not perceive that their heart has not enough energy always to hold the
same object. They cease to love without knowing why. They are good
enough to be scrupulous over their growing coldness. Long after love
has fled they continue to insist that they still love. They exert
themselves to no purpose, and after having tormented themselves as
long as they can bear it, they surrender to dissatisfaction, and
become inconstant with as much good faith as they possessed when they
protested that they would be forever constant. Nothing is simpler and
easier to explain. The fermentation of a budding love, excited in
their heart the charm that seduced them; by and by, the enchantment is
dispelled, and nonchalance follows. With what can they be charged?
They counted upon keeping their vows. Dear me, how many women are too
happy with what is lacking, since men give them a free rein to their

However this may be, the Countess has charged up to you the
inconstancy of your equals; she apprehends that you are no better than
all other lovers. Ready to yield to you, however little you may be
able to reassure her, she is trying to find reasons for believing you
sincere. The love you protest for her does not offend her. What am I
saying? It enchants her. She is so much flattered by it, that her sole
fear is that it may not be true. Dissipate her alarms, show her that
the happiness you offer her and of which she knows the price, is not
an imaginary happiness. Go farther; persuade her that she will enjoy
it forever, and her resistance will disappear, her doubts will vanish,
and she will seize upon everything that will destroy her suspicions
and uncertainty. She would have already believed you; already she
would have resolved to yield to the pleasure of being loved, if she
had believed herself really loved, and that it would last forever.

How maladroit women are if they imagine that by their fears and their
doubts of the sincerity and constancy of men, they can make any one
believe they are fleeing from love, or despise it! As soon as they
fear they will be deceived in the enjoyment of its pleasures; when
they fear they will not long enjoy it, they already know the charms of
it, and the only source of anxiety then is, that they will be deprived
of its enjoyment too soon. Forever haunted by this fear, and attacked
by the powerful inclination toward pleasure, they hesitate, they
tremble with the apprehension that they will not be permitted to enjoy
it but just long enough to make the privation of it more painful.
Hence, Marquis, you may very easily conjecture a woman who talks to
you as does the Countess, using this language:

"I can imagine all the delights of love. The idea I have formed of it
is quite seductive. Do you think that deep in my heart I desire to
enjoy its charms less than you? But the more its image is ravishing to
my imagination, the more I fear it is not real, and I refuse to yield
to it lest my happiness be too soon destroyed. Ah, if I could only
hope that my happiness might endure, how feeble would be my
resistance? But will you not abuse my credulity? Will you not some day
punish me for having had too much confidence in you? At least is that
day very far off? Ah, if I could hope to gather perpetually the
fruits of the sacrifice I am making of my repose for your sake, I
confess it frankly, we would soon be in accord."


The Half-way House to Love

The rival you have been given appears to me to be all the more
redoubtable, as he is the sort of a man I have been advising you to
be. I know the Chevalier; nobody is more competent than he to carry a
seduction to a successful conclusion. I am willing to wager anything
that his heart has never been touched. He makes advances to the
Countess in cold blood. You are lost. A lover as passionate as you
have appeared to be, makes a thousand blunders. The most favorable
designs would perish under your management. He permits everybody to
take the advantage of him on every occasion. Indeed, such is his
misfortune that his precipitation and his timidity injure his
prospects by turns.

A man who makes love for the pleasure he finds in it, profits by the
smallest advantage; he knows the feeble places and makes himself
master of them. Everything leads his way, everything is combined for
his purpose. Even his imprudences are often the result of wise
reflection; they help him along the road to success; they finally
acquire so superior a position that, from their beginning, so to
speak, dates the hour of his triumph.

You must be careful, Marquis, not to go to extremes; you must not show
the Countess enough love to lead her to understand the excess of your
passion. Give her something to be anxious about; compel her to take
heed lest she lose you, by giving her opportunities to think that she
may. There is no woman on earth who will treat you more cavalierly
than one who is absolutely certain that your love will not fail her.
Like a merchant for whose goods you have manifested too great an
anxiety to acquire, she will overcharge you with as little regard to
consequences. Moderate, therefore, your imprudent vivacity; manifest
less passion and you will excite more in her heart. We do not
appreciate the worth of a prize more than when we are on the point of
losing it. Some regulation in matters of love are indispensable for
the happiness of both parties. I think I am even justified in advising
you on certain occasions to be a trifle unprincipled. On all other
occasions, though, it is better to be a dupe than a knave; but in
affairs of gallantry, it is only the fools who are the dupes, and
knaves always have the laugh on their side. Adieu.

I have not the conscience to leave you without a word of consolation.
Do not be discouraged. However redoubtable may be the Chevalier, let
your heart rest in peace. I suspect that the cunning Countess is
making a play with him to worry you. I have no desire to flatter you,
but it gives me pleasure to say, that you are worth more than he. You
are young, you are making your debut in the world, and you are
regarded as a man who has never yet had any love affairs. The
Chevalier has lived; what woman will not appreciate these differences?


The Comedy of Contrariness

Probity in love, Marquis? How can you think of such a thing? Ah, you
are like a drowned man. I shall take good care not to show your letter
to any one, it would dishonor you. You do not know how to undertake
the manoeuvres I have advised you to make, you say? Your candor, your
high sentiments made your fortune formerly! Well, love was then
treated like an affair of honor, but nowadays, the corruption of the
age has changed all that; love is now nothing more than a play of the
humor and of vanity.

Your inexperience still leaves your virtues in an inflexible condition
that will inevitably cause your ruin, if you have not enough
intelligence to bring them into accord with the morals of the times.
One can not now wear his sentiments on his sleeve. Everything is show;
payment is made in airs, demonstrations, signs. Everybody is playing a
comedy, and men have had excellent reasons for keeping up the farce.
They have discovered the fact that nobody can gain anything by telling
the actual truth about women. There is a general agreement to
substitute for this sincerity a collection of contrary phrases. And
this custom has proved contagious in cases of gallantry.

In spite of your high principles, you will agree with me, that unless
that custom, called "politeness," is not pushed so far as irony or
treason, it is a sociable virtue to follow, and of all the relations
among men, the true meaning of gallantry has more need of being
concealed than that of any other social affair. How many occasions do
you not find where a lover gains more by dissimulating the excess of
his passion, than another who pretends to have more than he really

I think I understand the Countess; she is more skillful than you. I am
certain she dissimulates her affection for you with greater care than
you take to multiply proofs of yours for her. I repeat; the less you
expose yourself, the better you will be treated. Let her worry in her
turn; inspire her with the fear that she will lose you, and see her
come around. It is the surest way of finding out the true position you
occupy in her heart. Adieu.


Vanity and Self-Esteem Obstacles to Love

A silence of ten days, Marquis. You begin to worry me in earnest. The
application you made of my counsel has, then, been successful? I
congratulate you. What I do not approve, however, is your
dissatisfaction with her for refusing to make the confession you
desired. The words: "I love you" seem to be something precious in your
estimation. For fifteen days you have been trying to penetrate the
sentiments of the Countess, and you have succeeded; you know her
affection for you. What more can you possibly want? What further right
over her heart would a confession give you? Truly, I consider you a
strange character. You ought to know that nothing is more calculated
to cause a reasonable woman to revolt, than the obstinacy with which
ordinary men insist upon a declaration of their love. I fail to
understand you. Ought not her refusal to be a thousand times more
precious to a delicate minded lover than a positive declaration? Will
you ever know your real interests? Instead of persecuting a woman on
such a point, expend your energies in concealing from her the extent
of her affection. Act so that she will love you before you call her
attention to the fact, before compelling her to resort to the
necessity of proclaiming it. Is it possible to experience a situation
more delicious than that of seeing a heart interested in you without
suspicion, growing toward you by degrees, finally becoming
affectionate? What a pleasure to enjoy secretly all her movements, to
direct her sentiments, augment them, hasten them, and glory in the
victory even before she has suspected that you have essayed her
defeat! That is what I call pleasure.

Believe me, Marquis, your conduct toward the Countess must be as if
the open avowal of her love for you had escaped her. Of a truth, she
has not said in words: "I love you," but it is because she really
loves you that she has refrained from saying it. Otherwise she has
done everything to convince you of it.

Women are under no ordinary embarrassment. They desire for the very
least, as much to confess their affection as you are anxious to
ascertain it, but what do you expect, Marquis? Women ingenious at
raising obstacles, have attached a certain shame to any avowal of
their passion, and whatever idea you men may have formed of our way of
thinking, such an avowal always humiliates us, for however small may
be our experience, we comprehend all the consequences. The words "I
love you" are not criminal, that is true, but their sequel frightens
us, hence we find means to dissimulate, and close our eyes to the
liabilities they carry with them.

Besides this, be on your guard; your persistence in requiring an open
avowal from the Countess, is less the work of love than a persevering
vanity. I defy you to find a mistake in the true motives behind your
insistence. Nature has given woman a wonderful instinct; it enables
her to discern without mistake whatever grows out of a passion in one
who is a stranger to her. Always indulgent toward the effects produced
by a love we have inspired, we will pardon you many imprudences, many
transports; how can I enumerate them all? All the follies of which you
lovers are capable, we pardon, but you will always find us intractable
when our self-esteem meets your own. Who would believe it? You inspire
us to revolt at things that have nothing to do with your happiness.
Your vanity sticks at trifles, and prevents you from enjoying actual
advantages. Will you believe me when I say it? You will drop your idle
fancies, to delight in the certainty that you are beloved by an
adorable woman; to taste the pleasure of hiding the extent of her love
from herself, to rejoice in its security. Suppose by force of
importunities you should extract an "I love you," what would you gain
by it? Would your uncertainty reach an end? Would you know whether you
owe the avowal to love or complaisance? I think I know women, I ought
to. They can deceive you by a studied confession which the lips only
pronounce, but you will never be the involuntary witness of a passion
you force from them. The true, flattering avowals we make, are not
those we utter, but those that escape us without our knowledge.


Two Irreconcilable Passions in Women

Will you pardon me, Marquis, for laughing at your afflictions? You
take things too much to heart. Some imprudences, you say, have drawn
upon you the anger of the Countess, and your anxiety is extreme. You
kissed her hand with an ecstasy that attracted the attention of
everybody present. She publicly reprimanded you for your indiscretion,
and your marked preference for her, always offensive to other women,
has exposed you to the railleries of the Marquise, her sister-in-law.
Dear me, these are without contradiction terrible calamities! What,
are you simple enough to believe that you are lost beyond salvation
because of an outward manifestation of anger, and you do not even
suspect that inwardly you are justified? You impose upon me the burden
of convincing you of the fact, and in doing so I am forced to reveal
some strange mysteries concerning women. But, I do not intend, in
writing you, to be always apologizing for my sex. I owe you frankness,
however, and having promised it I acquit myself of the promise.

A woman is always balancing between two irreconcilable passions which
continually agitate her mind: the desire to please, and the fear of
dishonor. You can judge of our embarrassment. On the one hand, we are
consumed with the desire to have an audience to notice the effect of
our charms. Ever engaged in schemes to bring us into notoriety;
ravished whenever we are fortunate enough to humiliate other women, we
would make the whole world witness of the preferences we encounter,
and the homage bestowed upon us. Do you know the measure of our
satisfaction in such cases? The despair of our rivals, the
indiscretions that betray the sentiments we inspire, this enchants us
proportionately to the misery they suffer. Similar imprudences
persuade us much more that we are loved, than that our charms are
incapable of giving us a reputation.

But what bitterness poisons such sweet pleasures! Beside so many
advantages marches the malignity of rival competitors, and sometimes
your disdain. A fatality which is mournful. The world makes no
distinction between women who permit you to love them, and those whom
you compensate for so doing. Uninfluenced, and sober-minded, a
reasonable woman always prefers a good reputation to celebrity. Put
her beside her rivals who contest with her the prize for beauty, and
though she may lose that reputation of which she appears so jealous,
though she compromise herself a thousand times, nothing is equal in
her opinion to see herself preferred to others. By and by, she will
recompense you by preferences; she will at first fancy that she grants
them out of gratitude, but they will be proofs of her attachment. In
her fear of appearing ungrateful, she becomes tender.

Can you not draw from this that it is not your indiscretions which vex
us? If they wound us, we must pay tribute to appearances, and you
would be the first to censure an excessive indulgence.

See that you do not misunderstand us. Not to vex us on such occasions
would be really to offend. We recommend you to practice discretion and
prudence, that is the rôle we enact, is it not? Is it necessary for me
to tell you the part you are to play? I am often reminded that
accepting the letter of the law, is to fail to understand it. You may
be sure that you will be in accord with our intentions as soon as you
are able to interpret them properly.


An Abuse of Credulity Is Intolerable

The Countess no longer retreats? You think she has no other object in
view than to put your love to the proof? Whatever preference you have
manifested for her; however little precaution you have taken to
testify to your passion, she finds nothing in you but cause for
scolding. The least excuse, however, and the reproaches die upon her
lips, and her anger is so delightful that you do everything to deserve
it. Permit me to share in your joy with all my heart. But although
this behavior flatters you, if you consider that such acts are not
intended to be of long duration, how badly reasonable women, who value
their reputation, misunderstand their true interests by thus
multiplying through an affected incredulity, occasions for slandering
them. Do they not understand and feel that it is not always the moment
when they are tender which gives a blow to their reputation? The doubt
they cast upon the sincerity of the affection they have inspired, does
them more harm in the eyes of the world than even their defeat. As
long as they continue incredulous the slightest imprudence compromises
them. They dispose of their reputation at retail.

Whenever a lover finds a woman incredulous of the truth of his
sentiments, he goes full lengths, every time he has an opportunity, to
furnish proofs of his sincerity. The most indiscreet eagerness, the
most marked preferences, the most assiduous attentions, seem to him
the best means of succeeding. Can he make use of them without calling
the attention of the whole world to the fact; without offending every
other woman and giving them occasions to be revenged by their sharpest

As soon as the preliminaries are settled, that is to say, as soon as
we commence to believe ourselves sincerely loved, nothing appears on
the surface, nothing happens; and if outsiders perceive our liaison,
if they put a malicious construction upon it, it will only be by the
recollection of what passed during a time when love was not in

I would, for the good of everybody concerned, that as soon as a woman
ceases to find any pleasure in the society of a man who wishes to
please her, that she could tell him so clearly and dismiss him,
without abusing his credulity, or giving him ground for vain hopes.
But I would also, that as soon as a woman is persuaded that a man
loves her, she could consent to it in good faith, reserving to
herself, however, the right to be further entreated, to such a point
as she may deem apropos, before making an avowal that she feels as
tenderly disposed toward her lover, as he is toward her. For, a woman
can not pretend to doubt without putting her lover to the necessity of
dissipating her doubts, and he can not do that successfully without
taking the whole world into his confidence by a too marked homage.

I know very well that these ideas would not have been probable in
times when the ignorance of men rendered so many women intractable,
but, in these times when the audacity of our assailants leaves us so
few resources, in these times, I say, when, since the invention of
powder, there are few impregnable places, why undertake a prolonged
formal siege, when it is certain that after much labor and many
disasters it will be necessary to capitulate?

Bring your amiable Countess to reason; show her the inconveniences of
a prolonged disregard of your sentiments. You will convince her of
your passion, you will compel her to believe you through regard for
her reputation, and still better, perhaps, you will furnish her with
an additional reason for giving you a confidence she doubtless now
finds it difficult to withhold from you.


Why Virtue Is So Often Overcome

My last letter has apparently scandalized you, Marquis. You insist
that it is not impossible to find virtuous women in our age of the
world. Well, have I ever said anything to the contrary? Comparing
women to besieged castles, have I ever advanced the idea that there
were some that had not been taken? How could I have said such a thing?
There are some that have never been besieged, so you perceive that I
am of your opinion. I will explain, however, so that there will be no
more chicanery about the question.

Here is my profession of faith in this matter: I firmly believe that
there are good women who have never been attacked, or who have been
wrongly attacked.

I further firmly believe that there are good women who have been
attacked and well attacked, when they have had neither disposition,
violent passions, liberty, nor a hated husband.

I have a mind at this point to put you in possession of a rather
lively conversation on this particular point, while I was still very
young, with a prude, whom an adventure of some brilliancy unmasked. I
was inexperienced then, and I was in the habit of judging others with
that severity which every one is disposed to manifest until some
personal fault has made us more indulgent toward our neighbors. I had
considered it proper to blame the conduct of this woman without mercy.
She heard of it. I sometimes saw her at an aunt's, and made
preparations to attack her morals. Before I had an opportunity she
took the matter into her own hands, by taking me aside one day, and
compelled me to submit to the following harangue, which I confess made
a deep impression in my memory:

"It is not for the purpose of reproaching you for the talk you have
been making on my account, that I wish to converse with you in the
absence of witnesses," she explained, "it is to give you some advice,
the truth and solidity of which you will one day appreciate.

"You have seen fit to censure my conduct with a severity, you have
actually treated me with a disdain, which tells me how proud you are
of the fact that you have never been taken advantage of. You believe
in your own virtue and that it will never abandon you. This is a pure
illusion of your amour propre, my dear child, and I feel impelled to
enlighten your inexperience, and to make you understand, that far from
being sure of that virtue which renders you so severe, you are not
even sure that you have any at all. This prologue astonishes you, eh?
Well, listen with attention, and you will soon be convinced of the
truth whereof I speak.

"Up to the present time, nobody has ever spoken to you of love. Your
mirror alone has told you that you are beautiful. Your heart, I can
see by the appearance of indifference that envelops you like a
mantle, has not yet been developed. As long as you remain as you are,
as long as you can be kept in sight as you are, I will be your
guarantee. But when your heart has spoken, when your enchanting eyes
shall have received life and expression from sentiment, when they
shall speak the language of love, when an internal unrest shall
agitate your breast, when, in fine, desire, half stifled by the
scruples of a good education, shall have made you blush more than once
in secret, then your sensibility, through the combats by which you
will attempt to vanquish it, will diminish your severity toward
others, and their faults will appear more excusable.

"The knowledge of your weakness will no longer permit you to regard
your virtue as infallible. Your astonishment will carry you still
farther. The little help it will be to you against too impetuous
inclinations, will make you doubt whether you ever had any virtue. Can
you say a man is brave before he has ever fought? It is the same with
us. The attacks made upon us are alone the parents of our virtue, as
danger gives birth to valor. As long as one has not been in the
presence of the enemy, it is impossible to say whether he is to be
feared, and what degree of resistance it will be necessary to bear
against him.

"Hence to justify a woman in flattering herself that she is
essentially virtuous and good by force of her own strength, she must
be in a position where no danger, however great it may be, no motive
no matter how pressing, no pretext whatever, shall be powerful enough
to triumph over her. She must meet with the most favorable
opportunities, the most tender love, the certainty of secrecy, the
esteem and the most perfect confidence in him who attacks her. In a
word, all these circumstances combined should not be able to make an
impression upon her courage, so that to know whether a woman be
virtuous in the true meaning of the word, one must imagine her as
having escaped unscathed all these united dangers, for it would not be
virtue but only resistance where there should be love without the
disposition, or disposition without the occasion. Her virtue would
always be uncertain, as long as she had never been attacked by all the
weapons which might vanquish her. One might always say of her: if she
had been possessed of a different constitution, she might not have
resisted love, or, if a favorable occasion had presented itself, her
virtue would have played the fool."

"According to this," said I, "it would be impossible to find a single
virtuous woman, for no one has ever had so many enemies to combat."

"That may be," she replied, "but do you know the reason? Because it is
not necessary to have so many to overcome us, one alone is sufficient
to obtain the victory."

But I stuck to my proposition: "You pretend then that our virtue does
not depend upon ourselves, since you make it the puppet of occasion,
and of other causes foreign to our own will?"

"There is no doubt about it," she answered. "Answer me this: Can you
give yourself a lively or sedate disposition? Are you free to defend
yourself against a violent passion? Does it depend upon you to arrange
all the circumstances of your life, so that you will never find
yourself alone with a lover who adores you, who knows his advantages
and how to profit by them? Does it depend upon you to prevent his
pleadings, I assume them to be innocent at first, from making upon
your senses the impression they must necessarily make? Certainly not;
to insist upon such an anomaly would be to deny that the magnet is
master of the needle. And you pretend that your virtue is your own
work, that you can personally claim the glory of an advantage that is
liable to be taken from you at any moment? Virtue in women, like all
the other blessings we enjoy, is a gift from Heaven; it is a favor
which Heaven may refuse to grant us. Reflect then how unreasonable you
are in glorifying in your virtue: consider your injustice when you so
cruelly abuse those who have had the misfortune to be born with an
ungovernable inclination toward love, whom a sudden violent passion
has surprised, or who have found themselves in the midst of
circumstances out of which you would not have emerged with any greater

"Shall I give you another proof of the justice of my ideas? I will
take it from your own conduct. Are you not dominated by that deep
persuasion that every woman who wishes to preserve her virtue, need
never allow herself to be caught, that she must watch over the
smallest trifles, because they lead to things of greater importance?
It is much easier for you to take from men the desire to make an
attack upon your virtue by assuming a severe exterior, than to defend
against their attacks. The proof of this is in the fact that we give
young girls in their education as little liberty as is possible in
order to restrain them. We do more: a prudent mother does not rely
upon her fear of dishonor, nor upon the bad opinion she has of men,
she keeps her daughter out of sight; she puts it out of her power to
succumb to temptation. What is the excuse for so many precautions?
Because the mother fears the frailty of her pupil, if she is exposed
for an instant to danger.

"In spite of all these obstacles with which she is curbed, how often
does it not happen that love overcomes them all? A girl well trained,
or better, well guarded, laughs at her virtue, because she imagines it
is all her own, whereas, it is generally a slave rigorously chained
down, who thinks everybody is satisfied with him as long as he does
not run away. Let us inquire further into this: In what class do you
find abandoned females? In that where they have not sufficient wealth
or happiness constantly to provide themselves with the obstacles which
have saved you; in that, where men have attacked their virtue with
more audacity, more facility, more frequency, and more impunity, and
consequently with more advantages of every sort; in that, where the
impressions of education, of example, of pride, the desire of a
satisfactory establishment could not sustain them. Two doors below,
there is a woman whom you hate and despise. And in spite of the
outside aid which sustains that virtue, of which you are so proud, in
two days you might be more despicable than she, because you will have
had greater helps to guarantee you against misfortune. I am not
seeking to deprive you of the merit of your virtue, nor am I
endeavoring to prevent you from attaching too much importance to it;
by convincing you of its fragility, I wish to obtain from you only a
trifle of indulgence for those whom a too impetuous inclination, or
the misfortunes of circumstances have precipitated into a position so
humiliating in their own eyes; my sole object is to make you
understand that you ought to glorify yourself less in the possession
of an advantage which you do not owe to yourself, and of which you may
be deprived to-morrow."

She was going to continue, but some one interrupted us. Soon
afterward, I learned by my own experience that I should not have had
so good an opinion of many virtues which had been formerly imposed
upon me, beginning with my own.


