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Posted 12/14/2015 7:37pm by Eugene Wyatt.

As we read, our sympathies fluctuate between admiration for the style and brilliance of Valmont and Merteuil and dismay at their utter contempt for ordinary decency. They tempt us to despise their victims until we reach the point where the game turns dangerous and deadly. The ironies are rich and we are given marvellously sustained high comedy which runs from glorious farce to the blackest humour.

From the Introduction by David Coward

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos translated by Douglas Parmée.

Posted 12/14/2015 4:40pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In a manner, Les Liaisons dangereuses is a literary counterthesis to the epistolary novel as executed in Pamela or Virtue Rewarded. Whereas Samuel Richardson uses the technique of letters to provide the reader with a feeling of knowing the protagonist's true and intimate thoughts, Laclos' use of this literary device is exactly opposite: by presenting the reader with grossly conflicting views from the same writer when addressing different recipients, it is left to the reader to reconcile story, intentions and characters behind the letters. The use of duplicitous characters with one virtuous face can be viewed as a complex criticism of the immensively popular naïve moral epistolary novel.

From Wikipedia

Posted 12/11/2015 2:46pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Albertine asked,

"But did he ever murder anyone, Dostoievsky? The novels of his that I know might all be called The Story of a Crime. It’s an obsession with him ..."

The Narrator responds,

"I don't think so ..."

Even though Proust was considered by many the best fictional author of the twentieth century, I like him when he writes non-fiction, as he does here: this reverberates the work he is celebrated for.

"... If I come with you to Versailles as we arranged, I shall show you the portrait of an ultra-respectable man, the best of husbands, Choderlos de Laclos, who wrote the most appallingly perverse book, and just opposite it the portrait of Mme de Genlis who wrote moral tales and, not content with betraying the Duchesse d’Orléans, tortured her by turning her children against her. ..." 

The Captive Vol. VI by Marcel Proust, Modern Library Edition, P. 510-511.

Anatomy is not perhaps the occupation that a kind-hearted man would choose, if he or any artist had the possibility of choice, and certainly it was not the kindness of a virtuous heart (though he was a truly kind man) that made Choderlos de Laclos write Les Liaisons dangereuses, nor was it any affection for the lower or upper bourgeoisie that made Flaubert choose the themes of Madame Bovary and L’Education sentimentale—but this is no valid criticism of the work of these writers.

Time Regained Vol. V by Marcel Proust, Modern Library Edition, Loc. 3608.

Posted 12/10/2015 5:06am by Eugene Wyatt.

The sick woman, ... for whom everybody wept, was the only one not to weep, was Madame de Tourville who eventually succumbed to Valmont's seduction and then became deranged when she realized the falsity of the love he proclaimed. 



... The Père Anselme arrived about four o'clock, and remained alone with her for nearly an hour. When we returned, the face of the sick woman was calm and serene; but it was easy to see that the Père Anselme had shed many tears. He remained to assist at the last ceremonies of the Church. This spectacle, always so imposing and so sorrowful, was rendered even more so by the contrast which the tranquil resignation of the sufferer formed with the profound grief of her venerable confessor, who burst into tears at her side. The emotion became general; and she, for whom everybody wept, was the only one not to weep. ...

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos translated by Ernest Dowson, p. 222

... Le Père Anselme arriva vers les quatre heures, et resta près d'une heure seul avec elle. Quand nous rentrâmes, la figure de la malade était calme et sereine; mais il était facile de voir que le Père Anselme avait beaucoup pleuré. Il resta pour assister aux dernières cérémonies de l'Église. Ce spectacle, toujours si imposant et si douloureux, le devenait encore plus par le contraste que formait la tranquille résignation de la malade, avec la douleur profonde de son vénérable Confesseur qui fondait en larmes à côté d'elle. L'attendrissement devint général; et celle que tout le monde pleurait fut la seule qui ne se pleura point. ...

Paris, 9 December 17**

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) sur Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, P. 267

Posted 12/9/2015 5:38am by Eugene Wyatt.

Remember, many of your customers are a little nervous in the kitchen... In general, people don’t cook much anymore. According to the USDA, food dollars spent outside of the home has gone from 25% to 47% between 1970 and 2012. This is a trend that will not stop soon.

Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central12/8/15.

Posted 12/8/2015 7:28am by Eugene Wyatt.



"Powers of Heaven! I had a soul for sorrow, grant me one now for felicity." It is the tender Saint-Preux, (La Nouvelle Heloïse) I think, who thus expresses himself. Better balanced than he, I possess these two existences at once. Yes, my friend, I am at the same time most happy and most miserable; and since you have my entire confidence, I owe you the double relation of my pleasures and my pains.

