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119467 



LEX T E R.S 

or 

ML-LE1. IDE LESPI3STASSE 




MLLK. JUUK *w IV 



MLLK. DK LESPINASSE 

OTUtfj 'Natz& on fjer ULitt anfc Character 

BY 

D'ALEMBERT, MARMONTEL, DE GUIBERT, ETC. 

AND 

AN INTRODUCTION BY C -A. SAINTE-BEUVE 



BY 
KATHARINE PRESCOTT WORMELEY. 




BOSTON: 

HARDY, PRATT & COMPANY. 
1903- 



Copyright 1901, 

BY HARDY, PRATT & COMPANY. 



All rights reserved 



JOHN WILSON AND Soy*, CAMBRIDGE, USA 



CONTENTS. 



PAGB 

BY C.-A. SAINTE-BETJVE 1 

NOTES ON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF MLLE. I>E LESPI- 
NASSE. BY GRIMM, MARMONTEL, LA HARPE, ETC. . . 21 

LETTERS FROM MLLE. JOE LESPINASSE TO M, I>E GXJIBERT . 42 
PORTRAIT OF JULIE-JEANNE-^L^ONORE r>E LESPINASSE. BY 

D'ALEMBERT . - 299 

EtnLOOY OF ELIZA. By M. r>E GTJIBERT 810 

To THE MANES OF MLLE. I>E LESPINASSE. BY D'ALEMBERT 326 

LETTBRS FROM FREDERICK TELE GREAT, KING OF PRUSSIA, 
VOLTAIRE, ANI> D'ALEMBERT, ON THE DEATH OF MLLE. 

r>E LESPINASSE 332 



INTRODUCTION. 

BY C.-A. SADSTTE-BEUVE. 

THE claims of Mile, de Lespinasse to the attention of poster- 
ity are positive and durable. At the moment of her death she 
was universally regretted, as having, without name, without 
fortune, without beauty, created for herself the salon most 
in vogue, most eagerly frequented at an epoch which counted 
so many that were brilliant. Still, this flattering chorus of 
regrets given to the memory of the friend of d'Alembert 
would have left but a vague and presently receding idea of 
her, if the publication of her Letters, madejn 1809, had not 
revealed her under an aspect wholly different, and shown, no 
longer the charming person dear to society, but the woman 
of heart and passion, the burning and self-consuming victim. 

This volume of Letters from Mile, de Lespinasse to* the 
Comte de Guibert is one of the most curious and most 
memorable monuments to passion. In 1820 another volume, 
under the title of " Nouveaux Lettres de Mile, de Lespinasse," 
wa published, which is not hers ; it is unworthy of her mind 
and of her heart; being as flat and insipid as the other 
is distinguished, or, to say it better, unique. I beg my read- 
ers not to confound that volume of 1820 (a speculation and 
fabrication of publishers) with the Letters given to the world 
in 1809, the only ones that deserve confidence, and of which 
I desire to speak. 

These love-letters, addressed to M. de Guibert, were pub- 
lished by the widow of M. de Guibert, assisted in the woprk 

1 



2 INTRODUCTION. 

by Barrfere, the Barrfere of tlie Terror, neither more nor less, 
who, as we know, loved literature, especially that of senti- 
ment. "When the Letters appeared there was great emotion 
in society, several of the friends of Mile, de Lespinasse "being 
still alive at that date. They deplored the indiscreet publi- 
cation ; they blamed the conduct of the editors, who thus 
dishonoured, they said, the memory of a woman until then 
respected, and betrayed her secret to all, without the right to 
do so. They appealed to both morality and decency ; they 
invoked the very fame of Mile, de Lespinasse. Nevertheless, 
they eageily enjoyed the reading of the Letters, which far sur- 
passed in interest the most ardent romances, being, in truth, a 
" Nouvelle H^loise " in action. To-day posterity, indifferent 
to personal considerations, sees only the book, and classes it 
in the series of immortal paintings and testimonies of passion, 
of which there is not so great a number that we cannot count 
them. Antiquity gives us Sappho for certain accents, certain 
sighs of fire that come to us athwart the ages ; it has given 
us the " Phsedra " of Euripides, the " Magician " of Theocritus, 
the " Medea w of Apollonius of Ehodes, the " Dido " of Virgil, 
the "Ariadne" of Catullus. Among moderns we have the 
Latin Letters of H^loTse, those of the Portuguese nun, " Manon 
Lescaut," the " Phkdre " of Racine, and a few other rare pro- 
ductions, among which the Letters of Mile, de Lespinasse are 
in the first rank. Oh! if the late Barr&re had never done 
worse in his life than publish these Letters, if he had had no 
greater burden on his conscience we would say to-day, absolv- 
ing him with all our heart, " May the earth lie light upon 
him!" 

Here is an anecdote which I possess from the original 
At the time when these Letters appeared, a brilliant society 
had gathered at the baths of Aix in Savoie. Some of the 
party had gone to visit Ohamb^ry ; on their return one of the 



INTRODUCTION. 3 

carriages was occupied by Mme. de Stael, Benjamin Constant, 
Mme. de Boigne, Adrien de Montmorency, etc. During the 
drive a series of accidents occurred tempest, thunder and 
lightning, hindrances and delays of all kinds. On arriving 
at Aix the persons in the carriage found the people of the 
hotel ^grouped at the door, very anxious and inquiring. But 
they, the travellers, had seen nothing, and noticed nothing 
of the accidents without, for Mme. de StaSl had talked the 
whole time, and her topic was the Letters of Mile, de Lespi- 
nasse and M. de Guihert, who had been her own first lover. 

The life of Mile, de Lespinasse began early in being a 
romance, and more than a romance. She was the natural 
daughter of the Comtesse d'Albon, a lady of condition in 
Burgundy, whose legitimate daughter had married the brother 
of the Marquise du Deffand. It was at the house of this 
brother, the Marquis de Vichy-Ghamrond, in Burgundy, that 
Mme. du Deffand found the young girl, then twenty years of 
age, oppressed, assigned to inferior domestic duties, and kept 
in a condition that was wholly dependent. She took a fancy 
to her at toce ; or rather, they took a fancy to each other, and 
we can readily conceive it ; if we look only to the value of 
minds, it is seldom that chance brings together two more 
distinguished. 

Mme. du Deffand had no peace until she had drawn the 
young girl from her province and installed her with herself 
at the convent of Saint-Joseph, as her companion and reader, 
intending to make of her a perpetual resource. The family 
of the young girl's mother had, however, a strong fear, 
namely : that she might profit by her new position and the 
protectors she would find in society to claim the name of 
Albon and her share of the inheritance. She might have 
done so, in fact ; for she was bprn during the lifetime of M, 
d'Albon, the husband of her mother, and the law recognizes 



4 INTRODUCTION. 

all such children as legitimate. Mme. du Deffand thought it 
right to take precautions, and dictated to her, with little deli- 
cacy, certain conditions on this point before permitting her 
to come to her ; for one who appreciated so well the young 
girl's mind it was knowing very little of her heart. 

This arrangement of a life in common was made in 1754, 
and it lasted till 1764 : ten years of household companion- 
ship and concord ; a long period, longer than could have been 
hoped between two minds so equal in quality and associated 
with elements so impetuous. But finally, Mme. du Deffand, 
who rose late and was never afoot before six in the evening, 
discovered that her young companion was receiving in her 
private room, a good hour earlier, most of her own habitual 
visitors, thus taking for herself the first-fruits of their con- 
versation. Mme. du Deffand felt herself defrauded of her 
most cherished rights, and uttered loud outcries, as if it were 
a matter of domestic robbery. The storm was terrible, and 
could only end in a rupture. Mile, de Lespinasse left the 
convent of Saint-Joseph abruptly ; her friends clubbed to- 
gether to make her a salon and a subsistence in the rue de 
Belle-Chasse. These friends were d'Alembert, Turgot, the 
Chevalier de Chastellux, Lom&aie de Biimne, the future 
archbishop and cardinal, Boisgelin, Archbishop of Aix, the 
Abb6 de Boismont, in short, the flower of the minds of that 
day. This brilliant colony followed the emigrant spirit and 
her fortunes. From that moment Mile, de Lespinasse lived 
apart and became, through her salon and through her influ- 
ence on d'Alembert, one of the recognized powers of the 
eighteenth century. 

Happy days ! when all life turned to sociability ; when all 
was arranged for the gentlest commerce of minds and for the 
best conversation. Not a vacant day, not a vacant hour I If 
you were a man of letters and more or less of a philosopher, 



INTRODtrCTION. 5 

here is the regular employment you could make of your week . 
Sunday and Thursday, dinner with Baron d'Holbach ; Mon- 
day and Wednesday, dinner with Mme. Geoffrin ; Tuesday, 
dinner with M. Helv^tius ; Friday, dinner with Mme. Necker. 
I do not mention the Sunday breakfasts of the Abb Morellet ; 
those, I thinkj came a little later. . Mile, de Lespinasse, hav- 
ing no means to give dinners and suppers, was punctually 
at home from five to "nine o'clock, and her circle assembled 
every day during those hours of the " early evening." 

What she was as mistress of her salon and as a bond of 
society before, and even after, the invasion and delirium of 
her fatal passion, all the Memoirs of the time will tell us. 
She was much attached to d'Alembert, illegitimate like her- 
self, -who (like herself again) had proudly forborne to seek 
for rights which tenderness had failed to give him. D' Alenv 
bert was then lodging with his foster-mother, the worthy 
wife of a glazier, in the rue Michel-le-Comte, which was far 
from the rue de Belle-Chasse. A serious illness seized him, 
during which Mile, de Lespinasse took care of him, induced 
the doctors to order him to live in better air, and finally 
decided him to come to her. From that day they made one 
household, but in all honour and propriety, so that no one 
ever gossiped to the contrary. D'Alembert's life became 
much easier, and the respect paid to Mile, de Lespinasse was 
thereby increased. 

Mile, de Lespinasse was not pretty ; bufc through mind, 
through grace, through the gift of pleasing, Nature had amply 
compensated her. From the first day when she came to 
Paris she seemed as much at her ease and as little provincial 
as if she had lived here all her life. She profited by the edu- 
cation of the excellent society that surrounded her, although 
she had little need to do so. Her great art in social life, one 
of tte secrets of her success, was to feel the minds of 



6 INTRODUCTION. 

to make them shine, and to seem to forget herself. Her con- 
versation was neither above nor below those with whom she 
talked ; she had the sense of measurement, proportion, accu- 
racy. She reflected so well the impressions of others, and 
received so visibly the effect of their minds, that others loved 
her for the success they felt they had with her- She raised 
this method to an art. "Ah! how I wish," she exclaimed 
one day, " that I knew everybody's weakness." D Alembert 
fastened on the words and blamed them, as proceeding from 
too great a desire to please, and to please every one. But even 
in that desire, and in the means it suggested to her she re- 
mained true, she was sincere. She said of herself, in expla- 
nation of her success with others that she held the " truth of 
all [le vrai de toiif], while other women held the truth of 
nothing [le vrai de rieri]" 

In conversing she had the gift of the right word, the 
instinct for the exact and choicest expression; common 
and trivial expressions disgusted her ; she was shocked, and 
could not recover herself. She was not precisely simple, 
though very natural It was the same with her clothes. 
" She gave," some one said, " an idea of richness which by 
taste and choice was vowed to simplicity." Her literary 
taste was more lively [vif] than sure ; she loved, she adored 
Racine, as master of the heart, but for all that she did not 
like the over-finished, she preferred the rough and sketchy. 
Whatever caught her by an inward fibre excited and uplifted 
her ; she could even have mercy on a worthless book for one 
or two situations in it which went to her soul. She has 
imitated Sterne in a couple of chapters which are worth 
little. As a writer, where she does not dream of being one, 
that is to say in her Letters, her pen is clear, firm, excellent, 
except for a few words such as sensitive, virtuous, which are 
repeated too often, and show the influence of Jean-Jacques. 



INTRODUCTION 7 

But never any commonplaceness, never declamation ; all is 
from the living spring, from nature. 

Let us come at once to her principal claim, to her glory 
of loving woman. In spite of her tender friendship for 
d'Alembert, a friendship which was doubtless a little more 
at its origin, we may say that Lille, de Lespinasse loved 
hut twice in her life : she loved M. de Moia and M. de 
Guibert. It is the struggle of these two passions, the one 
expiring but powerful still, the other whelming-in and soon 
to be paramount, it is this violent and desperate combat which 
constitutes the heart-rending drama to which the publication 
of these Letters initiates us. The contemporaries of Mile, 
de Lespinasse, her nearest and best informed friends knew 
nothing of it. Condorcet, writing to Turgot, often speaks of 
her and tells him of her nervous attacks, but "without appear- 
ing to suspect their cause; those who, like Marmontel, 
divined some trouble, were wholly on the wrong scent as to 
dates and sentiments. D'Alembert himself, so concerned in 
seeing clearly, knew the mystery only on reading certain 
papers after her death. Therefore we must seek the truth 
as to the secret sentiments of Mile, de Lespinasse from her 
own avowals, from herself alone. 

She had loved M. de Mora for five or six years, when she 
met for the first time M. de G-uibert. The Marquis de 
Mora was the son of the Comte de Fuent&s, ambassador from 
Spain to the Court of France. All things prove that, 
although still young, he was a man of superior merit and 
destined to a great future had he lived. As to this, we have 
not only the assurance of Mile, de Lespinasse, but that of 
others least subject to infatuation among his contempo- 
raries ; the Abb Galiani, for instance, learning in Naples of 
his death, writes to Mme. d'fipinay (June 18, 1774): "I 
dare not speak of Mora. I have mourned him long. All is 



8 INTRODUCTION. 

destined in this world, and Spain was not worthy to possess 
a M. de Mora." And again (July 8th) : " There are lives on 
which depend the fate of empires. Hannibal, when he 
heard of the defeat and death of his brother Hasdrubal, a 
man of greater worth than himself, did not weep, but he 
said, ( Now I know what will be the fate of Carthage.' I 
say the same on the death of M. de Mora." 

M. de Mora came to Prance about the year 1766 ; it was 
then that Mile, de Lespinasse knew him and loved him. He 
was absent at various times, but always returned to her. 
Finally, his lungs were attacked and his native climate was 
ordered for him. He left Paris, never to re-enter it, on 
Friday, August 7, 1772. Mile, de Lespinasse, philosopher 
and freethinker none the less, was on one point as supersti- 
tious as any Spanish woman, as any loving woman ; and she 
did not fail to note that having quitted Paris on a Friday, 
it was on a Friday also that he left Madrid (May 6, 1774), 
and that he died at Bordeaux on Friday, the 27th of the same 
month. When he left Paris the passion of Mile, de Les- 
pinasse for him and that which he returned to her had nevei 
been more ardent. An idea of it may be gained from the 
fact that during a journey which M. de Mora made to 
Fontamebleau in the autumn of 1771 he wrote twenty-two 
letters to her in ten days of absence. Matters were estab- 
lished on this tone, and the pan: had parted with every 
promise and every pledge between them, when Mile, de Les- 
pinasse, in the month of September, 1772, met the Comte 
de Guibert for the first time, at Moulin-Joli, the country- 
house of M. Watelet. 

M. de Guibert, then about twenty-nine years of age, was a 
young colonel for whom society had lately roused itself to 8 
pitch of enthusiasm. He had recently published an " Essa^ 
on Tactics/' preceded by a survey of the state of political &ncl 



INTKODUCTION. 9 

military science in Europe. In it were generous., or as we 
should say in these days, advanced ideas. He discussed the 
great Frederick's system of war. He competed at the Acade- 
my on subjects of patriotic eulogy ; he had tragedies in his 
desk on national subjects. " He aims at nothing less," said 
La Harpe, " than replacing Turenne, Corneille, and Bossuet." 
It would be very easy at this date, but not very just, to make 
a caricature of M. de Guibert, a man whom every one, begin- 
ning with Voltaire, considered at his dawn as vowed to glory 
and grandeur, and who kept the pledge so insufficiently. 
Abortive hero of that epoch of Louis XYL which gave 
France naught but promises, M. de Guibert entered the 
world, his head high and on the footing of a genius ; it was, 
so to speak, his speciality to have genius, and you will not 
find a writer of his day who does not use the word in rela- 
tion to him. "A soul," they cried, * which springs on all 
sides towards fame." 

This was an attitude difficult to maintain, and the fall, at 
last, was all the more bitter to him. Let us admit, however, 
that a man who could be loved to such a point by Mile, de 
Lespinasse, and who, subsequently, had the honour of first 
occupying the heart of Mme. de Sta&L, must have had those 
eager, animated qualities which belong to personality, and 
mislead the judgment as to deeds so long as their father 
is present. M. de Guibert had the qualities that exhilarate, 
excite, and impress ; he had his full value in a brilliant cir- 
cle ; but he chilled quickly and was out of place in the bosom 
of intimacy. In the order of sentiments he had the emotion, 
the tumult, the din of passion, but not its warmth. 

Mile, de Lespinasse, who ended by judging him as he was 
and by estimating his just weight without being able to 
cease loving him, began, in the first instance, by admiration. 
" Love/' it is said, " begins usually by admiration, and it ST*T- 



Lb INTRODUCTION. 

vives esteem with difficulty, or rather, it does not survive it, 
except in prolonging its existence by convulsions." Here, in 
her, is the history of that fatal passion , the degrees of which 
weie so rapid that we can scarcely distinguish them. She 
was then (must we tell it nearly forty years old. She was 
bitterly regretting the departure of M. de Mora that true 
man of delicacy and feeling, that truly superior man 
when she involved herself in loving M. de Guibert, the false 
great man, but who was present and seductive. Her first 
letter is dated Saturday evening, May 15, 1773. M. de Gui- 
bert was about to start on a long journey through Germany, 
Prussia, and, possibly, Russia. We have his own printed 
" Relation " of this journey, and it is curious to put these 
witty, practical, often instructive and sometimes emphatic and 
sentimental notes side by side with the letters of his ardent 
friend. Before he departs he has already done her some 
wrong. He had said he would leave Tuesday, May 18th, 
then Wednesday, but he did not start till Thursday, the 20th, 
and his friend knew nothing of it. It is evident that she 
was not the one to receive his last thought, his last farewell. 
She suffers already, and blames herself for suffering ; she has 
just received a letter from M, de Mora, full of confidence in 
her love ; she is ready to sacrifice everything to him, " but," 
she adds, " for the last two months I have had no sacrifice to 
make to him.'* She thinks she still loves M. de Mora ; that 
she can stop and immolate at will the new feeling which de- 
taches and drags her away from him. M. de Mora absent, 
ill, faithful", writes to her, and each letter reopens her wound 
and quickens her remorse. What will it be when, returning 
to her, he falls ill and dies on his way at Bordeaux ? Thus, 
until the end, we find her torn in her delirium between the 
need, the desire to die for M. de Mora, and the desire to live 
for M. de Guibert. " Do you conceive, mon ami, the species 



INTRODUCTION. 11 

of torture to which I am condemned ? I have remorse for 
what I give you, and regrets for what I am forced to with- 
hold." But this is only the beginning of it all. 1 

M. de Guibert, who is much in vogue, and something of a 
coxcomb, leaves behind him, when he goes upon his journey, 
more than one regret. \Ve find there are two women, one 
whom he loves, who responds but little, the other who loves 
him, but does not occupy him much. 

Mile, de Lespinasse takes an interest in these persons, in 
one especially, and she tries to glide between the two. But 
what of that ? when the heart loves utterly it is not proud, 
and she tells herself, with IT^lix in " Polyeucte," 

" I enter upon feelings that are not behe\able; 
Some I have are violent, others are pitiable, 
I have even some . . ." 

She dares not conclude with Corneille, " some that are base." 
She asks to be given a place apart, for herself ; she does not 
yet* know what place. 

" Let us decide our ranks" she says. " Give me my place^ 
but, as I do not like to change, give me a good one. I do 
not wish that of this unhappy woman, who is displeased with 
you ; nor that of the other, with whom you are displeased, 
I do not know where you will place me, but do so, if possible, 
that we may both be content : do not bargain ; grant me 
much ; you shall see that I will not abuse it. Oh ! you 
shall see that I know how to love 1 I can but love, I know 
only how to love." 

Here begins the eternal note, and it never ceases, - To love 

1 The Letters are addressed throughout to ** raon ami/* which cannot 
here be translated as " my friend -. " the consonants themselves forbid it, 
also the limited meaning of the English word in its general use. Conse- 
quently, the soft French word, with more lore in it, is retained in the 
following translation- TB, 



12 INTRODUCTION. 

that is her lot. Phsedra, Sappho, and Dido had none more 
complete, more fatal She deceives herself when she says : 
" I have a strength, or a faculty, which makes me equal to 
everything : it is that of knowing how to suffer, and to suffer 
much without complaint." She knows how to suffer, but she 
does complain, she cries aloud, she passes in the twinkling of 
an eye from exaltation to dejection : " What shall I say to 
you ? the excess of my inconsistency bewilders my mind, and 
the weight of life is crushing my souL What must I do ? 
What shall I become ? Will it be Charenton or the grave 
that shall deliver me from myself ? " 

She counts the letters she receives ; her life depends on the 
postman : " There is a certain carrier who for the last year 
gives fever to my soul." To calm herself while waiting and 
expecting, to obtain the sleep that flees her, she finds nothing 
better than recourse to opium, of which we find her doubling 
the doses with the progress of her woe. What matters to 
her the destiny of other women, those women of society, who 
" for the most part feel no need of being loved ; all they want 
is to be preferred " ? As for her, what she wants is to be 
loved, or rather, to love, even without return : " You do not 
know all that I am worth ; reflect that I can suffer and die ; 
judge from that if I resemble those other women, who know 
how to please and amuse." In vain does she cry out now 
and then : *' Oh I I hate you for giving me the knowledge of 
hope, fear, pain, pleasure ; I did not need those emotions ; 
why did you not leave me in peace ? My soul had no need to 
love ; it was filled by a tender sentiment, deep, and shared, 
responded to, though sorrowful in parting. It was the impul- 
sion of that sorrow that took me to you ; I meant that you 
should please me only, but you did more ; in consoling me 
you bound me to you." In vain does she curse the violent 
feeling which has taken the place of an equable and gentler 



INTRODUCTION. 13 

sentiment ; her soul is so grasped, so ardent that she cannot 
keep from transports, as it were, of intoxication : ** I live, I 
exist with such force that there are moments when I find 
myself loving to madness and to my own misery." 

So long as M. de Guibert is absent she restrains herself a 
little if it can be called restraint. He returns, however, at 
the end of October, 177*3, after being distinguished by the great 
Frederick and taking part in the manoeuvres of the camp in 
Silesia ; thus acquiring a fresh resplendency. Here, with a 
little attention, it is impossible not to note a decisive moment, 
a moment we must veil, which corresponds to that of the 
grotto in Dido's episode. 1 A year later, in a letter from Mile, 
de Lespinasse dated midnight (1775) we find these words, 
which leave but little room for doubt : <e It was on the 10th 
of February of last year (1774) that I was intoxicated by a 
poison the effect of which lasts to this day. . . ." She 
continues this delirious and doleful commemoration, in which 
the image* the spectre, of M. de Mora, dying on his way to 
her, mingles with the nearer and more charming image whic^L 
wraps her in a fatal attraction. 

From this moment passion is at its height, and there is 
scarcely a page in the Letters that is not all flame. Scrupu- 
lous persons, though they read and relish them, blame M. d$ 
Guibert severely for not having returned them to Mile. d$ 
Lespinasse, who frequently asked for them. It appears, in 

1 Her letters do not seem to bear out this conclusion. The close intimacy 
with the personality of a writer that comes, in the work of translation, 
from the necessary scmtiny of his or her words and thoughts and habitual 
method of expressing them gives to the translator at least ground for 
doubting this opinion. It may be true ; but a Frenchman's mind, even 
that of Sainte-Beuve, seems unable to escape from this line of judgment. 
If it is not true, the soul's tragedy is far greater. Mile, de I-espinasse 
uses plain, clear language, which reveals the passion of her nature simply ; 
when she speaks of " remorse " for her infidelity to M. de Mora, she is ex- 
pressing the extreme, perhaps excessive, honour, Delicacy, and sensitiveness 
of her spirit Tit 



14 INTRODUCTION, 

fact, that order and attention were not among the number of 
M. de Guibert's good qualities ; he takes no care of his friend's 
letters : he mingles them with his other papers, he drops them 
from his pocket by mistake, while at the same time he forgets 
to seal his own. Sometimes he returns them to her, but 
among the number returned some are not hers ! In that we 
see M. de Gmbert undisguised. Nevertheless, I do not know 
why he should be held responsible and guilty to-day for the 
pleasure we derive from these Letters. He doubtless returned 
many, and many were destroyed. But Mile, de Lespinasse 
wrote many. It is but a handful, preserved by chance, which 
have come to us. What matter ? the thread of the story is 
there, and it suffices. Throughout, they are almost one and 
the same letter, ever novel, ever unexpected, beginning 
afresh. 

Amid their anguish, their plaints, one word, the divine 
eternal word, returns again and again and redeems all. 
Here is one of her letters in two lines which says more 
than many words : 

"Prom every instant of my life, 1774. 

"Mon aim, I suffer, I love you, I await you." * 

It is very rare in France to meet (pushed to this degree) 
with the class of passion and " sacred ill " of which Mile, de 
Lespinasse was the victim. This is not a reproach that I 
make God forbid 1 to the amiable women of our nation ; 
it is a simple remark, which others have made before me. A 
moralist of the eighteenth century who knew his times, M. 
de Meilhan, has said, " In France, great passions are as rare 
as great men." M. de Mora declared that even the Spanish 
women could not enter into comparison with his friend. 
" Oh ! they are not worthy to be your pupils," he tells her 
constantly; " your soul was warmed by the sun of Lima, but 



INTRODUCTION. 15 

my compatriots seem born beneath the snows of Lapland/' 
And it was from Madrid that he wrote it 1 He found her 
comparable to none but a Peruvian, daughter of the Sun. 
"To love and suffer," she cries, " Heaven or Hell; to that I 
would vow myself ; it is that I would feel ; that is the 
climate I desire to inhabit;' 3 and she pities the women 
who live and vegetate in a milder air and flirt their fans 
around her. " I have known only the climate of Hell, 
rarely that of Heaven." " Ah ! my God 1 " she says again, 
" how natural passion is to me, and how foreign is reason ! 
Mon ami, never did any one reveal herself with such 
abandonment/' It is this abandonment, this total unre- 
serve which is the interest and the excuse of the mental 
situation, the sincerest and the most deplorable that ever 
betrayed itself to the eye. 

This situation of soul is so visibly deplorable that we may 
look upon it, I think, without danger ; so inherent is the sense 
of malady, so plainly do delirium, frenzy, agony disclose them- 
selves pell-melL While admiring a nature capable of this 
powerful manner of feeling, we are tempted as we read to 
pray that Heaven would turn from us and from those we 
love so invincible a fatality, so terrible a thunderbolt. I shall 
try to note the course of this passion, as much, at least, as it 
is possible to note down that which was irregularity and 
contradiction itself. 

Before the journey of M. de Q-uibert to Germany, Mile, de 
Lespinasse loved him, but had not yielded to her love. She 
admired him, she was filled with enthusiasm, already she 
suffered cruelly and made poison of everything. He returns, 
she intoxicates herself, she yields ; then follows remorse ; she 
judges him correctly ; she sees with terror his indifference ; 
she sees him as he is a man of flourish, of vanity, of suc- 
cess ; not a man for intimacy, having, above all, a need for 



16 INTRODUCTION. 

expansion; excited, animated by things from without, but 
never deeply emotional. 

But of what use is it to become clear-sighted? Did a 
woman's mind, great as it may be, ever check her heart ? 
" The mind of most women serves to strengthen their folly 
rather than their reason ' " La Eochef oucauld says that, and 
Mile, de Lespinasse proves the truth of it. She continued to 
love M. de G-uibert, all the while judging him. She suffers 
more and more ; she appeals to him and chides him with a 
mixture of irritation and tenderness : " Fill my soul, or cease 
to torture it ; make me to love you always, or to be as though 
I had never loved you in short, do the impossible; calm 
me, or I die!" 

Instead of that, he harms her ; with his natural careless- 
ness he finds a way to wound even her self-love. She compares 
him to M. de Mora ; she blushes for him, for herself, at the 
difference between them : " And it is you who have made 
me guilty towards that man i the thought revolts my soul, 
and I turn away from it." Repentance, hatred, jealousy, re- 
morse, contempt of herself, and sometimes of him she suf- 
fers at all moments the tortures of the damned. To deaden 
them, to distract her mind, to make truce with her sufferings, 
she has recourse to many things. She tries " Tancrfede," 
which touches her ; she thinks it beautiful, but nothing is 
on the key of her own soul. She has recourse to opium to 
suspend her life and numb her sensibilities. Sometimes 
she makes a resolution to no longer open the letters she 
receives; she keeps one, sealegl, for six days. There are 
days, weeks, when she thinks herself almost cured, re- 
stored to reason, to calmness ; she extols reason and its 
sweetness ; but her calmness is merely an illusion. Her 
passion counterfeited death only to revive more ardent, 
more inflamed than ever. She regrets no longer Ixer de- 



INTRODUCTION. 17 

ceitful, insipid calmness. " I lived," she says, " but I seemed 
to be apart from myself." She tells ~M. de Guibert that she 
hates him, but we know what that means : " You know well 
that when I hate you it is that I love you to a degree of pas- 
sion that overthrows my reason." 

Her life is thus passed in loving, hating, fainting, reviving, 
dying ; that is to say, in ever loving. Each crisis ends by 
a pardon, a reconciliation, a closer and more violent clasp. 
M. de G-uibert thinks of his fortune and his establishment; 
she concerns herself with them for his s$ke. Yes, she con- 
cerns herself about his marriage. When he marries (for he 
has the face to marry in the very midst of this passion) she 
takes an interest in it ; she praises the young wife, whom she 
meets. Alas ! it may be to that generous praise that we owe 
the preservation of these Letters, which ought in those rival 
hands to have been annihilated. It might be supposed that 
this marriage of M. de Guibert would end all ; the noble, de- 
mented soul thinks so herself ; but no 1 passion laughs at 
social impossibilities and barriers. She continues, therefore, 
in spite of all, to love M. de Guibert, without asking more of 
him than to let himself be loved. After many struggles, 
the last day finds their intercourse restored as though 
nothing had been broken between them. But she feels her- 
self dying ; she redoubles the use of opium ; she desires to 
live only from day to day, without a future has passion a 
future ? < I feel the need of being loved to-day, and only to- 
day ; let us blot from our dictionary the words c always * 
and 'forever.' 3 ' 

The last of these Letters are but a piercing cry, with rare 
intermissions. One could scarcely imagine into what inex- 
haustible forms she puts the same sentiment; the river of 
fire o'erflows at every step in flashing torrents. Let us give 
the summary in her own language : 



18 INTHODUCTIOK. 

" All these many contradictions, these many impulses are 
true, and three words explain them : I love you" 

Remark that amid this life of exhaustion and delirium, 
Mile, de Lespinasse is in society ; she receives her friends as 
usual ; she amazes them at times by her variable humour, 
but they attribute this change to her regrets at the absence, 
and then at the death, of M. de Mora. " They do me the 
honour to believe that I am crushed by the loss that I have 
met with." They praised her and admired her for it, which 
redoubled her shame. Poor d'Alembert, who lived in the 
same house, endeavoured vainly to console her, to amuse her ; 
he never comprehended why she repulsed him now and then 
with a sort of horror. Alas ! it was the horror she felt at 
her own dissimulation with such a friend. The long agony 
had its ending at last. She died on the 23d of May, 1776, 
at the age of forty-three years and six months. Her 
passion for M. de Guibert had lasted for more than three 
years. 

Amid this consuming passion, which seems as though it 
could admit no other element, do not suppose that these Let- 
ters fail to show the charming mind which was joined to this 
noble heart. What delicate jesting as she writes of the 
"good" Condorcet, the Chevalier d^ Chastellux, Chamfort, 
and others of her society 1 What grace I Lofty and gen- 
erous sentiments, patriotism and virility of views, are re- 
vealed in more places than one, and make us appreciate 
the worthy friend of Turgot and of Malesherbes. When she 
talks with Lord Shelburne she feels what is grand and vivi- 
fying for thought in being born under a free Government : 
" How can we not be grieved at being born under a Govern- 
ment like ours? As for me, weak and unhappy creature 
that I am, if I were born again, I would rather be the lowest 
member of the House of Commons than the King of Prussia 



INTRODUCTION. 19 

himself." Little disposed as she was to augur any good 
of the future, she has a moment of transport and hope 
when she sees her friends made ministers and putting 
their hands bravely to the work of public regeneration. 
But even then, what is it that preoccupies her most? 
She orders her letters from M. de Guibert to be brought to 
her wherever she may be, at Mme. Geoffrin's, at M. Tur- 
got's even, at table, and during dinner. "What are you 
reading so earnestly?" asked a neighbour, the inquisitive 
Mme. de Boufflers. "Is it some paper for M. Turgot?" 
" Precisely, madame," she replies ; " it is a memorial I must 
give him presently, and I wish to read it before I give it 
to him." 

Thus, all things in her life relate to passion, all things 
bring her back to it ; and it is passion alone which gives us 
the key to this strange heart and struggling destiny. The 
incalculable merit of the Letters of Mile, de Lespinasse is 
that we do not find in them what we find in books and 
novels ; here we have the pure drama of nature, such as it 
reveals itself, now and then, in certain gifted beings ; the 
surface of life is suddenly torn apart and the life itself is 
bared to us. It is impossible to encounter such beings, 
victims of a sacred passion and capable of so generous a woe, 
without being moved to a sentiment of respect and admi- 
ration in the midst of the profound pity which they inspire. 
Nevertheless, if we are wise we shall not envy them ; we 
shall prefer a calmer interest, gently quickened ; we shall 
cross the Tuileries (as she did one beautiful sunny morning) 
and say with her : " Oh ! how lovely ! how divine this 
weather ! the air I breathe is calming I love, I regret, 
I desire, but all those sentiments have won the imprint of 
sweetness and melancholy. Ah ! this manner of feeling has 
greater charm than the ardour and throes of passion I Yes, 



20 INTRODUCTION. 

I believe I am disgusted with them ; I will no longer love 
so forcibly ; I will love gently " Yet a moment later she 
adds, " but never feebly." The pangs are seizing her again 
Ah, no ! those who have tasted that poison once are never 
cured. 



NOTES 

ON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF MLLE. DE 
LESPINASSE. 

THE mysteries surrounding Mile, de Lespinasse from her 
birth to her grave, and beyond it, have given rise to so many 
false conjectures that it seems well to bring together the 
undoubted facts of her life, disengaged from such conjectures 
and from those statements of her nearest friends which are 
now known to have been mistaken. 

The following Notes are taken from the Introduction 
written by M. Eugene Ass for his edition of the " Letters " 
published in 1876, and from the letters and other writings 
of her friends published in the same volume, also from : 

The GEuvres " of d'Alembert. Paris. An xiii (1805). 

The " Memoires " of MarmonteL Paris. 1804. 

The " Correspondence Litt^raire " of La Harpe and of 
Grimm. Paris. 1804 and 1830. 

The " CEuvres " of Condorcet. Paris. 1847-9. 

The Memoires " of the Abb de Morellet. 

The " GEuvres " of Mine, de Stae'L 

The "Tombeau de Mile, de Lespinasse," edited by the 
Bibliophile Jacob (M. Paul Lacroix). 1879. 

Julie-Jeanne-Ilonore de Lespinasse was born at Lyon on 
the 18th of November, 1732. It was not without good reason 
that she compared her birth and her early years to the most 
affecting pages of the novels of lUcbardson or the Abb4 



22 NOTES. 

Provost. She owed her life to a guilty connection formed 
by the Comtesse d'Albon ; and it was only by concealing, at 
least from strangers, the secret of this origin that her mother 
was able to keep her with her and to treat her, if not publicly, 
at any rate in reality, as her daughter, and perhaps as her 
best-loved child. 

About this mystery which surrounded the life and youth 
of Mile, de Lespinasse, her contemporaries gathered only 
uncertain and often contradictory rumours. Grimm, and 
even La Harpe and Marmontel, who knew her intimately, do 
not agree in their narratives. At the period when they wrote 
nothing was clearly known of those early years , to-day it is 
otherwise, and the testimony of Mme. du Deffand, a connec- 
tion of the d'Albon family, and that of M. de Guibert, who 
not only received the confidences of Mile, de Lespinasse, but 
to whom she read the narrative she had herself written on 
this period of her life, enable us to rectify all errors. 

Mile, de Lespinasse was brought up by her mother, from 
whom she received a solid and even brilliant education, as to 
which all her contemporaries are agreed. The tenderness of 
the mother went so far as to think of having her recog- 
nized as a legitimate daughter. Mme. du Deffand, relating, 
in a letter to the Duehesse de Luynes, her first meeting with 
the young girl at the chateau de Chamrond, belonging to her 
(Mme. du Deffand's) brother, the Marquis de Vichy-Cham- 
rond, who had married the legitimate and eldest daughter of 
Mme. d'Albon, speaks of her as " a person who has no relatives 
who acknowledge her, or at any rate none who will, or ought 
to acknowledge her. This," she adds, " will show you her posi- 
tion. I found her at Chamrond, where she has lived since 
the death of Mme d'Albon (the mother of my sister-in-law), 
who had brought her up and, in spite of her youth, had given 
her marks of the greatest friendship." Elsewkeare she says 



NOTES 23 

that the girl had passed her early years with the son of Mme. 
d'Albon, the Vicomte d'Albon. We may suppose that those 
years were spent in the ancient manor of Avranches, situated 
on the road from Eoanne to Lyon, a patrimonial domain of 
the d'Albons which her mother, the last representative of that 
branch of the family, inherited from her father, the Marquis 
de Saint-Forgeux, in 1729. 

The painful and almost tragic scenes which, it is only too 
true, darkened the young girl's youth, took place undoubtedly 
during the first months after her mother's death and, more 
especially, during the five years from 1747 to 1752, which 
she passed at Chamrond with the Marquise de Vichy, legiti- 
mate daughter of the Comtesse d'Albon, The young girl 
had accepted the proposal to live there, believing that she 
would be treated as a friend. She was almost immediately 
made governess to the children, three in number, the eldest 
being scarcely eight years old. But the bitterness of her 
position came much less from the humble duties she was 
required to perform than from the manner in which she was 
treated. When Mme. du Deffand went to pass the summer 
of 1752 at Chamrond with her brother and sister-in-law, she 
noticed the intelligence and the charm of Mile, de Les- 
pinasse, and was also struck by the air of sadness which 
dimmed her face. Soon she obtained her confidence. " She 
told me," says Mme. du Deffand, " that it was no longer pos- 
sible for her to remain with M, and Mm^J de Vichy ; that 
she had long borne the harshest and most humiliating treat- 
ment ; that her patience was now at an end, and for more 
than a year she had declared to Mme. de Vichy that sfce 
must go away, being unable to bear any longgr the seethes 
that were made to her daily." 

Nevertheless, the conduct of Mile, de Lespinasse on the 
death of her mother had been such as ought te have won her 



24 NOTES 

not only the esteem and respect, but the affection of those 
who, by blood if not by law, were her brother and sister. 
Put in possession of a large sum of money by her dying 
mother, who intended to have secured to her a rich future, 
she had generously and spontaneously given it to the 
Vieomte d'Albon, thus reducing herself to the modest 
income of a hundred crowns left to her by the will of 
her mother. 

Mile, de Lespmasse had resolved to fling herself into a 
convent rather than remain longer with the Yichys, when 
Mme. du Deffand, now nearly blind and seeking a com- 
panion, proposed to the young girl to live with her in Paris, 
in that convent of Saint- Joseph which, with nothing cloistral 
about it, served (like the Abbaye-aux-Bois in our own day) 
as a decent but very worldly retreat for a small number of 
women of rank, in which each had her separate and inde- 
pendent suite of rooms. It was in October, 1752, that Mme. 
du Deffand made this proposal to Mile, de Lespinasse, but it 
was not until sixteen months later, in April, 1754, that 
the latter was able 1 to accept an offer she had welcomed 
eagerly. She spent those months in a convent at Lyon, 
under the friendly eye and -protection of Cardinal de Tencin. 
The delay was caused by futile efforts to obtain the con- 
sent of the Vieomte d'Albon and Mme. de Vichy to the new 
arrangement. Filled with incurable distiust, the brother 
and sister refused to sanction a project which they regarded 
as a menace to their prosperity ; although Mme. du Deffand 
had taken upon herself the care of avoiding that danger by 
exacting from Mile, de Lespinasse a pledge never to use her 
new position to establish her rights to the name and to v a 
share in the fortune of the d'Albon family. The following 
extracts from the letters of Mme. du Deffand throw light on 
this period : 



NOTES 25 

From Mme. la Jlarguise du D&ffand to Jttlle. de Lespinasse. 

Paris, February 13, 1754 

I am very glad, my queen, that you are satisfied with my letters 
and also with the course which you have taken towards ]\I d'Albon. 
I am convinced that he will resolve on securing you a pension ; he 
would be stoned by every one if he did otherwise. In case he re- 
fuses, you obtain entire free'dom to follow your own will, which I 
trust will bring you to live with me. But examine yourself well, 
my queen, and be very sure that you will not repent. In your 
last letter you wrote me very tender and nattering things ; but 
remember that you did not think the same only two or three 
months ago , you then confessed to me that you were frightened at 
the dull life I made you foresee, a life which, although you are 
accustomed to it, would be more intolerable in the midst of the 
great world than it has been in your seclu&ion ; you feared, you 
said, to fall into a state of discouragement, which would render you 
intolerable, and mspne me with disgust and repentance. Those 
were your expressions , }ou thought them a fault which required 
my pardon, and you begged me to forget them , but, my queen, it 
is not a fault to speak our thoughts, and explain our dispositions; 
on the contrary, we can do nothing better. ... I shall treat you 
not only with politeness, but even with compliments before the 
world, to accustom it to the consideration it ought to have for you. 
... I shall not have the air of seeking to introduce you ; I expect 
to make you desired , and if you know me well, you need have 110 
anxiety as to the manner in which I shall treat your self-love. 
But you must rely on the knowledge that I have of the world. , . . 
There is a second point on which I must explain myself to you ; 
it is that the slightest artifice, or even the most trifling little art, 
if you were to put it into your conduct, would be intolerable to 
me. I am naturally distrustful, and all those in whom I detect 
slyness become suspicious to me to the point of no longer feeling 
the slightest confidence in them. I have two intimate friends, 
Formont and d'Alembert, I love them passionately, but less for 
their agreeable charms and theii friendship for me than for their 
absolute truthfulness. Therefore, you must, my queen, resolve 
to live with me with the utmost tiuth and sincerity, and never 



26 NOTES 

use Insinuation, nor any exaggeration ; in a word, never deviate, 
and never lose one of the greatest charms of youth, which is 
candour. You have much intelligence, you have gaiety, you are 
capahle of feelings; with all these qualities you will be charming 
so long as you let yourself go to your natural impulse, and are 
without pretension and without subterfuge, . . . 

March 29, 1764 

. r . Another favour I have to ask of you (and it is the most 
important of all), namely: not to come to me unless you have 
totally forgotten who you are, and unless you have made a firm 
resolution never to think of changing your civil state. It would 
be perfidy to make use of my friend&hip to cover me with shame, 
to expose me to the blame of all honourable persons, to make my 
family my relentless enemies. The slightest attempt of this kind 
that you might make while living with me would be an unpardon- 
able crime. I hope, my queen, that you have no need to consult 
yourself again on. this point. It is long since you promised me all 
I could desire on this subject. I am perfectly certain that any 
such attempt would be in vain ; but it would, none the less, be 
dreadful for me if you made one, and I repeat that I should never 
forgive it. ... 

April 8, 1754. 

... I hope, my queen, that I shall have no reason to repent 
what I do for you ; and that you will not come to me unless you 
are fully decided to make no attempt [to change your social state]. 
You know but too well how useless such efforts are ; but in future, 
when living with me, they would be fatal to you, for the grief they 
would cause me would draw down upon you powerful enemies, 
and you would find yourself in a state of abandonment in which 
there would be no resource. 

That said, there remains only to tell yon of the joy I sfeall hav^e 
in seeing you and in living with you. I shall write t once to 
M. le Cardinal to beg him to start you from Lyon as soon as 
possible. . . . 

Adieu, my queen ; pack yoxir trunks and come to be tfoe happi- 
ness and consolation of my life ; it does not depend xm moe to naake 
it reciprocal. 



NOTES. 27 

Mile, de Lespinasse was twenty-two years of age when 
she came to take the situation thus foreshadowed. Mme. 
du Deffand was fifty-seven, and already nearly blind. Long 
since celebrated for her wit, she was beginning to be so 
for her salon, where, side by side with men of letters, were 
found all that aristocracy could then present that was most 
distinguished for taste and intellect. Mile, de Lespinasse, 
on her first entrance to a world so new to her, was not out of 
place. Her tact, her intelligence won all suffrages ; we find 
the proof of it in the praises bestowed upon her by such good 
judges as the Chevalier d'Aydie, the Prince de Beauvau, and 
President Hdnault. The qualities she may have lacked she 
soon acquired by contact with the most polished society that 
ever existed. " See what an education I received ! " she says 
herself. "Mme. du Deffand, President Renault, the Abb<5 
Bon, the Archbishop of Toulouse, the Archbishop of Aix, 
M. Turgot, M. d'Alembert, the Abbe* de Boismont, these 
are the persons who taught me to speak and to think, and 
who have deigned to consider me as something." 

This life in common lasted ten years, from 1754 to 1764. 
Begun under such auspices, for what reason did it become 
a burden to the one who proposed it and to the other who 
accepted it ? How came it to end in an open rupture which 
had all the importance of an event, and actually divided, 
almost into two camps, the society of that day ? Evidently 
there were faults on both sides : Mme. du Deffand abusing 
the superiority which her rank and her rdle as protectress 
gave her over Mile, de Lespinasse ; and the latter allowing, 
little by little, indifference and coldness to take the place of 
her -early interest and zeal But the true determining cause 
of the rapture was the rivalry, the jealousy perhaps, which 
grew up ^between the twq women. We recall Mn*e. du Def- 
f and's words in the foregoing letter : ** There is a point oa 



28 NOTES. 

which I must explain myself to you. The slightest artifice, 
even the most trifling little art, in your conduct would he 
intolerable to me." 

That art, that artifice, Mile, de Lespinasse was guilty of in 
the eyes of her protectress let us use the true word, mis- 
tress on the day when she received in her own little room, 
privately and, as it were, secretly, the most illustrious friends 
of the marquise, Turgot, Marmontel, d'Alemberl, d'Alem- 
bert of all others ! the favourite of Mme. du Deffand ! When 
the latter, who slept till evening wearied with her late hours, 
discovered this fact her anger broke forth into violent re- 
proaches. 4f It was nothing less to her mind," says Marmon- 
tel, " than treachery ; she uttered loud outcries, accusing the 
poor girl of stealing her friends, and declaring she would no 
longer warm that serpent in her bosom." 

This abrupt separation left Mile, de Lespinasse without 
resources, reduced to the paltry income of a hundred crowns 
which her mother had left her in her wilL But she had 
friends, and they did not fail her. Not only did d'Alembert 
(whom Mme. du Deffand compelled to choose between her- 
self and Mile, de Lespinasse) not hesitate to boldly take the 
part of the latter, not only did all those who might be called 
her intimates Turgot, Chastellux, Marmontel, the Comte 
d'Anl^zy, the Duchesse de Ch&tillon stand by her, without 
at the same time breaking wholly with her rival, but the 
special friends of Mme. du Deffand, those who remained with 
her to the last, did not refrain from giving to Mile, de 
Lespinasse the most touching and practical marks of inter- 
est. It was felt, moreover, that she was already a power, 
and society desired not to quarrel with a rising sovereign. 

"All the friends of Mme. du Deffand," says Marmontel, 
" became hers. It was easy to convince them that the anger 
of the former was unjust. President H4nault himself de- 



NOTES. 29 

clared for her. The Duchesse de Luxembourg blamed her 
old friend openly, and made a present to Mile de Lespinasse 
of the complete furniture of the apartment she had hired; 
and the Due de Ghoiseul obtained for her from the king an 
annual sum which put her above actual need." 

In quitting Mme. du Deffand, Mile, de Lespinasse did 
not exile herself from the faubourg Saint-Germain; she 
established her new home not far from the convent of Saint- 
Joseph, in the street, and close to the convent, of Belle- 
Chasse. Installed in this apartment, which, though modest, 
must have been almost vast to receive the visitors who 
pressed there in greater numbers daily, she was not long 
alone; a year later d'Alembert joined her, thus associating 
his life definitely with that of a woman whom he had loved 
for eight years, and by whom he thought himself beloved. 

cc They lived very far apart," says Marmontel ; " and though 
in bad weather it was difficult for d'Alembert to return at 
night from the rue de Belle-Chasse to the rue Michel-le- 
Comte, where his foster-mother lived, he never thought of 
quitting the latter until he fell ill of putrid fever, for which 
the first remedy is pure and free air. His physician, Bou- 
vard, became uneasy and declared to us that his present 
lodging might be fatal to him. Watelet offered him his 
house near the boulevard du Temple; there he was taken, 
and Mile, de Lespinasse, in spite of all that might be said or 
thought, went to nurse him. No one, however, thought or 
said anything but good of her action. D'Alembert recovered, 
and then, consecrating his life to her who had taken eare of 
him, he went to live in the same house. Nothing more inno- 
cent than their intimacy, therefore it was respected; malig- 
nity itself never attacked it; and the consideration which 
Mile. 'de Lespinasse enjoyed, far from suffering any shock, 
was only the more honourably and publicly established." 



32 NOTES. 

commonplaceness as from studied elegance ; the most perfect 
harmony existed between thought and expression ; she had 
a solid education, leaving more to divine than was shown ; 
a smiling good sense rather than a downright, open gaiety ; 
and finally, a tact so perfect that she seemed to have the 
secret of all natures and all susceptibilities. These were 
her salient traits, her most seductive endowments. D'Alem- 
bert dwells particularly on this exquisite tact: "What dis- 
tinguishes you above all," he says to her, " is the art of say- 
ing to each that which suits him; this art, though little 
common, is very simple in you ; it consists in never speaking 
of yourself to others, but much of them." " I have never 
known," says La Harpe, " a woman who had more natural 
wit, less desire to show it, and more talent in showing to 
advantage that of others." And Marmontel adds his word : 
" One of her charms was the ardent nature that impas- 
sioned her language and communicated to her opinions the 
warmth, the sympathy, the eloquence of feeling. Often, too, 
with her, reason grew playful ; a gentle philosophy allowed 
itself light jesting." 

We can easily comprehend the influence that such qualities 
of heart and mind must have had on the society -of that 
period. And if we add to this personal influence of Mile, 
de Lespinasse that (wfcich was very great) of d'Alembert, 
the recognized leader c^f the philosophic party, who added to 
his fame as a learned man a literary renown which made the 
French Academy choose him as its perpetual secretary, we 
shall form a correct idea of what the salon of Mile, de Lespi- 
nasse was more literary than that of the Marquise du 
Deffand, more aristocratic than that of the bourgeoise Mme. 
G-eoffrin. The dinners and suppers, which held so great a 
place in the fame of the Maecenases of that day, counted for 
nothing in the celebrity of the salon in the rue de Belle- 



NOTES. 33 

Chasse. There, people talked from five o'clock to ten o'clock 
daily. We may say that for twelve years, from 1764 to 
1776, there was not a day when the choicest society failed 
to be there, and not a day when Mile, de Lespinasse failed 
to receive it. Not for all the world would her friends have 
missed these daily festivals of intellect, grace, and elegance. 

Other salons had then: habitual guests, their reigning and 
dominating friends : with Mme. du Deffand were President 
H^nault, Pont de Yeyle, the Prince de Beauvau, the Ghoiseuls, 
and Horace Walpole, on his too rare journeys to Paris ; with 
Mme. Geoffrin, Marmontel and Antoine Thomas; with the 
Baron d'Holbach, Diderot and Grimm; but with Mile, de 
Lespinasse it was not even d'Alembert who reigned. In her 
salon alone were received on a footing of perfect equality, 
without marked preference, all that Paris had of most illus- 
trious in letters, sciences, and arts. D'Alembert was no more 
than an ordinary visitor, unus inter pares. But his talent 
as a talker made the place more delightful. 

"His conversation," says Grimm, "offered all that could 
instruct and divert the mind. He lent himself with as much 
facility as good-will to whatever subject would please most 
generally; bringing to it an almost inexhaustible fund of 
ideas, anecdotes, and curious recollections. There was, I 
may say, no topic, however dry or frivolous in itself, that he 
had not the secret of making interesting. He spoke well, 
related with much precision, and brought out his point with 
a rapidity which was peculiar to him. All his humorous 
sayings have a delicate and profound originality." 

Variety such was the special character of the salon of 
Mile, de Lespinasse; and this is particularly shown in the 
account that Grimm has left of it. 

" Without fortune, without birth, without beauty, she had 
succeeded in collecting around her a very numerous, very 

3 



34 NOTES. 

varied, and very assiduous society. Her circle met daily from 
five o'clock until nine in the evening. There we were sure 
to find choice men of all orders in the State, the Church, 
the Court, military men, foreigners, and the most dis- 
tinguished men of letters. Every one agrees that though 
the name of M. d'Alembert may have drawn them thither, 
it was she alone who kept them there. Devoted wholly to 
the care of preserving that society, of which she was the soul 
and the charm, she subordinated to this purpose all her 
tastes and all her personal intimacies. She seldom went to 
the theatre or into the country, and when she did make a"n 
exception to this rule it was an event of which all Paris was 
notified in advance. . . . Politics, religion, philosophy, anec- 
dotes, news, nothing was excluded from the conversation, 
and, thanks to her care, the most trivial little narrative 
gained, as naturally as possible, the place and notice it de- 
served. News of all kinds was gathered there in its first 
freshness." 

"No one has better pictured than Marmontel the influence 
of Mile, de Lespinasse on her society, or made us feel more 
fully the sort of creative breath which, from this chaos, 
brought forth a world so brilliant and harmonious. 

" I do not put," he says, " among the number of my private 
societies the assembly which gathered every evening in the 
apartments of Mile, de Lespinasse, for with the exception of 
a few friends of d'Alembert, such as the Chevalier de Chas- 
tellux, the Abfce Morellet, Saint-Lambert, and myself, the 
circle was formed of persons who were not bound together. 
She had taken them here and there in society, but so well 
assorted were they that once there they fell into harmony 
like the strings of an instrument touched by an able hand, 
following out that comparison, I may say that she "played 
the instrument with an art that came of genius ; she seemed 



NOTES. 35 

to know what tone each string would yield before she touched 
it ; I mean to say that our minds and our natures were so 
well known to her that in order to bring them into play she 
had but to say a word. Nowhere was conversation more 
lively, more brilliant, or better regulated than at her house. 
It was a rare phenomenon indeed, the degree of tempered, 
equable heat which she knew so well how to maintain., 
sometimes by moderating it, sometimes by quickening it. The 
continual activity of her soul was communicated to our souls, 
but measurably; her imagination was the mainspring, her 
reason the regulator. Remark that the brains shfe stirred at 
will were neither feeble nor frivolous : the Condillacs and 
Turgots were among them ; d' Alembert was like a simple, 
docile child beside her. Her talent for casting out a thought 
and giving it for discussion to men of that class, her own 
talent in discussing it with precision, sometimes with elo- 
quence, her talent for bringing forward new ideas and vary- 
ing thft topic always with the facility and ease of a fairy, 
who 1 , With one touch of her wand, can change the scene of 
her enchantment these talents, I say, were not those of an 
ordinary woman. It was not with the follies of fashion and 
vanity that daily, during four hours of conversation, without 
languor and without vacuum, she knew how to make herself 
interesting to a wide circle of strong minds." 

Grimm insists oft very nearly the same traits. " Site jtos- 
sessed," he says, "ii* an 1 eminent degree that art so diffi- 
cult and so previous, of mfaking the best of the minds of 
otHers, o/f interesting them, and of bringing them into play 
without any stppea^stace of constraint or effort. She knew 
ho-sv to' ignite t&fe different styles of mmd, sometimes ev6n 
the most opposed, without appearing to take the slightest 
p&inff to do* so; by a word, adroitly flung in, she sustained 
the convel'satkm, animating anct varying it as she pleased. 



36 NOTES. 

!N"o one knew better how to do the honours of her house; she 
put every one in his place, and every one was content with 
it. She had great knowledge of the world, and that species 
of politeness which is most agreeable ; I mean that which has 
the tone of personal interest." 

There were times., however, when the sensitive taste of 
Mile, de Lespinasse was shocked and overcome by occasional 
vulgarity of manners or expiession. Of this the Abbe" Mo- 
rellcfc has left an amusing record in his " Memoirs." 

" Mile, de Lespinasse/' he relates, " loving men of intellect 
passionately and neglecting no means of knowing them and 
attracting them to her circle, ardently desired to know M. de 
Buff on. Mine. Geoffrin, agreeing to procure her that happi- 
ness, invited Buffon to pass an evening at her house. Behold 
Mile, de Lespinasse in the seventh heaven, promising herself 
to observe closely that celebrated man, and not lose a single 
word that issued from his lips. The conversation having be- 
gun, on the part of Mile de Lespinasse by flattering compli- 
ments, such as she knew so well how to pay, the topic of the 
art of writing was brought up, and some one remarked, with 
eulogy, how well M. de Buffon had united clearness with 
loftiness of style, a union very difficult and rarely produced. 
* Oh, the devil ! ' said M. de Buffon, his head high, his eyes 
partly closed, and with an air half silly, half inspired: 
f "oh, the devil! when it comes to clarifying one's style, 
that 's another pair of sleeves.* At this speech, this vulgar 
comparison, Mllo, de Lespinasse was visibly troubled; her 
countenance changed, she threw herself back in her chair, 
muttering between her teeth, c Another pair of sleeves! 
clarify his style ! * and she did not recover herself the whole 
evening." 

But conversation alone was not all that went on in the 
salon of the rue de Belle-Chasse ; academicians were made 



NOTES. 37 

theie. Chastellux owed his election in a great measure to 
Mile, de Lespinasse. In her last hours, already lying on her 
deathbed, she secured that of La Harpe. " M. de La Harpe " 
says Bachaumont in his Memoirs, "was one of her nurs- 
lings ; by her influence she opened the doors of the Academy 
to him who is now its secretary. This poet was the last of 
those whom she enabled to enter them." All power has its 
detractors, all royalty its envious carpers, and these cast 
great blame on Mile, de Lespinasse for caballing, so they 
said, in the interests of her friends and through the influ- 
ence of d'Alembert, to close the doors of the Academy to 
those who were not her friends. Dorat, whose style she did 
not like (and perhaps not his person), attributed to her the 
various checks his academic ambition had met with ; and he 
made himself the organ of these accusations in two come- 
dies entitled, " Les Proneurs " and " Merlin Bel Esprit." 
Society came very near seeing renewed the scandal of the 
famous comedy of "Les Philosophes," and Mile, de Les- 
pinasse only just escaped being acted on the stage during her 
lifetime by Dorat, as Eousseau had been by Palissot. With- 
out justifying Dorat, whose comic muse was otherwise very 
inoffensive, it cannot be denied that Mile, de Lespinasse 
played a very great part in all the Academic struggles, and 
that her devotion to the ideas of d'Alembert and the Ency- 
clopedists, often carried her too far. Grimm, who men- 
tions the reproach, contests its justice without denying its 
cause. 

" Her enemies," he says," blamed her, very ridiculously, for 
being concerned in a variety of affairs which were not her 
business, and for having favoured by her intrigues that philo- 
sophic despotism which the cabal of the bigots accused M. 
d'Alembert of exercising over the Academy. But why 
should women, who decide everything in France, not decide 



38 NOTES 

also the honours of literature ? . . . M. Dorat, who thinks 
he has reason to complain of her, has allowed himself to 
take vengeance in a play called 'Les Proneurs/ Several 
persons who have heard it lead think it has more invention 
and more gaiety than M. Dorat has put into bis other come- 
dies. The play turns on a young man whom they want to 
initiate into the mysteries of the modern philosophy, and to 
whom, in consequence, they teach the methods of acquiring 
celebrity in the quickest manner. M. d'Alembert and Mile, 
de Lespinasse play the chief r6les The story is told tjiat 
one of their most zealous admirers, an old courtier who is 
very hard of hearing, when the plot of the new play was 
read before him, seeing every one about him ecstatic, cried 
out, louder than any of them, ' There now ! that is good 
comedy. 3 " 

We now know the friends who occupied the mind of Mile, 
de Lespinasse ; we have next to speak of those who filled her 
heart. . . . 

But here we must turn to the sketch of M. de Mora %q.d. 
M. de Guibert, and to the picture of the Iqve, tl^e passion, 
the remorse that consumed her life contained in Sainte- 
Beuve's essay which precedes these Notes. All further 
analysis would be superfluous, for what can be needed 
after the sympathetic but judicial insight of that true 
discerner of men and women ? 

Nevertheless, for a clear understanding of the following 
letters, which are full of allusions that need a clue, it is well 
to refer once more to the particular fact that underlies t-hem, 
namely : the struggle in her soul between her love for M. de 
Mora and her passion for M. de Guibert. All the letters up 
to the time of M. de Mora's death hay3 this struggle for 
their key-note, a struggle naturally full of inconsistencies. 
After his death her reix^rse begins, and, embittered by M- ds 



NOTES 39 

Guibert's unfaithfulness which her passion condones it 
kills her. 

Mile, de Lespinasse possessed the mysterious gift of charm, 
a gift that cannot be explained or analyzed, a spiritual gift, 
not dependent on beauty or physical attraction, and one 
which many women exercise equally over men and women. 
The word " exercise," however, is not applicable to it, for it 
is an unconscious faculty, a gift bestowed on women which 
they themselves are unable to explain ; some of its elements 
are easily defined, such as self -unconsciousness, perception 
of the souls of others, but as a whole the gift is mysterious. 
Mile, de Lespinasse had it in an eminent degree until the 
period of her fatal passion. Plainly it was a part of the tie 
between herself and M. de Mora, and she never lost it with 
her circle of friends so long as she lived, nor after her death. 
The story of d'Alembert's attachment to her is as full of pain 
as her own, and even more pathetic. His was the passion of 
friendship, if not of love ; and it is difficult to acquit her of 
indifference to his feelings, and even of cruelty, especially 
in the bequest of her correspondence with M. de Mora, to be 
read and destroyed by him at her death. Even Marmontel, 
so faithful to her himself, says : " Mile, de Lespinasse was 
no longer the same with d'Alembert , not only did he have 
to bear her coldness, but often her fretful humours full 
of gloom and bitterness." She admits this herself, and gives 
as its excuse (which Sainte-Beuve recognizes) that her soul 
was wrung with remorse for the deception she was practising 
upon him. A true excuse no doubt, and one with which we 
ought to credit her ; but the sorrow and the distress to him 
were none the less, and the shock when he discovered the 
truth after her death was not the more bearable. No, his 
passion stands beside hers in this sad story, and we cannot 
help comparing them. Hers has the sturm und drq,ng of 



40 NOTES 

passionate emotion, with, fame to crown it : his was silent 
sorrow, and he died of it, unsung. 

Marmontel leaves us no doubt that her death was the cause 
of his. " D'Alembert," he says, " was unconsoled and incon- 
solable for his loss. It was then that he buried himself in 
the lodging given to him in the Louvre as secretary of the 
Trench Academy. I have told elsewhere how he passed the 
rest of his life. He often complained to me of the dreadful 
solitude into which he had fallen. In vain I reminded him 
of all that he had told me himself about the change in the 
feelings of his friend. " Yes," he replied, " she was changed, 
but I was not ; she lived no longer for me, but I lived always 
for her. Now that she is gone, I know not why I live. Ah ! 
would that I had still to suffer the bitter momenta she knew 
so well how to soften and make me forgot I Do you remem- 
ber the happy evenings we spent with her ? And now 
what remains to me ? Instead of herself when I come home, 
I find her shade. This lodging in the Louvre is like a tomb , 
I never enter it except with horror." 

D'Alembert survived his friend, whose memory never left 
him for an instant, seven years. 

It was on a Thursday, May 23, 1776, that death brought 
to Mile de Lespmasse the rest for which she longed. The 
account that La Harpe has left of this event is perhaps the 
most affecting that we have of it : " During the last days of 
her life she saw none but her intimate friends. They were 
all in her chamber on the night of her death ; and all were 
weeping. She had passed the last three days in a state of 
exhaustion that scarcely permitted her to speak aloud. The 
nurses revived her with cordials and raised her in her bed. 
< Do I still live ? ' she said. Those were her last words." 

The Letters of Mile, de Lespinasse cannot be read and 
judged by personal standards or social convention ; not ev$n 



NOTES 41 

from the standpoint of our present phase of human nature, 
which a century has changed from hers. There are many 
judgments and countless criticisms that might be made upon 
her ; but the essential thing is that here is a human soul laid 
bare in the fierce light of the fire of passion, and fit to stand 
by the great ones of her class, Sappho, Hloise, and the un- 
known souls whose genius never passed to words ; for this 
passion of loving is a form of genius. 



LETTERS 



OF 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSE TO 
M. DE GUIBERT, 



PARIS, Saturday evening, May 15, 1773. 

You start on Tuesday ; and as I know not the effect which 
your departure will have upon me, as I know not if I shall 
have freedom or will to write, I wish to speak with you once 
more and assure myself of receiving news of you from 
Stras'burg. You must tell me if you arrive there in good 
health ; if the movement of travelling has not already 
calmed your soul. Not that your soul is ill, it suffers only 
from the ills it causes ; and diversion, change of scene will 
suffice to turn aside those emotions of sympathy which may 
be painful to you because you are kind and honourable* 
Yes, you are very kind ; I have just re-read your letter of this 
morning j it has the sweetness of G-estner joined to the energy 
of Jean- Jacques. Eh, mon Dieu! why unite all that can 
touch and please, and why, above all, offer me a blessing of 
which I am not worthy, which I have not deserved ? 

No, no ! I do not want your friendship ; it would console 
me, it would agitate me, and I need rest ; I nee<J to forget 
you for a time. I wish to be sincere with you and with 
myself , and, in truth, in the trouble in which I am I fear to 
be mistaken ; perhaps my remorse is greater than my wrong- 



44 LETTERS OF [1773 

doing ; perhaps the alarm I have felt is that which would 
most offend the one I love. I have just received, this instant, 
a letter so full of confidence in my feelings , he speaks to me 
of myself, of what I think, of my soul, with that degree of 
knowledge and certainty which is uttered only when we 
feel strongly and keenly. Ah, mon Dicu ! by what charm, 
by what fatality have you come to distract me ? Why did I 
not die in the month of September ? I coxild have died then 
without regret, without the reproaches that I now make to 
myself. Alas ! I feel it, I could still die for him ; there is 
no interest of mine I would not sacrifice to him but for 
two months past I have had none to make ; I do not love 
more, but I love better. Oh ! he will pardon me ' I had 
suffered so -much ! my body, my soul were so exhausted by 
the long continuance of the sorrow. The news I received of 
him threw me sometimes into frenzy. It was then that I 
first saw you ; then that you revived my soxil, then that you 
brought pleasure into it , I know not which was sweetest, to 
feel it, or to owe it to you. 

But tell me, is this the tone of friendship, the tone of con- 
fidence ? What is it that is drawing me ? Make me know 
myself ; aid me to recover myself in a measure ; my soul is 
convulsed ; is it you, is it your departure, what is it that per- 
secutes me? I can no more. At this moment I have 
confidence in you, even to abandonment, but perhaps I shall 
never speak to you again of my life. Adieu, I shall see you 
to-morrow ; possibly I shall feel embarrassed by what I have 
now written to you. Would to heaven that you were my 
friend, or that I had never known you ! Do you believe me ? 
Will you be my friend ? Think of it, once only ; is that too 
much? 



1773] MULE. BE I.ESPINASSE 45 

Sunday, May 23, J773. 

If I were young, pretty, and very charming, I should not fail 
to see much art in your conduct to me ; hut as I am nothing 
of all that, I find a kindness and an honour in it which have 
won you rights over my soul forever. You have filled it 
with gratitude, with esteem, with sensibilitj^, and all other 
feelings which give intimacy and confidence to intercourse. 
I cannot speak as well as Montaigne upon friendship, but, 
believe me, we shall feel it better. And yet, if what Mon- 
taigne says had been in his heart, would he have consented 
to live after the loss of such a friend ? 

But this is not the question here ; it is of you, of the grace, 
the delicacy, the timeliness of your quotation. You come to 
my rescue ; you will not let me blame myself ; you will not 
suffer your memory to be a sad reproach to my heart, and, 
perhaps, an offence to my self-respect ; in a word, you wish 
me to enjoy in peace the friendship that you offer me and 
prove to me with as much gentleness as grace. Yes, I accept 
it ; I make it my blessing ; it will console me ; and if I ever 
again enjoy your society it will be the pleasure I shall feel 
and desire the most. 