Love Demands Freedom of Action

I have been of the same opinion as you, Marquis, although the ideas I
communicated to you yesterday appeared to be true speculatively, that
it would be dangerous if all women were to be guided by them. It is
not by a knowledge of their frailty, that women will remain virtuous,
but by the conviction that they are free and mistresses of themselves
when it comes to yield or to resist. Is it by persuading a soldier
that he will be vanquished that he is goaded into fighting with
courage? Did you not notice that the woman who did the talking as I
have related in my last letter, had a personal interest in maintaining
her system? It is true, that when we examine her reasoning according
to the rules of philosophy, it does seem to be a trifle specious, but
it is to be feared that in permitting ourselves to reason in that
fashion on what virtue is, we may succeed in converting into a
problem, the rules we should receive and observe as a law, which it is
a crime to construe. Moreover, to persuade women that it is not to
themselves they are indebted for the virtue they possess, might it mot
deprive them of the most powerful motive to induce them to preserve
it? I mean by that, the persuasion that it is their own work they
defend. The consequences of such morality would be discouraging, and
tend to diminish, in the eyes of a guilty woman, the importance of her
errors. But let us turn to matters of more interest to you.

At last, after so many uncertainties, after so many revolutions in
your imagination, you are sure you are loved? You have finally
succeeded in exciting the Countess to divulge her secret during a
moment of tenderness. The words you burned to hear have been
pronounced. More, she has allowed to escape her, a thousand
involuntary proofs of the passion you have inspired. Far from
diminishing your love, the certainty that you are beloved in return
has increased it; in a word, you are the happiest of men. If you knew
with how much pleasure I share your happiness you would be still
happier. The first sacrifice she desired to make was to refuse to
receive the Chevalier: you were opposed to her making it, and you were
quite right. It would have compromised the Countess for nothing, which
calls to my mind the fact, that women generally lose more by
imprudence than by actual faults. The confidence you so nobly
manifested in her, ought to have greatly impressed her.

Everything is now as it should be. However, shall I tell you
something? The way this matter has turned out alarms me. We agreed, if
you remember, that we were to treat the subject of love without
gloves. You were not to have at the most but a light and fleeting
taste of it, and not a regulated passion. Now I perceive that things
become more serious every day. You are beginning to treat love with a
dignity which worries me. The knowledge of true merits, solid
qualities, and good character is creeping into the motives of your
liaison, and combining with the personal charms which render you so
blindly amorous. I do not like to have so much esteem mixed with an
affair of pure gallantry. It leaves no freedom of action, it is work
instead of amusement. I was afraid in the beginning that your
relations would assume a grave and measured turn. But perhaps you will
only too soon have new pretensions, and the Countess by new disputes
will doubtless re-animate your liaison. Too constant a peace is
productive of a deadly ennui. Uniformity kills love, for as soon as
the spirit of method mingles in an affair of the heart, the passion
disappears, languor supervenes, weariness begins to wear, and disgust
ends the chapter.


The Heart Needs Constant Employment

Madame de Sévigné does not agree with me upon the causes of love as I
give them. She pretends that many women know it only from its refined
side, and that the senses never count for anything in their heart
affairs. According to her, although what she calls my "system" should
be well founded, it would always be unbecoming in the mouth of a
woman, and might become a precedent in morals.

These are assuredly very serious exceptions, Marquis, but are they
well grounded? I do not think so. I see with pain that Madame de
Sévigné has not read my letters in the spirit I wrote them. What, I
the founder of systems? Truly, she does me too much honor, I have
never been serious enough to devise any system. Besides, according to
my notion, a system is nothing but a philosophic dream, and therefore
does she consider all I have told you as a play of the imagination? In
that case, we are very far out of our reckoning. I do not imagine, I
depict real objects. I would have one truth acknowledged, and to
accomplish that, my purpose is not to surprise the mind; I consult the
sentiments. Perhaps she has been struck by the singularity of some of
my propositions, which appeared to me so evident that I did not think
it worth while to maintain them; but is it necessary to make use of a
mariner's compass to develop the greater or less amount of truth in a
maxim of gallantry?

Moreover, I have such a horror of formal discussions, that I would
prefer to agree to anything rather than engage in them. Madame de
Sévigné, you say, is acquainted with a number of female
metaphysicians--there! there! I will grant her these exceptions,
provided she leaves me the general thesis. I will even admit, if you
so desire, that there are certain souls usually styled "privileged,"
for I have never heard anybody deny the virtues of temperament. So, I
have nothing to say about women of that species. I do not criticise
them, nor have I any reproaches to make them; neither do I believe it
my duty to praise them, it is sufficient to congratulate them.
However, if you investigate them you will discover the truth of what I
have been saying since the commencement of our correspondence: the
heart must be occupied with some object. If nature does not incline
them in that direction, no one can lead them in the direction of
gallantry, their affection merely changes its object. Such a one
to-day appears to be insensible to the emotion of love, only because
she has disposed of all that portion of the sentiment she had to give.
The Count de Lude, it is said, was not always indifferent to Madame de
Sévigné. Her extreme tenderness for Madame Grignan (her daughter),
however, occupies her entire time at present. According to her, I am
very much at fault concerning women? In all charity I should have
disguised the defects which I have discovered in my sex, or, if you
prefer to have it that way, which my sex have discovered in me.

But, do you really believe, Marquis, that if everything I have said on
this subject be made public, the women would be offended? Know them
better, Marquis; all of them would find there what is their due.
Indeed, to tell them that it is purely a mechanical instinct which
inclines them to flirt, would not that put them at their ease? Does it
not seem to be restoring to favor that fatality, those expressions of
sympathy, which they are so delighted to give as excuses for their
mistakes, and in which I have so little faith? Granting that love is
the result of reflection, do you not see what a blow you are giving
their vanity? You place upon their shoulders the responsibility far
their good or bad choice.

One more thrust, Marquis: I am not mistaken when I say that all women
would be satisfied with my letters. The female metaphysicians, that
is, those women whom Heaven has favored with a fortunate constitution,
would take pleasure in recognizing in them their superiority over
other women; they would not fail to congratulate themselves upon the
delicacy of their own sentiments, and to consider them as works of
their own creation. Those whom nature built of less refined material,
would without doubt owe me some gratitude for revealing a secret which
was weighing upon them. They have made it a duty to disguise their
inclinations, and they are as anxious not to fail in this duty as they
are careful not to lose anything on the pleasure side of the question.
Their interest, therefore, is, to have their secret guessed without
being compromised. Whoever shall develop their hearts, will not fail
to render them an essential service. I am even fully convinced that
those women, who at heart, profess sentiments more comformable to
mine, would be the first to consider it an honor to dispute them.
Hence, I would be paying my court to women in two fashions, which
would be equally agreeable: In adopting the maxims which flatter their
inclinations, and in furnishing them with an occasion to appear

After all, Marquis, do you think it would betray a deep knowledge of
women, to believe that they could be offended with the malicious talk
I have been giving you about them? Somebody said a long time ago, that
women would rather have a little evil said of them than not be talked
about at all You see therefore, that even supposing that I have
written you in the intention with which I am charged, they would be
very far from being able to reproach me in the slightest degree.

Finally, Madame de Sévigné pretends that my "system" might become a
precedent. Truly, Marquis, I do not understand how, with the justice
for which she is noted, she was able to surrender to such an idea. In
stripping love, as I have, of everything liable to seduce you, in
making it out to be the effect of temperament, caprice, and vanity;
in a word, in undeceiving you concerning the metaphysics that lend it
grandeur and nobility, is it not evident that I have rendered it less
dangerous? Would it not be more dangerous, if, as pretends Madame de
Sévigné, it were to be transformed into a virtue? I would willingly
compare my sentiments with those of the celebrated legislator of
antiquity, who believed the best means of weakening the power of women
over his fellow citizens was to expose their nakedness. But I wish to
make one more effort in your favor. Since I am regarded as a woman
with a system, it will be better for me to submit to whatever such a
fine title exacts. Let us reason, therefore, for a moment upon
gallantry according to the method which appertains only to serious

Is love not a passion? Do not very strict minded people pretend that
the passions and vices mean the same things? Is vice ever more
seductive than when it wears the cloak of virtue? Wherefore in order
to corrupt virtuous souls it is sufficient for it to appear in a
potential form. This is the form in which the Platonicians deified it.
In all ages, in order to justify the passions, it was necessary to
apotheosize them. What am I saying? Am I so bold as to play the
iconoclast with an accredited superstition? What temerity! Do I not
deserve to be persecuted by all women for attacking their favorite

I am sorry for them; it was so lovely, when they felt the movements of
love, to be exempt from blushing, to be able even to congratulate
themselves, and lay the blame upon the operations of a god. But what
had poor humanity done to them? Why misunderstand it and seek for the
cause of its weakness in the Heavens? Let us remain on earth, we shall
find it there, and it is its proper home.

In truth, I have never in my letters openly declaimed against love; I
have never advised you not to take the blame of it. I was too well
persuaded of the uselessness of such advice; but I told you what love
is, and I therefore diminished the illusion it would not have failed
to create in your mind; I weakened its power over you and experience
will justify me.

I am perfectly well aware that a very different use is made of it in
the education of females. And what sort of profit is there in the
methods employed? The very first step is to deceive them. Their
teachers strive to inspire them with as much fear of love as of evil
spirits. Men are depicted as monsters of infidelity and perfidy. Now
suppose a gentleman appears who expresses delicate sentiments, whose
bearing is modest and respectful? The young woman with whom he
converses will believe she has been imposed upon; and as soon as she
discovers how much exaggeration there has been, her advisers will lose
all credit so far as she is concerned. Interrogate such a young woman,
and if she is sincere, you will find that the sentiments the alleged
monster has excited in her heart are far from being the sentiments of

They are deceived in another manner also, and the misery of it is, it
is almost impossible to avoid it. Infinite care is taken to keep from
them the knowledge, to prevent them from having even an idea that they
are liable to be attacked by the senses, and that such attacks are the
most dangerous of all for them. They are drilled in the idea that they
are immaculate spirits, and what happens then? Inasmuch as they have
never been forewarned of the species of attacks they must encounter,
they are left without defense. They have never mistrusted that their
most redoubtable enemy is the one that has never been mentioned: how
then can they be on their guard against him? It is not men they should
be taught to fear, but themselves? What could a lover do, if the woman
he attacks were not seduced by her own desires?

So, Marquis, when I say to women that the principal cause of their
weaknesses is physical, I am far from advising them to follow their
inclinations; on the contrary, it is for the purpose of putting them
on their guard in that respect. It is saying to the Governor of the
citadel, that he will not be attacked at the spot which up to then has
been the best fortified; that the most redoubtable assault will not be
made by the besiegers, but that he will be betrayed by his own.

In a word, in reducing to their just value, the sentiments to which
women attach such high and noble ideas; in enlightening them upon the
real object of a lover who pretends to great delicacy and refinement,
do you not see that I am interesting their vanity to draw less glory
out of the fact of being loved, and their hearts to take less pleasure
in loving? Depend upon it, that if it were possible to enlist their
vanity in opposition to their inclination to gallantry, their virtue
would most assuredly suffer very little.

I have had lovers, but none of them deceived me by any illusions. I
could penetrate their motives astonishingly well. I was always
persuaded that if whatever was of value from the standpoint of
intellect and character, was considered as anything among the reasons
that led them to love me, it was only because those qualities
stimulated their vanity. They were amorous of me, because I had a
beautiful figure, and they possessed the desire. So it came about that
they never obtained more than the second place in my heart. I have
always conserved for friendship the deference, the constancy, and the
respect even, which a sentiment so noble, so worthy deserves in an
elevated soul. It has never been possible for me to overcome my
distrust for hearts in which love was the principal actor. This
weakness degraded them in my eyes; I considered them incompetent to
raise their mind up to sentiments of true esteem for a woman for whom
they have felt a desire.

You see, therefore, Marquis, that the precedent I draw from my
principles is far from being dangerous. All that enlightened minds can
find with which to reproach me, will be, perhaps, because I have
taken the trouble to demonstrate a truth which they do not consider
problematic. But does not your inexperience and your curiosity justify
whatever I have written so far, and whatever I may yet write you on
this subject?


Mere Beauty Is Often of Trifling Importance

You are not mistaken, Marquis, the taste and talent of the Countess
for the clavecin (piano) will tend to increase your love and
happiness. I have always said that women do not fully realize the
advantages they might draw from their talents; indeed, there is not a
moment when they are not of supreme utility; most women always
calculating on the presence of a beloved object as the only thing to
be feared. In such case they have two enemies to combat; their love
and their lover. But when the lover departs, love remains; and
although the progress it makes in solitude is not so rapid, it is no
less dangerous. It is then that the execution of a sonata, the
sketching of a flower, the reading of a good book, will distract the
attention from a too seductive remembrance, and fix the mind on
something useful. All occupations which employ the mind are so many
thefts from love.

Suppose his inclination brings a lover to our knees, what can he
accomplish with a woman who is only tender and pretty? With what can
he employ his time if he does not find in her society something
agreeable, some variety? Love is an active sentiment, it is a
consuming fire always demanding additional fuel, and if it can find
only sensible objects upon which to feed, it will keep to that diet. I
mean to say, that when the mind is not occupied the senses find
something to do.

There are too many gesticulations while talking, sometimes I think we
shall be compelled to use sign language with a person we know to be
unable to understand a more refined language. It is not in resisting
advances, nor in taking offense at too bold a caress that a woman is
enabled to maintain her virtue. When she is attacked in that fashion,
even while defending herself, her senses are excited and the very
agitation which impels her to resist, hastens her defeat. But it is by
distracting the attention of the man to other objects, that the woman
is relieved of the necessity of resisting his advances, or taking
offense at his liberties to which she herself has opened the way, for
there is one thing certain, which is, that a man will never disappoint
a woman who is anxious for him.

You will not find a single woman, unless you can suppose one
absolutely ignorant, who is not able to gauge exactly the degree of
familiarity she ought to permit. Those who complain that their lovers
do not come up to the mark do not affect me in the least. Inquire into
the reason, and you will perceive that their stupidities, their
imprudences are the cause. It was their desire to be found wanting.

Defect in culture may expose us to the same inconveniences, for with a
woman without mind, and without talents what else is there to do but
undertake her conquest? When in her company, the only way to kill
time is to annoy her. There is nothing to talk about but her beauty,
and of the impression she has made upon the senses, and sensual
language is the only one that can be employed for that purpose. She
herself is not convinced that you love her, and she does not respond,
she does not recompense you but by the assistance of the senses, and
exhibits an agitation equal to yours, or else, her decency gone, she
has nothing but bad humor with which to oppose you. This is the last
ditch of a woman without mind, and what a culmination! On the
contrary, what are not the advantages of an intelligent, resourceful
woman? A lively repartee, piquant raillery, a quarrel seasoned with a
trifle of malice, a happy citation, a graceful recitation, are not
these so many distractions for her, and the time thus employed, is it
not so much gained for virtue?

The great misfortune with women is, without doubt, the inability to
find occupations worthy of their attention, and this is the reason why
love with them is a more violent passion than with men, but they have
a characteristic which, properly directed may serve as an antidote.
All women, to say the least, are as vain as they are sensitive,
whence, the cure for sensitiveness is vanity. While a woman is
occupied in pleasing in other ways than by the beauty of her figure,
she loses sight of the sentiment which inspires her to act. In truth,
this sentiment will not cease to be the "determining motive" (you must
permit me to use some technical term of art), but it will not be the
actual object presented to her attention, and that is something
gained. Wholly devoted to the care of becoming perfect in the species
of glory to which she aspires, this same desire, of which love will be
the source, will turn against love, by dividing the attention of the
mind and the affections of the heart; in a word it will create a

But perhaps you will tell me that there are women of spirit and
talents beyond the reach of attack. Whence you infer that men who do
not dislike freedom will avoid them, but that fools and men of
intelligence cultivate them. That is true, but the fools take to them
because they do not perceive the difficulty in their way, and men of
intelligence do not avoid them, because they aspire to surmount it.

Now, ought not you, who are a military man, to appreciate everything I
say to you about talent? I will suppose a campaign upon which you have
entered; you have been given charge of conducting the siege of a city.
Would you be satisfied if the governor, persuaded that the city is not
impregnable, should open to you the gates without having given you the
least occasion to distinguish yourself? I venture to say not; he
should resist, and the more he seeks to cover himself with glory, the
more glory he gives you. Well, Marquis, in love as in war, the
pleasure of obtaining a victory is measured according to the obstacles
in the way of it. Shall I say it? I am tempted to push the parallel
farther. See what it is to take a first step. The true glory of a
woman consists less, perhaps, in yielding, than in putting in a good
defense, so that she will merit the honors of war.

I shall go still farther. Let a woman become feeble enough to be at
the point of yielding, what is left her to retain a satisfactory
lover, if her intelligence and talents do not come to her aid? I am
well aware that they do not give themselves these advantages, but if
we investigate the matter, we shall find that there are very few women
who may not acquire a few accomplishments if they really set about it;
the difference would only be the more, at least. But women are
generally born too indolent to be able to make such an effort. They
have discovered that there is nothing so convenient as being pretty.
This manner of pleasing does not require any labor; they would be glad
not to have any other. Blind that they are, they do not see that
beauty and talents equally attract the attention of men, but, beauty
merely exposes her who possesses it, whereas talents furnish her with
the means of defending it.

In a word, to appreciate it at its full value, beauty stores up
regrets and a mortal weariness for the day when it shall cease to
exist. Would you know the reason? It is because it drowns out all
other resources. As long as beauty lasts, a woman is regarded as
something, she is celebrated, a crowd sighs at her feet. She flatters
herself that this will go on forever. What a desolate solitude when
age comes to ravish her of the only merit she possesses? I would like,
therefore (my expression is not elevated, but it interprets my
thought), I would like that in a woman, beauty could be a sign of
other advantages.

Let us agree, Marquis, that in love, the mind is made more use of than
the heart. A liaison of the heart is a drama in which the acts are the
shortest and the between acts the longest; with what then, would you
fill the interludes if not with accomplishments? Possession puts every
woman on the same level, and exposes all of them equally to
infidelity. The elegant and the beautiful, when they are nothing else,
have not, in that respect, any advantage over her who is plain; the
mind, in that case making all the difference. That alone can bestow
upon the same person the variety necessary to prevent satiety.
Moreover, it is only accomplishments that can fill the vacuum of a
passion that has been satisfied, and we can always have them in any
situation we may imagine, either to postpone defeat and render it more
flattering, or to assure us of our conquests. Lovers themselves profit
by them. How many things they cherish although they set their faces
against them? Wherefore, let the Countess, while cultivating her
decided talent for the clavecin, understand her interests and yours.

I have read over my letter, my dear Marquis, and I tremble lest you
find it a trifle serious. You see what happens when one is in bad
company. I supped last night with M. de la Rochefoucauld, and I never
see him that he does not spoil me in this fashion, at least for three
or four days.


The Misfortune of Too Sudden an Avowal

I think as you do, Marquis, the Countess punishes you too severely for
having surprised an avowal of her love. Is it your fault if her secret
escaped? She has gone too far to retreat. A woman can experience a
return to reason, but to go so far as to refuse to see you for three
days; give out that she has gone into the country for a month; return
your tender letters without opening them, is, in my opinion, a
veritable caprice of virtue. After all, however, do not despair
whatever may happen. If she were really indifferent she would be less

Do not make any mistake about this: There are occasions when a woman
is less out of humor with you than with herself. She feels with
vexation that her weakness is ready to betray her at any moment. She
punishes you for it, and she punishes herself by being unkind to you.
But you may be sure that one day of such caprice advances the progress
of a lover more than a year of care and assiduity. A woman soon begins
to regret her unkindness; she deems herself unjust; she desires to
repair her fault, and she becomes benevolent.

What surprises me the most is the marked passage in your letter which
states that since the Countess has appeared to love you, her
character has totally changed. I have no particular information on
that point. All I know is, that she made her debut in society as a
lady of elegance, and her debut was all the more marked because,
during the life of her husband, her conduct was entirely the contrary.
Do you not remember when you first made her acquaintance, that she was
lively even to giddiness, heedless, bold, even coquettish, and
appeared to be incapable of a reasonable attachment? However, to-day,
you tell me, she has become a serious melancholic; pre-occupied,
timid, affected; sentiment has taken the place of mincing airs; at
least she appears to so fit in with the character she assumes to-day,
that you imagine it to be her true one, and her former one, borrowed.
All my philosophy would be at fault in such a case, if I did not
recognize in this metamorphosis the effects of love. I am very much
mistaken if the storm raging around you to-day, does not end in the
most complete victory, and one all the more assured because she has
done everything in her power to prevent it. But if you steadily pursue
your object, carrying your pursuit even as far as importunity, follow
her wherever she goes and where you can see her; if you take it upon
yourself not to allude to your passion, and treat her with all the
mannerism of an attentive follower, respectful, but impressed, what
will happen? She will be unable to refuse you the courtesies due any
indifferent acquaintance. Women possess an inexhaustible fund of
kindness for those who love them. You know this well, you men, and it
is what always reassures you when you are treated unkindly. You know
that your presence, your attentions, the sorrow that affects you have
their effect, and end by disarming our pride.

You are persuaded that those whom our virtue keeps at a distance
through pride, are precisely those whom it fears the most, and
unfortunately, your guess is only too just, it keeps them off, indeed,
because it is not sure of its ability to resist them. It does more
sometimes, it goes to the length of braving an enemy whose attack it
dares not anticipate. In a word, the courage of a reasonable woman is
nearly always equal to a first effort, but rarely is that effort
lasting. The very excess of its violence is the cause of its
weakening. The soul has only one degree of force, and exhausted by the
constraint that effort cost it, it abandons itself to lassitude. By
and by, the knowledge of its weakness throws it into discouragement. A
woman of that disposition bears the first shock of a redoubtable enemy
with courage, but, the danger better understood, she fears a second
attack. A woman, persuaded that she has done everything possible to
defend herself against an inclination which is urging her on,
satisfied with the combats in which she has been engaged, finally
reaches the opinion that her resistance can not prevail against the
power of love. If she still resist, it is not by her own strength; she
derives no help except from the idea of the intrepidity she at first
displayed to him who attacks, or from the timidity she inspired in
him in the beginning of her resistance. Thus it is, that however
reasonable she may be, she nearly always starts out with a fine
defense, she only needs pride to resolve upon that; but unfortunately,
you divine the means of overcoming her, you persevere in your attacks,
she is not indefatigable, and you have so little delicacy that,
provided you obtain her heart, it is of no consequence to you whether
you have obtained it through your importunities or with her consent.

Besides that, Marquis, the excess of precautions a woman takes against
you, is strong evidence of how much you are feared. If you were an
object of indifference, would a woman take the trouble to avoid you? I
declare to you that she would not honor you by being afraid of you.
But I know how unreasonable lovers are. Always ingenious in tormenting
themselves, the habit of never having but one object in view is so
powerful, that they prefer being pestered with one that is
disagreeable than with none at all.

However, I feel sorry for you. Smitten as you are, your situation can
not fail to be a sad one. The poor Marquis, how badly he is treated!


When Resistance Is Only a Pretense

I was delighted to learn before my departure for the country, that
your mind was more at rest. I feel free to say, that if the Countess
had persevered in treating you with the same severity, I should have
suspected, not that she was insensible to your love, but that you had
a fortunate rival. The resistance manifested by her would have been
beyond her strength in a single combat. For you should be well
advised, Marquis, that a woman is never more intractable than when she
assumes a haughtiness toward all other men, for the sake of her
favorite lover.