Know then that my ungrateful Puritan treats me ever with the same rigor. I am at the fourth letter which has been returned. Perhaps I am wrong to call it the fourth; for, having excellently well divined, on the return of the first, that it would be followed by many others, and being unwilling thus to waste my time, I adopted the course of turning my complaints into commonplaces, and putting no date: and, since the second post, it is always the same letter which comes and goes; I merely change the envelope. If my fair one ends as ordinarily end the fair, and softens, if only from lassitude, she will keep the missive at last; and it will be time enough then to pick up the threads. You see that, with this new manner of correspondence, I cannot be perfectly well informed.

I have discovered, however, that the fickle creature has changed her confidant: at least, I have made sure that, since her departure from the château, no letter has come from her for Madame de Volanges, whilst there have been two for the old Rosemonde; and, as the latter says nothing to us of them, as she no longer opens her mouth on the subject of her dearest fair, of whom previously she never ceased to speak, I concluded that it was she who had her confidence. I presume that, on one side, the need of speaking of me and, on the other, a little shame at returning with Madame de Volanges to the subject of a sentiment so long disavowed have caused this great revolution. I fear that I have lost by the change: for, the older women grow, the more crabbed and severe do they become. The first would have told her far more ill of me: but the latter will say more of love; and the sensitive prude has far more fear of the sentiment than of the person.

The only means of getting at the facts, is, as you see, to intercept the clandestine correspondence. I have already sent the order to my chasseur; and I am daily awaiting its execution. So far, I can do nothing except at random: thus, for the last week, I run my mind in vain over all recognized means, all those in the novels and in my private recollections; I can find none which befits either the circumstances of the adventure or the character of the heroine. The difficulty would not be to present myself before her, even in the night, nor again to induce her slumber, and make of her a new Clarissa: but, after more than two months of care and trouble, to have recourse to means which are foreign to me! To follow slavishly in the track of others, and triumph without glory!…. No, she shall not have the pleasures of vice and the honors of virtue. (La Nouvelle Heloïse) 'Tis not enough for me to possess her, I wish her to give herself. Now, for that, I need not only to penetrate to her presence, but to reach her by her own consent; to find her alone and with the intention of listening to me; above all, to close her eyes as to the danger; for if she sees it, she will know how to surmount it or to die. But the more clearly I see what I need to do, the more difficult do I find its execution; and though it should induce you to laugh at me once more, I will confess that my embarrassment is enhanced in proportion to the extent to which it occupies me.

My brain would reel, I think, were it not for the lucky distraction which our common pupil affords me; I owe it to her that I have still something else to do than compose elegies. Would you believe that this little girl had taken such fright that three whole days passed before your letter produced its effect? 'Tis thus that one false idea can spoil the most fortunate nature! In short, it was not until Saturday that she came and hovered round me, and stammered out a few words, and those pronounced in so low a voice, so stifled with shame, that it was impossible to hear them. But the blush which accompanied them made me guess their sense. Thus far, I had retained my pride: but, subdued by so pleasant a repentance, I consented to promise a visit to the fair penitent that same evening; and this grace on my part was received with all the gratitude that so great a condescension demanded.

As I never lose sight either of your projects or my own, I resolved to profit by this occasion to gain a just estimate of the child's value, and also to accelerate her education. But to pursue this work with greater freedom, I found it necessary to change the place of our rendezvous; for a simple closet, which separates your pupil's room from that of her mother, could not inspire sufficient security to allow her to reveal herself at her ease. I promised myself then innocently to make some noise, which would cause her enough alarm to induce her, for the future, to seek a safer asylum; this trouble she spared me again.

The little person loves laughter; and to promote her gaiety, I bethought myself, during our entr'actes, to relate to her all the scandalous anecdotes which occurred to my mind; and, so as to render them more piquant and better to fix her attention, I attributed them all to her mother, whom I was thus pleased to bedaub with vice and ridicule. It was not without motive that I made this choice; it encouraged my timid school-girl better than anything else, and I inspired her, at the same time, with the most profound contempt for her mother. I have long remarked that, if it be not always necessary to employ this means to seduce a young girl, it is indispensable, and often even the most efficacious, when one wishes to deprave her; for she who does not respect her mother will not respect herself: a moral truth which I hold to be so useful that I have been glad indeed to have furnished an example in support of the precept.

Meanwhile, your pupil, who had no thought of morals, was stifling her laughter every moment; finally, she had almost thought to have burst out with it. I had no difficulty in persuading her that she had made a terrible noise. I feigned a huge fright, which she easily shared. That she might the better remember it, I did not allow pleasure to reappear, and left her alone, three hours earlier than was customary; we agreed, therefore, on separating, that, from the morrow, it was in my room that we should meet.