I hope you have pardoned me the wrong I did not do. 
You surely feel that it is not possible for me to suspect you of 
an impulse against kindness and honour. Yet I accused you 
of it ; that meant nothing," except that I was weak and cul- 
pable, and, above all, troubled to the point of losing my 
presence and freedom of mind. You see things too well and 
too quickly to let me fear you could mistake me ; I am well 
assured that your soul sees no reason to complain of the 
emotions of mine. 

I know that you did not start till Thursday at half-past five 
o'clock. I was at your door, two minutes after your departure. 
I had sent in the morning to inquire at what hour you left on 



46 LETTERS OF [1773 

"Wednesday ; and, to my great astonishment, I learned that 
you were still in Paris, and it was not known if you would 
start on Thursday even. I went myself to learn if you were 
ill ; and (what may strike you as shocking) it seemed to me 
that I desired it. Nevertheless, with an inconsistency which 
I will not explain I felt comforted on learning that you were 
gone. Yes, your departure has restored my calmness , but 
I feel more sad. You must pardon this, and be satisfied. I 
do not know if I regret you, but I miss you as my pleasure ; 
I believe that active and sensitive souls cling too strongly to 
pleasure It is not the idea of the length of your absence 
that distresses me my thought does not go so far ; it is 
simply the present that weighs upon niy soul, depresses, 
saddens it, and scarcely leaves it energy to desire better 
sentiments. 

But see, what horrible selfishnes ! here are three pages 
full of myself , and yet I believe it is of you that 1 am think- 
ing ; at least I feel I must know how 3^011 are, whether you 
are well. When you read this, how far away you will be I 
Your person may be only three hundred leagues distant, but 
see what strides your thought has already made 1 what new 
objects ! what ideas 1 what novel reflections I It seems to me 
that I am speaking now to the mere shadow of you , all that I 
know of you has disappeared ; scarcely will you find in your 
memory any traces of the affections which agitated and 
excited you during the last days you spent in Paris; and it is 
best so. You know how we agreed that too great sensibility 
was a mark of mediocrity, and your character commands you 
to be great ; your talents condemn you to celebrity. Yield 
yourself, therefore, to your destiny, and tell yourself, firmly, 
tha/fc you are not made for the soft, inward life that tender- 
ness and sentiment require. There is only pleasure and no 
glory in living for a single object. When we reign in; one heart 



1773] MI/LE. DE LESPI2STASSE. 47 

only we cannot reign in public opinion. There are names 
made for history ; yours will one day rouse its admiration. 
When I fill myself with that thought the interest with which 
you inspire me is a little moderated. Adieu. 

Monday, May 24, 1773, 

What say you to this "folly 2 Scarcely can I flatter myself 
that you will read me when I overwhelm you with letters I 
But you said the other day that we should write at length to 
ftfiefids, to those who please us, to those we would like to 
talk with. If you spoke truly, you are obliged not only 
to read me with interest, "but with indulgence. 

I have just re-read my long letter ; mon Dieu, how tiresome 
I found it ' but if I write it over again it will be no better. 
I feel myself predestined to be tiresome in more ways than 
one. I am sad and dull ; what can one do with that ? But 
I have questions to put to you ; answer them, and you will 
be very amiable. Have you received a letter from Diderot ? 
He expects to leave tide 6th of June ; thus you will see him 
in Russia. Why did you not start on Wednesday ? Was it 
to yourself or to some one else that you gave those twenty-four 
hours ? Have you carried away with you that book of M. 
Thomas ? I hope so ; it has almost tne tone of your soul ; it 
is noble, strong, and virtuous. There are, no doubt, a few de- 
fects ; he has corrected what was turgid and exaggerated in 
his style ;. but there is too much analysis nd enuineration, 
which fatigue & little especially when it costs us much to 
separate from an object which fills our thoughts. I have been 
obliged to stop reading it for several days. J It is the post- 
man ^to decides, twice a tveek, all tne Actions of my life ; 
yesterday itet &ade reading impossible to ine. I sought only 

i "Essay on the Character, Manners, Morals, and Mind of Women in 
the different Ages," "by Antome-X/e'onard Thomas, of the French Academy. 
Pans, 1772. 



[1773 

the letter I did not receive ; why look for it in M, Thomas? 
I could not find it there 1 Did ^ou not promise me news 
from Strasburg ? Are yon win-prised now that you pledged 
yourself to write to me so often > Have yon regretted the 
facility with which yon yielded to the interest and eager- 
ness shown to you? It Is troublesome at a distance of 
three hundred leagues to have to act for others; there is no 
pleasure except in following one's own impulse and senti- 
ment. See how generous 1 am 1 1 ofler to return your 
promise if you now find j*ou huve made a mistake. Acknowl- 
edge it to me, and I assure you I will not bo wounded. Be- 
lieve me, it is only vanity Umt makes people touchy, and t 
have none; I am merely a good creature, very stupid, very 
simple, who loves the happiness ami I pleasure of those I love 
better than what is mine or for me. Having that knowledge, 
be at your ease; write to me **un peu, beaueoup, pas du 
tout" but do not fancy that 1 shall be equally satisfied; 
for I have even less iiulifiereiu'e than vanity* Hut 1 have a 
strength, or a faculty, which renders me uhle for all : it is 
that of knowing how to suffer, and to sttffer much without 
complaint. 

Adieu ; have you reached this point in my letter ? and is 
It not wearisome ? 

Sunday, May #0, 1778, 

I received, yesterday, your Straabuvg letter; the time 
seemed very long wince Wednesday, 19th, the day on which 
I received your last sign of remembrance ; that which came 
to axxe yesterday consoled mo and did good to my soul, which 
needs to be diverted by the entrance of a gentle sentiment 
to which it can yield without trouble and without remorse. 
Yes, I can now avow it to myself, I can say it to you I 
care for you tenderly ; your absence gives me keen regrets ; 
but no longer have I to struggle against the feelings you ittr 



1773] MLLE BE LESPINASSE. 49 

spire in me ; I have seen clearly into my souL Ah 1 the ex- 
cess of my sorrow justifies me, I am not guilty, and yet, 
before long, I shall be a victim. I thought to die Friday 
on receiving a letter hy special courier; the trouble into 
which it threw me took from me even the power to unseal 
it ; I was more than a quarter of an hour without moving ; 
my soul had numbed my senses. At last I read it, and I 
found but a part of what I feared. I need not tremble for 
the life of him I love. 

But sheltered from the greatest of all misfortunes, oh, 
my God 1 how much remains for me to suffer ! how crushed 
I feel beneath the weight of life ! the duration of ills is 
more than human strength can bear ; I feel but one courage, 
often but one need. Ought I not therefore to love you, 
ought I not to cherish your presence ? You have had the 
power to divert my mind from an anguish as sharp as it was 
deep ; I await, I desire your letters. Yes, believe me, none 
but the unhappy are worthy of friends; if your soul had 
never suffered never could you have entered mine. I should 
admire, I should praise your talents, but I should keep aloof, 
because I have a sort of repugnance to that which fills my 
mind only . we must be calm to think ; when excited, agi- 
tated, we can only feel and suffer. You tell me that you are 
shaken by regrets, by remorse even ; that your sensibility is 
all pain. I believe you, and it grieves me ; and yet, I know 
not why, the impression that I receive from your letter is 
the contrary of that. There seems to me a calmness, a re- 
pose and force in all your expressions ; you appear to speak 
of what you have felt, not of what you are feeling ; in short, 
if I had rights, if I were sensitive, if friendship were not such 
a facile thing, I should tell you that Strasburg is far, very 
far from the rue Tarenne. 

President Montesquieu asserts that climate has a great in- 



m LETTERS OF [1773 

fluence on the moral condition ; is Strasburg more northerly 
than Paris ? Think how much I shall have to fear Peters- 
burg I No, I will not fear ; I believe in you ; I believe in 
your friendship. Explain to me why I have this confidence, 
but be careful not to think that vanity counts for anything. 
My feeling for you is purged of that vile alloy which cor- 
rupts and enfeebles all affections. 

You would have been very amiable had you told me 
whether my letter was the only one you found in Strasburg. 
See how generous I am. I could be willing that it were 
changed for the one you wished to find there. Let us decide 
our ranks, give me my place ; but as I do not like to change, 
let it be a good one. I do not want that of the unhappy per- 
son who is displeased with you, nor that of her with whom 
you are displeased. I know not where you can place me ; 
but do so if possible, that we may both be content ; do not 
bargain, give me much, you will see that 1 shall not abuse it. 
Oh ! you shall see how well I know how to love t I can 
only love ; I know only how to love f With moderate facul- 
ties, we can yet do much when we centre them on a single 
object. Well 1 I have but one thought, and that thought 
fills my soul and all my life. 

- You think that dissipation and new scenes and knowledge 
will distract you but little from your friends* Know your- 
self better ; yield in good faith and with good grace to the 
power which your nature has over your will, over your senti- 
ments, over all your actions. Persons who are governed by 
the need to love do not go to Petersburg. They may go very 
far, but if so, they are condemned to it, and they do not say 
that they "re-enter their souls" to find there what they 
love; they believe they have never quitted it, be they a 
thousand leagues away. But there is more than one man- 
ner of being good and excellent ; yours will carry you far 



1773] MLLE BE LESP1NASSE. 51 

along in the path, of advancement in every acceptation of 
those words. 

I should pity a sensitive woman to whom you would he 
the first object ; her life "would be consumed by fears and re- 
grets ; but I should congratulate a vain woman, a proud 
woman : she would pass her life in applauding you, in adorn- 
ing herself to your taste. Such women love glory, they love 
the opinion of the world, and lustre. All that is very fine, 
very noble, but very cold, and very far from the passion 
which says : 

" Death and Hell appear before me ; 
Ramire ! joyfully I go there for thee.** 

But I am distracted worse than that, I am singular; 
I have but one tone, one colour, one manner ; and when they 
please no longer they chill and weary. " You must tell me 
which of the two effects they have produced. But you must 
also tell me, if you please, the only news that interests 
me, namely, how you are. 

The place of governor of the Ecole Militaire is not yet 
given. 

June 6, 1778. 

Ah I how rare is that which gives pleasure, and how 
slowly it comes-! time seems infinite since the 24th, and I 
know not how much longer I shall have to wait for a letter 
from Dresden. But, at least, will you promise to be in- 
clined to write to me as often as you can ? Let me have, 
opposed to my pleasure, against my interests, only that 
which does not depend on you : I mean distance and the de- 
lay of couriers. But I fret lest your curiosity, your activity, 
in a frord, your merits and your virtues should be against me. 
That love of glory, for instance, will make your love, or 
rather my own, one sorrow the more in my life. Yet you 
can say to me, as the hermit said to Zadig, " I have some- 



52 LETTERS OF [1773 

times poured comfort into the souls of the sorrowful." Yes, 
I owe to you that which makes the charm and the sweetness 
of friendship ; I feel that the tie is already too strong, that it 
takes too great an ascendancy over my soul ; when my soul 
suffers it is tempted to turn to you for consolation ; if it 
were calm and unoccupied it might be drawn to you by an 
impulse more active, by a desire for pleasure, even. 

Am I so much to you ? Am I not better fitted to love 
and regret you ? At best, my sentiments can only be agree- 
able to you ; but to me, before I examined your 'character, 
you were already necessary to me. But what think you of 
a soul that gives itself before knowing whether it will be 
accepted, before being able to judge whether it will be re- 
ceived with pleasure or with gratitude* only-? Ah! inon 
Dieit,! if you were not gifted with feel ing, what grief you 
would cause me i For it does not suffice me that you are 
honourable : I have virtuous friends, 1 have letter still ; and 
yet I care only for what you are to me but truly, .sincerely, 
is there no madness, perhaps even absurdity, iu believing 
you my friend ? Answer me ; not coldly, but with truth. 

Though your soul is agitated, ib is not ill like mine, which 
passes ceaselessly from convulsion to depression, 1 cun 
judge of nothing , I mislead myself continually , I lake 
poison to calm me. You see I cannot guide myself; en- 
lighten me, strengthen me I will believe you ; you shall be 
my support; you shall succour me like reflection itself, which 
is no longer at my service. I know not how to foresee. I 
can distinguish nothing. Conceive my troublo. I can rest 
only on the idea of death ; there are dayfl when death is my 
only hope ; but also I have other instincts, and very contrary 
ones; sometimes I feel myself manacled to life ; the thought 
of grieving him I love takes from me all desire to be com- 
forted, if it be at the cost of his peace of mind. 



1773] MLLE DE LESPINASSE 53 

In short, what can I say to you ? The excess of my in- 
consistency bewilders my mind, the weight of life is crushing 
my soul. What must I do ? What will become of me ? 
Will it be Charenton or the grave which will deliver me 
from myself 2 I make you a victim if you care enough for 
me to take part in what I suffer, and I regret it, but if I 
have caused you only ennui, I shall sink with confusion. 
Do not think you can hide this from me, whatever effoit 
you may make to do so ; you cannot deceive my interest 
But gratify it by telling me how you are ; have you had as 
much pleasure as you hoped, or less ? Is your health better 
than during the last days you were here ? You are very 
modest, you never told me how you were celebrated at 
Strasburg; verses were made in your honour; they were 
very bad, it is true, but the intention was so good ! Do not 
be angry. 

Tell me, have you read " Le Conn&able " on your journey 
[tragedy in rhyme by M. de Guibert] , not while posting, but 
aloud in good society ? Apropos of the " Conn^table," if you had 
a certain sensibility, if you were like Montaigne and regarded 
me like another La B6otie, how I should pity you for deny- 
ing yourself the pleasure of giving me a mark of confidence, 
esteem, and affection I I do not boast of myself, but I assure 
you I should be torn by remorse'if I had treated you in that 
way. What does that prove ? tell me. Adieu ; I know all 
the difference in our affections ; teach me the resemblance ; 
that game [then in vogue] will never have been played 
with so much interest. 

Sunday, June 20, 1773. 

Oh ! mon Dieu ! are you dead, or have you already forgot- 
ten how keen and sorrowful is the remembrance of 
you in the souls you have left ? Not a word from you since 
May 24th ! It is very difficult not to believe it is a little 



54 LETTERS OF [1773 

your fault. If that is so, you deserve neither the regret my 
heart feels, nor the reproaches that it makes you. I knew 
that M. d'Aguesseau had received no news of you. I in- 
terest myself in you in a manner so true, so sincere, that I 
should have been delighted to have heard that you had 
given him the preference over me. He deserves it, doubt- 
less in all respects , but it is not justice that rules feeling. 
Do you believe that if that virtue governed me I should be 
uneasy at your silence, and need so many proofs of your 
friendship ? Alas, no ! I cannot even explain to myself 
why I am so concerned about you at this moment, for I heard 
yesterday some news which engulfs my soul in sorrow; I 
have passed the night in tears ; but when my head and all 
my faculties were exhausted, when I gained one moment 
which was not a pain, I thought of you, and it seemed to me 
that had you been here I should have written you what I 
suffered and perhaps you would have come to me. Tell me 
if I deceive myself. When my soul suffers am I wrong to 
seek consolation in yours ? 

In the midst of travel and many interests so different 
from those that touch and affect the heart, can you still hear 
a language which is foreign to most men earned away by 
dissipation or intoxicated by vanity ? Nor is that language 
better known to those who, like you, are filled with the 
desire for knowledge and a love of fame. You are so con- 
vinced that sensibility is a sign of mediocrity that I faint 
with fear lest your soul should close itself wholly to this emo- 
tion. It is fifteen days since I wrote to you, and I believed 
yesterday that I would not write to you again until I heard 
from you. Suffering has softened my soul and I yield to it. 
At five o'clock this morning I took two grains of opium ; I 
obtained a calmness better than sleep ; my pain is less rend- 
ing; I feel myself crushed, with less force to resist. The 



1773] MLLE. >E LESPINASSE 55 

violence of the soul is moderated ; I can speak to you, I can 
moan, but yesterday I had no power of expression. I could 
not have told you that I fear for the life of him I love ; I 
'could have died sooner than pronounce those words that 
froze my heart. 

You have loved; conceive, therefore, what such terrors 
are. Until Wednesday next I am left in an uncertainty that 
horrifies me, but commands me, nevertheless, to live. Yes, 
it is not possible to die so long as we are loved but it 
is dreadful to live. Death is the most urgent need of my 
soul, yet 1 feel myself manacled to life. Pity me ; forgive 
me for abusing the kindness you have shown me. Is it in 
you or in me that I find the confidence that draws me on ? 

They say that you cannot have found the King of Prussia 
in Berlin. Have you gone to Stettin to join him ? he was to 
be there till the 20th. I am so anxious ; it seems to me 
we could have had news of you from Berlin. How wrong 
of you if you have shown the slightest negligence. You 
know well that you gave me your word of honour that some 
one should write to me if you were ill. But do not make 
use of that pretext which may content ordinary friendship 
which does not wish to be made uneasy ; that would be detest- 
able ; I do not wish to be spared ; I wish to suffer through 
my friends, for my friends ; and I treasure a thousand times 
more the troubles that come to me through them than 
all the happiness on earth that is not derived from them. 
Good-bye; the opium is still in my head; it affects my 
sight ; perhaps it makes me more stupid than usual what 
matter if it does ? it is not my mind, only my sorrows that 
interest you. 

Monday evening, June 251, 1773 

I wrote to you yesterday, and I write to you again to- 
t night. If I waited three days, that is, till Wednesday, per- 



56 LETTERS OF [1773 

haps I should never answer your letter of the 10th, which 
M. d'Aguesseau brought me to-day. In the first place (for 
there may still, perhaps, be a future for me), I must ask you 
to address your letters direct to me ; to send them through 
M. d'Aguesseau is to put one risk the more against me ; he 
may go into the country, or travel, etc. , in short, it is enough 
that we are three thousand miles apart , add nothing to them. 
Oh 1 1 shall surely seem mad to you : I am going to speak to 
you with the frankness, the self-abandonment one would 
have if death were certain on the morrow; listen to me, 
therefore, with the indulgence and the interest that we have 
for the dying. 

Your letter has done me good ; I expected it still, but I 
had ceased to desire it, because my soul could no longer 
have an emotion that resembled pleasure Well, shall I 
say it ^ you have given diversion for a few moments to the 
horror which absorbs my whole existence. Ah ! my God ! 
I fear for his hf e , mine is fastened to his, yet I have need to 
talk with you. 

Can you conceive what it is that impels me, that drags me 
towards you? Nevertheless, I am not content with your 
friendship ; I find a coldness, a carelessness in not telling me 
why you did not write to me from Dresden as you promised ; 
and besides, you make me feel in too marked a manner that 
your regret at not finding in Berlin what you hoped for has 
destroyed the pleasure you would otherwise have felt at the 
expression and proof of my friendship; and then too, shall 
I say it ? I am wounded that you have not thanked me for 
the interest that I take in you. Do you think it any answer 
to this that I am very unjust, very difficult to please ? MTo, I 
am nothing of all that , I am very true, very ill, and very 
unhappy h, yes, very unhappy. 

If I did not tell you what I teel, what I thuak, I could uot 



1773] MIXE. DE LESPINASSE. 57 

speak to you at all Do you believe that in the trouble in 
which I am one has the power to restrain one's self ? For 
example, ought I to be touched by your manner of saying to 
me, as to the chief interest of my life, " Answer me on all 
this what you can, and what you like " ? Oh ' yes, what I 
like ! you leave me great liberty, but you see how I employ 
it, not in criticising you, only in proving to you what 
you know even better than I : that we have the tone and 
expression of what we feel, and if I am not satisfied, it is 
not your fault I know that well. 

But I claim nothing, unless it be that species of consola- 
tion which we so seldom allow ourselves : that of speaking 
out our whole thought. People are always restrained by a 
fear of the morrow ; I feel myself as free as though there 
were no morrow for me ; and if, by chance, I should live on, 
I foresee that I could forgive myself for having told you the 
truth at the risk of displeasing you. Is it not true that our 
friendship must be great, strong, and complete, our intimacy 
tender, solid, close, or else, nothing at all ? Therefore, I can 
never repent having shown you the depths of my soul. If 
that is not what you want, if there be any contempt for it, 
well ! let us be sincere ; let us not be shamed or embarrassed ; 
let us return whence we started, and believe that we have 
dreamed. We can add this clause to the chapter of experi- 
ence, and behave in future like those well-bred persons who 
know it is not polite to tell their dreams. We will keep 
silence about them; silence is pleasant when it comforts 
self-love ! 

You will not tell me what rank you give me; are you 
restrained by a fear of giving me too much or too little ? that 
may be just, but it is not noble. Youth is so magnificent, it 
loves to give lavishly ; yet here you are as miserly as if you 
were old or rich. You ask the impossible ; vou want me to 



58 LETTERS OF [1773 

pity you because you do your own will ; I am to combat you 
to restoie your native spirit. Eh. ! mon Dieu ! a little while 
and I will answer for it that your nature will govern you 
despotically ; the habit of conquering will strengthen it, and 
there is little need of that I You have said to yourself (I 
have long been sure of this) that it mattered nothing 
whether you were happy so long as you were great. Let 
things happen ; I will answer for it that you will be consist- 
ent; there is nothing vague or wavering about you except 
your feelings; your thoughts, your projects are fixed in an 
absolute manner. I am much deceived if you were not born 
to make the -happiness of a vain soul and the despair of a 
feeling one. Own to me that what I am now saying does 
not displease you ; you will forgive me for loving you less 
when I prove to you that others will admire you more. 

You ask me a singular question, truly. You say, " Are 
there better reasons than myself for his absence?" Yes, 
there are better, one indeed that is absolute ; one that if 
he succeeds in subduing it, the sacrifice of my whole life 
cannot repay the debt. All the circumstances, all events, 
all moral and physical reasons are against him ; but he is so 
ardent for me that he will not permit me to have a doubt of 
his return. Nevertheless, I shudder at what I may hear on 
Wednesday : he spits blood ; he has been bled twice ; at the 
moment when the courier left him he was better ; but the 
hemorrhage may return , and how can I be calm with that 
thought before me ? He himself fears the result ; though 
he tries to reassure me, I detect his fear. Tell me if you 
know of whom I speak , and further, did you know it when 
I wrote to ask you for " Le Countable " ? Is it delicacy or 
caution which makes you seem to ignore a name I have not 
mentioned to you ? 



1773] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 59 

believe that I shall live and that you will not go to Russia, 
I should eagerly desire that you might be detained in Berlin. 
But as I think that you always feel the need of doing diffi- 
cult things, I would like, now that you are once started, that 
you should make the tour of the world, in order that it 
might once be done , and then, could there be repose in the 
future ? Hardly would you return before you would start 
for Montauban [where his father lived] ; and after that, other 
projects; for you cannot endure rest unless it be to make 
plans for travelling a thousand leagues. Yes, on my honour, 
I think it was a great misfortune for me the day that I spent 
one year ago at Moulin-Joli. 1 I was far indeed from needing 
to form a new attachment, my life and my soul were so 
filled that I was very far from desiring a new interest ; and 
you, you had no need of this additional proof of what you 
can inspire in an honourable and sensitive person. Oh I it 
is pitiful ! Are we free agents ? Can what vs be otherwise ? 
Were you not free to tell me that you - would write to me 
often ? As for me, I am not free to cease to desire it eagerly. 
Having thus scolded you, I must add that you were very 
kind to write to me on your arrival; I deserved it, yes, 

indeed I did. 

Thursday, June 24, 1773. 

Three times in one week i It is too much, much too 
much, is it not ? But it is because I care for you enough to 
believe that I have made you uneasy. You must be feeling 
some impatience to know if I am still- living. Well, yes ! 
I am condemned to live ; I am no longer at liberty to die ; 
I should do harm to one who desires to live for me. I have 
news of him to the 10th; it does not altogether reassure 

1 The house of the painter and litterateur, Watelet, on the banks of 
the Seine, where she met M de Guibert for the first time. The gardens 
of this place were famous as among the first to be laid out in the English 
style FB Er> 



60 LETTERS OF [1773 

me, but I hope that his hemorrhage may not have fatal 
results ; I even hope it may hasten his return , but this hot 
weather -is a mortal injury to him, and I must wait. 

Ah ! man Dzeit ! always to see pleasure def erred, disap- 
pearing ! always to be engulfed, overwhelmed by sorrow ' 
If you knew what need I have of repose 1 for one year I " 
have been upon the rack. You alone, perhaps, have had the 
power to suspend my sorrow for a few instants; and that 
blessing of a moment has bound me to you forever. 

But tell rne, my last letter, did it displease you ? Do I 
not stand ill with you ? I should be grieved were it so ; 
but I am not like Mme. du Chfttelet ; I know no repentance. 
Answer me with the same fiankness that I employ to you , 
esteem me enough not to tell me half the truth ; tell me all 
the evil you think of me , and it is not, as M. de la Roche- 
foucauld says, for the pleasure of hearing myself spoken of 
that I ask you to tell me this ; it is to judge if you are my 
friend, if in a word you can be my friend. I attach enough 
value to our intercourse to wish urgently to know what there 
may have been of sudden surprise, or mistake, in that which 
drew us to each other. It is said that nothing is stronger or 
better founded than the sentiments for which we can give 
no reason. If that is true, I ought to rely upon your friend- 
ship , but you will not have it so ; why is that ? Shall I 
not be satisfied with it ? Do you not know that the natural 
impulse after we have acquired a new possession is to 
examine it, to observe it on all sides ; this occupation is 
perhaps the highest joy that possession gives ; but you, you 
do not know all the details and all the pleasures of sensi- 
bility. Whatever is elevated, whatever is noble, whatever is 
grand, that is your sphere. The heroes of Comeille fix your 
attention ; scarcely do you cast your eyes on the little swains 
of Gessner. You love to admire, and I, I have but one need. 



1773] MLHE. BE LESPINASSE. 61 

one will, to love. What does it matter ? We may not 
have the same language, but there is a sort of instinct that 
supplies all ; nothing, however, can fill the chasm of a thou- 
sand leagues of distance ' 

I was so troubled the last time I wrote that I did not tell 
you Diderot was in Holland; he likes it so well, he has 
already so many friends whom he never saw before, that it 
is quite possible that he may not return to Paris, and even 
forget that he was on his way to Russia. He is an extraor- 
dinary man, not in his place in society : he ought to be the 
leader of a sect, a Greek philosopher, teaching, instructing 
youth. He pleases me very much, but nothing about him 
reaches my soul ; his sensibilities are only skin-deep ; he 
never goes farther than emotion. I like nothing that is half 
and half, nothing that is undecided and not thorough. I 
cannot understand the ways of people in society ; they 
amuse themselves and yawn, they have friends and they 
love no one. All that seems to me deplorable. Yes, I 
prefer the torture that consumes my life to the pleasure that 
numbs theirs; with that fashion of being we may not be 
lovable, but we love, and that is a thousand times better than 
pleasing. 

How I should like to know if you are going to Russia. I 
hope not, because, as you say, I desire it. Letters seem to 
me to come more slowly from Russia than from any other 
part of the world. I have re-read, twice, thrice, your letter ; 
first because it was difficult to read, next, because I was diffi- 
cult to please. Ah t if you knew what faults of omission I 
found in it ! But why should you not make them ? 

M. d'Alembert is awaiting a letter from you with great 
impatience. M. de Crillon forestalled you. Your friend, M. 
d'Aguesseau seemed to me, at least on the day he brought me 
your letter, very extraordinary ; he had the air of a person in 



62 LETTERS OIF [1773 

trouble ; Ms movements had something convulsive about them. 
He said he was ill, and I believe it ; he has a project of going 
to Spa. I do not know if he will, but I am glad he will not 
be with you. Adieu ; I have overwhelmed you with ques- 
tions to which you do not reply. I do not ask if you would 
like me to send you the news, because it would be out of my 
power to put my mind to such things ; but I know some- 
thing that the public does not yet know, namely : that 
M. d'Aranda is appointed ambassador from Spain in place of 
M. de Fuent&s [father of the Marquis de Mora] and that the 
latter is given the first place at his Court. All this is of no 
interest to you, and it may astonish you that it is of great 
interest to me. Must I not be foolish to interest myself in 
things that happen in Madrid ? Adieu again. My style of 
folly is equal to your piety. Send me news of yourself often 
and at length ; share, if you can, the pleasure that it will give 
me. How many letters do you receive that you are more 
eager to open than mine ? three ? ten ? 

Thursday, July 1, 1773. 

Oh ! if you knew how unjust I am ! how I have accused 
you 1 how I have told myself that I ought to expect and 
desire nothing of your friendship 1 And the cause of it all 
was merely that I received no letters from you. Tell rne why 
we expect, why we exact so much from one on whom we do 
not rely. Ah ! truly, I believe you will forgive my incon- 
sistencies ; but I, I must not be so indulgent ; they hurt me 
more than they do you. I no longer know what I owe to 
you ; I no longer know what I give you ; I only know that 
your absence is heavy upon me ; yet I cannot assure myself 
that your presence would do me good. Ah ! man Dieu ! what 
a horrible situation is that in which pleasure, consolation, 
friendship, all, in short, becomes poison I What must I do ? 



1773] MIXE. DE LESPINASSE 63 

tell me ; how recover calmness ? I know not where to look 
for strength to resist impressions so deep and so diverse. 
Oh I how many times we die before death ! All things dis- 
tress and injure me ; yet the liberty to deliver myself from 
the burden that is crushing me is taken from me. Laden 
with sorrow, there is one who wishes me to live ; I am torn 
both ways by despair, and by the pity that another makes 
me feel. 

Ah ! my God ! can it be that to love, to be loved, is not a 
good ? I suffer every pain, and, more than that, I trouble the 
repose, I make the unhappiness, of the one I love. My soul 
is exhausted by sorrow ; my bodily frame is destroyed, and 
yet I live, and I must live. Why do you require it ? what 
matters my life to you ? of what value do you reckon it ? 
what am I to you ? Your soul is so busy, your life so full 
and so active, how can you find time to pity my woes ? and 
have you indeed enough feeling to respond to my friendship ? 
Ah ! you are very amiable , you have the tone of interest, but 
it seems to me it is not I who inspire it. My letters are neces- 
sary to you ; perhaps that is true yes, as you say so ; but 
why be so long in writing to me ? and why not send your 
letters direct ? Strasburg delays them for two or three days. 

I am enchanted (and it was thus I intended to begin my 
letter) that you have been satisfied with the King of Prussia. 
What you tell me of that magic vapour that surrounds him 
is so charming, so noble, so just, that I cannot be silent about 
it ; I have read it to all those who deserved to hear it. Mme. 
G-eoffrin asked me to give her a copy. I have sent it far and 
near, and it will be felt. So you are not going to Russia 2 I 
am glad. Let me tell you again how charming I find your 
friendship ; you answer me, you converse, you are still beside 
me though a thousand leagues distant. But how comes it 
that that woman does not love you to madness, as you wish 



64 LETTERS Otf [1773 

to be loved, as you deserve to be ? how else can she employ 
her soul and her life ? Ah ! she has neither taste nor sensi- 
bility ; of that I am sure. She ought to love you, if only 
from vanity but why do I meddle in all this ? You are 
satisfied, or if you are not, you love the ill she does you ; why, 
therefore, should I pity you ? But that other unhappy person ! 
it is she who interests me ; have you written to her ? is her 
pain as deep as ever ? I must tell you that the other day at 
Mme. de Boufflers much was said of you and " !Le Conn^table," 
and the young Comtesse de Boufflers told me that she believed 
you were very much in love, and this belief "had made her 
watch Mme. de . . . with great attention. A man present 
assured us that you no longer loved her; you had done so, 
but the feeling had worn out, and he thought you would 
never be long happy or unhappy for the same woman ; he 
said the activity of your soul did not allow it to fix itself 
long on one object ; and from that arose a witty discussion 
on matters of feeling and passion. The Comtesse de Boufflers 
finally said that she did not know who it was with whom 
you were in love, but it certainly was no longer Mine, de . . . 
and she judged, by the notes she had received from you at 
the time of your departure, that you were strongly attached 
to some one and that your absence from her rent your soul ; 
but then came the natural reflection : " Why does he go to 
Eussia ? " Perhaps to cure himself, perhaps to stifle the 
feelings of the woman he loves. At last, after many conjec- 
tures of no interest, I was asked if I liked you, if I knew you 
well, for until then I had not said a word : " Yes, I like him 
much ; after knowing him a little there is only one way of 
liking him/' " "Well, then, you know his intimacies , who is 
the object of his passion ? " No, truly, I know nothing ; 
except that he is now in Berlin and is well ; that the King of 
Prussia has received him admirably and is to show "Mm his 



1773] . MIXE DE IjESPINASSE. 65 

troops ; after that, he goes to Silesia , that is all I know, and 
all that interests me." After this we talked of the Opera, of 
Madame la Dauphme and of a thousand " interesting " things. 
I tell you all this to show you that I do not like society to 
gossip about your affections, your dislikes, your inconstancies. 
I like to hear only of j r our merit, your virtue, your talents ; 
am I wrong ? 

I have written three times to Berlin since the 6th of June. 
"No doubt they will forward your letters; I remember 
the desire you will have to receive certain letters, " the de- 
privation of which turned your head." For pity's sake do 
not treat me so well ; do not write to me first, because then 
(without being aware of it) you will write to me merely for 
the sake of saying you have written. Do not come to me 
until you have nothing more to say to her; that is in the 
order of things ; friendship comes after, sometimes at a great 
distance, sometimes very near too near perhaps the un- 
happy love ! We love so much that which comforts us ! it is 
so sweet to love that which gives us pleasure. I do not know 
why it is, but something warns me that I shall say of your 
friendship what Gomte d'Argenson said on seeing, for the 
first time, his pretty niece, Mile, de Beiville. "Ah 1 " he 
cried, " she is very pretty 1 let us hope she will give us 
many griefs." 

What do you think of that ? But you are so strong, so 
moderate, and above all so occupied, that you are equally 
sheltered from great sorrows and little griefs. That is how 
minds should be, how talents should be ; it is that which 
renders human beings superior to events. And when, with 
that, a man is as honourable and, above all, as feeling as you 
are, he is no doubt painfully affected, enough so to satisfy 
ordinary friendship , but he is soon diverted from the emo- 
tions of his soul when his head is eagerly and deeply 

5 



66 LETTERS OF [1773 

occupied. I predict this of you, and I am glad of it: 
you will never experience those sorrows which convulse 
the soul, you are young enough to still receive a few 
slight shocks, but, I answer for it, you will soon recover 
your balance , ah, yes ! I answer for it, and you will make 
a great career and have a great celebrity I shall horrify 
you, I shall show you a very paltry and common soul, but I 
cannot bear that idea. Every time that I think of you in the 
future I have an icy feeling ; it is not because what is great 
attracts admiration and crushes me, but because that which 
is great so rarely deserves to be loved. 

Admit that I am almost as silly as I am wild ; I am much 
worse than either. I have that particular style which Vol- 
taire (I venture to name him) says is the only bad style ; 
I fathom you so well that I know I need not tell you it 
is the wearying style. The difference in our affections is 
this : you are at the other end of the world, you are 
calm enough to enjoy everything; while I am in Paris, 
I suffer, and I enjoy nothing; fe that is all," as Marivaux 
says. 

I have received many details regarding him. I see there 
is nothing now to fear from this last hemorrhage ; but ask 
yourself if it is possible to have a moment's peace while 
trembling for the life of one to whom one would sacrifice one's 
own life at every instant. Ah I if you did but know how lov- 
able he is, how worthy of being loved ! His soul is gentle, 
tender, strong ; I am certain he is the man in all the world 
who would please and suit you most. . . . 

It is you who give me faults ; you have that exclusive 
privilege. I am with all my other friends the best and 
easiest of beings; they always favour me, they forestall 
me in every way; I spend my life ha thanking them and 
praising them, and I complain of you but only to you. 



1773] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 6? 

I criticise you, I disapprove of 3-011; why that difference? 
Can you believe that it is only one year since we first knew 
each other ? It seems to me impossible. 

Wednesday evening, July 14, 1773 

ATi I how amiable you can be, and how you surprise me by 
returning to me, being so occupied, so dissipated as you are ! 
How is it that you even think of one who can have no other 
merit in your eyes than that of seeming capable of loving and 
suffering ? Of what use to you are those sad faculties ? You 
have no need of being loved, and you would be sorry to make 
me suffer ; what value can you place upon an intimacy where 
all the advantage is on my side only ? 

You ask me questions which I am not in a state to answer. 
Alas ! one must needs be calm to answer the questions of in- 
difference. Sorrow, the duration of suffering, have given me 
a species of stupidity which deprives me of the power of 
thinking ; all the reason left to me is enough (and no more) 
to judge myself, to condemn my emotions, and be sorry for 
all my feelings. My soul has continual fever with par- 
oxysms which lead me often to delirium. Oh ! if it were 
true that excess of ill gives birth to good, I might hope 
for some relief. No, I can no longer bear the diverse 
agitations that rend my heart, but I reproach myself for 
the weakness that drags me into showing you what I 
suffer. It seems to me that I cannot excite your interest; 
I have no claim on your sensibilities ; and if I had, it is 
not with my sorrows that I ought to nourish them. No, 
you owe me nothing, and I will prove it to you: I detest, 
I abhor, the fatality which forced me to write to you 
that first note; yet at this very moment, perhaps, it is 
dragging me onward with the same power. I did not wish 
to speak to you of myself, I meant simply to thank you 



58 LETTERS OF [1773 

for writing to me "before you reached Vienna. I meant 
to answer you, not speak to you from myself. 

Of your praises I accept none, and I shall amaze you , the 
reason is that they do not praise me. What matters it to 
me that you judge I am not silly ? It is strange, but never- 
theless true, that you are the man in the world whom I least 
care to please. Explain to me that singularity ; explain to 
me why I judge you with intolerable severity; why I find 
myself continually unjust to you; why, not believing in 
your friendship, I cavil at all its expressions , why, in shoit, 
having reason to praise you, I am so tempted to find fault ? 
My reason tells me I ought to ask your pardon because my 
thoughts insult you constantly, and my soul revolts at the 
mere feeling that you may be showing mercy to me. No, 
no ! I do not want it ; judge me severely ; see my injustice, 
my inconsistency, and let yourself follow the impulse that 
such a sight must inspire 111 you. Ah ! as I have already 
told you, we cannot make of all this the friendship of Mon- 
taigne and La B6otie. They were calm ; they simply gave 
themselves up to the sweet and mutual impressions they 
received ; but we we are ill, yet with this difference, that 
you are a sick man full of strength and reason, who will act 
in a manner to soon enjoy the best of health ; while I I 
am attacked by a fell disease in which all the reliefs that I 
have sought have turned to poison, and have served only to 
render my sufferings more acute. These are strange indeed ; 
they deprave my reason, they lead astray my judgment, for 
I do not desire to be cured ; I am conscious only of the want 
to die. Ah I my God ! how sorry I should be to travel, to 
devour a hundred volumes in two months of time! how- 
grieved I should be to be worth as much as you, to be des- 
tined to such success, such glory ! If you only knew how 
small my soul is ! it sees but one thing only in all the world 



1773] MLLE BE LESPINASSE 69 

that is worthy to occupy it. Cjesar, Voltaire, the King of 
Prussia seem to it sometimes worthy of admiration, but 
never of envy. I should horrify you too much if I told you 
the fate I should prefer to all else that breathes ; yes, I am 
like Felix in Polyeucte : 

" I enter upon feelings that are not believable, 
Some I have are violent, others are pitiable ; 
I have even some " 

But you cannot understand that language ; I should make 
you blush for having thought that my soul had relations with 
yours. You do me too much honour in raising me to your 
level , but avoid ever putting me beside the women you most 
esteem ; you would annoy them, and do me harm. You do 
not know all my value ; reflect that I can suffer and die, and 
then ask yourself if I resemble those women who please and 
amuse themselves. Alas 1 the one is as repugnant to me as. 
the other is impossible. I dislike whatever comes to distract 
and turn me from my one thought; there are objects that 
nothing can make me lose from sight. What I hear called 
dissipation, pleasure, only stupefies and wearies me ; and if 
any one had the power to part me a moment from my sorrows, 
I believe that, far from feeling grateful, 1 should hate him. 
What think you of that ? you who talk to me of my " happi- 
ness," and who lead me to hope that, if it depends on your 
friendship, you will give it to me. No, monsieur, your friend- 
ship will not give me happiness, for that is impossible ; it will 
console me, it may, perhaps, make me suffer, and I do not 
know whether I shall hereafter felicitate or pity myself most 
for what I owe to you. 

Why do you take the tone of justifying yourself for hav- 
ing read aloud the " Correctable " ? It would have been 
disobliging to refuse a pleasure you could give and receive. 
The King of Prussia wrote a charming letter to M. d'Alem- 



70 LETTERS OP [1773 

bert, full of your praises, and he counted on hearing you read 
the " Conne'table." I am certain he will be delighted with 
it , its tragedy is on the tone of his own soul in many ways. 
Adieu ; give me frequent news of you, and form no plan of 
writing me four lines. Keep that intention for your acquaint- 
ance ; some friends, even, may be content with it, but I am 
hard to satisfy. Tell me if you have received my letters. 

Paris, July 25, 1773. 

No, no ! do not deceive yourself ; the greatest distances 
are not those that Natuie marks with milestones ; the Indies 
are not so far from Paris as the date of June 27 is far from 
that of July 15 ; there is veritable remoteness, horrible sepa- 
ration, forgetful ness of the soul ! it resembles death, but is 
worse, because it is felt so long. But do not think I reproach 
you ah I mon Dieu I I have not the right ; you owe me 
nothing, and I ought to return you thanks for any mark of 
your remembrance. 

I knew from Baron de Kock that the camp manoeuvres 
would not take place. It is thought here that the Emperor 
and the King of Prussia have given themselves a rendezvous 
in some town of their new possessions ; but you have filled 
your time in a useful manner, so that you will regret the 
camps but little. What ! sincerely, do you really wish me 
to reduce you to my dimensions ? Is it because you find it 
easier to bend yourself than to raise me ? but from whatever 
level I look at you, you retain your own height, which is such 
that few men reach it. Permit me not to regard as a result 
of confidence and friendship what you tell me of your char- 
acter. Alas i do you know what you reveal to me by disclos- 
ing the inconsistencies which agitate you 1 It is that I am 
stupid, that I see nothing, observe nothing ; for, if you are 
neither false nor dissimulating, I ought to have discovered 



1773] MLLE. DB LESPINASSE. 71 

what you think you now disclose to me of your own accord. 
Do you wish me to tell you something of profound wisdom ? 
It is that neither you nor I know you perfectly : you, because 
you are too near, and because you observe yourself too much ; 
and I, because I have always regarded you with fear and 
embarrassment. Oh! if ever I see you again, I- will look 
better into you; it seems to me that my sight is growing 
keener. 

What you say about the cause of your continental journeys 
is charming, full of wit and grace, and that is surely enough 
to make us do without truth. " I fill my youth in order that 
my old age may not blame me for neglecting to employ it." 
You see you are like the miser, who, while his children are 
dying of hunger, justifies his cruelty in his own eyes by say- 
ing that he amasses wealth that they may enjoy it after him. 
Let us be more candid ; let us not seek a pretext to justify 
our tastes and our passions : you go to the ends of the earth 
because your soul is more eager than tender. Well, what 
harm in that ? You are young, you have known love, you 
have suffered, and you conclude from that that you have sen- 
sibility : it is not so. You are ardent, you can be impassioned, 
you are capable of all that is strong, of all that is grand, but 
you will never do any but things of movement ; that is to say, 
actions, detached deeds ; and such is not the way of sensibil- 
ity and tenderness. They attach, they bind, they fill the 
whole life; they leave no place for aught but sweet and 
peaceful virtues; they evade distraction; all that separates 
and removes them from their object seems to them misfor- 
tune or tyranny. Consider and compare these things. As 
I have already told you, nature has not made you to be 
happy ; she has condemned you to be great ; submit, there- 
fore, without a murmur. 

Tor the rest, I believe what you tell me about the advan- 



72 LETTERS OJF [1773 

tage of this country over that of all others. I do not know 
if you will bring back from your travels a disgust for travel- 
ling, but I am very sure you will have lost the power to settle 
yourself anywhere. * You will have judged with justice and 
accuracy that which is good, that which is better, but you will 
do as the Italians do with music , they prefer novelty to excel- 
lence. I beg your pardon for contradicting your words, but 
you must agree that I am truly on the tone of your soul. Do 
you wish me to talk to you of mine ? Here is the state of it. 
Have you ever watched those who are attacked by slow, incur- 
able diseases ? When you inquire of those who are nursing 
them, the answer is, " As well as can be expected ; " which 
means : " He must die, but he has a few moments of respite." 
That is precisely the state of health of my soul. To a most 
violent storm a calm has succeeded. The soul's condition of 
him I love is such as I could wish it, and according to my 
heart, but his health is alarming. Nevertheless, I am sure 
that he makes no mistakes of regimen. He clings to life 
because it gladdens him to love and to be loved ; he lives for 
that only. Oh 1 if you knew how winding he is ! Yes, you 
might love me a little, but you would not think well of me 
for being capable of a faithless feeling to him. Oh ! who are 
you to have turned me for an instant from the most delight- 
ful, the most perfect of mankind ? Yes, if yoil knew him 
when you know him you will see that in the judgment 1 
pronounce upon him there is neither illusion nor bias. 

The Chevalier d'Aguesseau will have written you that I 
had lost all patience. I sent to him to ask news of you and 
he had none at the moment, but as soon as he received your 
letter of the 8th he sent me word that you were well. I was 
tempted to write and thank you for having a friend to relieve 
me of anxiety ; but then I thought it better to wait till I 
heard from you. 



1773] MLLE. DE "LESPINASSE. 73 

Yes, I desire to wait for you always. Why should I go 
faster than you 2 I should only weaiy myself and clog your 
steps. I desire that no affections shall henceforth agitate me 
painfully : it is too much. I know not how I have sufficed 
so far. It is true that I have concentrated my strength on a 
single point. All nature is dead for me, except certain objects 
which fill and vivify every moment of my life. I exist for 
nothing else: things, pleasures, distractions, vanity, social 
opinion, all that is no longer of use to me ; I regret the time 
that I gave to it though indeed it was very short, for I knew 
sorrow early, and it has this of good about it ; it averts many 
follies. I was trained by that great teacher of men, misfor- 
tune. That was the language that pleased you ; it touched 
the feeling spot of your soul, from which dissipation and the 
amiable social tone of this country is forever removing you. 
You were glad to have me bring you back to what you once 
loved, what you once suffered. Yes, there is a species of 
suffering which has such charm, which brings such sweetness 
into the soul, that we are ready to prefer that woe to all that 
is called " pleasure." I taste that joy or that poison 
twice a week ; and that sort of nourishment is more needful 
to me than the air I breathe. 

The Comtesse de Boufflers talks to me much of you and 
of what she writes to you ; she likes you because you wrote 
" Le Conndtable," and that is indeed enough on which to found 
a liking. Oh ! how small and narrow my soul is 1 I hate 
the Patagonians and the Liliputians equally but what are 
my likes and dislikes to you ? 

You are very amiable to have thought of making your writ- 
ing larger ; but I am inclined to complain of it, for it cuts me 
off a few lines. In G-od's name, stay what you are ; scribble 
as you please, travel round the world, but begin in Paris ; in 
a word, do not change a hair from your style of being. I do 



74 LETTERS OF [1773 

not know if it is the best, but it is the most agreeable to me. 
Is not such, praise insipid ? Do not laugh at me ; I am very 
silly, but I do assure you I am a good soul am I not ? 

Sunday evening, August 1, 1773 

You are too good ; you surprise me with kindness. It is 
delightful to have a pleasure on which we did not count, and 
I am charmed to owe you an emotion which has done good to 
my soul. I received yesterday a letter from you dated the 
18th ; I was much pleased to see that your dates are getting 
closer , you no longer put fifteen days' interval between them ; 
and I do not owe this change to the i egrets I expressed to you, 
but to you yourself, to your friendship : I like far better that 
which it gives me than that which I obtain myself. I wanted 
to thank you, to tell you feebly that which I feel so keenly, 
and now I am made more happy still, I have received to- 
day another letter from you ! 

My first emotion (I know not why) was fear ; the habit 
of ill-fortune spoils all things. But I was soon reassured. 1 
found you kind, full of feeling, close to my soul. It seemed 
to me I ought to be glad for having suffered, as my suffering 
was of interest to you. Oh ! with bow many regrets you 
fill my life I I might enjoy your friendship ; it might be 
my consolation, it might be my pleasure, but you are a 
thousand leagues away ! I cannot escape the fear that so 
many new objects, a life so filled and occupied as that you 
are forced to lead, may destroy, or at least weaken a tie and 
an interest to which there is lacking, perhaps, that degree of 
warmth which makes it a need of the heart, or, at any rate, 
a habit. I admit that I set but little value on that last tie, 
which is the sentiment of those who have none ; but see the 
baneful disposition of my soul : I fill myself with fears, re- 
grets, when I ought to enjoy these teatimordes and proofs of 



1773] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 75 

your friendship. It is so sweet, so indulgent that friend- 
ship ; you forgive me all my injustice ; I have blamed you 
a thousand times, but I have never repented giving myself 
up to you in the closest confidence. With you it is impos- 
sible to feel one's self mistaken, and thus one is sheltered 
from great evils , for remark that all tragedies are founded on 
misunderstandings, and that almost all misfortunes have the 
same cause. But do not punish me for having been unjust by 
no longer telling me of that which interests you. Tell me all 
you feel and experience and I promise to share it, and to tell 
you the impression it makes upon me. I love you too well 
to impose the least restraint upon myself ; I prefer to have to 
ask your pardon rather than commit no faults. I have no self- 
love with you ; I do not comprehend those rules of conduct 
that make us so content with self and so cold to those we 
love. I detest prudence, I even hate (suffer me to say so) 
those " duties of friendship " which substitute propriety for 
interest, and circumspection for feeling. How shall I say it ? 
I love the abandonment to impulse, I act from impulse only, 
and I love to madness that others do the same by me. 

Ah ! mon Dieu ! how far I am from being equal to you 1 
1 have not youi virtues, I know no duties with my friend ; I 
am closer to the state of nature ; savages do not love with 
more simplicity and good faith. The world, misfortunes, 
evils, nothing has corrupted my heart. I shall never be on 
my guard against you ; I shall never suspect you. You say 
that you have friendship for me ; you are virtuous ; what can 
I fear ? I will let you see the trouble, the agitation of my 
soul, and I shall not blush to seem to you weak and incon- 
sistent. I have already told you that I do not seek to please 
you ; I do not wish to usurp your esteem, I prefer to de- 
serve your indulgence in short, I want to love you with all 
my heart and to place in you a confidence without reserve, 



76 LETTERS OF 

No, I do not think you "sly' 7 [/w] , 1 think, as you do, 
that slyness is always a proof of famine of inind , but I do 
think you stupid for not understanding that which has been 
clearly designated to you. What matters his name ? enough 
that it does not injure that which T have told you of himself. 
What surprises me is that I have named him to you a score 
of times ; this proves to me, what I did not believe, that I 
can mention his name like that of any other man; but I 
shall be still more surprised if, when you return, you cannot 
distinguish him among the others ; for I assure you he is not 
made to be lost in a crowd , you will see. 

I saw the Chevalier d'Aguesseau to-day, and was proud 
to be able to give him news of you. With the other persons 
who expect to hear from you I have a contrary feeling. I 
fear to seem to them more fortunate than they, and thus get 
you blamed ; for most women have no need of being lovod, 
they only want to be preferred. 

I shall be very glad to see the Chevalier de Chastellux 
once more ; still, if I could add to his journey what I desire 
to subtract from yours, 1 should not see him soon. Observe, 
I beg of you, how I reverse the chronological order : T have 
loved the chevalier these eight years. Adieu ; I have not told 
you that I am ill as a dumb animal ; but my soul suffers less, 
therefore I must not complain. 

Sunday, August 8, 1778, 

What folly to go in search of you, to send my letter to 
await you in Breslau, where you will be occupied with the 
king, the troops, your successes, etc., and nothing will incline 
you to cast your eyes on Paris. I am. wrong ; Paris is too 
grand to be forgotten, but me you would overlook in the 
crowd. Nevertheless, if I did not fear to grieve you I 
should say : " There is no one who regrets you more sincerely 
L" -Every one is busy or dissipating. I alone, I believe, 



1773] MLI/E DE LESPINASSE 77 

cannot lose from sight that which distresses me, or that 
which I desire. I do not know how persons manage to grow 
used to privations ; those that touch the soul are so keen ! 
they have no compensations. 

I cannot believe that it is only three months since you 
departed ; still less can I conceive how I can wait for you 
till the end of November. Your presence could not fail to 
comfort me; I regret it as my pleasure. Ah! friendship, 
that blessing of nature, is it to me a fresh sorrow ? Does all 
that affects my soul turn to poison ? You were to me a charm- 
ing acquaintance ; your tone, your manners, your mind, they 
all pleased me ; a higher degree of interest in you has spoiled 
all : I yielded myself up to the good you did me. Ah ! why 
have you penetiated within my soul ? Why did you show me 
yours ? Why establish so intimate an intercourse between 
two persons whom aU. things separate ? Is it you, or is it I, 
who are guilty of the species of pain from which I suffer ? 
Sometimes I am arrested in my desire for your return by the 
fear that you will wound my friendship , and yet it is not 
exacting. You will be so occupied, so carried-away, so dissi- 
pated, that, perhaps, you may be as far from me in Paris 
as at Breslau. Well, so be it ; I shall see you seldom and 
await you often ; that will be something. 

But are you not thinking to shorten your journey rather 
than prolong it ? What can you see better or more inter- 
esting than what you are now seeing in Silesia ? And then 
if you go to Sweden and do not write from there you will 
receive no letters ; we may be three months without news of 
you, and that would no longer be absence, it would be death. 
In a word, be it justice or generosity, I must have news of you, 
and there is neither reason nor pretext which can justify you 
for being so long without writing to me as you were between 
Prague and Vienna. Reflect that you owe much to my con- 



78 LETTERS O3T l773 

dition ; I am ill, I am unhappy , does not that solicit your 
goodness? 'What it grants will be repaid "by infinite grati- 
tude. Good God ! what a poor motive ! what a pitiable 
sentiment ! Do you not think so ? 

I have just read an extract from the " Eulogy on Colbert " 
now competing at the French Academy. The tone of it 
seemed to me so firm, so noble, so lofty, so original, that I 
suddenly wished it were yours. I do not know if the rest is 
as worthy, but you would not disavow the little I have seen 
of it. 1 I have had fever for some days; the last time I 
wrote to you I finished my letter while trembling in a chill. 
There is a certain postman who, for the past year, has given 
fever to my soul, but now it has attained my poor body. I 
feel destroyed ; and I have always been- so unfortunate that 
something tells me I shall die at the moment when my mis- 
fortunes end. Return, and at least I shall be sure of having 
tasted before I die a consolation very sweet to my soul. I 
reproach rr^self for ever having been unjust to you. Mon 
D^eu ! you have suffered, and you will pardon me ; there are 
situations which ask for so much indulgence ! 

I have read the long-expected book of M. Helvetius [" Of 
Man ; his Intellectual Faculties and his Education," a post- 
humous work]. I was alarmed at its size ; two volumes, of 
six hundred pages each i Your voracity would have made an 
end of it in two days ; but as for me, I can no longer read 
with interest ; my affections withhold my attention ; I read 
what I feel, and not what I see. Ah ! man Dieu ! how the 
mind shrinks by loving i it is true that the soul does not, 
but what can one do with a soul ? I forgot to answer you 
about the affair of Comte de C . . . ; it is even less advanced 
than at first ; you could hardly believe what a poor creature 
he is on whom the matter depends ; he is not stupid, but the 
1 It was by M Necter, and took the prize FK. Er>. 



1773] MLUS. DE LESPINASSE 7"9 

silliest of men. His wife is Letter than he but the absorp- 
tion she has in herself absorbs all her faculties. On the 
whole, they are persons whose real merit is to have a good 
cook. How many people of whom the world speaks well 
have no other value ! No, the human species is not wicked , 
it is only silly, and in Paris it is as vain and frivolous as it 
is silly; but no matter, provided what one loves is kind, 
amiable, and excellent. 

Ah ! if you knew what amuses and attracts the public ! 
a tragedy by M. Dorat (devoid of wit, interest, and talent), 
and next a comedy by M. Dorat, which is a masterpiece of 
bad taste and bad style ; it is an unintelligible jargon. The 
applause given to it really saddened me the other day, it 
is enough to discourage talent. 

Sunday, August 15, 1773. 

listen to me, and once for all believe that I cannot wrong 
you, and you know why I cannot wrong you. I have not 
been negligent ; this is my fifth letter since July 3d. I do 
not see why you had not received mine of July 15th on the 
3d of August. I cannot endure the irregularities of the 
post ; they are the torment of my life ; but you surprise me, 
you, by attaching such importance to my letters. How could 
you have the idea that I meant to harass you ? Punish you 2 
and for what ? Supposing, what is assuredly not so, that 
I were dissatisfied with your friendship, have I the right to 
complain of it ? Would it not be the height of imperti- 
nence to imagine that the loss of my letters was a painful 
privation to you ? If I tell you that I am not so foolishly 
vain as most women, you are not obliged to believe me , but 
know me better and you will find that I receive as a favour 
that which is given me ; that I enjoy it with feeling, and 
respond to it with all the tenderness and sincerity of my 
soul ; but never do I feel myself prompted by the sort of 



80 LETTERS OF L 1773 

confidence that is found, not in tlie heart, but in a vanity that 
exacts from those we love, and sometimes dares to put them 
to the proof. Intercourse with the woild has not altered the 
simplicity and truth of my sentiments. [Remark that I am 
not praising, but defending myself. 

I am sorry and uneasy about the pain in your leg ; you 
do not take care of it, though you s&y you do, and I am 
more uneasy at that than for the pain itself. Alas ! the 
great evil of absence is ignorance of the details that touch 
us closely. While saying much, still more is left unsaid; 
and it seems to me that my friend always omits that which 
I most need to know. Why do you wear yourself out with 
fatigue 2 The loss of sleep exhausts the brain, and, strong as 
you may be, I am certain that by sitting up all night you do 
not get the best of the things and objects you are seeking to 
observe not to speak of the risk you run of weakening 
your health. To reach the object for which you aim, you 
must not only live, but keep well ; in exalting the soul to 
the point of sacrificing all to its love of glory, I believe it is 
well to preserve the stomach. Ah ' if you knew how physi- 
cal sufferings belittle the soul you would not squander as 
you do your sleep and your strength. I am speaking a very 
trivial language to you, but it is that of friendship. Hemark 
that those who wish to please never say a word of all this. 
The tone of interest has no grace, it is ponderous, it repeats 
itself but it does not weary those who feel it for one who 
deserves it so welL 

I cannot help thinking that the uneasiness in which you 
were when you wrote to me disturbed your judgment a little. 
You urged me to write to you without telling ma where to 
address my letter I know that you were not in Vienna 
after the 12th at the latest, yet I must send my letter there ; 
there is no sense in that. And another thing, equally sense- 



MLLE DE LESPINASSE 81 

less, was writing to you at Breslau. But why, when making 
the tour of the world, should any one desire to hear from his 
friends ? Yes, you are very inconsistent ! in fact, there are 
moments when I am so weary that I am tempted to leave 
you on the way. I am ill, I am sad, and it seems to me that 
I should serve you best by letting myself be forgotten. The 
more kindness, the more feeling you might show me, the 
more I should dare to tell you that you will often repent 
having yielded yourself too quickly to an intimacy from 
which I alone obtain advantage. 

There is a clause in your letter on which I dared not rest 
my eyes, though my soul fastened on it. Mon Dieu ! what 
word was that you said ! it froze my blood 1 No, no, my soul 
shall seek for yours no more. Ah ! that thought will kill 
me ! Be my consolation ; calm, if you can, the trouble of my 
soul ; but do not think that I could, for one instant, survive a 
disaster the very fear of which fills my life with a terror that 
has destroyed my health and disturbs, incessantly, my reason. 

Adieu, I cannot continue , my heart is wrung ; if I compose 
my mind I will resume ; because I must justify myself on 
the matter of which you speak, and ask your pardon, though 
I am not guilty. ---* 

Still Sunday. 

I intended to warn you that I had repeated your remark 
on the King of Prussia, which was so charming that I 
thought I might do so without impropriety. It was thought 
what it is, and it went far and wide until it reached Mme. 
du DefTand, who thought it very bad, and twisted and 
commented upon it, and found, as she thought, many con- 
tradictions to it. She ended by saying that if your " Conne*- 
table " were another " Athalie " it would not prevent her from 
thinking the form and basis of that thought of yours de- 
testable. Some days later she spoke of it in the same 

6 



32 LETTERS OF [1773 

tone to the Neapolitan ambassador [Caraccioli] , this 
made him angry, and he told her that when people criti- 
cised they ought to quote honestly, and by changing the 
words of the speech he thought her criticism as unjust as it 
was severe. Mme. de Luxembourg and Mme. de Beauvau, 
before whom this occurred and who were against Mme. du 
Deffand, asked the ambassador for a copy of the actual 
remark ; he promised it ; then he came and told me the 
whole of this silly dispute, and I own that the pleasure of 
confounding Mme. du Deffand made me yield to his request. 
I copied the three lines for him and he went off triumphant. 
Mme. du Deffand was confounded , at any rate she dared no 
longer disparage that which everybody else thought charm- 
ing. Until then, there had been no question to whom you 
had written it. She now took it into her head to ask 
that question ; the ambassador refused to reply, and this 
increased her curiosity. Finally, he said it was written to 
me, and added " No doubt it was a presentiment that made 
you condemn a saying so full of wit and grace." There 's 
a long tale ; I should have told you earlier, but it seemed 
to me rather paltry to send a thousand leagues. I must 
add that the ambassador brought the copy back to me, and 
I burned it. Just see what silly things occupy these people 
of the world I what empty minds it proves! Yes, unhappi- 
ness is good for something; it corrects the little passions 
which agitate the idle and the corrupt. Ah 1 if they could 
only love they would all become good. 

You can see, now, whether I was guilty of indiscretion. 
If you say I was, I shall believe it ; but do not tell me that 
people will think " we write to each other to say witty 
things." Ah 1 what matter to us if fools and malicious peo- 
ple think so ? They are strong only when they are feared ; 
I hate and flee them, but I fear them no longer. For sev- 



1773] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 83 

eral years I have so weighed and estimated those who judge 
that I dare not tell you the contempt I have for opinion. I 
do not wish to brave it, and that is aU. There is a passion 
that closes the soul to all the miseries which torture the 
people of the great world ; I have the sad experience of 
it. A great woe kills all the rest. There is but one in- 
terest, one pleasure, one misfortune, and a single judge 
for me in all creation. Oh ! no, I am not petty. Reflect 
that I hold to life at one point only; if it escapes me, 
I shall die. From this inward conviction, profound and 
permanent, you can readily believe that all else is annihi- 
lated for me. I know not by what fatality or what 
good fortune I became susceptible of a new affection . 
searching within myself I can neither find nor explain its 
cause ; but, such as it is, its effects have brought sweetness 
to my life. It seems to me an astounding thing that my 
sorrows should interest you ; it proves to me the goodness, 
the sensibility of your heart. I reproach myself, just now, 
for the remorse I have felt in yielding to my penchant for 
you : sorrow makes one severe to one's self ; I feel guilty 
for the good you do me. Is it now, or was it then that I 
made myself illusions ? On my honour I do not knoV. 
But you, whose soul is not convulsed by trouble, you can 
judge me better ; and when I see you, you will tell me if I 
ought to rejoice or despair at the feelings you inspire within 
me. I received yesterday news of him which alarms me ; 
his health does not improve ; he is perpetually threatened by 
a fatal attack from which he has been twice at death's door 
within a year , how is it possible that he should live ? Adieu ; 
send me news of yourself. 

Monday, August 16, 1773. 

I open my letter to tell you how conscious I am of your 
kindness in being so uneasy at receiving no letter from me. 



84 3LETTERS OF [1773 

I cannot imagine why ; for my friends take my letters them- 
selves to the general post-office. Why have you renounced 
your journey to the North ? I cannot believe it is solely to 
shorten the period of your absence. To whom are you mak- 
ing the sacrifice of Sweden ? If some one has exacted it, you 
are doubtless content. Well, if your return is hastened I 
will love the person or thing that is the cause of it. But 
next year ? must you go to Russia ? and must you not go at 
once to Montauban ? and then to that country-seat where you 
will find pleasure and seek happiness, and then and then 
but no matter, anything is better than Sweden ; and I 
know not that is, something tells me not to be anxious 
about what may happen next year; as you say yourself, 
there is time between now and then to die a hundred 
times. 

You have made me a reproach ; I have a mind to return it : 
are you guilty of what the Chevalier de Chastellux has writ- 
ten to me, namely, that I love you deeply ? How does he 
know it 2 I have given my secret to none but you and him 
to whom I tell all Can it be that you have told the Cheva- 
lier ? If it were so, I could only thank you, and complain. 

M. d'Alembert is at this moment with Mme. Geoffrin. I do 
not doubt she will think it a pleasure to write to the King 
of Poland [Stanislas-Poniatowski]. It occurs to me that in 
this long letter I have omitted a rather interesting point : my 
health ; it is detestable ; I cough frightfully, and with such 
effort that I spit blood. I spend a part of my life unable to 
speak ; my voice is extinct, but this of all inconveniences is 
the one that suits the inclinations of my soul the best ; I like 
silence, meditation, retirement. I do not sleep, or scarcely 
so, and I am never dull. You will think from this that I 
must be very happy. If I add that I would not change my 
condition for that of any other living being you will think 



1773] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 85 

me in paradise and you will be wrong ; to go there one 
must die, and that is what I wish to do. But come ; and 
write me often, often. 

August 22, 1773. 

I received yesterday your letter of the 10th, and it has 
done me good. If you only knew what I have suffered dur- 
ing the last eight days! how wrung with grief my heart has 
been 1 in what distress, in what alarms my life is spent 1 I 
have no longer the liberty to free myself ; it is awful ; and 
it is not in the power of him I love to make my troubles 
cease. He knows them, he suffers from them, he is still 
more unhappy than I, because his soul is stronger, and has 
more energy, more sensibility than mine. For one whole 
year every moment of his life has been marked by misfor- 
tune ; he must die of it, yet he wills that I shall live. Oh ! 
my God ! my soul cannot suffice for what it feels and what 
it suffers. See my weakness, see how sorrow makes one 
selfish and indiscreet; I make you think of me, I sadden 
you perhaps. Ah ! forgive me ; this excess of confidence 
comes from my friendship, my tender friendship for you. 
You have shown me such kindness, such indulgence that it 
seems to me I cannot abuse it. If you, alas ! were to suffer, 
who could feel and share it more than I ? You see within 
my soul, you know what it has for you. Ah i I feel, at the 
summit of woe, invoking death at every instant, that it will 
cost me a regret to leave you ; you console me, and yet I 
sink beneath the weight of my sorrows No, no ! they 
are not mine that rend me, they are his, for which I have 
neither remedy nor consolation : that is the torture of a 
feeling and devoted souL You have loved, you will under- 
stand and pity me. 

After what you wrote to M. d'Aleinbert I counted on 
seeing you by the end of September, and now I find you 



86 LETTERS OF [1773 

will not be here till the end of October , but will you be 
here then ? Alas ! I know not if I may dare to hope so far 
before me. Perhaps I am speaking to you now for the last 
time. I dare not permit myself either hope or project. Ah t 
I had suffered much from the injustice and malignancy 
of men ; they reduced me to despair , but I here avow that 
there is no sorrow comparable to that of a deep, unhappy 
passion : it has effaced my ten years' early torture It seems 
to me that I live only since I love ; all that affected me, all 
that rendered me unhappy until then is obliterated ; and yet 
in the eyes of calm and reasonable people I have no sorrows 
but those I have ceased to feel; they call passion a ficti- 
tious sorrow. Alas ! it is because they love nothing, because 
they live only for vanity and ambition, and I, I live only to 
love; no longer have I the tone or the feelings of society. 
More than that, I am incapable of fulfilling its duties ; but 
fortunately I am free, I am independent, and in yielding 
myself up wholly to my inclinations I have no remorse, 
because I harm no one. But see how little you ought to 
think of me, I reproach myself often for the kindness and 
the esteem that is shown to me ; I usurp so much in society ; 
people judge me too favourably because they do not know 
me. It is true that I have been so great a victim to calumny 
and the malice of enemies that I feel my present position to 
be a sort of compensation. 