I see in everything you have told me, proofs that you are loved, and
that you are the only one. I will be able to give you constant news on
that score, for I am going to investigate the Countess for myself.
This will surprise you, no doubt. Your astonishment will cease,
however, when you call to mind that Madame de la Sablière's house,
where I am going to spend a week, adjoins the grounds of your amiable
widow. You told me that she was at home, and, add to the neighborhood,
the unmeasured longing I have to make her acquaintance, you will not
be surprised at the promise I have just made you.

I have not the time to finish this letter, nor the opportunity to
send it. I must depart immediately, and my traveling companion is
teasing me in a strange fashion, pretending that I am writing a love
letter. I am letting her think what she pleases, and carry the letter
with me to the country. Adieu. What! Madame de Grignan's illness will
not permit you to visit us in our solitude?

Du Château de---.

I am writing you from the country house of the Countess, my dear
Marquis, this is the third day I have been with her, which will enable
you to understand that I am not in bad favor with the mistress of the
house. She is an adorable woman, I am delighted with her. I sometimes
doubt whether you deserve a heart like hers. Here I am her confidante.
She has told me all she thinks about you, and I do not despair of
discovering, before I return to the city, the reasons for the change
in her character which you have remarked. I dare not write you more
now, I may be interrupted, and I do not wish any one to know that I am
writing you from this place. Adieu.


The Opinion and Advice of Monsieur de la Sablière

How many things I have to tell you, Marquis! I was preparing to keep
my word with you, and had arranged to use strategy upon the Countess
to worm her secret from her, when chance came to my aid.

You are not ignorant of her confidence in Monsieur de la Sablière. She
was with him just now in an arbor of the garden, and I was passing
through a bushy path intending to join them, when the mention of your
name arrested my steps. I was not noticed, and heard all the
conversation, which I hasten to communicate to you word for word.

"I have not been able to conceal from your penetration, my inclination
for M. de Sévigné," said the Countess, "and you can not reconcile the
serious nature of so decided a passion with the frivolity attributed
to me in society. You will be still more astonished when I tell you
that my exterior character is not my true one, that the seriousness
you notice in me now, is a return to my former disposition; I was
never giddy except through design. Perhaps you may have imagined that
women can only conceal their faults, but they sometimes go much
farther, sir, and I am an instance. They even disguise their virtues,
and since the word has escaped me, I am tempted, at the risk of
wearying you, to explain by what strange gradation I reached that

"During my married life I lived retired from the world. You knew the
Count and his taste for solitude. When I became a widow, there was the
question of returning to society, and my embarrassment as to how I was
to present myself was not small. I interrogated my own heart; in vain
I sought to hide it from my own knowledge, I had a strong taste for
the pleasures of society; but at the same time I was determined to add
to it purity of morals. But how to reconcile all this? It seemed to me
a difficult task to establish a system of conduct which, without
compromising me, would not at the same time deprive me of the
pleasures of life.

"This is the way I reasoned: Destined to live among men, formed to
please them, and to share in their happiness, we are obliged to suffer
from their caprices, and above all fear their malignity. It seems that
they have no other object in our education than that of fitting us for
love, indeed, it is the only passion permitted us, and by a strange
and cruel contrariety, they have left us only one glory to obtain,
which is that of gaining a victory over the very inclination imposed
upon us. I therefore endeavored to ascertain the best means of
reconciling in use and custom, two such glaring extremes, and I found
predicaments on all sides.

"We are, I said to myself, simple enough when we enter society, to
imagine that the greatest happiness of a woman should be to love and
be loved. We then are under the impression that love is based on
esteem, upheld by the knowledge of amiable qualities, purified by
delicacy of sentiment, divested of all the insipidities which
disfigure it, in a word, fostered by confidence and the effusions of
the heart. But unfortunately, a sentiment so flattering for a woman
without experience, is everything less than that in practice. She is
always disabused when too late.

"I was so good in the beginning as to be scandalized at two
imperfections I perceived in men, their inconstancy and their
untruthfulness. The reflections I made on the first of these defects,
led me to the opinion that they were more unfortunate than guilty.
From the manner in which the human heart is constituted, is it
possible for it to be occupied with only one object? No, but does the
treachery of men deserve the same indulgence? Most men attack a
woman's virtue in cold blood, in the design to use her for their
amusement, to sacrifice her to their vanity, to fill a void in an idle
life, or to acquire a sort of reputation based upon the loss of ours.
There is a large number of men in this class. How to distinguish true
lovers? They all look alike on the surface, and the man who pretends
to be amorous, is often more seductive than one who really is.

"We are, moreover, dupes enough to make love a capital affair. You
men, on the contrary, consider it merely a play; we rarely surrender
to it without an inclination for the person of the lover; you are
coarse enough to yield to it without taste. Constancy with us is a
duty; you give way to the slightest distaste without scruple. You are
scarcely decent in leaving a mistress, the possession of whom, six
months before, was your glory and happiness. She may consider herself
well off if she is not punished by the most cruel indiscretions.

"Hence I regarded things from their tragical side, and said to myself:
'If love draws with it so many misfortunes, a woman who cherishes her
peace of mind and reputation, should never love.' However, everything
tells me that we have a heart, that this heart is made for love, and
that love is involuntary. Why, then, venture to destroy an inclination
that is part of our being? Would it not be wiser to rectify it? Let us
see how it will be possible to succeed in such an enterprise.

"What is a dangerous love? I have observed that kind of love. It is a
love which occupies the whole soul to the exclusion of every other
sentiment, and which impels us to sacrifice everything to the object

"What characters are susceptible of such a sentiment? They are the
most solid, those who show little on the outside, those who unite
reason with an elevated nobility of character in their fashion of

"Finally, who are the men the most reasonable for women of that kind?
It is those who possess just sufficient brilliant qualities to fix a
value on their essential merit. It must be confessed, though, that
such men are not good companions for women who think. It is true,
they are rare at present, and there has never been a period so
favorable as this to guarantee us against great passions, but
misfortune will have it that we meet one of them in the crowd.

"The moralists pretend that every woman possesses a fund of
sensibility destined to be applied to some object or another. A
sensible woman is not affected by the thousand trifling advantages so
agreeable to men in ordinary women. When she meets an object worthy of
her attention, it is quite natural that she should estimate the value
of it; her affection is measured according to her lights, she can not
go half way. It is these characters that should not be imitated, and
all acquaintance with the men of whom I have just been speaking,
should be avoided if a woman values her peace of mind. Let us create a
character which can procure for us two advantages at one and the same
time: One to guard us from immoderate impressions; the other to ward
off men who cause them. Let us give them an outside which will at
least prevent them from displaying qualities they do not possess. Let
us force them to please us by their frivolity, by their absurdities.
However much they may practice affectation, their visible faults would
furnish us with weapons against them. What happy state can a woman
occupy to procure such safeguards? It is undoubtedly that of a
professional society woman.

"You are doubtless astonished at the strange conclusion to which my
serious reasoning has led me. You will be still more astonished when
you shall have heard the logic I employ to prove that I am right:
listen to the end. I know the justice of your mind, and I am not
lacking in it, however frivolous I may appear to be, and you will
finish by being of my opinion.

"Do you believe that the outward appearance of virtue guarantees the
heart against the assaults of love? A poor resource. When a woman
descends to a weakness, is not her humiliation proportionately as
great as the esteem she hoped to secure? The brighter her virtue, the
easier mark for malice.

"What is the world's idea of a virtuous woman? Are not men so unjust
as to believe that the wisest woman is she who best conceals her
weakness; or who, by a forced retreat puts herself beyond the
possibility of having any? Rather than accord us a single perfection,
they carry wickedness to the point of attributing to us a perpetual
state of violence, every time we undertake to resist their advances.
One of our friends said: 'There is not an honest woman who is not
tired of being so.' And what recompense do they offer us for the cruel
torments to which they have condemned us? Do they raise up an altar to
our heroism? No! The most honest woman, they say, is she who is not
talked about, that is to say, a perfect indifference on the part of a
woman, a general oblivion is the price of our virtue. Must women not
have much of it to preserve it at such a price? Who would not be
tempted to abandon it? But there are grave matters which can not be

"Dishonor closely follows upon weakness. Old age is dreadful in
itself, what must it not be when it is passed in remorse? I feel the
necessity of avoiding such a misfortune. I calculated at first that I
could not succeed in, doing so, without condemning myself to a life of
austerity, and I had not the courage to undertake it. But it gradually
dawned upon me that the condition of a society woman was alone
competent to reconcile virtue with pleasure. From the smile on your
face, I suspect such an idea appears to be a paradox to you. But it is
more reasonable than you imagine.

"Tell me this: Is a society woman obliged to have an attachment? Is
she not exempt from tenderness? It is sufficient for her to be amiable
and courteous, everything on the surface. As soon as she becomes
expert in the role she has undertaken, then, the only mistrust the
world has of her is that she has no heart. A fine figure, haughty
airs, caprices, fashionable jargon, fantasies, and fads, that is all
that is required of her. She can be essentially virtuous with
impunity. Does any one presume to make advances? If he meet with
resistance he quickly gives over worrying her, he thinks her heart is
already captured, and he patiently awaits his turn. His perseverance
would be out of place, for she would notify a man who failed to pay
her deference, that it was owing to arrangements made before he
offered himself. In this way a woman is protected by the bad opinion
had of her.

"I read in your eyes that you are about to say to me: The state of a
professional society woman may injure my reputation, and plunge me
into difficulties I seek to avoid. Is not that your thought? But do
you not know, Monsieur, that the most austere conduct does not guard a
woman from the shafts of malice? The opinion men give of women's
reputation, and the good and wrong ideas they acquire of us are always
equally false. It is prejudice, it is a species of fatality which
governs their judgment, so that our glory depends less upon a real
virtue than upon auspicious circumstances. The hope of filling an
honorable place in their imagination, ought not to be the sole
incentive to the practice of virtue, it should be the desire to have a
good opinion of ourselves, and to be able to say, whatever may be the
opinion of the public: I have nothing with which to reproach myself.
But, what matters it to what we owe our virtue, provided we have it?

"I was therefore convinced that I could not do better, when I
reappeared in the world, than to don the mask I deemed the most
favorable to my peace of mind and to my glory. I became closely
attached to the friend who aided me with her counsel. She is the
Marquise de ----, a relative. Our sentiments were in perfect accord.
We frequented the same society. Charity for our neighbors was truly
not our favorite virtue. We made our appearance in a social circle as
into a ball room, where we were the only masks. We indulged in all
sorts of follies, we goaded the absurd into showing themselves in
their true character. After having amused ourselves in this comedy,
we had not yet reached the limit of our pleasure, it was renewed in
private interviews. How absolutely idiotic the women appeared to us,
and the men, how vacuous, fatuous, and impertinent! If we found any
who could inspire fear in a woman's heart, that is, esteem, we broke
their heart by our airs, by affecting utter indifference for them, and
by the allurements we heaped upon those who deserved them the least.
By force of our experience, we came near believing, that in order to
be virtuous, it was necessary to frequent bad company.

"This course of conduct guaranteed us for a long time against the
snares of love, and saved us from the dreadful weariness a sad and
more mournful virtue would have spread over our lives. Frivolous,
imperious, bold, even coquettish if you will, in the presence of men,
but solid, reasonable, and virtuous in our own eyes, we were happy in
this character. We never met a man we were afraid of. Those who might
have been redoubtable, were obliged to make themselves ridiculous
before being permitted to enjoy our society.

"But what finally led me to doubt the truth of my principles, is they
did not always guard me from the dangers I wished to avoid. I have
learned through my own experience, that love is a traitor with whom it
will not do to trifle. I do not know by what fatality, the Marquis de
Sévigné was able to render my projects futile. In spite of all my
precautions he has found the way to my heart. However much I resisted
him I was impelled to love him, and my reason is of no more use to me
except to justify in my own eyes the inclination I feel for him. I
would be happy if he never gave me an occasion to change my
sentiments. I have been unable to hide from him my true thoughts, I
was afraid at first that he might deem me actually as ridiculous as I
seemed to be. And when my sincerity shall render me less amiable in
his eyes (for I know that frivolity captures men more than real
merit), I wish to show myself to him in my true colors. I should blush
to owe nothing to his heart but a perpetual lie of my whole being."

"I am still less surprised, Madame," said Monsieur de la Sablière, "at
the novelty of your project, than at the skill with which you have
succeeded in rendering such a singular idea plausible. Permit me to
say, that it is not possible to go astray with more spirit. Have you
experimented with everybody according to your system? Men go a long
way around to avoid the beaten track, but they all fall over the same
obstacles. To make use of the privilege you granted me to tell you
plainly my thought, believe me, Countess, that the only way for you to
preserve your peace of mind is to resume openly your position as a
reasonable woman. There is nothing to be gained by compounding with

When I heard the conversation taking that complexion, I knew it would
soon finish, and I therefore promptly withdrew, and could not think of
anything but satisfying your curiosity. I am tired of writing. In two
days I shall return to Paris.


The Advantages of a Knowledge of the Heart

Well, Marquis, here I am back again, but the news I bring you may not
be altogether to your liking. You have never had so fine an occasion
to charge women with caprice. I wrote you the last time to tell you
that you were loved, to-day I write just the contrary.

A strange resolution has been taken against you; tremble, 'tis a thing
settled; the Countess purposes loving you at her ease, and without its
costing her any disturbance of her peace of mind. She has seen the
consequences of a passion similar to yours, and she can not face it
without dismay. She intends, therefore, to arrest its progress. Do not
let the proofs she has given you reassure you. You men imagine that as
soon as a woman has confessed her love she can never more break her
chains; undeceive yourself. The Countess is much more reasonable on
your account than I thought, and I do not hide from you the fact that
a portion of her firmness is due to my advice. You need not rely any
more on my letters, and you do not require any help from them to
understand women.

I sometimes regret that I have furnished you weapons against my sex,
without them would you ever have been able to touch the heart of the
Countess? I must avow that I have judged women with too much rigor,
and you now see me ready to make them a reparation. I know it now,
there are more stable and essentially virtuous women than I had

What a stock of reason! What a combination of all the estimable
qualities in our friend! No, Marquis, I could no longer withhold from
her the sentiment of my most tender esteem, and without consulting
your interests, I have united with her against you. You will murmur at
this, but the confidence she has given me, does it not demand this
return on my part? I will not hide from you any of my wickedness; I
have carried malice to the point of instructing her in the advantages
you might draw from everything I have written you about women.

"I feel," she said to me, "how redoubtable is a lover who combines
with so much knowledge of the heart, the talent to express himself in
such noble and delicate language. What advantages can he not have of
women who reason? I have remarked it, it is by his powers of reasoning
that he has overcome them. He possesses the art of employing the
intelligence he finds in a woman to justify, in the eyes of his
reason, the errors into which he draws her. Besides, a woman in love
thinks she is obliged to proportion her sacrifices to the good
qualities of the man she loves. To an ordinary man, a weakness is a
weakness, he blushes at it; to a man of intelligence, it is a tribute
paid to his merits, it is even a proof of our discernment; he
eulogizes our good taste and takes the credit of it. It is thus by
turning it to the profit of the vanity which he rescues from virtue,
that this enchanter hides from our eyes the grades of our weakness."

Such are at present, Marquis, the sentiments of the Countess, and I am
not sure if they leave you much to hope for. I do not ignore the fact
that it might have doubtless been better to carry out the project we
have in view without giving you any information concerning it. That
was our first intention; but could I in conscience secretly work
against you? Would it not have been to betray you? Moreover, by taking
that course, we should have appeared to be afraid of you, and hence we
found courage to put you in possession of all we expect to do to
resist you.

Come, now, Marquis, our desire to see you really makes us impatient.
Would you know the reason? It is because we expect you without fearing
you. Remember that you have not now a weak loving woman to fight
against, she would be too feeble an adversary, her courage might give
out; it is I, now, it is a woman of cold blood, who fancies herself
interested in saving the reason of her friend from being wrecked. Yes,
I will penetrate to the bottom of your heart; I will read there your
perverse designs; I will forestall them; I will render all the
artifices of your malice innocuous.

You may accuse me of treason as much as you please, but come to-night,
and I will convince you that my conduct is conformable to the most
exact equity. While your inexperience needed enlightenment,
assistance, encouragement, my zeal in your cause urged me to sacrifice
everything in your interests. Every advantage was then on the side of
the Countess. But now there is a different face on things; all her
pride to-day, is barely strong enough to resist you. Formerly, her
indifference was in her favor, and, what was worth still more, your
lack of skill; to-day you have the experience, and she has her reason
the less.

After that, to combine with you against her, to betray the confidence
she reposes in me, to refuse her the succor she has the right to
expect from me, if you are sincere, you will avow it yourself, would
be a crying wrong. Henceforth, I purpose to repair the evil I have
done in revealing our secrets, by initiating you into our mysteries. I
do not know why, but the pleasure I feel in crossing you, appears to
be working in my favor, and you know how far my rights oven you
extend. My sentiments will always be the same, and, on your part
without doubt, you are too equitable to diminish your esteem for me,
because of anything I may have done in favor of a friend.

By and by, then, at the Countess'.


A Heart Once Wounded No Longer Plays with Love

What, Marquis, afraid of two women? You already despair of your
affairs, because they oppose your success, and you are ready to
abandon the game? Dear me, I thought you had more courage. It is true
that the firmness of the Countess astonishes even me, but I do not
understand how she could hold out against your ardor for an entire
evening. I never saw you so seductive, and she has just confessed to
me that you were never so redoubtable. Now I can respond for her,
since her courage did not fail her on an occasion of so much peril. I
saw still farther, and I judge from her well sustained ironical
conversation, that she is only moderately smitten. A woman really
wounded by the shaft of love would not have played with sentiment in
such a flippant manner.

This gives birth to a strange idea. It would be very delightful, if in
a joking way, we should discover that your tender Adelaide does not
love you up to a certain point. What a blow that would be to your
vanity! But you would quickly seek revenge. You might certainly find
beauties ready to console you for your loss. How often has vexation
made you say: "What is a woman's heart? Can any one give me a
definition of it?"

However, do you know that I am tempted to find fault with you, and if
you take this too much to heart, I do not know what I would not do to
soften the situation. But I know you are strong minded. Your first
feelings of displeasure past, you will soon see that the best thing
you can do is to come down to the quality of friend, a position which
we have so generously offered you. You ought to consider yourself very
fortunate, your dismissal might be made absolute. But do not make this
out to be much of a victory, you will be more harshly treated if we
consider you more to be feared.

Adieu, Marquis. The Countess, who is sitting at the head of my bed,
sends you a thousand tender things. She is edified by the discretion
with which you have treated us; not to insist when two ladies seem to
be so contrary to you, that is the height of gallantry. So much
modesty will certainly disarm them, and may some day move them to
pity. Hope, that is permitted you.

From the Countess.

Although you may be inspired by the most flattering hopes, Marquis, I
will add a few words to this letter. I have not read it, but I suspect
that it refers to me. I wish, however, to write you with my own hand
that we shall be alone here all day. I wish to tell you that I love
you moderately well at present, but that I have the greatest desire
in the world not to love you at all. However, if you deem it advisable
to come and trouble our little party, it gives me pleasure to warn you
that your heart will be exposed to the greatest danger. I am told that
I am handsomer to-day than you have ever found me to be, and I never
felt more in the humor to treat you badly.


Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

All this, Marquis, begins to pass the bounds of pleasantry. Explain
yourself, I pray you. Did you pretend to speak seriously in your
letter, in making it understood that I was acting on this occasion
through jealousy, and that I was trying to separate you and the
Countess to profit by it myself?

You are either the wickedest of men or the most adroit; the wickedest
if you ever could suspect me guilty of such baseness; the most adroit,
if you have thrown out that idea to make my friend suspect me. I see
very clearly in all this, that the alternative is equally injurious to
me, since the Countess has taken the matter to heart. I find that my
relations with her are very embarrassing. Criminal that you are, how
well you know your ascendency over her heart! You could not better
attack her than by the appearance of indifference you affect. Not
deign to answer my last letter, not come to the rendezvous given you,
remain away from us three days, and after all that, to write us the
coldest letter possible, oh, I confess it frankly, that is to act like
a perfect man; that is what I call a master stroke, and the most
complete success has responded to your hope. The Countess has not
been able to stand against so much coolness. The fear that this
indifference may become real has caused her a mortal anxiety.

Great Heavens! What is the most reasonable woman when love has turned
her head? Why were you not the witness of the reproaches I have just
heard? How is that? To hear the Countess to-day, gave me an injurious
opinion of her virtue, a false idea of your pretensions, and I
considered your designs criminal because you took so much pleasure in
punishing her.

I am hard, unjust, cruel, I can not remember all the epithets with
which I was covered. What outbursts! Oh, I protest to you, this will
be the last storm I will undergo for being mixed up in your affairs,
and I very cordially renounce the confidence with which you have both
honored me. Advisers do not play a very agreeable part in such cases,
so it seems to me, always charged with what is disagreeable in
quarrels, and the lovers only profit by a reconciliation.

However, after due reflection, I think I should be very silly to take
offence at this. You are two children whose follies will amuse me, I
ought to look upon them with the eye of a philosopher, and finish by
being the friend of both. Come then, at once, and assure me if that
resolution will suit you. Now, do not play the petty cruel role any
more. Come and make peace. These poor children; one of them has such
innocent motives, the other is so sure of her virtue, that to stand in
the way of their inclination, is surely to afflict them without


The Heart Should be Played Upon Like the Keys of a Piano

I am beginning to understand, Marquis, that the only way to live with
the most reasonable woman, is never to meddle with her heart affairs.
I have, therefore, made up my mind. Henceforward I shall never mention
your name to the Countess unless she insists upon my doing so; I do
not like bickerings.

But this resolution will change nothing of my sentiments for you, nor
my friendship for her. And, although I still stand her friend, I shall
not scruple to make use of my friendship, so far as you are concerned,
as I have in the past I shall continue, since you so wish it, to give
you my ideas on the situations in which you may become involved, on
condition, however, that you permit me sometimes to laugh at your
expense, a liberty I shall not take to-day, because if the Countess
follows up the plan she has formed, that is, if she persists in
refusing to see you alone, I do not see that your affairs will advance
very rapidly. She remembers what I told her, she knows her heart, and
has reason to fear it.

It is only an imprudent woman who relies upon her own strength, and
exposes herself without anxiety to the advances of the man she loves.
The agitation which animates him, the fire with which his whole person
appears to be burning, excites our senses, fires our imagination,
appeals to our desires. I said to the Countess one day: "We resemble
your clavecin; however well disposed it may be to respond to the hand
which should play upon it, until it feels the impression of that hand,
it remains silent; touch its keys, and sounds are heard." Finish the
parallel, and draw your conclusions.

But after all, why should you complain, Monsieur, the metaphysician?
To see the Countess, hear the soft tones of her voice, render her
little attentions, carry the delicacy of sentiment beyond the range of
mortal vision, feel edified at her discourses on virtue, are not these
supreme felicity for you? Leave for earthy souls the gross sentiments
which are beginning to develop in you. To look at you to-day, it might
be said that I was not so far out of the way when I declared love to
be the work of the senses. Your own experience will compel you to avow
that I had some good reason for saying so, for which I am not at all
sorry. Consider yourself punished for your injustice. Adieu.