I have already twice received her there; and in this short period the scholar has become almost as learned as the master. Yes, in truth, I have taught her everything, even to complaisances! I have only made an exception of precautions.

Occupied thus all night, I gain thereby in that I sleep a great portion of the day; and as the actual society of the château has nothing to attract me, I hardly appear in the salon for an hour during the day. To-day, I even adopted the course of eating in my room, and I do not intend to leave it again, except for short walks. These eccentricities pass on the ground of my health. I have declared that I am worn out with vapors; I have also announced a little fever. It cost me no more than to speak in a slow and faint voice. As for the alteration in my face, trust your pupil for that. "Love will provide." ("L'amour y pourvoira." Regnard: Les Folies amoureuses.)

I employ my leisure in meditating means of recovering over my ingrate the advantages I have lost; and also in composing a sort of catechism of debauch for the use of my scholar. I amuse myself by mentioning nothing except by its technical name; and I laugh in advance at the interesting conversation which this ought to furnish between Gercourt and herself on the first night of their marriage. Nothing could be more amusing than the ingenuity with which she makes use already of the little she knows of this tongue! She has no conception that one can speak differently. This child is really seductive! The contrast of naive candor with the language of effrontery does not fail to have an effect; and, I know not why, but it is only bizarre things which give me any longer pleasure.

Perhaps, I am abandoning myself overmuch to this, since I am compromising by it both my time and my health: but I hope that my feigned malady, besides that it will save me from the ennui of the drawing-room, will, perhaps, be of some use to me with the rigid Puritan, whose ferocious virtue is none the less allied with soft sensibility. I doubt not but that she is already informed of this mighty event, and I have a great desire to know what she thinks of it; all the more so in that I will wager she does not fail to attribute the honor of it to herself. I shall regulate the state of my health according to the impression which it makes upon her.

Here you are, my fair friend, as fully acquainted with my affairs as I am myself. I hope to have, shortly, more interesting news to tell you; and I beg you to believe that, in the pleasure which I promise myself, I count for much the reward which I expect from you. 

At the Château de…, 11th October, 17**.

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos translated by Ernest Dowson.

Posted 12/8/2015 6:15am by Eugene Wyatt.



Amazing, Vicomte, and this time I love you furiously! For the rest, after the first of your two letters, I could expect the second: thus it did not astonish me; and whilst, proud already of your success to come, you were soliciting its reward, and asking me if I were ready, I saw clearly that I had no such need for haste. Yes, upon my honor; reading the beautiful account of that tender scene, which had moved you so deeply, observing your restraint, worthy of the fairest days of our chivalry, I said to myself a score of times: The affair has failed!

But that is because it could not befall otherwise. What do you expect a poor woman to do who surrenders, and is not taken? My faith, in such a case one must at least save one's honor; and that is what your Présidente does. I know well that, for myself, who can perceive that the step she has taken is really not without some effect, I propose to make use of it myself on the first rather serious occasion which presents itself: but I promise you that, if he for whom I go to that trouble profits no better than you from it, he may assuredly renounce me forever.

Here you are then, reduced, brought to impotence! And that between two women, one of whom had already crossed the Rubicon, and the other was asking nothing better than to do so. Well, well, you will think that I am boasting, and say that it is easy to prophesy after the event; but I can swear to you that I expected as much. It is because you have not really the genius of your estate; you know nothing except what you have learned, and you invent nothing. Thus, as soon as circumstances no longer lend themselves to your accustomed formulas, and you are compelled to leave the beaten road, you pull up short like a schoolboy. In short, a piece of childishness on the one side, a return of prudery on the other, are enough to disconcert you, because you do not meet with them every day; and you know not how either to prevent or remedy them. Ah, Vicomte, Vicomte, you teach me not to judge men by their successes; and soon we shall have to say of you: On such and such a day, he was brave! And when you have committed follies after follies, you come running to me! It seems that I have nothing else to do but to repair them. It is true, that there would be work enough there.

Whatever may be the state of these two adventures, one was undertaken against my will, and I will not meddle in it; for the other, as you have brought some complaisance for me to bear upon it, I make it my business. The letter which I enclose, which you will read first and then give to the little Volanges, is more than sufficient to bring her back to you: but, I beg you, give some attention to this child, and let us make her, in concert, the despair of her mother and of Gercourt. You need not fear to increase the doses. I see clearly that the little person will not take alarm; and, our views upon her once fulfilled, she may become what she will.