May T make you a reproach ? my friendship misses your 
confidence ; you no longer tell me of yourself ; why is that ? 
I was unjust to you once, I know ; is it thus you punish me ? 
How is it that if you love you have nothing to say to me ? 
You suffer, you hope, you enjoy ; why, then, do you tell me 
nothing? You speak to me so little of yourself that your 
letters might go to nearly every woman of your acquaint- 
ance. It is not SQ with mine; they can go to but one 



1773] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 87 

address. Am I wrong ? is it too much to exact equality in 
confidence ? This is the fourth letter you have still to 
acknowledge, do not forget that. I think it was folly to 
have written to you at Breslau ; you may not have thought 
of the post and my letter will still be there. You must 
burn all my letters. I fancy that I see them falling m great 
bundles from your pockets , the disorder in which you keep 
your papers affects my confidence but you see it does not 
check it. Adieu. I have pain in my chest. Is your leg 
cured ? Send me news of yourself. 

Monday, September 6, 1773 

Your silence hurts me. I do not blame you, but I suffer, 
and I can scarcely persuade myself that if your interest were 
equal to mine I should be one month without hearing from 
you. Mon Dieu ! tell me, what value do you place on friend- 
ship if absence and travel distract you from it wholly ? Ah ! 
how fortunate you are ' A king, an emperor, troops, camps, 
can make you forget the one who loves you and (more touch- 
ing perhaps to a feeling soul) the person whom your friend- 
ship sustains and consoles. No ; I do not blame you ; I 
even wish that your forgetfulness did not seem to me a 
wrong ; I should like to find within me the disposition that 
approves of all, or suffers all without complaint. 

I know not why I was persuaded that I should hear from 
you at Breslau whether you received my letter, or whether 
it were lost; my hope was balked. Oh! I hate you for 
making me know hope, fear, pain, pleasure, I had no need 
of those emotions why did you not leave me in repose 1 ? 
My soul had no need to love ; it was filled with a tender senti- 
ment, profound, participated, mutual, but sorrowful neverthe- 
less ; and that sorrow was the emotion that drew me to you. 
I meant that you should only please me, but you hav$ 



88 LETTERS OF [1773 

touched me, in consoling me you have bound me to you, 
and the singular thing is that the good you have done me, 
which I received without consenting to it, far from rendering 
me supple, docile, like other persons who receive favours, 
seems, on the contrary, to have given me the right to be 
exacting on your friendship. You, who judge from heights 
and see into depths, tell me if that is the action of an 
ungrateful soul, or of one too sensitive : whatever you say of 
it I shall believe. 

Return speedily; I see the days slip by with a pleasure 
I cannot express. They say the past is nothing, but as for 
me, it crushes me ; it is precisely because I have suffered so 
much that it is so dreadful to me to suffer still. Ah ! but 
there is madness in promising myself some sweetness, some 
consolation in your friendship ; you will have gained so 
many new ideas, your soul has been agitated by so many 
diverse sentiments that no trace of the impression you 
received of my sorrow and my confidence will remain. But 
come, come at any rate ; I shall judge, and I shall see clear 
for illusions are not for the sorrowful. Besides, you have as 
much openness as 1 have truth ; we shall not for one 
moment deceive ourselves ; come, therefore, and do not bring 
back from your journey the melancholy impressions the 
Chevalier de Chastellux has brought from Italy. He speaks 
of all that he has seen without pleasure, and all that he now 
sees gives him but little more. I would not change my 
ways of thinking for his, and yet I pass my life in convul- 
sions of fear and pain; but then, what I expect, what I 
desire, what I obtain, what is given to me, has such value to 
nay soul! I live, I exist with such force that there are 
moments when I find myself loving madly to my own 
unhappmess. Ought I not to cling to it ? ought it not to be 
dear to me ? It caused me to know you, to love you, and* 



1773] MLLE DE I/ESPINASSE. 89 

perhaps, to have one friend the more for you tell me so. 
If I had been calm, reasonable, cold, all this would not have 
happened. I should vegetate with the other women, who 
flirt their fans and discuss the sentence on M. de Morangies 
and the arrival of the Comtesse de Provence. 

Yes, I repeat it : I prefer my griefs to all that people in 
society call happiness and pleasure. I may die of them per- 
haps, but that is better than never having lived. Do you 
understand me ? are you on my key ? have you forgotten that 
you too have been as ill, but more fortunate than I ? Adieu ; 
I do not know how it is, I meant to write you four lines only, 
but my pleasure in doing so has led me on. How many 
persons are there whom you will see on your return with 
greater pleasure than you will me 2 I will give you the list : 
Madame de . . . , the Chevalier d'Aguesseau, the Comte 
de Broglie, the Prince de Beauvau, the Comte de Rocham- 
beau, etc., etc., and Mesdamea de Beauvau, de Boufflers, de 
Rochambeau, de Martin ville, etc., etc. ; then the Chevalier de 
Chastellux, and then I, at last, the last. Ah ! see the differ- 
ence : I can name but one against your ten ; the heart does 
not conduct itself by law and justice ; it is despotic and 
absolute. I forgive you ; but return. 

M. d'Alembert awaits you with impatience. The Cheva- 
lier de Chastellux is absorbed by the comedies at Mme. 
d'Epinay's, but his tone is cold and sad. Adieu ; do you really 
think that I shall see you in a month ? That is too far off 
to feel any pleasure from it yet. 

November, 1773. 

Here I am : courage failed me ! When I have not what I 
love I prefer to be alone : I talk then to my friends more 
intimately, more unreservedly. I have just written for 
three hours, and I am blinded by it, but not wearied. Mme. 
de Boufflers permits me to ask you for a copy of her letter ; 



90 LETTERS OF [1773 

bring it to me to-morrow, I beg of you , and bring me also the 
continuation of your journey which gives me such infinite 
pleasure. Is it in the morning or is it in the evening that I 
am to see you ? I should like the morning, because that is 
sooner, and the evening, because that is longer, but I shall 
like whatever you choose to give me. Adieu , I did not sleep 
last night. 

Half-past eight o'clock, 1773 

Mon ami, I shall not see you, and you will tell me that it 
is not your fault i but if you had had the thousandth part of 
the desire I have to see you, you would be here, and I should 
be happy. No, I am wrong, I should suffer ; but I should 
not envy the pleasures of heaven. Mon aim, I love you as 
one should love, to excess, to madness, with transport and 
despair. All these last days you have put my soul to the 
torture ; I saw you this morning, and f forgot it all ! It seems 
to me that I cannot do enough for you in loving you with all 
my soul, in being in the mind to live and die for you. You 
are worth more than that ; yes, if I only loved you, it would 
be nothing ; for what is sweeter and more natural than to 
love wildly that which is perfectly lovable ? Mon ami, I 
can do better than love, I know how to suffer ; I know how 
to renounce my pleasure for your happiness. But there is 
one who troubles the satisfaction I should have in proving 
to you that I love you. 

Do you know why I write to you ? Because it pleases me ; 
you would never think it if I did not tell you. But oh! 
where are you ? If you are happy I must not complain that 
you have taken happiness from me. 

December, 1773. 

Good-morning, mon ami. Have you slept ? how are you ? 
shall I see you ? Ah ! take nothing from me ; the time is so 
.short ancl I set such value on that which I spend in seeing 



1773] MLIJE. DE LE&PESTASSE 91 

you. Mon ami, I have no opium in my head, nor in my 
blood ; I have worse than that, I have that which would 
make me bless heaven and treasure life if he I love were 
inspired with the same emotion , but alas ! what we love is 
made to be the torment, the despair of the soul that feels ? 
Good-bye ; I want to see you, you ought to come and dine 
with me at Mme. Geoifrin's. I dared not tell you so last 
night. Yes, you ought to love me passionately; I exact 
nothing ; I pardon all ; and T have never had an angry 
f eeling, mon ami ; I am perfect, for I love you in perfection. 

Four o'clock. 1773. 

You have not started , at least, I hope not. This is what 
T fancy you will have said to yourself : " The weather is 
dreadful; I will go to-morrow to the country, I will be 
driven there ; I will see Jier this afternoon , I will go and 
spend the evening with Mme. de V . . ." Mon aim, if you 
can reason thus, M. d'Alembert will permit you to argue 
in future, and you will not be reduced to making or not 
making Constables. Racine would never have allowed 
any one to prevent him from writing his " Letters " on the 
Visionaries or his " History of Port-Royal." Here are the 
two volumes ; I warn you that if you lose them you will 
be lost in M. d'Alembert's opinion. Here is also Plutarch ; 
that is mine ; but, if it is all the same to you, I would rather 
it were not lost or torn. 

I saw Mme. de M . . . at mass and spoke to her. Her 
face and figure satisfy the most fastidious and exacting taste ; 
but her tone, her manner, all 1 'how repulsive they are ! Am 
I wrong ^ But her friend does not resemble her; yes, I 
believe this, and I even desire it ; is this feeling generous ? 
tell me. 

, you shall never know all that the ambassador wrote 



92 LETTERS OF [1774 

to roe ; but hear this . he said that, judging by appearances, 
M. de Q . . . had obtained that which M. de M . . . had 
desired to obtain ; and then he added : " I am not afraid lest 
his piercing eyes should see these woids ; I consent that those 
of M. de M . . . should read this letter as he reads your 
soul," etc. ; adding a hundred lively little jests very gay and 
clever; he is certainly chaiming, but quite undeserving of 
being loved. Mon aim, you advised me yesterday not to 
love you ; is it I or yourself whom you wish to save from that 
misfortune ? tell me. I have an infallible remedy : how 
sweet it will be to me if I can think that I do anything for 
you. 

Mon ami, this soul which is like a thermometer, now at 
freezing, then at temperate, and a moment after at the burn- 
ing heat of the equator, this soul, thus carried away b} an 
irresistible force, finds it hard to curb and calm itself, 
it longs for you, it fears you, it loves you, it wauders 
in a wilderness, but always it belongs to you and to its 
regrets. 

1774 

Mon ami, yesterday, coming home at midnight, I found 
your letter. I did not expect such good luck ; but what 
grieves me is the number of days that must pass without nay 
seeing you. Ah ! if you knew what the days are, what the 
life is, stripped of the interest and the pleasure of seeing you ! 
Mbn arm, amusements, occupations, activity are all you need, 
but I, my happiness is you, and only you ; I would not wish 
to live if I could not see you, could not love you at every in- 
stant of my life. Send me news of yourself, and come and 
dine to-morrow with Comte C . . . He asked me to change 
from Sunday to Saturday ; I said yes ; but come there, I 
entreat you I was to dine to-day at the Spanish ambas- 
sador's, but I have excused myself ; if you were to be there 



1774] MLT.E DE LESPINASSE 93 

I would not have done so Good-bye. I am expecting the 
letter you promised me. I am much hurried. 

1774 

I yield to the need of my heart, mon ami I love you , I 
feel as much pleasure and anguish as if it were the first and 
the last time in my life that I should say those words to you. 
Ah ! why, have you condemned me to say them ? Why am 
I reduced to do so ? You will know some day alas ' you 
will then understand me It is dreadful to me to be no longer 
fiee to suffer for you and through you. Is that loving you 
enough ? Adneu, mon atm. 

At all the instants of my life. 1774 

Mon ami* I suffer., I love you, and I await you 

Tuesday, 1774 

Mon arm, you make me prove that we like better to give 
than to pay our debts. T have several letters to answer, and 
to come to them I must begin by talking with you Mon 
ami, have you given me, since last night, one minute, two 
minutes ? Have you said, " She suffers, she loves me, and I 
must blame myself for a part of her sorrows " ? It is not to 
distress you or to give you remorse that I say that, but to 
make you kind, indulgent, and not angry when a few cries 
of pain ebcape me. As for me, I have thought of you, and 
much, but my time has been occupied Good God i was there 
ever such pride, such disdain of others, such contempt, such 
injustice, in a woid, such an assemblage and assortment of 
all that peoples hell and lunatic asylums ? All that was 
last night in my apartment, and the walls and ceilings did 
not crumble down , a miracle ! 

In the midst of the sony wnters, smatterers, fools, and 
pedants, among whom I spent my day, I thought of you alone 



94 LETTERS OF [1774 

and of your follies ; I regretted you , I longed for you with 
as much passion as if you were the most amiable, most 
reasonable being that existed. I cannot explain to myself 
the charm that binds me to you. You are not my friend ; 
you can never become so : I have no sort of confidence in 
you ; you have caused me the deepest, sharpest pain that can 
afflict and rend an honest soul ; you deprive me at this mo- 
ment, and perhaps forever, of the only consolation that 
heaven granted to the few remaining days I have to live, 
how shall I say it ? You have filled all ; the past, the pre- 
sent, and the future present me nothing but pain, regrets, 
remorse. Ah ! inon ami, I see, I judge it all, yet I am drawn 
to you by an attraction, by a feeling which I abhor, but which 
has the power of a curse and a fatality. You do well not to 
consider me , I have no right to require anything of you ; for 
my most ardent wish is that you were nothing to me. What 
would you say of the state of a most unhappy being who 
showed herself to you for the first time agitated, convulsed 
by feelings so diverse and contradictory ? You would pity 
her; your heart would be stirred; you would want to suc- 
cour, to comfort that unfortunate creature. Mon ami, it is 
I ; this sorrow, it is you who have caused it ; this soul of 
fire and pain is your creation (ah ! I still think you godlike)^ 
and you ought to repent of your work. 

When I took my pen I did not know one word of what I 
should say to you ; I meant only to tell you to come and 
dine to-morrow, Wednesday, at Mme. G-eoffrrn/s. I meant to 
show you that ypu alone of all my friends oblige me to wait 
for what I earnestly desire, c< Le Conne*table." It is mine ; I 
might have refused to give it to you, and now it is I who 
persecute you to return it. Ah t m<m Dieu ! neither cares, nor 
interest, nor attentions, nor any desire to please, occasion- 
ally a kindness that resembles pity ; and witK it all, or with- 



1774] MLHE. DE LESPINASSE. 95 

out it all, I love you wildly. Pity me, but do not tell me 
so. Bring back my letters , yes, do that. 

Three o'clock, 1774. 

It was not myself who answered you. If you love me it 
must have made you uneasy, and I shall be grieved to have 
caused you a pain I could have avoided. I was in a state of 
anguish, like the agony of death, preceded by a fit of tears 
which lasted four hours. No, never, never did my soul feel 
such despair. I have a sort of terror which bewilders my 
reason. I await Wednesday, and it seems to me that death 
itself is not sufficient remedy for the loss I fear ; it needs no 
courage to die, but it is awful to live. It is beyond my 
strength to think that, perhaps, the one I love, he who loved 
me, will hear me no more, will never come again to succour 
me. He views death with horror because the thought of me 
is added to it. He wrote me on the 10th, "I have in me 
that which will make you forget all that I have made you 
suffer ; " and that very day the fatal hemorrhage struck him 
down ! 

Ah ! mo n Dieu ! you who have known passion, despair, can 
you conceive my sorrow ? Pity me so long as I shall live, but 
never regret the unhappy being who has existed eight days 
in a state of suffering to which thought cannot attain. Adieu. 
If I must live, if my sentence is not pronounced, I may still 
find sweetness, charm, and consolation in your friendship ; 
will you preserve it for me ? 

1774. 

I distrustful, and of you 1 Think with what complete sur- 
render I have given myself to you ; not only have I put no 
distrust, no caution, into my conduct, but I should not even 
know regret or remorse if it were my happiness alone that I 
had compromised. Oh ! mon ami ! I know not if I now 



96 LETTERS OF [1774 

love better, but lie who made me unfaithful and guilty, he for 
whom I live after losing the object and interest of every mo- 
ment of my life, is he who has had most empire over my soul, 
he who has taken from me the liberty to live solely for an- 
other and to die when neither hope nor desire remains to me ! I 
No doubt I have been held to life by the same spell that drew 
me towards you, that potent charm attached to your pres- 
ence, which intoxicates my soul and bewilders it to such ex- 
cess that the memory of my sorrow is effaced. Mon ami, 
with three words you have created a new soul within me, 
you have filled it with an interest so keen, a sentiment so 
tender, so profound, that I lose the faculty to recall the past 
and to foresee the futuie. 

Yes, rnon ami, I live in you ; I exist because I love you ; 
and that is so true that it seems to me impossible not to die 
if I should lose the hope of seeing you. The happiness of 
having seen you, the desire, the expectation of seeing you 
again aid and sustain me against my giief. Alas 1 what would 
become of me if, instead of hope, I had only the sorrowful 
regret of not seeing you ? Mon ami, with you I have not 
been able to die, without you I neither could nor would I 
live. Ah I if you knew what I suffer, what dreadful 
laceration my heart feels when I am left to myself, when 
your presence, or your thought no longer sustains me ! Ah ! 
it is then that the memory of M* de Mora becomes a senti- 
ment so active, so piercing, that my life, my feelings cause 
me horror. I abhor the aberration, the passion that made 
me guilty, that made me cast trouble and fear into that 
sensitive soul that was all my own. 

Mon aim, do you conceive to what point I-love you ? You 

1 The Marquis de Mora died at Bordeaux, May 27, 1774, on his way 
from Madrid to Paris, drawn there by his passionate desire to return to 
Mile de Lespmasse PR Ei> 



1774] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 97 

divert the regrets, the remorse, that rend my heart : alas ! they 
would suffice to deliver me from a life I hate ; you alone and 
my sorrow remain to me in this wide world ; I have no more 
interest in it, no ties, no friends, and I need none : to love 
you, to see you, or to cease to exist that is the last and 
only prayer of my soul. Yours does not respond to it, I 
know ; but I do not complain of that. By a strange caprice, 
which I feel but cannot explain, I am far from desiring to 
find in you that which I have lost : it would be too much ; 
what human being has better felt than I all the value of 
that life ? Is it not enough to have blessed and cherished 
that nature once ? How many thousands of men have 
crossed this earth without compare to him ! Oh ! how I 
have been loved ! A soul of fire, full of energy, which had 
judged all things, estimated all things, and then, turning 
away revolted by all, gave itself up to the need and joy of 
loving mow, ami, that is how I was loved. 

Several years went by, filled with the charm and the 
sorrows inseparable from a passion as strong as it was deep, 
and then you came to pour poison into my heart, to ravage 
my soul with trouble and remorse. My God ! what have 
you not made me suffer! You tore me from my feeling, 
but I saw you were not mine. Do you^ not see the whole 
horror of that situation ? How is it that I have lived through 
such woe ? How can one still find gentleness to say : " Man 
ami, I love you, and with such truth and tenderness that it 
is not possible your soul be cold as it hears me " ? Adieu. 

Friday, after post time* 

You are " displeased ; " see if you ought to be ; what soul 
have you ever inspired with a stronger or more tender feel- 
ing ? JWon ami, in whatever way you regard and judge my 
soul, I defy you to 'find anything in it to displease you. Ob I 



98 LETTERS OP 11774 

I am sure of it; never have you been so loved. But do not 
make me say why I cannot write to you where you are ; I 
dare not acknowledge to myself the reason , it is a thought, 
an emotion, on which I do not wish to dwell ; it is a sort of 
torture which horrifies me, which humiliates me, and one 
which I have never yet known. 

You ask me how I liked the habit of seeing you daily. 
Oh, no I it was not a habit ; it never could become one. 
How cold such colours are, how monotonous ! they cannot 
be compared with the violent and rapid emotions which the 
name and presence of the one we love excite. No, no, I have 
not been happy enough to give myself the illusion that you 
would come and see me; thus I did not hear the opening 
and closing of my door. But without interests, without 
desn^es, what matters it what people see or hear? Given 
over to my regrets, I feel but one need ; I implore either 
you or death. You soothe my soul, you fill it with so tender 
a sentiment that it is sweet to live during the time that I 
see you ; but there is nought but death that can deliver me 
from, misery in your absence. 

Midnight, 1774 

So you have forgotten, abandoned, that fury, so foolish 
and so wicked both ! but had you left her in hell itself she 
would not complain, the heat and activity of that abode 
would make her live. Instead of that, the unhappy creature 
spent her day in purgatory; she awaited a consoling angel 
who did not come. He was no doubt making the happiness 
and joy of some celestial being, himself intoxicated with the 
joys of heaven. In that condition what could recall me to 
him ; and if in truth he is really happy, I desire, from the 
bottom of my soul, that nothing may remind him of me ; for 
I am sufficiently unjust to detest his happiness and to wish 
that remorse and repentance may pursue him perpetually. 



1774} MLLE. t>E LESPINASSE. 99 

I wish him worse still, namely : that he may love no more, 
and that he may henceforth inspire indifference only. Those 
are the prayers, that is the wish of the soul that has loved 
him best and has -the greatest need of extinction forever. 

1774, 

I am alone at this moment and I wish to tell you at once 
that I do not count upon you to go to the Duchesse d'An- 
ville's. You will be always agreeable to me, but seldom 
useful, and I wish I could add, little necessary. In trying to 
restore my confidence, you prove to me how justly my dis- 
trust was founded ; for I still miss three letters, one, espe- 
cially, in which I spoke to you of Gonsalve [M de Mora]. 
You will doubtless find those three letters in some pocket of 
your portfolio, perhaps they are with that fourth volume 
that I ought to receive to-day. 

I notice that you make it your pleasure to pay attentions 
to Mme. de . . . ; you give, and lend her, whatever gives 
you pleasure ; to me, it is the opposite extreme, negligence, 
f orgetfulness, refusal. It is three months since you promised 
me a book which belongs to you; I have now borrowed 
it from some one else. No doubt it is best that this dis- 
obliging manner should fall on me ; that is only right, and I 
complain solely of the excess of it. Good-night ' If work 
costs you your nights, you must regret very much the use- 
less visits that fill your days. Among the letters you have 
sent back to me one is not mine ; but I swear that I will 
never return it to you. - 

1774. 

Return to me the two old letters I am not asking you for 
those of Cicero or Pliny. I desire not to see you, never to see 
you again. Regret is better is it not ? than remorse. 

At the moment when you receive this I will wager that 



100 LETTERS OE [1774 ' 

you have already received a note in which, you were told 
... I don't know what. 

Eh! mon Dieii,! believe her, give her peace, and if it is 
possible, be happy yourself: that is the wish, that is the 
prayer of the unhappy woman who has always before her 
eyes the dreadful inscription on the portal of hell : " Give up 
all hope, ye who enter here." I have no hope, and I wish 
for none. I ought to have annihilated myself on the day I 
was left solitary. You prevented it, and you cannot now 
console me 

May 11, 1774 

You do not know me yet; it is almost impossible to 
wound my self-love ; and the heart is so indulgent I In fact, 
the party of last night was like those insipid novels which 
make the author and the readers yawn together. However, 
one must say with the King of Prussia, on a rather more 
memorable occasion, " We will do better next time." That 
which makes an epoch remains in the memory, and you will 
-never forget in future that the day on which Louis XV. 
died you spent the evening at a party in a sound sleep. 
Believe me, there are recollections more painful than that. 

G-ood-bye. 

Eleven o'clock at night 1774 

I will wager that you are not as sleepy to-day as you were 
yesterday at the same hour ; and the reason is very simple , 
you are being amused, interested, and you have the desire to 
please. Mon aim, you were not made for privacy , you need 
expansion; movement and the hurly-burly of society is 
necessary to you ; this is not a need of your vanity ; it is 
that of your activity. Confidence, tenderness, forgetfulness 
of self and of vanity, all those blessings felt and appreciated 
by a tender and passionate soul, clog and extinguish yours. 
Yes, I repeat it : you have no need of being loved. What a 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 101 

strange mistake was mine ! and / dare to blame certain pei- 
fcons for lack of discernment ! I dare to tell them that they 
observe nothing and do not know men. Ah I how misled I 
was ; mistaken to excess ! How is it that my intelligence 
did not check my soul ? How can it be that, judging you 
incessantly, I was, nevertheless, always carried away ? You 
do not know the half of your ascendency over me ; you 
do not know what you have to conquer each time that 
I see you ; you have never suspected the sacrifices that I 
make to you; you do not know the degree to which I 
renounce my own self in order to be yours. I say to 
you with Ph&dre, " Often was I forced to deprive myself 
of tears." 

Yes, mon ami, I deprive myself, with you, of all that is 
most dear to me. I never speak to you now of my regrets, 
nor of my memories ; and, what is more cruel still, I let you 
see but a part of the feelings with which you fill my heart. 
I restrain the passion you excite in my soul ; I say to myself 
incessantly : " He will not respond to it, he will not under- 
stand me, and I should die of pain." Can you conceive, mon 
ami, the species of torture to which I am condemned? I 
have remorse for what I give you, and regrets for what I am 
forced to keep back. I give myself up to you, but I do not 
give myself up to my own feeling for you , yielding to you, 
I nevertheless battle within myself. Ah ! can you under- 
stand me ? can you know through thought what I feel, and 
what you have made me suffer? Yes, you wiU have a. 
return towards me, because you have the sensibility that 
feels an interest in the unhappy and pities them. 

But I know not why I thus unbosom myself for an in- 
stant; T know that I shall find no comfort in your heart. 
Mon 'ami, it is empty of tenderness and feeling. You have 
but one means of lifting me from my troubles : it is that of 



102 LETTERS OF [1774 

intoxicating me, and that remedy has been the greatest of 
my misfortunes. 

Good-night, mon ami ; send me news of yourself ; my foot- 
man has orders to return for your answer. Tell me what 
you expect to do to-morrow ; tell me if I shall see you : I 
would rather it weie not m the morning, because I must 
then receive a long and wearisome visit ; but I want to see 
you nevertheless. Remember that on Saturday and Sunday 
I shall be deprived of that happuiess. 

Adieu again , I am much fatigued. I have seen, I think, 
forty persons to-day, and I desired to see but one one 
whose thoughts very certainly have not been turned even 
once to me. Mon ami, if you were h^ppy I would approve 
of your manner of living; but this vagueness, this void, 
this agitation, this perpetual movement, this habit of being 
neither occupied by work nor inspired by feeling, this con- 
tinued expenditure which impoverishes, with no return in 
pleasure, or reputation, or interest, or fame 1 ah ! mon ami, 
you do not deserve that Nature should have treated you so 
well ; she has been prodigal towards you, and you are but a 
spendthrift. But I, I ruin myself for you, and it oppresses 
without enriching you. Yes, I weary you; you feel a dis- 
gust for my letteis, and in that I admire the correctness and 
delicacy of your taste ; but while I esteem such good taste I 
grieve that you have almost no indulgence or kindliness. 

Four hours after midday, 1774. 

Certainly, mon ami, I do not keep to the lex talionis at 
this moment, for it is not with me that you are occupied. 
Eh i mon D^eu ! how could you think of me in the midst of 
so many and such charming objects of distraction, when I 
cannot keep your thoughts fixed when we are tte a tte ? 
Do you know why I prefer to see you in the evening ? Be- 



H74] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE 103 

cause those hours put a stop to your activity. There is no 
way then of going to see Madame Such-a-one, or Gluck, etc., 
or of doing a hundred useless things, in which you seem to 
take an interest solely to leave me earlier. Do not think 
that these are reproaches ; they are only remarks which I 
cannot, with the degree of interest that I feel, prevent myself 
from making. But I am so far from wishing to exact any- 
thing that I tell myself, a hundred times a day, it is myself 
over whom I ought to hold empire ; I ought to reduce my 
feelings to the point where, not having sufficient force to 
wring the soul, we claim nothing and are grateful for all ; in 
other words, if passion be in my soul I ought to conquer 
it rather than seek to make you share it. And do you know, 
mon am^, what it is that may enable me to find the strength 
to do so ? It is the inward conviction which I have that 
it is not in you to make the happiness of an active and pas- 
sionate soul. I shall not say to you what it would be so 
natural to think, namely : that I am not made to inspire 
a deep sentiment ; that I ought not to pretend to please, to 
fix a heart. All that is true, no doubt ; but it is not that 
which makes me tell you that it is not in you to make the 
happiness of a strong and feeling soul. I will give to that 
soul the face of Mme. de Forcalquier, the nobleness of Mme. 
de Brionne, the graces of Agla'e, and the wit of Mme. de . . . 
adorned, or rather, grafted with that of Mme. de BoufSers, 
and when I have composed that perfect being I say again 
that it is not in you to make her happiness. Why so 
Ah I why ? because, with you, lov^ng is a mere incident 
of 'your age, and is not a part of your soul, though it agitates 
it occasionally ; your soul is, above all things, lofty, noble, 
grand, active, but it is neither tender nor impassioned. 

Ah ! believe me, I am in despair at seeing to such depths ; 
I have such need of loving, such pleasure in loving that 



104 LETTERS OF [1774 

which I find worthy of love. It is so impossible for me to 
love moderately that the greatest rnisfoitune that could hap- 
pen to me would be to discover in you that which alone 
could arrest, and perhaps extinguish, my feeling ; for, I will 
own it honestly, I do not find it in me to love alone. With 
the opposite conviction I have the strength of the martyrs ; 
I fear no sort of sorrow. While suffering, and suffering 
much, I can still cherish life, still adore and bless him who 
makes me suffer ; but only on condition of being loved 
loved from attraction ; not from gratitude, from delicacy, 
from virtue, all that is detestable , it can only wither and 
cast down a feeling soul. Ah ! let us never make of the 
greatest blessing that Nature has bestowed upon man a thing 
of pity 

Mon ami, there are moments when I feel myself your 
equal. I have strength, elevation, and a sovereign contempt 
for all that is vile and unworthy; and I have also a con- 
tempt for death so fixed in my soul that, under whatever 
aspect it presents itself, it cannot frighten me for an instant ; 
in fact, it is almost always an active want within me* 

From this knowledge that I have of myself and of you, I 
say to you again : Let us love each other, or let us part 
forever ; let us put truth and generosity into our conduct, 
and esteem ourselves enough to believe that all is possible 
to us except deceiving each other and living in that state of 
trouble and fear which comes, necessarily, from the uncer- 
tainty of being loved In that state, mon amd, one has 
confidence neither in one's self nor in the one we love ; we 
enjoy nothing. For example : at this moment I desire pas- 
sionately that you may return to-night from Auteuil [Mine, 
de Bouffler's country-seat], and then, a moment later; it 
seems to me that I wish you to remain there. Can you 
conceive the suffering caused by this inward combat between 



1774] MULE. DE LESPINASSE 105 

the desire of the soul and a will which comes only from re- 
flection ? Conclusion : I love you to frenzy, and something 
tells me it is not thus that you ought to be loved. That some- 
thing makes such noise around my soul that I am ready to 
hush all else, and give myself up completely to that dreadful 
truth. 

Mon ami, I send you back your works that you may be 
yourself their censor : put the last touches to them, and be 
assured that no one in the world attaches as much value as I 
to all that you do, and all that you are capable of doing. 
Without being vain, it seems to me one could put one's 
vanity, pride, virtue, pleasure, in short, one's whole existence, 
into loving you ; but that is not what I was saying just now. 
No, but then I was saying what I thought, what I knew, and 
now I am carried away into telling you what I feel. My soul 
is so strong to love, and my mind is so small, so weak, so 
limited, that I ought to forbid myself all expressions and 
actions that do not come from my heart. It is my heart that 
speaks when I say to you : " 1 await you, I love you, I would 
fain be wholly yours, and die." 

Adieu ; here come visitors. I am so occupied with you, I 
am so deeply filled with my regrets, that society is nothing 
more to me than importunity and constraint. There are 
but two ways of living that now seem good to nle, to see 
you, or to be alone ; but alone, without books, without lights, 
without noiae. I am far from complaining of my sleepless- 
ness, it is the good time of my twenty-four hours. Observe, I 
beg of you, how much it costs me to quit you ; whereas you 
have no impulse towards me not a thought ! Are you 
the hajppier for that ? Yes. 

Friday, 1774. 

How kind of you to send me an account of what you do, of 
what you are thinking, of what occupies you ! How I love 



106 LETTERS OF [1774 

the ardour, the activity of your soul and of your mind ! Mon 
ami, you have so many ways of attaining glory that you 
ought not to desire that of war. Give yourself up to your 
talent, your genius ; wwte, and by enlightening and interest- 
ing men you will acquire the most flattering of all fame to a 
sensitive and virtuous soul , b}~ thus doing good you will enjoy 
the best-deserved celebrity, in truth, the only desirable 
celebrity in this age, where the choice lies between that and 
baseness and frivolity. Ah ! how dreadful it would be to 
me to live again the life I led for ten years. I saw vice in 
action so closely, was so often the victim of the base and 
petty passions of persons of society, that I still retain an in- 
vincible disgust and fear, which make me prefer complete 
solitude to an odious existence. 

I am dying of a desire to see your play , you must have 
created the subject [Anne Boleyn], for in itself it does not seem 
to me to admit of interest and action in more than a few 
scenes. You will have all the more merit m seizing and 
interesting attention during five acts ; Racine had that magic 
art in " Brmee." Your subject is grander and nobler, and 
well on the tone of your soul. You will not need to rise to 
heights, for you are always, without effort, on the level of 
what seems exalted to common and vulgar souls. 

Yes, mon ami, my days are as usual ; but I shall soon be 
alone : all my friends are leaving Paris, and for the first time 
in my life their departure does not cost me a regret ; and, if 
it did not seem too ungrateful, I should tell you that I could 
see M. d'Alembert depart with a sort of pleasure. His pres- 
ence weighs on my soul ; it makes me dissatisfied with my- 
self : I feel myself unworthy of his affection and his virtues. 
Judge, therefore, of my condition of mind, -when that which 
ought to be a consolation adds to my urihappiness but I do 
not want to be consoled ; my regrets, my memories are 



1774] MLI/E. BE LESPINASSE 107 

to me than all the attentions and the support of friendship. 
Mon aim, my soul must either be lifted wholly out of its 
sorrow (and none but you have the power to do this) or it 
must make that sorrow its sole nourishment. If you knew 
how empty and cold books seem to me ; how useless I feel it 
to talk and answer ' My first impulse is to say to myself : 
Why should I ? what is the good of it ? and I have not yet 
found an answer to that question ; which results sometimes 
in my being two hours without saying a word, and for a month 
past I have not touched a pen except to write to you. I 
know well that such a manner rebuffs friends : but I consent 
to that; my soul is inured to hardships, it fears no little woes. 
Ah ! how sorrow concentrates us ! how little we need when 
we have lost all ' What blessings I owe you, mon ami ; 
what mercies I ought to return to you ! You have restored 
life to my soul ; you have made me feel an interest in await- 
ing the morrow ; you promise me news of yourself : that 
hope fixes my thoughts. You promise me still more ; I am to 
see you , but I shall say to you like Andromaque, " To less 
favours than that the unhappy lay claim." 

Adieu ; I abuse both your time and your kindness ; but it 
is sweet, it is natural to forget all with those we love. My 
wound is so sharp, my soul is so sick, my body so suffering 
that, were you susceptible of pity only, I am sure you would be 
beside me, seeking to pour into my heart the balm of tender- 
ness and consolation. 

Thursday, after post time. 

Well ! I have had no letter, and that surprises me less 
than it grieves me. 

You have seen the chevalier and he will have given you 
news of me. I was not well the day he came- I am better 
now, but yesterday I received a violent shock. I had a con- 
versation, I heard the details, I saw his hand-writing once 



108 LETTERS OF [1774 

more, and I read words which I ought not to survive. 
Ah ! my blood, my life would be a poor price to pay for 
such feelings as his, see, therefore, how I must judge of 
yours. 

The Abb Morellet told me a few days ago, in the inno- 
cence of his heart, that you weie in love with the young Com- 
tesse de Bouffleis ; that you were leally much occupied with 
her ; that you had the strongest desire to please her, etc., etc. 
If it is not all true, it is so probable that it seems to me I ought 
to complain only that you did not take me into your confi- 
dence. To acquit you towards me I ask of you only one 
thing, and that is, to tell me the truth. Believe that there 
is no truth, none, that I cannot bear. I may seem to you 
feeble, enough so to make you think you ought to spare me, 
but it is not so. On the contrary, never did I feel more 
strength. I have the strength of suffering, and I can fear 
nothing more in this world, not even the harm you think 
yourself obliged to do me. Adieu. 

July 6, 1774. 

How little I see of you, how "badly I saw you to-day, and 
how painful it is to me not to know where you are at this 
moment ! I hope at Bis, and that you will return by to- 
morrow evening. They say the Comte de Broglie is expected 
here to-morrow morning. It is singular that I should be led 
to concern myself about his return, and to desire it may be 
earlier than his friends themselves desire. Mon, Dieu ! how 
a sentiment, a feeling changes and upsets all ! That " 1 " of 
which F6nelon speaks is a myth. I feel in a positive manner 
that I am not /, I am you ; and in order to be you, I have no 
sacrifice to make. Your interests, your affections, your happi- 
ness, your pleasures, in them, mon ami, is the I that is dear 
to me, that is within me ; all else is external and foreign to 
me; you alone in the universe can hold and occupy ray 



17743 MLLE. DE iLESPINASSE. 109 

being. My thought, my soul can henceforth be filled by you 
alone, and by my harrowing regrets. 

No, it is not when I compare you with myself that I fear, 
that I grieve lest I be not loved. Alas ! it is when I think 
of what I was, and of him by whom I was but to that un- 
speakable happiness I had no claim, and you see now that I 
did not deserve it. Oh 1 how my soul suffers, how painful 
these memories are ! Mon ami, what will Become of me when 
I see you no more, when I await you no more ? Do you be- 
lieve that I could live ? the thought kills me. 

But tell me why I need no courage to die, and yet have not 
the strength to say to myself that a day will come, a moment, 
when you will speak to me a word that will make me shud- 
der. Mon ami, never speak it; it brings evil; that dreadful 
word will be my doom ; if I hear it, I die. 

How can you praise me for loving you ? Ah ! the merit, 
the virtue would have been in resisting the inclination, the 
attraction that drew me to you. But how could I fear, how 
foresee when guarded by a sentiment, by a grief, and by the 
inestimable blessing of being loved by a perfect being ? Mon 
ami, it was this that surrounded my soul, this that defended 
it when you brought into it the turmoil of remorse and the 
heat of passion ; and you piaise me for loving you 1 Ah ' it 
was a crime ; and the excess of it does not justify me. But 
I shall horrify you ; I am like Pyrrhus, and I " yield to the 
crime as a criminal." 

Yes, to love you, or cease to live I know but that one 
virtue and law of nature ; and the feeling is so true, so in- 
voluntary, and so strong, that, in truth, you owe me nothing. 
Ah! how far I am from exacting, from claiming! Mon 
ami, be happy ; find pleasure in being loved, and I acquit 
you. I am beside myself, I cannot speak to you of what I 
feel ; I want to tell you that I have seen the chevalier. He 



110 MTTERS OF [1774 

asked news of you ; he asked if I were satisfied with you ; 
how kind of him ! he wants all my friends to love me as well 
as he does ; could you do that ? He came yesterday and re- 
turned this evening 

So we shall go to Auteuil Thursday ; be punctual to the 
rendezvous at my house from midday to half-past twelve. 
Come, mon aim, come. Be kind, be generous, and give me 
all the moments that are not employed in your pleasures 
and your affairs; I wish, I ought, to come after those. 

1774 

I have four letters to answer ; I have tried to write, but it 
is impossible. My mind is occupied with you. *I do not 
know if I love you, but I feel, only too much, that you 
trouble, you agitate my soul in a painful and sorrowful way 
when I do not see you, or am not buoyed tip by the pleasure 
and activity of expecting you. Mon ami, in the days when 
people believed in witchcraft I should have explained all 
that you have made me experience by saying that you had 
the power to throw a spell upon me which lifts me out of 
myself. But if that were so, if you had that power, how 
cruel I should think you for not prolonging the illusion 
which makes me fancy, at least for a few moments, that 
life could be a blessing. Yes, a blessing I I owe it to 
you that I have tasted that pleasure which intoxicates 
the soul to the point of taking all feelings of pain and 
sorrow from it. 

But ought I to render thanks to you for that ? the charm 
ceases the moment that you leave me ; I find myself again 
overwhelmed by regret and remorse ; the loss that I have 
met with rends me. All that I have read is feeble and cold 
in comparison with the love of M. de Mora; it filled his 
whole life, you can judge, therefore, how it filled mine. 



1774] MLLE . JDE JLESPINASSE. Ill 

Regret for suet a love would suffice to make the sorrow and 
the despair of a tender soul. Ah ' but I suffer more cruelly 
still from the remorse that weighs upon my soul; I see 
myself guilty, I feel myself unworthy of the happiness I 
once enjoyed : I failed a man, the most virtuous, the most 
tender of men; in a word, I failed my own self, I lost my 
own esteem ; judge, therefore, if I ought to claim yours ; and 
if you do not esteem me is there any means of "blinding me 
to the point of believing that you can love me ? 

After this knowledge of myself and the reflections it 
brings with it, do you think there can ever be a creature 
more unhappy ! Ah ! mon ami, that mobility of soul for 
which you blame me, and which I admit, serves me only 
when I see you. It is that which has brought my life to a 
single point : I live in you, and by you ; but, besides that, 
do you know what that mobility does for me ? It makes me 
experience in one hour all the classes of torture which can 
rend and cast down the soul Yes, that is true. I feel 
sometimes the torpor, the .despondency of death, and at the 
same moment the violent convulsions of despair. This mo- 
bility is a secret of nature which makes one live with greater 
force in a single day than the majority of men would feel in 
a lifetime of a hundred years. It is true that this same 
mobility, which is only one curse the more to sorrow, is 
sometimes the source of much pleasure to a calm disposition ; 
it is even, perhaps, a means of being agreeable, because it is 
one way of making vanity enjoy itself and of flattering self- 
love. I have felt a hundred times that I pleased by the 
impression I received of the charms and wit of the persons 
with whom I was; and, in general, I am loved because 
others believe and see that they are making an effect on me ; 
and not because of the effect I make on them. That proves 
both the insufficiency of my mind and the activity of my 



112 LETTERS OF [1774 

soul, and in these observations there is neither vanity nor 
modesty but truth. 

Mon ami, I would like to tell you the secret of my heart 
as to the slight impression you say you made upon me with 
the idea of a separation for four months. Here is what I 
promised myself : to yield wholly to my grief and to the 
invincible distaste that I feel for life. I believed that when 
my soul floated no longer between the hope and the pleasure 
of seeing you, of having seen you, it would have more strength 
than it needed to deliver me from a life that can offer me 
henceforth nothing but regrets and remorse. That, I swear 
to you, is the thought that has filled my mind for the last 
two months ; and this deep and active need to be de- 
livered from my troubles has sustained me and protects 
me still against the grief that your absence would make 
me feel. 

Do not conclude from this that I love you. with much 
passion : no, mon atni ; it proves only that I cling ardently 
to my pleasure, and that this gives me the strength to suffer. 
I have already told you that two sayings are graven on my 
heart, and they pronounce my sentence to love you, to see 
you, or to cease to exist. After that, say all the harm you 
will of my sensibility ; never have I sought to combat your 
ill opinion of me ; I have not thought you severe or unjust. 
You alone in the world have the right to disesteem me and 
to doubt the force and truth of the passion that inspired me 
during five years for him who loved me. 

Four o'clock, 1774. 

I left you last night because I thought I wearied you 
with talking so long of myself ; but listen to me now, be- 
cause it is of you that I wish to speak , but first and above 
all, believe, I entreat you, that I am not seeking to re- 



1774] MLLE BE LESPINASSE US 

proach you , I do not think I have the right to do so, and 
I should be grieved to displease you. The intere&t that I 
bear you makes me suffer from a thousand things that are of 
no account to you ; one must love, to be aware of the harm 
one does to those who love us , the mind alone does not 
give the delicacy with which one ought to treat a sick and 
unhappy souL But exordiums are wearisome; let us come 
to the fact. 

Mon ami, you wish to keep the object of your journey a 
secret from me ; if it is a good object why do you fear to tell 
it to me ? And if this journey will shock my heart, why 
make it ? If you do not owe your love to me, you owe 
it to yourself to be honourable and not deceive me. Never 
do you give me an unreserved confidence ; what you say to 
me seems to escape you, and as if you hardly consented to 
let it do so. You started yesterday, and you did not tell me 
where you were going ; I do not now know where you are ; 
I am completely ignorant of you, and of your actions. 1 Mon 
ami, is that the behaviour of even the commonest friend- 
ship ? And do you believe that I can think without pain, 
that of your own free will you will be twelve days without 
hearing of me ? Do you suppose that I was not distressed 
when, knowing you were about to leave me, you would not 
give me your last evening in Paris ? If you loved me you 
would have seen the hurt you gave me when you told me, 
Saturday evening, that the next day you should spend with 
Mme. d'ArchambaL I did not find a word to say in reply, 
but I suffered. 

1 M. de Guibert had gone to the country-seat of the father of the young 
lady he thought of marrying. The name of the place was Courcelles, 
near Glen, and the name of the lady, who soon after "became the Com- 
tesse de Guibert, was Alexandrine-I^ouise Boutinon des Hays de Cour- 
celles. Her portrait by Greuze is celebrated, and has been in various 
Exhibitions PR ED. 

6 



114 LETTERS o^ [1774 

Eleven o'clock at night, 1774. 

I have no news of you; I hoped for none, and yet I 
awaited some. Ah ! mon Dwu r how can you say that pain is 
no longer in my soul ? I faulted from it yesterday ; I had a 
crisis of despair which gave me convulsions that lasted four 
hours. Mon ami, if I must tell you what I believe, what is 
true, it is that I love you to madness, to the point of believ- 
ing that I never loved better, but I have need of your 
presence to love you; all the rest of my life is spent in 
remembering, in regretting, in weeping. 

Yes, go : tell me that you love another , I desire it, I 
wish it ; I have a wound so deep, so lacerating, that I can 
hope for no relief but that of death. The relief that you 
have given me is like the effect of opium ; it suspends my 
sorrow, but does not cure it , on the contrary, I am feebler 
and more sensitive in consequence. You are right, I am no 
longer capable of love; -I can only suffer. I did find hope in 
you, and I gave myself up to it ; 1 thought that the pleasure 
of loving you would calm my sorrow. Alas ! in vain do I 
flee it , it recalls me incessantly , it compels me ; it leaves me 
but one resource. Ah ! do not speak to me of that which I 
find in society ; society has become to me an intolerable re- 
straint ; and if I could induce M. d' Alembert not to live with 
me, my door would be closed. How can you suppose that 
the productions of the mind would have more empire over 
me than the charm, the consolation of friendship ? I have 
the most worthy friends, the most feeling, the most virtuous. 
Each, in his own way and according to his own tone, would 
fain reach my soul ; I am filled with a sense of so much 
kindness but I remain unhappy: you alone, mon arm, 
have the power to make me know happiness. Alas ! it holds 
me to life while invoking death ' 

But why have you set such value on being loved by me ? 



1-74] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 115 

You had no need of it ; you knew well that you could not 
return it. Have you played with my despair ? Either fill 
my soul, or torture it no longer ; act so that I may love you 
always, or that I may never love you , in short, do the im- 
possible, calm me, or I die. 

At this moment what are you doing ? You are bringing 
trouble into a soul that time was calming ; you abandon me 
to my sorrow. Ah t if you had feeling, you would be to be 
pitied, mon, ami, you would know remorse. But at least, if 
your heart cannot fix itself, devote yourself to your talent, 
occupy yourself, work to some purpose ; for if you continue 
this desultory, restless life, I fear you will some day be re- 
'duced to say, 

" The desire for fame has worn out my soul." 

Saturday, in the evening 

It was not until this morning that I received news of you, 
and I do not know whence or how it came ; certainly not by 
the post. Believe me crazy if you choose, think me unjust, 
in short, what you " please ; but it will not prevent me from 
telling you that I think I never in my life received so sharp, 
so blasting an impression as that your letter made upon me, 
I felt crushed by having ever given to any one the right to 
say to me what I was reading ; and to say it with such ease 
and so naturally that I must conclude the writer was simply 
pouring out his soul in speaking to me, without one thought 
that he insulted me. Oh ! how well you have avenged M. 
de Mora ! How cruelly you punish me for the delirium, the 
distraction that dragged me towards you ! How I detest 
them! 

I will enter into no details ; you have neither enough kind- 
ness nor enough feeling to allow my soul to lower itself 
to complaint ; my heart, my self-love, all that inspires me, 



LETTERS OF [1774 

all that makes me feel, think, breathe, in a word, all that 
is I, is shocked, wounded, and offended forever. You have 
restored to me enough strength, not to endure my sorrow (it 
seems to me greater and more crushing than ever), but to se- 
cure myself from ever again being tortured and made unhappy 
by you. Judge of the excess of my crime and the greatness of 
my loss. I feel, sorrow does not deceive me, that if M. de 
Mora were living and could have read your letter he would 
forgive me, he would console me, and hate you. 

Ah i man Duu J leave me my regrets ; they are a thousand 
times more dear to me than what you call your sentiment ; 
that is dreadful to me ; its expression is contemptuous, and 
my soul repels it with such horror that that alone assures 
me my soul is worthy of virtue. Were you even to think 
that you have done justly by me, I prefer to leave you in 
that opinion rather than enter upon any explanation. The 
matter is ended ; be with me as you can, as you please ; for 
myself, in future (if there is a future for me) I shall be with 
you as I ought always to have been, and, if you leave no 
remorse within my soul, I hope to forget you. I feel that the 
wounds of self-love chill the soul. I do not know why I 
have let you read what I wrote you before I received your 
letter ; you will see there all my weakness ; but you will 
not see all my misfortune : I hoped nothing more from 
you ; I did not seek to be consoled. Then why should I 
complain ? Ah, why I because the patient doomed to death 
continues to expect his doctor; because he lifts his eyes to 
his, still seeking hope, because the last impulse of pain 
is a moan, the last accent of the soul is a cry : that is the 
explanation of my inconsistency, my folly, my weakness. 
Oh ! I am, punished 1 



1774] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE 117 

Eleven o'clock, 1774 

Have the delicacy to cease persecuting me. I have but 
one wish, I have but one need : it is not to see you again in 
private. I can do nothing for your happiness, I know nothing 
with which to console you : leave me therefore, and do not 
any longer take pleasure in torturing my life. I make you 
no reproaches , you suffer, I pity you, and I shall not speak 
to you again of my sorrows. But in the name of that which 
still has some empire over your soul, in the name of hon- 
our, in the name of virtue, leave me, and count no longer 
upon me. If I can calm myself, I shall live ; but if you con- 
tinue to act as you do, you will soon reduce me to the strength 
of despair : spare me the grief and the embarrassment of order- 
ing my door to be closed to you during the hours when I am 
alone. I request you, and for the last time, not to come to 
me except between five o'clock and nine. 

If Mme. de . . . could read my soul, I assure you she 
would not hate me , at the most, I have put a few regrets 
into hers : but you and she have made me feel the tortures 
of the damned, repentance, hatred, jealousy, remorse, con- 
tempt of myself, and sometimes of you in short, all the 
misery of passion, but never that which makes the hap- 
piness of an honourable and sensitive souL This is what 
I owe to you : but I forgive you. If I clung to life I should 
not be so generous ; I should vow to you an implacable ha- 
tred. But soon I shall no more cling to you than I do 
to life, and I wish to employ my soul, my sensibility, all 
that remains to ine of existence in loving, adoring the only 
being who ever truly filled my soul, and to whom I owe 
more happiness and pleasure than almost any one who ever 
walked this earth has felt or could imagine and it is you 
who made me guilty towards that man ! that thought sickens 
my soul ; I turn away from it. I wish to calm myself, and, 



118 LETTERS OF [1774 

if I can, to die. I repeat to you, and it is the last cry of 
my soul to you : in pity, leave me ; if not, you will know 
remorse. 

1774. 

Man Dieu ! now you trouble my life ! you make me pass 
through in one day the most contrary conditions ; sometimes 
I am carried away by passionate emotion , then I turn to ice 
at the thought that you will not respond to me. Then this 
last reflection makes me angry with my own nature, and to 
recover a little calmness, I abandon myself to the heart- 
rending memory of him whom I have lost. Presently my 
soul is filled with gentler feeling , I am in a state to dwell 
on the few moments of happiness that I have tasted in 
loving. All these thoughts, which ought to take me farther 
from you, bring me closer. I feel that I love you, and so 
much that I can have no hope of repose except in death. 
That is my only support, the only help that I expect, the 
need of which I feel in almost all the moments of my life. 

Mon ami, you have shed a balm on the little wound I 
gave myself last night, this proves the truth of what M. 
d'Alembert asserts, that there are circumstances in which 
pain is not pain. Yes, you shall have the Eulogy before 
midnight. I have sent to the Archbishop of Toulouse 
[Lomdnie de Brienne] to return it. Adieu, once more, 
man aim; you cause my silence, my sadness, my unhap- 
piness ; in a word, it is you who give life to my soul, 
and my soul drags me onward. I dare not tell you to what 
point I love you. 

Ten o'clock, 1774. 

You do not care to see me again to-day ; you are sufficiently 
indifferent to me, so that I need not fear to disturb the interests 
tfeat are agitating you. Listen to me, and let us make a com- 
pact with each -other, such as Mme. de Montespan proposed 



1774] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 119 

to Mme. de Maintenon. Being forced to take a rather long 
journey with her tte a tte, "Madame," she said, "let us 
forget .our hatred, our quarrels, and be good company to one 
another." Well ! I say to you : " Let us forget our mutual dis- 
pleasure, and do you be docile enough to bring back to me 
what I asked you for." Yes, it is I who am speaking to you, 
and I am not mad ; at any rate, my madness is of a kind less 
harsh and more unhappy. 

August 25, 1774. 

Yes, mon ami, that which has most force, most power in 
nature, is assuredly passion; it has just imposed upon me 
privation, and it enables me to bear it with a thousand-fold 
more courage than reason or virtue could mspiie. But pas- 
sion is an absolute tyrant; a tyrant that makes slaves of 
those only who hate and treasure, by tuins, their chain, and 
never have strength to break it. ,It commands me to-day 
to pursue a conduct absolutely the contrary to that I have 
prescribed to myself for the last two weeks. I see my own 
inconsistency; I am ashamed of it, but I yield to the need 
of my heart. I find a sweetness in being weak, and though 
you may abuse it, mon ami, I will love you, and will say it 
to you sometimes with pleasure, oftener with pain when I 
think you will not respond to it. 

Listen to all I have suffered since you left me. An hour 
after your departure, I learned that you had hidden from 
me that Mme. de . . . had started the night before. Then 
I believed you had delayed your departure on her account. 
I judged you with a passion the true character of which is 
never to see things as they are. I saw and believed all that 
could distress me most: I was deceived; you were guilty, 
you had come to bid me adieu in the very act of abusing my 
tenderness. That thought roused my soul to indignation, it 
irritated my self-love, I felt myself at the summit of un- 



120 LETTERS OF [1774 

happiness ; I could love you no longer ; I abhorred the mo- 
ments of pleasure and consolation which I owed to you. You 
had snatched me from death, the sole resource, the sale sup- 
poit which I had promised myself when I trembled for the 
life of M. de Mora. You made me survive that dreadful 
moment ; you filled my soul with remorse, and you made me 
experience a greater misfortune still that of hating you ; 
yes, mon ami, hating you. For eight days I was filled by 
that horrible sentiment, although during that time I received 
your letter from Chartres. The need of knowing how you 
were in health made me break a resolution I had formed to 
open no more of your letters. You told me that you were 
well ; you informed me that, in spite of my request, you had 
taken some of my letters, and you quoted a verse from 
" Zaire," which seemed to sneer at my unhappiness ; and 
then what hurt me most of all the regrets expressed in 
the letter seemed vague, and more fitted to relieve your 
soul than to touch mine. In a word, I made poison of all 
you said to me, and more than ever I resolved not to love 
you, and to open no more of your letters. I kept that reso- 
lution, which rent my heart and made me ill. Since your 
departure I am changed and shrunken as if I had had a great 
illness. Ah f this fever of the soul, which rises to delirium, 
is indeed a cruel illness ; there is no bodily frame robust 
enough to bear such suffering. Mon ami, pity me ; you have 
done me harm. 

I received your letter from Bochambeau only 011 Saturday. 
I did not open it, and as I put it away in my portfolio, my 
heart beat violently : but I commanded myself to be strong, 
and I was. Ah ! how much it cost me to keep that letter 
unopened ! how many times I read the address i how often I 
held it in my hands ! at night, even, I felt the need of touch- 
ing it. In the excess of my weakness I told myself I was 



1774] MIXE. DE LESPINASSE. 121 

strong, that I resisted my greatest pleasure, and see my 
sort of madness ' I loved you then more actively than ever. 
Nothing, for six days, could distract my mind from that 
sealed letter ; if I had opened it the moment I received it, 
its impression could not have been so sharp nor so profound. 
At last, at last, yesterday, receiving no letters frojn Chante- 
loup, from which place you had promised to write to me, I 
was struck with the thought that you might be ill at 
Rochambeau, and, without knowing what I was doing, 
nor to what I yielded, your letter was read, re-read, wetted 
with my tears,, before I thought that I was not to read 
it. .Ah 1 mon ami, how much I might have lost ! I adore 
your sensibility. 

What you tell me of Bordeaux opened a wound that is not 
yet closed, and never will be. 1 No, my life will not be long 
enough to mourn and cherish the memory of the most sensi- 
tive, most virtuous man who ever existed. What an awful 
thought 1 I troubled his last days. Fearing to have to com- 
plain of me he exposed his life to come to me, and his last 
impulse was an action of tenderness and passion. I do not 
know if I shall ever recover strength to read again his last 
words. If I had not loved you, mon ami, they would have 
killed me. 1 shudder still ; I see them ; and it is you who 
made me guilty ; it is you who made me live ; it is you who 
brought trouble into my soul ; it is you that I love, that I hate, 
you who rend and charm a heart that is wholly yours. Mon 
ami, do not fear to be sad with me ; that is my tone , sadness 
is my existence ; you alone yes, you alone- have the power 
to change my disposition ; your presence leaves me neither 
memories nor pain. I have experienced that you can divert 
even my physical sufferings. I love you, and all my faculties 
are employed and spell-bound when I see you. 
i M. de Mora died at Bordeaux Tit. 



122 LETTERS OF [1774 

Friday morning, August 26, 1774. 

Mon ami. I was interrupted yesterday. There is so much 
news, so much going and coming, such, joy, that one hardly 
knows whom to listen to. I should like to be glad, but that 
is impossible. A few months ago I should have been trans- 
ported at both the good to be hoped and the evil from 
which we are dehveied ; at the present moment I am glad 
only by thought, and by leflection of the tone of all I see 
and all I hear. You know that M. Tuigot is made controller- 
general [in place of the Abbe* Terrai], he enters the Council ; 
M. d'Angevilliers has the department of buildings, M. de 
Miromesnil is Keeper of the Seals ; the chancellor is exiled 
to Normandy , M. de Sartine has the navy, but they say it is 
only while awaiting the department of M. de la Vnlliere ; 
M. Lenoir is lieutenant of police ;* M. de Fitz-James does not 
go to Bretagne , it is the Due de Penthi&vre who is to hold 
the State Assembly with M. de Fourgueux But I am 
really as piquante as M. Marin, from whom they have taken 
the Gazette to give it to an Abbe* Aumont, because he told 
old news. Not to return to this matter I must add that the 
Baron de Breteuil goes to Vienna, and M. de la Vauguyon 
to Naples. 

Now let us pass to social news. Yesterday M. d'Alem- 
bert had the greatest success at the Academy. I was not a 
witness of it, being too ill ; I had only strength to sit in my 
usual chair. He read his Eulogy on Despr^aux [Boileau] 
and some anecdotes about Fenelon, which they say were 
delightful. I would not listen to them this week, having 
my head full of that letter I did not open. One needs calm- 
ness to listen ; consequently, I listen very little. Mon ami, 
they are printing a life of Catinat : the author is a M. Tuirpiia, 
who did the " Life of the Great OondeV' M. d'Alenabert has 
read it, and from what Le says I judge it will take neither 



1774] MLLE DE USSPINASSE. 123 

the piquancy nor the merit from your ee Eulogy of Catinat ; " 
as soon as it appears I will send it to you. 

I have seen a great deal of Mme. de Boufflers since your 
departure, and I shall either humble or exalt your vanity by 
telling you that she never once named you. If that is 
natural, it is very cold ; if there is a plan, it is very warm. 
We spent an evening with her, we went to the fair together ; 
she came to see me, and we are all going to the catafalque. 
But for my benefit alone are some excellent pine-apples which 
she has sent me, and a letter of four pages on public affairs, 
on the glory with which the Prince de Conti has covered 
himself, and on her step-daughter, not to speak of very 
flattering praises for me. I shall make you die of jealousy 
some day when I read it to you ; but before then you will 
coquet and please and fascinate so many that my successes 
will seem nothing. But, mon ami, why did you not write 
me from Chanteloup ?1 have you already nothing to say to 
me? The post leaves every day, and if it did not, what 
matter ? the letter would be in the post, and you need not 
be a century deprived of the pleasure of talking with one 
who loves you : remark that I dare not say " one whom you 
love." If you arrive Tuesday after the courier from Bor- 
deaux, I shall have to wait till Wednesday, and that is hold- 
ing me in purgatory after keeping me for fifteen days in hell 

If you receive this letter in Bordeaux, as I do not doubt 
you will, I retract and will ask you to go and see that con- 
sul : perhaps I shall thus obtain more details. He will tell 
you of the most lovable, most interesting of beings, whom I 
ought to have loved solely, whom I should never have injured 
if, by a fatality I detest, I had not been unable to escape a 

1 Where M. de Guibert often went, as was then the fashion, to visit the 
Due de Choiseul in his popular exile to his country-seat of that name. 



124 LETTERS OF [1774 

new form of evil for there is little that I have not experi- 
enced. Some day, mon aim, I will tell you things that are 
not to be found in the novels of Provost or Eichardson. My 
history is made up of fatal circumstances which prove to 
me that the true is often the most unlikely. The heroines 
of novels have little to say about their education; mine 
deserves to be written down for its singularity. Some even- 
ing, next winter, when we are very sad and inclined to reflec- 
tion, I will give you the pastime of listening to a written 
paper which would interest you if you found it in a book, 
though it will inspire you with a great horror of the 
human species. Ah ! how cruel mankind are ! tigers are 
kind compared with them. I ought naturally to devote 
myself to hating; I have ill-fulfilled my destiny; I have 
loved much and hated little. Mon D^e'^t, ! mon ami, I am a 
hundred years old; this life of mine which looks to be so 
uniform, so monotonous, has been a prey to all misfortunes, 
exposed to all the villanous passions which stir the un- 
worthy but where am I wandering ? wholly given to you 
whom I love,, who sustain and defend my life, why do I 
cast my eyes on objects which made me detest it ? 

Saturday, August 27, 1774. 

Mon ami, I have no news of you. I said to myself a 
hundred times . " He must have arrived very late ; he would 
not think of the value of a single hour to ma" That 
makes a difference of four days; I am now postponed till 
Wednesday ! Well ! the pains I have taken not to let my 
soul rest on that hope have served for nothing. The courier 
has arrived ; I received three letters ; but I could not read 
them because yours was missing. Mon Dieu ! you are neither 
happy enough nor unhappy enough to experience that feel- 
ing. Mon ami, if I do not hear from you next Wednesday, 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 125 

I will not write to you again. You have done me one wrong, 
but if you do me a thousand more, I here declare to ypu 
that I will not forgive you, and that I shall not love you less. 
You see that I am talking to you of the impossible : the 
logic of the heart is absurd. In God's name, act so that I 
shall never reason more wisely. 

How much you are missed at this moment ! the excite- 
ment is general, 77? on ami. There is this difference between 
my state of mind and that of all the persons I see : they are 
transported with joy at the happiness they foretell, while I 
only breathe the freer for our deliverance from evil. Mon 
Dieu J my soul cannot rise to joy ; it is filled with regrets 
and heart-breaking memories ; it is stirred by a sentiment 
that troubles it; that often gives it violent emotions, but 
very rarely any pleasure. In such a state, public joy is only 
felt by thought and reflection; reasonable pleasures are so 
moderate 1 my friends are displeased that they cannot drag 
me into enthusiasm. * I am very sorry/' I say to them, *' but 
I have no longer the strength to be glad." Nevertheless, I 
am very pleased that M. Turgot has already dismissed a 
scoundrel, the man of the wheat affair [treasurer of the 
king's granaries], I must tell you of a compliment the fish- 
women paid to the king [Louis XVI.] on his fete-day : 
" Sire, we have come to compliment Your Majesty on the 
hunt you had yesterday ; never did your grandfather have a 
better." The Comte de C . . . , who is at Martigny with M. 
de Trudaine, has written me three pages full of enthusi- 
asm and transport. How happy they are ! hope keeps them 
young. Alas ' how old one feels when one has lost it, when 
nothing remains but to escape despair I 

Tell me if you are writing many verses ; if you are getting 
a habit of maleing haste slowly, if you have resolved to do like 
IJacine, who wrote poetry reluctantly. Mon ami, I impose 



126 BETTERS OP [1774 

upon you the pleasure of reading, and re-reading every morn- 
ing a scene of that divine music ; then you must walk about, 
and then compose verses, and with the talent that nature has 
given you to think and feel strongly, I will answer for it 
that you will make very noble ones. But what am I doing ? 
Advising a man who has a great contempt for my taste, who 
thinks me a fool, who has never seen me sensible about any- 
thing, and who, judging me thus, may perhaps be sensible 
himself and show as much accuracy as justice. Adieu, mon 
ami. If you loved me I should not be so modest; I should 
feel I had nothing in all nature to envy. 

I wrote you a volume yesterday to Bordeaux. That name 
is dreadful to me ; it touches the sensitive and painful nerve 
of my soul. Adieu, adieu. 

Monday, August 29, 1774. 

You know that M. Turgot is controller-general, but what 
you do not know is the conversation he had with the king 
on the subject. He had shown some reluctance to accept 
the office when M. de Maurepas offered it to him on behalf 
of His Majesty. The king said to him, " So you do not wish 
to be controller-general ? " " Sire," replied M. Turgot, " I 
must admit to Your Majesty that I should have preferred to 
keep the ministry of the navy, because it is a safer office and 
I could be more certain of doing well in it ; but at such a 
moment as this it is, not to the king I give myself, it is to 
the honest man." The king took both his hands, and said, 
* You shall not be mistaken." M. Turgot added : " Sire, I 
must represent to Y. M. the necessity of economy, of which 
Y. M. ought to set the first example ; the Abb Terrai has no 
(Joubt already said this to Your Majesty." "Yes," replied 
the king, "he has said it, but he has never said it in the 
way that you have." All this is just as if you had heard 
it* for M. Turgat never adds a word to the far utih. This eaoao*- 



1774J MLU5. DE HESPINASSE. 127 

tion of the soul of the king gives great hope to M. Turgot, 
and I think that you will have as much as he. M. de 
Vaines is given the place of M: Leclerc [head-clerk of the 
Treasury} ; but there will be no luxury, no show, no valet 
de chambre, no audience, in a word, the greatest simplicity, 
that is to say, the style of M. Turgot. Yes,. I assure you, 
you are much missed here ; you would have shared the trans- 
ports of the universal joy. People begin to feel the need of 
silence to compose themselves and let them think of all 
the good they expect. The personal interests remain, which 
must always be counted for something. 

The Chevalier d'Aguesseau has just gratified and shocked 
my heart at one and the same time; he knows that you 
were twenty-four hours at Chanteloup, that you are quite 
well, and that you reached Bordeaux on the 22d. After that, 
it was natural that your friends sho-old hear from you on 
Saturday, 27th. I do not complain of the preference that 
you have given them ; but, mon ami, it would be sweet to be 
able to congratulate myself and to thank you for an atten- 
tion I should have felt so much and of which my soul had 
need. Adieu , here are three letters in a very short time. 
If I do not have one from you on Wednesday I believe that 
I shall be able to keep silence. All my friends ask news of 
you with interest, especially M. d'Alembert. 

I think I have not told you of the success of the Chevalier 
de Chastellux in a trip of four days which he has pst made 
to Villers-Cofcterets feountry-seat of the Due d'Orl^ans]. 
He gave six readings there, though he had but four plays 
with him ; he read two of them twice. He thinks- that " Les 
P*6teB.taons " was not much liked ; I scolded the Ar e&bishop 
of Toulouse, who was present, for this. If you knew how he 
justified himself you would die of laughing. The chevalier 
related his successes to nae with much naavete", I rejoiced ; 



128 LETTERS OF [1774 

"but I am sorry to see him looking ill ; I am afraid Ms health 
is seriously threatened. M. Watelet is quite ill with a 
chest affection ; he is taking asses' milk. I am very poorly 
the last few days, hut that is almost my habitual condition ; 
the duration of my trouble takes from me even the consola- 
tion of complaining of it. 

Adieu again. Did I not tell you that I had been to hear 
Millico sing ? He is an Italian. Never, no never was the 
perfection of singing so united with sensibility and expres- 
sion. What tears he made me shed' what trouble he 
brought into my soul ! No singing ever left so deep, so sensi- 
tive, so heart-breaking an impression ; I could have listened 
to him till it killed me. Oh ! how preferable such a death 
to life I 

Thursday, September 5, 1774. 

