Readings & Films

Notes on Les Liaisons dangereuses Letters 114-146

Letter 114: What is Tourvel’s tone? What does it reveal?

Letter 115: What is Valmont’s attitude towards Tourvel here? Do you think he’s putting on an act to show Merteuil that he is sticking to his libertine morals? Why doesn’t he want her to have an affair with Danceny? He volunteers himself as a way to assuage her boredom. “I already have a first inkling that the husband of my young pupil runs no danger of dying childless and that the future head of the house of Gercourt will be a scion of the house of Valmont” (p. 259) what does this mean?

Letter 118 : First letter from Danceny to Merteuil.

Letter 119: Rosemonde tells Tourvel that Valmont is now going to mass!

Letter 120: Valmont to Father Anselme. Asks him to be a go-between with Tourvel. Wants priest to get Tourvel to grant him a meeting. Gives him all the letters.

Important letter — Letter 122: Is Rosemonde taken in by Valmont?

Letter 123: Priest has convinced Tourvel to see Valmont. What is the priest’s language like? Is he a fool? What role does religion play in his blindness?

Letter 124: Tourvel’s distress, guilt at having ever seen Valmont. “humiliating fate” that Valmont no longer (she thinks) cares about her, but she cares about him.


Important letter — Letter 125: Valmont tells Merteuil that he has “taken” Tourvel. Valmont worries that he has been overcome by passion—“I must first of all fight it and analyze it more closely.” Valmont presented self as “a timid and penitent slave…” (p. 278) Valmont threatens suicide if he can’t have her; SHE implores him not to leave. (p. 281) Now Valmont wants Merteuil to devote herself to him.

Letter 126: Rosemonde assumes Tourvel has ended with Valmont. Praises Tourvel’s desire to “reform him” but notices that it doesn’t work for women to try to reform men.

Important letter — Letter 127: Merteuil rejects Valmont’s offer of sex. Is she jealous of Tourvel? Ultimate insult: She says that Danceny might give her more pleasure than Valmont.

Important letter — Letter 128: Tourvel explains why she succumbed to Valmont. How does she justify it to herself? “Valmont is happy” (p. 288)

Important letter — Letter 130: What does Rosemonde mean when she says “you are far too worthy of being loved ever to be happy in love”…(p.291) What are some of the differences between men and women expressed here? “A man enjoys the pleasure he feels, a woman the pleasure she bestows” (p. 292)

Letter 131: What do we learn about the dynamic between Merteuil and Valmont?

Important letter — Letter 133: Valmont wants to know what sacrifices Merteuil demands in order to achieve her love again… “but because the mind is absorbed, does it follow that the heart is infatuated?” (p.298) According to Valmont, none of the pleasures they have enjoyed apart can separate them.

Letter 134: Merteuil’s demands that he relinquish Tourvel and her reasons that explain why he won’t do it.

Letter 135: Tourvel explains to Rosemonde Valmont’s betrayal. Why has he acted this way?

Letter 138: Why does Valmont consider Merteuil’s characterization of his love of Tourvel, “libel?” (p. 308)

Letter 140: What is Ceciles’s condition? Valmont worried about Merteuil’s silence.

Important letter — Letter 141: What is Merteuil’s gripe?

Letter 144: How has Tourvel reacted to Valmont’s letter? How has Cecile’s “illness” affected Danceny?

Letter 145: What is the tone of this letter from Merteuil? “Vanity is the enemy of happiness” (p.320) Why?

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017