Your old rival, the Chevalier, has revenged himself for the rigors of
the Countess, by tying himself up with the Marquise, her relative.
This choice is assuredly a eulogy on his good taste, they are made for
each other. I shall be very much charmed to know whither their fine
passion will lead them.


Mistaken Impressions Common to All Women

Do you think, Marquis, that I have not felt all the sarcasm you have
deigned to turn against me on account of my pretended reconciliation
with the Countess? Know this, sir, that we have never been at outs.

It is true, she begged me to forget her vivacity, which she claimed
was due to her love, and she insisted that I should continue to give
her good counsel. But Good Heavens! Of what use are my counsels except
to provide you with an additional triumph? The best advice I can give
her is to break off her relations with you, for whatever confidence
she may have in her pride, her only preservative against you is
flight. She believes, for example, that she used her reason with good
effect in the conversation you have related to me. But every
reasonable woman does not fail to use the same language as soon as a
lover shows her some respectful pretensions.

"I only want your heart," they say, "your sentiments, your esteem is
all I desire. Alas! you will find only too many women with so little
delicacy as to believe themselves very happy in accepting what I
refuse. I will never envy them a happiness of that kind."

Be on your guard, Marquis, and do not openly combat such fine
sentiments; to doubt a woman's sincerity on such occasions, is to do
more than offend them, it is to be maladroit. You must applaud their
mistaken idea if you would profit by it. They wish to appear
high-minded, and sensible only of the pleasures of the soul, it is
their system, their esprit du corps. If some women are in good faith
on this point, how many are there who treat it as an illusion and wish
to impose it upon you?

But whatever may be the reason which impels them to put you on a false
scent, ought you not to be delighted that they are willing to take the
trouble to deceive you? What obligations are you not under? They give
in this manner, a high value to those who, without it, would be very
undesirable. Admire our strategy when we feign indifference to what
you call the pleasures of love, pretending even to be far removed from
its sweetness, we augment the grandeur of the sacrifice we make for
you, by it, we even inspire the gratitude of the authors of the very
benefits we receive from them, you are satisfied with the good you do

And since it was said that we make it a duty to deceive you, what
obligation do you not owe us? We have chosen the most obliging way to
do it. You are the first to gain by this deceit, for we can not
multiply obstacles without enhancing the price of your victory.
Troubles, cares, are not these the money with which lovers pay for
their pleasures? What a satisfaction for your vanity to be able to
say within yourselves: "This woman, so refined, so insensible to the
impressions of the senses; this woman who fears disdain so much, comes
to me, nevertheless, and sacrifices her repugnance, her fears, her
pride? My own merit, the charms of my person, my skill, have
surmounted invincible objects for something quite different. How
satisfied I am with my prowess!"

If women acted in good faith, if they were in as much haste to show
you their desires as you are to penetrate them, you could not talk
that way. How many pleasures lost! But you can not impute wrong to
this artifice, it gives birth to so many advantages. Pretend to be
deceived, and it will become a pleasure to you.

If the Countess knew what I have written, how she would reproach me!


The Allurements of Stage Women

I know too well that a man in your position, particularly a military
man, is often exposed to bad company, consequently, he is attracted by
the divinities you mention. In spite of that you are not deceived, and
I would probably censure you, if I were not so sure, that, in the
present state of your heart, the heroines of the theater are not
dangerous to you. But the Countess is less indulgent, you say. Her
jealousy does not astonish me, she confirms my ideas concerning female
metaphysicians. I know how much credit is due their sincerity. Her
complaints are very singular, for, what is she deprived of? The women
in question are nothing but women of sentiment, and it is to sentiment
that the Countess is attached.

How little women are in accord! They pretend to despise women of the
stage; they fear them too much to despise them. But after all, are
they wrong to consider them rivals? Are you not more captivated with
their free and easy style, than with that of a sensible woman who has
nothing to offer but order, decency, and uniformity? With the former,
men are at their ease, they appear to be in their element; with the
latter, men are kept within bounds, obliged to stand on their
dignity, and to be very circumspect. From the portrait of several of
them, I should judge that there are some of them very capable of
making many men unfaithful to the most beloved mistress. But with a
sensible man, this infidelity, if it be one, can not be of long
duration. These women may create a sudden, lively desire, but never a
veritable passion.

The fairies of the operatic stage would be too dangerous, if they had
the wit or the humor always to amuse you as much as they do the first
time you are thrown on their company. However little jargon, habits,
and decency they have on the surface, it is possible that they may
please you at first. You men have so little refinement sometimes! The
freedom of their conversation, the vivacity of their sallies of
alleged wit, their giddy ways, all this affords you a situation that
charms; a lively and silly joy seizes upon you, the hours you pass
with them seem to be only moments. But happily for you, they seldom
possess sufficient resources to maintain a role so amusing. Inasmuch
as they lack education and culture, they soon travel around the small
circle of their accomplishments. They feed you with the same
pleasantries, the same stories, the same antics, and it is seldom one
laughs twice at the same thing when one has no esteem for the fun

The Countess need not worry, for I know you well enough to assure her
that it is not that class of women she may apprehend, there are in the
world, others more redoubtable, they are the "gallant women," those
equivocal women in society. They occupy a middle position between good
women and those I have been talking about; they associate with the
former and are not different from the latter except on the surface.
More voluptuous than tender, they seduce by lending to the least
refined sentiments an air of passion which is mistaken for love. They
understand how to convey an impression of tenderness to what is only a
taste for pleasure. They make you believe that it is by choice, by a
knowledge of your merit that they yield. If you do not know them to be
gallant women, the shade of difference which distinguishes the true
motives which actuates them, from the sensibility of the heart, is
impossible to seize. You accept for excess of passion what is only an
intoxication of the senses. You imagine you are loved because you are
lovable, but it is only because you are a man.

These are the women I should fear if I were in the place of the
Countess. The financial woman who has lately appeared in society
belongs to this class, but I have already warned the Countess.

I call to mind, here, that in your preceding letter, you mentioned the
allurements which the Countess thought proper to manifest? She was
right in taking umbrage. Your passion for her is truly too great to
prevent you from sacrificing everything, but I fear you will not
always be so honest.

Madame de ---- possesses bloom and cheerfulness; she is at an age when
women assume charge of young men who desire to be fitted for society,
and to learn their first lessons in gallantry. The interesting and
affectionate disposition you find in her will have its effect, but be
careful, it is I who warn you. Although I despise such women, it
happens that they have the power to create attachments; they often
find the secret of making you commit more follies than any of the
other women.


Varieties of Resistance are Essential

I hasten to tell you, Marquis, that I have just maintained a thesis
against Monsieur de la Bruyère. No doubt you admire my temerity?
However it is true. He pretends that Corneille described men as they
should be, and Racine as they are; I held the contrary. We had some
illustrious spectators of the dispute, and I ought to be very proud of
the suffrages in my favor.

But all the details would be too long to write you, so come and we
will talk them over. Every one has his own fashion of describing
things, I have mine, I know. I represent women as they are, and I am
very sorry not to be able to represent them as they should be. Now I
shall reply to your letter.

The species of languor which affects you does not surprise me. The
malady which afflicts the Marquise has deprived you of the pleasure of
seeing the Countess, and your heart remaining in the same condition
for three days, it is not surprising that ennui should have gained
upon it. Neither does your present indifference for the Countess alarm
me. In the greatest passions there are always moments of lukewarmness,
which astonish the hearts that feel the sensation. Whether the heart,
constantly agitated by the same emotions, finally tires, or whether it
is absolutely impossible for it to be always employed with the same
object, there are moments of indifference, the cause of which can not
be ascertained. The livelier the emotions of the heart, the more
profound the calm that is sure to follow, and it is this calm that is
always more fateful to the object loved than storm and agitation. Love
is extinguished by a resistance too severe or constant. But an
intelligent woman goes beyond that, she varies her manner of
resisting; this is the sublimity of the art.

Now, with the Countess, the duties of friendship are preferable to the
claims of love, and that is another reason for your indifference
toward her. Love is a jealous and tyrannical sentiment, which is never
satiated until the object loved has sacrificed upon its altar all
desires and passions. You do nothing for it unless you do everything.
Whenever you prefer duty, friendship, etc., it claims the right to
complain. It demands revenge. The small courtesies you deemed it
necessary to show Madame de ---- are proofs of it. I would have much
preferred, though, you had not carried them so far as accompanying her
home. The length of time you passed in her company, the pleasure you
experienced in conversing with her, the questions she put to you on
the state of your heart, all goes to prove the truth of what I said in
my last letter. It is vain for you to protest that you came away more
amorous than ever of the Countess, your embarrassment when she
inquired whether you had remained long with your "fermière générale,"
the attempt you made to deceive her by an evasive answer, the extreme
care you took to disarm her slightest suspicion, are indications to me
that you are far more guilty than you pretend, or than you are aware
of yourself.

The Countess suffers the consequences of all that. Do you not see how
she affects to rouse your jealousy by praising the Chevalier, your
ancient rival? For once, I can assure you that you will not so soon be
affected by the languors we mentioned a short time ago. Jealousy will
give you something to think about. Do you count for nothing, the
sufferings of the Marquise? You will soon see her, the ravages of the
smallpox will not alone disfigure her face, for her disposition will
be very different, as soon as she learns the extent of her misfortune.
How I pity her; how I pity other women! With what cordiality she will
hate them and tear them to tatters! The Countess is her best friend,
will she be so very long? She is so handsome, her complexion casts the
others in the shade. What storms I foresee!

I had forgotten to quarrel with you about your treatment of me. You
have been so indiscreet as to show my recent letters to M. de la
Rochefoucauld. I will cease writing you if you continue to divulge my
secret. I am willing to talk personally with him about my ideas, but I
am far from flattering myself that I write well enough to withstand
the criticism of a reader like him.


The True Value of Compliments Among Women

The marks left by the smallpox on the Marquise's face have set her
wild. Her resolution not to show herself for a long time does not
surprise me. How could she appear in public in such a state? If the
accident which humiliates her had not happened, how she would have
made the poor Chevalier suffer! Does not this prove that female virtue
depends upon circumstances, and diminishes with pride?

How I fear a similar example in the case of the Countess! Nothing is
more dangerous for a woman than the weaknesses of her friend; love,
already too seductive in itself, becomes more so through the contagion
of example, if I may so speak; it is not only in our heart that it
gathers strength; it acquires new weapons against reason from its
environment. A woman who has fallen under its ban, deems herself
interested, for her own justification, in conducting her friend to the
edge of the same precipice, and I am not, therefore, surprised at what
the Marquise says in your favor. Up to the present moment they have
been guided by the same principles; what a shame, then, for her, that
the Countess could not have been guaranteed against the effects of it!
Now, the Marquise has a strong reason the more for contributing to
the defeat of her friend; she has become positively ugly, and
consequently obliged to be more complaisant in retaining a lover. Will
she suffer another woman to keep hers at a less cost? That would be to
recognize too humiliating a superiority, and I can assure you that she
will do the most singular things to bring her amiable widower up to
the point.

If she succeed, how much I fear everything will be changed! To have
been as beautiful as another woman, and to be so no longer, although
she embellishes herself every day, and to suffer her presence every
day, is, I vow, an effort beyond the strength of the most reasonable
woman, greater than the most determined philosophy. Among women
friendship ceases where rivalry begins. By rivalry, I mean that of
beauty only, it would be too much to add that of sentiment.

I foresee this with regret, but it is my duty to forewarn you.
Whatever precautions the Countess may take to control the amour propre
of the Marquise, she will never make anything else out of her than an
ingrate. I do not know by what fatality, everything a beautiful woman
tells one who is no longer beautiful, assumes in the mouth, an
impression of a commiseration which breaks down the most carefully
devised management, and humiliates her whom it is thought to console.
The more a woman strives to efface the superiority she possesses over
an unfortunate sister woman, the more she makes that superiority
apparent, until the latter reaches the opinion that it is only
through generosity that she is permitted to occupy the subordinate
position left her.

You may depend upon it, Marquis, that women are never misled when it
comes to mutual praise; they fully appreciate the eulogies
interchanged among themselves; and as they speak without sincerity, so
they listen with little gratitude. And although she who speaks, in
praising the beauty of another, may do so in good faith, she who
listens to the eulogy, considers less what the other says than her
style of beauty. Is she ugly? We believe and love her, but if she be
as handsome as we, we thank her coldly and disdain her; handsomer, we
hate her more than before she spoke.

You must understand this, Marquis, that as much as two beautiful women
may have something between them to explain, it is impossible for them
to form a solid friendship. Can two merchants who have the same goods
to sell become good neighbors? Men do not penetrate the true cause of
the lack of cordiality among women. Those who are the most intimate
friends often quarrel over nothing, but do you suppose this "nothing"
is the real occasion of their quarrel? It is only the pretext. We hide
the motive of our actions when to reveal it would be a humiliation. We
do not care to make public the fact that it is jealousy for the beauty
of our friend that is the real cause, to give that as the reason for
estrangement would be to charge us with envy, a pleasure one woman
will not give another; she prefers injustice. Whenever it happens
that two beautiful women are so happy as to find a pretext to get rid
of each other, they seize upon it with vivacity, and hate each other
with a cordiality which proves how much they loved each other before
the rupture.

Well, Marquis, am I talking to you with sufficient frankness? You see
to what lengths my sincerity goes. I try to give you just ideas of
everything, even at my own expense, for I am assuredly not more exempt
than another woman from the faults I sometimes criticise. But as I am
sure that what passes between us will be buried in oblivion, I do not
fear embroiling myself in a quarrel with all my sex, they might,
perhaps, claim the right to blame my ingenuity.

But the Countess is above all such petty things, she agrees, however,
with everything I have just said. Are there many women like her?


Oratory and Fine Phrases do Not Breed Love

The example of the Marquise has not yet had any effect on the heart of
her friend. It appears, on the contrary, that she is more on guard
against you, and that you have drawn upon yourself her reproaches
through some slight favor you have deprived her of.

I have been thinking that she would not fail on this occasion to
recall to your recollection, the protestations of respect and
disinterestedness you made when you declared your passion for her. It
is customary in similar cases. But what seems strange about it is,
that the same eagerness that a woman accepts as a proof of disrespect,
before she is in perfect accord with her lover, becomes, in her
imagination, a proof of love and esteem, as soon as they meet on a
common ground.

Listen to married women, and to all those who, being unmarried, permit
the same prerogatives; hear them, I say, in their secret complaints
against unfaithful husbands and cooling lovers. They are despised, and
that is the sole reason they can imagine. But with us, what they
consider a mark of esteem and sincerity, is it anything else than the
contrary? I told you some time ago, that women themselves, when they
are acting in good faith, go farther than men in making love consist
in an effervescence of the blood. Study a lover at the commencement of
her passion: with her, then, love is purely a metaphysical sentiment,
with which the senses have not the least relation. Similar to those
philosophers who, in the midst of grievous torments would not confess
that they were suffering pain, she is a martyr to her own system; but,
at last, while combatting this chimera, the poor thing becomes
affected by a change; her lover vainly repeats that love is a divine,
metaphysical sentiment, that it lives on fine phrases, on spiritual
discourses, that it would be degrading to mingle with it anything
material and human; he vainly, boasts of his respect and refinement. I
tell you, Marquis, on the part of all women, that such an orator will
never make his fortune. His respect will be taken as an insult, his
refinement for derision, and his fine discourses for ridiculous
pretexts. All the grace that will be accorded him, is that she will
find a pretext to quarrel with him because he has been less refined
with some other woman, and that he will be put to the sorrowful
necessity of displaying his high flown sentiments to his titular
mistress, and what is admirable about this is, that the excuse for it
arises out of the same principle.

P.S.--You have so much deference for my demands! You not only show my
letters to M. de la Rochefoucauld, but you read them before the whole
assembly of my friends. It is true that the indulgence with which my
friends judge them, consoles me somewhat for your indiscretion, and I
see very well that the best thing for me to do is to continue on in my
own way as I have in the past. But, at least, be discreet when I
mention matters relating to the glory of the Countess; otherwise, no


Discretion Is Sometimes the Better Part of Valor

No, Marquis, I can not pardon in you the species of fury with which
you desire what you are pleased to call the "supreme happiness." How
blind you are, not to know that when you are sure of a woman's heart,
it is in your interests to enjoy her defeat a long time before it
becomes entire. Will you never understand, that of all there is good
on earth, it is the sweetness of love that must be used with the
greatest economy?

If I were a man and were so fortunate as to have captured the heart of
a woman like the Countess, with what discretion I would use my
advantages? How many gradations there would be in the law I should
impose upon myself to overlook them successively and even leisurely?
Of how many amiable pleasures, unknown to men, would not I be the
creator? Like a miser, I would contemplate my treasure unceasingly,
learn its precious value, feel that in it consisted all my felicity,
base all my happiness upon the possession of it, reflect that it is
all mine, that I may dispose of it and yet maintain my resolution not
to deprive myself of its use.

What a satisfaction to read in the eyes of an adorable woman the power
you have over her; to see her slightest acts give birth to an
impression of tenderness, whenever they relate to you; to hear her
voice soften when it is to you or of you she speaks; to enjoy her
confusion at your slightest eagerness, her anxiety at your most
innocent caresses? Is there a more delicious condition than that of a
lover who is sure of being loved, and can there be any sweeter than at
such moments? What a charm for a lover to be expected with an
impatience that is not concealed; to be received with an eagerness all
the more flattering from the effort made to hide the half of it?

She dresses in a fashion to please; she assumes the deportment, the
style, the pose that may flatter her lover the most. In former times
women dressed to please in general, now their entire toilette is to
please men; for his sake she wears bangles, jewelry, ribbons,
bracelets, rings. He is the object of it all, the woman is transformed
into the man; it is he she loves in her own person. Can you find
anything in love more enchanting than the resistance of a woman who
implores you not to take advantage of her weakness? Is there anything,
in a word, more seductive than a voice almost stifled with emotion,
than a refusal for which she reproaches herself, and, the rigor of
which she attempts to soften by tender looks, before a complaint is
made? I can not conceive any.

But it is certain that as soon as she yields to your eagerness, all
these pleasures weaken in proportion to the facility met. You alone
may prolong them, even increase them, by taking the time to know all
the sweetness and its taste. However, you are not satisfied unless
the possession, be entire, easy, and continuous. And after that, you
are surprised to find indifference, coolness, and inconstancy in your
heart. Have you not done everything to satiate your passion for the
beloved object? I have always contended that love never dies from
desire but often from indigestion, and I will sometime tell you in
confidence my feelings for Count ----. You will understand from that
how to manage a passion to render happiness enduring; you will see
whether I know the human heart and true felicity; you will learn from
my example that the economy of the sentiments is, in the question of
love, the only reasonable metaphysics. In fine, you will know how
little you understand your true interests in your conduct toward the
Countess. To interfere with your projects, I shall be with her as
often as it is possible. Now, do not be formal, and tell me that I am
an advocate on both sides; for I am persuaded that I am acting for the
good of the parties interested.


Surface Indications in Women are Not Always Guides

What, I censure you, Marquis? I will take good care not to do so, I
assure you. You have not been willing to follow my advice, and hence,
I am not at all sorry for having ill-used you. You thought you had
nothing to do but to treat the Countess roughly. Her easy fashion of
treating love, her accessibility, her indulgence for your numerous
faults, the freedom with which she mocks the Platonicians, all this
encouraged you to hope that she was not very severe, but you have just
discovered your mistake. All this outward show was nothing but
deceitful and perfidious allurements. To take advantage thus of the
good faith of any one--I must confess that it is a conduct which cries
for vengeance; she deserves all the names you give her.

But do you wish me to talk to you with my customary frankness? You
have fallen into an error which is common among men. They judge women
from the surface. They imagine that a woman whose virtue is not always
on the qui vive, will be easier to overcome than a prude; even
experience does not undeceive them. How often are they exposed to a
severity all the keener that it was unexpected? Their custom then, is
to accuse women of caprice and oddity; all of you use the same
language, and say: Why such equivocal conduct? When a woman has
decided to remain intractable, why surprise the credulity of a lover?
Why not possess an exterior conformable to her sentiments? In a word,
why permit a man to love her, when she does not care ever to see him
again? Is this not being odd and false? Is it not trifling with

You are in error, gentlemen, you are imposing upon your vanity, it is
in vain you try to put us on a false scent, that, of itself, is
offensive, and you talk of sentiment as ennobling a thing that
resembles it very little. Are not you, yourselves, to blame if we
treat you thus? However little intelligence a woman may have, she
knows that the strongest tie to bind you to her is anticipation,
wherefore, you must let her lay the blame on you. If she were to arm
herself from the first with a severity that would indicate that she is
invincible, from that time, no lovers for her. What a solitude would
be hers, what shame even? For a woman of the most pronounced virtue is
no less sensible of the desire to please, she makes her glory consist
in securing homage and adoration. But without ignoring the fact that
those she expects attention from are induced to bestow them only for
reasons that wound her pride; unable to reform this defect, the only
part she can take is to use it to her advantage to keep them by her
side; she knows how to keep them, and not destroy the very hopes
which, however, she is determined never to gratify. With care and
skill she succeeds. Hence, as soon as a woman understands her real
interests she does not fail to say to herself what the Countess
confessed to me at our last interview:

"I can well appreciate the 'I love you' of the men; I do not disguise
the fact that I know what it signifies at bottom, therefore upon me
rests the burden of being offended at hearing them; but when women
have penetrated their motives, they have need of their vanity to
disconcert their designs. Our anger, when they have offended us, is
not the best weapon to use in opposing them. Whoever must go outside
herself and become angry to resist them, exposes her weakness. A fine
irony, a piquant raillery, a humiliating coolness, these are what
discourage them. Never a quarrel with them, consequently no
reconciliation. What advantages does not this mode of procedure take
from them!

"The prude, it is true, follows a quite different method. If she is
exposed to the least danger, she does not imagine herself to be
reasonable but in proportion to the resentment she experiences; but
upon whom does such conduct impose? Every man who knows the cards,
says to himself: 'I am ill used because the opportunity is
unfavorable. It is my awkwardness that is punished and not my
temerity. Another time, that will be well received which is a crime
to-day; this severity is a notice to redouble my effort, to merit more
indulgence and disarm pride; she wishes to be appeased.' And the only
means in such case to make her forget the offense is, that in making
an apology to repeat it a second time. With my recipe, I am certain
that a man will never reason that way.

"The Marquis, for example, has sometimes permitted me to read in his
eyes his respectful intentions. I never knew but one way to punish
him; I have feigned not to understand him; insensibly, I have diverted
his mind to other objects. And this recipe has worked well up to the
moment I last saw him at my house. There was no way to dissimulate
with him; he wished to honor me with some familiarities, and I stopped
him immediately, but not in anger. I deemed it more prudent to arm
myself with reason than with anger. I appeared to be more afflicted
than irritated, and I am sure my grief touched his heart more than
bitter reproaches which might have alarmed him. He went away very much
dissatisfied; and just see what the heart is: at first, I was afraid I
had driven him away forever, I was tempted to reproach myself for my
cruelty, but, upon reflection, I felt reassured. Has severity ever
produced inconstancy?"