Perhaps you will never read what I am going to write; 
perhaps, however, you will receive it immediately. The letter 
that I expect Saturday will, I think, decide whether to burn 
what I now write, or send it to you. 

Listen to me : it seems to me that all the passions of my 
soul are calmed , it has returned, it is restored to its first, its 
only object. Yes, mow, ami, I do" not deceive myself ; my 
memories, my regrets even, are dearer, closer, more sacred 
to me than the violent sentiment I have had for you and 
the passionate desire I have had to see you share it. I have 
gathered myself together ; I have re-entered myself ; I have 
judged myself, and you also ; but I have pronounced judgr 
ment on myself only; I have seen that I was seeking the 
impossible, namely : that you should love me. 

By an -unspeakable good fortune, which seldom happens, 
the most tender, the most perfect, the most charming being 
who ever existed gave me, abandoned to me his soul, his 
thought, and all his existence. However unworthy I was 



1774]- MLLE DE LESPINASSE 129 

of his choice and of the gift he made me, I rejoiced in ifc, 
with amazement and transport. When I spoke to him of 
the vast distance which nature had placed between us, I 
grieved his heart ; and he soon persuaded me that all was 
equal between us because I loved him No, never could 
beauty, charm, youth, virtue, merit be flattered and exalted 
to a higher degree than M. de Mora would fain have 
made my vanity enjoy, but he saw my soul; the passion 
that filled it east me far indeed from the enjoyments of 
vanity. I tell you all this, mon ami> not from a weakness 
that would be too silly and too unworthy of the regrets 
which rend my heart, but to justify myself to you yes, 
justify myself. 

I have loved you with transport ; but this cannot excuse 
in your eyes the wish I dared to form of seeing you share 
my feeling ; that pretension must have seemed to you mad- 
ness I I, to fix a man of your age, who joins to all agreeable 
qualities the talents and the wit which must make him an 
object of preference to all the women who have the most 
right to please^ fascinate, and attach ! Mon ami, I am filled 
with confusion in thinking to what a point you must have 
thought my vanity blind and my reason astray. Yes, I 
blame myself sorrowfully: the liking you inspired in me, 
the remorse which tortured me, the passion felt for me by 
M. de Mora, all that combined has led me into an error I 
abhor, for I must confess to you that my thoughts went 
farther still ; I was convinced that you might love me, and 
that conviction, so foolish, so self-conceited, dragged me into 
the abyss. 

'No doubt it is late, too late, to tell myself of my mi&fcakei 
I detest it, and in despising myself I have tried to hate you ; 
in fact, you have excited in me that horrible emotion; I 
have even written to you to that effect; it was the last 



130 I/ETTEHS OF [1774 

result, the last effect of the passion which agitated me. 
I am far from making for myself a merit of the calmness to 
which I have returned ; it is, in fact, another blessing from 
the man I adored. I will not explain to you all that has 
passed within me during the last fifteen days ; sufficient to 
say that I know myself no longer : the thought of you no 
longer fills my mind, and if remorse were not beside my 
grief, I believe the thought of you would be very far away 
from me. Not that I could ever cease to feel a friendship 
for you, and aa interest m your happiness , but this will be 
a tempered feeling, which may, if you respond to it, give me 
many moments of sweetness without ever troubling or tor- 
turing my soul. Oh t with what horrors it has been filled 1 
It seems to me miraculous that I have not succumbed to the 
despair to which I have been brought. But this shock by 
depressing my body has given tone to my soul : it remains 
tender, but it feels no passion. No longer do I feel hatred, or 
vengeance, or Ah, mon Dieu * what word was I about to 
utter ? one that was no more allied to my thought than to 
the memory of M. de Mora. I still owe to him all that my 
heart can feel that is most consoling, most tender, regrets 
and tears All the details that you have sent me have been 
bathed in my tears. I thank you for them ; I owe to you a 
sensation which I prefer to all pleasure that does not come 
from my thoughts of M. de Mora. 

I have read and re-read yoxir letters, that from Bordeaux, 
and that of the 8th from Montauban. I pity you sincerely 
for being so agitated and tormented without any absolute 
reason for it ; but vague troubles are fugitive, at least I hope 
so, for I desire your peace and happiness with all my soul. 
I cannot trouble either the one or the other, though your 
delicacy may make you suffer for the harm you have done 
me. I forgive it from the "bottom of my heart ; forget it, 



1774] MLLE DE LESFINASSE. 131 

never speak to me about it, and leave me to believe that 
you think me more unhappy than culpable. You are not 
obliged to believe me, and I have lost the right of convinc- 
ing you ; but I shall still venture to say with Jean-Jacques, 
" My soul was never made for degradation." The strongest 
passion, the purest, inspired it too long; he who was the 
object of that passion was too virtuous; his soul was too 
great, too lofty to let him desire to reign in mine, if mine 
had been abject and contemptible. His prepossession, his 
passion for me raised me to his level. Mow, Dwu! how I 
have fallen 1 how sunken I am ! but he never knew it. My 
misery is dreadful ; he would have shared it. He died for 
me. I should have made him live unhappy. Oh, my friend ! 
if in the region of the dead you still can -hear me, be tender 
to my sorrow, my repentance. I have been guilty, I have 
wronged you, but my despair, has it not expiated my crime ? 
I have lost you : I live, yes, I live ; is not that being punished 
enough ? 

Forgive me the impulse that has led me to "hi-m whom I 
fain would follow. Adieu. If I receive a letter from you 
on Saturday I will add a few words ; but I forgive you in 
advance for whatever you may say that is offensive to me ; 
aoid I retract, with the strength and reason that remain to 
me, all that I have written in the convulsions of despair. 
It is now that I place in your hands my true profession 
of faith; I promise and pledge myself to exact no more 
and expect no more from you. If you preserve to me 
your friendship I shall enjoy it with peace and gratitude ; if 
you do not think me worthy of it I shall grieve, but I shall 
not consider you unjust. Adieu, mon ami ; it is friendship 
that now employs that word ; it is the dearer to my heart 
now that it can no longer trouble it. 



132 3LETTEKS OF [1774 

Saturday, eleven o'clock at night. 

Here is your answer : it is such as I could have wished, 
cold and restrained. Mon ana, we shall now understand 
each other ; my soul is in the key of yours ; my letter did 
not offend you ; you have judged , marvellously well ; you 
have had over me the advantage of a reasonable man over 
an impassioned nature. You had coolness, I had frenzy, but 
it was the last paroxysm of a dreadful malady, of which one 
had better die than recover, because the violence of these fits 
of fever blasts and lays low the strength of the unhappy 
patient but enough, too much, no doubt, on what you call 
my " injustice " and your ee delicacy." Mon atm, do you 
know what is delicate ? It would have been to suppress the 
six or seven pages you had written me before you received 
my letter. 

What superiority reason has over passion ! how it rules 
conduct ! It brings and sheds peace on all } in a word, it is 
so decorous, so circumspect, that I ought to thank you to-day 
for what you have said and what you have not said to me. 
Mon ami, your Friday letter is amiable ; it is gentle, obliging, 
reasonable , it has the tone and charm of confidence ; but it 
is sad, and I am sorry if that is the disposition of your soul. 
I have not in me the wherewithal to rouse you ; I have not 
even the strength to talk with you to-night. Adieu ! you 
expect no further news of me, do you ? 

Monday evening, September 19, 1774 

I wish to write to you. I want to answer you ; if I miss 
to-morrow's courier I must wait till Saturday; meanwhile 
my soul is dead. I have just re-read your letter ; I thought 
it would revive me, but not so. ... I feel an awful sterility 
within me, and if I were to let myself go this is how I 
should answer you : " All the reflections that you make on 



1774] MIXE DE LESPINASSE 133 

your present situation are very reasonable ; but if you con- 
cern yourself about the future you are even more sure to find 
subjects for hope than motives for fear. It seems to me 
that men of merit never had finer chances before them; 
with virtue, ideas, and talent they can pretend to anything. 
This is not the moment for discouragement , on the contrary, 
they should come forward now with confidence, not to seek 
favours, but to make themselves known and to get justice 
done to them." 

With regard to the late complete upsetting in the domains 
[the matter of " farms " and farmers-general], I find it diffi- 
cult to believe that M. Turgot will, in any respect, follow or 
execute the projects of the Abb<5 TerraL If, however, the 
impossible happens, and he should choose to carry out that 
plan, M. de Vaines will be in the way of doing you service. 
He will do the impossible to oblige you ; he has a particular 
attraction towards you ; I never see him that he does not 
ask for news of you ; the day of your departure I received a 
note from him in which were these words : " I entreat you 
to send me news of yourself and of M, de Guibert, who 
greatly interests those who love a frank and ardent soul that 
springs on all sides towards glory." I wanted to send you 
these words, and then I was deterred by an interest that does 
not allow of words. You ought to write to M. de Vaines ; 
not on his good fortune, for it is just the reverse , he has 
sacrificed his own interests to his friendship for M. Turgot 
and his love for the public good , in a word, he was led away 
by his desire to assist in that good ; he has had the activity 
of virtue ; but now that a little calmness has returned he 
sees himself burdened with a sad labour. 

I do not contend against your projects for the future, it 
does not exist for me ; from that you will rightly believe that 
rouse myself to foresee or fear for others. In gen.- 



134 LETTERS OF [1774 

eral, I think you would do best not to marry ic the provinces. 
That would be a way, of course, to settle your uncertainties, 
but it would also be a misfortune to deprive yourself of the 
greatest blessing, which is hope. Mon ami, I cannot con- 
ceive why you have not strength enough to bear ill-fortune. 
Paris is the place in the world where one can be poor with 
the least privations ; none but fools and tiresome people 
need to be rich. You see now that it was folly to think 
you must make the tour of the world in order to write a 
good work. Begin it now } and before it is finished you may 
be rich enough to travel. In short, I want you to regard the 
lack of fortune as a contrariety, not a misfortune. Mon ami, 
if I looked down from the moon I should prefer your talent 
to the wealth of M Beaujon ; I should better like the love 
of study than the post of grand-equerry of France. In 
other words, being condemned to live, and not being able to 
choose the life of a worthy Normandy farmer, I should ask 
to have the mind and talent of M. de Guibert , but I should 
wish to be inspired to make more use of them. 

What you tell me of the children of your sister is full of 
interest and feeling ; but, mon ami, here you are again tor- 
menting yourself about the future. They are well at present, 
those children ; you see what they have lost, and that worries 
you. The future of the little boy is less embarrassing ; you 
know better than I that the education of a provincial college 
is ]ust as good and just as bad as that of a college in Paris ; 
and then, mon ami^ if he enters a regiment at sixteen it is 
all the same whether he has been brought up in Bordeaux 
or in Paris. What false ideas we have on the first interest 
of life happiness ! Ah ! good God ! is it in sharpening the 
mind, is it in widening ideas, that the happiness of individu- 
als is made ? though both are useful in general But why 
must your nephew be made happy in your way ? I feel 



1774] MLLE BE LESPINASSE. 135 

that I am replying very stiffly, very stupidly, to the details 
into which your friendship and confidence niade you enter ; 
but what can I do ? Nothing comes to me , my soul is a 
desert, my head as empty as a lantern. All that I say, all 
that I hear, is utterly indifferent to me , I can say to-day, like 
the man who was blamed u for not killing himself, since he 
was so detached from life, " I do not kill myself because it 
is all the same to me whether I live or die." That is not 
quite true with me, however, for I suffer, and death would be 
a relief ; but I have no energy. 

September 20, 1774 6 o'clock in the morning. 

To compensate for the flatness and dryness of my letter of 
last night, it occurs to me to send you two little folios of Vol- 
taire and the " Eulogy on La Fontaine," which 1 have read with 
as much pleasure as I should have had in listening to them. 
Notice that I do not praise to exaggeration, therefore you are 
free to have your own opinion and to think detestable what 
I thought good. An edict is to be issued within a few days 
on the domestic commerce in grains ; it will state its causes : 
that is a new system, and it seems to me it will certainly 
please the multitude; but knaves and partisans will still 
find something to criticise. 

It was said yesterday that the archbishopric of Cambrai 
would be given to Cardinal de Bernis and that the Due 
de La Rochefoucauld would go as ambassador to Rome. 
Perhaps the Abb de Vdry may be first appointed, but 
only to get him made a cardinal and prepare the way for 
M. de La Rochefoucauld ; that was the talk of yesterday 
at my fireside, and if I were to name to you the persons 
present you would see that if that news does not become 
true, it was at least not absurd. The Chevalier de Chas- 
tellux, whom I often see, but always* on the run, has no 



136 LETTERS OE [1774 

time to ask me news of you ; lie is busier, more dissipated, 
more in the suite of all the princes than ever. To-day he 
is in the country ; he will hear news of you there ; with 
tact and knowledge of the ways of the world a man is 
always in the tone and thought of those he is with. 

M. d'Alembert and all your friends speak to me often of 
you , they address themselves to me to hear about you , but 
it is I who must have recourse to them in future, must I 
not ? Ah ! mon Dieu ! how ciazy passions are ! and how 
stupid ! Tor the last fifteen days I feel the greatest horror 
at them. But I must also be just and admit that in adoring 
calmness and reason I scarcely exist ; I have strength to feel 
only my utter annihilation : my body, my soul, my head, all 
myself is in a state of exhaustion ; and that state is not very 
painful, although it is new to me. 

Grood-night, mon ami ; for though it is morning I have not 
yet slept. No one, I think, has thought of writing about 
sleep, about its influence on the mind and on the passions. 
Those who study nature ought not to neglect that interesting 
part of the life of the unhappy- Alas ! if they only knew 
how much the privation of sleep can add to other woes 1 In 
approaching those who suffer, those who are unhappy, the 
first question asked should be, " Do you sleep ? " the second, 
" How old are you ? " 

Begun Thursday, September 22, 1774. 

Mon ami, if I still had passion, your 'silence would kill 
me; and if I had only vanity it would wound me and I 
should hate you with all my strength. Well ! I live, and 
I hate you no longer. But I shall not conceal that 
I see with grief, though without astonishment, that it was 
my impulsion that led you on you were forced to answer 
me. You do not know what to say to me now, when you be- 
lieve that my feeling has ceased; you feel no regret, and you 



1774} MJLLE DE L.ESPINASSE. 137 

find nothing in you which gives you the right to reclaim what 
you have lost. Well, mon arm, I am sufficiently calm to be 
just ; I approve of your conduct, though it grieves me ; I es- 
teem you for allowing nothing to take the place of truth. 
And, in fact, of what could you complain ? I have relieved 
you ; it is dreadful to be the object of a feeling we do not 
share ; we suffer, and we make the other suffer : to love and 
to be loved is the happiness of heaven ; when one has 
known it and lost it, what remains but to die ? 

There are two things in this life that do not admit of medi- 
ocrity poesy and . . * But I do not deceive myself ; the 
feeling that I had for you was not perfect. First, it caused 
me to blame myself, it cost me remorse ; and then I 
know not if it was the trouble in my conscience that over- 
threw my soul and changed, absolutely, my manner 
of being and of loving I was ceaselessly agitated by 
feelings I condemned, I felt jealousy, disquietude, dis- 
trust ; I blamed you incessantly ; I imposed a law upon 
myself to make no complaint , but that coercion was 
dreadful to me ; in short, that way of loving was so 
foreign to my soul that it became a torture. Mon ami, 
I loved you too much, and not enough. Thus we have 
both gained by the change that has been wrought in 
me, and which was neither your work nor mine. I saw 
clear for a moment, and in less than half an hour I felt 
the end of pain, L became extinct, and then I resuscitated, 
"What is inconceivable is that on coming to myself, I 
found only M. de Mora . . . the faintness that came 
upon my brain had obliterated the traces of all else. You, 
mon ami, who, fifteen minutes earlier filled all my thoughts, 
never once re-entered my mind for twenty-four hours ; and 
then I saw that my sentiment was only a memory. 

I remained thus several days without recovering the 



138 LETTERS OF [1774 

strength to suffer or to love, until at last I regained the 
degree of reason which enables us to estimate all things 
at nearly their true value, and made me feel that, if I could 
hope for no pleasure, there was little misfortune left for me 
to fear. I have recoveied calmness, but I do not deceive 
myself : it is the calm of death ; and before long, if I live, 
I can say, like that man who lived alone for thirty years and 
had never read anything but Plutarch, when they asked him 
how he felt, " Almost as happy as if I were dead. " Mon 
aim, that is my state of mind ; nothing that I see, that I hear, 
nothing that I do or have to do, can rouse my soul to an emo- 
tion of interest , that manner of existing has hitherto been un- 
known to me. There is but one thing in the world that does 
me good ; it is music : but it is a good which others would 
call pain. I long to hear a dozen times a day that air which 
rends me, and puts me in possession of all that I mourn : 
J*ai perdu mon Eurydice . . . 

I go constantly to the " Orpheus and Eurydice " [Gluck's 
opera], and I am there alone Last Tuesday I told my friends 
that I intended to pay visits, but I shut myself up in a box. 
On returning home that evening I found a note from the 
Comte de Crillon telling me that he had had a letter from 
you the evening before. I waited till the next day and 
fortunately found him at Mme. Geoffrm's. He read me 
your letter ; you spoke of me, and did so three times ; that 
was kind, but very much colder than if you had not named 
me at all. However, mon ami, I am content; it is just 
what I wish of you. Mon Dieu ! why should I be hard to 
satisfy I, who can no longer love except with a reason- 
ableness and a moderation hitherto unknown to me? 

I have seen M. Turgot and spoken to him about what you 
fear as to the domains. He told me that no course had been 
decided on as yet ; that M. de Beaumont, intendant of 



1774] MLLE DE LESMNASSE 139 

finances, was engaged on the matter, and that meanwhile the 
companies created by the Abb6 Terrai were forbidden to act. 
M. Turgot added that as soon as he was informed by M. de 
Beaumont, he would tell me if anything was planned or 
decided in relation to the domains ; but he could now say, in 
general, that the greatest respect would be shown to property. 
I did not stop there : I spoke of your affair to M. de Vaines, 
and he answered me clearly : " Tell him to be easy ; the Abb 
Terrai's project will never be cariied out by M. Turgot; I 
answer for that." There, mon ami, are the answers of two 
men which ought to reassure you ; though they are not alike, 
they mean, it seems to me, the same tlimg. I send you the 
verdict of which I have already told you , I add to it a letter 
from M. de Condorcet, which I think so good that I have had 
it copied. Mon ami, do not thank me for the pains I have 
taken to send you what pleases .me : it is not done foi your 
sake ; it is to hear you spoken of ; for I still retain much lik- 
ing for your mind, which is excellent and very natural. 
Adieu. 

Friday, September 23, 1774 

Mon ami, I make you a victim ; I write to you so much 
that I oppress you. It is the only occupation that makes me 
believe I still live ; and, though I think that to be quite dead 
is a better state, I find, while suffering, a certain sweetness in 
turning toward you. If you do not understand me you will 
hear me at any rate, and answer me, for it is very sad to 
have no letters from you. Here are two couriers missed, 
Monday and Wednesday, and it is I who have done myself 
that harm ; for, without loving me, you would certainly have 
continued to write to me punctually. Ah! good God I* to 
what excess I have been carried 1 I loved you and hated you 
with fury. It was only the last transport of a soul about to 
vanish forever and in truth I have not felt it since ; I do 



LETTERS OF 



^ot know what has become of it. I thought you would have 
Britten on Wednesday to M. d'Alembert ; iny first words on 
corning home that evening weie to ask him if he had had a 
letter ; he said he did not know for he has the excellent 
habit of not opening his letters till the next morning. I S0 on 
knew that he had received none from you, and my suffering 
increased so much that I was obliged to take an anodyne, and 
then, by dint of reason and arguments, I came, not to care 
no longer, but, at least, to cease to torture myself. 

You know that M. de Muy, minister of war, is to marry in 
a few days Mme. de Saint-Blancai d, a German chanoinesse 
whom you may have known during the late war. They say 
she is amiable, has been pretty, and loves M. de Muy. This 
marriage gives me a very good opinion of him; it is an 
excellent employment of his wealth. The Comte de Broghe 
is at Euffec , is that very far from Montauban ? I should be 
sorry to have you go there ; he would agitate your mind and 
give you no help in bringing to good conclusion the projects 
of fortune he would put into your head. Mon ami, you 
should fix your thoughts, you ought to see much of M. de 
Muy. He must know you, and if he has intelligence he will 
seek the aid of your ideas and your talents. Above all, bring 
back with you your father; his presence will be useful to you, 
and besides, if his fortune is capable of amelioration he ought 
to show himself; no one seeks the merit that conceals itself, 
I strongly applaud the horror you feel at provincial life 
but the country is not provincial, I would rather live in a 
village among the peasantry than in a town like Montauban 
and the good company of that society. But, mon Dieu ! in 
Paris how many provincial towns there are ! how many fools 1 
how many sham importants." Good is so rare everywhere 
that T am not sure if it is not a great misfortune to have known 
it, and to have made it one's " daily bread" 



1774] MIXE. BE LESPINASSE. 141 

We may say of the habit of living with persons of intellect 
and high merit what M. de La Rochef oucauld said of the Court : 
" It does not make us happy, hut it prevents us from finding 
happiness elsewhere ; " that is precisely what I feel now every 
time I find myself in society. 

My friend, guess if you can hut I must tell you it is no 
happiness, no pleasure, not even a consolation to be loved, 
even deeply loved by any one who has very little mind. Ah ! 
how I hate myself for not being able to love that which is 
excellent ! how difficult to please I have grown ! But is it 
my fault ? see what an education I have received. Mme. du 
Deffand (because for intellect she must be cited) President 
H6nault, the Abb6 Bon, the Archbishop of Toulouse, the Atch- 
bishop of Aix, M. Turgot, M. d'Alembert, the Abbe* de Bois- 
mont, M. de Mora, those were the persons who taught me to 
think and speak, and who deigned to consider me as some- 
thing : after that, how could I turn my thoughts to being 
loved by . . . ? But, mow, ami, do you think people can 
love when they have little or no mind ? I know very well 
that you think me crazy or imbecile ; but what does that 
matter ? I had it on my heart to say to you what I have just 
said. Good-night : I keep a little place in my letter to tell 
you to-morrow that I have no news from you. Mbn ami, 
forgive me, but that seems impossible. 

Saturday, after post time. 

You are ill, you have fever ! Ah I mon ami, it is not my 
interest that this news awakens; it is my terror I think 
that I bring evil to all I love. Oh ' mon Dieu / if I must 
fear again, if I must again feel the terrors and the despair 
that consumed two years of my life, why did you then -pre- 
vent me from dying ? You did not love me, but you chained 
me I If on Monday I do not hear from you . . . 



142 LETTERS OF [1774 

Monday, September 26, 1774. 

Mon am^ > I desired all day yesterday to write to you, but 
strength failed me. I was in a state of suffering which, has 
taken from me the power to speak and act. I cannot eat; 
the words food and pain are synonymous to me now. But 
it is of you I wish to speak, it is with you that my mind is 
occupied, for you that I am anxious. I see you ill ; I reproach 
myself for having caused you some moments of sadness ; 
without flattering myself that you attach much interest 
either to my f eelings or to me, I know that I have troubled 
your peace of mind, and I am greatly distressed. Mon ami, 
it is you who taught me to grieve and torture that which I 
love.' Ah ! I have been cruelly punished for it ! and if 
heaven reserves for me . . . Ah * my blood freezes, I will 
sooner die. That thought is more dreadful than the most 
violent death could ever be You say you wish never to 
wake, and it is to me that you confide your disgust of life. 
How different were the words that he wrote me when dying : 
*' T was about to see you again, and I must die 1 what a dread- 
ful fate 1 but you have loved me, and you nil me still with 
tender feeling, I die for you ..." 

Mon ami, I cannot transcribe those words without bursting 
into tears ; the feeling that dictated them was the tenderest 
and most impassioned that ever was; misfortune, absence, 
illness, nothing could shake or chill that soul of fire. Ah ! 
I thought to die yesterday on reading a letter from M. de 
Fuent&s [M. de Mora's father]. He tells me that his sorrow 
has not allowed him as yet to look at anything that was 
dear to his' son ; that he will always preserve for me the' 
warmest and tenderest gratitude for the proofs of affection 
whddi I have at all times given to M. de Mora ; that I have 
dtappoited him under his affliction, and that he would gladly 
return at the cost of his life all that his son owed to me. 



1774] MIXE. DE L.ESPINASSE. 143 

He adds that lie ventures in his name, the name of the son 
he mourns, to ask me for a favour, namely: to induce M. 
d'Alembert, who was once his friend, to write a funereal 
eulogy in honour of his son's memory, which would be the 
consolation of his few remaining years, and which he could 
read to his family as an honourable record and a source of 
encouragement in virtue to his other children. And this 
touching entreaty ends in tears. Ah ! how many it made 
me shed. I do not fear to weary you with a narrative 
which would not be cold in a novel Mon Dieu ! I adore M. 
de Fuentfes ; he was worthy of having such a son. What a 
loss for him and for all who loved that son I and yet we live 1 
His father, his sister, and I, we would have been too foitu- 
nate had we died at the moment he was taken from us. Ah i 
my friend, have pity for me ! You alone in the world can 
bring some sentiments of comfort and consolation to a soul 
that is mortally wounded. 

I feel that your presence would have lightened the load 
with which I am crushed ; now that I see you no longer I 
am lost in the wilderness ; my soul is driven to excesses, as 
you saw by the violence I put into my conduct to you. Mon 
ami, replace me in the right way. Be my guide, if you wish 
me to live. Do not abandon me. I dare not say to you, I love 
you ; I know not if I do. Judge me in the trouble in which 
I live. You know me better than I know myself. I know 
not whether it is you or death that I implore : I have need 
of being succoured, of being delivered from the misery that is 
killing me. Mon aim, if I do not have news from you to-day, 
or at least hear some, I know not how I can wait till Wednes- 
day. Mon Dieu I can you conceive, can you attain to an 
idea of what I feel, of all I suffer ? Could any one believe 
that I ever knew calmness ? Mon ami, it is true that I lived 
for twenty-four hours apart from all thought of you; after 



144 LETTERS OF [1774 

which I was many days in total apathy , I lived, but it seemed 
to nie I was be&ide my own self. I remembered having had 
a soul that loved you , I saw it afar, but it inspired me no 
longer. Alas I if you are as indifferent as that " unfortu- 
nate being who loves nothing," you will not understand me ; 
if this language does not go to your soul that soul is deadly 
cold ; it will then be for me to pity you for the weariness I 
have caused you. 

Good-bye 3 I will not close my letter until after the post- 
man comes. Mon ami, do not take too much quinine; it 
injures the chest, and when one is cured too quickly of a 
fever, obstructions nearly always appear elsewhere , remem- 
ber that you are not free to neglect your health ; my peace, 
my life depend upon it. Mon ami, tell me if I love you ; 
you ought to know I, I know myself no longer , for exam- 
ple, at this moment I feel that I passionately long for news 
of you, but I feel also, in a most urgent manner that I need 
to die. I suffer from head to foot. My soul is uplifted and 
my body faints; from this lack of harmony misery results, 
and well-nigh madness But I must stop. Adieu ; would 
that I could go to meet the postman. 

4 o'clock. The postman has arrived. M. d'Alembert has 
no letter, although the courier from Montauban comes on 
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Mon arm, I am very 
unhappy ; either you are very ill, or you are very cruel to 
leave me in such anxiety. You know if my health, my con- 
dition, can bear this increase of trouble and pain. Ah ! mon 
Dieu ! what shall I do, what will become of me till Wednes- 
day ! I will send to the Chevalier d'Aguesseau. 

Friday, in the evening, September 30, 1774 

Mon ami, you kept me from dying, yet you kill me by 
leaving me in a state of anxiety which convulses my soul. 



1774] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE 145 

I have no news of you ; nor has the Chevalier d'Aguesseau ; 
and he has been to all the persons who might, perhaps, have 
had some. Ah 1 mon Dieu I how little I knew myself 1 how 
mistaken I was when I told you that my soul was forever 
closed to happiness, to pleasure, that it could now know 
nothing but dull misery, and that I had no longer anything to 
fear. Alas ' I cannot breathe since Wednesday I see you 
ill, T have an inward terror that alarms me What a dread- 
ful state of things you are making rne endure 1 these 
Wednesdays, these Saturdays, horrible days which have 
made the hope and the despair of my life for two consec- 
utive years i 

But can you be ill enough to have forgotten that you are 
loved with passion ; and if you have remembered it why 
have you failed to write to me ? Surely you knew it was 
delivering my soul to mortal agony to thus make me fear for 
you. Man ami, if you could have spared me what I suffer, 
you are very guilty } and it seems to me that such a wrong 
ought now to cure me. But oh ! my G-od ' are we free ? 
Can I calm and chill myself according to my will, and ac- 
cording perhaps to yours ? Ah ! I can only love you and 
suffer , that is the emotion, the sentiment of my heart , I can 
neither stop it nor excite it, but I long to die. I have 
thoughts which are an active poison , but it is not rapid 
enough. If I hear to-morrow that you are ill, but receive no 
letter, I shall have lived too long. No, it is impossible, you 
have surely thought of me ; I wait therefore, but in trem- 
bling and with an impatience never felt except by a soul as 
impassioned as it is unhappy. Ah T Diderot was right : none 
but the unhappy know how to love. But, mon ami, this will 
not soothe you if you suffer ; and if you are calm you will 
not value it, Well ! I love you, and I do not need your feel- 
ing for my heart to give itself, to abandon itself to you. 

10 



146 LETTERS CTff [1774 

All that the Abb Terrai did, or planned to do in the mat- 
ter of the domains is null and void ; all has been destroyed, 
rescinded, nullified ; you may be as easy about your father's 
property as you were ten years ago. M. Turgot assured me 
of this yesterday ; he asked me for news of you, and re- 
proached himself for not having yet had a moment in which 
to answer persons to whom he could not bring himself -to 
write office letters. M. de Yaines charged me to recall him 
to your recollection ; he is absolutely crushed by his work ; 
they have so much to repair and to foresee that they have 
not a moment in which to breathe. The Abb Terrai is or- 
dered to replace in the royal treasury the hundred thousand 
crowns he had taken by anticipation on the leasing of farms ; 
M. Turgot has declared that he does not wish for the fifty 
thousand francs which come to him yearly, by law, from 
those leases ; he has reduced himself in the same way on all 
sides, which gives him courage to make reforms of the sme 
kind in the offices dependent on him. He is an excellent 
man , and if he can remain in office he will become the idol 
of the nation : he is fanatical for the public good, and he 
spends all his strength for it. 

Saturday, after the postman 

I was interrupted. I have received your letter, mon awi; 
you are well , that is enough to live for. Alas ! I know not 
how to answer you. The shocks that you give my soul are 
too violent for words. Mon ami, all that I can say to you is 
that your letter is charming through the tone of tenderness 
and confidence which reigns there ; it is honourable and 
true as your own soul ; and though it does not answer mine 
on all points, that is not your fault, and I do not complain 
of it. Alas, no 1 I am satisfied with you ; but I say with 
Ph&dre, " \ have taken to life a hatred, and to my love a 
horror," 



1774] MIXE. T>E LESPINASSE 147 

Oh. 1 if you knew how I detest myself, and what reason I 
have to do so ! Truth is in my heart, and I must ever re- 
proach myself for usurping the esteem and the sentiments 
that are given to me. During this late time I fell into a 
state that alarmed my friends ; they ascribed it to my sense 
of the loss that I have met with, and thus they honoured it ; 
whereas, the alarm you caused me diverted my mind from 
those regrets that had hitherto rent my souL So, though 
dying of grief, I am unworthy of the sentiments I inspire. 
Do you conceive the full horror of my situation ? Do you 
believe that it is in human nature to bear it long ? Where 
shall I find courage against such sorrow ? "Who will share 
it with me ? Who can have compassion upon so much 
misery ? Well I I say to my heart and I feel it, I do not 
deceive myself if M. de Mora could live again he would 
understand me, he would love me, and I should have no 
more remorse, no more suffering. Ah I that feeling ought to 
show you what I have lost 1 Hon ami> why have you not 
written to me by the last two couriers ? Why do you not 
answer me and say, " I reply to your letter of such a date " ? 
We ought to come to some agreement ; a troubled head 
needs to be spared. Mon ami, consider me as one attacked 
by mortal illness ; and give me the cares, the indulgence, we 
have for the dying ; that will have no harmful consequences 
to your happiness. I bind myself by all that I hold most 
sacred, by the memory of M. de Mora, never to trouble you, 
to exact nothing from you ; and after this letter of yours, 
which is such that my heart thanks you for it, you could 
never deceive me, I could never complain , and if I did show 
grief, you would be feeling enough to hear me without im- 
patience. 

Adieu, I do not answer your letter , in the confusion of 
my thoughts, in the trouble T am in, I feel but one thing : I 



148 LETTERS OF [1774 

live and I have lost "Him who loved me. Mon ami, if it does 
not constrain you too much, write to me by every courier ; I 

need it. 

Monday, October 3, 1774. 

Ah ! mon ami, my soul is sick. I have no words, I have 
only cries. I have read, I have re-read, I shall read a hundred 
times your letter. Ah 1 my friend, what blessings and what 
evils united ' what pleasure mingled with the cruellest bitter- 
ness ! The reading of that letter increases and redoubles the 
agitations of my heart ; I can no longer calm myself. You 
have charmed and rent my soul alternately , never did I find 
you more lovable, more worthy of being loved, and never 
have I been so penetrated with deep and poignant and bitter 
sorrow at the memory of M de Mora. Yes, I fainted under 
it, my heart was oppressed, I wandered in rny thoughts all 
night ; so violent a state must surely annihilate me, or drive 
me mad. Alas 1 I fear neither : if I loved you less, if my 
regrets were less dear to me, with what delirious joy, with 
what transport would I deliver myself from the life that is 
crushing me I Ah t never, never did any creature survive 
such torture, such despair. 

Mon ami, why do we make poison of the only good that is 
in Nature, the only good that men have not been able to spoil, 
nor yet corrupt ? The whole world is estimated and paid by 
money ; consideration, happiness, friendship, even virtue, are 
bought, paid, and rated at their weight in gold ; there is but 
one thing high above opinion, one thing remaining spotless 
like the sun, which has its heat, which vivifies the soul, 
enlightens it, sustains it, makes it stronger, greater. Ah ! 
mon ami, need I name that gift of Nature ? But when it 
does not make the happiness of the soul it fills, we must die 
oh, yes ! die 1 I needed that, I yielded to it ; but you were 
cruel 1 Ah ! what have you done with the life you saved ? 



1774] MIXE. DE MJSPINASSE. 149 

Filled it with trouble and tears I added to a frightful misfor- 
tune the torture of remorse ! made me detest every instant 
of my life ! and yet you have bound me to it by an interest 
that consumes my heart and which, twenty times a day, pre- 
sents itself to my thoughts as a crime I Ah ' mon Dieu ! I 
am guilty, yet heaven is witness that nothing was dearer to 
my heart than virtue and to say that it was not you who 
led me astray ! What ? you believe that it was I alone who 
cast myself into that abyss ? I am not to impute to you 
either my faults or my misfortunes ? Oh ! I wanted to expi- 
ate them, I saw the termination of my woe ; in hating you I 
became stronger than death. By what fatality, and why have 
I returned to you ? Why did the fear of your illness thus ener- 
vate my soul ? Why do you rend me and comfort me at the 
same moment ? Why this fatal mixture of pleasure and pain, 
of balm and poison ? 

AH this acts with too much violence on a soul that passion 
and misfortune have overwrought ; all this is completing the 
destruction of a body exhausted by illness and loss of sleep. 
Alas ! I said to you, in the extremity of my trouble, " I know 
not if it be you or death that I implore ; " it is by you, or by 
death that I must be relieved, or cured forever all the 
world, all Nature can do nothing for me. 

Alas ! does there remain to me one prayer, one desire, one 
regret, one thought of which you and M. de Mora are not the 
object ? Mon ami, I thought my soul extinct ; I told you this 
and I found sweetness in such repose. But ah, good God 1 
how fugitive that feeling was ! it was only the effect of opium 
prolonged. Well ! I will recover my reason or I shall lose 
it wholly. But tell me, how is it possible that I have 
not yet spoken to you of yourself, that I have not said 
how I fear a return of your fever; and that I hope for 
news to-day as the post is not ia ? Adieu, mon ami ; your 



150 LETTEBS OF [1774 

gentleness, your truth have filled my heart with tenderness 
and sensibility. 

Monday evening. 

I have a line from you and only a line ; but it tells me that 
you are without fever, and thus it has tranquillized me. But 
you are anxious about your sister ; and so am I, for I am so 
near to all that touches you. I, too, have fever : the paroxysm 
of suffering last night has affected my blood and my pulse ; 
but do not be uneasy, death never comes so opportunely ; the 
unhappy do not die, and they are too feeble, too cowardly, 
when they love, to kill themselves. I shall live, I shall suffer, 
I shall await not happiness, not pleasure what ? Mon 
ami, it is to you I speak ; answer me. . . . 

Do you not think that your heedlessness is rather danger- 
ous ? You write to me and do not seal your letter ; I send 
you its envelope that you may not doubt me. The Pope 1 is 
dead of an illness that arouses very frightful suspicions. 
Good-night, mon ami. My head is heavy and I feel more ill, 
than usual, but I have had my letter from you : that is the 
one ^important thing. I am in a very singular condition; 
for the last twelve hours my eyes represent to me but one and 
always the same object, whether I keep them open or shut ; 
that object, which is he whose memory I cherish and adore, 
fills me with dread. At this very moment he is there , what 
I touch, what I write is not more present, more visible ; but 
why should I fear? why this trouble? Ah! if it only 
were sol ... 

Wednesday, October 5, 1774. 

Mon amiy I have no letter from you; I expected one. 
Alas ! I experience that the soul which hopes least can be 

1 Clement XIV , ILorenzo Ganganelli ; author of the Bull which sup- 
pressed the Order of the Jesuits. He was thought to have been 
poisoned PR. ED, 



1774] MLLE. DE LBSPINASSE. 151 

disappointed. Forgive me: tlie need tliat I have of you 
makes me expect too much; I must be corrected of that 
error. I am ill, and in a state of inexpressible suffer- 
ing ; all kinds of nourishment do me equal harm. My 
physician concludes that some obstruction is forming in 
the pylorus ; that strange word was unknown to me ; but 
it is torture when that door shuts. I am taking hemlock ; 
if it could be prepared like that of Socrates I should take 
it with pleasure. It would cure me of the slow and pain- 
ful malady called life. 

You do me harm, mon ami ; you render death a necessity 
to me, and you hold me to life. What weakness ! what in- 
consistency ! Yes, I judge myself rightly ; but I languish, 
I delay. I feel that there will come a day, a moment when 
I shall bitterly repent having delayed so long. If I cast my 
eyes upon the past I see that I should have been too fortu- 
nate if the end of my life had come on Wednesday, June 1 
[the day she heard of M. de Mora's death]]. Mon Dieu f what 
sorrow, what evils I should then have escaped. Yes, I shud- 
der in thinking that I can blame no one but you for all that 
I have suffered since that fatal day. How Hi-inspired you 
were ! my death would have been no injury to you. At this 
moment when I write to you, you would not remember it ; 
whereas, in place of that forgetfulness which would have left 
you to enjoy your repose and pleasure, I burden you with my 
woes, I make the whole weight of my life weigh upon your 
heart. Ah ! I know well that susceptible, strong, and virtu- 
ous heart; it would be capable of making some great sac- 
rifice to relieve the unhappy soul, but it is out of your power 
to take care of it, soothe it, calm it. Whatever is consecutive 
is to you impossible ; your heart is impassioned, but it does 
not know tenderness. Passion only works spasmodically ; it 
has actions, emotions; but tenderness gives care, it helps, 



152 LETTERS OF [1774 

it comforts, it would have written by every courier, because 
it would have felt the needs of a suffering soul. No, these 
are not reproaches, they would be useless or distressing. 
Ah ! how grieved I should be to give you an instant's pain. 
Mon ami, I need to know if your fever has not returned, 
and if that of your sister is subdued. In writing to you 
the last time I was delirious, I think; I had a burning 
fever all night; it has left me now, and in leaving me it 
has effaced that image that hid all other objects from 
my sight; but I do not know why it brought such terror 
into my soul. Ah ! if I could buy back his life for a single 
hour there is no pain I should not have the strength to bear ; 
I should say with Zulime : 

" Death and hell appear before me : 
Ramire ! with transport I descend there for thee " 

3ut, mon ami, I did not mean to say to you all this. I 
am confused ; I cannot continue. Adieu. 

Saturday, midnight. 

First of all, I must tell you that your ink is white as paper, 
and to-day it has really put me out of patience. I had or- 
dered your letter to be brought to me at M. Turgot's, where 
I was dining with twenty persons. It was given to me 
while at table; on one side I had the Archbishop of Aix, 
on the other, that inquisitive Abb^ Morellet. I opened 
niy letter under the table; I could scarcely see that any 
black was on the white, and the abb made the same remark. 
Mme. de Boufflers, who was on the other side of the 
Archbishop of Aix, asked what I was reading. Bemem- 
ber where we are, and you will know what it is." "A 
memorial, no doubt, for M. Turgot ? " " Yes, just so, ma- 
dame, and I wish to read it over before I give it to "him." 



1774] MLUE DB LESPINASSE. 153 

Before returning to the salon I had read the letter through, 
and I am now going to reply to it though I must do 
it hastily, for I am very tired with the great exertions 
that I made to-day. I have seen at least a hundred per- 
sons, and as your letter had done good to rny soul, 1 talked, 
I forgot I was dead, and I have really extinguished myself. 
The truth is I had a " great success " because I brought out 
the charms and the intellects of the persons with whom I 
was , and it is to you, mon a?m } that they owe that pastime, 
so sweet to their self-love. As for mine, it is not intoxicated 
by your praises ; I reply to you, like Couci : " Love me, my 
prince, and praise me not." 

Mon arm, keep yourself from ever again having the kind- 
ness to set forth my blessings and display my gifts , never 
did I feel myself so poor, so ruined, so poverty-stricken ; in 
estimating what I have, in making me see my resources, you 
only show me that all is lost. One means alone remains to 
me, I have long foreboded it, I even think it a necessity, 
namely, to make total bankruptcy ; but I postpone, I delay, 
I rock myself with hopes, with chimeras } I know them to be 
such, and yet they sustain me a little but you destroy all 
by the horrible enumeration that you make of them. Ah ! 
what a deplorable inventory ! if any other than you had 
attempted to console me, to reconcile me to life by these 
hopeless consolations, I should say to him, like Agnes, 
( i Horace, with two words, could do more than y,ou " but 
it ^s Horace who speaks to me 1 Oh ' mon ami, my soul is 
sinking. What more will you invent to torture me ? I shall 
be, you say, sustained, guaranteed, defended, ef c Well ! 
never have I been all that; if you set your friendship at 
that value, I ask none of it. I have been weak, incon- 
sistent, unhappy, very unhappy ; I have feared for you ; 
I have wandered in the wilderness , I have done wrong; no 



154 LETTERS OF [1774 

doubt ; and it is one harm the more to dwell upon it. 
I have not an impulse, I never say a word to you, that 
does not cause me regret or repentance. Mon ami, I ought 
to hate you. Alas ! it is long since I have done what I ought, 
what I wish I I hate myself, I condemn myself, and I love 
you. 

Sunday evening, October 9, 1774. 

Mon ami, I have read your letter twice ; and the total 
impression that I receive from it is that you are very 
amiable, and that it is much easier not to love you at all 
than to love you moderately. Make the commentary on 
that, but not with your mind ; it is not to your mind that I 
speak. Mon ami, if I chose, I could dwell on certain words 
in your letter which have done me harm. You speak of my 
courage, my resources, the employment of my time, and of 
that of my soul in a manner to make me die of shame and 
regret for having suffered you to see my weakness. Ah, well ! 
it was in my soul, of which no impulse can be hidden from 
you. When it was moved by hatred, I let you see it ; but 
was hatred all that I allowed myself to feel ? 

Mon ami, on reading again the recapitulation that you 
make of all there is on earth to keep me from destruction, I 
ended by laughing over it because it reminded me of a saying 
of President Hnault, which is good. At a certain period 
of his life he thought that, in order to add to the esteem in 
which he was held, it would be well to become devout ; he 
made a general confession, and afterwards wrote to his 
friend M. d'Argenson, " Never do we feel so rich as when 
we move bur belongings [que lorsqu'on demSnage]." 

I shall dine to-morrow with the Duchesse d'AnvUle. I 
like that house; it is one the more where I can see you; 
you live for what you love and for the gay world every 
evening ; but will you not often dine where I do ? That 



1774] MLI/E. DE LESPINASSE. 155 

will bring you into the society of those persons who are the 
most on your own tone. Fools and stupid people are never 
afoot before five or six o'clock ; that is the time when I 
return to my chimney corner, where I nearly always find, if 
not what I should have chosen, at any rate nothing that I 
wish to avoid. 

How is it that I have never yet told you that I am urged, 
entreated, to go and re-establish my health in England at the 
house of Lord Shelburue [Marquis of Lansdowne] ? He is a 
man of intellect, the leader of the Opposition; he was the 
friend of Sterne, and adores his works. See what an attrac- 
tion he must have for me, and whether I am not much 
tempted by his obliging invitation. Admit that if you had 
known of this piece of good fortune you would not have 
omitted it from my pompous inventory. 

Yes, M. de. Condorcet is with his mother ; he works ten 
hours a day. He has a score of correspondents, intimate 
friends ; and each, without fatuity, may think himself his 
first object; never, never did any man have more existence, 
greater means, so much felicity. I just remember that you 
have never said a word to me about the Due de Choiseul ; 
is it because your stay at Chanteloup has left no traces on 
your journey ? Well 1 here is how he stands in Paris : the 
public takes no notice of him , it seems to me that the best 
thing for him at present is to remain in that state of 
oblivion, for he will gain nothing now by comparisons. We 
might have owed M. Turgot to him ten years ago, but he 
preferred to choose such ministers as Laverdy, Maupeou, 
Terrai, and others. 

Your letter to M. d'Alembert is excellent ; and as we are 
very communicative we gave it this evening to M. de Vaines, 
who was charmed with it, and desires to show it to him who 
could enjoy it without its alarming his modesty. You will 



156 UETTEBS OF [1774 

never guess what occupies my mind, what I desire to do : 
to marry one of my friends. I want an idea that has come 
to me to succeed ; the Archbishop of Toulouse could be very 
helpful to the success of the affair. The young lady is six- 
teen years old and has only a mother, no father, and a 
brother. They will give hei, on marrying, thnteen thousand 
francs a year , her mother will lodge her, and do so for a long 
time, because the son is a child. This girl cannot have less 
eventually than six hundred thousand francs, and she may 
be much richer : will that suit you, mon ami I Say so, and 
we "will act , it can be done without offence, because the 
Archbishop of Toulouse has as much skill as courtesy. 
Let us talk it over ; and if this plan does not succeed I know 
a man who would be very glad to have you for a son-in-law ; 
but his daughter is only eleven years old , she is an only 
child and will be very rich. MOTI aim, what I desire above 
all things is your happiness ; and the means of procuring it 
for you will become the chief interest of my life. There 
was a time when my soul would have been less generous; 
but then it responded to one who would have rejected with 
horror the empire of the world. What a memory ! how 
sweet, how cruel ! Good-night ; if I receive, as I hope, a letter 
from you to-morrow I will add to this volume. For the last 
two days I have suffered less. I have reached the stage of 
two chicken-wings a day, and if that regimen does not suc- 
ceed better than the others, I shall put myself on a milk 
diet. 

Still Sunday, October 9. 

That adieu was very sudden, very abrupt, and you will 
readily understand that I have a thousand other things to 
say to you ; for, if I am not mistaken, this is the last letter I 
shall write to you. As to this, I shall know to-morrow. You 
tell me that you are going to your regiment ; you have twice 



774] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 157 

written to me the name of the place where it is stationed, 
but, thanks to the beauty of your writing, I do not know 
what it is. I seem to make out Livourne, but that, surely, 
cannot be where you are going [it was Libourne, a new 
garrison of the Corsican Legion] . Mon ami, write me from 
wherever you stop ; you must compensate me for the priva- 
tion of not writing to you. I do not feel certain that you 
have started as yet. How could you refuse your mother, 
above all, if she is not convalescent ? she must be ill if she 
still has fever. How I hope you are not mistaken and that 
I shall really see you in two weeks. Fifteen days 1 that is a 
long way off ; once I looked for a nearer coming Ah ! I 
shudder 1 what a dreadful recollection ! it poisons hope Ah ! 
mon Dieu I it was you who troubled and overthrew the hap- 
piness of that tender and impassioned soul ; it was you who 
condemned us to an awful misfortune, and it is you I love ! 
Yes, we hate the evil that we do, but we are drawn to it. 
"Without your consolation I should have died of grief, and 
now I am fated to live, to languish, to moan, to fear you, to 
love you, to curse life and to cherish it at some moments. . . . 
Here I was interrupted ; persons came and proposed to me 
to go and see Duplessis. He is a portrait-painter who will 
stand beside Van Dyck. I do not know if you have seen 
the portrait of the Abb Armaud painted by him ; but, my 
friend, you must certainly see that of Gluck ; it has a degree 
of truth and perfection which is better and greater than 
nature. He has put ten heads into it, all of different char- 
acters; I have never seen anything finer or truer in that 
respect. M. d'Argental came there, and showed us a letter 
he had just received from M. de Voltaire ; I thought it so 
good, the tone so natural, it brought him so near to us, that, 
without thinking whether it were discreet or not, I asked for 
the letter ; I asked for a copy ; they are now making it, and 



158 LETTERS OF [1774 

mon ami shall read it tliat thought is at the bottom of 
everything. Mon ami, I must repeat myself and say, as 
Sterne to his Eliza, " Your pleasure is the first need of my 
heart." 

Mon Dieu J how difficult it is to begin a letter when one 
has to make sentiment with one's mind. But I must write 
to Mme. de Boufflers. She has not once mentioned your 
name to me ; I am not sorry , but how is it that persons do 
not seize every occasion to talk of that which pleases them ? 
There is, of couise, a certain degree of affection that hinders ; 
it is that winch prevents me from speaking to her of you, 
but she has never felt any such embarrassment, I am sure ; 
she has nothing to do with loving, she is too charming ! 

Mon ami, I know myself so well that I am tempted to 
think you are laughing at me when you speak of my suc- 
cesses in society. It is eight years since I retired from the 
world , fiom the moment that I loved I felt a disgust for 
such successes. What need have we of pleasing when we 
are beloved ? Is there one emotion, one desire left that has 
not for its object the person whom we love and for whom 
we desiie to live exclusively ? Mon ami, you have no such 
desire, have you ? 

Friday, October 14, 1774 

Mon ami, I have just returned from hearing the " Orpheus ; " 
it has soothed, it has calmed my soul. I wept, but my tears 
had no bitterness ; my sorrow was gentle, my regrets were 
mingled with memories of you, and my thoughts rested on 
them without remorse. I wept for what I had lost, and I 
loved you ; my heart was able for both. 

Oh ! what a charming art 1 what a divine art ! Music was 
invented by a sensitive being who desired to console the 
unhappy. What beneficent balm in those enchanting sounds ! 
Afon ami, for incurable sorrows we should take anodynes 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 159 

only; and there are but three in all the world to soothe 
my heart : you first, mon arm, you, the most efficacious of 
all, you who lift me from my sonow, who fill my soul with 
a sort of intoxication that takes from me the faculty of 
remembering and foreseeing. After this first of all bless- 
ing, which I treasure as the support and the resource of my 
despair, comes opium ; it is not dear to me in itself, but it is 
necessary. And lastly, that which is agreeable to me, which 
charms away my griefs, is music. Music pours into my 
blood, into all that animates me, a sweetness, a sensibility so 
delightful that I may almost say it turns to joy my regrets, 
and my misfortunes ; and that is so true that in the happiest 
period of my life music was not to me then of the value it 
is now. Mon ami, before you went away I did not go to 
" Orpheus , " I did not feel the need of it ; I saw, or I had 
seen you, or I expected you ; that filled all ; but since your 
absence, in the void about me, in the many and various crises 
of despair which have shaken and convulsed my soul, I have 
called all resources to my aid. How feeble they are 1 how 
impotent against the poison that eats away my life ! But I 
must turn from myself and speak of you; I ought not to 
have changed that topic. 

M. Turgot has written to you , he has made amends, for he 
asks you to do him a service, and I feel very sure that you 
have thus felt it. M. de Vaines said to me yesterday : " Make 
M. de G-uibert return ; he could enlighten us ; he would be 
useful to us about things of which we are ignorant and need 
information." The Comte de C . . , was at the Opera 
to-night ; he came to see me in my box and talked much of 
his affairs. A great fortune is a great burden ; he has many 
lawsuits, and is incessantly occupied with a mass of objects 
from which he derives neither profit nor fame. Ah 1 no, hap- 
piness is not in great riches. Where is it, then? among a 



160 LETTERS OF [1774 

few erudites, very dull and very solitary ; among good arti- 
sans, busy in a lucrative and not painful labour ; among good 
farmers with large and active families, who live in decent 
comfort. All the rest of the world swarms with fools, imbe- 
ciles, and madmen ; in the latter class are the unhappy 
among whom I do not include those in Charenton , for the 
style of madness which makes a man suppose himself the 
Eternal Father may be better, perhaps, than wisdom or 
happiness. 

I send an extract of a. letter written to the Swedish am- 
bassador; you will observe with what elegance foreigners 
speak French! I have not changed a comma. Everybody 
is at Fontamebleau, and I am glad of it ; I should often like 
to write over my door, as some learned man did over his, 
" Those who come to see me do me honour, those who do not 
come give me pleasure." M. de Marmontel proposed to me 
to come last Wednesday and read me his new comic opera. 
He came , there were some twelve persons present. Behold 
us in a circle surrounding him, and listening to the " Vieux 
GarQon," that was the name of the piece. The begin- 
ning of the first scene seemed to me muddled, confused. 
"What do you think I then did, without my will having the 
slightest part in it ? I did not listen to a word ; and that is 
so true that if I were hanged for it, I could not have told 
the name of a personage or the subject of the play ; I got out 
of it by telling the truth, namely, that the time seemed to 
me very short. The fact is that, since I have been unable 
to fix my attention upon anything, I love readings dis- 
tractedly, because they leave me free ; whereas in conversa- 
tion we have to recall our thoughts. Mon ami, you may say 
what you please, but I do not like conversation unless it is 
you or the Chevalier de Chastellux who make it. Apropos, 
he is much pleased with me , I have stirred up his friends, 



1774] MU.E DE LESPINASSE. 161 

and things are so well arranged that all we need to get him 
received into the Academy is the death of one of the forty. 
It is a proper thing, no doubt, but it was not done without 
difficulty ; the interest, the pleasure, the desire he put into 
this triumph spurred me on. Mon Dieu ! Fontenelle was 
right : there are rattles for all ages ; there is nought but sor- 
row too old for them, nought but passion too reasonable. 

Mon aim, those are not paradoxes ; think them over, and 
you will see they can be maintained. Good-night; it is 
time to let you breathe; I have written without pausing. 
Opera days are my times of retreat. I am alone when I 
come home; my door is closed. M. d'Alembert has been 
to see "Harlequin;" he likes that better than "Orpheus." 
Every one has good reasons, and I am far from criticising 
tastes ; all are good. Adieu, till to-morrow. 

Saturday, three o'clock, after the postman. 

I dined at home to get my letter from you an hour earlier; 
that replies to your last question. But, * mon ami, you truly 
grieve me by not saying a word as to why you did not write 
to me by the last courier. You feel you did wrong, and you 
want to turn my mind away from it by promising to do 
better in future; you are very amiable, mon ami, and I 
thank you in advance I dare not desire your return, but I 
count the days of your absence. Mon Z>ieu ! how slow they 
are ! how long they are ! how they weigh upon my soul I how 
difficult, how impossible it is to distract one's self a moment 
from the soul's need ! Books, society, friendship, all imagi- 
nable resources serve only to make us feel more keenly the 
value and power of what we lack. 

I do not answer, but I am touched to the depths of my 
heart by what you say to me of M. de Mora, M. d'Alem- 
bert has written to M. de Euentes ; he wrote from hie own 



162 LETTERS OF [1774 

impulse; and in reading me Ms letter he wept, and made 
ine, too, burst into tears. Ah ! how that thought rends me 1 
Mon ami, I want to think now of you, and to justify the 
feeling that made me burn your letters. I did not think I 
should survive that sacrifice a day, and as I made it my 
blood, my heart were frozen with despair, so that I did not 
fully feel the loss I had inflicted on myself for over six days. 
Ah t twenty times, a hundred times I have grieved to have 
burned what you had written : nothing can repair that loss ; 
it is heart-breaking. 

Yes, M. Turgot is at work about the corvees. Good-bye, 
man ami ; are you not weary of reading these scribblmgs ? 

Sunday evening, October 16, 1774 

Mon ami, I did not answer your charming letter yesterday, 
and I shall never answer to my own satisfaction what you 
say to me of M. de Fuentes. Ah 1 where shall I find expres- 
sions to render a feeling so novel to my soul ? You have 
filled me with the tenderest, warmest gratitude ; it seems to 
me that never did I owe so much to any one ; your emotion, 
your sentiment, are noble and lofty as virtue itself ; why 
should I not make my happiness in adoring them ? I do not 
know the nature of my own feeling, but you are the object ' 
of it, and there are moments when I am ready to exclaim 
that remorse is no longei in my heart. 

Alas ! T dare not say those words ; I feel, I know that 
conscience cannot be deceived. What trouble rises within 
me ! how unhappy I am ! Mon ami, do you think it possible 
that peace can return to my soul by loving you ? or do 
you think it possible that I can live without loving you ? It 
is of you that I ask knowledge of myself ; I know myself 
no longer; with a word you change the disposition of my 
souL I know not if this is so because I am weakened by 



1774] MLL.13. DT3 MSPINASSE. 163 

suffering, or because my feeling is strengthened by the pains I 
take to combat and destroy it. If it be the latter, admit that 
I have a very high opinion of myself ! Ah I mo/i Dieu ! how 
natural passion is to me, and how foreign is reason ' Mon 
ami, never did any one so reveal herself ; but how could I 
hide from you my inmost thoughts ? they are filled by 
you ; and how could I live if I knew I were usurping your 
esteem and good opinion 2 No, mon a??ii 3 see me as I am, 
and grant me not what I deserve, but what I need to 
keep me from dying of grief, or to give me courage, for I 
know not which I prefer to owe to you, life or death. Both 
depend on you, and whichever way you decide, I shall thank 
you. 

Mon ami, did you feel as you wrote them the force of those 
words : " My greatest misfortune would be to make you cold 
to me"? and you wish to "diminish my torture." Ah 
heavens * what a means you employ to that end ! But I will 
not return upon the past 1 hope I shall be deceived by you 
no more. If I am not what you love best I shall at least see 
in your soul the place you assign me, and I pledge myself to 
seek no other. 

I went again to " Orpheus " this evening ; but I was with 
Mme. de Chatillon : it is true that I should have a very bad 
opinion of myself if I did not love her ; she exacts so little 
and gives so much. 

Monday morning. 

How can you question whether you ought to have left 
me in ignorance of your fever ? Oh 1 mon ami, it is not I 
whom you ought to spare ; I love you too well not to prefer 
to suffer with you and through you. Those who spare one 
another do not love , there is a wide distance between the 
feelings we command and those which command us : the first 
are perfect, and I abhor them. If some day you become per < 



LETTERS OF [1774 

feet like Mme. de B . . . , like the cold Grandison, I shall 
admire you, mon ami, but I shall be radically cured. 

Here I was interrupted by Mme. de Chatillon ; she asks to 
write on the rest of this sheet , I give her paper and pens 
but my letter, it is not possible ! 

Monday, after the postman 

You have been alarmed you are still distressed. Mon 
Dieu ! how I suffer from all that makes you suffer, and how 
grieved I am for having added to the anxiety of your present 
condition. Yes, I am guilty, I am weak, I condemn myself, 
I hate myself, but that will not repair the harm I have done 
to you. You saw by the following post that this fever was 
merely the result of the violent state of my soul ; my body is 
not strong enough to support these shocks. Mon ami, do not 
pity me ; say to yourself, " She is beside herself; " that thought 
will calm you, and if you do not suffer I am happy. But I 
hope that you will tell me, carefully and with details, all the 
news of your patients. It is dreadful to fear for those we 
love ; that species of torture is more than my strength and 
my reason can bear. 

Mon Dieu ! yes, you must stay with your family ; your 
departure would do them great harm, and you must spare them 
during the whole time that their health is in question. But 
I need not say this to you ; you see things better than I ; you 
feel with greater delicacy. Mon aim, I am almost discontented 
because you. do not find pleasure in making me share your 
present condition, especially as it is painful to you , I would 
have you say with Montaigne, but in a contrary sense, 
" Methinks I rob her of her part." Yes, mon ami, you ought 
to feel that you have no longer the right to suffer alone. 
Alas I I am so wholly on the tone of those who suffer, they 
speak my language so distinctly, that it seems to me there is 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 165 

no need to count on my affections in order to find sweetness 
in complaint to me. 

Adieu, mon ami ; I meant to write you a thousand nothings 
"but your sadness takes away my strength. In vain I say to 
myself : " When my letter reaches him his condition will no 
longer be the same " but that in which you were possesses 
me ; it cannot change for me until you will it should. Ah ! 
what ascendency ! what force ! what power ! it acts through 
a thousand leagues ! I told you that the sentiment I dare 
not name is the sole thing on earth that men have been unable 
to spoil. Mon ami, if it were lost, tell yourself always, so 
long ,as I live, that you know where it lives, where it reigns 
with more vigour than it does in most Frenchwomen. 

Friday evening, October 21, 1774. 

Mon ami ! how slowly time rolls on ! since Monday last I 
am weighed down by it ; there is nothing I have not tried, to 
cheat my impatience. I am perpetually in motion ; I have 
been everywhere, I have seen everything, and I have had but 
one thought to a sick soul nature has but one colour ; all 
things are swathed in crape. Tell me, how do people distract 
their thoughts ! how do they console themselves ? Ah ! it is 
from you alone that I can learn to endure life ; you alone can 
shed upon it that charm mingled with sorrow which makes 
me cherish and detest existence alternately. 

Mon ami, I shall have a letter from you to-morrow ; that 
hope alone gives me strength to write to you to-night. You 
will tell me if you are reassured about the health o"f your dear 
ones ; and perhaps you will speak of your return ; but, at any 
rate, you will speak to me. If you only knew how destitute, 
abandoned, I feel when I have no news of you ! Ah ! how 
short your little letter was ! how cold ! It seemed to me 
that in saying how uneasy and even alarmed you were, you 



16o LETTEKS OF [1774 

were not saying all ! What is it * are you hiding your heart 
from me ? do you wish still to rend mine ? Have you not told 
me that you would tell me all ; that you would give me a con- 
fidence without reserve ; that I was your friend ; that your 
soul could pour itself into mine ; that you would make me 
live in all your emotions ; that whatever wounded my heart 
could never be unknown by yours ? Ah ! mon ami, know me 
well ; see what I am for you ; and, having that knowledge, it 
will he impossible for you to conceive a project of deceiving 
me, or even of concealing anything from me. 

Saturday morning. 

I left you yesterday out of consideration for you ; I was so 
sad ! I had just come from " Orpheus." That music drives 
me wild ; it sweeps me away ; I cannot miss it a single day ; 
my soul thirsts for that species of pain Ah 1 mon Dieu f 
how little I am on the key of those about me ! yet never had 
any one more cause to treasure friendship. My friends are 
excellent persons ; their attentions, their interest never flags ; 
and I now comprehend what they find in me to attach them. 
It is my sorrow, it is my trouble, it is what I say, it is what 
I do not say, that stirs them, that warms their hearts. Yes, 
I see it, kind and feeling hearts love the unhappy ; they find 
in them an attraction that occupies and employs their soul ; 
we love to feel ourselves feeling, and the sorrows of others 
have just that measure which makes us compassionate with- 
out suffering. Well! I promise them that enjoyment so 
long as it remains to me to live. 

Mon ami, 1 meant to tell you, the last time I wrote, that 
you ought to lodge in the same furnished house as the 
Chevalier d'Aguesseau ; that would spare you both the 
trouble of going to see each other ; it would be convenient 
for you, and I should be secured against your quitting my 



1774] MLLE BE iLESPINASSE 167 

quarter. Yes, it is always some personal interest that un- 
derlies all, that prompts all, and the fools and the false wits 
who have attacked Helv^tius have doubtless never loved, and 
never reflected. Ah ! good God ! how many people live and 
die without having felt the one or done the other I So much 
the better for them, so much the worse for us yes, so 
much the worse ; for I cannot express to you the disgust, the 
paroxysms of disgust, which I feel, not for the fools, but for 
,hose who are so much of my own kind that I foresee what 
ohey are going to "say before they open their lips. Ah ! I 
am very ill 1 I can no longer endure those who resemble 
me ; all that is beside me, on my level, seems so small ; I 
need to be made to raise my eyes ; without which I am wear- 
ied and dulled. Mon ami, society offers me now but two in- 
terests : I must love, or I must be enlightened. Intelligence 
is not enough, I want much intellect ; that is saying that I 
now listen to five or six persons only, and that I read but 
six or seven books. Yet there are many more persons than 
that who have claims upon me ; but they are claims of feel- 
ing and confidence, and do not alter my condition of mind 
in general. Here is the result : what is less than myself 
smothers me and crushes me 3 what is at my level dulls me 
and fatigues me. It is only that which is above me that 
sustains me and tears me from myself ; I shall ever say with 
the old classic, " Friends ! save me from myself." All this 
proves that vanity, extinct within me, is replaced by uni- 
versal and deadly disgust. 

The Comtesse de Boufflers has not reached that point, 
therefore she is very agreeable. I have seen her often this 
week ; she came to dine with Mme. Geoffrin on Wednesday 
and was charming ; she did jaot say a word that was not a 
paradox. She was attacked, and defended herself so wittily 
that her fallacies were almost as good as truth. For in- 



168 LETTERS OF [1774 

stance : she said it was a great misfortune to be an ambassa- 
dor, it mattered not from what country or to what nation ; it 
was dreadful exile, etc. Then she told us that, in the days 
when she liked England best, she would never have con- 
sented to live there permanently unless she could have 
taken with her twenty-four or five of her intimate friends, 
and sixty to eighty other persons who were absolutely neces- 
sary to her ; and it was with much seriousness and especially 
with much feeling that she thus informed us of the needs of 
her soul What I wi&h you could have seen was the aston- 
ishment she caused in Lord Shelburne. He is simple, 
natural , he has soul and strength , he likes and is attracted 
by that only which resembles himself, at least in being 
natural He went to see M. de Malesherbes, and returned 
enchanted. He said to me : " I have seen for the first time 
in my life what I did not believe could exist, a man whose 
soul is absolutely exempt from fear and hope, but who, 
nevertheless, is full of life and ardour. Nothing in the 
world can trouble his peace ; nothing is necessary to him, 
but he interests himself keenly in all that is good." And 
then he added : " I have travelled much, and I have never 
brought away with me so deep an impression. If I do any 
good during the time that remains to me to live, T am cer- 
tain that the recollection of M. de Malesherbes will inspire 
my souL" Mon ami, that is noble praise, and he who gives 
it is, beyond a doubt, an interesting man. I think him very 
fortunate to be born an Englishman ; I have seen much of 
him and listened to him much ; he has intellect, ardour, 
elevation of soul He reminds me a little of the two 
men in the world whom I have loved, and for whom I 
would live or die. He goes away next week, and I am glad ; 
he has been the cause, through social arrangements, that I 
have dined every day with fifteen persons, and that fatigues 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. - 169 

me more than it interests. I need repose , my bodily machine 
is worn-out. Good-bye, mon ami, I await the post ; that is 
what is necessary to me. 

Saturday, October 22, 1774 

Mon Dieu ! how troubled and grieved I am by what you 
tell me. I believe all that I fear ; imagine, therefore, how I 
share what you suffer. Ah ! it is at such moments that 
separation is absolutely intolerable to me. Mon ami, your 
troubles are mine, and it is dreadful to me to be unable to 
comfort you. It seems to me that if I were with you I 
could so take possession of your fears, your troubles, that 
nothing would remain to you but that which I could not 
take away. Ah ! to share is not enough. I would suffer 
through you, for you ; and with such tenderness, such pas- 
sion, there is no sorrow that could not be assuaged, no alarm 
that could not be quieted. Mon Dieu ! how unfortunate I 
am 1 At the only moment of my life when I might have done 
you good, I am condemned to be useless to you ! Those 
who love you will say to you what I should say better, 
perhaps. L am too near you to express what I feel. Are 
there words that can render all the emotions of a suffering 
soul, of a soul struck by terror, and to which misfortune has 
forbidden hope ? Mon ami, in this state, which is mine, we 
can express and explain ourselves by three words only : " I 
love you." 

Ah ! if they could pass into your soul just as I feel them ! 
Yes, if they could, whatever be your sorrow, you would feel 
a gentler feeling. Now it is that I have a mortal regret at 
all you lack in affection for me ; mon dm i, were it otherwise, 
we could make our consolation ; the remedy would be beside 
the ill Ah ! when one is in trouble it is dreadful to love 
feebly : for it is in ourselves that we find true strength, and 
nothing gives it so much as passion ; the feelings of another 



170 BETTERS OF [1774 

please us, touch us; there are none but our own that 
support us. 

But that resource fails nearly all the world ; nearly all who 
exist love only because they are loved. Ah ! mon Dieu ! what 
a poor way 1 how small and feeble it leaves the soul ! But 
this depends neither on will nor on thought ; it is therefore 
as senseless to seek to excite it as to labour to quench it. 
Let us stay, then, what we are, until nature, or I know not 
what, ordains otherwise. 

You are too kind, a thousand times too kind to occupy 
your mind with my ills. To suffer has become my exist- 
ence; still I am better since I have taken chicken for my 
only nourishment ; I suffer less. Adieu, mon arm, I speak 
of myself and think only of you. From now till Monday 
I shall be in a violent state. You will write me, I 
believe. 

Sunday evening, October 23, 1774 

Mon ami, to calm myself, to deliver myself from a thought 
that pains me, I must speak to you. I await to-morrow's post- 
hour with an impatience that you alone, perhaps, can conceive. 
You will hear me, if you cannot answer me, and that is some- 
thing. It would be, no doubt, sweeter, more consoling, to 
speak in dialogue; but monologue is endurable when we 
can say to ourselves, " I speak in solitude, but I am 
heard." 

Mon am^ I am in a detestable physical condition, which I 
attribute to that hemlock ; it retained, I believe, some poison- 
ous property ; I feel an exhaustion, a faintness, which has 
made me think twenty times to-day that I was about to lose 
consciousness, and at this moment I feel an inexpressible 
distress. I feel what Fontenelle described shortly before 
his death, "a great difficulty in ^ng." But that which 
excites my soul will give me strength to write, Mon ami 



1774] MULE. DE LESPINASSE. 171 

I do not know if I told you I had seen the wife of Comte 
. . . ; her appearance is common, but her tone is obliging, 
and she shows a great desire to please ; nevertheless, such 
as she is, I should not think her good enough to be the wife 
of the man I love most. Mon ami, I am more than ever sure 
that a man who has talent, genius, and is destined to fame, 
ought not to marry. Marriage is a veritable extinguisher of 
all that is great and may be dazzling. If a man is honour- 
able and feeling enough to be a good husband, he will be 
nothing more ; no doubt that is enough if happiness is there. 
But there are men destined by Kature to be great and not 
happy. Diderot says that Nature in creating a man of 
genius, waves her torch above his head and says to him, 
** Be great, and be unhappy." That, I think, is what she said 
on the day that you were born. Good-night, I can no more ; 
to-morrow ! 

Monday, after post-time. 

!NTo letter I I should tremble were it another than you ; 
but I reassure myself a little by remembering that it is 
not in you to be punctual or consecutive. This is natural, 
but also afflicting. Mon ami, I make you no reproaches ; 
I only pity you, whatever be your situation, that the 
thought of your soul was not for me. Adieu ; I am de- 
pressed, and in a state of weakness which is extraordinary ; 
it requires an effort to hold my pen. I shall no longer ex- 
pect letters from you; but I shall desire ,them as long as I 
breathe. 

Tuesday evening, October 25, 1774. 

AK ! I have been unjust ; that would be a wrong in any one, 
but I reproach myself for it as a crime with you. Forgive 
me, mon ami ; I ought to have thanked you, and I blamed 
you. That thought hurts me as though I were guilty ; but 
the post was guilty, and I suspected it so little that when 



172 LETTERS OP [1774 

they brought me my letters to-day I did not look at the 
outside of them; I did not care which I read first or last. 
Mon ami, when I opened the second I gave a cry , it was 
your writing I my heart palpitated. If it is a very painful ill 
to await and see nothing come, it is a very keen and very 
lively pleasure to be thus surprised. Mon ami, I love you 
to madness ; all things tell ifc to me, all things prove it 
and often more than I wish. I give you more than you 
desire , you have no need of being so much loved, and I, 
I have much need of repose, that is, of death. 

But I am too selfish ; I talk to you of myself, whereas I 
ought to tell you of the pleasure with which I read your 
words : " Better all goes well I am at ease." Ah ! 
mon ami, I breathed again, it seemed as if those words 
gave back to me both life and strength ; for three days 
I was annihilated, they say this condition came from the 
nerves, but I who know more than my doctor, I know that 
it came from you. I am like Lucas, who explains everything 
by his vocation of gardener. Ah 1 mon Dieu ! how can I suf- 
fice for all I feel, for all I suffer ? and yet my soul has but 
two feelings : one consumes me with sorrow, and when I give 
myself up to the other, which ought to calm me, I am pursued 
by remorse and by a regret more heart-breaking still than the 
tortures of remorse. Myself again ! how I detest this cease- 
less return ! do I banish myself in saying that I adore your 
sensibility and your truth? 

Ah i hide nothing from me ; you gain much by letting 
me see all the emotions that move you. Mon am^i, in a 
situation precisely like that in which you have been, but 
which had fatal results, M. de Mora wrote me, with almost 
the same expressions as yours, the anguish that his mother's 
illness caused him. I have already told you never to have 
the thought of sparing me ; believe that my feelings will lead 



1774] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 173 

me much farther than you could make me go. Mon ami, it is 
good to know that your mother's convalescence is so near, but, 
in spite of what you say, I feel that you will stay there longer 
than you think. You will certainly commit the Jieedlessness 
of forgetting to tell me not to write to you and where to 
write to you on your way. Then, when no letters reach 
you, you will blame me, or you will have the kindness to 
feel anxious; yet a little forethought would avoid it all 

The Chevalier de Chastellux is at present at Chanteloup 
with the Due de Choiseul. He keeps up with everything, 
and attaches great importance to this manner of multiplying 
himself indefinitely. He is so rich and so generous that he 
disdains to gather in for himself ; it suffices him. to sow ; he 
receives nothing; he gives everywhere and to everybody 
He told me the other day that his pleasure lay in producing 
effects. M. de Chamfort has arrived ; I have seen him, and 
we read together his " Eulogy on La Fontaine." He returns 
from the baths in good health, richer in fame and wealth, 
and possessed of four friends who love him, namely : Mes- 
dames de Grammont, de, K-ance", d'Amblimont, and the Com- 
tesse de Choiseul. This assortment is almost as variegated 
as Harlequin's coat, but it is only the more piquant, agree- 
able, and charming. 1 assure you that M. de Chamfort is a 
very well-satisfied young man ; and he does his best to be 
modest. M. Grimm has returned from Russia. I have 
overwhelmed him with questions. He pictures the Czarina 
[Catherine IL], not as a sovereign, but as an interesting 
woman, full of wit and good sayings, and all that can seduce 
and charm. In what he told me of her I recognize more the 
charming art of the Greek courtesan than the dignity and 
state of the empress of a great empire. * 

But a greater painter in another manner has returned to 
us ; I mean Diderot ; he sends me word that I shall see him 



174 LETTERS OF [1774 

to-morrow ; I shall "be very glad But in the present condi- 
tion of my soul, lie is the man of all others whom I would 
rather not see habitually ; he forces the attention, and that 
is precisely what I cannot and will not give consecutively to 
any one When I say that, you understand that it means 
I do not wish my thoughts to be distracted fiom the one 
person who fills them wholly. Ah ! what a clumsy explana- 
tion ! But the truth is you are stupid ; one must ticket a 
thing to make you understand it. Courage, mon ami ; for I 
think that by this time you have had a ream of paper with- 
out deducting a single page. You can put off the reading 
of it till you are in your travelling-carriage ; I shall occupy 
your journey, and you will find me at the end of it. 

So you really think that you will be glad to see me ? 
What you say to me is so agreeable. It would be sweet, 
indeed, to be loved by you t "but my soul cannot attain to 
that degree of happiness; it would be too much. A few 
moments, a few flashes of pleasure, that is enough for the 
unhappy ; they breathe and recover courage to suffer. 



Wednesday, October 26, 1774 

I have just re-read your letter ; a sentence had escaped 
my notice, and it delights me; you say, "I return to our 
troubles ..." Ah ! tell me on what thought I can rest to 
breathe in peace ; on that of your arrival ? N"o, no, it makes 
me quiver ; I dare not even desire it ; if it were delayed I 
believe I should die. Can you conceive such an excess of 
inconsistency ? But that excess does not proceed from false 
reasoning ; it comes from a soul convulsed by the most con- 
tending emotions, which you may, perhaps, understand, but 
are unable to share. 

' I am interrupted, and again by Mme de Chatillon. I 
begin to think that the first of all qualities required to 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE 175 

make others love us is to be loving. You cannot imagine 
all that she invents to reach my heart Ah ! ji you loved 
me as she does ! no, no ! I do not wish it ; heaven pre- 
serve me from knowing twice in my life such happiness. 

Friday, October 28, 1774. 

What say you to that invocation ? does it not seem as if 
I had lost my head ? Mon ami, it comes from an honourable 
sentiment. I wronged M. de Mora, and I find a sort of 
sweetness in thinking that he alone will have made me 
know happiness ; that it is to him only that I shall ever 
owe having felt, for a short while, all the value that life can 
have. Sometimes I feel myself less guilty because I am 
punished ; and, do you not see, all that would be reversed, 
effaced, if I were loved ? I must hold to virtue by remorse, 
and to him who loved me bjr. regret for having lost him. 
That regret is very keen and heart-rending; there are few 
days when it does not cause me convulsions of despair. 

They forced me to go and see Lekain in " Tancr&de ; " 
I had not seen it since its improvement, and I did not care 
to. However, I went ; the first two acts wearied me exces- 
sively ; the third has much interest, which goes on increas- 
ing to the. end; in the fifth act there were moments, words 
which transported me to the scene at Bordeaux. I thought 
I was dying ; I lost consciousness, and they were obliged to 
watch with me all night because I had continual fainting 
fits. I could not speak to you of this the last few days ; I 
was too near to the impression I had received; I promised 
myself not to go in search of such shocks again. I can bear 
nothing but " Orpheus," and I find with regret that you will 
not see it. There is to be a new opera November 8 ; the 
music is by Floquet. The public may like it perhaps , after 
what is good it applauds what is mediocre, and even what is 



176 LETTERS OF [1774 

detestable, for M. Dorat lias had success. And it is the 
public that make reputations i but the public of the long 
run; for that of the moment never has the taste nor the 
intelligence which sets the seal on what should go down to 
posterity. Bring me back the Linguet [a political and liter- 
ary journal]. Everybody is at Fontamebleau , but we still 
have Baron de Kock and Baron Gleicheii, and they stay too 
late in the evenings for me. I do not know if I deceive 
myself, but I believe solitude would be good for me ; soci- 
ety seldom interests me now, and it always weighs upon 
me. Oh ! what a poor invalid I am ! In vain I turn to 
this and that; I am only the worse for it. Adieu, mon 
ami. 

I have jusfc seen the Comte de C . . . I told him he 
would have to breathe malarious air, for in the intoxication 
of felicity in which he is living it could only be a work of 
mercy in him to corne and see me, and that I should be to 
him like those monuments that some philosophers preserve 
to make them remember to be good and just. "You will 
come and see me," I said, " and when you go away you will 
say to yourself : ' Trouble does exist on earth, after all ; ' 
your heart will be touched by my sorrows, and mine will 
have enjoyed your felicity." 

The letters of M. de Condorcet are really charming. If I 
followed my first impulse I should write you all that I have 
felt about them ; but I stop, saying to myself : ** He will soon 
return, I will let him read them ; he will laugh at me and 
think me very enthusiastic well, perhaps so, but he will le 
here" Mon, asm/i, on that condition I would consent not to 
have common-sense for the rest of my life; but then you 
"would abandon me and I should be lost in the crowd well, 
stupidity would console me there. I think that during all 
time u The Gracchi " must have been forgotten [tragedy 



1774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 177 

in verse by M. de Guibert], But you will return to them 
with more ardour and interest. Mon ami> adnnre my transi- 
tions ; stupidity leads me to genius, and this progression is 
very natural ; it is M. Turgot after the Abbe* Terrai. There 
are cases where gradations and intermediaries disappear. 

I do not know what to do with the time between now 
and Saturday ; I shall make a little of it weigh on you by 
obliging you to read me. I hope I promise myself a long 
letter on Saturday. Suppose I am disappointed ! suppose that 
it is only four pages long ! Oh, then I should complain. 
Mon ami, you see good luck has turned my head ; I become 
almost saucy just because I have had news of you to-day. 
What is very certain is that if others were in my secret 
they would know from my health and my whole manner of 
being whether I have had a letter from you. Yes, the circu- 
lation of my blood is perceptibly changed, and at such times 
it is impossible for me to take part in anything. But what 
I never become indifferent to is the increased interest that 
my state inspires in my friends. Mon Dieu ! would they 
pity me if they saw into the depths of my heart ? That 
usurpation of my love, was it not criminal ? Mon ami, do not 
make my conscience false ; pity me, console me ; you have 
only too long misled me. 

I have a fancy to send you the letter I took np and read 
before yours to-day (could T have had a presentiment, that 
would not have been the order of my reading) ; you will see 
from this letter whether I have suffered from your absence. 
Yes, I have made M. d'Alembert very uneasy. The man 
who writes the letter knows nothing of all that fills my 
thoughts ; he thinks me a victim of virtue and prejudice ; but 
for the last three years he has seen me so unhappy that he is 
sometimes inclined to think me mad. He spends his life in 
making epigrams against me ; but the fact is, the point of 



178 LETTEttS OS 1 [1774 

them is always a touch of sentiment or of wrath. Read 
and recognize , very surely he is a man of intellect. 

Sunday, October 30, 1774. 

I am notified too late; a package has gone to the post 
to-day ; when } T our letter came I had already sent it to M. 
Turgot to be countersigned. I expected to write you a line 
after the arrival of the postman, and send it in the usual 
way, but no matter. I hope that my volume will not be 
lost ; it will surely be sent to you, and with all the more 
care because M. Turgot's name will be seen upon it. 

I think, truly, that it is easy to criticise you without wound- 
ing you ; but it is not so easy to praise you as I feel that 
you deserve, without running the risk of being thought ex- 
aggerated, insipid, and monotonous. Well, I abandon myself 
to it, and will tell you coarsely that your letter to M. Turgot 
is excellent, perfect , it is the right tone, the proper measure ; 
in short, it is you, and I know nothing better or greater on 
earth. I told you, mon aim, that henceforth I could look 
only at that which made me raise my eyes , but you, you 
are so high that I could not lift them to you long without 
too great an effort. Ah 1 mon ami, how I wish you had a 
fortune; I wish you had easy circumstances, I wish you 
were not forced to wear out your talents, to wring the neck 
of your genius ; in short, I wish you were not condemned to 
put yourself back among the common herd. Yes, on my 
honour, it is for your sake, for the interests of your fame only, 
that I look for your marriage ; in that respect I can truly 
say with Bacine, " The day is not purer than the depth of 
.my heart." All that means, mon ami, that if an excellent 
match offered itself, if you had one in view, if I or my 
friends could help you, oh ' count on the zeal, the activity, 
the passion we would put into making it successful; yes, 



1774J MLLE DE 3LESPINASSE 179 

I should again know joy and pleasure, if I could see you 
happy. 

What pretty verses those are in your letter 1 That need 
to "live strongly" is, I believe, the need of the damned. 
That recalls to me a speech of passion that gave me pleasure. 
" If ever," it was said to me, " if ever I grow calm again, I 
shall feel myself in torture." That language is for the 
use of only such persons as are endowed with the sixth 
sense, soul. Yes, mon ami, I am fortunate enough, or unfor- 
tunate enough, to have the same dictionary as yourself I 
understand, or rather I feel, your definitions, whereas for 
three-fourths of the time I do not comprehend the Chevalier. 
He is so content with what he does, he knows so well what 
he will do, he loves reason" so truly, in a word, he is so proper 
about everything, that once I came near speaking and writing 
to him as the Chevalier Grandison but without envying 
the fate of Clementina or Miss Gr . . . 

You know, of course, that the Comte de Broglie commands 
at Metz in place of M. de Conflans. Mon aim, there *s a witty 
man , I wish he might be useful to you, to you who have not his 
wit. Apropos of wit, I must tell you a saying of the Czarina 
to Diderot. They often argued ; and one day when the dis- 
pute was more lively than usual, the Czarina stopped short, 
saying . " We are both too excited to be reasonable ; your head 
is hot and mine is warm, we shall not know what we are 
saying " " With this difference," cried Diderot, " that you 
can say what you please without impropriety, whereas I may 
fail in " " For shame ! " interrupted the Czarina, " what 
difference is there between men ? " Mon ami, read that cor- 
rectly and do not be as stupid as M. d'Alembert, who could 
see nothing in it but difference of sex, whereas the speech 
is only charming as being that of a sovereign speaking to a 
philosopher* She said to him on another occasion " Some- 



180 LETTERS OF [1774 

times I see you a hundred years old, and then again, like a 
child of twelve." That is sweet, and pretty, and paints 
Diderot. If you loved children a little more, I would tell 
you that I think I have observed that what pleases up to a 
certain point always has some analogy with them ; they have 
such grace, such suppleness, so much of Nature ' In fact, 
Harlequin is a composition of child and cat ; and what could 
be more graceful. 

Do you know what vexes me about that package that is run- 
ning after you ? You will receive so late the letter asking 
pardon for having blamed you unjustly } the post was guilty ^ 
not you, and I was its accomplice. But is it you or the post 
who are to blame this time ? You write me, " I answer your 
letters of the 9th and 14th." Why do you jump, feet 
together, over the llth, which was a Tuesday ? I have 
written by all the couriers since that moment when I was 
mad with a fatal madness. 

Mon ami, you will miss a great day, that of the re-opening 
of parliament. Oh 1 the crowd of spectators promise them- 
selves great pleasures ; but wise people like myself do not con- 
cern themselves about this first moment; it is the results, 
the consequences of this event which have such interest. 
The question is, are they judges or tyrants whom we are 
about to replace on the fleurs-de-hs ? You ask why I do not 
talk to the Chevalier about " Orpheus." Mon ami, because 
it would be barbarous to talk of colours at the Qumze-Vingts 
[blind asylum]. Adieu. 

Monday, eleven o'clock at night, November 7, 1774. 

Mon ami, it seems to me that you have rights over all the 
emotions and sentiments of my souL I owe you an account 
of all my thoughts ; I do not feel assured of their correctness 
until I communicate them to you. Listen to me, therefore, 



1774] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 181 

and judge my judgment, or rather my instinct ; for I have 
nought but that for things of intellect, of art, and of taste. 
Yes, mon ami, the Academy of Marseille has only done 
justice in crowning M. de Chamfort. Ah 1 mon Dieu! at 
what a distance now seems to me that Eulogy which gave 
me such pleasure, and will give me more ! How rich is this 
one [Chamfort's " Eulogy on La Fontaine " ] ! how full of 
intelligence, intelligence of all kinds, refinement, strength, 
elevation, philosophy ! How lively the style, how animated 
and rapid, how filled it is with happy expressions, how 
original the tone and turn of the phrases! In a word, I 
am truly charmed, and if I did not fear to spoil your pleas- 
ure I would quote to you some points, each more piquant 
than the rest. I recommend to you page 14. Tell me, am I 
mistaken ? is it not full of the most exquisite sensibility ? 
has he not ennobled benefactions and gratitude ? does he not 
express all the sentiments that a lofty, sensitive, and impas- 
sioned soul would desire to feel and to inspire ? Mon ami, 
I am so satisfied with it that I could wish you had done it ; 
and yet I am certain that you could do better ; you would 
go higher, you would not have his defects. But pronounce 
your verdict quickly : have I too much enthusiasm ? At any 
rate no one has put it into me; for I have seen and heard 
no one. I received the Eulogy at nine o'clock ; I nearly died 
of impatience to be alone : I have read it, and give you nay 
first impressions, at the risk of your thinking them devoid of 
common-sense. 

Let nothing turn you, in disgust, from reading to me what 
you write ; I will be Molifere's servant ; I will discuss noth- 
ing, but I shall feel all What taste and intelligence you 
show in narrowing your subject. In the best of tragedies 
there are tedious and languid passages. You will avoid these 
defects ; the interest will always be sustained by the subject 



182 LETTERS OF [1774 

and action of the play. The mind of the author will never 
appear, but the soul and genius of M. de G-uibert will fill 
and animate the whole. Mon am/i, why that oath not to read 
me at once, immediately, what I desire so much to hear and 
feel ? Is it because what moves you is not what I would 
desire to know and think for the rest of my life? 

Ah ! how ill you understood me in the first instance, and 
how well you have since replied to me about Lord Shelburne 1 
Yes, it is just that, his being the leader of the Opposition, 
that makes me esteem and like him. How could one not 
be disconsolate at being born under a government like ours ? 
As for me, weak and unfortunate being that I am, if I could- 
be born again I would rather be the lowest member of the 
House of Commons than even the King of Prussia ; nothing 
but Voltaire's fame could console me for not having been 
bom an Englishman. One word more about Lord Shelburne 
and I will never speak of him again. How do you think he 
rests his brain and his soul from the worries of government" ? 
In doing deeds of beneficence that are worthy of a sovereign ; 
in creating public institutions for the education of all the 
tenants of his estates, entering into all the details of their 
instruction and comfort. That, mow, ami, is the relaxation 
of a man who is only thirty-four years old, and whose soul is 
as tender as it is great and strong. There is an Englishman 
worthy to have been the friend of the wonder and miracle 
of the Spanish nation [M. de Mora]. That is the man whom 
I wish you could have seen ; but if you had, you would 
always have regretted him ; for assuredly he is not made to 
live in this country. He leaves on the 13th ; he wants to 
see the re-entrance of our parliament , meanwhile he is giving 
himself up to the dissipations of Paris. In all his life he 
has never known that species of relaxation ; he finds much 
delight and .duurm in it. It is pleasure/' he said to me> 



1774] MLLB. DE LESPINASSE. 183 

"because it will not last; for such a life forever would 
become the most intolerable weariness." How far that is 
from a Frenchman, from one of those agreeable men at 
Court. Ah ! President Montesquieu was right when he said, 
"The government makes the man." A man gifted with 
energy, loftiness of soul, and genius is in this country a lion 
chained in a menagerie ; the sense that he has of his strength 
tortures him ; he is a Patagonian condemned to walk on his 
knees. Mon ami, there is but one career open for glory, but 
it is noble. It is that of the Molikres, the Eacines, the 
Voltaires > the d'Alernberts, etc. Yes, won ami, you must 
limit yourself to that because the world so wills it. Good- 
night; I do not know if this letter will stait; but I have 
talked with you, and I am satisfied 

Sunday, ten o'clock at night, November 13, 1774. 

Ah 1 vnofi a/mi 9 you have hurt me ; it is a great curse, for 
you and for me, this feeling that inspires me. You do right 
to tell me you have no need of being loved as I can love. 
No, that is not according to* your measure. You are so per- 
fectly amiable and agreeable that you are, or will become, the 
first object of those charming ladies who put on their heads 
all that is inside of them, and are so lovable that they love 
themselves in preference to all else. You will make the 
pleasure, you will crown the vanity of all those women. By 
what fatality did you hold me to life only to make me die of 
uneasiness and pain ? Mon aim, I make no complaint, but I 
grieve that you set no value on my peace of mind ; that 
thought freezes and tears my heart by turns. 

How is it possible to have a moment's tranquillity with a 
man whose head is as bad as his carriage, who thinks of no 
danger, who foresees nothing, who is incapable of punctuality, 



184 LETTERS OF [1774 

word, a man carried away by everything, whom nothing can 
stop or fix ? Oh ! my God ! is it in thine anger, in thy ven- 
geance, that thou hast doomed me to love and adore him who 
is the torture and despair of my soul ? Yes, won ami, what 
you call your faults may perhaps kill me, I hope they may, 
"but nothing can chill me. If my will, if reason, if reflec- 
tion could have done anything, should I have loved you ? 
Alas ! at what a time was I pushed, precipitated into this 
abyss of misfortune 1 I shudder at it still ! 

Good-night ; not once has my door been opened to-day that 
my heait did not beat ; there were moments when I dreaded 
to hear your name, and then again I was broken-hearted at 
not hearing it. So many contradictions, so many conflicting 
emotions are true, and three words explain them : I love you. 

1774. 

Your letter of Thursday morning was hard and unjust ; 
that of an hour eailier was overwhelming from the excess of 
truth and unreserve with which you tell me that you have 
never loved me, and that henceforth you cannot live for any 
one, etc. and etc. Do you know that such an avowal turns 
my remorse to shame ? I cannot think of myself without 
horror, and from you I turn away my thoughts; I wish to 
neither judge you nor hate you. 

Yesterday you came so late, and were so eager to get away 
that you proved to me you yielded to my note ; and that 
seemed to me very natural. I only mention this to let you 
know that I am aware that you will not be annoyed at not 
seeing me this morning. I expect the Archbishop of Aix ; 
he has something he wishes to say to me. My door will be 
closed. In the afternoon I am going to pay visits and I shall 
not return home till after eight o'clock. To-morrow I dine 
with the Oomte de C . . and have visits to pay until eight 



1774] MLLE DE I/ESPINASSE 185 

o'clock I tell you my arrangements, not that I think they 
will influence yours, but to spare you the trouble of trying to 
see me or avoid me. 

The person who disposes of you and of your time will not 
allow you to give yourself up to the disgust you feel for the 
world and for society. You will find distraction, peace, pleas- 
ure, happiness with her and at her house , and you will no 
longer be afflicted by the mortal disgust which must surely 
be attached to the wrong of deceiving those who love us. 
Ah * it was not worth while. You must feel very guilty 
towards her, yield yourself up tJii t^ f me to the invincible 
penchant that allures you , offend her no longer by putting 
any comparison between the feeling that you owe to her and 
that with, which others inspire you. Mon Dieu J I know 
not why I should speak of what occupies your mind , it is, 
doubtless, from the habit of always liking to please you. 

We read last night the "Eulogy of Reason" [by Voltaire]. 
They all thought it excellent. I wish you had heard it. The 
reading did not finish till ten o'clock. 

Eleven at night, 1774 

I have read your note. It is very gentle, it is very honest , 
your conversation was very harsh, very cruel even. I was 
crushed by it. Never, no never, was my soul so beaten down, 
my body more weakened. You had formed the intention of 
never seeing me again. Well, then, why change it ? You 
gave me strength to accomplish my intention, *to satisfy the 
most urgent need of my soul , we should both have been re- 
lieved and delivered; I, of a burden which overpowers rue, 
you, of the sight of a sorrow which annoys you often and 
always weighs upon you. No, I have no thanks to give you 
I prefer your first impulse to your reflection. In doing me 
wrong you gave me strength: in consoling me, as I have 



186 LETTERS OP [1774 

told you again and again, you hold me back, but you do not 
bind me to you. Oh I it is perhaps you who make me feel 
in a deeper and more heart-rending manner the loss I have 
met with. Nothing would have led me to compare you de- 
liberately ; this involuntary thought casts me often into de- 
spair ; in this condition of mind I know not which is the 
most dreadful, my regrets or my remorse. But what does all 
this matter to you ? The opera, the dissipation and whirl- 
wind of society sweeps you along, and that is ]ust; I do 
not complain; I grieve- 
Nevertheless, I wish you would come here to-morrow after 
supper ; you can then speak to M. d'Alembert, and perhaps to 
M. de Values , he sends me word that he will probably be here. 
I have seen M. Turgot this evening , it is more than six 
months since I have been tte a tte with him. I was dull, 
and I think he must have regretted the time he wasted on 
me. Good-night. I have a burning heat; fever consumes 
me. Ah ! this death is too slow ! You hastened me this 
morning ; why retain me to-night ? 

Saturday, eleven at night, 1774. 

How wise you were not to come to the theatre. I have 
no words to express the weary disgust T felt ; I had, besides, 
a feeling of physical discomfort which was almost pain , it 
ended by being beyond my strength to pass my evening with 
Mme. de CMtillon, although I had promised her to do so. 

I feel that* there is a degree of unhappmess which takes 
from us the strength to endure ennui ; it is dreadful to me 
to be a passive listener to trivialities, often revolting, and 
nearly always as stupid as they are low. Oh ' the detest- 
able play ! how bourgeois the author is, what a common, 
limited mind I how stupid the. public are' what bad taste 
good company can show I how I pity the unfortunate writers 



774] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 187 

who are hoping to acquire reputation from the stage ! If 
JTOU only knew how the audience applauded ! Molifere could 
never have had a greater success. Nothing was noble about 
the play except the names and the clothes ; the author made 
Henri IV. and the Court people talk in the style of a bour- 
geois of Saint-Denis. It is true that he gave the same style 
to the peasants. In a word, this work [comedy in three acts 
by Colle, entitled " A Hunting party of Henri IV."] is to me 
a masterpiece of bad taste and platitudes ; and the people in 
society who praise it seem to me like valets saying good of 
their masters. 

Have you news of your mother ? is she better ? and is 
your father's return a ceitainty ? Nothing but that can 
console me for your having left this faubourg. And you, 
mon ami, how have you spent your day ? In not doing 
what you said you should, is not that so ? and to-morrow 
you will not work ; always an activity which makes a hun- 
dred plans, and an easiness in dropping them on the least 
pretext regrets, desires, agitation, but never any repose. 
Oh ! mon ami, you must be loved before you are known, as 
you were by me ; for after judging you, it would be devoting 
one's self to hell to pin one's happiness upon you. 

I will tell you my whole day to-morrow, Sunday, so that 
you may give me the moments that will least inconvenience 
you. First, mass ; then a visit to a sick friend before dinner. 
I dine with Mme. de Chatillon ; at four o'clock I go to the 
h6tel de La Rochefoucauld ; then I shall return home about 
half -past six, and not go out again. Adieu, mom- ami; I love 
you, but I feel too sad and too stupid to know how to tell 
you so, 

Mon ami, may I ask you, without offence, to return me the 
letter of the Abb de B . . . ? f or I do not venture to reclaim 
the pages torn from my letters. I was wrong to notice it, 



188 LETTEBS OF [1774 

and by speaking to you about them I have roused your 
" indignation." That feeling is ]ust ; I dare not complain of 
it. Ah I I am too "difficult to please/ 3 too "exacting," too 
"crabbed." I have all the faults of an unhappy being who 
loves to desperation and who has but one emotion and one 
thought Adieu again. 

Midday, 1774 

You did not tell me, you did not write it, and I can 
prove this to you. The hope of seeing you suffices to stop 
and change all my arrangements ; you can judge, therefore, 
whether, with the certainty of seeing you, I was likely to 
go out. But as you depend on the arrangements of Mme. 
de . . . , you can never foresee, or say with 'certainty what 
you will do. Mon ami, there is no great harm in that ; mis- 
understandings result, but you are free, that is the important 
thing. I am sorry you did not let yourself be driven to 
where Mme. de . . . was stopping. M. de Saint-Lambert 
was going to the Place Yen dome but you never know 
what you want to do nor where you are going. However, 
what does it matter ? If you were amused, if you were satis- 
fied and happy at the close of your day, you did well, you 
were right, and your way of life must be a good one. Change 
nothing. As for me, I am sad and depressed. I wish not 
to change my way of feeling, but I wish I were annihilated, 
I wish I had been so on that day when I ceased to be beloved. 
Ah ! mon Dieu, what a loss is mine ! My soul cannot accus- 
tom itself to that dreadful word never; it still gives me con- 
vulsions. Yesterday, during the reading, I feared I should 
have to go away. I remembered that the last time that 
reading was given Tie was present; my heart was "broken. I 
could not listen to another word, and since that moment I 
have existed only on those sweet and cruel memories. Mon 
ami, why did you, wrench me from death ? The thought of 



1774] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 189 

death is all that calms my soul ; it is its need, its most per- 
manent desire. 

Good-bye ; I know not how I can do it, but, to my great 
regret, I must control myself. The time in my life when I 
feel best is at night ; then I am all alone with my affections. 
You must tell me if you know it what you expect to 
do the next few days ; but in mercy make me -no sacrifice. 
I am not worthy of it, and I should be left so unhappy. 

Saturday, 1774 

Mon ami, you never know what you want to do ; I am 
therefore going tt> tell you : you will go out before eleven 
o'clock ; you will pay visits in the faubourg Saont-Honore ; 
then you will go and dine with Mme. de Boufflers. Return- 
ing from there, you will go and write at the house of Mme. 
de V . . . ; at seven o'clock you will come to the Gom^die 
Franaise to see " Henri IV." (which is the afterpiece) ; you 
will ask for the box of the Due d'Aumont, over the orchestra, 
next to the queen; you will tell your lacquey to be, at a 
quarter past eight, at the great gate of the Prince's court- 
yard, and we will all go out that way without losing a mo- 
ment ; after which you will go -and sup with Mme. de . . . 

There is your whole day well laid out; change nothing. 
Then on Sunday you will work all the morning without 
going out ; you will dine with Mme. de . . . , return home 
at five to work again, and at eight you will come to me. 
Apply yourself y and take my advice. Then Monday, dinner 
with Mme. de V. . . , supper with Mme. de . . . ; Tuesday, 
dinner at M. Turgot's, and supper with Mme. de * , . ; 
Wednesday, dinner with Mme. Geoffrin, and supper with 
Mme. de . . . ; Thursday, dinner with Comte de C . . . , 
and supper with Mme. de . . . ; Saturday, dinner with Mme. 
de . . . , go to Versailles after dinner, and return Sunday 



190 LETTERS OF , [1774 

evening to spend it with me. Mon ami, you will be the 
most agreeable man in society if you do what is here pre- 
scribed to you. I defy you to make a better plan for your 
pleasure I make that, as in duty bound, the first object. 

Mon ami, you tell me that you wish to make me suffer; 
that is impossible ; you are kind, you have feelings, and you 
know wl\at ? that I would give my life, more than that, 
I would vow myself to sorrow if I could thus deliver you 
from one quarter of an hour's pain. And yet you wish to 
make me suffer ! Oh, it is not true ! 

Pive o'clock, 1774 

Mon aim, you were mad this morning, but your madness 
was very charming because it was after my own heart. 
I do not know how I happened to forget to tell you the 
imperative reason that kept me at home. This surprises me 
the more as I did not remember until I saw M. de Vaines 
enter my room at half-past three o'clock. He had told me 
the evening before, and he had written it to me, yet I did 
not remember to tell you. Mon ami, I have annoyed you once, 
and you have hurt me a hundred times. For instance, if I 
do not see you to-night you will be cruel and unjust, but 
I shall not complain. M. Turgot is rather better; I have 
had news from him three times since I saw you, and I shall 
have more before midnight ; that satisfies me without tran- 
quillizing me. 

I have seen your Lanon, the painter ; he is handsome 
enough to be painted himself ; but there is something silly, 
vapid, and conceited about him which cools me as to his 
talent. That man will never feel your soul ; he may paint 
your features, he may find the secret of rendering a likeness, 
but it will be without interest to *me. And yet, how could 
that "be? have I not in my heart that which would animate 



1774] MI^LE. DE LESPINASSE. 191 

stone and make canvas living? Hon ami, I will not lose 
it ; you have promised me your portrait ; give it to me there- 
fore ; I want it. 

I have not been out ; I shall see no one who will tell me 
of the ball ; I shall hear M. Turgot talked of, not with the 
interest that I feel in him, but with that which is felt for 
virtue, and through fear of his successor. To me he is not 
the controller-general; he is M. Turgot, with whom I have 
been intimate for seventeen years ; in that light his illness 
troubles and agitates my soul. 

Half-past ten o'clock, 1774 

I have been with two women, coughing myself to death , 
I could not thank you for sending me news of yourself, 
You do well, mon ami, to stay in your chimney-corner; 
your health and comfort are far dearer to me than my 
pleasure. I am sure you will accuse me of temper and 
injustice, and it is you who will be unjust; but I forgive 
you. I have for ypu a sentiment which is the principle, 
and has the effects, of all the virtues, indulgence, kindness, 
generosity, confidence, the yielding up of self, the abnegation 
of personal interest. Yes, 'mon ami, I am all that when 
I think you love me ; but a doubt reverses my soul and puts 
me beside myself ; and what is cruel about it is that this is 
almost my habitual condition. 

Mon ami, the first rule for writing en points is to form 
one's letters, and, above all, be precise ; hence you will never 
be able to write en points. But I will let you off easily 
in future. I feel only the need of being loved day by day ; 
let us blot from our dictionary the word forever. My 
soul can no longer attain so far. I am a hundred years old, 
and I have under lock and key a cure for the future. You 
see I have read your points. But you, read these two pas- 



192 LETTERS <OT [1775 

sages from Seneca ; they have delighted me. I wished yon 
to see them, and I *have had them copied. M. de Mora 
had the same sentiments ; they sustained him three years at 
the point of death, but death was stronger than love. Good- 
night. I feel sad ; life hurts me, and yet I love you with 
tenderness and passion. 

Eleven o'clock, 1775 

I am alone only for a moment. For the last two hours I 
have been trying to finish that criticism of the Comte de 
La ... For the last twelve days I have been swept away 
from all that interests me most in life. Ah t mon ami, how 
stupid dissipation is ; how barren society is of all interest 
for a mind preoccupied ; how few conversations there are for 
which it is worth the trouble to leave home ! I am almost 
in a state of disgust with intellect ; you say truly, that which 
enlightens only, wearies me. Ah 1 I am very unfortunate ; 
what I love, what consoles me, puts my soul to the torture 
with trouble and lemorse. I must have need to suffer, for 
I find myself constantly desiring that which does me harm. 
But, mo n arm, it is only by thought that you can comprehend 
all this , and I ought not to tell it to you ; in fact, I meant 
merely to ask you to return to me the volume of Montaigne 
which you put in your pocket a few days ago. 

I will go and fetch you before two o'clock : do not order a 
carriage. Mon aim, there is something noble, righteous, 
honourable in submitting to ill-fortune. I know many rich 
men wlio go on foot for their pleasure ; and many old and 
infirm persons who go about in the street carriages. I am 
very limited myself, mon ami; if you knew how much little 
details are to me, what the happiness that is bought with 
money would be to me 1 Mon Diev,, my present situation 
proves that I have utterly disdained fortune ; it has no doubt 
its advantages, but how many things are preferable ! Good- 



1775] MLLE. DE I,ESPIN*ASSE. 193 

night, mon ami. "What are you doing at this moment? 
I defy you to be better employed than I ; I am thinking of 
what I love. 

Be ready before two o'clock. 

Midday, 1776 

I was so chilled, so extinct last night because you came so 
late, and because I have seen you so little these many days, 
that I forgot to give you a copy of that letter of Mme. G-eof- 
frin which you desired. Nor did I tell you that you should 
have a ticket for that friend you do not choose to name to 
me If you are amiable, and above all reasonable, this is 
how you will arrange your day to-morrow: dine at the 
Temple, and you will there see Mme. de Boufflers ; and at 
six o'clock you will either come here or go to the Opera 
(I will let you know which). I am tempted not to go and 
dine with Comte de Creutz, though he is to have, or flatters 
himself he will have, M. Boucher. I admire the latter's 
talent with all my soul, but the use he makes of it wearies 
me diamonds, gold, rainbows, all that does not touch 
the sensitive portion of my being; a word from him whom 
I love, his slumber even, stirs more in me of that which 
feels and thinks than all M. Boucher's factitious images. 
Mon ami, I want to see you to-day; come before supper. 
To-morrow I will let you know if I expect you at the 
Opera or here. 

Well, here is a settled thing: I will lend you no more 
manuscripts, inasmuch as you send them about , I see there 
is no safety with you. But in spite of your defects, you still 
have confidence, as you told me yesterday, in being always 
sought, always loved, and by a thousand more than you could, 
or would respond to Mon Dwu ! what a pity it is that, being 
so charming, you deserve so little to be loved ! Good-bye ; 

I am not stupid, but I am, perhaps, too truthfuL I shall not 

is 



194 LETTERS OF [1775 

go out to-day till nine at night. I will wager that you are 
roving already. There are but three things of which you do 
not know the value, and which you consequently fling about : 
your time, your talent, and your money of all things else, 

you are miserly. 

Midday, 1776. 

" Unworthy and common " conduct would be to leave you 
to your anger and to the opinion that I wished to affront you, 
Men aim, know me better, and believe that I could never 
fear being compromised, as you say, or even betrayed. Re- 
member that for one who does not fear death, and who, far 
from fearing it, has never passed twenty -four hours in the 
last six months without finding in herself the desire and 
the strength to forestall it, remember, I say, that in that 
frame of mind my soul can know but one species of fear, 
and that is derived from my tenderness for you ; I fear 
to displease you, I fear to grieve you ; but, on my honour, 
I fear nothing for myself ; there are moments, in fact, when 
I should like you to reduce me to despair. See, from that, 
if I am likely to have those petty fears which are roused 
only by the dull vanity that makes people desire an esteem 
they do not deserve. 

^fo, mon ami, I repeat it, I fear nothing in the world but 
my conscience ; and as I cannot calm that, nor stifle my re- 
morse, I wish to die ; my sole regret in dying would be to 
have hurt you. From that sincere avowal you can judge of 
the feelings that inspire me, and see whether your soul ought 
to remain " ulcerated " by an emotion condemnable no doubt 
if it were not the effect of two maladies which consume my 
life and rend my heart. Mon ami, I have told you that you 
must indeed have much, ah ! very much indulgence for me 
Forgive me, therefore, not my intention, not my sentiment 
(&& assuredly fhey need no pardon, unless for the excess of 



1775] MLLB DE LESPINASSE. 195 

passion that is in them), but forgive a fit of madness which 
I could not repress. 

Your letter is unjust; but it does not take from me the 
hope of still reaching your heart 0v Tell me it is closed to me 
forever and I will thank you ; for with those words you will 
break the sole tie that holds me to a life of regret and re- 
morse, a life in which I can look for no other interest or 
pleasure than that of loving you without hope that you 
will share my feeling. But at least be sure that I shall 
never trouble your happiness or your dissipations, never ask 
you for a moment that you think could be better employed; 
you shall be free to see me but rarely, and without fearing 
the importunity of my reproach. 

Mon ami, tell me again that you will " never " see me 
more; that, I believe, is the word that my soul craves to 
hear. Ah ! no, I fear nothing, except to live; I bid all na- 
ture do its worst ; I feel myself so strong, and yet so feeble, 
that I ask you, from the bottom of my heart, to crush me 
wholly or come to my assistance. Adieu, mon ami. 

Eleven o'clock, 1775. 

For the last two hours I have been waiting ; at last that 
pamphlet has come. Remember that the " Eulogy of Reason " 
gave you pleasure, and do not change that opinion. Mon ami, 
in preaching moderation your zeal carries you away ; there is 
no kind of conversation in which you do not compromise 
yourself without making any conversions ; but as I am not 
mof e fortunate than you, I end my sermon here, and will 
only say that I shall be delighted to see you. Come early ; 
remember it is eight days since I have seen you ; you can 
imagine how charmed I was with your note. Mon Itieu ! 
why do you put such warmth and interest in overcoming 
me and in making me feel myself inconsistent and absurd, 



196 LETTERS OF [1775 

and, then, why are yon all ice to my soul? Ah! why? 
because you are true ; because if you did not love me, 
you would have hated me; because the real evil is that 
we ever met each other. But inasmuch as it is impossible 
to change the past, I ask you to console me to-day by coming 
early. Good-bye; I am talking with M. d'Anlezy while 
writing to you; it is not comfortable. 

Midday, 1775. 

Why, surely I believe that you will never take the man- 
ners or the tone of any one ; all which has true grandeur can 
only lose by changing, Alexander, perhaps, would not have 
given up his stiff' neck; therefore, keep all you have, won 
ami, your taste, your levity, your manners, and, above all, 
your forgetfulness of whatever moves and interests those 
you say you love. ITor instance, you have a refinement of 
delicacy that I never observed in any one but you; you 
will not come and see me, you say, because not to see me 
alone is a restraint upon you ! Truly, that is touching ten- 
derness, especially when you are at liberty to come and see 
me in the mornings or at four o'clock ; those are times when 
I am almost sure to be alone. But, mon ami, it is much 
more delicate not to come at all, and I give my consent, for 
I no longer wish you to make sacrifices for me, which 
you have no desire to make. Your excessive interest will 
content itself with two words : " I suffer/' 

February, 1776. 

They are coming to fetch me ; I shall not see you, and not 
know whether you want me to call for you. Do you know 
they are giving "Tom Jones" [comic opera], with "False 
Magic " [the same, by Marmontel] ? That will give you 
pleasure, and your pleasure will make mine. Therefore give 
this evening to Mme. . . ^ and come to the play with me 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 197 

to-morrow. But decide , for your place has many applicants. 
You had the kindness, to deprive me last week of two even- 
ings on which I had counted ; that wound up my soul to 
generosity, and it is without rancour that I give you your 
liberty to-night. I still feel the crisis of yesterday ; I need 
solitude, and composure ; with you I should find only trouble. 
Go, therefore, and pass the evening with what you love, 
what pleases you, and what loves you, and leave me to en- 
gulf myself, inebriate myself with a sorrow which is better 
than all the pleasures of those persons with whom you were 
last night. Yes, vice is less dangerous than those souls of 
papier-mache", those vacant brains. Vice revolts and makes 
us indignant, whereas those persons seduce you by their 
manners and their tone, and will extinguish forever mind 
soul, and talent. Ah 1 mon Dieu ! do not give M. Boucher the 
disgust of being judged by those still-borns, or rather those 
living dead. They cannot understand his soul, and they 
will wound him by the insolence with which they will speak 
to him of his poverty. You would do well to tell them that 
with his talents a man is richer, greater, happier than any 
one of them. I must tell you a generosity of M. de B . . . 
which will give you the measure of his soul, or of what 
represents it. M. Turgot is to hear M. Roucher; he will 
feel him ; he is virtuous, he will serve Tmp without 
urging. 

I think you do well to go to Versailles ; you ought to 
speak once of that affair, and then say no more. Mme. 
Geoffrin has sent me an engraving for you. I send it that 
you may enjoy it all the sooner. The woman is beautiful, 
but cold as a Muse. Send your copy to Mme. Geoffrin ; she 
is in a hurry. When persons are very young or very old 
they want to enjoy instantly. I have been very unwell to- 
day, but that is now the habit of my life; people should not 



198 iBTTBRS OF [1775 

be asked to pity ills that last forever ; it is enough if we our- 
selves are endured with them. Good-night. 

Seven o'clock, 1775. 

Last evening at this hour I expected you, mon ami, and I 
suffered when you did not come ; to-day my soul is depressed 
and sad because it is not sustained by the hope of seeing 
you. What I feel recalls to me those verses of M. de La 

Harpe : 

** Ah ! why can I no longer await her, 
E'en though she comes not 2 " 

Mon ami, I pity you for being unable to share the feelings 
that possess me , you would know happiness the happiness 
which gives an idea of heaven, and conveys strength to pur- 
chase heaven by the tortures of hell. Yes, I feel it, my soul 
is made only for excesses : to love feebly is impossible to me ; 
but also, if you do not respond to me, if my soul cannot com- 
pel yours to follow it, if you wish me to live a divided half, 
if it suffices you to be agitated and never happy, I feel a 
vigour still within me to renounce you. wholly. Mon arm, you 
know it : each time that we feel the strength and even the 
desire to die, we can claim all, exact all ; we do not give our- 
selves time to deserve, to acquire by slow means what we 
need to obtain at once. It is not the price of my happiness 
that I stake on being loved by you , it is that of my life. 
It would be shameful, therefore, to deceive me, and it would 
be generous to deprive me of all hope. 

But it was not one word of all this that I wished to say 
when I took up my pen. See how free we are when our 
souls are tossed i I meant to warn you not to come to- 
morrow before midday, because I have just remembered I 
shall have a coiffeur. It would be odious to me to see you 
with that appendage, and I shall not be free from ^^ till 
or h&lf-past. 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSJE. 199 

Be vexed if you like, "but I cannot express to you how 
glad I am that you went away this morning when you did ; 
anocher ten minutes and I do not know what would have 
become of me. M. de Magallon came in, and shortly after 
his departure I had a violent attack of convulsions; my 
"bodily frame can no longer sustain the emotions of my souL 
This does not alarm me nor make me uneasy ; I- fear neither 
pain nor the end of pain, but, mon aim, explain 'to me what 
gives this strength at the height of misery. Is it that situa- 
tions of despair fortify and elevate the heart? If so, we 
should bear our fate and make no moan. 

A conversation is going on about me in which I am not 
tempted to take part, but it disturbs me. However dissi- 
pated you may have been to-day, whatever pleasures you 
may have had, I do not envy you; I have been in better 
company. I have been absorbed in " Catinat " [eulogy written 
by M. de Guibert]. I have re-read a part of it and I am 
more than ever charmed, more satisfied than I can express. 
To a certainty, the author will go far. It is not enough to 
say that he has talent, soul, mind, genius; he has what 
is missing in almost all good things, that eloquence, that 
warmth that makes us feel before we judge. This is what 
enables me to praise without presumption, and approve with 
as much truth as if I had mind and taste. I cannot analyze 
or expatiate on anything, but what is fine uplifts my soul, 
and my judgment is right, whatever you may say. Adieu 
adieu. 

Ten o'clock at night, 1775. 

Mon ami, how good you are, how amiable you are for 
wishing to compensate me for what I lost this morning. If 
you also knew how I waited for you, how J removed and 
sent away all that could trouble my pleasure, how each car- 
riage that passed gave me hope, and then how it hurt my 



200 LETTERS OF [1775 

soul I Mon Dieu ! how I love you ' how guilty I feel for 
having wounded you ! No, man ami, do not forgive me ; 
punish me ; add, if possible, to my pain, my regret. Ex- 
treme unhappiness puts us beside ourselves. Yes, it dis- 
orders the mind, leads it astray, makes us ill it was all 
that that led me to offend you. For the last three days I 
have felt this misfortune only, and I think I should have 
died of it if you had not come to my assistance. Ah ! mon 
ami, you uttered words which still make me shudder, which 
wring my heart : I " turned you to ice " you had to 
" struggle with yourself to see me." Oh, heaven ! why am I 
not dead before I hear such words ? Tell me not that I am 
doomed to some day hate you. Mon ami, I appeal from that 
judgment ; I make oath by you whom I love, by all that is 
most sacred to me, not to survive one hour that horrible emo- 
tion. I hate you! see the passion^ the tenderness that 
inspire my heart. Ah I if I were fated to love you no 
longer, on that day, O God ! how sweet it would be to die I 
Heaven is my witness that I hold to life by you alone ; and 
all that friends so prodigally give me of care, of kindness, 
friendship, interest, would not have the power to keep me 
till the morrow. 

Mon arm, M. de Mora is ever by my side, and T see you 
ever. If my soul should lose from sight that succour, that 
support, I could not exist one hour. Ah I read my heart to 
its depths ; you will see there more than I can tell you, and 
better. Can we ever express what we feel, what inspires us, 
what makes us breathe, what is most necessary to us, yes, 
more necessary than air ? for I have no neecj to live, but I 
have need to love you. Ah ! mon ami, how far away from 
me you are i You said yesterday that I had " begun by 
wounding you and ended by turning you to ice." I answer : 
* You had wounded me ; " and I add : You mav desDise me. 



1775] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 201 

you may hate me, but still I shall find within me the pas- 
sion with which to love you." Yes, mo?i ami, I repeat it : 
death is in m}' thoughts a score of times a day, and my soul 
cannot conceive the idea of loving you less. Ah T know me 
wholly , see within my soul the passion that consumes me 
and that I dare not make you see. It is not my remorse, of 
which I speak to you sometimes ; it is not my sorrow, which 
I wail to you so often , mon ami, it is an ill which impairs 
my reason and my health, an ill which renders me unjust, 
distrustful, which makes me utter things of which I have a 
horror. How could I have been so beside myself as to tell 
you that I had a bad opinion of you ? Is that in nature * 
could that thought have been within my heart ? Do we adore, 
do we pay worship to that which does not seem to us a god ? 
Mon ami, my brain and soul must have been overwrought to 
a very high, a very rare degree, to be as guilty as I have 
been. Man Dieu ! I was loved as I love you, and by the 
most perfect of human beings \ and now you have the force 
to say to me that I have never loved you, that iny sentiment 
is hatred 1 Yes, it is true, I hated but it was myself, and 
for the irresistible emotion that carried me away. Mon ami, 
consider the matter well, and although you have been 
much loved no doubt, you will find that no person ever loved 
you with greater strength, more tenderness, more passion, 
than I. 

Midnight, February 6, 1775 f 

"Well I did I not tell you so, mon ami ? I have not seen 
you and I shall not see you. Ah 1 how sad it is to foresee cor- 
rectly, and how sorrowful to show regrets to those who do not 
share them ! I know not why I felt so keenly that you would 
fail me. No one but " Iphigenia " [Gluck's opera] had more 
company this afternoon than there was in my room ; I am 
crushed with fatigue. First, I had begun by going to spend 



202 LETTERS OF [1775 

an hour with M. Turgot ; then another hour with Mme. de 
CMtillon , that made many btairs to mount, and I was tired 
out on getting home. I had promised to spend the evening 
at Saint-Joseph's [the Duchesse de CMtillon lived at the 
same convent as Mme. du Deffand], but I had not the strength 
for it. I will go to-morrow, if my visit to the Marais leaves 
me any courage. 

Before dinner, I am going to see the automatons, which 
are amazing, so they say ! l When I went into society I did 
not have such curiosity , two or three assemblies there give 
satiety ; but these of the rue de Clry are better worth going 
to ; they act and do not talk. Go and see them on your way 
to the Marais, where I will tell you when I can have the 
Due d'Aumont's opera-box. I am to have it either to- 
morrow or Tuesday ; I should prefer to-morrow because we 
shall have M. Roucher on Tuesday. But, *m on ami, in some 
way or other I must see you to-morrow, and for long. Mme. 
de Chatillon does not think you guilty of negligence ; she 
asked me to-day if your retreat would last much longer. 
You can easily believe that I told her it was quite ab- 
solute, that you had seen no one for what women like 
is to be preferred. Few persons need to be loved, and 
that is fortunate. They dare to say they love, and they 
are calm and dissipated ! that, assuredly, is fine knowledge 
of sentiment and passion I Poor people ! we must praise 
them as we do the Liliputians; they are very pretty, very 
dainty, very nice. Adieu, mon ami. The confidence you 
showed me last night in relation to your mother's letter 
was very charming. 

1 The automatons were made by Jacques Droz, a young man of twenty, 
a native of Neufchatel, Switzerland ; one figure was that of a boy seated at 
a table, writing; he dipped his pen in the ink and wrote whatever the spec- 
tators dictated to him. Marie Antoinette went to see them the same week 
as Mile, de Lespinasse. I?B. Er>. 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 203 

Midnight, February 10, 1775. 

Midnight strikes : mon ami, I have just been struck by a 
remembrance which freezes my blood. It was on the 10th of 
February of last year that I was intoxicated with a poison, 
the effects of "which still last. Even at this moment it alters 
the circulation of my blood , it sets my heart to beating with 
greater violence; it recalls to it its heart-breaking regrets. 
Alas ! by what fatality must the sentiment of the keenest, 
sweetest pleasure be allied to a misfortune so ciushing ? - 1 
What a dreadful conjunction ! How shall I tell it, recalling 
that moment of horror and pleasure ? 1 saw approaching me 
a young man whose eyes were filled with interest and sensi- 
bility ; his face expressed sweetness and tenderness ; his soul 
seemed agitated by passion. At the sight, I felt possessed by 
a sort of terror, mingled with pleasure ; I dared to raise my 
eyes and fix them on him ; I approached him ; my senses and 
my soul froze. I saw him preceded, environed, as it were, by 
Sorrow in a mourning garment ; she stretched out her arms ; 
she tried to repulse me, to stop me ; I felt myself drawn on- 
ward by a fatal attraction. In my trouble I said : " Who art 
thou ? O thou who fillest my soul with so much charm and 
terror, such sweetness and such alarm, what tidings do you 
bring me 2 " Unhappy one," she said, with a sombre air 
and a mournful accent, " I am, and I -will make thy fate ; he 
who inspired your life has just been struck by death." Yes, 
mon ami, I heard those fatal words ; they are graven on my 
heart ; it quivers still, and it loves you ! 

In mercy, let me see you to-morrow ; I am filled with, sad- 
ness and trouble. At 1 mon Dieu I it is a year to-day, at just 
this hour, that M. de Mora was struck down by that mortal 
blow ; and I, at the same moment, two hundred leagues apart 

1 Reference to the hemorrhage which attacked M. de Mora on that 



204 LETTERS OF [1775 

from Vn'-m, was more cruel, more culpable than the ignorant 
barbarians who killed him. I die of regret ; my eyes and my 
heart are full of tears. Adieu, mon arm, I ought never to have 

loved you. 

Six o'clock in the morning, 1774 

Do you remember your last words ? do you remember the 
condition into which you put me, and in which you believed 
you left me ? Well, I wish to tell you that, returning quickly 
to myself, I rose again, and I saw myself, not one hair's- 
breadth lower than before when I stood erect, at my full 
height. And what will astonish you, perhaps, is that of all 
the impulses that have drawn me to you, the last is the only 
one for which I have no remorse Do you know why "2 
Because there is an excess in passion which justifies the soul 
that has equally a horror of what is vile and unworthy. In 
that abandonment, that last degree of abnegation of myseli 
and of all personal interests, I proved to you that there is but 
one misfortune on earth that seems to me unbearable to 
offend you and lose you That fear would make me give my 
life : why, then, should I regret to have proved and uttered 
forcibly a feeling which has made me, for a year past, live 
and die ? No, mon ami, in spite of your words, I do not feel 
humiliated ; and that is because I think you honourable and 
myself not culpable. Do not suppose that I make to myself a 
false conscience, or that I seek to justify myself ; no, mon 
ami ; the sentiment that inspires me disdains pride and in- 
sincerity ; but if you blame me, I hold myself condemned 
forever ; your esteem is dearer to me than my own. 

I am so sure of your honour, I know so well your kind- 
ness, that I am sure before you slept you promised yourself 
to see me to-day. I thank you for that intention ; but I 
ask you not to" see me ; show delicacy and pity in this. I 
need to keep my soul in repose ; you lead it to excesses it 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 205 

has never yet known, and to which my thought alone could 
not attain. Ah 1 mon Dieu ! how much a great happiness 
is to be dreaded ! it has no limit and no measure. Ah ! I 
need repose; leave me to calm myself. I shall take two 
grains of opium ; by numbing my blood my thoughts will 
be dulled, my soul will sink, and perhaps J shall forget 
that you have not replied to my heart, that you did not say 
one word to comfort and reassure me throughout the whole 
of last evening. 

Adieu, <mon ami ; do not come : and after this request, be 
not annoyed that my door is closed ; it will be so to every 
one. I am so feeble that the effect of opium will numb 
all my faculties but it suspends my woe ; it takes away 
from me that portion of my being which feels and suffers. 
Adieu I I part myself from you for twenty-four hours. If, 
by a misfortune I do not wish to think of, last evening had 
no, I dare not continue. 

Mon ami, I see a means of repairing all; I will punish, 
myself : I know how to suffer, and I will condemn myself 
to never say to you again what I now pronounce with ten- 
derness and passion: I love you. 

Eleven o'clock, 1776. 

Judge of my trouble : I feel a mortal repugnance to open- 
ing your letter; if I did not fear to offend you I should 
send it back. Something tells me it will irritate my sorrow, 
and I wish to spare myself. The continued suffering of my 
body depresses my soul ; I still have fever, and I have not 
closed my eyes ; I can no more. In mercy for pity's sake, 
torture no longer a life that is almost extinct ; every instant 
of which is given over to sorrow and regret. I do not blame 
you ; I exact nothing ; you owe me nothing ; for, in truth, 
I have not had an impulse, not a sentiment, to which I have 
consented ; and when I did have the misfortune to yield to 



206 LETTERS OF [1775 

them, I have always detested the strength, or the weakness, 
that dragged me on. You see that you owe me no gratitude, 
and that I have no right to reproach you. Be free, therefore ; 
return to what you like, to what may suit you better than you 
think, perhaps. Leave me to my sorrow ; leave me to occupy 
my heart, free from distraction, with the sole object that I 
adore, whose memory is dearer to me than all that remains 
on earth. Mon Dieu ! I ought not to weep for him, I ought 
to follow him : it is you who oblige me to live, you who 
cause the torture of a being whom sorrow consumes while 
she employs her last remaining strength in imploring death. 

Ah ! you do too much, and not enough for me. As I told 
you last week, you make me exacting, difficult to satisfy ; 
giving all, one needs to obtain something. But, I say it 
again, I pardon you, I do not hate you ; and it is not from 
generosity that I pardon you, it is not from kindness that I 
do not hate you ; it is because my soul is weary, it faints 
with fatigue. Ah ! mon ami, leave me ; never tell me again 
that you love me ; that balm has become a poison ; you 
soothe and tear open my wound at the same instant. Oh I 
how you hurt me I how heavy is life upon me ' and yet 
how I love you, and how grieved I should be did I fill your 
heart with sadness. Mon ami, your soul is too divided, too 
scattered, for true pleasure ever to enter it. 

You wish that I should see you to-night ? then come. The 
kind Gondorcet has stayed with me, for I was almost dead. 
I have detained your messenger because Tenon [surgeon] 
came and interrupted me ; he found that I still have fever. 

February 28, eleven o'clock, 1775. 

When one treasures kindness, above all when we love, 
we ought not to be hard to satisfy, nor yet unjust. Therefore, 
mow owni, I do not blame you, I do not complain. Ah ! no v 



1775] MIXE. DE LESPINASSE. 207 

you do no wrong ; the neglect in which you left me to-day 
was surely involuntary ; you will have blamed yourself for 
it, and perhaps you have had the kindness to say in your 
heart, " She suffers, and it is I who have caused her suffer- 
ing." Mon ami, if your heart felt those words you are too 
much punished and I am too well avenged. But shall I not 
be happier to-morrow ? shall I not dine with you ? shall I 
not see you 1 I expect to go out to see M. Turgot Thursday ; 
I have proposed to M. de Vaines to drive me to Versailles, 
and you too, if that will suit you. If this arrangement is 
not carried out, Baron Sickingen, the envoy of the Elector 
Palatine, has proposed to take me. M. de Condorcet and 
M. d'Alembert go to Versailles to-morrow ; the latter is to 
read to M. Turgot the Eulogies. M. Boucher repeated to 
him to-day his poem. There are two good days for him ; he 
can talk little and have some pleasure. 

Mon ami, if you will not think me puffed up with pride, 
like the frog, I will tell you that M. Turgot has begged me 
to bring him my prfeieuse rhapsodies, and I have sent him 
-word that on Thursday such good fortune shall not fail him. 
I have had news from him hourly ; the Comte de Schomberg 
has written to me three times, always reassuringly, while 
telling me the truth, 

I dined to-day tte a tte with a person who is unhappy, 
consequently, there was interest. Afterwards, at three o'clock, 
I went to take a turn in the Tuileries. Oh i how beautiful 
the gardens were 1 how divine the weather ! the air I breathed 
served to calm me ; I loved, I regretted, I desired, but all those 
feelings bore the imprint of sweetness and melancholy. Oh ! 
man ami, that way of feeling has greater charm than the ardour 
and throes of passion yes, I think I am revolted by them; 
L will no longer love forcibly ; I will love gently but never 
feebly ; you can well believe that, since it is you I love. 



208 LETTERS OF [1775 

I returned home at half-past four and was alone till six. 
Do you know how I filled the time while I sat there waiting 1 
in re-reading your letters since the 1st of January ; I put 
them in order ; thus, though not seeing you, I was vividly, 
tenderly occupied by you. After that came six or seven 
persons who devoted the rest of their Mardi-gras to me. 
They were tired of amusing themselves and wanted the 
pleasure of conversation, freedom, and repose, and we enjoyed 
them all for I was still sustained by the hope of seeing 
you ; I hoped. Ah ! when I heard the clock strike nine I 
turned to stone, and my silence warned 'every one to leave 
me at half-past nine 

But I am mad, or rather imbecile, to fatigue you with a 
day in which you would not take an instant's part. Adieu, 
man ami / let me know what you wish to do and can do on 
Thursday. I think you too much a man of society to miss 
the ball to-night ; as for me I prefer to breathe the soft, pure 
air of the Tmleries, at an hour when I can be almost alone 
there. That is because my soul can furnish me with more 
than all your wit and all your talent can furnish you. 
Adieu. 

Eleven at night, 1775. 

Mon ami, the harm dates farther back. Do you remember 
your words, " Oh ! it is not Mme. de . . . whom you have to 
fear, but " and the tone with which you said it, and the 
silence that followed, the reticence, the resistance ? What 
more was needed to put trouble and pain into an agitated 
soul ? Join to that your desire to leave me, and for whom 
were you so hurried ? Could I calm myself ? I loved you, 
I suffered; I blame my own folly. I went to your door 
this morning with sadness in my soul ; I saw you, and pleas- 
ure was mingled with the melancholy that filled me. I saw 
the eagerness with which you endeavoured to confute me^ 



1775] MLLE BE I^SPINASSE 209 

and I believed all that you suppose I did. I had heard 
you named. . . . 

"Well, man ami, I ask your pardon for suspecting you 
unjustly; distrust is attached to unhappiness. How many 
times might I not have complained 1 how many times have 
I hidden my tears from you ! Ah ! I see it too plainly ! we 
cannot retain or recover a heart led away by a new penchant. 
I tell this to myself ceaselessly , sometimes I think myself 
cured; then you appear before me, and all is destroyed. 
Reflection, resolutions, misery, all lose their force at your 
first word. I see no haven but death, and never did any 
unhappy being invoke it with more fervour. 

Ah I mon ami, my misfortune is that you have no need to 
be loved as I love. One half of my soul I retain ; its warmth, 
its emotion would importune you, extinguish you ; the fire 
that does not warm is not wanted. Ah I if you could know, 
if you could read how I once made a strong, impassioned 
soul enjoy the pleasure of being loved 1 He compared it 
with what had loved him and loved him still ; and he said 
to me constantly, " They are not worthy to be your scholars ; 
your soul is warmed by the sun of Lima, and my compatriots 
seem born beneath the snows of Lapland." And it was from 
Madrid that he wrote me that 1 Mon ami^ he was not prais- 
ing me; he was enjoying; and I do not feel that I am 
praising myself when I tell you that in loving you to mad- 
ness I am giving you only that which I cannot keep or 
withhold. 

I have just been interrupted by a letter from M. de Vaines. 
It makes me uneasy. He tells me that M. d'Alembert must 
be with him before eight o'clock, and that he must bring his 
Eulogy on the Abb de Saint-Pierre ; adding, " This is impor- 
tant." I am terribly afraid they will trouble the peace of 
my friend. Ah ! how that would grieve me ; I would gladly 

14 



210 IJBTTERS OF [1775 

add to my sorrows those lie may have to bear. Hatred" and 
bigots are always on the watch. I feel an extreme impa- 
tience for to-morrow, and I know that I shall not close an 
eye ; the more I abandon my own happiness, the dearer to 
me is that of my friends. I cannot express my affection for 
M. de Condoreet and M. d'Alembert except by saying they 
are identified with me ; they are as necessary to me as the 
air I breathe ; they never trouble my soul, but they fill it. 
In short, I would it were to-morrow morning. 

But if this need, this desire, had another principle, if it 
were not friendship which Ah ! I should be an unworthy 
creature, and I should hate the very sentiment of passion. 
!NTo, I could not hate it, it has lifted me this evening out of 
what I suffer , I have listened once more to the " Month of 
September" [poem by Boucher]. How fine that is I how 
grand it is ! how sublime ! But, mon ami, you were lacking 
to my pleasure ; your presence renders it more keen, stronger, 
more profound. Ah I at all times, in all situations, my soul 
has need of you. 

I did not get home till half -past seven o'clock ; I found my 
friends awaiting me, among them M. Roucher, who did not go 
to Versailles. I wish to-morrow morning were here. I shall 
be at home to-morrow, for Mme. de Chttillon keeps her 
room, and she wants me to pass the evening with her. 
ATi I mon Dieu ! my evenings are given to M. de Mora 
or to you ; it is the part of the day that is dearest to me. 
If I did not fear some mistake I would send this letter 
by M. de Vaines' lacquey. Good-night. 

Eleven o'clock at night, 1775. 