To go on: We talked until we were out of breath, and everything the
Countess told me gave me to understand that she had made up her mind.
It will be in vain for you to cry out against her injustice, consider
her as odd and inhuman, she will not accept any of the sweetness of
love unless it costs her pride nothing, and I observe that she is
following that resolution with more firmness than I imagined her
capable of. The loss of your heart would undoubtedly be a misfortune
for which she could never be consoled. But, on the other hand, the
conditions you place upon your perseverance appear too hard to be
accepted; she is willing to compromise with you. She hopes to be able
to hold you without betraying her duty, a project worthy of her
courage, and I hope it will succeed better than the plan she had
formed to guarantee her heart against love. Let us await the outcome.

Shall we see you to-morrow at Madame la Presidente's? If you should
desire to have an occasion to speak to her, I do not doubt that you
will make your peace.


Women Demand Respect

I should never have expected it, Marquis. What! My zeal in your behalf
has drawn your reproaches down upon me? I share with the Countess the
bad humor her severity has caused! you. Do you know? If what you say
were well founded, nothing could be more piquant for me than the
ironical tone in which you laud my principles. But to render me
responsible for your success, as you attempt, have you dared think for
an instant that my object in writing you, was ever for the purpose of
giving you lessons in seduction? Do you not perceive any difference in
teaching you to please, and exciting you toward seduction? I have told
you the motives which incline women to love, it is true, but have I
ever said that they were easier to vanquish? Have I ever told you to
attack them by sensuality, and that in attacking them to suppose them
without delicacy? I do not believe it.

When your inexperience and your timidity might cause you to play the
role of a ridiculous personage among women, I explained the harm these
defects might cause you in the world. I advised you to have more
confidence, in order to lead you insensibly in the direction of that
noble and respectful boldness you should have when with women. But as
soon as I saw that your pretensions were going too far, and that they
might wound the reputation of the Countess, I did not dissimulate, I
took sides against you, and nothing was more reasonable, I had become
her friend. You see, then, how unjust you are in my regard, and you
are no less so in regard to her. You treat her as if she were an
equivocal character. According to your idea, she has neither decided
for nor against gallantry, and what you clearly see in her conduct is,
that she is a more logical coquette than other women. What an opinion!

But there is much to pardon in your situation. However, a man without
prejudice, would see in the Countess only a lover as reasonable as she
is tender; a woman who, without having an ostentatious virtue,
nevertheless remains constantly attached to it; a woman, in a word,
who seeks in good faith the proper means of reconciling love and duty.
The difficulty in allying these two contraries is not slight, and it
is the source of the inequalities that wound you. Figure to yourself
the combats she must sustain, the revolutions she suffers, her
embarrassment in endeavoring to preserve a lover whom too uniform a
resistance might repel. If she were sure of keeping you by resisting
your advances; but you carry your odd conduct to the extent of leaving
her when her resistance is too prolonged. While praising our virtue,
you abandon us, and then, what shame for us! But since in both cases
it is not certain that her lover will be held, it is preferable to
accept the inconvenient rather than cause you to lose her heart and
her esteem.

That is our advice, for the Countess and I think precisely alike on
the subject. Be more equitable, Marquis; complain of her rather than
criticise her. If her character were more decided, perhaps you would
be better satisfied with her; but, even in that case would you be
satisfied very long? I doubt it.

Adieu. We count on seeing you this evening at Madame de La Fayette's,
and that you will prove more reasonable. The Abbé Gedoyn will be
presented me. The assembly will be brilliant, but you will doubtless
be bored, for you will not see the only object that can attract you,
and you will say of my apartment, what Malherbe so well says of the
garden of the Louvre:

"Mais quoi que vous ayez, vous n'avez point Caliste,
Et moi je ne vois rien, quand je ne la vois pas."

(Whatever you may have Caliste you have not got,
And I, I can see nothing when I see her not.)


Why Love Grows Weak--Marshal de Saint-Evremond's Opinion

A calm has succeeded the storm, Marquis, and I see by your letter that
you are more satisfied with the Countess and with yourself. How
powerful logic is coming from the mouth of a woman we adore! You see
how the conduct of our friend has produced an opposite effect from
that of the Marquise; the severity of the former increasing your
esteem and love for her and the kindness of the Marquise making an
unfaithful lover out of the Chevalier. So it generally happens among
men, ingratitude is commonly the price of benefits. This misfortune,
however, is not always beyond the reach of remedies, and in this
connection I wish to give you the contents of a letter I received from
Monsieur de Saint-Evremond a few days ago. You are not ignorant of the
intimate relations that have always existed between us.

The young Count de ---- had just espoused Mademoiselle ----, of whom
he was passionately amorous. He complained one day to me that hymen
and the possession of the beloved object weakened every day, and often
destroyed the most tender love. We discussed the subject for a long
time, and as I happened to write to Saint-Evremond that day, I
submitted the question to him. This is his reply:


My opinion is exactly in line with yours, Mademoiselle; it is not
always, as some think, hymen or the possession of the loved object
which, of itself, destroys love, the true source of the
dissatisfaction that follows love is in the unintelligent manner of
economizing the sentiments, a possession too easy, complete, and

When we have yielded to the transports of a passion without reserve,
the tremendous shock to the soul can not fail quickly to leave it in a
profound solitude. The heart finds itself in a void which alarms and
chills it. We vainly seek outside of ourselves, the cause of the calm
which follows our fits of passion; we do not perceive that an equal
and more enduring happiness would have been the fruit of moderation.
Make an exact analysis of what takes place within you when you desire
anything. You will find that your desires are nothing but curiosity,
and this curiosity, which is one of the forces of the heart,
satisfied, our desires vanish. Whoever, therefore, would hold a spouse
or a lover, should leave him something to be desired, something new
should be expected every day for the morrow. Diversify his pleasures,
procure for him the charm of variety in the same object, and I will
vouch for his perseverance in fidelity.

I confess, however, that hymen, or what you call your "defeat," is, in
an ordinary woman, the grave of love. But then it is less upon the
lover that the blame falls, than upon her who complains of the cooling
of the passion; she casts upon the depravity of the heart what is due
to her own unskillfulness, and her lack of economy. She has expended
in a single day everything that might keep alive the inclination she
had excited. She has nothing more to offer to the curiosity of her
lover, she becomes always the same statue; no variety to be hoped for,
and her lover knows it well.

But in the woman I have in mind, it is the aurora of a lovelier day;
it is the beginning of the most satisfying pleasures. I understand by
effusions of the heart, those mutual confidences; those ingenuities,
those unexpected avowals, and those transports which excite in us the
certainty of creating an absolute happiness, and meriting all the
esteem of the person we love. That day is, in a word, the epoch when a
man of refinement discovers inexhaustible treasures which have always
been hidden from him; the freedom a woman acquires who brings into
play all the sentiments which constraint has held in reserve; her
heart takes a lofty flight, but one well under control. Time, far from
leading to loathing, will furnish new reasons for a greater love.

But, to repeat; I assume sufficient intelligence in her to be able to
control her inclination. For to hold a lover, it is not enough
(perhaps it is too much) to love passionately, she must love with
prudence, with restraint, and modesty is for that reason the most
ingenious virtue refined persons have ever imagined. To yield to the
impetuosity of an inclination; to be annihilated, so to speak, in the
object loved, is the method of a woman without discernment. That is
not love, it is a liking for a moment, it is to transform a lover into
a spoiled child. I would have a woman behave with more reserve and
economy. An excess of ardor is not justifiable in my opinion, the
heart being always an impetuous charger which must be steadily curbed.
If you do not use your strength with economy, your vivacity will be
nothing but a passing transport. The same indifference you perceive in
a lover, after those convulsive emotions, you, yourself, will
experience, and soon, both of you will feel the necessity of

To sum up; there is more intelligence required to love than is
generally supposed, and to be happy in loving. Up to the moment of the
fatal "yes," or if you prefer, up to the time of her defeat, a woman
does not need artifice to hold her lover. Curiosity excites him,
desire sustains him, hope encourages him. But once he reaches the
summit of his desires, it is for the woman to take as much care to
retain him, as he exhibited in overcoming her; the desire to keep him
should render her fertile in expedients; the heart is similar to a
high position, easier to obtain than to keep. Charms are sufficient to
make a man amorous; to render him constant, something more is
necessary; skill is required, a little management, a great deal of
intelligence, and even a touch of ill humor and fickleness.
Unfortunately, however, as soon as women have yielded they become too
tender, too complaisant. It would be better for the common good, if
they were to resist less in the beginning and more afterward. I
maintain that they never can forestall loathing without leaving the
heart something to wish for, and the time to consider.

I hear them continually complaining that our indifference is always
the fruit of their complaisance for us. They are ever recalling the
time when, goaded by love and sentiment, we spent whole days by their
side. How blind they are! They do not perceive that it is still in
their power to bring us back to an allegiance, the memory of which is
so dear. If they forget what they have already done for us, they will
not be tempted to do more; but if they make us forget, then we shall
become more exacting. Let them awaken our hearts by opposing new
difficulties, arousing our anxieties, in fine, forcing us to desire
new proofs of an inclination, the certainty of which diminishes its
value in our estimation. They will then find less cause of complaint
in us, and will be better satisfied with themselves.

Shall I frankly avow it? Things would indeed change, if women would
remember at the right time that their role is always that of the party
to be entreated, ours that of him who begs for new favors; that,
created to grant, they should never offer. Reserved, even in an
excess of passion, they should guard against surrendering at
discretion; the lover should always have something to ask, and
consequently, he would be always submissive so as to obtain it. Favors
without limit degrade the most seductive charms, and are, in the end,
revolting even to him who exacts them. Society puts all women on the
same level; the handsome and the ugly, after their defeat, are
indistinguishable except from their art to maintain their authority;
but what commonly happens? A woman imagines she has nothing further to
do than to be affectionate, caressing, sweet, of even temper and
faithful. She is right in one sense, for these qualities should be the
foundation of her character; they will not fail to draw esteem; but
these qualities, however estimable they may be, if they are not offset
by a shade of contrariety, will not fail to extinguish love, and bring
on languor and weariness, mortal poisons for the best constituted

Do you know why lovers become nauseated so easily when enjoying
prosperity? Why they are so little pleased after having had so much
pleasure? It is because both parties interested have an identically
erroneous opinion. One imagines there is nothing more to obtain, the
other fancies she has nothing more to give. It follows as a necessary
consequence that one slackens in his pursuit, and the other neglects
to be worthy of further advances, or thinks she becomes so by the
practice of solid qualities. Reason is substituted for love, and
henceforward, no more seasoning in their relations; no more of those
trifling quarrels so necessary to prevent dissatisfaction by
forestalling it.

But when I exact that evenness of temper should be animated by
occasional storms, do not be under the impression that I pretend
lovers should always be quarreling to preserve their happiness. I only
desire to impress it upon you, that all their misunderstandings should
emanate from love itself; that the woman should not forget (by a
species of pusillanimous kindness) the respect and attentions due her;
that by an excessive sensitiveness, she does not convert her love into
a source of anxiety capable of poisoning every moment of her
existence; that by a scrupulous fidelity, she may not render her lover
too sure that he has nothing to fear on that score.

Neither should a woman by a sweetness, an unalterable evenness of
temper, be weak enough to pardon everything lacking in her lover.
Experience demonstrates that women too often sacrifice the hearts of
their spouses or their lovers by too many indulgences and facilities.
What recklessness! They martyrize themselves by sacrificing
everything; they spoil them and convert them into ungrateful lovers.
So much generosity finally turns against themselves, and they soon
become accustomed to demand as a right what is granted them as a

You see women every day (even among those we despise with so much
reason), who reign with a scepter of iron, treat as slaves men who are
attached to them, debase them by force of controlling them. Well,
these are the women who are loved longer than the others. I am
persuaded that a woman of refinement, well brought up, would never
think of following such an example. That military manner is repugnant
to gentleness and morals, and lacks that decency which constitutes the
charm in things even remote from virtue. But let the reasonable woman
soften the clouds a trifle, there will always remain precisely what is
necessary to hold a lover.

We are slaves, whom too much kindness often renders insolent; we often
demand to be treated like those of the new world. But we have in the
bottom of our hearts a comprehension of justice, which tells us that
the governing hand bears down upon us sometimes for very good reasons,
and we take kindly to it.

Now, for my last word: In everything relating to the force and energy
of love, women should be the sovereigns; it is from them we hope for
happiness, and they will never fail to grant us that as soon as they
can govern our hearts with intelligence, moderate their own
inclinations, and maintain their own authority, without compromising
it and without abusing it.


What Favors Men Consider Faults

To explain in two words to your satisfaction, Marquis. This is what I
think of the letter I sent you yesterday: For a woman to profit by the
advice of Monsieur de Saint-Evremond it is requisite that she should
be affected with only a mediocre fancy, and have excited the passion
of love. However, we shall talk about that more at large whenever it
may please you, now, I will take up what concerns you.

The sacrifice the Countess has exacted of you is well worth the price
you put upon it. To renounce for her sake, a woman whose exterior
proclaimed her readiness to accord you whatever favor you might be
willing to ask; to renounce her publicly, in the presence of her
rival, and with so little regard for her vanity, is an effort which
naturally will not pass without a proportionate recompense. The
Countess could not have found a happier pretext for giving you her

But to take a solemn day when the Marquise received at her home for
the first time since her illness; to select a moment when the moneyed
woman was taking up arms to make an assault of beauty upon a woman of
rank; to speak to her merely in passing, to pretend to surrender
yourself entirely to the pleasure of seeing her rival; to entertain
the latter and become one of her party, is an outrage for which you
will never be pardoned. Revenge will come quickly, and be as cruel as
possible, you will see. It is I who guarantee it. Now for the second
paragraph of your letter:

You ask me whether the last favor, or rather the last fault we can
commit, is a certain proof that a woman loves you. Yes and no.

Yes, if you love the woman for whom you had your first passion, and
she is refined and virtuous. But even in such a case, this proof will
not be any more certain, or more flattering for you, than all the
others she may have given you of her inclination. Whatever a woman may
do when she loves, even things of the slightest essential nature in
appearance are as much certain marks of her passion, as those greater
things of which men are so proud. I will even add, that if this
virtuous woman is of a certain disposition, the last favor will prove
less than a thousand other small sacrifices you count for nothing, for
then, on her own behalf less than on yours, she is too much interested
in listening to you, for you to claim the glory of having persuaded
her, although every one else would have been accorded the same favor.

I know a woman who permitted herself to be vanquished two or three
times by men she did not love, and the man she really loved never
obtained a single favor. It may happen, then, that the last favor
proves nothing to him to whom it is granted. Whereas, on the contrary,
it may happen that he owes the granting of it to the little regard
had for him. Women never respect themselves more than with those they
esteem, and you may be quite sure that it requires a very imperious
inclination to cause a reasonable woman to forget herself in the
presence of one whose disdain she dreads. Your pretended triumph,
therefore, may originate in causes which, so far from being glorious
for you, would humiliate you if you were aware of them.

We see, for example, a lover who may be repelled; the woman who loves
him fears he will escape her to pay his addresses to another woman
more accommodating; she does not wish to lose him, for it is always
humiliating to be abandoned; she yields, because she is not aware of
any other means of holding him. They say there is nothing to reproach
in this. If he leaves her after that, at least he will be put in the
wrong, for, since a woman becomes attached more by the favors she
grants, she imagines the man will be forced into gratitude. What

Women are actuated by different motives in yielding. Curiosity impels
some, they desire to know what love is. Another woman, with few
advantages of person or figure, would hold her lover by the
attractions of pleasure. One woman is determined to make a conquest
flattering to her vanity. Still another one surrenders to pity,
opportunity, importunities, to the pleasure of taking revenge on a
rival, or an unfaithful lover. How can I enumerate them all? The heart
is so very strange in its vagaries, and the reasons and causes which
actuate it are so curious and varied, that it is impossible to
discover all the hidden springs that set it in motion. But if we
delude ourselves as to the means of holding you, how often do men
deceive themselves as to the proofs of our love? If they possessed any
delicacy of discernment, they would find a thousand signs that prove
more than the most signal favor granted.

Tell me, Marquis, what have I done to Monsieur de Coulanges? It is a
month since he has set foot in my house. But I will not reproach him,
I shall be very pleasant with him when he does come. He is one of the
most amiable men I am acquainted with. I shall be very angry with you
if you fail to bring him to me on my return from Versailles. I want
him to sing me the last couplets he has composed, I am told they are


Why Inconstancy Is Not Injustice

It was too kind of you, Marquis, to have noticed my absence. If I did
not write you during my sojourn in the country, it was because I knew
you were happy, and that tranquilized me. I felt too, that it was
necessary for love to be accorded some rights, as its reign is usually
very short, and besides that, friendship not having any quarrel with
love, I waited patiently an interval in your pleasure which would
enable you to read my letters.

Do you know what I was doing while away? I amused myself by piecing
out all the events liable to happen in the condition your society is
now in. I foresaw the bickerings between the Countess and her rival,
and I predicted they would end in an open rupture; I also guessed that
the Marquise would not espouse the cause of the Countess, but would
take up the other's quarrel. The moneyed woman is not quite so
handsome as her rival, a decisive reason for declaring for her and
backing her up without danger.

What will be the upshot of all this quarreling among these women? How
many revolutions, Good Heavens! in so short a time! Your happiness
seems to be the only thing that has escaped. You discover new reasons
every day for loving and esteeming this amiable Countess. You believe
that a woman of so much real merit, and with so interesting a figure,
will become known more and more. Let nothing weaken the esteem you
have always had for her. You have, it is true, obtained an avowal of
her love for you, but is she less estimable for that? On the contrary,
ought not her heart to augment in price in your eyes, in proportion to
the certainty you have acquired that you are its sole possessor? Even
if you shall have obtained proofs of her inclination we spoke about
recently, do you think that gives you any right to underrate her?

I can not avoid saying it; men like you arouse my indignation every
time they imagine they claim the right to lack in courtesy for my sex,
and punish us for our weaknesses. Is it not the height of injustice
and the depth of depravity to continue to insult the grief which is
the cause of their changes? Can not women be inconstant without being
unjust? Is their distaste always to be followed by some injurious act?
If we are guilty, is it the right of him who has profited by our
faults, who is the cause of them, to punish us?

Always maintain for the Countess the sentiments you have expressed in
her regard. Do not permit a false opinion to interfere with the
progress which they can still make in your heart. It is not our defeat
alone which should render us despicable in your eyes. The manner in
which we have been defended, delivered, and guarded, ought to be the
only measure of your disdain.

So Madame de La Fayette is of the opinion that my last letter is based
upon rather a liberal foundation? You see where your indiscretions
lead me. But she does not consider that I am no more guilty than a
demonstrator of anatomy. I analyse the metaphysical man as he dissects
the physical one. Do you believe that out of regard to scruples he
should omit in his operations those portions of his subject which
might offer corrupted minds occasions to draw sallies out of an ill
regulated imagination? It is not the essence of things that causes
indecency; it is not the words, or even the ideas, it is the intent of
him who utters them, and the depravity of him who listens. Madame de
La Fayette was certainly the last woman in the world whom I would have
suspected of reproaching me in that manner, and to-morrow, at the
Countess', I will make her confess her injustice.


Cause of Quarrels Among Rivals

What, I, Marquis, astonished at the new bickerings of your moneyed
woman? Do not doubt for an instant that she employs all the
refinements of coquetry to take you away from the Countess. She may
have a liking for you, but moderate your amour propre so far as that
is concerned, for the most powerful motive of her conduct, is, without
contradiction, the desire for revenge. Her vanity is interested in
punishing her rival for having obtained the preference.

Women never pardon such a thing as that, and if he who becomes the
subject of the quarrel is not the first object of their anger, it is
because they need him to display their resentment. You have
encountered in the rival of the Countess precisely what you exacted
from her to strengthen your attachment. You are offered in advance the
price of the attentions you devote to her, and from which you will
soon be dispensed, and I think you will have so little delicacy as to
accept them. It is written across the heart of every man: "To the

You should blush to deserve the least reproach from the Countess. What
sort of a woman is it you seem to prefer to her? A woman without
delicacy and without love; a woman who is guided only by the
attractions of pleasure; more vain than sensible; more voluptuous than
tender; more passionate than affectionate, she seeks, she cherishes in
you nothing but your youth and all the advantages that accompany it.

You know what her rival is worth; you know all your wrong doing with
her; you agree that you are a monster of ingratitude, yet, you are
unwilling to take it upon yourself to merit her pardon. Truly,
Marquis, I do not understand you. I am beginning to believe that
Madame de Sévigné was right when she said that her son knew his duty
very well, and could reason like a philosopher on the subject, but
that he was carried away by his passions, so that "he is not a head
fool, but a heart fool" (ce n'est pas par la tête qu'il est fou, mais
par le coeur).

You recall in vain what I said to you long ago about making love in a
free and easy manner. You will remember that I was then enjoying
myself with some jocular reflections which were not intended to be
formal advice. Do not forget, either, that the question then was about
a mere passing fancy, and not of an ordinary mistress. But the case
to-day is very different, you can not find among all the women of
Paris, a single one who can be compared with her you are so cruelly
abandoning. And for what reason? Because her resistance wounds your
vanity. What resource is left us to hold you?

I agree with you, nevertheless, that when a passion is extinguished it
can not be relighted without difficulty. No one is more the master of
loving than he is of not loving. I feel the truth of all these maxims;
I do homage to them with regret, as soon as, with a knowledge of the
cause, I consider that you reject what is excellent and accept the
worse; you renounce a solid happiness, durable pleasures, and yield to
depraved tastes and pure caprices; but I can see that all my
reflections will not reform you. I am beginning to fear that I am
wearying you with morals, and to tell you the truth, it is very
ridiculous in me to preach constancy when it is certain that you do
not love, and that you are a heart fool.

I therefore abandon you to your destiny, without, however, giving up
my desire to follow you into new follies. Why: should I be afflicted?
Would it be of any moment to assume with you the tone of a pedagogue?
Assuredly not, both of us would lose too much thereby. I should become
weary and you would not be reformed.


Friendship Must Be Firm

I do not conceal it, Marquis, your conduct in regard to the Countess
had put me out of patience with you, and I was tempted to break off
all my relations with so wicked a man as you. My good nature in
yielding to your entreaties inclines me to the belief that my
friendship for you borders on a weakness. You are right, though. To be
your friend only so long as you follow my advice would not be true
friendship. The more you are to be censured the stronger ought to be
my hold on you, but you will understand that one is not master of his
first thoughts. Whatever effort I may make to find you less guilty,
the sympathy I have for the misfortune of my friend is of still
greater importance to me. There were moments when I could not believe
in your innocence, and they were when so charming a woman complained
of you. Now that her situation is improving every day, I consider my
harshness in my last letter almost as a crime.

I shall, hereafter, content myself with pitying her without
importuning you any longer about her. So let us resume our ordinary
gait, if it please you. You need no longer fear my reproaches, I see
they would be useless as well as out of place.