Man ami, you do not feel the ned of seeing me ; perhaps 
I have even been importunate in your thoughts. You have 
tried to repress a memory which came to trouble your pleas- 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 211 

ure. Ah i how I pity- you for not being one thing wholly, 
either to that which pleases you, or to that which loves you J 
This division takes away all the charm and delight of senti- 
ment, and ought to distress an honourable soul. I do not 
blame you, I do not complain, but I grieve at my own 
weakness. No, my self-love does not give me strength 
against you : I love you \ all personal interest is hushed by 
those words. But it is you, your welfare that inspires me 
with courage and generosity. Yes, mon ami, I can yield 
you to what you love ; but by this sacrifice I ought to obtain 
from you a pledge that you will no longer seek to feed in my 
soul a sentiment which must make its despair. 

Mon ami, I know it, you are no longer free to love 
me. Give peace to your soul, do not pass your life in 
reproaching yourself for what you have done ; cease to 
make what you love uneasy, and offend no longer her 
who loves you, who forestalls your tastes, your desires, 
your will, and makes the sacrifice of you to yourself. 
How could I suppose that it would not cost you much to 
deceive me ? Ah ! if you have not force enough to make 
my happiness, at least you are honourable enough to grieve 
at having made my unhappiness. Mon ami, rely on a heart 
that is all yours, that beats for you only. Struggle no 
longer; abandon yourself to your penchant; the consol- 
ing thought will remain to me that I have done some- 
thing for your happiness, and that despite the unnatural 
position in which you place me, I have done nothing to 
trouble it. Ah I deliver me, both from the harm I have 
done you and that which you do to me. Mon ami, be 
sincere, I conjure you. Say to yourself that nothing will 
be to me impossible; listen to the cry of your soul, and 
you will cease to rend mine. Yes, I can do without be- 
ing loved, but it is awful, it is awful to me to doubt you, 



212 LETTERS OF [1775 

to suspect you. Esteem me enough not to deceive me ; 
I make oath by all that is dearest to me, by you, never 
to make you repent for having told me the truth. I shall 
love you for the trouble and pain you will have spared me, 
and never shall you hear a reproach. In losing you, I do 
not wish to keep the right" of complaining, nor even that of 
touching your feelings. 

Mon arm, I know you have been charmed with the Opera. 
Mme. d*Hricourt and the Comte de Creutz came to tell me 
all about it ; I did not listen to them because it is from you 
that I want to hear the tale. Besides which, the Abb6 de 
B ... had just troubled me in speaking of you ; he declared 
that he had been told I was madly attached to you ; that 
was his expression, and he added : " No, I am not malicious ; 
this is not a trap nor a vengeance." I was confounded ; but, 
fortunately, at that moment the Archbishop of Toulouse was 
announced. What think you of that ? I do not know 
whether I seek to reassure rfcyself, but I think it is merely 
a jest of the Abbd de B . . - , to which I myself had given 
rise, as I will tell you some .day. 

I saw M. Turgot, who said he blamed himself for not 
having replied to you ; he was much flattered by your letter. 
He had received a charming one from Yoltaire, which said, 
" You will be overwhelmed with sincere congratulations, etc.' 3 
I have asked the Duchesse de Luxembourg on what day Mme. 
de Boufflers would return ; she said on Monday. I dare not 
flatter myself that I can dine anywhere with you to-morrow , 
but I cannot help wishing to do so, though the wish may be 
against your pleasure. If you have been to see the Comte 
de Broglie, mon ami, it is too bad of you not to give me a 
moment. You are the cause of my not listening with atten- 
tion to the Archbishop of Aix ; I was awaiting you, how, 
could I attend to him? 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 213 

I think the Abb6 de B . . . was right in what he said, but 
wrong in saying it to me. I have seen twenty persons to-day, 
and not one of them was able to distract me from the need I 
have of seeing you. What have you done ? where have you 
supped ? have you remembered that I love you 2 can I say as 
in the opera, "The heart is for Pyrrhus, for Orestes the 
prayers " ? Adieu , all I ask is truth ; remember, that you 
owe it to me, without subterfuge, without modification, 
such, in short, as it is in your soul. 

Saturday, eleven o'clock, 1775 

I did not expect this ; in the depths of my soul I had the 
painful impression of those cruel words, " We cannot love 
each other ; " and I responded to them, with all the strength 
that remained to me, " I can no longer live." Mon ami, all 
that I feel, all that I suffer is inexpressible ; it seems to me 
impossible not to succumb ; I feel the exhaustion of my bod- 
ily machine, and it seems to me I need only let myself go to 
die. Nevertheless, I am better to-night ; I have been three 
hours in my bath and came out of it almost extinct, with a 
steady pain in the chest which has not yet left me. M. 
d'Anlezy and Baron de Kock have just gone away to let me 
answer my letter, they know not to whom. Good-night; 
your care, your uneasiness convince me that, in spite of 
your words, we can love each other. Till to-morrow; 
already I am awaiting you. 

Tuesday, eleven at night, 1775. 

I have refused to spend the evening with two persons 
who love each other, that I may talk with firm I love and 
pass the time with more peace and pleasure than I could 
find in society. Others have not the power to distract my 
mind completely; and it does me harm to have it turned 
,&way from tl&t which pleases me and interests me. 



214 LETTERS OF [1775 

ami, solitude has great charm for a mind preoccupied. Ah ! 
how intensely we live when we are dead to all except the 

object which is the universe of our soul, which grasps 
our faculties so vitally that we cannot live in other moments 
than the one we are in ! Ah ! how can you ask me to tell 
you if I shall love you " three months hence " ? How could 
I, with my thoughts, divide myself from my feelings 2 You 
wish that when I see you, when your presence charms my 
senses and my soul, I should render you an account of the 
effect I shall receive from your marriage ! Mon ami, I know 
nothing about it nothing at all. If it cures me, I will 
tell you so, and you will be just enough not to blame me. 
If, on the contrary, it brings despair into my heart, I shall 
not complain, and I shall not suffer long. You will have 
feeling and delicacy enough to approve a course which will 
cost you mere passing regrets, and from which your new 
situation will soon distract you ; and I assure you that that 
thought is a consoling one for me ; I feel more at liberty. 

Do not, therefore, ask me again what I shall do when you 
have bound your life to that of another. If I had vanity 
and self-love only I might be better enlightened as to what 
I should then experience. The calculations of self-love are 
never -mistaken ; they can foresee clearly ; but passion has 
no future ; thus, in saying to you now, " I love you," I say 
all that I know, all that I feel. I attach no value to that 
constancy commanded by reason but oftener by those petty 
interests of society and vanity which I despise with all my 
souL Nor do I respect that duR courage which allows us to 
suffer when we might prevent it, and spends its reason and 
its power in converting an ardent sentiment into a cold 
habit. All this manoeuvring with one's self, all this be- 
haviour with those we love seem, to me an exercise of false- 
ness and dissimulation, the resource of vanity and" the 



1775] MI.LE. DE LESPINASSE. 215 

requirement of weakness. Mon aim, you will find nothing 
of all that in me , and this is not the result of reflection ; it 
is the habit of my life, my character, my manner of being 
and feeling ; in a word, it is my whole existence which ren- 
ders society and constraint impossible to me. 

I feel that if you had to create a disposition in rne, it 
would not be the result of all this which would compose it ; 
you would form me a character more analogous to the 
course you are going to take, it is not inflexibility and 
strength that are wanted in victims, but weakness and sub- 
mission. Oh* mon amz, I am capable of all things, except 
bending ; I should have the strength of martyrs to satisfy 
my passion or that of him who loved me ; but I find nothing 
in my soul that assures me of the power to ever make the 
sacrifice of my feeling. Life is nothing in comparison , and 
you will see whether this is the talk of an excited head. 
Yes, perhaps- these are the thoughts of an impassioned soul, 
but to such belong strong actions. Is it to reason, which is 
so cautious, so weak in its views and even so powerless in 
means, that such thoughts can belong ? Mon ami, I am not 
reasonable, and it is perhaps because I am impassioned that 
all my life I have consented to the opinion and judgment of 
indifferent persons. How many eulogies I have usurped on 
my moderation, my nobility of soul, my disinterestedness, on 
the so-called sacrifices that I made to a dear and honoured 
memory and to the family of d'Albon ! That is how the 
world judges, how it sees. Ah! good God! fools that you 
are, I do not merit your praises ; my soul was not made for 
the petty interests that occupy yours : given wholly up to 
the happiness of loving and being loved, I needed nothing, 
neither strength nor honour, to enable me to bear poverty, 
and to disdain the deprivations of vanity, I have enjoyed 
so much, I have so felt the full value of life that were it to 



216 LETTERS OF [1775 

begin again I should wish it might be under the same con- 
ditions. To love and to suffer heaven and hell to that 
I would vow myself; that is what I desire to feel, that is 
the climate I wish to inhabit, and not the temperate zone in 
which live all the fools and all the automatons by whom we 
are surrounded. 

Mon ami, when I took this pen it was with the intention 
of continuing to paint you, and behold 1 with detestable self- 
ness, I have changed my model, I have painted myself, 
giving way, like a lunatic, to all that stirs me but it is 
through you that I do this, through the tenderest and most 
ardent feeling ; I have therefore done well to yield to it. I 
do not know whether I shall send you this long chatter or 
give it to you yes, I will give it to you. If I send it to 
you I am afraid you will tell me that you will dine with M. 
de Beauvau, and that would be bad. 

Midnight, 1775 

Oh, what sweetness, what pleasures the soul intoxicated 
with passion may enjoy ! Mon ami, I feel it, my life de- 
pends on my soul's madness , if I became calm, if I returned 
to reason, I should not live twenty-four hours. Do you 
know the first need of my soul, when it has been violently 
agitated by pain or pleasure ? It is to write to M. de Mora ; 
I revive him, I recall him to life, my heart rests on his, my 
soul pours itself into his soul; the warmth, the rapidity 
of my blood overcomes death, for I see him, he lives, he 
breathes for me, he hears me, my brain is enraptured, it 
wanders, to the point of having no need of illusions ; ihw is 
truth, yes, you yourself are not more tangible, not more 
present than M, de Mora has just been to me for more 
than an hour. O. divine being 1 he has forgiven me, he 
loves me I 
- . Mon ami, what I have just experienced is the result of the 



1775] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 217 

shock my soul received this afternoon. Man Dieu! one 
should cherish, adore a gift that seems to give one a nexv 
existence. Oh ! no, I am not great enough, not strong enough 
to boast of this gift of Heaven ; but there is in me enough 
sensibility and passion to enjoy it with transport. Ahf 
what happiness to love ! Love is the one principle of all 
that is noble, all that is good and grand on earth. M. 
Koucher 1 has loved ; it is passion that renders him sublime. 
But my heart melts with sadness when I think that that 
rare man, that wonder of nature, knows poverty and suffers 
from it for himself and others. Ah ! such excess of poverty 
blights love ; it needs a miracle to preserve the force and 
energy that he puts into his poems ; his soul is of fire, and 
in no direction does he seem to be depressed by misfortune. 
I know not if it is weakness, but I have just melted into 
tears at feeling myself powerless to succour that man. Ah I 
if my blood could be changed to gold, his wife and he would 
know comfort this night. Why should I not stir the soul of 
Comte de C . . . ? 'What an employment that would be of 
his wealth ! Ah 1 if M. de Mora were living, with what 
pleasure, what eagerness he would satisfy my heart. Yes, it 
is with tears of blood that one must mourn such a friend ; 
in adoring him we pay homage to virtue. 

But adieu, mon ami. You cannot be on the tone of my 
soul; you judge, and I feel You have just been amused 
and enervated by pleasure ; I have just been intoxicated by 
passion ; my powers are exhausted, and I do not know where 
I found strength to scribble at such length. Adieu. 

If you have not changed your mind, I will call for you at 
M. d'ArgentaTs at five o'clock to-morrow; but, above all, 

1 Jean-Antoine Boucher, married for love, was guillotined in 1794 , he 
wrote some touching verses to his wife just before going to the scaffold. 
Fa. Er> 



218 LETTERS OF [1775 

m,on ami, no forced compliance, no sacrifices ; I do not merit 

them, as you very well know. 

Ten o'clock, 1775 

You have fever I it grieves me. I have just been told that 
some one has seen you at a miniature-painter's and that the 
likeness is striking. That young girl is worthy of the sacri- 
fice you have made to her of the time required for a minia- 
ture ; but your life will be hers ; it is generous to give it thus 
in advance. I thought her charming, and well worthy of 
the interest she inspires in you. 1 The manner, the appear- 
ance, and the tone of her mother are equally pleasing and 
interesting. Yes, you will be happy : I thank you for the 
opportunity which enabled me to meet them. Good-night. 

Eleven o'clock, 1775. 

Mon a?ni, what have you done to me ? I feel so pro- 
foundly sad, so unhappy, that this crisis of pain and discom- 
fort must come from you. The fear that you cause me, the 
distrust you inspire in me, are two tortures that keep my 
soul forever on the rack ; and that sort of torture should suf- 
fice to make me renounce your affection, or, at least, that 
which resembles it. I do not know what dreadful pleasure 
you can take in putting trouble into my soul ; never do you 
seek to reassure me , and even in speaking the truth you do 
it in the tone of one who deceives. Ah I mon D%eu ! how 
my soul aches ! How passionately I desire to be delivered, 
no matter by what means, from the position in which I am ! 
I expect, I desire, your marriage ; I am like a patient doomed 
to an operation ; he sees his cure and forgets the violent 
means which will procure it. Mow, ami, deliver me from the 
misfortune of having loved you. It so often seems to me 

1 Mile, de Courcelles. Mile, de Lespmasse thought it a marlage de 
conv&nance, but discovered later that M. de Guibert had been in lave with 
her for the past year. Ta. 



1775] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 219 

that there is almost nothing to do to accomplish this that I 
feel a sx>rt of shame for having ever staked the whole of 
life upon you ; but oftener still I feel myself so chained, so 
garotted on all sides, that I have no longer any liberty of 
motion. It is then that death appears to me the only re- 
source, the only succour, that I have against you. 

I meant only to tell you not to come and see me to-day, 
which I think was your intention. I am going to " Orpheus," 
and I spend the evening with Mme. de Boufflers ; in the 
interval between the opera and supper I go to see Mme. de 
CMtillon, who is still ill You would not dine in company 
with me to-morrow ; you think that two dinners in one week 
is too much; Wednesday you will tell me the same thing. 
Very well ! do what pleases you, and I shall do my best to be 
pleased also. Adieu. 

[After receiving your letter^ 

"With what poison you revive my life ! Is it a benefit 
to feel pleasure and happiness for one instant when no time 
is left to me to enjoy it? Ah! you are very cruel; you 
hold me to life knowing that soon I ought no longer to live 
for you. But, mon ami, I must not reproach you. You 
overwhelm me with praises and I deserve none ; no ! I must 
not be praised ; I should be pitied for being inspired by a 
sentiment which' could give expression to stones. How 
speak coldly to that we love ? How not desire his happiness 
and fame, in preference to all that is only self 1 Mon ami, 
you hurt me when you praise me ; do you think you com- 
fort my soul when you flatter my vanity ? Mon Dieu ! do 
you not know that there is neither amends nor compensation 
in the whole universe for what I desire and fear 2 Oh i yes, 
you know it; for you see to the bottom of my soul; you 
know what fills it, what inspires it, and what renders it des- 



220 LETTERS OF [1775 

perate. Good-bye, man ami ; your letter is very amiable and 
will help me live through this long day. 

Thursday, 1775. 

Ah ! mon Diew ! your note comes from heights ! Is that 
the tone that your happiness will make you take ? In that 
case I shall not venture to complain ; I merely wish you to 
know that it is not in my power to endure protection or com- 
passion ; my soul is not fashioned for such baseness ; your 
pity would put a climax to my unhappiness ; spare me the 
expression of it. Convince yourself that you owe me nothing, 
and that I exist for you no longer. It is not an effort that I 
ask of you, as you know ; it is simply to retain with me the 
habits you now have taken, and to have none of these re- 
turns to commiseration which blight and abase one who is 
the object of it. How are you ? Are you going to Versailles ? 
Your Eulogy is in the hands of a learned man. 

Eleven o'clock at night, 1775. 

Yes, my friend, I have pardoned you, but as it is not from 
generosity, I am punished. Is it just that I should be pun- 
ished by you ? 

Tell me news of yourself ; have you taken the milk ? have 
you bathed? in short, are you doing what you said you 
should do ? Do you know that you have within yourself the 
means of curing yourself, and infallibly ? This truth is begin- 
ning to be proved to my mind in a manner that sometimes 
frightens me. Yes, death was nothing, but you have made 
it terrifying to me. I turn my thoughts from a njemory that 
freezes my blood and detaches me from you. 

Mon Dieu ! I did not see you ; I was expecting you, the 
feeling was so sweet, when Prince Pignatelli arrived. His 
presence kills me ; the sound of his voice makes me shudder 
>%nn Jiead to foot, i,t ^imbues me alteinately with sensibility 



775] MLI/E. BE LESPINASSE. 221 

and horror; in short, he agitated my soul to the point of 
making me forget I could have seen you. He did not leave 
me till ten o'clock, and since then I have been in a state of 
depression from which you alone could draw me. 

Mon ami, have you received an answer to the charming 
letter you wrote yesterday morning ? No matter what you 
say, you like better to please than to be loved. I have ex- 
perience of this ; you were so charming then ! it seemed to 
me it would be sweet to you to be loved. Ah ! what mis- 
takes ! and the regrets that follow them will sting me to the 
last breath of my life 

I received a charming present yesterday, and the manner 
in which it was given is so piquant and original that I want 
to tell you about it : " I send you these ... of E, ... 
which please you so much; keep them until they do not 
please you at all ; I shall learn in that way how much time 
it takes for that which has pleased you to displease you." If 
that idea seems to you common, then I do not know what 
wit and originality are. I feel my&elf too dull to answer it, 
and yet I must thank him. Answer it for me ; and what 
you make me say will give me precedence forever over Mme. 
de S&vagn ; it will be the first time I have taken pleasure in 
usurping good opinions and decking myself with peacock's 
feathers. Mon ami, jesting apart, be witty for me. You 
understand it is a man who makes me this present. I have 
never written to him, therefore he can make no comparisons. 

Good-night. You dine to-morrow with persons whom you 
know little; you will be very agreeable; guess why. As for 
me, I dine with the Duehesse de Chtillon ; I shall be half 
dead/ but that is my fault. Mon ami, I want my dictionary 
and the letter of Mme. d'Anville, and that of Mme. de 
Boufflers, and all mine ; and next, I want to see you. If you 
wish to avoid that pernicious society, come between one and 



222 LETTERS OF [1775 

five. I saw tliis afternoon at least twenty persons. Judg- 
ing them severely, I think they were about on a par with 
those who filled your day. Mon ami, except on one point, 
let iis always be reasonable and moderate if that is possible. 
M. d'Alembert has just had the greatest success at the 
Academy. He read his " Eulogy of Bossuet." The Due de 
Duras made a discourse which was much applauded as ac- 
curate, noble, simple, and delicate. I had a detachment here 
from the Academy. I will send to you to-morrow at eight 
o'clock. Sleep well, rest, calm yourself, and forget, if possi- 
ble all those who suffer. 

Midnight, May, 1775. 

Let me know, or, if you have the strength,, write me how 
you passed the night; I hope without fever. I have just 
seen, in my books, that Roman camomile does not poison ; it 
is soothing, and they make use of it in colics , tell me if it 
relieved you. Marriage will do marvels for you , the solici- 
tude of your wife, and that of those about you, will force 
you to take better care of your health. You enjoyed to-day 
the comforts of a home ; it was well you could not leave 
them for the Opera [refers to an heroic ballet by Marmon- 
tel and Gr^try]. The music had very pale colours ; my 
friend, Gr^try,* ought to keep to the gentle, pleasing, feeling, 
lively style ; surely that is enough. When a man is well-made, 
though short, it is dangerous and certainly ridiculous to 
mount on stilts ; he falls on his nose and spectators laugh. 
You will remark that this is not in contradiction, but much 
in confirmation of my liking for " Z^mire and Azor," "I/ Ami 
de la Maison," and "Fausse Magie." 

I received to-day two letters which have convulsed me, 
although they filled my soul. Imagine their dates : " Madrid, 
May 3, 1774, getting into my carriage to go to you/* and 
the other : Bordeaux, May 13, 1774, on arriving half dead ; " 



1775] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 223 

and I receive them one year after their dates 1 It seeins 
amazing, and as if it were a warning. I answer " Yes," 
and I thank Heaven for letting me live to receive these 
proofs of that which was the dearest, most sacred thing to 
me in all this universe. 

You are keeping your room ; therefore it will be less trouble 
to you to search and collect my letters. In mercy ? do not 
refuse me that moment of attention. Be assured I shall not 
abuse your kindness. I expect to go out to-rnorrow at mid- 
day and return at four o'clock. I do not allow myself to 
wish to see you. What I wish, in preference to my own 
pleasure, is your happiness, your will, and even your fancy, 
so docile am I. 
', * Eleven at night, May 15, 1775. 

Eh! mon Dieu ! no, I did not go to the Academy; I 
wanted to see you during the session, but you did not come ! 
I saw our friends afterwards, intoxicated with pleasure ; but 
I was sad and uneasy ; you were ill, or you did not care to 
see me ; that was what I was feeling, so that I scarcely 
heard what was said around me. M. d'Alembert will re- 
count to you his success. He will tell you the keen delight 
he had in making the Archbishop of Toulouse applaud him 
with transport; the archbishop wept with joy and en- 
thusiasm. I like such emotion; and I am certain this has 
been one of the happiest moments of M. d'Alembert's life. 
I am very glad, but by thought only, for my soul suffers, and 
joy can no longer enter there. Mon ami, you have put the 
last seal of sorrow upon it. But it is not of myself that I 
wish to speak. Tell me news of your night ; was it good ? 
I hope it may have been good. At least, have you no fever ? 
And would you like me to see you between one and five 
o'clock ? But do not constrain yourself to this. 



224 LETTERS OP [1775 

One hour after midnight, 1775. 

Tfo, mon ami, I cannot go to sleep without making you 
share the esteem, respect, and enthusiasm that pervade my 
mind. Ah t how fine it is, how virtuous, how noble ' What 
enthusiasm I feel for Marcus Aurelius, what esteem for his 
virtuous panegyrist. * The king absolutely must read it ; I 
have already taken steps for that ; I hope my prayer may be 
granted, and it is not for M. Thomas that I made it. That 
excellent man needs nothing more than the enjoyment his 
virtue brings him. You can believe that I have just written 
him two words on his Eulogy. Mon ami, if my death were 
fixed for to-morrpw I should still feel the need of honouring, 
of cherishing talents and virtue. Think me mad if you 
will ; this is the form of madness which inspired him whom 
I adored for eight years. Ah t I feel with anguish what 
Montaigne says " It seems to me, when I enjoy alone, I rob 
him of his share." 

Midnight, May 20, 1775. 

So the die is cast, the verdict given ! G-od grant it may 
be as surely for your happiness as it is for my fate. Mon 
ami, I cannot sustain my thought. You crush me ; I must 
flee you to recover the calmness you have taken from me. 
Adieu ; may you always be occupied enough and happy 
enough to lose even the memory of my misfortune and my 
tenderness. Ah t do nothing more for me ; your civilities, 
your kind actions only irritate my sorrow ; leave me to love 
you and die. 2 

1 This "Eulogy on Marcus Aurelius," by Thomas, read before the 
Academy in 1770, was suppressed and forbidden to be printed In May, 

1775, the injunction was raised FR. ED. 

3 These letters refer to M de Guibert's marriage. Here is how he 
noted down in his diary his own feelings on this occasion "June 1, 

1776. My marriage day ; beginning of a new life ; involuntary shudder 
during the ceremony , it was my liberty,, my whole life that I was pledg- 



1775] MLLE BE LESPINASSE. 225 

Tuesday, eleven at night, May 21, 1775. 

Ah. ! man Dieu ! follow your vexation, and go ! I need 
repose, you trouble me, I feel remorse. Ah ! why did I ever 
know you t I might have had but one sorrow, or rather I 
should have none. I should be delivered from a life I 
detest, and to which I am held by a sentiment that tortures 
my soul. Do you ask what have I done to-day ? what have 
I thought ? what have I felt ? Alas * I did not see you ; I 
have known only regret, sorrow, the despair of fearing you 
and of desiring you. Adieu , do not see me ; my soul is con- 
vulsed, and you can never calm it. You know neither the 
tender interest that consoles and sustains, nor the kindness 
and truth which inspire confidence and restore peace to a 
deeply wounded and afflicted souL Ah 1 you do me harm ; 
what need I have never to see you more ! If you do right, 
you will start to-morrow after dinner. I will see you in the 

morning, and that is enough. 

Saturday, July 1, 1775. 

The trouble and agitation of my ideas and of my soul de- 
prived me long of the use of my faculties. I have experi- 
enced what Rousseau speaks of : there are situations which 
have neither words nor tears. I passed eight days in the 
convulsions of despair ; I thought to die, I wished to die, it 
seemed to me more easy than to cease to love you. I for- 
bade myself complaints and reproaches ; I thought there 
was degradation in speaking of my sorrow to Mm who 

ing-. Never did so many sentiments and reflections fatigue my soul. Oh, 
what an abyss, what a labyrinth is the heart of man ! I am lost in all 
the emotions of mine But all things promise me happiness ; I marry a 
young, pretty, gentle, sensitive woman, who loves me, whom I feel is made 
to be loved, whom I love already." *' From June 1 to 8. Days passed 
like a dream. It is a dream to me, this new state : love, friendship, can- 
dour, amiability of my young wife Her soul develops daily to me. I 
love her ; I shall love her ; I firmly believe I shall be happy. I quit her 
with regret." Voyages en Fiance. Paris, 1806. PR. Er>. 

15 



226 LETTERS OF [1775 

caused it voluntarily. Your pity would Lave humiliated me, 
and your indifference would have revolted my soul ; in a 
word, to preserve some decorum it was proper to keep 
silence and await you. 

Perhaps I was mistaken, but I thought that, under these 
circumstances, you owed me certain cares , and, without 
supposing you to have much tenderness or much interest 
for me, I thought I ought to count on what decency and 
my misfortune prescribed to you. I waited, therefore. At 
the end of ten days' absence I received from the chateau de 
Courcelles a note which is a masterpiece of hardness and 
coldness- I was indignant, I felt a horror for you ; but soon 
I felt it for myself when I considered that it was for you 
(forgive me), yes, for you, whom I saw so cruel, that I had 
been faithless to one who was worthy above all the world of 
being loved. I abhorred myself ; life seemed to me no longer 
endurable; I was torn by hatred and remorse; and in my 
despair I fixed the day and moment when I would deliver 
myself forever from the weight that was crushing me. I 
gazed at death; it was the end of all my woes. 

That terrible moment must surely still all passions, for 
from that instant I grew cold and calm. I pledged myself 
to open no more of your letters ; to occupy my mind with 
what I once had loved ; to employ my last days solely in 
adoring him whom I had lost ; and then the thought of you 
no longer pursued me. Nevertheless, if I chanced to have 
Qt moment's sleep, I wakened with terror at the sound of 
your horrible words : " Live, live ; I am not worthy of the 
evil I do you." " No I no ! " I cried, " you are not worthy 
to be loved." But I, I must have loved distractedly to 
become so faithless. You had the cruelty to bring me back 
to life and bind me to you perhaps to render death more 
needful. Ah ! how cruel you now seem to me 1 It 



1775] MLLE BE LESPESTASSE. 227 

have cost me then so little to leave you and renounce 
my life ! 

" But why die ? " I said in my heart, at times turning back 
upon myself, and feeling how loved and surrounded I am 
by those who seek to make my comfort and my happiness. 
" Why make a man whom I hate believe that I could not 
live without loving him ? To die would not even avenge me.'* 
I felt my soul fortifying itself as I went farther and farther 
from you. 

In that condition of mind I was when the package came 
addressed to M. de Vaines. It recalled me to gentler emo- 
tions ; I was obliged to open it as it contained your f( Eulogy 
on Catinat." I know not if it was weakness or delicacy, but 
I told myself that, although I owe you nothing, I could 
not refuse my care of an affair for which you had relied 
upon me [the acceptance of his Eulogy by the Academy]. 
I thought that my resentment ought not to make me fail 
in an action imposed upon me by the confidence you had 
placed in me. It was, therefore, on moral grounds that I 
opened the package. I saw your open letter ; I read it ; it was 
civil, but cold ; had it shown more feeling I might perhaps 
have combated my resolution It did better, it confirmed 
me in it. I continued my efforts for your Eulogy; and I 
enjoyed, with a sort of pleasure, the interest it excited in me. 
It was not you, not my sentiment that I was gratifying ; it 
was my pride. " I have strength enough," I said to myself, 
** to oblige, to do a service to him I hate, who has done me 
harm ; and by the way I do it I am certain that he cannot 
feel obliged to me." That thought sustained my courage ; I 
felt such strength against you that I .re-read your letter, and 
far from softening my soul it made it stronger as I noted 
the little interest and regret you showed for me. 

I judged your letter without passion ; it proved to me that 



228 LETTERS OF [1775 

I had taken the only reasonable course. I continued, there- 
fore, to act for the success of your affair, and I have put such 
activity into it that T might be thought inspired by the 
keenest interest. Your note from Bordeaux reached me ; * I 
thought that I ought not to fear its effects ; on the contrary, 
that it would give me fresh motives to keep apart from you. 
I opened it hastily ; it was short, and though devoid of feel- 
ing, it expressed a regret that was honourable. I was not 
touched, but 1 was calmed by it. " If he is honourable, so 
much the better/' I said to myself ; " I shall be less humil- 
iated. My soul does not need to hate him ; that feeling only 
tortured it. Indifference will bring me peace, and in that 
condition I may be able to enjoy the consolations that are 
offered to me. I must yield myself up to the cares of friend- 
ship ; I will respond to those I have lately rebuffed ; I must 
please them, and that occupation will turn aside the thoughts 
that have blasted and depressed my soul so long." 

With these reflections I prescribed to myself a course of 
conduct to which I have been mainly faithful so far, and it 
answers well. I lead a more dissipated life ; I give myself 
up to whatever presents itself ; I am always surrounded by 
persons who love me, who cling to me, not because I am 
lovable, but because I am unhappy. They do me the honour 
to think that I am crushed by the loss I have met with ; 
they seem to take pleasure in the effort I am making to cure 
myself; they are grateful for my courage; they laud me, 
they take pleasure in me , they lift me, so to speak, from 
my sorrow and never leave me a moment to myself. Yes, I 
see it,* the greatest good, the only good, is to be loved ; it is 
titie only balm for a torn heart. But nothing, I feel it, 

1 Eight days after his marriage M. de Guibert rejoined his regiment at 
labourne, whence he made various journeys about France and Switzer- 
land FR, Ei>. 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 229 

nothing on earth can extinguish the sentiment which has 
made my whole existence during so many years. 

The need of delivering myself from the torture that you 
have caused me will make me seek resources I have hitherto 
rejected. I hope, I feel, that an enlightened and resolute 
will has more power than I thought. A score of times I 
have had the impulse to separate from you, but I never was 
sincere with myself. I desired not to suffer more, but I 
never took the means to cure myself ; you have now supplied 
me with a very powerful one, truly. Your marriage, in 
making me know your soul, has repelled and closed mine to 
you forever. Oh! no, do not think that I am following 
your advice and taking my pattern from the novels of Mme. 
Biccoboni; women whom levity leads astray may conduct 
themselves by the maxims and principles of novels. They 
are full of illusions , they think themselves gentle and gen- 
erous when they are only cold, base, and contemptible ; they 
do not love, they cannot hate , they know nothing but gal- 
lantry ; their souls do not attain to the heights of love and 
passion, and Mme. Riccoboni herself cannot rise to them 
even in imagination. Mow, Dieu ! how wounded I was by 
the comparison you made between my sorrows and the situa- 
tions in a novel ! How indifferent, how little delicate you 
seemed I how superior to you I felt myself in being capable 
of a passion of which you could not even judge ! 

But I must end this long letter, which will put you in 
a position to better comprehend my actual state. I have 
rendered an account of all I have felt ; I have done so with 
the same truth that I have always shown to you , and, as a 
part of that truth which is sacred to me, I shall not tell you 
that I desire your friendship, or that I have any for you; 
that sentiment can have no sweetness or charm unless it is 
founded on confidence. Adieu; allow me the feeling o 



230 LETTERS OF [1775 

pride and of revenge which makes me find pleasure in 
declaring that I pardon you, and that it is no longer in your 
power to make me feel fear under whatever circumstances 
may arise. 

I enclose herewith three letters which I beg you to read 
again ; not that I wish to inspire you with regret or interest, 
but I desire you to remember once all the evils that you have 
caused me. I exact (and your conscience will tell you that 
I have the right to do so) that you return to me these letters 
under cover to M. de Vaines, with a double address, and by 
the next courier to the one by which you receive them. 

Monday evening, July 3, 1775. 

On the arrival of the courier on Saturday I had just 
written you a voluminous letter, and I did not withhold it 
although your letter made me change, not my way of think- 
ing but my manner of feeling. Nevertheless, I was con- 
founded by reading that you had only " the appearance " 
of being guilty towards me, and that my " unhappiness " 
claimed your " indulgence " and it is you who utter those 
words ! and to me whom your injustice has killed with 
grief 1 Ah ! man Dieu ! where find the strength I need ? 
My soul can no longer grasp or hold to anything. I do not 
hate you ; I pass my life in condemning you, in suffering, in 
cursing the life to which you have fettered me. Ah I why 
did I ever know you ? why did you render me so guilty ? 
And you coldly pronounce me " unhappy " ! Does nothing 
tell you that it is you who have made my sorrow irrevocable ? 
and you dare to call the silence of despair a "detestable 
caprice " ? Alas ! I have loved you with such abandonment, 
my soul has been so raised above all interest but that 
of my passion* that it is inconceivable you should oali 
"capaice" tte impulse that makes nae leave yoia, What! 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 231 

you have not even the language of the feeling that inspires 
me ? At the very moment when you seek to bring me back 
to you you wound my heart, you bruise my soul by your 
expressions. Take care lest you lack in honourable delicacy 
by complaining of me when I am crushed by you. It is not, 
you say, vexation or gratitude which inspires you, it is the 
tenderest of feeling. Ah ! if that were true, should I be now 
at the summit of unhappiness ? 

No, you are mistaken ; without sharing my feeling, with- 
out feeling the need of being loved as I love, it costs you 
something to renounce being the first, the sole object of an 
active and impassioned soul which has put, if not interest, 
at least emotion into your life. Yes ! the most restless, the 
most wasted life feels a void when it ceases to be loved by a 
soul strong enough to suffer and tender enough to forgive. I 
was not so generous, or so cold, as to forgive you for the harm 
that rent me ; but I had enough sense and reason to seek 
calmness in silence. My soul was so sick that I hoped its 
need of rest would lead me gently to indifference. I thought 
it not impossible that by ceasing to see you and hear you 
speak you would lose the power you have to lead my reason 
astray and convulse my souL Ah 1 good G-od 1 why do you 
want that ascendency? what will you do with it? make 
it the misery of my life and the trouble of yours ? It needs 
an excess of self-love to wish to maintain a sentiment one 
cannot share. You know well that my soul is without 
moderation , therefore it is condemning me to the tortures 
of the dammed to wish me to occupy my thoughts with you. 
You ask the impossible that I should love and that my 
"reason should regulate my emotions." Is that in na- 
ture? None but sentiments made with our heads can be 
perfect ; and you know whether I can feign, or usurp, or owe 
the happiness of my life to a conduct not dictated by the 



232 LETTERS OP [1775 

tenderness of my feelings or by the violence of my passion. 
You know, you see, that I have not even the use of my 
mind with the one I love. 

But all this is talking too much of myself. It is of you 
that I wish to know all of which 'I have been so long in 
ignorance ; you owe me an account of your thoughts and 
actions and feelings. Yes, I have a claim to that. Why 
did you pause in writing to me ? You say that your 
(< heart and mind are full " ! to whom are you confiding 
yourself ? Is there any one in the world -who knows you 
better than I ? 

In regard to what you told me about the " Conn^table," 
I sent at once to Mar6chal de Duras, who repeats that 
it will be played, and that you shall have a furlough at 
the end of the month, after which you are to go in Sep- 
tember to Metz to finish your term of service. He wrote 
you this by the last courier, and I repeat it only for my 
own satisfaction. So, you have "presumed too much upon 
my zeal " ! How ungrateful you are ! if my honour and my 
life depended on it I should not take so much trouble. 
There are fifteen Eulogies of Catinat sent in for com- 
petition ; but only one of them makes me uneasy. I am 
to read that one to-morrow, and I promise to send you 
my opinion of it sealed ; we shall see hereafter if it agrees 
or not with that of the Academy. To judge soundly, I shall 
eliminate love and hate, and then you will see whether I 
have a mind or no mind. 

Have you resumed the " Gracchi '* ? and, though all ambi- 
tion, you say, is extinct in you, do you not hope that that 
work will add much to your reputation? M. de Vaines 
will have sent you the originals of the work you did for 
M. Ttirgot. Do not think that I liave forgotten the mem- 
orial pf M. Du . . . ; I sent it immediately ; and I wrote 



1775] MIXE. BE LESPINASSE, 233 

about it with more interest than I ever put into my own 
affairs and fortunes. I requested them ,not to reply to 
me at once , because it is only refusals that are prompt. 
So, Monsieur, I think that I shall be one of your friends ; 
and that thought does not allow me to omit anything 
that may bring success. 

If you were not the most agreeable man in the world how 
ridiculous you would be 1 Your letter is a mixture of confi- 
dence in my feelings and distrust that I "have ever loved 
you," which is too amusing. The tone is so polite, and then 
it is so confident ! I do not know whether you love me, but 
you are almost as inconsistent as myself , am I alluring you 
on? If you only knew all that my silence has made you 
lose ! I do not mean by that proofs of my tenderness ; but 
your curiosity would have been so entertained, so interested ! 
I have seen much and many things since your departure 1 I 
said to myself : " How full of life and interest all this would 
be to me if I could communicate it to him ; but now that I 
must speak to him no longer, it is not worth while to pay 
attention to- it." In fact, I withdrew into my own soul, where 
I found bad company, remorse, regrets, hatred, pride, and 
all that can give one a horror of life. 

Oh ! a word escaped me in writing to tell you that your 
Eulogy was admitted to competition, a word for which 
I have blamed myself very much. How can we call 
" mon ami " that which we hate the most on earth ? 
What reminiscence could have led me to use that word? 
it is inconceivable. Can it be that this hatred is the first 
link in the chain that does not leave an instant's freedom 
to those who have been subjugated against their will? 
Ah ! you have not enough intelligence to conceive all that 
one suffers in seriously loving a man who deserves only 
the love of women whose vanity he flatters and whose 



234 LETTERS OF [1775 

soul he never fills. That is how they love, that is what 
they say, those agreeable people ; and I do not know how 
it is that with so much that is agreeable on both sides 
one should, nevertheless, be wearied to death in the midst 
of them. Mon anw, yes, mon ami, dearest to my heart, let 
us not quarrel; let us forgive eaca other, we have both 
good reason to be indulgent , but remember that I am very 
ill, and very unhappy ; if, indeed, you wish me to live, help 
me, sustain me, make me forget the harm you have done me. 
Answer me. Adieu, adieu. Are you not weary of this ? 

Tuesday, July 4, 1775. 

I am very sorry ; but, nton ami, why do you ask the 
impossible ? Give me opportunity to be useful to you in 
whatever you think right, and I will answer that the 
thing shall be done, and without my mingling in it ; you 
have only to speak. . . . 

I have that Eulogy on Catinat and I am going to read it. 
Mon Dieu ? how passion relaxes morality ! Here am I, in 
gratitude for the mark of confidence shown me by the 
author [probably La Harpe, whose Eulogy was in the 
competition], here am I desiring that his work may be good, 
but only to the degree that allows of no doubt between his 
and yours. Mon ami, I will tell you about it truly, but 
I will not answer that what I say is the truth ; you know 
well that I have no taste and very little common-sense ; 
therefore you must judge of my judgment as it deserves. 
Good-bye ; if I have no letter to-morrow, justice is not to 
be expected of you. 

July 6, 1775. 

I had no news of you yesterday, mon ami. You have 
wearied of speaking, and I have too soon wearied of silence ; 
a little more courage, so much pain and so many efforts 



1775] MLXE. DE LESPINASSE. 235 

would not have been thrown away. Tell me, if you can, how 
this torture is to end. Will it be hatred, indifference, or 
death that shall deliver me ? Mon ami ; I do not wish 
to be generous by halves ; I believe that I have forgiven 
you ; therefore I am going to talk with you as if you 
satisfied me. 

I will tell you first something that will shortly be made 
public. M. de Malesherbes is to have all the offices of the 
Due de La Vrilli&res ; the latter sends in his resignation in 
a few days ; he has still to attend an assembly of the clergy, 
which ought to be worth twenty thousand francs to him. 
M. de Malesherbes resigns his position m the Cour des 
Aides, and M. Barentin takes his place. If you only knew 
how much honour and simplicity M. de Malesherbes has 
put into accepting this place you would double your esteem, 
liking, and veneration for that excellent man. Oh! you 
may be sure that the right will be done, and done well, 
because ideas will now be guided by virtue and love of the 
public welfare. Never, no never were two more virtuous, 
enlightened, disinterested, energetic men united and in- 
spired more powerfully by a great and lofty purpose. You 
will see ; their ministry will leave a deep trace in the minds 
of men. All that I am now telling you is still a secret. 
This choice will be joyfully received by the public; some 
men will be furious, but they will hold their tongues. The 
intriguers will have but little chance, and that is very touch- 
ing. Oh i what bad times for courtiers and knaves i Am I 
not over scrupulous in making that distinction ? that is 
called splitting hairs. 

Now listen to me and tremble, for I am about to judge 
the two Eulogies of Catinat, the only two, I imagine, which 
will occupy the attention of the Academy. The authors of 
these two Eulogies are M. de Gruibert and M. de La Harpe, 



236 BETTERS OF [1775 

M. de Guibert is the author of an excellent work on tactics, 
and one tragedy : those two works have made hi-m known 
as a man of talents and intellect, and they show on all 
sides an elevated soul, full of energy. It is from this knowl- 
edge and the prepossession it inspires for M. de Guibert that 
I have read and judged his Eulogy of Catinat. You know 
M. de La Harpe better than I do ; you know him to be an 
excellent literary writer, with much intellect, and, especially 
the purest and most enlightened taste. This is the justice 
I did him before I read his Eulogy of Catinat. Now listen 
to what blind presumption, silly and stupid, dares to say, 
and see if you will be angry, or whether you will simply 
choose to disdain this judgment : 

M. de La Harpe's Eulogy is written with his usual facility, 
but with a correctness which he spared himself until he 
found that he had M. de Guibert for rival. His style is 
easy and elevated ; it is so rare to unite those two merits, at 
least to such a point, that it seems to me we may say that 
he writes in prose as Racine wrote in verse. This work is 
that of a man of letters whose mind is accurate and wise, 
and whose soul is gentle, honest, and lofty. There are many 
happy expressions, touching remarks, refined ideas expressed 
both clearly and nobly ; but it is the work of an excellent 
writer, a man of great intelligence only. That of M. de 
Guibert seems to me the work of a superior man, who has 
more than talent; he has genius. Neither of the two is a 
philosopher: one, because he does not think coolly enough; 
the other, because he does not think deeply enough, but 
the soul of M. de Guibert judges men and events with 
such loftiness and energy that we prefer being carried away 
by him to being enlightened by a wise man. The military 
part is so well treated by M. de Guibert that the most igno- 
rant fancy themselves, as they read it, competent to appre- 



1775] - MLTLE. DE LESPINASSE. 237 

ciate the merits of Catinat. That part of M. de La Harpe's 
work is obscure, laboured, and very wearisome. In reading 
M. de La Harpe we are agreeably occupied, and sometimes 
moved ; we esteem the talent of the author. In reading M. 
de Guibert I feel my soul enlarge, strengthen itself, take on 
new energy, new activity ; but sometimes he is unequal ; his 
style is not always sufficiently clear and concise ; at times it 
lacks harmony, and we find certain rash expressions. If the 
prize is given to the art of writing, to eloquence of style, to 
the best-constructed work, it should crown, I think, M. de La 
Harpe. But if it is given to eloquence of soul, to force and 
elevation of genius, to the work which will produce the 
greatest effect, then *M. de Guibert must be crowned. If I 
knew neither of the authors, I should spend my life in desir- 
ing to be, or regretting that I was not, the friend of M. de 
Guibert, and I should simply inform myself whether M. de 
La Harpe lived in Paris. 

Mon ami, I am dying of impatience to have you within 
reach of judging my judgment. I ask your word of honour 
that you will show it to no one, not even to the one who is 
dearest to you. I do not want to have the annoyances or 
the " fame " which the Eulogies of La Fontaine caused me. 
Mon ami, I have neither vanity nor pretension with you ; it 
suits me to be stupid, and I let myself go ; and with others 
I have ceased to make efforts ; I have no longer the strength. 
I do not talk with them. I content myself by saying, That 
is good, that is poor, that is bad," and I take good care to give 
no reasons ; certainly to do so would tire me as much as 
it would weary them. And what matters having intellect 
With those who cannot go to my soul? My soul is still 
stung by misfortune, but it has no warmth , I have lost that 
which warmed ine, enlightened me, uplifted me ; only memo- 
ries remain that are swathed in crape. Oh, mon ami, M. de 



238 LETTERS Off [1775 

Mora Is no more, and you prevented me from following him I 
by what fatality did I inspire in you an interest that has 
become to me so disastrous? 

Friday, July 7. 

I forgot to tell you that M. de Sartine enters the Council ; 
this is done to console him. I told you some days ago that 
I was surrounded by friends, but for the last two days deser- 
tion is complete : inspections, regiments, estates, and baths 
have carried them all away. The_ Neapolitan ambassador 
[Caraccioli] remains to me, and I see him daily ; but he is 
too gay for me; he thwarts my inclinations. M. de Con- 
dorcet has returned. After long conferences with his dear 
uncle it is agreed that M. de Condorcet shall marry when 
he wishes it. That sort of tyranny is bearable. He agreed, 
also, to be presented to the king, and to put his lacquey 
into mourning because the head of the elder branch of 
his family has died ; and after these conditions and prom- 
ises he took leave of his uncle, who consoles himself for 
having a nephew in the Academy because he finds he is 
also the intimate friend of a minister. If on Dieul what 
nonsense I it makes one groan when it does not make one 
laugh. 

Mon ami, I will tell you some day about an anger into 
which I let myself fall. I said hard things, insulting things ; 
I made myself enemies but no matter I I satisfied myself. 
It seemed to me it was the height of injustice and insolence 
to venture to condemn you. I want the exclusive privilege 
of thinking ill of you. I want others to judge you as I feel 
you noble, grand, elevated and that no one shall call you 
" an agreeable man." Ah \ what silly praise that is I how 
destructive of true merit ! He is agreeable." That means, 
when persons in society say it, " He is frivolous, light-minded, 
aqpt<i without character." Those are the " agreeable people " of 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 239 

tMs nation ! But we are getting better. I am convinced of 
that. Adieu, mon ami. 

You will laugh at me for having kept from you a secret 
about which everybody will be writing to you. But if you 
have not become too provincial, you must know that three 
days may be of great importance in a secret of this nature. 
Besides, I promised ; and morality ought not to reason. 

I have a great curiosity ; I should like to see a letter from 
. . . But new duties impose, no doubt, a withdrawal of 
confidences ; well, so be it ! I hope I shall have letters from 
you to-morrow. The tone will be very curt, very cold ; that 
will displease me, and perhaps to such a degree that I shall 
regret my return to you. I ought to have written to you 
" You are not worthy of the harm you have done me ; " those 
words uncover the depths of my heart, and cast a light 
on ten years backward ; that was what Clarissa said, in 
dying, to Belf ort, the friend of Lovelace, and that thought 
made her find death consoling and necessary. But adieu. 
Richardson knew mankind, love, and the passions. Mme. 
Hiccoboni knows only self-love, pride, sometimes sensibility, 
and that is all. 

Monday, July 10, 1776. 

Ah ! how unfortunate I am ! how ill-timed, how mistaken ! 
G-ood God, what an error I have fallen into I You write rue, 
with more scruple than feeling, that it would have sufficed 
you to receive " a sheet of blank paper ; " and, alas ! it was 
my misfortune, when you announced to me your will, to be 
led into writing you all I thought, all I felt. I suffered, 
-my soul was wearied out ; it turned to him who had wounded 
it. Oh ! mon ami, when you receive that letter you will not 
understand it ; you will answer me ill, and T shall hate you 
witt all the more force because I have exposed to you iny 
weakness- Cease to torment me; you do too much and too 



240 LETTERS OF [1775 

little ; let the feelings you did not want and cannot share 
die out. My God 1 I was cured if it were not for that cursed 
" Eulogy of Catinat." I should have stayed where that infa- 
mous note from the Chateau de Courcelles (the recollection 
of which makes me quiver with anger) placed me. I should 
never have read another word from you, and in that deep 
silence I could have gained the strength to cure myself or 
die. Mon ami, you are very guilty ; for you are making in 
cold blood the despair of my life. After telling me that you 
know I suffer, you add that you " have need to live in the 
country, and that inclination will last long." You desire 
to go and live in the country ; you have no desire to see me, 
If that is so, why tell it to me. You should be silent on 
that which is likely to hurt my soul ; yes, you should 'be, for 
do not think there is but one sort of duty. It may be so for 
those coarse, vain souls who attach the idea of happiness 
only to money and the approbation of the fools about them ; 
but with you, it is to your conscience that I appeal, and it is 
mine that will judge you when my passion is silent. Ah ! 
why did my heart abandon itself to you ; why do I love you 
when I have such strong reasons not to love you and not, 
like the majority of women, from silly vanity or the dull 
want of occupation ? As to a void or want of occupation, I 
know it not; my soul <iould be occupied a hundred years 
with what I have loved and what I have lost, and my life 
could be full of a thousand interests, if I chose. But I 
repulse, I push away incessantly all that attempts to reach 
my soul. 

Thus, you see, it is by some special fatality that I am con- 
demned to the torture that is killing me, and you, you make 
yourself a cold spectator of it ! You have grown so used to 
the spectacle that "a sheet of blank paper" would have 
replied to all you thought and felt for me, and alas I I had 



1775] MLI/E. BE LESPINASSE 241 

written you volumes ! Think what the folly and awkward- 
ness of my conduct has been ' I am confounded by it. ... 

I have never mentioned to you that ring which you gave me 
at parting. I put it on my finger and two hours later it was 
broken, the symbol and emblem of what was to follow ; 
This is not a jest ; it was the saddest of omens to me. Give 
me another ring, strong and durable as my own sentiment ; 
that which you gave me resembled yours, it held by a hair. 

You say you " no longer love anything but study." And 
yet you disdain fame. In truth you are a great philosopher 
when you are sad ; but this winter you will be so happy, so 
rich, so gay, so dissipated, that there will be no talk* then of 
your profound philosophy. Ah ! no, your life is not so ad- 
vanced ; your head is still too young ; it needs to be purged 
of many things that lead your soul astray. Mon ami, I am 
very impertinent, am I not ? I criticise you ceaselessly, but 
I love you better than those who praise you. M. d'Alembert 
loves you as if I consented to it. Adieu ; write me and 
often. 

Saturday evening, July 15, 1776. 

Mon ami, I live, I shall live, I shall see you again ! and 
whatever fate is in store for me I shall still have a moment's 
pleasure before I die. I did not say so to myself this morn- 
ing; I expected my doom; I believed it fatal, and I was 
ready to meet it ; I would not complain, I could not suffer 
longer, and I felt that this day would be the last of my life 
if you did not come to my succour. You did come, wion ami, 
your heart heard me, you answered me, and life became 
bearable. 

I had a paroxysm of despair this morning. M. eTAlembert 
was frightened, and I did not have presence of mind enough 
to calm him. His interest in me wrung my heart, it relaxed 
my soul, it made me burst Mto tears ; I could not speak, but 

16 



242 LETTERS OF [1775 

he says that in my wildness I repeated twice, ** I am dying 
go away." He wept and he wished to fetch my friends ; he 
said : " How grieved I am that M. de Guibert is not here ; 
he alone can soothe your sorrow ; since his departure you 
have given yourself up to it" 

Oh 1 mon ami, your name brought me to my senses ; I felt 
that I must calm myself and restore to life and peace of 
mind that excellent man. I made an effort and told Mm 
that an attack of nerves was added to my habitual suffer- 
ing. This was true, for one hand and arm were twisted 
and contracted. I took an anodyne M. d'Alembert had 
sent for a doctor ; to deliver myself from all that, I sum- 
moned what remained to me of strength and reason and 
locked myself into my room to await the postman. 

He came ; I had two letters from you ; my hands trembled 
so that I could not hold nor open them. Ah I for my joy the 
first words I read were, " MOTI amie" My soul, my lips, my 
life hung on that paper; I could read no more; I distin- 
guished nothing but stray words here and there ; I read : 
" You restore me to life, I breathe again." Oh I mon arm, 
it is you who gave life to me ; I should have died if you 
did not love me. ]STever, no never did I experience so 
true a feeling. 

At last I read, re-read, ten times, twenty times, the words 
that poured consolation into my heart. Mon ami, in return- 
ing to me you bind me once more to life ; yes, I feel it, I love 
you. more than happiness or pleasure. I. can live deprived of 
both; I shall love you, and- when that does not suffice, it will 
be time to die. Yes, we shall be virtuous ; I will answer for 
it; your happiness, your duty are sacred to me. I should 
feel a horror if I found in me one emotion that could trouble 
tiseaoa. Ah ! my God 1 if I could have a single thought that 
wounded virtne, you would make me shudder. No, my 



1775] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 243 

friend, you will liave nothing with which to reproach 
yourself ; I alone shall be culpable ; I shall be consumed 
with remorse and regrets, but, if you are happy, I will 
silence forever all that might give you an idea of my 
sorrow. 

Mon ami, you know passion ; you know the force it gives 
to the soul it possesses. Well, I pledge myself to join to 
that force all the strength that love of virtue and contempt 
for death can give, that I may never offend against your 
peace or against your duties. I have consulted my own 
self thoroughly ; if you love me, I have the strength of the 
martyrs , but if I came to doubt you, no strength would re- 
main to me but that which is needed to deliver one's self of 
an intolerable burden ; it would not fail me ; I had it this 
morning. You think that there is no degree of passion 
beyond that which I have shown you. I answer that you 
know not everything, that you see not everything, and that 
there are no words to express the force of a passion which 
feeds itself on tears and remorse, and desires but two things ; 
to love, or to die. There is nothing of that in books, mon 
ami; I spent with you a certain evening which would 
seem exaggerated if read on the pages of Provost, the man 
who has best known all that passion has of sweet and 
terrible. 

I have not yet received the packet of my letters ; I shall 
not feel easy till I hold it in my hand; I cannot protect 
myself against the fear that you have made some mistake ; 
you were so hurried but I believe that I will not reproach 
you; divine if that is generosity. Mon ami, a thing has 
happened which would, formerly, have upset me. Mme. 
du Deffand has done me a treacherous action: she has 
mixed me up in that quarrel between Mm, decker and 
Mme. de Marchais; she has compromised me with Mme. 



244 LETTERS OP [1775 

d'Anville; and it is all even more absurd than malignant; 
there nrast be explanations. M. d'Angevilliers has also a 
part in this infernal play ; the Neapolitan ambassador takes 
much interest in it ; M. d'Alembert is furious ; and I, in the 
midst of it all, am calm as innocence, and cold as indifference. 
Yesterday my friends were trying to excite me about it ; but 
I answered, " It will all come right," and they admired my 
coolness in the midst of the storm. Ah ! that was because I 
had one of another kind ready to burst upon my head ; there 
was nothing on earth so important to me as the arrival of the 
courier from Bordeaux. Ah i m<m Dieu ! I can defy all the 
furies of hell when I am content with you. There is the ad- 
vantage, the cruel advantage, of misfortune : it kills the little 
griefs that agitate the lives of people in society. I feel that 
I shall come safely out of this turmoil because I put neither 
heat nor interest into it. I blame myself, however, for tell- 
ing you so much about it ; but if you were here you would 
hear far more; this affair has taken the place of that of 
M. de. Guignes. 

The chevalier has brought me news of you. You tell me 
that you keep in your heart the "insults," the "horrors" 
that I have said to you. Well, what will you do with them ? 
You know that I annulled them all ; I live, and I love you ; 
that is what remains of my despair and my hatred. You say 
you are " collecting your reason " to answer me : you need 
not do so ; and I, T am so reasonable, when my paroxysms of 
madness are calmed, that in truth it would be too wasteful to 
use your reason and your arguments on me : nevertheless, I 
await them with impatience. Oh t how far Saturday is from 
Wednesday ! " how for the sad the hours slowly fly ! " 

Good-night, mon aim. I will end this volume another 
day, for it cannot go till Tuesday. I have been ill three 
days; I was on the rack, but you have cured me. 



1775] MLL.E BE LESPINASSE. 245 

Thursday, July 24, 1775. 

Mon arm, I should like to seek you and meet you every- 
where, talk to you incessantly, see you, and listen to you 
always. I wrote to you at Bordeaux, at Montauban, and 
again, to-day at Bordeaux; and all perhaps uselessly, for i 
you are to be here on the 1st you must have started on the 
26th. So much the better. You will not get my letters, 
but I shall see you, and I cannot bring myself to believe 
that that pleasure will only hurt me : you are so gentle, so 
sensible, so amiable that perhaps I shall feel that only. 

But why did I have no letter from you by the last courier ? 
is it that time was always lacking to come to the help of 
one who suffers ? Oh, yes, I suffer, suffer much ; I have 
internal organs that do their best to distract me from the ills 
of my soul. Yesterday I had frightful pains; I spent the 
morning in my bath and I obtained a little relief. Man 
ami, come soon and yet I shall seldom see you , a wife, a 
tragedy to put upon the stage, your duties ; what will remain 
for a poor thing who lives only to love and suffer ? Yes t I 
feel it, I am condemned to love you so long as I shall 
breathe. When my forces are exhausted by grief, then I 
love you with tenderness ; when I am inspired, when my 
soul has its spring, then I love you with passion. MOTH ami t 
the last breath of my life will be still the expression of my 
feeling. Adieu. If you read this letter, answer it, and do 
not fancy you will get here sooner than a letter. Moti ami, 
be careful not to come to me the first time when I have 
company. Adieu, adieu, I love you, and I believe it is 

because I have loved you. 

Tuesday, August 1, 1775. 

Mon ami, I have just finished Catinat; I had never so 
well understood it, so felt it. I cannot doub that the 
Academy will feel its value; those that compete may be 



246 LETTERS OF [1775 

good, but they will be at a great distance. You alarm me 
for the others whom I know , but I do not wish to discourage 
them. 

So then, man ami, you have found nothing to say in reply 
to me ? But, at any rate, bring back to me my foolish writ- 
ings , if necessary, I will make you a commentary this even- 
ing on that text. I shall see you this morning , perhaps 
.you will be amiable enough to come early this evening. It 
must be owned that the dead have no such days. Good-bye. 
I said yesterday words that stopped the circulation of my 
blood ; I said I desired your departure, which was as if I 
had said, "I would I were dead" but that is true often. 
So you found it very embarrassing to answer me ; let it be ; 
I know a secret to remove that embarrassment, to make 
myself beloved, yes, beloved, and with energy ; but we must 
not come to the grand means before the last possible 
moment. Eeturn my book immediately. 

August 16, 1775. 

I am so much in the habit of suffering and of feeling only 
pain, that I doubt if I could have been keenly alive to the 
pleasure of seeing your Eulogy crowned by the Academy- 1 
It would have seemed to me simple justice, and I think I 
should merely have enjoyed what might have been flattering 
in that success to your vanity. But I own that I feel and I 
resent, too warmly perhaps, the affront of seeing you sub- 
jected to formulas invented by pedants for the encourage- 
ment and reward of school-boys. One accessit extra prize^ 
would have been a shocking stupidity, but two acces&tis 
seem to me an offensive impertinence, and it does not matter 
what modification or distinction they may give to it on the 

1 The Eulogy of I/a Harpe was crowned ; that of the Abb (TEspagnac 
fcook Jke seetf*| prifce * 1& de Gmbert * 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 247 

day of the public session. If Voltaire had competed and 
they had given you a secondary place, that would have 
been simple enough, but to be in the suite of M. de La 
Harpe, and beside a young abb6 only twenty years old, 
disgusts me to a degree that I cannot express, but which I 
cannot restrain. It wounds my pride ; it makes me unjust ; 
for it pushes my soul into dislike of Tn-m who is preferred to 
you. Be more temperate than I am, if you can , that will be 
honourable and generous in you ; and perhaps you will find 
in the consciousness of your talents and in a sense of your 
strength the wherewithal to disdain that aecessit. All the 
academies in the universe cannot make you descend from 
the place to which Nature raised you. I know all that; I 
say it to myself ; but I feel such disgust, and I am so close 
to it, that what I suffer goes far beyond what I think. . . . 
I want to see you, and talk over with you the course you 
will take in regard to printing the Eulogy. My advice 
would be that it should be given to the public before that oi 
M, de La Harpe, which will not be read till the 25th or 
printed before the 28th or 30th. This opinion is not dictated 
by reflection, but you can see if it agrees with yours, 

I have no right to be severe ; but I shall always feel a 
shock when you fail in friendship ; and you have wounded 
me in not yielding to the request I made to you, which I 
felt sure would be granted. You ought to have no further 
curiosity, or interest in the expression of my affection ; it has 
been ao well known to you ; you repulsed it so earoelly in 
the days when you exacted the most proof of it that I am 
forced to think the value you now appear to put upon it is 
only an effect of your scruples, and perhaps a raeans of stifl- 
ing your conscience, which tells you, louder than I have ever 
done, that you have abused my misfortune while seeming to 
wish to soften it. Have virtue enough to save me from, the 



248 LETTERS OF [1775 

last degree of humiliation, that of becoming an object of 
your pity : for it is nothing else than that which is now 
bringing you back to me ; and I confess to you that, in spite 
of the invincible attraction which draws me to you, that 
thought revolts every faculty of my soul. What ! I, who 
have been loved by M. de Mora, I, who was the object of 
the passion of that noblest, strongest, and most virtuous soul, 
shall I be humiliated by you ? Ah 1 leave me to my remorse ; 
it annihilates me. I am culpable, I am punished ; M. de 
Mora is avenged What more do you want ? To crush me, 
to sink me beneath your pity ? I declare to you that I do 
not feel myself born for that abject position ; you hasten 
my death. 

I cannot yet see clearly whether it is to my love that I 
still cling, or whether I am held back by the horror I 
feel at causing the unhappiness of two persons who would 
give their lives for me. My death would overwhelm them , 
I am not mistaken as to that ; I would that I could detach 
them, remove them from me ; I should be freer ; I could de- 
liver myself from the torture that is killing me, and you 
from the necessity of seeing me or avoiding me. 

I ought to tell you, in the interests of truth and justice, 
that MM. Suard, Armand, and d'Alembert did the impos- 
sible to spare you that accessit ; but ten Academicians car- 
ried the day against them, and these men had the custom 
and statutes of the Academy to support them. They decided 
that on the day of the public session they would speak in 
the highest praise of your excellent work; three of them 
voted to split the prize. That is enough said ; I wish never 
to speak of it again, except once to you. 



1775] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 249 

August 28, eleven at night, 1775. 
** The mind is always the dupe of the heart." 

How true that is, how correct, when we have to do with the 
man most open, most susceptible to all impressions. That 
is what my experience tells me, and my heart, in a low 
voice, denies it ; it says, " He will return," and all that is 
within me, repeats, " I shall see him." Oh 1 mon ami, you 
do not deserve the struggles I go through ; you do not 
deserve the sacrifice I have made to you, not only of my life, 
but of my death ; above all, you do not deserve the trouble, 
the annoyances, the obstacles that my affection for you has 
brought into the most critical situation of my life : and that 
affection, that fatality will have more to say, whatever 
course I take it must be filled by regret and repentance. 
Oh ! my God ! my life is weary ; it has been too full; nature 
isolated me ; I was born for obscurity and repose, and I have 
been a prey to all the passions ! I have known all misfor- 
tunes. Ah i if I had not loved M. de Mora, what evil I 
should say of life ! 

Mbn a r m/L 9 I meant to have said but one word, and, in spite 
of myself, my soul pours itself out in search of yours ; the 
habit of being loved still deludes me ; I turn to you, and It is 
not he ah no I it is not he ! My God ! what memories ! 
They extinguish me, they desolate me ! 

Will you come to-morrow, Tuesday, to the Salon of pic- 
tures, at a quarter past one ? I will not make it a point of 
honour with you, but I must say that you alone will not be 
punctual at the rendezvous. What folly to go and engage 
yourself to dine with Comte de Creutz on Wednesday in pref- 
erence to Mme. Geoffrin ! Mon ami, although you dispar- 
age all that I experience, all that I love, tell me if you do 
not think the following way of saying a thing very charzn- 



250 LETTERS CXF 1775 

ing : some one said to me, in asking news of M. de Saint 
Chamans, " You know how I love him with your heart and 
my own." That is better than Mme. de S3vign6's phrase 
about her daughter's che^t. [" I have pain in your chest."] 
You have six letters of mine to return, counting this one. I 
must have the six if you wish me to say four words to you 
to-morrow. I urge myself to say three now, which you 
hear too often 1 1 . . . y. . , but less ; yes, less, I am certain 
of it. 

" We always like those who admire us ; " I really have wit 
to-night, for that is La Rochefoucauld's. Good-night. I wish 
I knew the secret of your vanity ; in return you should have 
that of my love. Ah ! but you know it ; what matters all 
the rest ? 

Tuesday, August 29, 1775. 

So you do not care whether you are written to, inasmuch as 
you do not point but the way ? but, as I am very ingenuous in 
one direction I have charged one of M. Turgot's valets to look 
for you everywhere and find you somewhere. Do not forget 
to send me word how many seats there are in the box you 
intend for me [at the representation of his play, the " Coma3- 
table de Bourbon," before the Court at Versailles]. 

Believe if you can, tell yourself that the truth is not prob- 
able, but it is, nevertheless, certain that I have been a great 
deal with your wife to-day ; I went forward to meet her, I 
spoke to her of her health, of her talents, of all that was there 
before our eyes in the Salon ; in short, I venture to answer 
for it that you wiU hear I am " very amiable " and you will 
not believe it. But do you know what I really ain, .and to 
what you must accustom yourself to think of roe 1 I am 
the sister of the wife of Grandison. I am feecomijag -eo 
perfect that it frightens me; I thmk I must be a swan 
ber death-soaag, th$y say, is perfect. Well* tibat is 



1775] MIXE. DE I.ESPINASSE. 251 

thing : you will say, " She died at the wrong time what 
a pity I" 

Mon ami, I have a grief ; one of my friends is very ill, 
very unhappy. I spent two hours with "him last evening ; I 
wept with him and I felt I calmed and consoled him a little. 
Alas I it is but too true that "the heart knoweth its own 

bitterness." 

Ten o'clock, 1775. 

It is not pride or self-love which rejects your pardon; 
it is a most true and tender sentiment, which assures me 
that I cannot have offended you. Reflect that if by 
impossibility -7- 1 could have a bad opinion of you, I should 
be forced to despise myself forever. Rely, therefore, not on 
your virtues, not on my justice, but on all the kinds of love 
that stir the hearts of men. If I hated you I should still 
esteem you ; therefore, all things forbid you to suspect that 
I can cease to respect you ; that is the strongest of my feel- 
ings ; that is the basis of them all, the excuse for them, if 
there be need of that. In that moment when you wounded 
me most, when I renounced you, I still esteemed you ; and of 
all the letters I have ever written to you, there is not one 
in which my sorrow, my wrong, my weakness were stated, 
avowed, and blamed with greater simplicity and truth than 
in that letter of which you now speak to me. If this is not 
my confession of faith as to my esteem, my confidence, my 
perfect trust in your integrity, then dictate to me another, 
and I will sign it with my blood. 

You have not seen me because the day is only twelve 
hours long, and you have pleasures and interests enough 
that are, and ought to be, dearer than my griefs, to fill those 
hours. I claim nothing, I exact nothing, and I tell myself 
incessantly that the source of my happiness and my pleasure 
is lost forever. 



252 LETTERS OF [1775 



o, I shall not go to see the " Conne'table ; " I can no longer 
judge or enjoy such things. I shall take the keenest interest 
in your success and be crowned by it. 

August 26, two o'clock, 1775. 

A thousand thanks to you, mon ami. You are kind to 
have persevered in getting me this box. I did not receive 
the tickets until nine o'clock this morning, and I fear yon 
were importuned by the sending of a courier ; who was sent 
because those ladies were much alarmed at not having 
received the box by jnidnight yesterday. But, mon 
am^, you are not so kind, you are even, unjust when 
you say that I "like to give you pain." Ah I bon Dieu! 
what a strange sort of pleasure that would be ! If you 
call telling you the truth liking to give you pain, then 
it would be useless to love or to be loved; it would be 
odious to be in intimacy what we are in society, masked 
forever. Mon ami, at five o'clock, when the " Conntable " 
begins, I shall do like some prophet, I forget which, who 
raised his arms to heaven while Joshua fought. Oh, yes ! 
my thought, my soul .will be with you; no matter, after 
that, where my person is. I shall be lying on a sofa at 
the Marquise de Saint-Chamans', who is still very ill, and 
who has sent all her children to the " Conn&able." Mon 
ami, I do hope you will come back from Versailles this 
evening. 

Of three dinners, which will you choose ? to-morrow at the 
Duchesse d'Anville's ; Monday with the Comte de Creutz 
[Swedish minister] ; Tuesday with M. de Yaines. I did 
not close my eyes all night, and I suffered much in my 
stomach; but I am less unhappy than for the last two 
-days. Mon Dieu ! how sick at heart I have been ! I had 
a rush, of despair which lasted sixty hours ; I saw no one 



1775] MLLB. BE JLESPINASSE. 253 

during that time, not even those who, I was very sure, would 
have pleasure in seeing me. Mon aim, I love you, but it is 
with so much distress and so little confidence, that, in truth, 
my feeling is nearly always a great ill ; formerly I felt it to 
be always a great pleasure. 

Good-bye , if you are at the height of glory, tell me ; if 
you are not satisfied, tell me still; it is to me it should 
be told, because what is you is more I than I myself. 
Adieu. 

August 26, half -past eleven at night. 

I say like Blue Beard : " Sister Anne, sister Anne, do you 
see no one coming ? " M. d'Alembert does not come [back 
from Versailles]. I do not want details, but before I sleep 
I must hear these words : " Never was there so great a 
success." When I have heard those sweet words I shall 
sing the song of Simeon. Yes ! it would be sweet to 
me, sweeter than ever, to sleep this night the eternal 
sleep. 

Mon 2>ieu ! how vexed with myself I am. They had 
offered to send me a courier, and then a second courier to let 
me know in duplicate : " Great success " or " Middling suc- 
cess." I refused that mark of kindness ; I did not wish to 
be under the obligation. In short, I was silly, and I am fam- 
ished ; but I feared also that this anxiety would show too 
profound an interest. I judged right, and I am satisfied 
with myself in that respect. Oh ! what happiness ! and, as 
" the Neapolitan ambassador says, " what joy hi the homa" 
Mon ami, you will never have as much as I wish you ; you 
will never feel it with as much transport as I wish it. Ah ! 
here comes M. d'Alembert 1 " Success has passed all bounds " 
that scene in the third act, the finest on the stage, was 
much applauded. 

Adieu, mon ami ; you will think me mad, but the first 



254 LETTERS OF [1775 

wish of my heart is not to see you, but that you shall see 
that which can make you enjoy your happiness, especially 
those who have shared it. Do not see me for a few days ; 
enjoy and do not cast your eyes on an object you ought 
never to have seen. I only ask you for one hour before your 
departure. I am well used to farewells. 

Sunday, September 17, 1775. 

Ah, no ! I am not happy enough, nor unhappy enough to 
" make gall and poison " of what you say. You have settled 
things plainly ; with a word you have chilled my soul and you 
have also chilled what you believe to be the expression of a 
sentiment Remember the secret that escaped you. It has 
given me the clue to a thousand things that had seemed to 
me inexplicable , it has made me retract a mistaken judg- 
ment which I had formed through ignorance of the truth. 
I believed that I was reading the letter of a young girl of 
seventeen, addressed to a man who had been her husband 
for four days ; instead of that she was a young woman writ- 
ing to a man who has been in love with her for a year. 
Hence what she said to him was the natural expression of 
feelings acknowledged and shared for a long time. That 
secret, thus accidentally betrayed, has also explained to me 
the note which I received from the Chateau de Courcelles ; 
but, in explaining it, it does not justify it ; for nothing in 
nature could justify such an outrage ; that note contained not 
one word which was not certain to revolt my soul and fill it * 
with indignation Mon Dieu ! and I could still see you, still 
listen to you, still speak to you I Oh ! how we degrade our- 
selves when we disregard a first remorse ! Yes, I have need 
to repeat to myself, again and again, that I was loved by 
M. de Mora, by the noblest, strongest soul, by the most per- 
fect human being who ever existed. That thought sustains 



1775] MJLLE. BE LESPINASSB. 255 

my soul, revives my heart, and restores to me sufficient pride 
to keep me from prostration. 

You say I did not answer the note you wrote 'me at the 
moment of your departure. How could I answer it ? When 
I now read expressions of your feeling, this is what my 
reason says to me : " He says the same to another, perhaps 
with more strength and warmth ; and there is this difference 
between myself and that other, that with her he directs all 
the actions of his life to prove to her that he feels what he 
says to her ; whereas with me, on the contrary, there is not 
one of his actions, not one of his movements which is not hi 
opposition to his words." After that observation, just as it is 
and cruelly well founded, tell me, what answer have I to 
make ? Ah ! I appeal to your conscience : do you think that 
I could fathom what is in it and yet preserve for you the 
feelings you desire ? "Well, I dare to assure you that if you 
fathom mine you will find no fault there but the one I have 
acknowledged. I have not had one thought, one impulse 
that did not deserve your esteem, if it can be given to one 
who has sacrificed to you that which ought to have been 
dearer than even honour. 

But tell me, why do you make me the object of your 
lecture and of the exercise of your virtue 2 You are late in 
thinking of it ; and if you are imposing that task upon your- 
self in expiation of the harm you have done, I warn you that 
you are still misled. Give up the desire to make me a victim 
of your ethics, after having made me that of your levity. I 
have told you a hundred times that you can do nothing more 
for me but make me suffer. I assure you that I do not seek 
to make you reproaches. I forgive you with all my heart ; and 
what I say to you to-day is only in reply to .your letter. In 
your note of Saturday you showed me the fear you had lest 
the influence of the sorrow you pretended to feel should fall 



256 LETTERS OF [1775 

upon your wife. "What reply was I to make to tliat ! That 
the fear alone was sufficient to protect her ; that the sacrifice 
you made to her of your time, your affections, your person 
ought also to guarantee her. What can I add to that? 
That I wish her security ; this is, in truth, all that we can 
wish to one with whom we have no relations. Those persons 
who have not seen you with your wife, and who do not know, 
as I now do, that you have loved her for a year past, say that 
you have converted the duties of marriage into servitude. 
They think that the striking of eleven o'clock is as austere 
as a convent rule : which you see is talking nonsense because 
they are not in the secret [of his previous attachment to 
his wife]. As for me who am, and who ought to tell you 
but, no 1 that is enough for to-day. 

Oh ! I am very uneasy ; the Vicomte de Cliamans grows 
worse and worse , they do not understand his state ; it 
alarms me. The Comte de Creutz was in tears yesterday; 
his wife was successfully confined, but the child is dead. It 
is not the child he mourns, but his wife's grief and the tor- 
ture he finds in deceiving her as to the child's state. Happy 
people have their troubles I Yes, inasmuch as you say you 
have so many ; but you admit that exercise and activity 
relieve them, and I believe it. 

My health is worse than ever ; I have had several attacks 
of fever ; but I have made a vow not to poison* myself in a 
doctor's way. Adieu. I require neither your sentiments, nor 
your moral philosophy, nor your virtue. See how free I set 
you. 

Saturday, four o'clock in the morning, September 23, 1775. 

Alas ! it is true, we survive everything t the excess of "sor- 
row becomes its remedy ! Ah ! mon Dieu ! the moment has 
arrived when I can say to you, ** I can live without loving 
you " with as much truth as when I said to you three months 



J775] MLLE. 3>E LESPINASSE. 257 

ago, " I must love you or cease to be." My passion has gone 
through all the convulsions, all the crises of a great illness. 
First, I had continued fever with paroxysms and delirium; 
then the fever ceased to be continued, it turned to inter- 
mittent attacks, but so violent were they, so irregular, that 
the disease seemed to grow more acute. After keeping a 
long time at this degree of danger it has lessened a little ; 
the attacks are fewer, and they are weaker. I have had in- 
tervals of calmness that seemed like health, or that seemed 
to allow some hope of it. After a while the fever nearly 
ceased, and for the last few days I feel as if nothing were 
left of it but the trembling and great weakness that always 
follow long and terrible illnesses. I think I am conscious of 
a coming convalescence ; not the kind that M. de Saint-Lam- 
bert describes : " Oh I how the soul enjoys its convalescence." 
No, mine can never again know joy, but it will be soothed, 
it will no longer be actively torn, and that will be much ; for 
though I am delivered from a very cruel ill, an old one, more 
sorrowful, deeper, more heart-breaking, still remains; that 
wound can never close ; it is irritated and poisoned by the 
grief and remorse of all the moments of my life. It may 
find anodynes, the only remedy for incurable ills. 

That is the history and a most faithful narrative of 
the state of my soul; there is not a word, not a circum- 
stance that is not applicable to my present situation. I 
have loved you with madness; I have gone through all 
phases, all degrees of sorrow and of passion; I wanted to 
die ; I believed I was dying ; but I was held back by the 
charm attached to passion, even "to unhappy passion. Since 
then, I have reflected ; I wavered long, I suffered still ; and 
then I know not if it is you, if it is your conduct, if it is 
the necessity, perhaps the extremity of my misfortune 
then all things brought me back to a less fatal state of mind. 

17 



258 LETTERS OF [1775- 

I have looked about me ; I have found friends whom my un- 
happiness, my madness had not alienated ; I felt I was sur- 
rounded hy care and kindness, and signs of interest. In the 
midst of such succour, such resources, I found a brighter, 
more animated sentiment ; it is so true, so tender, so sweet, 
that in the end it must bring calmness and consolation into 
my soul. Can I ask for better or more than that ? After 
the frightful tempest that has battered me for the last three 
years is not this entering into port ? is it not seeing already 
a clearer sky ? 

No, do not think that I exaggerate the progress of my 
cure ; I see myself such as I am, and if I feel a little calmer 
it is because I believe myself a little more susceptible to con- 
solation. No doubt it would have cost me less to die than 
to separate from you. A quick death would have satisfied 
my nature and my passion ; but the torture you have given 
to my soul is exhausted ; it has lost its vitality ; and then, T 
feel myself beloved ; that softens everything. How shall we 
quit life when the tenderest sentiments strive to retain us * 

Ah ! I ought to have died at the moment when I lost him 
who loved me and whom I loved more than all else on 
earth ! That is the sole blame I lay on you. Why did you 
retain me 2 Was it to condemn me to a lingering and more 
cruel death than the one I sought 2 Would to Grod I could 
efface from my memory and blot from my life these last 
years that have just gone by ! Those that preceded them 
would forever have been the charm, if the torture, of my 
heart. Ah ! six years of pleasure and of heaven's own happi- 
ness ought to make me feel that existence is a boon for 
which I should render thanks to Heaven, even at the summit 
of unhappiness. 

If I can recover repose, if my soul can steady itself, per- 
h&ps the few remaining days I have to live may still be bear- 



1775] MLLE BE JLESPlNASSE. 259 

able. I will try to make my consolation of that which 
would be the happiness and joy of another. I will love from 
gratitude that which ought to be better loved if T responded 
to the warmth and eagerness of the friendship shown to me. 
Tor three months I have to blame myself for repulsing coldly 
and harshly the expression of the warmest interest, spiinging 
from the truest sentiment, of which I have received unequiv- 
ocal* proof, and you know how cautious I am in the matter 
of proof. I surprise you, no doubt; you think I dream; 
every word I say seems to you to violate truth and proba- 
bility. Well, that will prove to you what you must already 
have seen, but never perhaps in so extreme a case, that 
" truth may sometimes seem untruthful" 

Alas t it seems to me as surprising as it will to you. I 
am confounded that any one remains on earth who puts 
his pleasure and his hope on the saddest being hi the^ world 
and the one most fitted to repulse affection. Can excess of 
grief be an attraction for certain souls ? Yes, I see it, 
another soul has need to pity, to take interest, to be roused, 
and coming near me takes, or shares, that disposition without 
my willing it. For a long time past I have noticed that this 
man never left me without emotion ; and I have inwardly 
felt that sorrow, illness, and old age were taking the place 
to him of graces, youth, and charm. Do you think it pos- 
^ible to be vain of having this attraction for an honest and 
sensible man ? I am not vain of it; I am too unhappy, too 
profoundly unhappy to be accessible to the pleasures and 
follies of vanity. I have not told you of this before because 
I feared that to speak of it might give it too much consis- 
tency ; I would not even allow my thoughts to dwell upon 
it. In the first days of my despair, when you passed sen- 
tence against my peace and life, I rejected with horror all 
that could separate me from you; rather than that I pre- 



260 LETTERS OF [1775 

ferred to die. I hoped to calm myself upon that sentence 
thus pronounced against me ; I believed yo ar presence would 
still he good for me, that you would tell me what I had 
need to hear ; that you yourself would help me to bear the 
blow that you had struck me. I have found nothing of the 
kind ; and without pretending to complain, or even to blame 
you, I am convinced, and in an absolute manner, that your 
marriage ought to break off all intercourse between us ; it 
only tortures me, and it may become a burden, perhaps an 
odious one, to you 

In those first moments I thought I could not live without 
hating you, but that dreadful emotion could not last in a 
soul so filled with passion and tenderness. Since then I have 
gone through all the anguish, all the agitations of sorrow ; 
until, at last, I have reached a condition of Tmnd that I 
believe is calmness. It may be only exhaustion and dejec- 
tion; but, at least, I will not blame myself in future for 
what I suffer ; that, I think, will surely be one great ill the 
less. Hitherto I have justified La Bochefoucauld's saying, 
that "the minds of most women serve to strengthen their 
follies only/* Oh I how true that is 1 I sink with confusion 
as I recall what I dared to desire. 

Yes, I was elated enough or rather enough misled to 
think it not impossible that you would love me above all 
things, and my madness gave me reasons that were plausible 
enough to satisfy my feelings. See, I beg of you, to what 
degree of illusion I was led. Nevertheless, I swear to you 
it was not self-love that led me astray ; on the contrary, it is 
that which now assists me to return to truth and reason. Itj 
is that which judges me to-day with more severity than you 
can show ; all that you have refused me ; all that you have 
not been to me, seems to me now only the necessary result of 
the accuracy of your taste and judgment. But do not suppose 



1775] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 261 

that I think you have been equitable in your conduct to me. 
It is my reason, nothing but my reason, that speaks to-day. 
Seeing myself so weak, culpable, and mad as I have been, I 
know that that does not justify the harm that you have done 
me though I pardon it with all my heart. Perhaps one is 
never consoled for great humiliations , but I still hope that 
time may efface their impression. I hope that your marriage 
may make you as happy as it has made me unhappy ; believe 
that when that wish is very sincere, generosity and good-will 
can no farther go. 

I have received no answer to a letter that I wrote you a 
week ago. I do not complain ; I merely let you know the 
fact, because I earnestly desire it may not be lost. Before 
you start for the country I beg you to return to me 
the three letters I addressed to you at Metz; and if you 
have received the above-named letter, sent to Bordeaux, 
be good enough to add that. I have not received your burnt 
almonds; that is why I have not thanked you for them. 
Nothing but hatred turns honey to poison, and I have no 
hatred. 

But, in truth, I am distracted ; I know not which -afflicts 
me most the harm you do me or the good another seeks to 
do. I faint, I need to flee into a desert for repose. I pity 
you for the length of this letter: but I am so ill, so de- 
pressed that I have not the strength to put it into shape, or to 
take out its inutilities. I feel how sorrows long protracted 
weary the soul and wear out the brain , but if I have allowed 
myself to speak thus at length it is that I may never return 
to this subject ; there are subjects which ought never to be 
referred to again. If you were in Paris I should not have 
written you a volume, for you would not read it It has been 
proved to me tfaat you do not read my letters, and that is 
natural enough ; they reached you in a place where you were 



262 LETTERS OF [1775 

seeing and hearing that which had quite another interest for 
you than I and my letters. 

Adieu, mon avm this is the last time that I shall permit 
myself to use that name ; forget that my hart has said it. 
Ah ! forget me ! forget what I have suffered ! Leave me to 
believe that it is a good to have been so loved ! leave me to 
believe that gratitude can suffice my souL Adieu, adieu. 

Sunday evening, September 24, 1775. 

I do not wish to make your prediction false ; you suppose 
perhaps that I have put temper, a plan, perhaps caprice, into 
this, and that nothing can excuse it. Heason is equable and 
just, and it is time that I should abide by it. You are mar- 
ried ; you have laved, you love, you will love one who has 
long attracted you by the vivacity and strength of her feel- 
ings; that is natural, that is in the order of things, that is in 
the way of duty ; and consequently one must be stupid or 
mad to enter upon arguments which would trouble your 
happiness and continue my torture. 

All is said between us forever; and, believe me, let us 
spare the details , when once the thread of faith is broken it 
should not be joined again ; that works ill, always. At all 
times, under all circumstances, I have told you the truth; 
therefore there is no confusion or embarrassment to me. 
In all my life I have never deceived any one, no matter 
who, in this world. I have no doubt been very culpable, 
but I can say that truth has ever been, sacred to me. The 
situations in novels are nothing to that of sorrow and despair 
in which I have passed my life for years. No doubt the novel 
which you have now begun will be full of pleasure, good for- 
tune, and whatever can make your felicity ; I desire it with 
all my heart. As for me, I could figure only in the novels of 
Provost; do you think I should be excluded from * Astre'e " ? 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 263 

M. de Saint-Chamans is much better for the last two days ; 
he_thanks you a thousand times. M. d'Alembert is much 
touched by your remembrance. The Comte de Creutz has 
returned to heaven , mother and child are doing well. Mme. 
de CMtillon has just left me. I hope that M. d'Anlezy will 
soon return. I have no longer any fever. 

Midnight, October 5, 1775 

This resembles madness, but it is reason, and very reason- 
able. I just remember that I told you to answer me and 
return my letters under cover to M. de Vames. Man ami, 
do only the half of that : return me my letters to his address 
and in God's name, do not forget a double envelope ; but 
send your answer direct to me, so that it will not be so long 
in coming. I could not otherwise receive it till Saturday, 
15th, and I have remembered that M. de Vaines goes to 
"Versailles on Saturdays. That would delay what I await 
with an impatience that fevers me. Mon arm, you. under- 
stand me ? do not be heedless : your letter to me, and my 
letters, all my letters, to M. de Vaines. 

Sunday evening, October 15, 1775. 

Mon ami, we must be two. You know of nothing to say 
to me, you have nothing to say to me when I am silent. If 
there were no one behind you, no one to read over your 
shoulder, if my letters were not dropped on the floor, I would 
write volumes to you, I would not wait for yours ; I would pour 
out my soul; I would pass my life in complaining, in for- 
giving, in loving you. But how? where can I find the 
strength you have taken from me ? The blow you struck me 
reached my soul, and my body succumbed to it. I feel it 
I do not wish to alarm you or interest you, but I feel that I 
am dying of it ; there is no resource f qr me o:n, earth ; because^ 



264 LETTERS OF [1775 

supposing the impossible that you were free and were to 
me what I desired it would be too late ; the springs of life 
are broken; I feel this without regret and without; terror. 
Mon arm, you prevented me from killing myself, and you 
make me die. What inconsistency ' but I forgive it ; soon 
it will not matter. 

Mon Dieu I I do not wish to reproach you : if you saw 
into my soul ah ! it is far indeed from wishing to hurt 
you or to put an instant's grief into your life. No, at the 
summit of my misery, the victim of having loved, feeling 
myself as guilty as I am unhappy, I find in my heart noth- 
ing but the keenest desire for your happiness ; your interests 
are still the first of the life that is leaving me. Adieu, man 
ami; you see that this is not ill-humour ; but there are ties, 
there are things, that leave me to sorrow only. Write to me ; 
tell me what you are doing , tell me if you are content ; if that 
which interests you has ended as you desired. In short, mon 
ami, feel, if possible, a little sweetness in shedding an in- 
stant's pleasure into a deeply wounded heart, which is, never- 
theless, all your own. I will write to you every evening, and 
when you leave Fontainebleau return me all my letters. Do 
not call this distrust ; it is virtue rather, it is caring for your 
security. 

October 16, 1775 

Mon ami, I write to you this morning, because I fear I 
cannot do so this evening. Yesterday I had a strong fever, 
and last night at two o'clock I thought I was dying from a 
fit of coughing, followed by suffocation, which really brought 
me very near to death. The terror of my maid made me 
think there must be something formidable in death ; her face 
was quite convulsed, and when I was able to speak and ask 
her the cause of her troubled look she said, " I thought you 
were going to die," for she had had the courage to stay and 



1775] MLLE DE iLESPINASSE. 265 

see me suffer, I am still in bed, though nothing remains but 
a slight oppression, and my usual ailments. 

Have you gone or are you going to Montigny 2 Did not 
Mme. de Boufflers give you a rendezvous ? She started this 
morning with the Abb<$ Morellet and returns Thursday. 
The Archbishop of Toulouse is expected this evening. A 
person who knows Mme. de Bouffiers very well said to me 
yesterday : " She makes herself the victim of a desire for 
consideration, and by dint of running after it she loses it. I 
will wager/' he continued, a that she will do the impossible 
to be admitted, not to the dinner of kings, like Candide 
in Venice, but to the dinner of the ministers at Montigny." 
He said that as a mere conjecture, but this morning I h^ve 
received from him these two lines : " Will you believe now 
in my knowledge of character 2 You laughed at me yester- 
day ; well, she started this morning and means to tumble into 
the midst of people who are scarcely of her acquaintance." 

Vanity of vanities ! Mon amvi, if she has gone to meet 
you she has done well! she ought to cherish the man to 
whom she once resolved to speak with truth. It must be a 
great relief to her to quit the mask occasionally. How can 
people live in such perpetual restraint ? Is vanity that 
which has most power in nature ? Tell me who you think 
will be minister of war. They say it will be the Baron de 
Breteuil, who has hitherto spent his life in the Foreign 
Affairs. This is like Maitre Jacques in the " Avare." 

Have you been reading much in order to begin your great 
work ? You have had but eight days, but you do things so 
fast that eight days will perhaps suffice you to do what 
others could not do in eight months. Have you seen M. 
Tiirgot 2 This is the moment when what you have done for 
him ought to "be of great use. You will see him at Mon- 
tigny. I wish you could talk with him ; you would then see 



266 UBTTERS OF [1775 

how superior he is to those who judge him with prejudice 
and passion. 

It is only a few days since you wrote me, no doubt to lift 
me to the skies : " It is from here that I tell you that I love 
you, here, where I am loved, where I am occupied, tranquil, 
etc." Eh ! mon ami, it is easy enough to be loved when 
a man is young, with a charming face and the manners 
and attentions of one who seeks to please ; and especially 
when all the actions of his life show that he does not hold 
strongly to anything. How should you not be loved ? fools 
and dandies are loved ! M. de B . . . is adored by his wife, 
who is young, pretty, and agreeable , the wonder to me is 
that Ms head is not turned by it ; he does not feel, as Comte 
de C . . . does, that he was chosen ; he remembers that it 
.was an income of twenty-five thousand litres that made the 
marriage. 

But do you know what would be really piquant, rare, 
extraordinary, and half a wonder (though there are examples 
of it, such as Diane de Poitiers, Mme. de Maintenon, Mile. 
Glairon) ? It is to be able to say : " I am loved " when old, 
ugly, sad, ill and sunk in sorrow, and especially when to this 
can be added : " I am loved by a charming and honourable 
man, who is at that time of life when men are most fastidious 
and most difficult to please." That, mon ami, is worth say- 
ing because it is marvellous. But for a man to draw vanity 
from being loved by a wife when he is charming, and is con- 
vinced and shown from morning till night and night till 
morning that he is passionately loved ah 1 fie, that is so 
common. Comte de C . . . says that and enjoys it; but 
the truth is I do not think another being would wish to be a 
third, or would demean herself to accept the surplus of that 
great passion. 

j mon amd ; I do not know why I talk to you of all 



1775] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 267 

this. If I have fever it does not amount to delirium ; but I 
find pleasure in talking with you, and I tell you all that 
comes into my mind. Write me , I need to be consoled and 
sustained , my soul and my body are in a deplorable state. 
Mon ami, you are fourteen leagues away , that is very far, 
but it would be very near if But adieu. 

Thursday evening, October 19, 1775. 

Mon ami, I should be overwhelmed by your reproaches if 
my resolutions had not forestalled them. Yesterday I 
blamed myself, I told you there was cruelty and baseness in 
making you suffer for a sorrow without resource. One must 
live or die of it, but, above all, in silence. You have known 
and felt unhappmess and passion enough to conceive the 
excesses to which they both may lead. I detest them, I 
abjure them, those excesses; I would rather be dead than 
affront you. Perhaps I foresaw this new misfortune when I 
longed to quit life and escape you. I felt that after my 
cruel loss my soul could never recover itself ; in fact that I 
ought nevermore to love, that I could not love again. The 
principle of my life, the god that sustained me, that inspired 
me, was no more. I was left alone in nature. Ah ! why did 
you come there ? why did you seek me ? At that moment I 
did not need consolation or support. Why did you say to 
me words that my soul was accustomed to hear with trans- 
port ? Wny did you take the language of him who had just 
died for me ? Why, in short, did you beguile the reason of 
one already confused by excess of sorrow ? It was for you 
to judge, to foresee ; I could only moan and die. You see 
now the horrible result of that thoughtlessness on your 
part. !N"o doubt at that moment you could not foresee 
the sort of poison you were pouring into my soul; but 
you knew even then that you did not love me enough to 



268 LETTERS OF [1775 

make the consolation and peace of my life your first 
interest. 

A>> ! there is the source and the cause of all I suffer. My 
soul in becoming culpable has lost its energy. I loved you : 
and from that moment I became incapable of what is noble 
and what is strong. I judge my conduct, mon ami , I blame 
it more than you I When you pronounced my sentence, I 
ought to have borne it, I ought to have torn myself from you, 
or from life ; there is baseness in seeking to be pitied and 
comforted by him who strikes us ; and that is so true that I 
undergo, ceaselessly, an awful combat ; my soul revolts 
against your action, my heart is filled with tenderness for 
you. You are lovable enough to justify that feeling ; but you 
have so mortally affronted me that I must feel humiliated. 
Mon ami, I have told you, often, that my situation is now 
impossible to endure , a catastrophe must come ; I know not 
if it be -nature or passion that will bring it about. Let us 
wait, and, above all, let us be silent. You have enough kind- 
ness, enough delicacy to spare my feelings, and yet you 
believe me, me, sufficiently cruel to wish to harass and alarm 
yours 1 Ah 1 mon ami, if sorrow sometimes makes us selfish 
It also makes us very delicate ; the sorrowful have usually a 
tender touch ; they fear to wound , they are warned by their 
own pain. Yet you believe that now, when there barely 
remains to me the strength to moan, I seek, I select the 
expressions that will hurt you most I You do not know me ; 
if I could be deliberate with you, if I were not moved by 
impulse, no doubt I .could take more pains to avoid wound- 
ing you ; but remember that I love you. 

That is my crime towards you. ATi \ mon ami, lay your 
hand upon your conscience, and I am very sure that, without 
a great effort of generosity, you will pardon me. But, and 
this I swear, I shall no longer need your virtue; I will 



1775] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 269 

lift my soul to the point of not requiring your pardon. 
Adieu. 

Friday, midday, October 20, 1775. 

I hasten to write as if you could read me the sooner. 
Man ami, you are crazy ! You intend to say harm of M. 
Turgot to M. de Vaines ! and for me i it is in my interest 
that you make this blunder ! Oh i what a had head you 
have, but what kindness 1 how amiable you are ! You are 
mistaken if you think that poverty, or the comforts that 
come from money can do aught for my happiness, or increase 
my unhappiness. It is not M. Turgot, nor M. de Vaines, nor the 
king, nor any power on earth who can calm my soul, or drive 
away one heart-rending memory, or put balm into my blood. 
Alas ! to do that needs that you should love me ; but it is easier 
to you to solicit a minister, and hate TIITYI because he has the 
honesty not to think of my fortunes. " It is not gold, my 
friend, nor grandeurs that make us happy." La Fontaine.]} 
That is more true for certain souls than I can express. I 
have never known compensation for what I have desired: 
passion is absolute; tastes yield to circumstances. I havo 
never desired or loved but in one way ; in that I have beeii 
moire consistent than belongs to my sick brain ; I have never 
repented for my manner of acting on the various occasions 
which I have had to enrich myself and increase, or to speak 
more correctly, to acquire consideration that, at least, 
which fools distribute, and on which empty brains and 
souls are fed. Good-bye, mon ami. I am expecting th 
"Vicomte de Saint-Chamans. I will continue after the ar- 
rival of the post ; I hope, yes I believe, that I shall have 
a letter from you. After seeing indifferent people all 
day long, you will have gone home at night and said 
to yourself, " I will do something to give pleasure to 
who loves me." 



270 LETTERS OF [1775 

Four o'clock, after the post 

No letter from you 1 Would you know how just I am ? 
I hated my other letters. "What does all else matter when 
soul and thought are fixed on a single point ? I can fully 
conceive how Newton spent thirty consecutive years on one 
thing, and the object which he had before him was not worth 
mine, Mon ami, to love is the highest good. To be loved 
by one whom we love is being too happy. There was a time 
in iny life but my God ' how have I fallen T 

No letter from you ; it is my fault ; my letter through M. 
de'Yaines was sent too late. I wished to follow you wher- 
ever you went, but you did not take pains to inform me. 
Mon ami, I have read and re-read your letter of yesterday 
three times running. What you say on the difference be- 
tw'een intellect and genius is excellent and of great elo- 
quence ; your comparison is gemus. But I do not think 
with you that to govern well requires men of passion. It 
requires character and not passion ; intellect suffices, and it 
is preferable in a monarchy, where uniform progress is neces- 
sary," where welfare should be preferred to glory. It is 
because I believe that neither passion nor genius is desirable 
in a French minister that I think there is no man better 
able to govern us than L. de T . . [Lom^nie de Brienne, 
Archbishop of Toulouse]. I answer for it that no soul is 
inore inaccessible to passions. Nor is it for energy alone 
that we should praise him. He has character, many ideas, 
great activity, and a facility, an amenity which smooths away 
all difficulties. 

; This is what I reply to what you say to me of M. Turgot : 
Ke is like Lycurgus, and L. de T , . . is more like Cardinal 
dfe 'Bichelieu,* or rather Colbert, for he would not have the 
foroe nor, ther atrocity of the cardinal. 

Mon ctmiii you will receive this letter Saturday morning; 



1775] MLLE. BE I.ESPINASSE. 271 

no doubt it will be the last, for I feel sure that you will 
start Sunday. Here are my orders ; make a packet of my 
letters, put my address upon them, and give them with your 
own hand to M. de Vaines, who will countersign [frank] 
for the post that precious deposit. I wish to know the hour 
at which you leave Fontainebleau. Yes, I have an interest 
in knowing; in what do we not have interest concerning 
those we love ? I told you that I would complain no more, 
and burden you no longer with the weight of my woes. But 
remember that I cannot pledge myself to have a perfect, 
equable conduct. That may come, perhaps; indifference 
may not always be impossible to my heart. I say, therefore, 
that I will no longer make you suffer from my suffering; but 
understand that I shall be neither courageous enough nor 
reasonable enough to pretend not to suffer when I feel my- 
self torn with anguish. 

Adieu, mon ami ; I seem to be parting from you for a very 
long time, and this separation tries me more than when you 
are here and can say adieu ; then there is but that instant 
of life for me, I live with all my force in that one moment ; 
but to-day it is not so ; I am sad, depressed, I am deprived 
of you, of your letter, I see to-morrow, and after ! Ah ! the 
future is very long. Adieu. 

Tuesday evening, October 24, 1775. 

The oracles ceased because they feared the echoes. My 
last letter was written Wednesday after dinner; I judged 
you would start Sunday or Monday ; I now imagine that you 
will wait the arrival of the Comte de Saint-Germain [just 
appointed minister of war], who is expected Wednesday or-" 
Thursday. He is a man of merit, a man by himself; he 
has reached his position without intriguing; if he makes 
reforms and changes we may be sure that they are for the 



272 LETTERS OF [1775 

country's good. He will have the confidence of the military 
because he is known to be well-trained and to have had a 
wide experience. No one can make better use of your 
talents ; he will give you active service. You ought to think 
of yourself. Did you not tell me that he already felt a great 
interest in you ? You must not turn your back to fortune. 

I received your letters of Friday and Sunday , they are 
short, they are rare But, mon ami, I do not complain ; 
you have so many diverse interests ! and they give you so 
many cares that I cannot see how you will suffice for alL 
Do not repeat to me more than is necessary that I must 
"try" to accept your situation. Mon ami, those words 
I must try, when feelings or patience are concerned, are 
meaningless and mere absurdities; it is concerning be- 
haviour, business, matters of interest, that one should try, 
because all actions, all proceedings are then directed, or 
should be directed, by reflection ; and it is silly and thought- 
less to put ourselves in contradiction to its dictates and 
interests. But as for me, I will " try," I will make an 
effort, and why ? what do I propose to myself ? what do I 
wish ? No, no, mon ami, I have missed the object of my 
life ; life has no longer any interest for me. I shall keep 
silence no doubt, but it will not be by " trying," it will be 
from weighing, estimating, judging all things, and above all, 
from seeing the end so near; I will calm myself, if pos- 
sible, during these last days of suffering. We can bear all 
at the end of a journey ; I desire not to cost you a regret. 
I have no need of tears after death. I ask you only the 
indulgence and kindness shown to the sick and the unfortu- 
nate. Adieu, mon ami; I passed a cruel night, coughing 
frightfully. I have a little fever this evening, but I must 
write a line to M. de Vaines. I shall send this letter through 
trim. 



1775] MLLE DE XESPINASSE. 273 

Thursday, midnight, October 26, 1775. 

You are very lucky if you can breathe at ease ; as for me 
it is impossible, and I cannot express what suffering it is 
but it is of you I wish to speak, mon ami. 

I think you will do wrong to give up M. de Saint-Germain 
at once. In the present hurly-burly he can see nothing ; 
nothing will leave a trace upon him ; whereas if you were 
here after the first moments are over he would draw you 
nearer to him ; you could be useful to him in many ways. 
That man falls from the clouds ; he will have a thousand 
questions to ask, and he has enough experience not to ask ' 
them at random. He has known you so long, you have 
been " his son ; " he will not fear committing himself to a 
young man he loves. I may be mistaken, but I regard these 
first moments as all-important for you. Look at the matter, 
mon ami; put no false generosity, no levity into your con- 
duet. I tell you what I see. I know well that there is a 
degree of interest that affects the sight ; but you are nearer 
to yourself than even I am ; therefore distrust yourself. 

You tell me nothing of your affairs ; what does that 
show? Are they ended as you wish, or have you put as 
much negligence into them as Mardchal de Duras puts 
levity 2 Oh ! what excellent negotiations I M. de Vaines 
praises you to me, and in the best manner ; it is his soul 
that lauds you. I tell you this to prove to you that you did 
not wound him that day you spoke to hinn of me ; but I 
will wound you seriously if you ever return to the charge. 
Mon ami, the first rule in friendship is to serve our friends 
in the way they wish, be it the most fantastic way in the 
world ; we should have the delicacy to bend to their will 
in all that is directly personal .to themselves. That prin- 
ciple laid down, my manner, my mania if you will, is to 
be served by no one; I value intentions as others value 

18 



274 LETTERS Otf [1775 

actions. Therefore do not employ your energy on me, turn 
it to other objects ; for I repeat, you will offend me if ever 
you concern yourself with my interests again. Reflect that 
if I had so chosen I should not have remained poor, there- 
fore poverty cannot be the greatest evil to me. Mon ami, 
believe me ; I always speak the truth, and I know very well 
what I want. 

You have not told me about the theatres, nor a word of 
what you are doing : you feel no need of conversing ; your 
only need is to rush everywhere and see everything. I wish 
God could give you his gift of omnipresence. As for me, I 
should be in despair if I had that talent; I am far from 
wishing to be everywhere, for I long to be nowhere. Ah ! 
mon Dieu! I wish I had Mine, de Muy's illusion; I think 
that could give me happiness ; she is sure that she mil see 
M. de Muy again ; what a support to a desolate heart ! Four 
years ago, just at this season, I was receiving two letters a 
day from Fontainebleau. His absence was for ten days ; 
I had twenty-two letters ; in the midst of the Court dissipa- 
tions, he, being the object in vogue, the centre of fascination 
to the handsomest women, he had but one purpose, one 
pleasure : he desired to live in ray thoughts , he wished to 
fill my life ; and I remember that during those ten days I 
went out but once : I expected a letter, and I wrote one ! 
Ah ! those memories kill me ! and yet I would fain live that 
life again, and under conditions more cruel still Mon ami, 
if you see the depths of my soul, you must pity me 1 But 
do not tell me so ; it is courage that I need oh, yes ! I 
need it ; I suffer cruelly. 

Tell me if you have news regularly from Mme. de ... . 
Have you done anything for that affair that interests her ? 
Tou tell me nothing ; but you are so hurried ! Do you 
intend to postpone your work on M. Dumesnil-Durand's 



1775] MLLK DE LESPINASSE. 275 

book ? M. de Saint-Germain may answer it perhaps in four 
lines , that would spare you much trouble, but it is not the 
way to add to your reputation, and I should regret it for you. 

The chevalier is about to have a play he has just written 
acted ; he has shown it to no one , that method served him for 
" Agathe " and I hope it will answer in this instance. They 
make and play comedies themselves [this plural refers to 
Mme. de Gl^on, who is understood in speaking of the 
Chevalier de Chastellux] ; they have constant scenes with 
each other of a tearful character; they torment each other 
from morning till night . it is self-love on one side, complain- 
ing; and on the other frantic vanity. I am sorely afraid 
that with the talents they both have for comedy, and even for 
tragedy, they may bring about a final scene in a play which 
ought to end without notoriety. Ah ' how unhappy every- 
body is ! 

You see very well that I cannot write to you until your 
departure, for I do not know when that will be, and I do not 
want a letter to be left there after you are gone. Adieu ; I 
love you wherever I am, but not wherever you are. What is 
to be the " final scene " for us ? 

Wednesday, November 8, 1775. 

My letters miss you, and my presence is not necessary to 
you. You have spent five days in Paris reproaching me, and 
yourself too, every moment that you were here. You were 
two weeks at ITontainebleau ; and there was not a single 
day when you could not have found opportunity to come and 
return. You knew that I was ill ; you knew your share in 
my illness, and you wrote, as if to crown me with joy and 
gratitude, that if you " could come to Paris I should be the 
sole object of your journey." You did not take that journey, 
and now you dare to say that it was because I have grown 
so hard to satisfy and so unjust Oh.J how you weigh 



276 LETTERS OF 

upon my heart when you try to prove to me that it ought to 
be content with yours ! I will never complain, but you 
force me to cry out, so sharp and deep is the hurt you give 
me. Mon arm, I have been loved, I am loved still, and I die 
from regret that it is not by you. But are we ever loved 
by what we love ? do justice and reflection ever enter into 
a sentiment so involuntary and so arbitrary ? 

I have languished since your departure ; I have not had 
an hour without suffering ; the ills of my soul have passed 
to my body ; I have fever daily, and my physician, who is 
not the most skilful of men, repeats to me perpetually that 
I am consumed by grief, that my pulse and my respiration 
show an active evil, and then he departs saying, " We have 
no remedies for the soul" There are none for me; it 
is not to be cured that I desire, but to be calmed, to recover 
some moments of repose which will lead me to that which 
nature will soon grant me. That one thought is all which 
rests me; I have no longer strength to love , my soul wearies 
me, tortures me ; nothing sustains me now ; desire and hope 
are dead within me ; the weaker I grow, the more obsessed 
I am by one sole thought. No doubt I do not love you 
better than I have loved you, but I can love nothing else ; 
the ills of the body bring me forever back to my one point. 
There is no escape, no diversion ; the long nights, the loss of 
sleep have made my love a sort of madness ; it has become a 
fixed idea, and I know not how I have escaped a score of 
times from uttering words that would have told the secret of 
my life and of my heart. Sometimes, in society, tears over- 
take me, and I am forced to fly. 

Alas! in picturing this madness I do not seek to touch 
you, for I believe that you will never read these words. Be- 
sides, in the state in which I am what have I to claim, or to 
fear, from you ? It suffices me to think you honest, and to 



1775] MU/E. BE LESPIKASSE. 277 

be very sure of all your actions to the end. There are situa- 
tions which compel even the hardest and most insensible of 
souls . all who surround me seem more eager for me ; seeing 
the eternal separation so near, they gather to me. I cannot 
praise enough the attentions and interest of my friends , they 
do not console me, but it is certain that they put a sweetness 
into my life. I love them, and I would I loved them more. 
Adieu, I succumb to all these painful thoughts ; but still, 
in pouring out my soul I comfort it a little. 

Thursday, eleven at night, November 19, 1775 

Mon ami, I wrote you four pages yesterday; but never 
can I end my day without saying.the words, I love you.*' I 
have just seen the person in the world by whom I am most 
beloved, and that has made me feel, more and more, the 
point to which I love you. Had I heard you announced 
unexpectedly, after three months' absence, how I should have 
quivered from head to foot ! how I should not have known a 
word I said, or what was said to me 1 Mon ami, one must 
love to know all that Nature has granted of good and of 
pleasure to man. It is sweet no doubt to be loved; but 
where is the happiness ? for to judge, to appreciate the affec- 
tion of an excellent man, to respond with kindness to his 
involuntary emotions, to see alternately sadness and vexa- 
tion on the face of one all filled with a desire for our 
happiness oh ! if that flatters the vanity of silly women, it 
afflicts an honourable and sensitive soul 

Mon ami, do you suffer at not hearing from me ? has it 
made a void in your life ? Axe you so occupied, so intoxi- 
cated that you do not feel in turn an active need and a great 
languor ? Am I very near to your thought when I am near 
you in person? Ah! mon ami, these questions picture to 
you a very feeble part of what I feel \ I die of sadness. My, 



278 LETTERS OF [1775 

friends think me affected by my sorrows. I felt this evening 
the kindness of M. d'Anlezy and M. de Schomberg; they 
reassured me as to my lungs ; my cough distressed them, but 
they consoled me. Excellent men ! they did not know all I 
suffer. But I do not deserve to be pitied, even by you : for 
see the excess of my madness , I feel that I love you beyond 
the forces of my soul and body ; I feel that I am dying be- 
cause I have no communication with you ; that privation is 
the most cruel of all punishments to me. I count the days, 
the hours, the minutes ; my head wanders ; I want the im- 
possible ; I want news of you on the days when there is no 
courier in short, what shall I say ? I love you to madness. 
After that, comprehend me 'if you can. I do not send you 
my letters ; I should shock you, I should irritate you, if only 
by contradiction; more than that, if by some chance you 
were forced to stay in the place where you now are, six 
months, a year, or all your days, I think I can answer for 
it that you would never hear again from me ! Conceive from 
this the horror that accursed letter caused me, dated from that 
place which paints itself to me in a manner more horrible 
than hell was ever painted to Saint Theresa and the most 
frenzied brains. No argument on earth could overcome so 
fatal an impression ; I shudder still, remembering that date 
and the few short lines that followed it. Oh, heaven ! what 
had you become ? had you absolutely ceased to be conscious 
of my woe ? Adieu ; that thought blights my heart. 

After the post hour, November 10, 1775. 

ISTo,the effects of passion, or of reason (for I know not which 
inspires me at this moment) are inconceivable. After await- 
ing the postman with the need, the agitation that makes 
waiting the greatest torture, I was ill of it physically ; my 
cough and the spasms in my head lasted five or six hours- 



1775] MLLE, DE LESPINASSE. 279 

Well! after that violent state, which, is not susceptible of 
either distraction or relief, the postman came ; I had letters, 
there were none from you. A violent internal and external 
convulsion seized me, and then, I know not what happened 
to me, but I felt calmed ; it seemed to me that I felt a sort 
of comfort in finding you more indifferent and colder than 
you have ever thought me passionate. By proving that I am 
nothing to you I believe you make it easier for me to detach 
myself from you. It is so proved to me than you can only 
make the misery of all the moments of my life that what- 
ever gives me strength to separate myself and keep apart 
from you has become the greatest comfort I can feeL And 
here I am, wishing that you may be kept, by inclination or 
by force, in the place where you now are ; your absence 
ceases to be an ill to me ; it is repose. Adieu. 

Monday, Norember 13, 1775. 

Mon ami, how amiable you are and how you justify the 
excess of my passion and my unhappiness. Yes, I believe 
that what I have suffered, what I await, nothing could have 
had the power to prevent me, to protect me, from loving you. 
There are things that make me believe in fatality : I was to 
live to see you again, and then die of it. But, I have loved 
you ; I complain no more. Leave me to bear my fate; and 
keep yourself from crowning all my sorrows by making me 
love life at the moment I must quit it, or rather when I feel 
it escaping me, Alas 1 mon ami, in pity, in kindness, let 
me think that death will deliver me from a burden that over- 
whelms me. Let me pause and rest my thought on that 
long desired, long expected moment which I feel with a sort 
of transport is now approaching me. Bnt yesterday, when I 
saw you, when I listened to you, I thought with tender 
emotion that soon I fcmst bid you adieu forever. I felt my 



280 LETTERS OF [1775 

pulse, as it were ; I tried to think that I was not so ill I 
regretted to feel there was no hope. My tenderness for you 
so filled my soul that it would not allow me to have a wish 
that had for its object to part from you. Oh ! under that 
dreadful aspect death is indeed an evil, a great evil. 

Mon Dieu ! you will never know the heart-rending an- 
guish, the species of death and agony in which I have spent 
the last three weeks. It is not the loss of my strength, my 
emaciation, the excessive change in me that are surprising. 
"What is inconceivable is that my life has resisted this 
agony. But you are here : I find you again, so full of kind- 
ness and sensibility ; you have calmed my soul, you have put 
balm into my blood. It was less painful to me to suffer last 
night ; I could not sleep, I had fever, I coughed ; but I was, 
truly, not unhappy, for my soul was occupied by you in a 
sweet and tender way. I thought that I would write to you, 
and I dared not hope for a letter, yet it did not seem to me 
impossible. Judge, therefore, the feeling of happiness that 
came over me when on entering my room they said to me, 
" From M. de G-uibert." Mon ami, those words strengthened 
me for my whole day. I do not fear the f evei*, having your 
letter ; the remedy has more power over me than the dis- 
ease. Only, I must drive from my mind this thought that 
returns unceasingly : " He arrived in Paris Saturday at five 
o'clock, and he waited till Sunday at one o'clock to know if 
I were dead, or ill, or sorrowful," Ah ! mon ami, yon forgot 
that I loved you ; do you no longer know how I love with 
all the faculties of my soul, my mind, with the air I breathe ? 
/ love to live, and I live to love. 

I am full of eagerness to know what M. de Saint-Germain 
has said to you. I have thought again over his letter ; it is 
good, very good; aad I do not doubt that you will be satis- 
fied with the way in which he treats you. If I am not tq 



]775] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE. 281 

see you to-morrow (Tuesday) morning, write me a line, for I 
do not think you will come again this evening. If you do 
not come in the morning and cannot give me your evening, 
I shall be alone from four to half -past five; so there are 
three ways to see me with freedom. Take one of them, mon 
ami, for I have need to see you. Good-bye. You see I am 
giving myself compensations. Good God 1 what I suffered 
in being forced to silence. Mon ami, do you believe that 
there is or could be any one in the world more keenly con- 
scious of all your charm, more profoundly absorbed in you 
than I ? Do you believe that there is a degree of tenderness 
and passion beyond that which inspires me ? the beatings of 
my heart, the throbs of my pulse, my breathing, all that is 
the effect of passion. This is more marked, more evident 
than ever not that it is stronger; but it gleams as it 
vanishes, like the light that flashes up before it is ex- 
tinguished. 

Midnight, Saturday, December 30, 1775. 

Mon ami, you did not wait for me, did you ? You have 
not had time to think of me; there would therefore be 
awkwardness and folly in reproaching myself and in making 
excuses to you. 

But the truth is that, with the will and the desire to write 
to you, I could not do so. From four o'clock until this in- 
stant I have not been one minute alone. Besides, what havs 
I to say, man ami, when you ask me to tell you of myself ? 
"With two words I can always express my physical and 
moral condition: I love, I -suffer ; and that is the order of 
things for a long time past. Yes, I have suffered much ; I 
have had fever. I have it now, and I feel that my night 
will be detestable ; J am dying of thirst, and my chest and 
stomach are blaming ; this is my bad nigiht j my day has 
more tolerable. 



282 LETTERS OP [1775 

Theie has been such good company, such good conversa- 
tion in my room that I wished for you : as for myself, the 
good, "bad, and indifferent add nothing to the need I always 
have of seeing you , it is the need of my soul, just as the need 
to breathe is the want of my lungs. Mon Dieu ! how I 
wish I could moderate or even extinguish that need ! it is too 
active for my feeble body ; and it has become more necessary 
than ever that I should accustom myself to see you seldom. 
All things separate us, mon ami, and all things are drawing 
me nearer to "him who was born three hundred leagues away 
from me. Alas ! he was inspired by that which can do the 
impossible. But I do not complain ; you grant me enough ; we 
are always too rich when about to move, or to lose all. 

Well, mon arm, have you carried out your plans ? have 
you worked hard ? I do not believe it. This is what you 
have done : dinner ; after dinner, talk ; at five o'clock went to 
the Temple [the house of the Prince de Conti, grand prior 
of Erance], where you read the changes in the " Conn^table." 
Of course they praised it to the skies, and with that gentle 
eloquence the hours flew by. You came home shortly be- 
fore nine o'clock ; it was then very comfortable to vegetate 
in your family and to be adored till half -past eleven or mid- 
night. Here I employ the art of the painter of Agamemnon 
and say no more. Good-night. I do not know what hour 
you destine for me to-morrow ; though you said it was the 
evening, so many things pass through your head that your 
plans should never be regarded as engagements. In short, 
mon arm, give me what you can. But do not come at four 
o'clock : T have told -a person to come then, as I felt sure you 
would not choose that hour. I reproach myself for detain- 
ing you so long , you are as much surrounded as a minister. 
I beg of you to gather up the letters that you have of mine 
and "bring them back to ine. 



1776] MIXE DE LESPINASSE. 283 

Eleven o'clock at night, 1776 

I have been thinking that if you are not happy, very 
happy, happiness cannot exist, that there is no such thing 
on earth ; for you are made expressly to enjoy much and 
suffer little. Everything serves you for this, your defects, 
your good qualities, your sensibility, your levity. You have 
tastes and no passions ; you have soul and no character. 
It seems to me that Mature studied to make in } T OU the 
most accurate combinations which could render a man both 
happy and agreeable. You will ask me the occasion of 
these remarks. Ah ! if you cannot find it for yourself, be- 
lieve that I am rambling incoherently which would be 
quite true ninety-nine times in a hundred. I did not ex- 
pect you this evening, but I tore myself away with difficulty 
to go with Comte d'An!6zy to pass an hour with M. de Saint- 
Chamans, whose state again makes me uneasy. 

When shall I see you ? and how long shall I see you ? 
My life is so short, our ties are so fragile ah 1 Mon Dieu ! 
I thought them broken. There is nothing solid between us, 
nothing well-founded but sorrow; you signed the warrant 
by the sacrifice of your liberty and my peace for the little 
time I have to live. Adieu ; tell yourself that, inasmuch as 
you have condemned me, you owe me nothing ; be cruel if 
you can. Give me the coup de grdce, that I may bless and 
treasure you still. 

My letters, mow, ami. 

I have not received the papers which Mine. Geoffrin is 
awaiting impatiently ; return them to me at once. I en- 
treat you. 

!Five o'clock in the morning^ 1776. 

I cannot sleep ; my stomach, my head, my soul, keep me 
awake and torture me. To charm away my ills I want to 
talk to you. You see, mon ami, that I cannot I cannot 



284 LETTERS OF [1776 

go to dine with. M. Boutin. I sent you word that I had 
written to excuse myself ; and, in truth, it would be beyond 
my strength. Excepting you, I could not listen or speak to 
any one. I have been so upset, I am still in such anxiety, 
that I can be at ease with no one but that distressed family ; 
I suffer and feel with them. Mon aim, my heart is full of 
tears, and those I shed have not only M. de Saint-Chamans 
for their object. Ah ! how close you are to all that moves 
my soul I it is you, always *y u > un <ler whatever form and in 
whatever manner I express a painful sentiment. My regrets, 
my fears, my remorse, all is filled with you ; how could it 
not be so ? I exist by you and for you only. 

Ah ! mon Dieu ! you say that I reject and repulse all that 
you do for me. Explain, then, what it is that fastens me, 
that chains me to this life of sorrow that I ought to have 
quitted when I lost him who had made me know the value 
of life and made me cherish it. Who held me back ? who 
holds me still and rends my heart ? You know as well as 
I do whether I love you ; you know that when I say I hate 
I only prove how much I love you ; my silence, my cold- 
ness, my unkindness are to you a proof that no stronger, 
tenderer passion can exist in all the world. My God ! how 
I have fought it ! how 1 have abhorred it ! yet it has 
always been more powerful than my reason or my wilL 

Mon ami, send an excuse at once to M. Boutin. Keep 
me your good-will for to-morrow, Wednesday, at Mme. 
(Jeoffrin's. I hope I may be able to go if we have news 
to-day. I received your letter from Versailles on coming 
home; it came at midnight. I have not told you rightly 
how touched I am by that compassionate kindness. Good- 
moming or good-night ; my night is just beginning. It is 
far sweeter to talk with you than to sleep ; but in order to 
Ipve you, to suffer a, lottle longer, I must have sleep ; for 



1776-J MIXE BE LESPINASSE. 285 

to love, one must live ; and it is very certain that I live but 
to love you. Adieu, kindest and most cherished of all created 
beings. That is forgiving but forgetting ! ah ! mon ami. 

Six o'clock in the morning, 1776. 

I cannot say that my first thought is for you ; for I have 
not yet slept : but my thought is full of you, and I want to 
tell you that I love you, before a few moments' sleep takes 
from me the joy of feeling it. Mon ami, I came to bed 
very sad ; I had expected you, and that hope animated and 
sustained my soul. When the hour for hope had passed, ah ! 
I fell very low ; for my body is so weakened. Persons were 
all around me, but T could not have been more alone in a 
desert. " Ah ! mon Dveu ! " I said to myself as I heard the 
names announced, " all whom I do not await, all whom I do 
not desire are punctual, assiduous." It is dreadful to live 
to one point, to have but one object, one desire, one thought. 
Mon ami, that is certainly not a remedy for fever ; neverthe- 
less, my fever has been far less high than it was the previous 
night ; I had neither thirst nor heat nor a species of delirium. 
Can you imagine that I was unable to fix my mind on you ? 
my feeling for you escaped nie like all the rest; and this 
failure of power over my thought increased my agitation. 
At present I am more tranquil ; I suffer, but in a way that 
is bearable. 

Are you in Paris, mon ami ? Shall I see you to-day ? I 
wish you the best, the highest fortune ; still, it is sad to be 
attached to one from whom all things part us. If M. de 
Saint-Germain employs you, you will be constantly at Ver- 
sailles ; and then a wife, a family, tastes, dissipations ! Ah ! 
771,071, a mi, I complain of nothing, but tell me, in good 
faith, could I live in the midst of all that? "What yon 
could do for me would cost you much, and what you could 



286 LETTERS Otf [1776 

not do would torture me. Better say and do like- the wife 
of Psetus : " I weep not, but I die/' I do not know if this 
is fever, but fof a long time past my head is exhausted, and, 
weary with weeping, T have no tears ; that relief is no 
longer at the call of my sorrow. But, mon ami, it is of 
you I want to speak. You must have arrived in Paris very 
late ; for surely I should have heard of you to-day if you 
arrived at five o'clock. No matter ; I love you. 

Midday, March, 1776 

I do not understand what this means. Apropos of my 
landlord you say, " I never knew any one so difficult." In 
what 2 why ? I do not understand. But inasmuch as you 
are kind enough to make this lease for me, I would rather 
it were not done on a Friday. That day, that word still 
makes me tremble with horror. If it is all the same to you, 
choose Saturday , or else, I will not sign till Saturday. For- 
give this trouble. 

]N"o 7 I do not send for you any longer ; I do not urge you 
to give me your time. It seems to me that it is forcing 
nature to seek to bring you nearer. By the nature of- things, 
by circumstances, by our tastes, by our ages, we are too 
separated to be able to come nearer to each other now. 
We must therefore submit to that which has more power 
than will or even liking, namely : necessity. You are mar- 
ried; your first duty, your chief care, and your greatest 
pleasures are there ; follow that course therefore ; and reflect 
that whatever you might subtract from it could not satisfy a 
sensitive souL The weakness and exhaustion of my whole 
being make me avoid the convulsions of passion ; I want 
repose, I want to breathe, I want to try what the truest 
feelings, the tenderest friendship can do for the consolation 
of a being sunk in sorrow and misfortune for so many years 



1776] MLLE DE LESPINASSE 287 

Oh ! leave me ; give yourself up to your tastes, your duties, 
your work , surely that is enough to fill your life. 

'No, do not come this evening , you have a pleasure and re- 
laxation beside you which are much more efficacious than those 
you seek with me , besides, I stayed at home last evening, 
and I do not wish to go two days without seeing Mme. de 
Saint-Chamans, who is ill To-morrow, if you like, I will see 
you. I dine with the Neapolitan ambassador, and shall not 
go out in the evening. To-day I dine with Mme Geoffrin. 
Adieu. Of all whom I know, of all whom 1 love, of all who 
love me, you are the one T see least. I do not complain ; I 
tell myself it could not be otherwise , and I hasten to turn 
away my thoughts from, that which I cannot change. 

Midnight, 1776 

Oh ! you are all ice, you happy people ! Men of the world, 
your souls are shut to keen and deep impressions, I am 
ready to thank Heaven for the ills that overwhelm me, and 
of which I die, because they have left me the twofold sensi- 
bility and the deep passion which make me comprehending 
of all that suffers, all that knows sorrow, all that is tortured 
by the joy and the misery of loving Yes, mon arm, you 
are more fortunate than I, but I have more pleasure than 
you. 

I have just finished the first volume of the " Paysan Per- 
vertL" That final page did not delight you! you felt no 
need to speak to me about it, to read it to me ! soul of ice ! 
It is happiness, it is heaven's own language. And Manon's 
death, and her passion, her remorse, and those dolorous and 
passionate words that she employs f Ah ! we passed a whole 
evening together, the book was there, you had read it, and 
you never said one word of it to me ! Mon ami, there is a 
little corner of your soul, and a large part of your conduct 



288 LETTERS OF [1776 

which, might cause, without injustice or folly, a comparison 
which you would not like. Yes, there is a little of Edmond 
in your make-up ; you do not resemble Mm in the full face, 
hut a little in profile. Mon ami, this book, this bad book, 
so wanting in taste, in delicacy, in good sense even, this 
book, unless I am much mistaken, is made with a portion of 
the passion and warmth which inspired Saint-Preux and 
Julia Oh ! there are delightful sayings t if they are not 
the last sparkles of thy genius, Jean-Jacques, if they are not 
the ashes, half-extinguished, of the passion that fired thy 
soul, read, I conjure thee, this book, and thy heart will be 
stirred to interest in its author, who has, it is true, so ill- 
conceived and ill-arranged his work, but who is certainly 
capable of writing a better [!R6tif de La Bretonne]. Yes, I 
punish you,mon ami, I put that task upon you also; but you 
will get out of it, as usual, by not reading the book. That 
is what Edmond would have done, and he was less occupied 
than you. Mon ami, here is the title, or rather the headings 
of a letter I should have written had I been Pierre the 
editor : ef Edmond to Manon. How is it possible to apply 
the same feelings to so many different objects? The 
world is a dangerous abode for whosoever has a heart 
like Edmond's." 

You will please return my book and my letters. You tell 
me that you have been more dissipated than occupied this 
afternoon, opera, visits, attentions, manners, frivolity of 
people in society, talent, genius, the necessity for winning 
credit 1 Oh I the amazing contrast ! and what a dreadful 
misfortune to see so closely a man even more seductive 
than he is lovable- Mon ami, I cough enough to frighten all 
around me, and I can no more. Truly, you ought to love 
me ; you have but a moment. I feel that. 

A box with four places for women ; three tickets to the 



1776] MLLE. DE LBSPINASSR 289 

parquet; think about it and do not neglect an attention 
which, will oblige one you love. 

I shall not go out ; I have fever, and my cough is continued. 

Six in the evening, 1776, 

I would, mon ami, that during the few days I have to live, 
you should not pass a single one without remembering that 
you are loved to madness by the most unhappy of human 
beings. Yes, mon ami, I love you. I will that that sad 
truth pursue you, that it trouble your happiness ; I will that 
the poison which forbids my life, which consumes it, and will 
no doubt end it, shall put into your soul a sorrowful sensi- 
bility which may incline you to i egret one who loved you 
with tenderness and passion. Adieu, mon ami, do not love 
me ; for that is contrary to your duty and against your will ; 
but suffer me to love you, and let me say it and resay it to 
you a hundred times, a thousand times, but never with ex- 
pressions that answer to what I feeL 

Mon ami, come and dine to-morrow with Mme. Geoffrin. 
I have so little time to live that nothing you can do rfor me 
could have consequences in the future. The future ! how I 
pity those who await it, if they love you. Adieu; I have 
company in my room. Ah, how irksome it is to live in 
society when one has but one thought. 

Half-past nine o'clock, 1776. 

I know it well; you write me charming notes, but you 
leave me to die. I am cold, so cold that my thermometer is 
twenty degrees lower than that of Reaumur. This concen- 
trated cold, this state of perpetual torture, throw me into 
such deep discouragement that I have no strength to desire a " 
better condition. In fact, what is there to desire ? That 
which remains for me to feel is worth no more than what I 
have already felt. Ah, yes ! let me cease to be ! I do not 



290 LETTERS OF [1776 

repulse your pity, or your generosity. I should feel I did 
you harm in refusing them ; keep the illusion that you are 
able to comfort me. 

1776 

I am chilled, I tremble, I die of cold, I am bathed in 
sweat. You revive that part of me 'which suffers most ; my 
heart is cold, and wrung, and agonized ; I might say, like that 
mad soul in Bedlam, "It suffers so that it will burst," 
Mon a?ni I it seems to me a century has passed since yes- 
terday, I fear I may not reach this evening; then I shall 
see you, and my pain will lessen My God! I have not 
strength enough to bear my soul, it kills me. Good-day, mon 
ami , I love you better and more than you have ever loved. 
Yes, I suffer, I cough, but I shall see you. You will be 
active enough between now and this evening ; and I, I shall 
have but one thought, making me repeat incessantly, " Ah ! 
for the sad how slow the hours fly." 

Mon ami, see if you can dine with me to-morrow or Mon- 
day at the Comte de C . , .'s. Choose your day ; I would 
rather it were Monday, but you shall decide. 

One o'clock, 1776. 

If any kindness remains in you, ah ! pity me ; I cannot 
answer you, I know nothing more ; body and soul are both 
annihilated. That lease ? break it ; bind me ; do what you 
will ; all is to me beyond indifference. Ah 1 my God ! I 
know myself no more. 

1776. 

You are mistaken ; it is not I who am necessary to you ; 
'but no matter as you wish it I will expect you and pass the 
evening with you. But it is, in truth, sacrificing my rest to 
you ; I regret it, because it is doing nothing for yottr happiness. 
There ate two sorts of things in nature Which caauaot tolerate 



1776^ MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 291 

mediocrity, and you lead me to that quality which I detest 
and for which my soul was never made. Oh, heaven I why 
did I ever know you? I should never have felt remorse, 
and I should not now be living. And see with what you 
fill my life and my soul ! T make you no reproaches, but I 
express the keen regret I feel for the terrible mistake into 
which I fell 

Bring back to me the letter of the Comtesse de Bouffiers. 
M. de Vaines will not come this evening; he stayed yester- 
day till eleven o'clock; he charged me to remind you of 
Monday, because he did not know where you were lodging. 

1776. 

I send away M. de La Rochefoucauld that I may answer 
you. Your kindness, this active interest touches me deeply ; 
but, wion ami, if the feeling that you have for me is painful 
to you and sorrowful, I must wish to see it chilled ; for it 
would be dreadful to see you suffer. Ah I we ought both to 
have the same regret ; the day we met was a fatal day ; 
why did I not die before it dawned? My day has been 
filled with pain and, what is quite extraordinary, with a 
depression that I did not think could be allied with active 
suffering. 

What sad pleasure I had in again seeing Mme. Geoffrin ! 
it did me harm; I saw that her end was nearer than even 
mine. I have never been able to master tears; they con- 
quered me before her, and I was grieved. Ah I my bonds 
are too strong, they are fastened too directly to my heart ; 
it seems as though I ought to have but one regret, one 
sorrow, and yet I often find my soul all living with affections 
ami with interests that rend it. If you continue to grieve 
over "my troubles you will make me feel the duration of 
tfeem intolerable. I know you well, mon ami; my death will 



292 LETTERS O# [1776 

be a trouble for you 3 but the rapidity of your ideas assures 
me that you are forever sheltered from great sorrows. Ah ! 
so much the better ; I bless God for it. 

Eleven o'clock, 1776 

Why do you suppose that I am prompted by a dreadful 
sentiment ? See better. Should I have strength for it, even 
if I had the inclination ? and besides, there would be a lack 
of delicacy in showing resentment now, when I have reached 
a point where I have no longer need of defence or ven- 
geance. Mon ami, I am dying ; that fills all, and it settles 
all. But do you know what must be done for that frightful 
feeling you suppose me to have * a sedative for your feel- 
ings, to which my danger has given a moment's vigour. You 
must chill yourself, harden yourself, and flee the unhappy 
being who sheds around her only sadness and fear , you must 
bring yourself to a state of mind in which, when the event 
happens, you will feel no further ill-effects This is what 
my generosity and my interest in your peace of mind lead 
me to counsel you, and I do it from the bottom of my soul. 
Do not oppose me on the moral side. Man ami, you owe 
nothing to one who has renounced all ; all compact, all bond 
between us, everything is broken. You . surely see it ; my 
soul is now impenetrable to consolation ; scarcely do I dare 
to hope for a few moments' respite from my physical ills. I 
think them as incurable as those of my heart. 

I have yielded to friendship in seeing Bordeu [physician, 
friend of d'Alembert], Before long the same friendship will 
groan at the uselessness of that succour. Good-night ; I 
suffer much; I wish that you may never have to say the 

same. 

Half -past ten o'clock, 1776. 

I could neither read, nor write, nor dictate at eight o'clock 
when I received your note ; I was in a paroxysm of cough- 



1776] ML3LE BE LESPINASSE. 293 

ing and pain which did not allow me to open the letter till 
an hour later. This morning my pains became so severe 
that I was threatened with inflammation. I tried all 
remedies to obtain relief ; and in such a crisis you see, of 
course, that my door was closed necessarily. The Arch- 
bishop of Aix and two other persons came before you did. 
Why should I exclude you? because you did not see me 
yesterday ? Such thoughts, such emotions only come when 
we believe ourselves loved, and above all when we expect 
pleasure ; but now, in my state, there can be none. I long 
only for relief. 

Do not come to-morrow morning ; my door will be closed 
\vithout exception till four o'clock. I am no longer mistress 
of my ills ; they have taken possession of me, and I yield 
to them. Do not think that I have no desire to see you; 
but I grieve for the melancholy manner in which you would 
have to pass your evening with me ; whereas at home you 
are surrounded with all sorts of pleasure, No sacrifices, 
mon ami; the sick repulse such efforts although so few are 
made for them ! 

. 1776. 

Friendship does miracles. Here is the matter: the 
Vicomte de Chamans has asked for a furlough ; if he does 
not obtain it and is not able to go to Monaco, he is a lost 
man. He has the fatal experience of the last two winters. 
I do not say to you, " Ask for his furlough," because that 
may not be the best thing to do. But speak of his bad 
health, of the danger he is running, especially in an air that 
is deadly to him. In short, mon ami, plead for his life ; it 
will be averting from the remainder of mine one of the 
deepest sorrows I can henceforth feel. Ask Baron d'Holbach 
to unite his efforts with yours, and tell the effect of the sea 
(which he has seen) on this unfortunate young man. 



294 LETTERS OF [1776 

I am awaiting news of you, because you promised them to 
me; though I think it much sweeter and more natural to 
talk with her who has consecrated her life to you than with 
me who am about to part with mine. All I I can no more 
and that is true. Good-night. 

1776. 

Yesterday I was lost in the void ; that degree of depres- 
sion resembles death, but, unhappily, it is not death. At six 
o'clock I thought you might perhaps be very near to me, but 
even so, you may have been far away in thought, for persons 
in the same room are often little together. Men ami, do not 
come at ten o'clock at night; come earlier. Do you know 
what inures me a little to your hardships ? it is that M. de 
Condorcet, who goes on foot to ISTogent every week, tells me 
that those walks have strengthened him perceptibly. His 
walk is four leagues long; I think your street is too far 
off; you ought to come in a carriage and dismiss it at my 
door. 