Constancy Is a Virtue Among the Narrow Minded

You did not then know, Marquis, that it is often more difficult to get
rid of a mistress than to acquire one? You are learning by experience.
Your disgust for the moneyed woman does not surprise me except that it
did not happen sooner.

What! knowing her character so well, you could imagine that the
despair she pretended at the sight of your indifference increasing
every day, could be the effect of a veritable passion? You could also
be the dupe of her management! I admire, and I pity your blindness.

But was it not also vanity which aided a trifle in fortifying your
illusion? In truth it would be a strange sort of vanity, that of being
loved by such a woman; but men are so vain, that they are flattered by
the love of the most confirmed courtesan. In any case undeceive
yourself. A woman who is deserted, when she is a woman like your
beauty, has nothing in view in her sorrow but her own interest. She
endeavors by her tears and her despair, to persuade you that your
person and your merit are all she regrets; that the loss of your heart
is the summit of misfortune; that she knows nobody who can indemnify
her for the loss of it. All these sentiments are false. It is not an
afflicted lover who speaks; it is a vain woman, desperate at being
anticipated, exasperated at the lack of power in her charms, worrying
over a plan to replace you promptly, anxious to give herself an
appearance of sensibility, and to appear worthy of a better fate. She
justifies this thought of Monsieur de la Rochefoucauld: "Women do not
shed tears over the lovers they have had, so much because they loved
them, as to appear more worthy of being loved." It is for D---- to
enjoy the sentiment.

She must indeed, have a very singular idea of you to hope that she can
impose upon you. Do you wish to know what she is? The Chevalier is
actually without an affair of the heart on hand, engage him to take
your place. I have not received two letters from you that do not speak
of the facility with which she will be consoled for having lost you. A
woman of her age begins to fear that she will not recover what she has
lost, and so she is obliged to degrade her charms by taking the first
new comer. Perhaps her sorrow is true, but she deceives you as to the
motives she gives for it. Break these chains without scruple. In
priding yourself on your constancy and delicacy for such an object,
you appear to me to be as ridiculous as you were when you lacked the
same qualities on another occasion.

Do you remember, Marquis, what Monsieur de Coulanges said to us one
day? "Constancy is the virtue of people of limited merit. Have they
profited by the caprice of an amiable woman to establish themselves in
her heart? the sentiment of medicrioty fixes them there, it
intimidates them, they dare not make an effort to please others. Too
happy at having surprised her heart, they are afraid of abandoning a
good which they may not find elsewhere, and, as an instant's attention
to their little worth might undeceive this woman, what do they then
do? They elevate constancy up among the virtues; they transform love
into a superstition; they know how to interest reason in the
preservation of a heart which they owe only to caprice, occasion, or
surprise." Be on your guard against imitating these shallow
personages. Hearts are the money of gallantry; amiable people are the
assets of society, whose destiny is to circulate in it and make many
happy. A constant man is therefore as guilty as a miser who impedes
the circulation in commerce. He possesses a treasure which he does not
utilize, and of which there are so many who would make good use of it.

What sort of a mistress is that who is retained by force of reason?
What languor reigns in her society, what violence must one not employ
to say there is love when it has ceased to exist? It is seldom that
passion ceases in both parties at the same time, and then constancy is
a veritable tyrant; I compare it to the tyrant of antiquity who put
people to death by tying them to dead bodies. Constancy condemns us to
the same punishment. Discard such a baleful precedent to the liberty
of association.

Believe me, follow your tastes, for the court lady you mentioned; she
may weary you at times, it is true, but at least she will not degrade
you. If, as you say, she is as little intelligent as she is beautiful,
her reign will soon be over. Your place in her heart will soon be
vacant, and I do not doubt that another or even several other
gallantries will follow yours. Perhaps you will not wait for the end,
for I see by your letter that you are becoming a man of fashion. The
new system you have adopted makes it certain, nothing can be better
arranged. Never finish one affair without having commenced another;
never withdraw from the first except in proportion as the second one
progresses. Nothing can be better, but in spite of such wise
precautions, you may find yourself destitute of any, as, for example,
some event beyond the reach of human foresight may interfere with
these arrangements, may have for principle always to finish with all
the mistresses at once, before enabling you to find any one to keep
you busy during the interregnum. I feel free to confess, Marquis, that
such an arrangement is as prudent as can be imagined, and I do not
doubt that you will be well pleased with a plan so wisely conceived.

I do not know where I obtain the courage to write you such long and
foolish letters. I find a secret charm in entertaining you, which I
should suspect if I did not know my heart so well. I have been
reflecting that it is now without any affair, and I must henceforth be
on my guard against you, for you have very often thought proper to say
very tender things to me, and I might think proper to believe in their


Some Women Are Very Cunning

You may derive as much amusement out of it as you wish, Marquis, but I
shall continue to tell you that you are not fascinated by Madame la
Presidente. Believe me when I say that I see more clearly into your
affairs than you do yourself. I have known a hundred good men who,
like you, pretended with the best faith in the world that they were
amorous, but who, in truth were not in any manner whatsoever.

There are maladies of the heart as well as maladies of the body; some
are real and some are imaginary. Not everything that attracts you
toward a woman is love. The habit of being together, the convenience
of seeing each other, to get away from one's self, the necessity for a
little gallantry, the desire to please, in a word, a thousand other
reasons which do not resemble a passion in the least; these are what
you generally take to be love, and the women are the first to fortify
this error. Always flattered by the homage rendered them, provided
their vanity profits by it, they rarely inquire into the motives to
which they owe it. But, after all, are they not right? They would
nearly always lose by it.

To all the motives of which I have just spoken, you can add still
another, quite as capable of creating an illusion in the nature of
your sentiments. Madame la Presidente is, without contradiction, the
most beautiful woman of our time; she is newly married; she refused
the homage of the most amiable man of our acquaintance. Perhaps
nothing could be more flattering to your vanity than to make a
conquest which would not fail to give you the kind of celebrity to
which you aspire. That, my dear Marquis, is what you call love, and it
will be difficult for you to disabuse yourself of the impression, for
by force of persuading yourself that it is love, you will, in a short
time firmly believe that the inclination is real. It will be a very
singular thing some day, to see with what dignity you will speak of
your pretended sentiments; with what good faith you will believe that
they deserve recognition, and, what will be still more agreeable, will
be the deference you will believe should be their due. But
unfortunately, the result will undeceive you, and you will then be the
first to laugh at the importance with which you treated so silly an

Shall I tell you how far injustice reaches? I am fully persuaded that
you will not become more amorous. Henceforth, you will have nothing
but a passing taste, frivolous relations, engagements, caprices; all
the arrows of love will glance from you. It is true you will not
experience its pangs, but will you enjoy, in the least, its sweetness?
Can you hope ever to recover from the fantasies to which you surrender
yourself, those moments of delight which were formerly your supreme
felicity? I have no desire to flatter you, but I believe it my duty to
do you this much justice: Your heart is intended for refined
pleasures. It is not I who hold you responsible for the dissipation in
which you are plunged, it is the young fools around you. They call
enjoyment the abuse they make of pleasure; their example carries you
away. But this intoxication will be dissipated sooner or later, and
you will soon, see, at least I hope so, that you have been deceived in
two ways in the state of your heart. You thought it was fascinated by
Madame la Presidente, you will recognize your mistake; you thought she
had ceased to have an inclination for--but I hold to the words I have
uttered. Perhaps there will come a time when I shall be at liberty to
express my thoughts more freely. Now, I reply to the remainder of your

Confess it, Marquis, that you had little else to do this morning when
you re-read my letters. I add that you must have been in a bad humor
to undertake their criticism. Some brilliant engagement, some
flattering rendezvous was wanting. But I do not care to elude the
difficulty. So I seem to contradict myself sometimes? If I were to
admit that it might very well be; if I were to give you the same
answer that Monsieur de la Bruyère gave his critics the other day: "It
is not I who contradict myself, it is the heart upon which I reason,"
could you reasonably conclude from it that everything I have said to
you is false? I do not believe it.

But how do I know, in effect, if, led away by the various situations
in which you were placed, I may not have appeared to destroy what I
had advanced on different occasions? How do I know, if, seeing you
ready to yield to a whim, I may not have carried too far, truths,
which, feebly uttered, would not, perhaps, have brought you back? How
do I know, in a word, if, being interested in the happiness of a
friend, the desire to serve her may not have sometimes diminished my
sincerity? I think I am very good natured to reply seriously to the
worries you have caused me. Ought I not first to take cognizance of
the fact that there is more malice in your letter than criticism? This
will be the last time you will have an opportunity to abuse my
simplicity. I am going to console myself for your perfidy with some
one who is assuredly not so wicked as you.

What a pity it is that you are not a woman! It would give me so much
pleasure to discuss the new coiffures with you! I never saw anything
so extravagant as their height. At least, Marquis, remember that if
Madame la Presidente does not wear one of them incessantly, you can no
longer remain attached to her with decency.


The Parts Men and Women Play

So the affair has been decided! Whatever I may say of it, you are the
master of Madame la Presidente; a beloved rival has been sacrificed
for you and you triumph.

How prompt your vanity is to make profit out of everything. I would
laugh heartily if your pretended triumph should end by your receiving
notice to quit some fine morning. For it may well be that this
sacrifice of which you boast so much is nothing but a stratagem.

Ever since you have been associated with women, have you not
established as a principle that you must be on your guard against the
sentiments they affect? If your beauty had accepted you merely for the
purpose of re-awakening a languishing love in the heart of her
Celadon; if you were only the instrument of jealousy on the part of
one and artifice on the other, would that be a miracle?

You say that Madame la Presidente is not very shrewd, and consequently
incapable of such a ruse. My dear Marquis, love is a great tutor, and
the most stupid women (in other respects) have often an acute
discernment, more accurate and more certain than any other, when it
comes to an affair of the heart. But let us leave this particular
thesis, and examine men in general who are in the same situation as

They all believe as you do, that the sacrifice of a rival supposes
some superiority over him. But how often does it happen that this same
sacrifice is only a by play? If it is sincere, the woman either loved
the rival or she did not. If she loved him, then as soon as she leaves
him, it is a sure proof that she loves him no longer, in which case
what glory is there for you in such a preference? If she did not love
him, what can you infer to your advantage from a pretended victory
over a man who was indifferent to her?

There is also another case where you may be preferred, without that
preference being any more flattering. It is when the vanity of the
woman you attack is stronger than her inclination for the disgraced
lover. Your rank, your figure, your reputation, your fortune, may
determine her in your favor. It is very rare (I say it to the shame of
women, and men are no less ridiculous in that respect), it is rare, I
repeat, that a lover, who has nothing but noble sentiments to offer,
can long hold his own against a man distinguished for his rank, or his
position, who has servants, a livery, an equipage, etc. When the most
tender lover makes a woman blush for his appearance, when she dare not
acknowledge him as her conqueror, when she does not even consider him
as an object she can sacrifice with eclat, I predict that his reign
will be short. Her reasons for getting rid of him will be to her an
embarrassment of choice. Thus the defunct of la Presidente was a
counsellor of state, without doubt as dull and as stiff as his wig.
What a figure to set up against a courtier, against a warrior like

Well, will you believe in my predictions another time? What did I tell
you? Did the Chevalier find it difficult to persuade your Penelope?
This desolate woman, ready to break her heart, gave you a successor in
less than fifteen days, loves him, proves it, and is flouted. Is this
losing too much time? What is your opinion?


Love Is a Traitor With Sharp Claws

Yes, indeed, Marquis, it is due to my friendship, it is due to my
counsel that the Countess owes the tranquillity she begins to enjoy,
and I can not conceive the chagrin which causes the indifference she
manifests for you. I am very far, however, from desiring to complain
of you; your grief springs from a wounded vanity.

Men are very unjust, they expect a woman always to consider them as
objects interesting to them, while they, in abandoning a woman, do not
ordinarily omit anything that will express their disdain. Of what
importance to you is the hatred or love of a person whom you do not
love? Tell me that. Your jealousy of the little Duke is so
unreasonable that I burst out laughing when I learned it. Is it not
quite simple, altogether natural that a woman should console herself
for your loss, by listening to a man who knows the value of her heart
better than you? By what right, if you please, do you venture to take
exceptions to it? You must admit that Madame de Sévigné was right: You
have a foolish heart, my poor Marquis.

In spite of all that, the part you wish me to play in the matter
appears to me to be exceedingly agreeable. I can understand how nice
it would be to aid you in your plan of vengeance against an
unfaithful woman. Though it should be only through rancor or the
oddity of the thing, we must love each other. But all such comedies
turn out badly generally. Love is a traitor who scratches us when we
play with him.

So, Marquis, keep your heart, I am very scrupulous about interfering
with so precious an association. Moreover, I am so disgusted with the
staleness of men, that henceforth I desire them only as friends. There
is always a bone to pick with a lover. I am beginning to understand
the value of rest, and I wish to enjoy it. I will return to this,
however. It would be very strange if you take the notion that you need
consolation, and that my situation exacts the same succor because the
Marquis de ---- has departed on his embassy. Undeceive yourself, my
friends suffice me, and, if you wish to remain among their number, at
least do not think of saying any more gallant things to me,
otherwise--Adieu, Marquis.


Old Age Not a Preventive Against Attack

Oh, I shall certainly abandon your interests if you persist in talking
to me in such fashion. What demon inspired you with the idea of taking
the place of the absent? Could any one tease another as you did me
last evening? I do not know how you began it, but however much I
desired to be angry with you, it was impossible for me to do so. I do
not know how this will end. What is certain, however, is; it will be
useless for you to go on, for I have decided not to love you, and what
is worse, I shall never love you; yes, sir, never.

Eh? truly, but this is a strange thing; to attempt to persuade a woman
that she is afflicted, that she needs consolation, when she assures
you that it is not the fact, and that she wants for nothing. This is
driving things with a tight hand. I entreat you, reflect a little on
the folly that has seized upon you. Would it be decent, tell me that,
if I were to take the place of my friend? That a woman who has served
you as a Mentor, who has played the role of mother to you, should
aspire to that of lover? Unprincipled wretch that you are! If you so
promptly abandon a young and lovely woman, what would you do with an
old girl like me? Perhaps you wish to attempt my conquest to see
whether love is for me the same in practice as in theory. Do not go to
the trouble of attempting such a seduction, I will satisfy your
curiosity on that point immediately.

You know that whatever we are, women seldom follow any given
principles. Well, that is what you would discover in any gallant
association you aspire to form with me. All I have said about women
and love, has not given you any information as to my line of conduct
on such an occasion. There is a vast difference between feeling and
thinking; between talking for one's own account and pleading the cause
of another. You would, therefore, find in me many singularities that
might strike you unfavorably. I do not feel as other women. You might
know them all without knowing Ninon, and believe me, the novelties you
would discover would not compensate you for the trouble you might take
to please me.

It is useless to exaggerate the value you put upon my conquest, that I
tell you plainly; you are expending too much on hope, I am not able to
respond. Remain where you are in a brilliant career. The court offers
you a thousand beautiful women, with whom you do not risk, as you
would with me, becoming weary of philosophy, of too much intelligence.

I do not disguise the fact, however, that I would have been glad to
see you to-day. My head was split all the afternoon over a dispute on
the ancients and moderns. I am still out of humor on the subject, and
feel tempted to agree with you that I am not so far along on the
decline of life as to confine myself to science, and especially to the
gentlemen of antiquity.

If you could only restrain yourself and pay me fewer compliments it is
not to be doubted that I would prefer to have you come and enliven my
serious occupations rather than any one else. But you are such an
unmanageable man, so wicked, that I am afraid to invite you to come
and sup with me to-morrow. I am mistaken, for it is now two hours
after midnight, and I recollect that my letter will not be handed you
before noon. So it is to-day I shall expect you. Have you any fault to
find? It is a formal rendezvous, to be sure, but let the fearlessness
in appointing it be a proof that I am not very much afraid of you, and
that I shall believe in as much of your soft talk as I deem proper.
You understand that it will not be I who can be imposed upon by that.
I know men so well----


A Shrewd But Not an Unusual Scheme

This is not the time, Marquis, to hide from you the true sentiments of
the Countess in your regard. However much I have been able to keep her
secret without betraying her friendship, and I have always done so, if
I conceal from you what I am going to communicate, you may one day
justly reproach me.

Whatever infidelities you may have been guilty of, whatever care I
have been able to take to persuade her that you have been entirely
forgotten, she has never ceased to love you tenderly. Although she has
sought to punish you by an assumed indifference, she has never thought
of depriving herself of the pleasure of seeing you, and it has been
through the complaisance of the Countess that I have sometimes worried
you; it was to goad you into visiting me more frequently. But all
these schemes have not been able to satisfy a heart so deeply wounded,
and she is on the point of executing a design I have all along been
opposed to. You will learn all about it by reading the letter she
wrote me yesterday, and which I inclose in this.


"If you wish to remain my friend, my dear Ninon, cease to combat my
resolution; you know it is not the inspiration of the moment. It is
not the fruit of a momentary mortification, an imprudent vexation, nor
despair. I have never concealed it from you. The possession of the
heart of the Marquis de Sévigné might have been my supreme felicity if
I could have flattered myself with having it forever. I was certain of
losing it if I had granted him the favors he exacted of me. His
inconstancy has taught me that a different conduct would not be a sure
means of retaining a lover. I must renounce love forever, since men
are incapable of having a liaison with a woman, as tender, but as pure
as that of simple friendship.

"You, yourself, well know that I am not sufficiently cured to see the
Marquis without always suffering. Flight is the only remedy for my
malady, and that is what I am about to take. I do not fear, moreover,
what the world may say about my withdrawal to the country. I have
cautioned those who might be surprised. It is known that I have won in
a considerable action against the heirs of my late husband. I have
given out that I am going to take possession of the estate awarded me.
I will thus deprive the public of the satisfaction of misinterpreting
my taste for solitude, and the Marquis of all suspicion that he is in
any manner to blame for it. I inclose his letters and his portrait.

"Good Heaven! How weak I am! Why should it cost my heart so much to
get rid of an evil so fatal to my repose? But it is done, and my
determination can not be shaken. Pity me, however, and remember, my
dear friend, the promise you gave me to make him understand that I
have for him the most profound indifference. Whoever breaks off
relations with a lover in too public a manner, suggests resentment and
regret at being forced to do so; it is an honest way of saying that
one would ask nothing better than to be appeased. As I have no desire
to resume my relations with the Marquis, return him what I send, but
in the manner agreed upon, and pray him to make a similar restitution.
You may tell him that the management of my property obliges me to
leave Paris for a time, but do not speak of me first.

"I should be inconsolable at leaving you, my dear Ninon, if I did not
hope that you would visit me in my solitude. You write willingly to
your friends, if you judge them by the tenderness and esteem they have
for you. In that case, you have none more worthy of that title than I.
I rely, therefore, upon your letters until you come to share my
retreat. You know my sentiments for you."

I have no advice to give you, Marquis, on what you have just read, the
sole favor I expect from you is never to compromise me for the
indiscretion I commit, and that the Countess shall never have any
reason for not forgiving me. All I can say to justify myself in my own
eyes is, that you have loved the Countess too much for her resolution
to be a matter of absolute indifference to you. Had I been just, I
would have betrayed both by leaving you in ignorance of her design.


A Happy Ending

I am delighted with everything you have done, and you are charming. Do
not doubt it, your behavior, my entreaties, and better than all, love
will overcome the resistance of the Countess. Everything should
conspire to determine her to accept the offer you have made of your
hand. I could even, from this time on, assure you that pride alone
will resist our efforts and her own inclination.

This morning I pressed her earnestly to decide in your favor. Her last
entrenchment was the fear of new infidelities on your part.

"Reassure yourself," said I, "in proof that the Marquis will be
faithful to you, is the fact that he has been undeceived about the
other women, by comparing them with her he was leaving. Honest people
permit themselves only a certain number of caprices, and the Marquis
has had those which his age and position in society seemed to justify.
He yielded to them at a time when they were pardonable. He paid
tribute to the fashion by tasting of all the ridiculous things going.
Henceforth, he can be reasonable with impunity. A man can not be
expected to be amorous of his wife, but should he be, it will be
pardoned him as soon as people see you. You risk nothing, therefore,
Countess; you yourself have put on the airs of a society woman, but
you were too sensible not to abandon such a role; you renounced it;
the Marquis imitates you. Wherefore forget his mistakes. Could you
bear the reproach of having caused the death of so amiable a man? It
would be an act that would cry out for vengeance."

In a word, I besought and pressed her, but she is still irresolute.
Still, I do not doubt that you will finish by overcoming a resistance
which she, herself, already deems very embarrassing.

Well, Marquis, if the anxiety all this has caused you, gives you the
time to review what I have been saying to you for several days past,
might you not be tempted to believe that I have contradicted myself?
At first I advised you to treat love lightly and to take only so much
of it as might amuse you. You were to be nothing but a gallant, and
have no relations with women except those in which you could easily
break the ties. I then spoke to you in a general way, and relative to
ordinary women. Could I imagine that you would be so fortunate as to
meet a woman like the Countess, who would unite the charms of her sex
to the qualities of honest men? What must be your felicity? You are
going to possess in one and the same person, the most estimable friend
and a most charming mistress. Deign to admit me to share a third
portion of your friendship and my happiness will equal your own. Can
one be happier than in sharing the happiness of friends?








Charles de Saint Denis, Lord of Saint-Evremond, Marshal of France, was
one of the few distinguished Frenchmen, exiled by Louis XIV, whose
distinguished abilities as a warrior and philosopher awarded him a
last resting place in Westminster Abbey. His tomb, surmounted by a
marble bust, is situated in the nave near the cloister, located among
those of Barrow, Chaucer, Spenser, Cowley and other renowned

His epitaph, written by the hand of a Briton, is singularly replete
with the most eminent qualities, which the great men of his period
recognized in him, though his life was extraordinarily long and
stormy. He was moreover, a profound admirer of Ninon de l'Enclos
during his long career, and he did much toward shaping her philosophy,
and enabling her to understand the human heart in all its
eccentricities, and how to regulate properly the passion of love.

During his long exile in England, the two corresponded at times, and
the letters here given are the fragments of a voluminous
correspondence, the greater part of which has been lost. They are to
be found in the untranslated collated works of Saint-Evremond, and are
very curious, inasmuch as they were written when Ninon and
Saint-Evremond were in their "eighties."

Saint-Evremond always claimed, that his extremely long and vigorous
life was due to the same causes which Ninon de l'Enclos attributed to
her great age, that is, to an unflagging zeal in observing the
doctrines of the Epicurean philosophy. These ideas appear in his
letter to Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, written to her under the sobriquet
of "Leontium," and which is translated and appended to this

As an evidence of Saint-Evremond's unimpaired faculties at a great
age, the charms of his person attracted the attention of the Duchess
of Sandwich, one of the beauties of the English Court, and she became
so enamored of him, that a liaison was the result, which lasted until
the time of Saint-Evremond's death. They were like two young lovers
just beginning their career, instead of a youth over eighty years of
age, and a maiden who had passed forty. Such attachments were not
uncommon among persons who lived calm, philosophical lives, their very
manner of living inspiring tender regard, as was the case of the great
affection of the Marquis de Sévigné, who although quite young, and his
rank an attraction to the great beauties of the Court, nevertheless
aspired to capture the heart of Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, who was over
sixty years of age. What Ninon thought about the matter, appears in
her letters on the preceding pages.