As a favour bring me this evening your journey to Prussia 
and Vienna. Yes, I want it just as it is ; if you say no, we 
shall quarrel. 

Monday, ten o'clock in the morning, 1776. 

Mon ami, you have seen me very weak, very unhappy. 
Usually your presence suspends my ills, and arrests nay tears. 
To-day I succumb, and I know not which, my soul or my 
body, gives me the most pain. This condition is so deep- 
seated that I have just refused the comforts of friendship ; I 
prefer to be alone, and talk with you a moment before I go 
to bed, to the sweetness and sadness of complaining and oblig- 
ing others to share my pain. 

I have just remembered that you told me you liked to stay 
at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your kindness made 
you forget it, and now I give you baok your promise. &fon 



1776] MLLE JDE LESPINASSE. 295 

ami, never did I less desire that you should make sacrifices 
to me. Alas 1 you see yourself if I am in a condition to en- 
joy ; I can only cry to you, " Do not reopen my wound." 
All my desires are limited to that 

It seems to me that, if you were willing, your trips to 
Versailles might be less frequent. Mon ami, if you come 
to me to-morrow, bring me the rest of your " Journey," and 
my blue pamphlet ; if you have the latter at hand give it 
to my servant. Mon a/mi, have you sent my note to the 
landlord of this house 2 How often I regret the trouble 
which I gave you about this lodging. Adieu. I have not, 
truly, the strength to hold my pen; all my faculties are em- 
ployed in suffering. Ah ! I have reached the end of life, 
where it is almost as painful to die as to live ; I fear pain 
too much; the troubles of my soul have exhausted all my 
strength. Mon ami, sustain me , but do not suffer ; for that 
would become ray keenest pain. I repeat to you heartily, 
sincerely, do not take to-morrow evening from your family ; 
to-morrow is Tuesday. 

1776. 

How like you that is I so beyond all measure , sending 
twice in one night ! Ah ! best of men f Yes, calm your- 
self , I repeat, you will increase my ills ; your grief does me 
harm, much harm. I have just taken sedatives I am not 
yet relieved. I am in my bed, and I shall think much of 
the sorrow you are feeling. Do not come before midday. 
Adieu, 

Four o'clock, 1776. 

You are too kind, too amiable, mon aim. You are seeking 
to revive, to sustain a soul which succumbs at last beneath 
the weight and duration of its suffering. I know all the 
value of your feeling, though I do not any longer seek it. 
There was a time when to be loved by you would have left 



296 LETTERS OF [1776 

me nothing to desire, or, at least, would have softened all 
bitterness , I should have wished to live. To-day I wish 
only to die. There is no compensation, no alleviation for the 
loss that I have met with , I ought not to have survived it. 
That, mon ami, is the only bitter feeling that I find in my 
soul to you. I would I could know your fate , I wish that 
you may be happy. 

I received your letter at one o'clock; I had a burning 
fever. I cannot tell you the time it took and the difficulty 
I had to read it. I would not put it off until to-day, and the 
effort threw me almost into delirium. I expect more news of 
you to-night. Adieu, mon ami. If ever I returned to life I 
would again employ it in loving you but there is now no 
time. 



MLLE DE LESPIUASSEk 



297 





1 Facsimile of the handvrriting of Mile, de Lespinasse and of her seal 



298 




/* /*^ /"*"*<*?* J^+r+S. 

* ^ ^ ^^ ii j ' -^ Jr * a ^ * 







PORTRAIT OF MLLE. DE LESPINASSE* 

BY D'ALEMBERT. 

[Portraits of the living and Eulogies of the dead were a 
fashion of the period ; the Eulogies were usually offered for com- 
petition and read before the French Academy \ the Portraits 
circulated in the salons or were given to their originals. Mile, 
de Lespinasse wrote one on the Marquis de Condorcet. That of 
herself by d'Alembert was addressed to her in 1771, and first 
published in his " (Euvres Posthurnes " in 1799. The " Eulogy of 
Eliza, " by M. de G-uibert, appeared for the first time in a collet 
tion of Eulogies written by him and published by his widow in 
1806, before her publication of the Letters, edited by Barrfere, 
in 1809. The name Eliza is given in memory of Eliza Draper, 
the friend of Sterne, the favourite author of Mile, de Lespinasse. 
At the close of the Eulogy M. de Guibert names her Claire- 
Franoise, and no explanation is given of this misnomer. The 
Address to her Manes by d'Alembert appeared first in his Posthu- 
mous Works above-mentioned.] 

TIME and habit, which, change all things, Mademoiselle, 
which destroy our opinions and our illusions, which anni- 
hilate or enfeeble love itself, can do nothing against the 
feeling that I have for you, which you have inspired in me 
for the last sixteen years ; that feeling is strengthened more 
and more by the 'knowledge that I have of the lovable and 
solid qualities that form your character ; it makes me fed 
at this moment the pleasure of occupying my mind with you 
that I may paint you such as I see you. 



300 PORTRAIT OF 

You say you do not wish, me to limit myself to making 
half your portrait by writing a panegyric, you wish the 
shadows to be in it, apparently to put in relief the truth of 
the rest , and you order me to tell you your faults, and even, 
if occasion be, your vices, should I know of any. I know 
of none, and I am almost sorry, so eager am I to obey jou. 
Of faults, I know several, and some of them are quite dis- 
pleasing to those who love you. Do you think that declara- 
tion too coarse ? I could wish that you had other defects 
than those for which I must blame you. I would like to 
find in you those faults that make us lovable, that are the 
effect of passions , for I own that I like defects of that 
nature ; but, unhappily, those for which I have to blame you 
are not of it , they prove, perhaps (I whisper this in your 
ear), that passion is not in you. 

I shall not speak to you of your face ; you make no pre- 
tensions for it, and "besides, it is a matter of which an old 
and sad philosopher like me takes no heed ; he is no judge, 
he may even pique himself on his lack of judgment, be it 
ineptitude, be it vanity, which you please. I shall, however, 
say of your exterior, what seems to me to strike every one, 
that you have much nobleness and grace in your bearing, 
and (what is far preferable to cold beauty) much expression 
and soul in your countenance. I could name to you more 
than one of your friends who would have for you some- 
thing other than friendship did you permit it. 

The liking one has for you does not depend exclusively on 
your external charms ; it is, above all, derived from those of 
your mind and your nature. Your mind pleases, and ought 
to please, through many fine qualities, by the excellence of 
your tone, by the correctness of your taste, by the art you 
have of saying to each that which suits him. 

The excellence of your tone would not be praise for a per- 



MIXE. DE LE&PINASSE. 301 

son born at Court, who can speak and act only in the manner 
she has learned ; yon, on the contrary, came from the depths 
of a province, where you had no one to teach you. Never- 
theless, you were as perfect on this point the morrow of your 
arrival in Paris as you are to-day. From that first day you 
have been as free, as little out of place, in the most brilliant 
and most fastidious society as if you had lived in it all your 
life ; you felt its usages before you knew them ; which re- 
veals an accuracy and delicacy of tact that is very uncom- 
mon, and also an exquisite knowledge of conventions. In 
a word, you divined the language of what is called "good 
society " just as Pascal in his " Provincials " divined the 
French language, which was not formed in his day, and the 
tone of polite pleasantry, which he certainly could have 
learned from no one in the retreat where he lived. But as 
you thoroughly feel that you have this merit, and even that 
in you it is not an ordinary merit, you have perhaps the 
defect of attaching too much value to it in others ; they must 
have many real qualities to make you pardon the absence 
of this one; on this point, of little importance, you are 
pitiless to the extent of being finical. 

Yes, Mademoiselle, the only thing on which you are over- 
delicate, and over-delicate to the point of being odious (here 
I am like Mme. Bertrand in the comedy ; I start with in- 
vectives " because I am defending my own hearthstone), is 
your extreme sensitiveness to what is called a good style " in 
manners and speech ; the lack of that quality you think 
scarcely effaced by the truest sentiment that can be shown 
to you. On the other hand, there are men in whom the 
presence of that quality supplies the lack of all the otters ; 
you know them such as they are, weak, selfish, full of airs, 
incapable of deep and consistent feeling, but agreeable and 
full of graces, and you have a great inclination to prefer 



302 PORTRAIT or 

them to 3 T our faithful and more sincere friends , with a few 
more cares and attentions for you they might eclipse all 
others in your eyes, and perhaps take the place of all. 

The same correct taste which has given you so great a 
sense of the usages of society, shows itself, as a general 
thing, in your judgment of books. You are seldom mis- 
taken ; and you would be even less so if you were always 
firmly of your own opinion and did not judge by that of per- 
sons at whose feet your intellect has the kindness to prostrate 
itself, though they are very far from possessing the gift of 
infallibility. You do them sometimes the honour to wait 
for their advice to form an opinion which is not worth that 
which you would have formed for yourself. 

You have still another fault ; it is to prepossess yourself 
or, as they say, infatuate yourself, to excess in favour of cer- 
tain works. You judge with sufficient justice and accuracy 
of all books in which there is a moderate degree of feeling 
and warmth , but when those two qualities dominate certain 
parts of the work, all its blemishes, however considerable 
they may be, at once disappear to you ; it is " perfect " in 
your eyes ; you need more time and cooler judgment to 
see it as it really is. I must add, however, to console you 
for this censure, that all that belongs to sentiment, to feeling, 
is a matter in which you are never mistaken ; it may be 
called your domain. 

"What distinguishes you above all in society is the art of 
saying to each one that which suits him ; and this art, though 
little common, is very simple in you ; it consists in never 
speaking of yourself to others, but much of them. That is 
your infallible means of pleasing ; consequently you please 
widely, though it is very far from everybody who pleases 
you ; you even defer to persons who are the least agreeable 
to you. This desire to please every one made you say a 



MLLK DE USSPINAS8E. 303 

thing which might give a bad opinion of you to those who 
did not know you thoroughly. " Ah 1 " you exclaimed one 
day, " how I wish I knew everybody's foible 2 " That wish 
seemed to come from consummate policy, and a policy that 
bordered on duplicity; nevertheless you have no duplicity 
in you , your pokey is simply the desire to be thought agree- 
able } and you desire this, not through a feeling of vanity, 
from which you are only too far removed, but through your 
liking and need to shed more charm over your daily life. 

Though you please every one in general, yet you please 
agreeable people specially; and you please them by the 
effect which they produce on you, by the species of enjoy- 
ment which their self-love derives from seeing how much 
you feel their charm ; you have the air of being grateful to 
them for those charms, as if they were for you only, and you 
thus double, so to speak, the pleasure they have in feeling 
that they are charming. 

The refinement of taste, which is coupled in you with this 
continual desire to please, results, on the one hand, in there 
being nothing studied or laboured about you, while on the 
other hand, there is nothing careless ; hence it may be said 
of you that you are very natural, and not at all simple. 

Discreet, prudent, and reserved, you possess the art of 
controlling yourself without effort, and of hiding your feel- 
ings without dissimulating them. True and frank with those 
you esteem, experience has rendered you distrustful with 
others ; but this characteristic, which is a vice when we 
begin life, is a precious quality in those who have lived. 

Nevertheless, this care, this circumspection in society, 
which are usual in you, do not prevent you from being some- 
times inconsiderate. It has happened, though in truth very 
rarely, that you have suffered certain speeches to esckpe you 
in presence of certain persons which have injured you much 



304 PORTRAIT OF 

with those persons; this comes from your being frank by 
nature, and discreet from reflection only ; nature will escape 
sometimes in spite of all our efforts. 

The various contrasts offered by your character, of natural- 
ness without simplicity, of reserve and imprudence, contrasts 
which come in you from the struggle between art and nature, 
are not the only ones that exist in your manner of being, 
you have others, and always from the same cause. You are 
both gay and melancholy gay by nature, melancholy from 
reflection ; your fits of melancholy are the result of the many 
misfortunes you have met with ; your physical or your men- 
tal condition of the moment gives birth to them ; you yield 
yourself to them with dolorous, and at the same time 
such deep satisfaction that you will hardly allow yourself to 
be snatched from melancholy by gaiety ; while, on the con- 
trary, you fall back with a species of pleasure from gaiety to 
melancholy. 

Though you are not always melancholy, you are perpetually 
filled by another feeling that is sadder still : disgust of life ; 
and that disgust so seldom leaves you that, if in a gay mood 
some one proposed to you to die, you would consent without 
difficulty. This feeling is derived from the deep and keen 
impression that your sorrows have left upon you ; even your 
affections, the species of passion which you put into them, 
cannot remove it ; it is plain that sorrows, if I may so say 
it, have fed you, and that affections can do no more than 
comfort you. 

It is not only by your charm and your intellect that you 
please generally ; it is also by your character. Thdugh much 
alive to the ridiculous, no one is farther than you from cast- 
ing ridicule on others ; you abhor malignity and satire ; you 
hate no one unless it may be one woman, who has, in 
truth, done all she could to make you hate her ; but even so, 



MLLE DE I/ESPINASSE 305 

your hatred to lier is not active, though hers to you has 
reached the point of being ridiculous and of making that 
woman extremely unhappy. 

You have another very rare quality, especially in a woman : 
you are not in any way envious ; you do justice, with the 
sincerest satisfaction, to the charms and good qualities of all 
the women whom you know ; you do this even to your enemy 
in all she has that is good and estimable, agreeable and 
piquant. 

Nevertheless, for I must not flatter you, even in saying 
what is true of you, that good quality, rare as it is, is perhaps 
less praiseworthy in you than it would be in many others. 
If you are not envious it is not exactly because you think it 
right that others should have advantages over you ; it is that 
looking around you, all existing beinjgs seem to you equally 
to be pitied, and you feel that there are none with whom you 
would desire to change situations. If there were, or you 
knew a being sovereignly happy, you would perhaps be very 
capable of bearing him envy ; you have often been heard to 
say that it was just that persons who have great advantages 
should also have great sorrows to console those who were 
tempted to be jealous of them. Do not think, however, that 
your lack of jealousy ceases to be a virtue, though its source 
may not be as pure as it might be ; for how many persons 
there are who do not believe that others are happy, and who 
would not desire to be in their place, and yet are jealous of 
them. 

Your aversion to malignancy and envy presupposes in you 
a noble soul; and yours is such in" every respect Though 
you desire fortune and have need of it, you are incapable of 
taking any action to procure it; you have not even profited 
by the favourable occasions which you have had at times to 
make yourself a happier lot. 

20 



306 POB-TI1AIT OF 

Not only is your soul very lofty, it is also very sensitive ; 
but your sensitiveness is to you a torture, not a pleasure. 
Your are convinced that happiness comes only through the 
passions, and you know the danger of the passions too well 
to yield to them. You therefore love only so far as you 
dare ; but you love all that you can and as much as you can. 
You give to your friends out of the sensibility that overloads 
you all that you can permit yourself to give , but there still 
remains a superabundance which you know not what to do 
with, and which you would willingly fling, so to speak, to all 
passers. This superabundance of sensibility renders you 
very compassionate to the unhappy, even to those you do not 
know; you think no trouble too great to comfort them. 
With that disposition, it is natural that you should be very 
obliging; and no one can do you a greater pleasure than to 
furnish you the occasion , it is giving food to both your kind- 
ness and your natural energy. I have said that you give to 
your friends " all the feelings that you can permit yourself 
to give ; " you even grant them something beyond what they 
think they have a right to expect ; you defend them with 
courage, under all circumstances and states of the case, 
whether they are right or wrong. It may not be the best 
way to serve them ; but so many persons abandon their 
friends, even when they could and ought to defend them, 
that we should be grateful to your friendship which abhors 
and flees that baseness, even to excess. 

The species of muffled, intestine emotion which agitates 
your soul incessantly makes it not as equable internally as it 
outwardly seems, even to your friends. You are often sharp 
and out of humour ; but "in consequence of your desire to 
please generally you let this be seen by none but the author 
of tfeis portrait ; it is true that you do justice to his friend- 
ship in not fearing to let him see you such as you are ; but 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 307 

this very friendship feels itself obliged to tell you that sharp- 
ness and ill-humour take away from you many a charm ; there- 
fore, in the interests of your own self-love, friendship coun- 
sels to you to give way to this defect as little as you can, unless 
your friends deserve it ; which can happen very rarely, thanks 
to the deep and just feelings that fill their souls for you. 
You admit this baleful sharpness, and it is right in you to 
do so ; what would be better still would be to correct it. 

To dispense with doing that, you try to persuade yourself 
it is incorrigible, and belongs to your nature. I think you 
deceive yourself ; it belongs much more to the situation in 
which you are placed. You were born with a tender, gentle, 
sensitive soul ; it has been too severely tried, and the effects 
upon you have been too cruel You may say what you please ; 
extreme sensibility excludes innate sharpness. That vile 
fault is therefore not the work of nature in you, but (what 
is dreadful) the work of others. Through being thwarted, 
shocked, wounded in all your sentiments and all your tastes, 
you grew accustomed to attach yourself to nothing ; through 
repressing the sentiments that might have made your misery, 
you numbed those which would have shed " softness into 
your soul. They remained, as it were, asleep in the depths of 
your nature, without motion, \vithotit energy ; and you pre- 
pared much harm for your friends when you took shelter 
from that which your enemies were seeking to do to you. 
In striving to make yourself hard to yourself you have be- 
come so to those who love you. 

It is true for the sentiment is not annihilated in you, 
only dormant that you never fail to repent of the grief that 
your sharpness causes whenever you see that the impressioa 
is deep ; you then recover your natural sensibility ; one mo- 
ment, one word, repairs all. In other people the first im- 
pulse is the effect of nature, the second is that of reflection ; 



308 PORTRAIT OF 

with you it is the contrary ; and such is, in your soul, other- 
wise so estimable, the cruel and unfortunate effect of habit. 

Another proof that this sharpness is not natural to you is 
that other defect for which I have already blamed you, 
which is almost the opposite of this one ; I mean the com- 
monplace desire of pleasing all about you. This last defect 
belongs far more to your nature than the first , it has given 
to your mind the qualities most fitted to please, nobleness, 
accomplishment, grace. It is very natural that you should 
try to gain the good of it, and you succeed but too well. 
I know no one, I repeat, who pleases so generally as you, 
and few who feel the pleasure of it more ; you do not even 
refuse to make advances when they are not made previously 
to you ; on this point your pride is sacrificed to your vanity. 
Sure of preserving those whom you have once acquired, 
you are principally occupied by acquiring others; you are 
not, it must be allowed, as fastidious in your selections as 
you should be. The refinement and nicety of your tact 
ought to make you sensitive on the choice and style of ac- 
" quaintances ; but the desire to have a court and what society 
calls friends makes you rather easy in your selections, and 
you are not much annoyed by tiresome persons provided such 
persons pay you attention. 

Barnes and titles do not impress you; you receive the 
great as they should be received, without servility and with- 
out disdain. Misfortune has given you the honourable pride 
which it inspires always in those who have not deserved it. 
Your small means and the sad knowledge you have of men 
make you dread benefits, the yoke of which is often to be 
feared for well-born souls; perhaps you have carried this 
feeling to excess ? but in this respect excess is a virtue. 

Your courage is greater than your strength; indigence, 
ill-health, misfortunes of all kinds have tried your patience 



MIXE DE LESPINASSE. 309 

without dejecting it. That interesting patience, and the 
spectacle of what you have suffered ought to make you 
friends, and has made them, you have found some consola- 
tion in their attachment and their esteem. 

There, Mademoiselle, is what you seem to me to be. You 
are not perfect, no doubt ; and it is, truly, so much the better 
for you ; the perfect Grandison has always seemed to me an 
odious personage. I do not know if I see you aright ; but 
such as I see you no one seems to me more worthy to ex- 
perience in herself and to make others experience that which 
alone can soften the ills of life, the comforts of tenderness 
and confidence. 

In finishing this portrait I cannot add, in the words of the 

old song : 

" The prior who made it 
Is satisfied with it," 

but I feel that I can apply to you, and with all my heart, 

Dufresny's lines : 

" What faults she has, 
That youthful thing J We love her with them." 



THE EULOOT OF ELIZA. 

BY M. DE GUIBERT. 

WHAT darkness ! what solitude ! dreadful emblem of my 
heart! To-morrow the night that surrounds me will have 
passed, "but the night that enfolds Eliza is eternal ! to-morrow 
the universe will waken again ; Eliza alone will never waken. 

Soul sublime, where art thou ? in what region ? Ah ! thou 
hast returned to thy source ; thou hast taken thy flight to thy 
native country ! An emanation from heaven, heaven has re- 
called thee. It had left thee too long to dwell among men. 

Yes, without a decree of heaven Eliza could not have fallen 
a prey to death. She was so active, so animated, so living 1 
Alas !. for the last two years her soul deceived my anxiety 
and allayed my fears. Daily I saw her fading and weaken- 
ing, but never was her mind more brilliant, never was her 
heart so loving. " She wDl live, she will live," I said to my- 
self on quitting her. " So much life must surely conquer 
death." I could no more conceive the idea of her dying than 
that of the sun extinguished. 

Eliza is no more 1 who will enlighten my judgment, who 
will warm ray imagination, who will spur me to glory, who 
wiH replace in me the profound sentiment with which she 
inspired me ? What shall I do with my soul and with my 
life ? O my heart ! recall to my thoughts what she was 1 T 
wish to extol her, and to extol her I need only paint her. 
Eliza can never die in the memory of her friends, but her 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 311 

friends will some day die as she has died, and I wish her 
to live in the future ; I wish that after me some tender soul, 
reading this funeral dirge, may regret that he never knew 
her, and pity my misfortune in surviving her. 

Eliza related to me several times the first years of her life. 
All that we see in our theatres, all that we read in our 
novels, how cold and barren they are beside that narrative I 
We must penetrate the interior of families to see the great 
scenes of passion and human calamities. Our writers mar 
them with their imagination ; none but their actors and their 
victims can picture them. Eliza was born under the auspices 
of love and misfortune. Her mother was a woman of a 
great name, living separate from her husband. She brought- 
up this daughter publicly, as though she had the right to 
acknowledge her as her own, and she kept from her knowl- 
edge the mystery of her birth. But often, in secret, she 
bathed her with tears ; she seemed, in redoubling her tender- 
ness, to wish to compensate her for the fatal gift she had made 
her of life. She loaded her with caresses and benefits. She 
gave her, herself, the first of all benefits, an excellent educa- 
tion ; it was soon to be all that remained of her. She died 
almost suddenly, and at the moment when she was about to 
endeavour to give her daughter the social position that the 
laws might perhaps have granted her. Eliza was left aban- 
doned to relatives who soon were no other than persecutors. 
They told her what she was ; from the position of a cherished 
daughter she descended, suddenly, and in the same house, to 
that of orphan and stranger. Disdainful and brutal pity- 
took charge of the unfortunate girl, until then so tenderly 
cared for by remorse and by natural love ; she lived, because 
she was then of an age when unhappiness does not kill, 
or, to speak more truly, when tttere is BO 9U<?h tiling as 
unhappinesa. 



312 EULOGY OF ELIZA, 

She was far from beautiful, and her features were still 
further marred by the small-pox ; but her plainness had noth- 
ing repulsive at the first glance ; at the second the eye grew 
accustomed to it, and as soon as she spoke it was forgot- 
ten. She was tall and well-made. I did not know her until 
she was thirty-eight years old, and her figure was still noble 
and full of grace. But what she possessed, what distin- 
guished her above all, was that chief charm without which 
beauty is but a cold perfection expression of countenance 
\jphy sionomie]. Hers had no particular character; it united 
all. Thus one could not say precisely that it was clever, -or 
brilliant, or sweet, or noble, or refined, or gracious, a species 
of praise by which, as I think, we degrade the faces we wish 
to praise ; for when a face has an habitual expression, that 
expression is more the effect of conformation and what may 
be called style of feature, than physionoime revelation of 
nature. That revelation on the countenance comes from 
within, it is born of thought, it is mobile and fugitive , it 
escapes the eye and mocks the brush. O Eliza, Eliza, whoso 
has not had the happiness to live in your intimacy, in your 
affections, your emotions, your confidence, knows nothing of 
what is meant by expression of countenance. I have seen 
faces animated by intellect, by passion, by pleasure, by pain ; 
but lights and shades were all unknown to me until I knew 
Eliza. That flame of heaven, that energy of feeling, in short, 
if I may so express it, that abundance of life, Eliza, when 
she was not overwhelmed by troubles, shed on all that she 
wished to animate ; but she wished nothing for herself ; she 
animated all without personal pretensions or projects. One 
never approached her soul without feeling drawn by it. I 
have known apathetic hearts which she electrified ; I have 
seen dull minds that her companionship had elevated. "Eliza," 
I said to her once, after seeing her perform that operation, 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSE 313 

" you make marble feel and matter think." What must have 
been that celestial soul for him whom she had made its first 
object, for him who animated her soul in return ! 

O thou who wert that object, Gonsalve! [M. de Mora] 
happy Gonsalve ! thou must have felt thyself beneath the 
burning climate of the equator, beloved by a daughter of the 
Sun. Death removed thee in the midst of thy career, but 
thou hadst, in those few years, exhausted all the happiness 
that heaven grants to man on earth : thou wert loved by 
Eliza. Ah I if thou couldst know what she became after 
thee ! she lived for two years withered by sorrow, bearing the 
wound of grief like a tree struck by lightning, and she ended 
blessing death as she expired 

It might be thought that Eliza, thus eagerly occupied by 
one object, was less than before to her friends ; but never did 
she love them better, never was she dearer to them. Passion 
and misfortune seemed to have given to her. soul fresh 
activity, new vigour. Ah ! who like her could make us taste 
the charms of friendship ? who knew like her how to ap- 
proach the hearts of those she loved ? She drew confidence 
so gently; she understood so well the language of passion. 
With whatever sentiment the soul was filled she made it 
feel it needed to communicate with hers; and each was 
happier, or less unhappy, beside her. Were we in that 
state of languor which is the habitual condition of persons 
in society when they have neither pleasure nor pain, in Eliza's 
presence we came out of it; for, seeing her suffering and 
unhappy, we were filled with a sense of her sorrows, or 
as happened oftener her inind and soul took the ascen- 
dency, and then what interest ! what conversation I In spite 
of one's self one had to listen, to think, to revive. 

Often, in comparing Eliza with the charming women ajid 
the men of intellect whom I have known, I try to explain 



314 EULOGY OF EZJZA, 

to myself the principle of that charm which no one possessed 
as she did, and here is what, it seems to me, it consisted in : 
she was always free from personality, and always natural. 
Ftee from personality: never was any one as much so. 
With her friends it was from feeling , she had always more 
need to speak to them of their selves than of herself ; with 
the rest of the world it was from delicacy of mind and judg- 
ment. She knew that the great secret of pleasing was in 
forgetting self to give our interest to otheis, and she forgot 
herself perpetually. ,She was the soul of a conversation, but 
she never made herself its object. Her great art lay in show- 
ing the minds of others to advantage ; she enjoyed that more 
than to show her own. Always natural she was that in her 
bearing, in her movements, in her gestures, in her thoughts, 
in her expressions, in her style ; and at the same time this 
naturalness had something that was elegant, noble, sweet, 
gay ; part of it was no doubt perfected by a sound educa- 
tion, an exquisite taste, by the habits of her youth passed in 
the best company, and among the most agreeable persons of 
her day; but it had become so a part of herself that we 
never felt that art had aught to do with it ; an amiable de- 
lusion which vanishes as to most women when we converse 
with them for any length of time. 

What struck me most in conversing with Eliza was the 
relation, the harmony, so to speak, that reigned between her 
thoughts and their expression. When animated by her 
mind, or by her heart, her motions, her face, all, even to the 
tones of her voice, was in perfect accord with her words. It 
is from lack of this accord that the conversation of so many 
persons of mind and talent is without warmth and without 
effect. . . . Again, what Eliza possessed in a supreme degree 
was tact, so rare and so difficult in dealing with persons 
guad conventions, Never was she mistaken, never did she 



. DE LESPENASSE 315 

say a thing of feeling to one who could not feel it, or ex- 
press a noble thought to those who could not understand it. 
Her conversation was neither above nor below those to whom 
she spoke. She seemed to have the secret of all natures, the 
measure and the shades of all minds. 

Eliza was not learned ; she was well-informed and made 
no pretension in being so. Her knowledge was based so 
securely in her mind, and her mind so ruled her, that it was 
always she, and not her knowledge, that we felt the most. 
She knew English and Italian and read the literatures of 
several other languages in our best translations. But, above 
all, she knew her own language perfectly. She made sev- 
eral definitions of synonyms which the Abb Girard and the 
best minds of the Academy would not have disowned. I 
never knew any one to have as she had the precious gift of 
the right word, that gift without which we cannot have 
either accuracy or gradation of expression; a gift which 
presupposes equally a trained mind, a profound knowledge 
of grammar, and independently of natural good taste 
that perfected and conventional taste which can be acquired 
only by intercourse with men of letters and men of the 
world both. 

The best-written books have their moments of tedium and 
their lacunae of interest. Eliza's conversation, whenever 
she would or could give herself up to it wholly, had none. 
She said simple things, but she never said them, in a common 
way, and that art which seemed no art at all in her 
never made itself felt, and never let her drop into mannerism 
or affectation. She used no novel terms and employed no 
antitheses or double-meanings. She sometimes applauded a 
play on words by others, but it had to be appropriate, in 
good taste, or else said naturally, on the spur of the mo- 
ment and with ease, which to her eyes was always a chief 



316 EULOGY OF ELIZA, 

merit in all things ; for pretension, of whatever kind it was, 
was repugnant to her. She could not endure whatever 
showed effort and preparation. She would almost have pre- 
ferred the rough and sketchy to what was too graceful, too 
finished. Hence we may suppose how she hated the affected 
manners, the airs, and other follies of people in society. 

She had the same delicacy, the same severity of taste 
about works of the mind. She was never able to accustom 
herself to the verses of Cardinal de Bernis, Dorat, and other 
poets of that school. She thought nothing of the novels of 
Cr^billon, Manvaux, and all those to which their style had 
given birth , but, on the other hand, she fed herself with 
Racine., Voltaire, and La Fontaine. She knew them by 
heart , she grew impassioned over Jean-Jacques, she loved 
Le Sage and Provost , but she put above them all the im- 
mortal Richardson , and Sterne she had read, re-read, trans- 
lated, and adored. It was she who made in Paris the 
reputation of the " Sentimental Journey." Unequal works, 
imperfect, fantastic even, obtained favour in her eyes pro- 
vided she found in them traits of genius or sensibility. It 
was thus she had the patience to decipher " Tristram 
Shandy." The death of Manon in the " Paysan Perverti," 
made her defend that work, filled in other parts with ridicu- 
lous and commonplace things. 

Oh! how she was the friend of what was good in all 
directions ! how she enjoyed, how she knew how to praise 
what had pleased her, above all, what had touched her ! 
What need she had to communicate her feeling to all whom 
she thought capable of sharing it I And it was not only for 
works of literature that she grew impassioned : all the arts 
of taste and beauty had claims upon her. A fine picture, a 
good piece of sculpture, excellent music soothed and de- 
lighted her ; and in those different arts she was moved by 



MLLE. DE UESPINASSE. 317 

all styles. She admired the mausoleum of Cardinal de 
Bichelieu, and the little dying bird of Houdon went to her 
heart ; she could passionately admire Bubens, and the next 
moment she enjoyed a miniature by Petitot; the music of 
Gre'try enchanted her, but on the morrow an air from 
Orpheus was to her the music of heaven. She never con- 
founded these styles ; she felt them all and in feeling them 
she judged them. . . . 

She was accused of enthusiasm and prejudice in her feel- 
ings. People declared that they could not conceive how her 
heart could suffice for so many friends. Narrow and vulgar 
minds, was it for you to measure and comprehend hers ? In 
the first place, all her feelings were not passions. It was 
with her feelings as with her tastes, they had different de- 
grees according to the difference in their essence. She loved 
from esteem, from attraction, from gratitude. She loved in 
Areste [d'Alembert] genius united to virtue; in Sainval 
[probably himself] a soul of fire which had, perhaps, some ' 
affinity with hers ; in Cl^on, Ergaste, Val&re, etc., such or 
such quality of mind or nature which justified her penchant. 
O you who were her friends, say if ever one of you had 
cause to blame her friendship ! did it not seem to you, when 
suffering, ill, or unhappy, that you were her first object ? She 
bound us to one another by an interest of which she was the 
mainspring and the goal We felt ourselves friends in her 
house because we were there united by the same sentiments, 
the desire to please her and the need of loving her. Alas ! 
how many persons saw one another, sought one another, 
suited one another through her, who will never see, or suit, 
or seek themselves again ! The charm of her circle was so 
in her that the persons who composed it were not the same 
as they were elsewhere. It was only in her presence that 
they had their full value. " We are separated," I said yester- 



320 EULOGY OF ELIZA, 

enhanced its merit and its charm. The same virtues in other 
persons did not produce the same effect. Her soul was 
strong and lofty. All that was vile and base, or merely 
petty and feeble, excited her contempt and indignation. 
She would often have let herself go into vehement pro- 
nouncements if the indulgence and amenity of mind which 
were natural to her had not tempered her first impulse. By 
this great nobility of soul and character she was, in a way, 
replaced in the rank where her birth would have put her 
could it have been recognized ; the silence she kept about 
her fate added to its interest, and the delicate position in 
which she was never affected injuriously either her own 
bearing or the consideration in which she was held. She 
received many women, and women of high rank, with 
whom she had that noble ease which, accompanying respect, 
compels a return of consideration from the other person. 
She paid to their position what she would, if need were, 
Lave refused to their pride ; but no one was ever -tempted 
to indulge in that sentiment with her. They felt she had 
other advantages that more than placed her on their level ; 
but she herself never made those advantages felt. They 
were wrapped in manners so gentle, so amiable, so simple, 
that they never wounded either pretension or mediocrity. 

Oh ! how that dignity of soul and character shone in the 
constant contempt she felt for riches and the means of ac- 
quiring it. Her fortune was more than slight. She was 
surrounded by powerful friends who could have served her 
in this respect without wounding her delicacy. She asked 
nothing from them and refused their assistance often. One 
day I was talking with her on this point and I reproached 
her for rejecting an offer of service that had -just been made 
to her. " Ah P* I said, " if Gonsalve had .made you that offer 
would you have refused him ? " " Yes," she replied, " G-on- 



MJGLE. DE LESPINASSJE. 321 

salve more than any one ; " and when I exclaimed at that, 
" Listen, mon ami" she said , " I wish, once for all, to explain 
to you my principles ; you may condemn me, but you cannot 
make me change them." And the next day she wrote me 
the following letter : 

" Yes, I should have refused that sort of service had Gon- 
salve offered it, and it is the only one I would not have ac- 
cepted from him with transport. I know all that can be 
said against such scruples by philosophy and sentiment, but 
it is our detestable institutions, it is the corruption of society 
that forces me to think as I do. Surrounded by other man- 
ners and morals, other prejudices than ours, I would have no 
more scruple in relying on the influence and wealth of Gon- 
salve than on his courage, his counsels, and all the services 
he could render me. But in a society and a country where 
money has become the motive power of all actions, where by 
its means men can corrupt all hearts and buy all feelings, 
never shall a vile calculation of self-interest stain my inter- 
course with those I love. Ah ! what would Gonsalve have 
thought of me had he seen me for one moment resemble in 
this so many other women ? What could then have guar- 
anteed to him the purity of my feeling ? Esteem is so deli- 
cate a flower that the slightest impairment withers it. Ah ! 
think what sorrow it would have been to me to be lowered 
in Gonsalve's opinion. I preferred the place I occupied 
there to the highest throne in the world. 

" With regard to my friends, I will own to you that I 
have always considered equality as the first condition to 
render friendship durable. Now, it cannot exist from the 
moment that one friend becomes the benefactor, the other 
the obliged and beholden. Remember that I am speaking of 
one kind of benefit only ; as for the cares, attentions, coun- 
sels, feelings of my friends, I receive them because I can. 



322 EUL.OGY OF ELI2A, 

return them; hence there is reciprocity, and consequently 
equality between us. But how could I return what they 
might do to increase my means ? I should be, for the rest of 
my life, ill at ease with them ; wherever my affection worked 
I should fear they saw only my gratitude. In short and. 
it is a secret of the human heart that I am about to tell 
you be sure that, without accounting for it to themselves, 
without even perceiving it, they would love me less ; and as 
for me, I should feel oppressed by the sort of ascendency I 
had given them over me. 

" If such has been my way of thinking towards him I 
loved best in the world and towards my friends in general, 
you can judge how my soul would revolt at the idea of solic- 
iting, or even accepting the services of those who, not being 
my friends, desire to serve me from foolish conceit, for 
appearance* sake only, or, I am willing to say, from benevo- 
lence. But, in order not to give up my principles, and yet 
never find myself harassed between necessity and those 
principles, I have trained myself to order and economy. I, 
who was brought up in habits of prodigality, I, who from 
living always with others never knew the cost of anything, 
I, who through philosophy am led to consider gold as dust 
beneath my feet, I have subjected and trained myself to 
reckon incessantly. I manage to reach the end of each year 
without embarrassments and without debts ; hence my friends 
never hear me speak of my want of means ; never does a 
complaint escape me in their presence, nor a wish an in- 
direct manner in which persons often solicit services they 
would not ask openly. My friends see me in such apparent 
security on this point, and with such freedom of mind, that 
they must now have forgotten that my means are paltry, and 
tthat is what I wish. Finally, whether it is that my delicacy 
attaches me to poverty, or that being so occupied with active 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 323 

interests the enjoyments of wealth are nothing to me, or 
whether, again, it is that, feeling my life so near extinction, 
I do not think of the future, I protest to you that never once 
have I had the wish to see my fortune changed." 

This was not a mere display of maxims ; Eliza's conduct 
never contradicted those words. I will merely add that her 
economy was so adroitly managed that it was never felt. 
She was always simply dressed, but with taste. All that 
she wore was fresh and well assorted. It gave the idea of 
richness which was vowed by choice to simplicity. But 
where her soul and her generosity gave even more iUusiori 
as to her means, was when she met with suffering and 
miserable humanity ; never did a poor person go to her with- 
out receiving aid. " Ah 1 if I were only Lord Clive ! " she 
would say on hearing of some unfortunate whom she was 
unable to help. 

All forms of misfortune had rights over the soul of Eliza. 
By her manner of pitying those who bore them it was plain 
to see that she had suffered herself. I have often seen her 
ill, oppressed, sinking under the weight of her own troubles, 
yet reviving and recovering her strength to feel and share 
the troubles of others. And this love for the unhappy was 
not only a virtue in her, it was a passion. Here is what she 
wrote me, about six months ago, in a letter I have just found 
and wet with my tears : 

"I sent you a packet this morning; you will think me 
crazy when you find in it among other things, the * Gazette 
de France,' but I send it on account of an article which 
will do you good [the announcement of the edict about the 
corvtes]. How can one fail to be comforted in seeing that 
so many, many unfortunates are about to be so. This class 
of interest is now all that can reach my heart. Unhappiness 
ah ! what empire that word has over me ! I think I told 



324 EtTLOGY OF EJLIZA, 

you that I had been to the Invalides a few days ago with 
the Duehesse de Chatillon; I came away heart-broken. I 
did not make one step without seeing the most painful sights : 
blind and mutilated men, frightful wounds, broken limbs. 
<Ah! my G-od!' I thought, 'all that breathe here suffer, 
and their woes are not the ills of imagination ; these are not 
those who love and torture one another in loving ; this is not 
pain at privation of letters, not even regret for having lost 
that which was dearest to them; these are bodily ills to 
which all men are equally subject ! ' And then I added, to 
myself : ' yet I am more unhappy than all whom I see here ; 
for I could pity, could console, could relieve these unfortu- 
nates with succour and money, but they can do nothing for 
me ; they know not even the language of the ills I suffer ; 
and all there is of happiness, and kinds of happiness upon 
earth, if all were offered to me, could do me no good.' " 

Oh, Eliza ! Eliza ! how feeble, how imperfect is this poor 
sketch of thee I Is there an exquisite feeling, a rare virtue 
that honours humanity, which was not in thy heart ? If I do 
anything that is good, honourable, if I attain to anything that 
is great it will be because thy memory still perfects and still 
inspires my soul. Oh, you who were her friends, and whom 
I have, through her, the right to call my own, let us all 
address to her memory the same invocation. In Eliza's 
name let us be friends, let us be dear to one another, let us 
do in presence of her memory the good we should have 
wished to do in her living presence ; so that from heaven, 
where her soul has doubtless risen, she may see it and ap- 
plaud, and men on earth, beholding it, may say of each: 
** He was Eliza's friend." Let that eulogy be graven on DUE 
tombs. 

I speak of tombs, and it is of hers that we now must 
tfeink. Ah! let &er mortal remains consume away in the 



MLLE. DE LESPINASSB. 325 

vault of some temple ; it is not there that we must raise her 
monument ; it is not there that her Shade will love to 
wander. Banks of the Savonnifere, meadows of Vaucluse, 
regions where the souls of Laura and La Suze still breathe, 
ye are too far away from us. Let us rather choose some 
solitary grove, through which a rivulet, gently flowing o'er 
its pebbles, shall murmur ever in its plaintive tones. Come, 
we will raise a monument, simple as herself, a marble column, 
broken off breast-high, o'er which the cypresses shall stretch 
their melancholy arms But no! it is the tomb of the 
sinner that needs to go beyond the sight of men. Let us 
choose for Tier beside some travelled road a little hill, planted 
with shrubs, at foot of which a limpid spring shall gush ; a 
path, all green, shall lead there ; so that the weary traveller, 
finding shade and water, may rest him with delight and 
bless her memory, still, like herself, beneficent \ and on her 
tomb be these words graven : 

To the Memory 
of Claire-Pran<joise de Lespinasse, 

Taken May 23, 1776, 

From her friends, whose happiness she made ; 

From a choice Society of which she was the bond ; 

From Letters which she cultivated without pretension : 

From the "Unhappy, whom she never approached without 

consoling them. 

She died at the age of 42 years. But if to think, to love, 

o gaffer, is that which composes life, she lived in those few years 

i&any centuries. 



TO THE MANES OF MLLE. DE 
LESPINASSE. 

Br D'ALEMBERT. 

July 22, 1776. 

O YOU who can no longer hear me, you I have so tenderly 
and so constantly loved, you by whom I thought for a while I 
was beloved, you whom I preferred to all things, you who 
could have been to me all things had you so willed it ; alas ! 
if you still can feel, in that abode of death for which you 
longed and which will soon be mine, behold my sorrow and 
my tears, the solitude of my soul, the awful void which you 
have caused, the cruel abandonment in which you have left 
me! 

But why speak to you of the solitude in which I am, since 
you are no more ? Ah ! my unjust and cruel friend, had you 
willed it that crushing solitude might have begun for me 
while you still existed. Why did you repeat to me, ten 
months before your death, that I was always what you treas- 
ured most, the object most necessary to your happiness, the 
only one which bound you to life, when you were on the eve 
of proving to me, so cruelly, the contrary ? For what reason, 
which I can neither imagine nor suspect, did that feeling, so 
tender for me, which perhaps you felt at the time you as- 
sured me of it, change suddenly to estrangement and aver- 
sion ? What had I done to displease you * Why did you 
not complain to me if you had anything to complain of? 
You would have seen to tfre bottom of my heart, that heart 



1776] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 327 

which has never ceased to be yours, not even when you 
doubted it and repulsed it harshly. Or, my dear Julie, had 
you (for I could never do wrong by you) had you done me 
some wrong of which I was ignorant, and which it would 
have been so sweet to pardon had I known of it ? You said 
to one of my friends, who reproached you for the way in 
which you treated me, and for which you blamed yourself, 
that the reason of your change to me was because you 
were unable to bare your soul to me and let me see the 
wounds that rent it. Ah ! you knew by experience that I 
had closed them more than once, of whatever nature they 
were. 

But why did I not discover myself the pain you felt at 
being unable to speak to me of your sorrows ? Why did I 
not forestall your confidence, and assist by all of mine the 
outpouring that you desired to make to me ? Twenty times 
have I been upon the point of throwing myself into your arms 
and asking you to tell me what was my crime ; but I feared 
that those arms would repulse mine that I held out to you. 
Your countenance, your words, your silence even, all seemed 
to forbid me to approach you. I thought sometimes to recall 
you by my tears, but the sad state of your suffering and de- 
stroyed body made me fear to depress you. 

For nine months I sought the moment to tell you all 
I suffered and all I felt ; but during those nine months I 
always found you too feeble to bear the tender reproaches I 
had to make to you. The only moment when I could have 
shown to you, uncovered, my dejected and dismayed heart 
was that dreadful moment when, a few hours before your 
death, you asked me, in that heart-rending manner, for par- 
don, last testimony of your love, the dear and cruel memory 
of which will ever remain in the depths of my heart. But 
you had theuno longer the strength tg either speak to me <zr 



328 TO THE MANES OF [1776 

hear me ; I was forced, like Ph&dre, to deprive myself of tears 
which would have troubled your last moments , and thus I 
lost, without recovery, the moment of my life which would 
have been to me most precious, that of telling you, once 
more, how dear you were to me, how much I shared your 
woes, and how deeply I desired to end my own with you. I 
would give all the moments that remain to me to live for 
that one instant which I can never have again, that instant 
when by showing you all the tenderness of my heart, I might 
perhaps have recovered yours 

But you are gone ' you have descended into the grave con- 
vinced that my regrets do not follow you I Ah ! if you had 
only expressed some grief at parting from me, with what de- 
light would I have followed you to that eternal haven which 
you now inhabit ' But I dare not even ask to be laid beside 
you when death has closed my eyes and stanched my tears ; 
I should fear lest your Shade would still repulse me and pro- 
long my anguish beyond this life. 

Alas ! you have taken from me everything the sweet- 
ness of life, the sweetness of even death. Cruel and unhappy 
friend ! it seems as if in charging me with the execution of 
your last wishes you wished to add still further to my pain. 
Why have the duties thus imposed upon me told me what 
I ought not to have known, and what I should have desired 
not to know ? Why did you not order me to burn unread 
that fatal manuscript [probably the Memoir of herself after 
her connection with M. de Mora], which I believed I could 
read without finding subjects of pain, but which revealed 
to me that for eight years at least I was not the first object 
of your heart, in spite of assurances you had so often given 
me ? What can assure me now, after that grievous dis- 
covery, that during the eight or ten other years when I 
myself so much beloved by you, you were not 



1776] MLLE DE LESPINASSE. 329 

even then betraying my tenderness ? Alas ! have I not 
reason to think it, when I found that among the vast mul- 
titude of letters which you charged me to burn, you had not 
kept a single one of mine? By what ill fate for me had 
they become so indifferent to you, in spite of the expressions 
of sensibility, self-abandonment, devotion with which they 
were filled ? Why, in your will, of which you made me the 
unhappy executor, did you leave to another what would have 
been to me so dear, those manuscripts in which there were 
many things, written by my hand as well as yours, which 
would have brought you back to me incessantly ? What can 
have chilled you to that degree towards the unfortunate man 
to whom you said, ten years ago, that your feeling for him 
made you so happy that it frightened you ? . , . 

But why reproach you now, when you cannot justify your- 
self if you do not deserve it ? Why trouble your ashes with 
my regrets when you can no longer solace them? Ad|gu, 
adieu forever ! my dear and unfortunate Julie ! Those two 
titles affect me far more than your faults towards one can 
offend me. Enjoy at last, and, to my sorrow, enjoy without 
me, that repose which my love and my cares were unable to 
procure for you during life. Alas ! why were you uname to 
love or to be loved in peace ? You said to me so many 
times, and you owned it, sighing, a few months before you 
died, that, of all the feelings yoit had inspired, mine for you, 
and yours for me were the only ones that had not made you 
unhappy. Why did not that feeling satisfy you? Why 
was it that love, made to soften all the other ills of life, 
should have been the torture and the despair of yours? 
Why, when I gave you my portrait a year ago with tlie 
words, 

" And tell yourself sometimes, in looking at me : 

* Of all those who love me who loves me as lie I * " 



330 TO THE MANES OF [1776 

why, I say, did you not see all that I still was for you, all 
that I wished to be ? Why did you think these words mere 
" kindness ; " why did you praise them with that cruel term ? 
But above all, why did you think that happiness and tran- 
quillity were not for you except in death ? 

Alas ! if there still lives something of you, may you enjoy 
that happiness of which your life let me taste so little and 
your death makes me lose forever. You have taught me, my 
dear Julie, that the greatest unhappiness is not to mourn 
those we love, but to mourn those who have ceased to love 
us. Alas ! I have lost with you sixteen years of my life ; 
who will fill and console the few remaining years of it ? O 
you, whoever you may be who could stanch my tears, in 
whatever region of the earth you are I would seek you with 
joy. Ah t hear my sighs, behold my heart, and come to me, 
or call me to you. Deliver me from the crushing situation 
in which I am, the dreadful loneliness which makes me say 
each time that I return to my sad dwelling: "No one is 
waiting for me , no one will wait for me again." . . . 

All things, even our common fate seemed destined to 
unite us. Both without family, without relatives, having 
experienced from the moment of our birth neglect, misfor- 
tune, and injustice, Nature seemed to have put us in the 
world to seek each other out, like two reeds beaten by the 
wind which cling together and support each other. Why 
did you seek for other supports ? Soon, to your sorrow, those 
supports failed you; you died believing yourself alone in 
the world, when you had but to stretch out your hand to 
take what was so near, but which you would not see. Ah ! 
;if your life had been prolonged, perhaps Nature, which had 
made us for each other, would have brought us together never 
to part again. Perhaps you would have felt for your soul, 
though -too aisler^is h,QXxes.t how necessary I TORS to you 



1776] MLLB, BE LESPINASSE. 331 

through the very need that I have of you. Perhaps you 
would have ceased to reproach yourself,, as you have some- 
times done in moments of calmness and justice, tor not being 
happy though, loved as you were by me. 

But you are no more; I am alone in the universe' 
Nothing remains to me but the dreadful consolation of those 
who have no other, that melancholy which likes to drink 
its tears and shed them without seeking others to share its 
gloom. Adieu, my dear Julie, adieu ; for these eyes, which 
I would gladly close forever, are filled with tears as I write 
these lines, and can see no longer the paper on which 1 writ 
them. 



LETTEES 

FROM THE KING OF PRUSSIA, VOLTAIRE, AND 
D'ALEMBERT, ON THE DEATH OF MLLE. DE 

LESPINASSE. 

From the King of Prussia to d'Alembert 

POTSDAM, July 9, 1776. 

I SYMPATHIZE with your misfortune in losing a person to 
whom you were attached. The wounds of the heart are the 
keenest of all; and in spite of the fine maxims of philoso- 
phers, nothing but time will cure them. Man is an animal 
more feeling than reasonable. I have experienced, to my 
sorrow and only too well, what one suffeis from such losses. 
The best remedy is to compel one's self against one's will to 
distract the mind from sorrowful ideas, which would other- 
wise root too deeply in the soul. It is well to choose a geo- 
metric occupation which requires application, and so put 
aside as best we can the dreadful ideas that ceaselessly 
return and must be evaded as much as possible. I propose 
to you the best remedy that is known to me. Cicero, to con- 
sole himself for the death of his dear Tullia, threw himself 
into composition, and wrote many treatises, some of which 
have come down to us. Our reason is too weak to conquer 
the pain of a mortal wound; we must grant something to 
nature, and say to ourselves, especially at your age and mine, 
that we ought to be comforted by the thought that it cannot 
be long before we rejoin the ones we regret. 

I accept with pleasure the hope you give me of coming to 
spend some mouths of the following year with uae, If I can, 



X776] MLLE. DE LESPINASSE. 333 

I will efface from your mind the sad and melancholy ideas 
that this fatal event has put there. We will philosophize 
together on the nothingness of life, on the folly of men, on 
the vanity of stoicism and of all our being. These are inex- 
haustible topics with which to compose many in-f olios. 
Nevertheless, I beg you to make all the efforts of which you 
are capable to prevent the excess .of pain from injuring your 
health, about which I interest myself too much to think of 
it with indifference. 

D y Al&nibert to the Sling of Prussia. 

PJ.RIS, August 15, 1776. 

My soul and pen have no expression to testify to your 
Majesty the deep and tender gratitude with which the letter 
you have deigned to write to me has filled me, a letter so 
full of truth and interest, feeling and reason combined. 
Permit me, Sire, this expression of friendship for why 
should I not venture to use with a great 'king the word 
which makes that great king so dear to my heart ? I should 
not have delayed a moment in replying to this fresh mark, 
so touching for me, of the kindness with which your Majesty 
honours me, and in reiterating to you more warmly than 
ever the expression of feelings which I owe to you, if that 
expression would not have drawn, me, in spite of myself, into 
fresh paroxysj#& of sorrow ; which your Majesty would doubl> 
less have pardoned, but which might have troubled the sweet 
and proper satisfaction which your Majesty is now enjoying. 
The newspapers announce the visit of the Grand-duke of 
Russia to Berlin, and the union that you are about to con- 
tract with that young prince, so worthy, it is said, for his 
rare qualities, to unite himself with you. [The Grand-duke 
Paul married the niece of Frederick the Great.] I have 
waited for his departure to pour my soul once more into that 



334 LETTERS ON THE DEATH OF [1776 

of your Majesty, and above all to return you thanks for a 
letter which is so little that of a king that it is all the more 
precious and dear to me. 

Your Majesty has no need to tell me that you have " felt 

to your sorrow, and only too. well, what we suffer in losing 

that which we love." It can be seen, Sire, that you have 

experienced that cruel anguish by the feeling and truthful 

manner in which you speak to an afflicted heart and tell it 

that which is best adapted to its deplorable condition. AIL 

my friends are seeking, like you, to comfort me; they v all 

tell me, like you, to distract my mind, but none have 

thought to add, as you have done, that " our reason is too 

weak to conquer the pain of a mortal wound ; we must 

grant something to nature and say to ourselves, especially 

at your age and mine, thai? it will not be long before we 

rejoin the object of our affections." Alas ! Sire, that is the 

only hope that comforts me, or rather, which makes me able 

to endure the few remaining days I have to live. . . . 

I wrote a few years since to your Majesty, at a time when 
my frail body was daily growing feebler, that I desired 
nothing more upon my tomb than a stone with these words : 
rt The Great Frederick honoured him with his kindness and 
his benefits." That stone and those words are to-day more 
than ever my desire : life, fame, even study, all have become 
indifferent and tasteless to me , I feel nothing but the soli- 
tude of my soul, the void in my life. My brain, fatigued 
and almost exhausted by forty years of profound meditation, 
is to-day deprived of the resource which has so often soothed 
my troubles. I am left alone, abandoned to my melancholy ; 
and nature, blighted for me, offers me no object of attach- 
ment, nor even one of occupation. 

But, Sire, why talk to you of my woes when you have to 
comfort those of so many others ? . . . 



1776] MLLE. DE LESPItfASSE. 335 

The King of Pi*ussia to d'Alembert. 

POTSDAM, September 7, 1776. 

Your letter, my dear d'Alembert, reached me on my re- 
turn from Silesia. I see that your tender heart is still 
sensitive, and I do not blame you. The powers of our souls 
have their limits, and we must exact nothing from them that 
is not possible. If a very strong and robust man were 
required to upset the Louvre by applying his shoulder, he 
could not do it ; but give "him a stone of a hundred pounds 
to move, and the result is certain. It is the same thing with 
reason ; it can conquer obstacles proportioned to its strength, 
but there are others that force it to give way. Nature has 
made us feeling ; philosophy can never make us do the im- 
possible : and suppose it could, that would be harmful to 
society ; the result would be no compassion for the troubles 
of others ; the human species would end in becoming hard 
and pitiless. Beason ought to serve us in moderating what- 
ever is excessive in us, but not in destroying the human 
being in the man. 

Therefore regret your loss, my dear friend; I will even 
add that the losses of friendship are irreparable ; and that 
whoever is capable of appreciating things as they are must 
judge you worthy of having true Mends because you know 
how to love. 

But as it is above the powers of man, and even of the 
gods, to change the past, you ought to try to preserve your- 
self for the friends who remain to you, in order not to cause 
them the mortal grief of losing you. I have had friends, 
both men and women ; I have lost five or six, and I thought 
to die of my grief. By a mere chance these losses fell upon 
me during the different wars in which I have been en- 
1, a time in which I was continually obliged to 



336 LETTERS ON THE DEATH Off 1776 

make and change my arrangements. Those inevitable dis- 
tractions did, perhaps, prevent me from succumbing to my 
grief. I strongly wish that some very difficult problem to 
solve could be proposed to you, which would force you to 
think of other things. There is, in truth, no remedy but 
that and time. We are like rivers that keep their name 
while their waters are forever changing. When a part of 
the molecules that compose us are replaced by others, the 
memory of objects which gave us pleasure or grief is weak- 
ened, because, really, we are not the same men, time is 
renewing us incessantly. This is a thought for the un- 
happy, and every one who thinks ought to make use of it. 

I rejoiced for myself at the thought of seeing you here, 
and now I rejoice for you; you will see new objects and 
other persons. I warn you that I shall do all that depends- 
on me to_take from your memory whatever may remind you 
of sad and grievous things, and I shall feel as much joy in 
tranquillizing your mind as I do in winning a battle. Not 
that I think myself a great philosopher, but because I have 
an unhappy experience of the state in which you are, and I 
feel I am in that way better fitted than others to tranquillize 
you. Come, then, my dear d'Alembert ; be sure of being well 
received, and of finding, not perfect remedies for your sor- 
rows, but lenitives and anodynes. 

D^Alembert to the King of Prussia. 

PARIS, October 7, 1776. 

Sire, very violent and continual headaches Which for three 
weeks have prevented me from writing and thinking and are 
the sad result of my mental condition, have seemed to me 
the more cruel because they have not permitted me to reply 
sooner to the letter which your Majesty has written to me 
-afocfcefe say grief. What a letter, Sire I and how few I do 



1776] MLLE. BE LESPINASSE 337 

not say kings, for they know not such language, but friends 
would know how to speak as you do to an oppressed and suf- 
fering soul! I read and reread daily a letter so fitted to 
soothe my trouble ; I have read it to my friends who are, 
like me, full of gratitude to your Majesty, and I say to 
myself as I read it, and after reading it, " That great prince 
is right/' but I continue, nevertheless, to grieve. Your 
Majesty must not be surprised or give up hope of my cure, 
though I myself see none as yet. Objects of deep study 
would be the only means of bringing it about ; your Majesty 
suggests with as much kindness as wisdom that powerful 
remedy ; but my poor brain is no longer capable of using it. 
It is to time alone that I can look for some relief to my dis- 
tress ; and I fear that cruel time will destroy rather than 
cure me. 

The comparison that your Majesty makes between our un- 
happy individuality and the rivers which ever change though 
preserving their names, is as ingenious as it is philosophical, 
and explains with as much reason as wit why time should 
console us ; but at present, Sire, my sad river feels only the 
pain of flowing, and sees no hope of a peaceful and happier 
current. If I were twenty-five years younger I might per- 
haps have the happiness of forming another attachment 
which, would make life endurable to me; but, Sire, I am 
nearly sixty years of age, and at that time of life we cannot 
repl%e ihe friends we have the misfortune to lose. I feel 
this the more at this moment in an afflicting manner through 
a fresh loss with which I am threatened. . . , An excellent 
woman, full of intelligence and virtue, . . . Mme. Geoifrin, 
who for thirty years has shown me the tenderest friendship, 
and who quite recently has given to my sorrow all the con- 
solations, and distractions that her friendship could imagine, 
has been struck down with paralysis. . . * I thus lose in the 

22 



338 LETTERS ON THE DEATH OF [1776 

space of a few months the two persons I loved "best and by 
whom I was best loved. There, Sire, is the sorrowful condi- 
tion in which I am, my heart dejected and withered, and I 
myself not knowing what to do with my soul or my time. 

Voltaire to d'Alembert. 

June 10, 1776. 

This is the moment, my dear friend, when philosophy is 
very necessary to you. I have heard very late, and not 
through you, of the loss you have met with. Here is your 
whole life changed. It will be very difficult to accustom 
yourself to such a privation. They tell me that the lodging 
you have in the Louvre is very gloomy. I fear for your 
health. Courage serves for combat, but it does not serve to 
console us, or make us happy. . . . 

D'AUmbert to Voltaire. 

June 24, 1776. 

I did not tell you of my misfortune, my very dear and 
worthy master, first, because I had not the strength to write, 
and next, because I was sure that our mutual friends woi^ld^ 
tell you of it. 

I shall not feel the help of philosophy until nature suc- 
ceeds in restoring to me the sleep and the appetite I have 
lost. My life and my soul are in the void; the abyss of 
doubts in which I am seems to me bottomless. I try to 
shake myself, to distract myself, but hitherto without suc- 
cess. I have not been able to occupy my mind during the 
last month since this dreadful sorrow, except with a Eulogy 
which I read to the Academy at La Harpe's reception. . . . 
success has only increased iny affliction, because it 
"unknown forever to my unhappy friend, who would, 
such interest ia it, 



1776] MLLE. DE 3LESPINASSE. , 339 

Adieu, my dear master ; when my poor soul is calmer, less 
blighted, I will speak to you of other griefs which we share 
in common ; but at this moment they are stifled by a sorrow 
more keen, more piercing. Take care of your health and 
continue to love tuum ex animo. 



INDEX. 



ACUJBSSEAU (The Chevalier d'), 54, 56, 

' 61, 62, 76, 89, 127, 166. 

Aix (The Archbishop of), 141, 152 

ALBON (The Comtesse d'), 3, 22, 311. 

ALEMBERT (Jean-Le-Rond d'), 4, 5, IS, 
21, 28-30, 32, 33, 39, 40, 61, 84, 89, 91, 
106, 114, 118, 122, 136, 141, 143, 155, 
161, 162, 177, 179, 207, 209, 210, 222, 
223, 241, 244, 248, 253, 299, 326, 332- 
339 

ANLEZY ( J. P. de Damas, Comte d'), 28. 

ANVILLB (The Duchesse d'), 99, 154, 
244. 

ARGENSOK (Marc-Pierre, Comte d'), 65, 
154, 

BARRERE (de Vieuzac), 2. 
BEAUVAXJ (Piince de), 33, 89. 
BERNIS (Cardinal de), 135, 316 
BOUFFLERS (Marie Christine, Comtesse 

de), 64, 73, 89, 108, 123, 152, 158, 167, 

168, 219, 265. 

BRETEUIL (Baron de), 265 
BRIBNNE (Lomenie de), Archbishop of 

Tonlouse, 118, 141, 156,270. 
BUFFON ( Georges-Louis- LeCIercGomte 



CARACCIOLI (Marquis de), 82, 244. 
CATHERINE IL, Empress of Russia, 173, 

179. 
CHASTELLUX (Francois-Jean, Chevalier 

de), 18, 28, 76, 84, 88, 89, 127, 160, 

179, 180, 275. 
CHATILLON (Duchesse de), 28, 163, 174, 

186, 202, 210, 219. 
CHOISEUL (ifctienne-Francois Due de), 

29, 123, 155, 



CLEMENT XIY. (Pope), 150. 
CONDOBCET (Marie-Jean- An toine-Nieo- 

las, Marquis de), 18, 21, 155, 176, 206, 

210, 238, 294, 297, 298. 

*' CONNETABLE DE BOURBON/' 53, 69, 

73, 94, 232, 250 
CotiRCELLES (Alexandrine des Hayes 

de Boutmon, Mile, de), Comtesse de* 

Goibert, 113, 218,254, 256, 278 
CREUTZ (Comte de), 176, 184, 193, 212, 

256. 

DEFFAND (Marie de Vichy-Chamrond, 
Marquise du), 3, 4, 22, 23, 25-28, 33, 
82, 141, 243, 244, 304 

DIDEROT Penis), 33, 47, 61, 173, 179. 

DORAT (Jean), 37, 38, 70. 

DROZ and his automatons, 202. 

DUPLESSIS (Joseph-Silfrede), 157. 

DURAS (Marshal Due de), 222. 

" Eulogy of Catinat," by M, de Guibert, 

199, 220, 227, 232, 235-237, 240, 245- 

247. 
"Eulogy of La Fontaine," by d'Alem- 

bert, 135, 173,237. 
" EuLoar of ELIZA," by M. de Guibert, 

310-335. 



(Bernard le Borier), 170 
FREBERIOK THB GBEAT, King of Pras- 

sia, 55, 63, 69, 70, 81, 332-338 
FtfEtfTES (Comte de), 62, 142, 143, 162. 

GEOFTRIN (Marie Th&ese, Mme.), 32 r 
; 33,84,91,189,291,337. 
GLUCK (Christoph Wilibald y on), 138, 
157, 202. 



342 



INDEX 



GRIMM (Friedrich Melchior, Baron), 21, 

33, 35, 37, -173. 
GUIBERT (Comte de), 7-10, 14; letters 

to him 42 et seq ; iris marriage, 224 et 

seq. ; his Eulogy on Mile, de Lespi- 

nasse, 310-325. 

HELYETICS (Claude-Adrien), 78. 
HENAULT (President), 33, 141, 154. 

KOCK (Baron de), 70, 176 

LA HARJPE (Jean-Francois de), 2131, 
234, 235-237, 246, 247 



(painter), 190 
LESFINASSE ( JuhenJeanne-iiJleonore de), 
Samte-Beuve's estimate of her, 1-20 , 
publication of her letters, certain letr 
ters not hers, 1,2; her birth, 21 ; edu- 
cation, 22 , unhappy position after her 
mother's death, 23 ; generous conduct 
as to money, 24 , letters to her from 
Mme. du Deffand, 25, 26; goes to 
live 'with Mme. du Deffaud, 27 , rup- 
ture between them, establishes an in- 
dependent salon, 28, relations with 
d' Alembert, 29, 30, 39 , description of 
her person by her friends, 31 , 32 ; her 
salon, 32; what it was, and her 
management of it, descnbed by those 
who frequented it, 33-38, her influ- 
ence on the French Academy, 37, 38 , 
the struggle of her double love for 
M. de Mora and M de Guibert, 7, 10, 
38 ; her death, 40 , letters to M de 
Guibert during his journey to Prus- 
sia, 42-69 , until M. de Mora's death, 
89-97; until M. de Guibert's mar- 
riage, 9*7-218 ; from that marriage til] 
her death, 218-298 , her Portrait by 
d 1 Alembert, 299-309 , her Eulogy by 
M de Guibert, 310-325 ; to her Manes, 
by d'Alembert, 326-331 ; letters on 
her death from !Fred*nck the Great 
and Voltaire, 332-339. 

IXHJIS XV., 100. 

LosttS XVI., 125, 224. 

XdJXBApjouRG (D-uohesse de), 29. 



MALESHERBES (Chretien-Guillaume de 
Lamoignon de), 18, 168, 235. 

MANES OF MLLE DE LESPINASSE (To 
the), by d'Alembert, 326-331* 

MARIE-ANTOINETTE (Dauphine and 
Queen), 65, 202, 

MARMONTEL (Jean-Fran$ois), 21, 28, 
29, 31, 34, 160, 196, 222 

MORA (Gonsalvo, Marquis de), 7, 8, 52, 
54, 58, 62, 81, 83, 85, 86, 92, 95, 
96, 99, 107, 110, 111, 116, 120, 121, 
128-131, 141, 142, 151, 161, 175,200, 
203, 209, 216, 222, 248, 249, 258, 267, 
274, 282, 284, 313. 

MORELLET (Abb6 de), 20, 36, 108, 152. 

MOULIN-JOLI, 8, 59. 

MUY (Mare'chal de), 140. 
NECKER (Jacques), 78. 

" Orpheus and Eurydice," 138, 158, 159, 
166. 



(Prince), 220. 
PORTRAIT or MLLE. DE LESPINASSB, 
by d'Alembert, 299-309. 

BICCOBONI (Mme ), 229, 239. 

(Samuel), 239, 316. 
EOUOHER (Jean-Antoice), 197, 217 
ROUSSEAU (Jean- Jacques), 225. 

SAINTE-BETTVB (C.-A,), on Mile de 

Lespinasse, 1-20. 

SAINT-CHAMANS ( Vicomte de), 287, 298. 
SAINT-GERMAIN (Comte de), 271-273, 

280 
SBELBURNB (Earl of), Marquis of 

Lansdowne, 18, 155, 168, 182, 183. 

TBRRAI (Abb de), 122, 126, 139, 146. 
TURGOT (Robert Jacques), 18, 122, 125, 

126, 133, 138, 139, 141, 146, 159, 191> 

265, 269. 

VAINES (M. de), 127, 133, 139, 146, 

159,207,212, 269. 
VIOHT-CHAMROND (Marquise de), 25>, 

24. 
VOLTAIRE (M. de), 157, 185> 212, 338. 



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