Correspondence Between Lord Saint-Evremond
and Ninon de L'Enclos
When Over Eighty Years
of Age


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Lovers and Gamblers have Something in Common

I have been trying for more than a year to obtain news of you from
everybody, but nobody can give me any. M. de la Bastille tells me that
you are in good health, but adds, that if you have no more lovers, you
are satisfied to have a greater number of friends.

The falsity of the latter piece of news casts a doubt upon the verity
of the former, because you are born to love as long as you live.
Lovers and gamblers have something in common: Who has loved will love.
If I had been told that you had become devout, I might have believed
it, for that would be to pass from a human passion to the love of God,
and give occupation to the soul. But not to love, is a species of
void, which can not be consistent with your heart.

Ce repos languissant ne fut jamais un bien;
C'est trouver sans mouvoir l'êtat où l'on n'est rien.

('Twas never a good this languishing rest;
'Tis to find without search a state far from blest.)

I want to know about your health, your occupations, your inclinations,
and let it be in a long enough letter, with moralizing and plenty of
affection for your old friend.

The news here is that the Count de Grammont is dead, and it fills me
with acute sorrow.

If you know Barbin, ask him why he prints so many things that are not
mine, over my name? I have been guilty of enough folly without
assuming the burden of others. They have made me the author of a
diatribe against Père Bouhours, which I never even imagined. There is
no writer whom I hold in higher esteem. Our language owes more to him
than to any other author.

God grant that the rumor of Count de Grammont's death be false, and
that of your health true. The Gazette de Hollande says the Count de
Lauzun is to be married. If this were true he would have been summoned
to Paris, besides, de Lauzun is a Duke, and the name "Count" does not
fit him.

Adieu. I am the truest of your servants, who would gain much if you
had no more lovers, for I would be the first of your friends despite
an absence which may be called eternal.


Ninon de L'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

It is sweet to remember those we have loved

I was alone in my chamber, weary of reading, when some one exclaimed:
"Here is a messenger from Saint-Evremond!" You can imagine how quickly
my ennui disappeared--it left me in a moment.

I have been speaking of you quite recently, and have learned many
things which do not appear in your letters--about your perfect health
and your occupation. The joy in my mind indicates its strength, and
your letter assures me that England promises you forty years more of
life, for I believe that it is only in England that they speak of men
who have passed the fixed period of human life. I had hoped to pass
the rest of my days with you, and if you had possessed the same
desire, you would still be in France.

It is, however, pleasant to remember those we have loved, and it is,
perhaps, for the embellishment of my epitaph, that this bodily
separation has occurred.

I could have wished that the young ecclesiastic had found me in the
midst of the glories of Nike, which could not change me, although you
seem to think that I am more tenderly enchanted with him than
philosophy permits.

Madame the Duchess de Bouillon is like an eighteen-year old: the
source of her charms is in the Mazarin blood.

Now that our kings are so friendly, ought you not to pay us a visit?
In my opinion it would be the greatest success derived from the peace.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Wrinkles are a Mark of Wisdom

I defy Dulcinea to feel with greater joy the remembrance of her
Chevalier. Your letter was accorded the reception it deserved, and the
sorrowful figure in it did not diminish the merit of its sentiments. I
am very much affected by their strength and perseverance. Nurse them
to the shame of those who presume to judge them. I am of your opinion,
that wrinkles are a mark of wisdom. I am delighted that your surface
virtues do not sadden you, I try to use them in the same way. You have
a friend, a provincial Governor, who owes his fortune to his
amiability. He is the only aged man who is not ridiculed at Court. M.
de Turenne wished to live only to see him grow old, and desired to see
him father of a family, rich and happy. He has told more jokes about
his new dignity than others think.

M. d'Ebène who gave you the name of "Curictator," has just died at the
hospital. How trivial are the judgments of men! If M. d'Olonne were
alive and could have read your letters to me, he would have continued
to be of your quality with his philosophy. M. de Lauzun is my
neighbor, and will accept your compliments. I send you very tenderly,
those of M. de Charleval, and ask you to remember M. de Ruvigny, his
friend of the Rue des Tournelles.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Near Hopes are Worth as much as Those Far Off

I sent a reply to your last letter to the correspondent of the Abbé
Dubois, but as he was at Versailles, I fear it has not reached him.

I should have been anxious about your health without the visit of
Madame de Bouillon's little librarian, who filled my heart with joy by
showing me a letter from one who thinks of me on your account.
Whatever reason I may have had during my illness to praise the world
and my friends, I never felt so lively a joy as at this mark of
kindness. You may act upon this as you feel inclined since it was you
who drew it upon me.

I pray you to let me know, yourself, whether you have grasped that
happiness one enjoys so much at certain times? The source will never
run dry so long as you shall possess the friendship of the amiable
friend who invigorates your life. (Lady Sandwich.) How I envy those
who go to England, and how I long to dine with you once again! What a
gross desire, that of dinner!

The spirit has great advantages over the body, though the body
supplies many little repeated pleasures, which solace the soul in its
sorrowful moods. You have often laughed at my mournful reflections,
but I have banished them all. It is useless to harbor them in the
latter days of one's life, and one must be satisfied with the life of
every day as it comes. Near hopes, whatever you, may say against them,
are worth as much as those far off, they are more certain. This is
excellent moralizing. Take good care of your health, it is to that
everything should tend.


Ninon de L'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

On the Death of de Charleval

Now, M. de Charleval is dead, and I am so much affected that I am
trying to console myself by thinking of the share you will take in my
affliction. Up to the time of his death, I saw him every day. His
spirit possessed all the charms of youth, and his heart all the
goodness and tenderness so desirable among true friends. We often
spoke of you and of all the old friends of our time. His life and the
one I am leading now, had much in common, indeed, a similar loss is
like dying one's self.

Tell me the news about yourself. I am as much interested in your life
in London as if you were here, and old friends possess charms which
are not so well appreciated as when they are separated.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

The Weariness of Monotony

M. de Clerambault gave me pleasure by telling me that I am in your
thoughts constantly. I am worthy of it on account of the affection I
maintain for you. We shall certainly deserve the encomiums of
posterity by the duration of our lives, and by that of your
friendship. I believe I shall live as long as you, although I am
sometimes weary of always doing the same things, and I envy the Swiss
who casts himself into the river for that reason. My friends often
reprehend me for such a sentiment, and assure me that life is worth
living as long as one lives in peace and tranquillity with a healthy
mind. However, the forces of the body lead to other thoughts, and
those forces are preferred to strength of mind, but everything is
useless when a change is impossible. It is equally as worth while to
drive away sad reflections as to indulge in useless ones.

Madame Sandwich has given me a thousand pleasures in making me so
happy as to please her. I did not dream, in my declining years to be
agreeable to a woman of her age. She has more spirit than all the
women of France, and more true merit. She is on the point of leaving
us, which is regretted by every one who knows her, by myself,
particularly. Had you been here we should have prepared a banquet
worthy of old times. Love me always.

Madame de Coulanges accepted the commission to present your kind
compliments to M. le Comte de Grammont, through Madame de Grammont. He
is so young that I believe him fickle enough in time to dislike the
infirm, and that he will love them as soon as they return to good

Every one who returns from England speaks of the beauty of Madame la
Duchesse de Mazarin, as they allude to the beauty of Mademoiselle de
Bellefond, whose sun is rising. You have attached me to Madame de
Mazarin, and I hear nothing but the good that is said of her.

Adieu, my friend, why is it not "Good day?" We must not die without
again seeing each other.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

After the Death of La Duchesse de Mazarin

What a loss for you, my friend! If it were not for the fact that we,
ourselves, will be considered a loss, we could not find consolation. I
sympathize with you with all my heart. You have just lost an amiable
companion who has been your mainstay in a foreign land. What can be
done to make good such a misfortune? Those who live long are subject
to see their friends die, after that, your philosophy, your mind, will
serve to sustain you.

I feel this death as much as if I had been acquainted with the
Duchess. She thought of me in her last moments, and her goodness
affected me more than I can express; what she was to you drew me to
her. There is no longer a remedy, and there is none for whatever may
happen our poor bodies, so preserve yours. Your friends love to see
you so well and so wise, for I hold those to be wise who know how to
be happy.

I give you a thousand thanks for the tea you sent me, but the lively
tone of your letter pleased me as much as your present.

You will again see Madame Sandwich, whom we saw depart with regret. I
could wish that her condition in life might serve to be of some
consolation to you. I am ignorant of English customs, but she was
quite French while here.

A thousand adieux, my friend. If one could think as did Madame de
Chevreuse, who believed when dying that she was going to converse with
all her friends in the other world! It would be a sweet thought.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Love Banishes Old Age

Your life, my well beloved, has been too illustrious not to be lived
in the same manner until the end. Do not permit M. de la
Rochefoucauld's "hell" to frighten you; it was a devised hell he
desired to construct into a maxim. Pronounce the word "love" boldly,
and that of "old age" will never pass your lips.

There is so much spirit in your letters, that you do not leave me even
to imagine a decline of life in you. What ingratitude to be ashamed to
mention love, to which we owe all our merit, all our pleasures! For,
my lovely keeper of the casket, the reputation of your probity is
established particularly upon the fact that you have resisted lovers,
who would willingly have made free with the money of their friends.

Confess all your passions to make your virtues of greater worth;
however, you do not expose but the one-half of your character; there
is nothing better than what regards your friends, nothing more
unsatisfactory than what you have bestowed upon your lovers.

In a few verses, I will draw your entire character. Here they are,
giving you the qualities you now have and those you have had:

  Dans vos amours on vous trouvait legère,
  En amitié toujours sûre et sincère;
  Pour vos amants, les humeurs de Vénus,
  Pour vos amis les solides vertus:
  Quand les premiers vous nommaient infidèle,
  Et qu'asservis encore à votre loi,
  Ils reprochaient une flamme nouvelle,
Les autres se louaient de votre bonne foi.
  Tantôt c'était le naturel d'Hélène,
  Ses appétits comme tous ses appas;
  Tantôt c'était la probité romaine?
C'était d'honneur la règle et le compas.
  Dans un couvent en soeur dépositaire,
  Vous auriez bien ménagé quelque affaire,
  Et dans le monde à garder les dépôts,
On vous eût justement préférée aux dévots.

  (In your love affairs you were never severe,
  But your friendship was always sure and sincere;
  The humors of Venus for those who desired,
  For your friends, in your heart, solid virtues conspired;
When the first, infidelity laid at your door,
  Though not yet exempt from the law of your will,
  And every new flame never failed to deplore,
The others rejoiced that you trusted them still.
  Ingenuous Helen was sometimes your role,
  With her appetites, charms, and all else beside;
  Sometimes Roman probity wielded your soul,
  In honor becoming your rule and your guide.
  And though in a convent as guardian nun,
You might have well managed some sprightly fun,
  In the world, as a keeper of treasures untold,
Preferred you would be to a lamb of the fold.)

Here is a little variety, which I trust will not surprise you:

L'indulgente et sage Nature
A formé l'âme de Ninon
De la volupté d'Epicure
Et de la vertu de Caton.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Stomachs Demand More Attention than Minds

The Abbé Dubois has just handed me your letter, and personally told me
as much good news about your stomach as about your mind. There are
times when we give more attention to our stomachs than to our minds,
and I confess, to my sorrow, that I find you happier in the enjoyment
of the one than of the other. I have always believed that your mind
would last as long as yourself, but we are not so sure of the health
of the body, without which nothing is left but sorrowful reflections.
I insensibly begin making them on all occasions.

Here is another chapter. It relates to a handsome youth, whose desire
to see honest people in the different countries of the world, induced
him to surreptitiously abandon an opulent home. Perhaps you will
censure his curiosity, but the thing is done. He knows many things,
but he is ignorant of others, which one of his age should ignore. I
deemed him worthy of paying you a visit, to make him begin to feel
that he has not lost his time by journeying to England. Treat him well
for love of me.

I begged his elder brother, who is my particular friend, to obtain
news of Madame la Duchesse Mazarin and of Madame Harvey, both of whom
wished to remember me.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Why does Love Diminish After Marriage?

Translator's Note.--Two of Ninon's friends whom she idolized, were
very much surprised to discover after their marriage, that the great
passion they felt for each other before marriage, became feebler every
day, and that even their affection was growing colder. It troubled
them, and in their anxiety, they consulted Mademoiselle de l'Enclos,
begging her to find some reason in her philosophy, why the possession
of the object loved should weaken the strength of ante-nuptial
passion, and even destroy the most ardent affection.

The question was discussed by Ninon and her "Birds" for several days
without reaching an opinion that was in any manner satisfactory. It
was therefore resolved to consult Saint-Evremond, who was living in
exile in England. After writing him all the particulars, and the
discussions that had been held with opinions pro and con, he sent the
following letter in reply, which is unanswerable upon the subject.
Moreover, it contains lessons that should be carefully studied and
well learned by all loving hearts, who desire to maintain their early
affection for each other during life.

The letter is a masterpiece of the philosophy of love, and it is
remarkable, in that it develops traits in human nature upon the
subject of love and marriage, which are overlooked in questions
applicable to the relations between the sexes, and that are so often
strained to the breaking point. Indeed, it gives clues to a remedy
which can not fail to effect a cure.

       *       *       *       *       *

My opinion is exactly in line with yours, Mademoiselle; it is not
always, as some think, hymen or the possession of the loved object
which of itself destroys love; the true source of the dissatisfaction
that follows exists in the unintelligent manner of economizing the
sentiments, a too complete, too easy, and too prolonged possession.

When we have yielded to the transports of a passion without reserve,
the tremendous shock to the soul can not fail quickly to leave it in a
profound solitude. The heart finds itself in a void which alarms and
chills it. We vainly seek outside of ourselves, the cause of the calm
which follows our fits of passion; we do not perceive that an equal
and more enduring happiness would have been the fruit of moderation.
Make an exact analysis of what takes place within you when you desire
anything. You will find that your desires are nothing but curiosity,
and this curiosity, which is one of the forces of the heart,
satisfied, our desires vanish. Whoever, therefore, would hold a spouse
or a lover should leave him something to be desired; something new
should be expected every day for the morrow. Diversify his pleasures,
procure for him the charm of variety in the same object, and I will
vouch for his perseverance in fidelity.

I confess, however, that hymen, or what you call your "defeat," is, in
an ordinary woman, the grave of love. But then it is less upon the
lover that the blame falls, than upon her who complains of the cooling
of the passion; she casts upon the depravity of the heart what is due
to her own unskillfulness, and her lack of economy. She has expended
in a single day everything that might keep alive the inclination she
had excited. She has nothing more to offer to the curiosity of her
lover, she becomes always the same statue; no variety to be hoped for,
and her lover knows it well.

But in the woman I have in mind, it is the aurora of a lovelier day;
it is the beginning of the most satisfying pleasures. I, understand by
effusions of the heart, those mutual confidences; those ingenuities,
those unexpected avowals, and those transports which excite in us the
certainty of creating an absolute happiness, and meriting all the
esteem of the person we love. That day is, in a word, the epoch when
a man of refinement discovers inexhaustible treasures which have
always been hidden from him; the freedom a woman acquires brings into
play all the sentiments which constraint has held in reserve; her
heart takes a lofty flight, but one well under control. Time, far from
leading to loathing, will furnish new reasons for a greater love.

But, to repeat; I assume sufficient intelligence in her to be able to
control her inclination. For to hold a lover, it is not enough
(perhaps it is too much) to love passionately, she must love with
prudence, with restraint, and modesty is, for that reason, the most
ingenious virtue refined persons have ever imagined. To yield to the
impetuosity of an inclination; to be annihilated, so to speak, in the
object loved, is the method of a woman without discernment. That is
not love, it is a liking for a moment, it is to transform a lover into
a spoiled child. I would have a woman behave with more reserve and
economy. An excess of ardor is not justifiable in my opinion, the
heart being always an impetuous charger which must be steadily curbed.
If you do not use your strength with economy, your vivacity will be
nothing but a passing transport. The same indifference you perceive in
a lover, after those convulsive emotions, you, yourself, will
experience, and soon, both of you will feel the necessity of

To sum up: There is more intelligence required to love than is
generally supposed, and to be happy in loving. Up to the moment of the
fatal "yes" or if you prefer, up to the time of her defeat, a woman
does not need artifice to hold her lover. Curiosity excites him,
desire sustains him, hope encourages him. But once he reaches the
summit of his desires, it is for the woman to take as much care to
retain him, as he exhibited to overcome her; the desire to keep him
should render her fertile in expedients; the heart is similar to a
high position, easier to obtain than to keep. Charms are sufficient
to make a man amorous; to render him constant, something more is
necessary; skill is required, a little management, a great deal of
intelligence, and even a touch of ill humor and inequality.
Unfortunately, however, as soon as women have yielded they become too
tender, too complaisant. It would be better for the common good if
they were to resist less in the beginning and more afterward. I
maintain that they never can forestall loathing without leaving the
heart something to wish for, and the time to consider.

I hear them continually complaining that our indifference is always
the fruit of their complaisance for us. They are ever recalling the
time when, goaded by love and sentiment, we spent whole days by their
side. How blind they are! They do not perceive that it is still in
their power to bring us back to an allegiance, the memory of which is
so dear. If they forget what they have already done for us, they will
not be tempted to do more; but if they make us forget, then we shall
become more exacting. Let them awaken our hearts by opposing new
difficulties, arouse our anxieties, in fine, force us to desire new
proofs of an inclination, the certainty of which diminishes the value
in our estimation. They will then find less cause of complaint in us,
and will be better satisfied with themselves.

Shall I frankly avow it? Things would indeed change if women would
remember at the right time, that their role is always that of the
party to be entreated, ours that of him who begs for new favors;
that, created to grant, they should never offer. Reserved, even in an
excess of passion, they should guard against surrendering at
discretion; the lover should always have something to ask, and
consequently, he would be always submissive so as to obtain it. Favors
without limit degrade the most seductive charms, and are, in the end,
revolting even to him who exacts them. Society puts all women on the
same level; the handsome and the ugly, after their defeat are
indistinguishable except from their art to maintain their authority;
but what commonly happens? A woman imagines she has nothing more to do
than to be affectionate, caressing, sweet, of even temper, and
faithful. She is right in one sense, for these qualities should be the
foundation of her character; they will not fail to draw esteem; but
these qualities, however estimable they may be, if they are not offset
by a shade of contrariety, will not fail to extinguish love, and bring
on languor and weariness, mortal poisons for the best constituted

Do you know why lovers become nauseated so easily when enjoying
prosperity? Why they are so little pleased after having had so much
pleasure? It is because both parties interested have an identically
erroneous opinion. One imagines there is nothing more to obtain, the
other fancies she has nothing more to give. It follows as a necessary
consequence that one slackens in his pursuit, and the other neglects
to be worthy of further advances, or thinks she becomes so by the
practice of solid qualities. Reason is substituted for love, and
hence-forward no more spicy seasoning in their relations, no more of
those trifling quarrels so necessary to prevent dissatisfaction by
forestalling it.

But when I exact that evenness of temper should be animated by
occasional storms, do not be under the impression that I pretend
lovers should always be quarreling to preserve their happiness. I only
desire to impress it upon you, that all their misunderstandings should
emanate from love itself; that the woman should not forget (by a
species of pusillanimous kindness) the respect and attentions due her;
that by an excessive sensitiveness she does not convert her love into
a source of anxiety capable of poisoning every moment of her
existence; that by a scrupulous fidelity she may not render her lover
too sure that he has nothing to fear on that score.

Neither should a woman by a sweetness, an unalterable evenness of
temper, be weak enough to pardon everything lacking in her lover.
Experience demonstrates that women too often sacrifice the hearts of
their spouses or their lovers, by too many indulgences and facilities.
What recklessness! They martyrize themselves by sacrificing
everything; they spoil them and convert them into ungrateful lovers.
So much generosity finally turns against themselves, and they soon
become accustomed to demand as a right what is granted them as a

You see women every day (even among those we despise with so much
reason) who reign with a scepter of iron, treat as slaves men who are
attached to them, debase them by force of controlling them. Well,
these are the women who are loved longer than the others. I am
persuaded that a woman of refinement, well brought up, would never
think of following such an example. That military manner is repugnant
to gentleness and morals, and lacks that decency which constitutes the
charm in things even remote from virtue. But let the reasonable woman
soften the clouds a trifle, there will always remain precisely what is
necessary to hold a lover.

We are slaves, whom too much kindness often renders insolent; we often
demand to be treated like those of the new world. But we have in the
bottom of our hearts a comprehension of justice, which tells us that
the governing hand bears down upon us sometimes for very good reasons,
and we take kindly to it.

Now, for my last word. In everything relating to the force and energy
of love, women should be the sovereigns; it is from them we hope for
happiness, and they will never fail to grant us that as soon as they
can govern our hearts with intelligence, moderate their own
inclinations, and maintain their own authority, without compromising
it and without abusing it.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Few People Resist Age

A sprightly mind is dangerous to friendship. Your letter would have
spoiled any one but me. I know your lively and astonishing
imagination, and I have even wanted to remember that Lucian wrote in
praise of the fly, to accustom myself to your style. Would to Heaven
you could think of me what you write, I should dispense with the rest
of the world; so it is with you that glory dwells.

Your last letter is a masterpiece. It has been the subject of all the
talks we have had in my chamber for the past month. You are
rejuvenating; you do well to love. Philosophy agrees well with
spiritual charms. It is not enough to be wise, one must please, and I
perceive that you will always please as long as you think as you do.

Few people resist age, but I believe I am not yet overcome by it. I
could wish with you, that Madame Mazarin had looked upon life from her
own viewpoint, without thinking of her beauty, which would always have
been agreeable when common sense held the place of less brilliancy.
Madame Sandwich will preserve her mental force after losing her
youth, at least I think so.

Adieu, my friend. When you see Madame Sandwich, remember me to her, I
should be very sorry to have her forget me.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Age Has Some Consolations

It gives me a lively pleasure to see young people, handsome and
expanding like flowers; fit to please, and able to sincerely affect an
old heart like mine. As there has always been a strong similarity
between your tastes, your inclinations, your sentiments, and mine, I
think you will be pleased to receive a young Chevalier who is
attractive to all our ladies. He is the Duke of Saint Albans, whom I
have begged to pay you a visit, as much in his own interests as in

Is there any one of your friends like de Tallard, imbued with the
spirit of our age, to whom I can be of any service? If so, command me.
Give me some news of our old friend de Gourville. I presume he is
prosperous in his affairs; if his health is poor I shall be very

Doctor Morelli, my particular friend, accompanies the Countess of
Sandwich, who goes to France for her health. The late Count Rochester,
father of Madame Sandwich, had more spirit than any man in England,
but Madame Sandwich has more than her father. She is generous and
spirituelle, and as amiable as she is generous and spirituelle. These
are a portion of her qualities. But, I have more to say about the
physician than about the invalid.

Seven cities, as you know, dispute among themselves, the birth place
of Homer; seven great nations are quarrelling over Morelli: India,
Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. The cold countries,
even the temperate ones, France, England and Germany, make no
pretensions. He is acquainted with every language and speaks the most
of them. His style, elevated, grand and figurative, leads me to
believe that he is of Oriental origin, and that he has absorbed what
he found good among the Europeans. He is passionately fond of music,
wild over poetry, inquisitive about paintings, a connoisseur in
everything--I cannot remember all. He has friends who know
architecture, and though skilled in his own profession, he is an adept
in others.

I pray you to give him opportunities to become acquainted with all
your illustrious friends. If you make him yours, I shall consider him
fortunate, for you will never be able to make him acquainted with
anybody possessing more merit than yourself.

It seems to me that Epicurus included in his sovereign good the
remembrance of past things. There is no sovereign good for a
centenarian like me, but there are many consolations, that of thinking
of you, and of all I have heard you say, is one of the greatest.

I write of many things of no importance to you, because I never think
that I may weary you. It is enough if they please me, it is
impossible at my age, to hope they will please others. My merit
consists in being contented, too happy in being able to write you.

Remember to save some of M. de Gourville's wine for me. I am lodged
with one of the relatives of M. de L'Hermitage, a very honest man, and
an exile to England on account of his religion. I am very sorry that
the Catholic conscience of France could not suffer him to live in
Paris, and that the delicacy of his own compelled him to abandon his
country. He certainly deserves the approbation of his cousin.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Some Good Taste Still Exists in France

My dear friend, is it possible for you to believe that the sight of a
young man gives me pleasure? Your senses deceive you when it comes to
others. I have forgotten all but my friends. If the name "doctor" had
not reassured me, I should have replied by the Abbé de Hautefeuille,
and your English would never have heard of me. They would have been
told at my door that I was not at home, and I would have received your
letter, which gave me more pleasure than anything else.

What a fancy to want good wine, and how unfortunate that I can not say
I was successful in getting it! M. de L'Hermitage will tell you as
well as I, that de Gourville never leaves his room, is indifferent to
taste of any kind, is always a good friend, but his friends do not
trespass upon his friendship for fear of worrying him. After that, if,
by any insinuation I can make, and which I do not now foresee, I can
use my knowledge of wine to procure you some, do not doubt that I will
avail myself of it.

M. de Tallard was one of my former friends, but state affairs place
great men above trifles. I am told that the Abbé Dubois will go to
England with him. He is a slim little man who, I am sure, will please

I have twenty letters of yours, and they are read with admiration by
our little circle, which is proof that good taste still exists in
France. I am charmed with a country where you do not fear ennui, and
you will be wise if you think of nobody but yourself, not that the
principle is false with you: that you can no longer please others.

I have written to M. Morelli, and if I find in him the skill you say,
I shall consider him a true physician.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Superiority of the Pleasures of the Stomach

I have never read a letter which contained so much common sense as
your last one. You eulogize the stomach so highly, that it would be
shameful to possess an intelligent mind without also having a good
stomach. I am indebted to the Abbé Dubois for having sounded my
praises to you in this respect.

At eighty-eight years of age, I can eat oysters every morning for
breakfast. I dine well and sup fairly well. The world makes heroes of
men with less merit than mine.

Qu'on ait plus de bien, de crédit,
Plus de vertu, plus de conduite,
Je n'en aurai point de dépit,
Qu'un autre me passe en mérite
Sur le goût et sur l'appétit,
C'est l'avantage qui m'irrite.
L'estomac est le plus grand bien,
Sans lui les autres ne sont rien.
Un grand coeur veut tout entreprendre,
Un grand esprit veut tout comprendre;
Les droits de l'estomac sont de bien digérer;
Et dans les sentiments que me donne mon âge,
La beauté de l'esprit, la grandeur du courage,
N'ont rien qu'à se vertu l'on puisse comparer.

(Let others more riches and fame,
More virtue and morals possess,
'Twill kindle no envious flame;
But to make my merit seem less
In taste, appetite, is, I claim,
An outrageous thing to profess.
The stomach's the greatest of things,
All else to us nothing brings.
A great heart would all undertake,
A great soul investigate,
But the law of the stomach is good things to digest,
And the glories which are at my age the delight,
True beauty of mind, of courage the height,
Are nothing unless by its virtue they're blest.)

When I was young I admired intellect more than anything else, and was
less considerate of the interests of the body than I should have been;
to-day, I am remedying the error I then held, as much as possible,
either by the use I am making of it, or by the esteem and friendship I
have for it.

You were of the same opinion. The body was something in your youth,
now you are wholly concerned with the pleasures of the mind. I do not
know whether you are right in placing so high an estimate upon it. We
read little that is worth remembering, and we hear little advice that
is worth following. However degenerate may be the senses of the age at
which I am living, the impressions which agreeable objects make upon
them appear to me to be so much more acute, that we are wrong to
mortify them. Perhaps it is a jealousy of the mind which deems the
part played by the senses better than its own.

M. Bernier, the handsomest philosopher I have ever known (handsome
philosopher is seldom used, but his figure, shape, manner,
conversation and other traits have made him worthy of the epithet), M.
Bernier, I say, in speaking of the senses, said to me one day:

"I am going to impart a confidence that I would not give Madame de la
Sablière, even to Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, whom I regard as a
superior being. I tell you in confidence, that abstinence from
pleasures appears to me to be a great sin."

I was surprised at the novelty of the idea, and it did not fail to
make an impression upon my mind. Had he extended his idea, he might
have made me a convert to his doctrine.

Continue your friendship which has never faltered, and which is
something rare in relations that have existed as long as ours.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

Let the Heart Speak Its Own Language

I learn with pleasure that my soul is dearer to you than my body and
that your common sense is always leading you upward to better things.
The body, in fact, is little worthy of regard, and the soul has always
some light which sustains it, and renders it sensible of the memory of
a friend whose absence has not effaced his image.

I often tell the old stories in which d'Elbène, de Charleval, and the
Chevalier de Riviere cheer up the "moderns." You are brought in at the
most interesting points, but as you are also a modern, I am on my
guard against praising you too highly in the presence of the
Academicians, who have declared in favor of the "ancients."

I have been told of a musical prologue, which I would very much like
to hear at the Paris theater. The "Beauty" who is its subject would
strike with envy every woman who should hear it. All our Helens have
no right to find a Homer, and always be goddesses of beauty. Here I am
at the top, how am I to descend?

My very dear friend, would it not be well to permit the heart to
speak its own language? I assure you, I love you always. Do not change
your ideas on that point, they have always been in my favor, and may
this mental communication, which some philosophers believe to be
supernatural, last forever.

I have testified to M. Turretin, the joy I should feel to be of some
service to him. He found me among my friends, many of whom deemed him
worthy of the praise you have given him. If he desires to profit by
what is left of our honest Abbés in the absence of the court, he will
be treated like a man you esteem. I read him your letter with
spectacles, of course, but they did me no harm, for I preserved my
gravity all the time. If he is amorous of that merit which is called
here "distinguished," perhaps your wish will be accomplished, for
every day, I meet with this fine phrase as a consolation for my

I know that you would like to see La Fontaine in England, he is so
little regarded in Paris, his head is so feeble. 'Tis the destiny of
poets, of which Tasso and Lucretius are evidence. I doubt whether
there is any love philter that could affect La Fontaine, he has never
been a lover of women unless they were able to foot the bills.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

The Memory of Youth

I was handed in December, the letter you wrote me October 14. It is
rather old, but good things are always acceptable, however late they
may be in reaching us. You are serious, therefore, you please. You add
a charm to Seneca, who does not usually possess any. You call yourself
old when you possess all the graces, inclinations, and spirit of

I am troubled with a curiosity which you can satisfy: When you
remember your past, does not the memory of your youth suggest certain
ideas as far removed from languor and sloth as from the excitement of
passion? Do you not feel in your soul a secret opposition to the
tranquillity which you fancy your spirit has acquired?

Mais aimer et vous voir aimée
Est une douce liaison,
Que dans notre coeur s'est formée
De concert avec la raison.
D'une amoureuse sympathie,
Il faut pour arrêter le cours
Arrêter celui de nos jours;
Sa fin est celle de la vie.
Puissent les destins complaisants,
Vous donner encore trente ans
D'amour et de philosophie.

(To love and be loved
Is a concert sweet,
Which in your heart is formed
Cemented with reason meet.
Of a loving concord,
To stop the course,
Our days must end perforce,
And death be the last record.
May the kind fates give
You thirty years to live,
With wisdom and love in accord.)

I wish you a happy New Year, a day on which those who have nothing
else to give, make up the deficiency in wishes.


Ninon de l'Enclos to Saint-Evremond

"I Should Have Hanged Myself"

Your letter filled with useless yearnings of which I thought myself
incapable. "The days are passing," as said the good man of Yveteaux,
"in ignorance and sloth; these days destroy us and take from us the
things to which we are attached." You are cruelly made to prove this.

You told me long ago that I should die of reflections. I try not to
make any more, and to forget on the morrow the things I live through
today. Everybody tells me that I have less to complain of at one time
than at another. Be that as it may, had I been proposed such a life I
should have hanged myself. We hold on to an ugly body, however, as
something agreeable; we love to feel comfort and ease. Appetite is
something I still enjoy. Would to Heaven I could try my stomach with
yours, and talk of the old friends we have known, the memory of whom
gives me more pleasure than the presence of many people I now meet.
There is something good in all that, but to tell you the truth, there
is no comparison.

M. de Clerambault often asks me if he resembles his father in mental
attainments. "No," I always answer him, but I hope from his
presumption that he believes this "no" to be of advantage to him, and
perhaps there are some who would have so considered it. What a
comparison between the present epoch and that through which we have

You are going to write Madame Sandwich, but I believe she has gone to
the country. She knows all about your sentiment for her. She will tell
you more news about this country than I, having gauged and
comprehended everything. She knows all my haunts and has found means
of making herself perfectly at home.


Saint-Evremond to Ninon de l'Enclos

Life Is Joyous When It Is Without Sorrow

The very last letter I receive from Mademoiselle de l'Enclos always
seems to me to be better than the preceding ones. It is not because
the sentiment of present pleasure dims the memory of the past, but the
true reason is, your mind is becoming stronger and more fortified
every day.

If it were the same with the body as with the mind, I should badly
sustain this stomach combat of which you speak. I wanted to make a
trial of mine against that of Madame Sandwich, at a banquet given by
Lord Jersey. I was not the vanquished.

Everybody knows the spirit of Madame Sandwich; I see her good taste in
the extraordinary esteem she has for you. I was not overcome by the
praises she showered upon you, any more than I was by my appetite. You
belong to every nation, esteemed alike in London as in Paris. You
belong to every age of the world, and when I say that you are an honor
to mine, youth will immediately name you to give luster to theirs.
There you are, mistress of the present and of the past. May you have
your share of the right to be so considered in the future! I have not
reputation in view, for that is assured to all time, the one thing I
regard as the most essential is life, of which eight days are worth
more than centuries of post mortem glory.

If any one had formerly proposed to you to live as you are now living,
you would have hanged yourself! (The expression pleases me.) However,
you are satisfied with ease and comfort after having enjoyed the
liveliest emotions.

L'esprit vous satisfait, ou du moins vous console:
Mais on préférerait de vivre jeune et folle,
Et laisser aux vieillards exempts de passions
La triste gravité de leurs reflexions.

(Mental joys satisfy you, at least they console,
But a young jolly life we prefer on the whole,
And to old chaps, exempt from passion's sharp stings,
Leave the sad recollections of former good things.)

Nobody can make more of youth than I, and as I am holding to it by
memory, I am following your example, and fit in with the present as
well as I know how.

Would to Heaven, Madame Mazarin had been of your opinion! She would
still be living, but she desired to die the beauty of the world.

Madame Sandwich is leaving for the country, and departs admired in
London as she is in Paris.

Live, Ninon, life is joyous when it is without sorrow.

I pray you to forward this note to M. l'Abbé de Hautefeuille, who is
with Madame la Duchesse de Bouillon. I sometimes meet the friends of
M. l'Abbé Dubois, who complain that they are forgotten. Assure him of
my humble regards.

Translator's Note--The above was the last letter Saint-Evremond ever
wrote Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, and with the exception of one more
letter to his friend, Count Magalotti, Councillor of State to His
Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he never wrote any other,
dying shortly afterward at the age of about ninety. His last letter
ends with this peculiar Epicurean thought in poetry:

Je vis éloigné de la France,
Sans besoins et sans abondance,
Content d'un vulgaire destin;
J'aime la vertu sans rudesse,
J'aime le plaisir sans mollesse,
J'aime la vie, et n'en crains pas la fin.

(I am living far away from France,
No wants, indeed, no abundance,
Content to dwell in humble sphere;
Virtue I love without roughness,
Pleasures I love without softness,
Life, too, whose end I do not fear.)









Being the moral doctrine of the philosopher Epicurus as applicable to
modern times, it is an elucidation of the principles advocated by that
philosopher, by Charles de Saint-Evremond, Maréchal of France, a great
philosopher, scholar, poet, warrior, and profound admirer of
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos. He died in exile in England, and his tomb
may be found in Westminster Abbey, in a conspicuous part of the nave,
where his remains were deposited by Englishmen, who regarded him as
illustrious for his virtues, learning and philosophy.

He gave the name "Leontium" to Mademoiselle de L'Enclos, and the
letter was written to her under that sobriquet. The reasoning in it
will enable the reader to understand the life and character of Ninon,
inasmuch as it was the foundation of her education, and formed her
character during an extraordinarily long career. It was intended to
bring down to its date, the true philosophical principles of Epicurus,
who appears to have been grossly misunderstood and his doctrines
foully misinterpreted.

Leontium was an Athenian woman who became celebrated for her taste for
philosophy, particularly for that of Epicurus, and for her close
intimacy with the great men of Athens. She lived during the third
century before the Christian era, and her mode of life was similar to
that of Mademoiselle de l'Enclos. She added to great personal beauty,
intellectual brilliancy of the highest degree, and dared to write, a
learned treatise against the eloquent Theophrastus, thereby incurring
the dislike of Cicero, the distinguished orator, and Pliny, the
philosopher, the latter intimating that it might be well for her "to
select a tree upon which to hang herself." Pliny and other
philosophers heaped abuse upon her for daring, as a woman, to do such
an unheard of thing as to write a treatise on philosophy, and
particularly for having the assurance to contradict Theophrastus.

The Letter.

You wish to know whether I have fully considered the doctrines of
Epicurus which are attributed to me?

I can claim the honor of having done so, but I do not care to claim a
merit I do not possess, and which you will say, ingenuously, does not
belong to me. I labor under a great disadvantage on account of the
numerous spurious treatises which are printed in my name, as though I
were the author of them. Some, though well written, I do not claim,
because they are not of my writing, moreover, among the things I have
written, there are many stupidities. I do not care to take the trouble
of repudiating such things, for the reason that at my age, one hour of
well regulated life, is of more interest and benefit to me than a
mediocre reputation. How difficult it is, you see, to rid one's self
of amour propre! I quit it as an author, and reassume it as a
philosopher, feeling a secret pleasure in manipulating what others are
anxious about.

The word "pleasure" recalls to mind the name of Epicurus, and I
confess, that of all the opinions of the philosophers concerning the
supreme good, there are none which appear to me to be so reasonable as

It would be useless to urge reasons, a hundred times repeated by the
Epicureans, that the love of pleasure and the extinction of pain, are
the first and most natural inclinations remarked in all men; that
riches, power, honor, and virtue, contribute to our happiness, but
that the enjoyment of pleasure, let us say, voluptuousness, to include
everything in a word, is the veritable aim and end whither tend all
human acts. This is very clear to me, in fact, self-evident, and I am
fully persuaded of its truth.

However, I do not know very well in what the pleasure, or
voluptuousness of Epicurus consisted, for I never saw so many
different opinions of any one as those of the morals of this
philosopher. Philosophers, and even his own disciples, have condemned
him as sensual and indolent; magistrates have regarded his doctrines
as pernicious to the public; Cicero, so just and so wise in his
opinions, Plutarch, so much esteemed for his fair judgments, were not
favorable to him, and so far as Christianity is concerned, the Fathers
have represented him to be the greatest and the most dangerous of all
impious men. So much for his enemies; now for his partisans:

Metrodorus, Hermachus, Meneceus, and numerous others, who
philosophize according to his school, have as much veneration as
friendship for him personally. Diogenes Laertes could not have written
his life to better advantage for his reputation. Lucretius adored him.
Seneca, as much of an enemy of the sect as he was, spoke of him in the
highest terms. If some cities held him in horror, others erected
statues in his honor, and if, among the Christians, the Fathers have
condemned him, Gassendi and Bernier approve his principles.

In view of all these contrary authorities, how can the question be
decided? Shall I say that Epicurus was a corruptor of good morals, on
the faith of a jealous philosopher, of a disgruntled disciple, who
would have been delighted, in his resentment, to go to the length of
inflicting a personal injury? Moreover, had Epicurus intended to
destroy the idea of Providence and the immortality of the soul, is it
not reasonable to suppose that the world would have revolted against
so scandalous a doctrine, and that the life of the philosopher would
have been attacked to discredit his opinions more easily?

If, therefore, I find it difficult to believe what his enemies and the
envious have published against him, I should also easily credit what
his partisans have urged in his defence.

I do not believe that Epicurus desired to broach a voluptuousness
harsher than the virtue of the Stoics. Such a jealousy of austerity
would appear to me extraordinary in a voluptuary philosopher, from
whatever point of view that word may be considered. A fine secret
that, to declaim against a virtue which destroys sentiment in a sage,
and establishes one that admits of no operation.

The sage, according to the Stoics, is a man of insensible virtue; that
of the Epicureans, an immovable voluptuary. The former suffers pain
without having any pain; the latter enjoys voluptuousness without
being voluptuous--a pleasure without pleasure. With what object in
view, could a philosopher who denied the immortality of the soul,
mortify the senses? Why divorce the two parties composed of the same
elements, whose sole advantage is in a concert of union for their
mutual pleasure? I pardon our religious devotees, who diet on herbs,
in the hope that they will obtain an eternal felicity, but that a
philosopher, who knows no other good than that to be found in this
world, that a doctor of voluptuousness should diet on bread and water,
to reach sovereign happiness in this life, is something my
intelligence refuses to contemplate.

I am surprised that the voluptuousness of such an Epicurean is not
founded upon the idea of death, for, considering the miseries of life,
his sovereign good must be at the end of it. Believe me, if Horace and
Petronius had viewed it as painted, they would never have accepted
Epicurus as their master in the science of pleasure. The piety for the
gods attributed to him, is no less ridiculous than the mortification
of the senses. These slothful gods, of whom there was nothing to be
hoped or feared; these impotent gods who did not deserve the labor and
fatigue attendant upon their worship!

Let no one say that worshipers went to the temple through fear of
displeasing the magistrates, and of scandalizing the people, for they
would have scandalized them less by refusing to assist in their
worship, than shocked them by writings which destroyed the established
gods, or at least ruined the confidence of the people in their

But you ask me: What is your opinion of Epicurus? You believe neither
his friends nor his enemies, neither his adversaries nor his
partisans. What is the judgment you have formed?

I believe Epicurus was a very wise philosopher, who at times and on
certain occasions loved the pleasure of repose or the pleasure of
movement. From this difference in the grade of voluptuousness has
sprung all the reputation accorded him. Timocrates and his other
opponents, attacked him on account of his sensual pleasures; those who
defended him, did not go beyond his spiritual voluptuousness. When the
former denounced him for the expense he was at in his repasts, I am
persuaded that the accusation was well founded. When the latter
expatiated upon the small quantity of cheese he required to have
better cheer than usual, I believe they did not lack reason. When they
say he philosophized with Leontium, they say well; when they say that
Epicurus diverted himself with her, they do not lie. According to
Solomon, there is a time to laugh and a time to weep; according to
Epicurus, there is a time to be sober and a time to be sensual. To go
still further than that, is a man uniformly voluptuous all his life?

Religiously speaking, the greatest libertine is sometimes the most
devout; in the study of wisdom, the most indulgent in pleasures
sometimes become the most austere. For my own part, I view Epicurus
from a different standpoint in youth and health, than when old and

Ease and tranquillity, these comforts of the infirm and slothful, can
not be better expressed than in his writings. Sensual voluptuousness
is not less well explained by Cicero. I know that nothing is omitted
either to destroy or elude it, but can conjecture be compared with the
testimony of Cicero, who was intimately acquainted with the Greek
philosophers and their philosophy? It would be better to reject the
inequality of mind as an inconstancy of human nature.

Where exists the man so uniform of temperament, that he does not
manifest contrarieties in his conversation and actions? Solomon merits
the name of sage, as much as Epicure for less, and he belied himself
equally in his sentiments and conduct. Montaigne, when still young,
believed it necessary to always think of death in order to be always
ready for it. Approaching old age, however, he recanted, so he says,
being willing to permit nature to gently guide him, and teach him how
to die.

M. Bernier, the great partisan of Epicurus, avows to-day, that "After
philosophizing for fifty years, I doubt things of which I was once
most assured."

All objects have different phases, and the mind which is in perpetual
motion, views them from different aspects as they revolve before it.
Hence, it may be said, that we see the same thing under different
aspects, thinking at the same time that we have discovered something
new. Moreover, age brings great changes in our inclinations, and with
a change of inclination often comes a change of opinion. Add, that the
pleasures of the senses sometimes give rise to contempt for mental
gratifications as too dry and unproductive and that the delicate and
refined pleasures of the mind, in their turn, scorn the voluptuousness
of the senses as gross. So, no one should be surprised that in so
great a diversity of aspects and movements, Epicurus, who wrote more
than any other philosopher, should have treated the same subjects in a
different manner according as he had perceived them from different
points of view.

What avails this general reasoning to show that he might have been
sensible to all kinds of pleasure? Let him be considered according to
his relations with the other sex, and nobody will believe that he
spent so much time with Leontium and with Themista for the sole
purpose of philosophizing. But if he loved the enjoyment of
voluptuousness, he conducted himself like a wise man. Indulgent to the
movements of nature, opposed to its struggles, never mistaking
chastity for a virtue, always considering luxury as a vice, he
insisted upon sobriety as an economy of the appetite, and that the
repasts in which one indulged should never injure him who partook. His
motto was: "Sic praesentibus voluptatibus utaris ut futuris non

He disentangled pleasures from the anxieties which precede, and the
disgust which follows them. When he became infirm and suffered pain,
he placed the sovereign good in ease and rest, and wisely, to my
notion, from the condition he was in, for the cessation of pain is the
felicity of those who suffer it.

As to tranquillity of mind, which constitutes another part of
happiness, it is nothing but a simple exemption from anxiety or worry.
But, whoso can not enjoy agreeable movements is happy in being
guaranteed from the sensations of pain.

After saying this much, I am of the opinion that ease and tranquillity
constituted the sovereign good for Epicurus when he was infirm and
feeble. For a man who is in a condition to enjoy pleasures, I believe
that health makes itself felt by something more active than ease, or
indolence, as a good disposition of the soul demands something more
animated than will permit a state of tranquillity. We are all living
in the midst of an infinity of good and evil things, with senses
capable of being agreeably affected by the former and injured by the
latter. Without so much philosophy, a little reason will enable us to
enjoy the good as deliciously as possible and accommodate ourselves to
the evil as patiently as we can.

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