I am entirely without interest on her account. I had had some desire to make of her, at least, a subaltern in intrigue, and to take her to play understudies to me: but I see that she has not the stuff in her; she has a foolish ingenuousness, which has not even yielded to the specific you have employed, though it be one which rarely fails; and it is, according to me, the most dangerous disease a woman can have. It denotes, above all, a weakness of character almost always incurable, and opposed to everything; in such wise that, whilst we busied ourselves in forming this little girl for intrigue, we should have made nothing of her but a facile woman. Now I know nothing so insipid as that idiotic facility, which surrenders without knowing how or why, solely because it is attacked and knows not how to resist. Women of this kind are absolutely nothing more than pleasure machines.

You will tell me that this is all there is to do, and that it is enough for our plans. Well and good! But do not let us forget that, with that kind of machine, everybody soon attains to a knowledge of the springs and motors; in order therefore to employ this one without danger, one must hasten, stop at the right moment and break it afterwards. In truth, there will be no lack of means to disembarrass ourselves of it, and Gercourt, at any rate, will shut it up securely, when it is our pleasure. Indeed, when he can no longer doubt of his dishonor, when it is quite public and notorious, what will it matter to us if he avenges, provided that he do not console, himself? What I say of the husband, you doubtless think of the mother; thus the affair is settled.

The course I deem the better, and upon which I have decided, has induced me to conduct the little person somewhat rapidly, as you will see by my letter; it also renders it most important that nothing should be left in her hands which might compromise us, and I beg you to pay attention to this. This precaution once taken, I charge myself with the moral teaching; the rest concerns you. If, however, we see in the issue that ingenuousness is cured, we have always time to change our project. We should, in any case, have had, one day or other, to occupy ourselves with what we are about to do: in no case will our pains be wasted.

Do you know that mine risked being so, and that the Gercourt's star came near to carrying the day over my prudence? Did not Madame de Volanges show a moment of maternal weakness? Did she not want to marry her daughter to Danceny? It was that which was presaged by that more tender interest which you remarked "the day after." It is you again who would have been the cause of this noble masterpiece! Luckily, the tender mother wrote to me, and I hope that my reply will disillusion her. I talk so much virtue in it, and above all I flatter her so, that she is bound to think I am right.

I am sorry that I have not found time to make a copy of my letter, to edify you with the austerity of my morals. You would see how I despise women who are so depraved as to take a lover! 'Tis so convenient to be a rigorist in conversation! It does no hurt, except to others, and in no way impedes ourselves…. And then, I am quite aware that the good lady had her little peccadilloes like any other in her young days, and I was not sorry to humiliate her, at least before her conscience; it consoled me a little for the praises I gave her against my own. It was similarly that, in the same letter, the idea of harming Gercourt gave me the courage to speak well of him.

Adieu, Vicomte; I thoroughly approve the course you adopt in remaining some time where you are. I have no means of spurring on your progress: but I invite you to distract yourself with our common pupil. As for myself, in spite of your obliging summons, you see well that you have still to wait, and you will doubtless admit that it is not my fault.

Paris, 4th October, 17**.

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos translated by Ernest Dowson.

Posted 12/7/2015 5:39pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Lettre XLIV, 1796

Les Liaisons dangereuses is an epistolary novel (a novel told in letters among the characters) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and illustrated by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

The popular expression, Revenge is a dish best served cold, suggests that revenge is more satisfying if enacted when unexpected...

The idea's origin is obscure. The French diplomat Talleyrand (1754–1838) has been credited with the saying La vengeance est un met que l'on doit manger froid—Revenge is a dish that must be eaten cold...

Furthermore, it has been wrongly credited to the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), which I now read:

No matter its erroneous citation, the protagonists of Les Liaisons dangereuses, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, are both cold, vengeful and delightfully evil:

The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous, married, and therefore inaccessible Madame de Tourvel, who is staying with Valmont's aunt while her husband is away on a court case. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young Cécile de Volanges, whose mother has only recently brought her out of a convent to be married — to Merteuil's previous lover (Gercourt), who has rudely discarded her. Cécile falls in love with the Chevalier Danceny (her young music tutor), and Merteuil and Valmont pretend to help the secret lovers in order to gain their trust and use them later in their own schemes.

Merteuil suggests that the Vicomte seduce Cécile in order to enact her revenge on Cécile's future husband. Valmont refuses, finding the challenge too easy, and preferring to devote himself to seducing Madame de Tourvel. Merteuil promises Valmont that if he seduces Madame de Tourvel and provides her with written proof, she will spend the night with him. He expects rapid success, but does not find it as easy as his many other conquests. During the course of his pursuit, he discovers that Cécile's mother has written to Madame de Tourvel about his bad reputation. He avenges himself in seducing Cécile as Merteuil had suggested. In the meantime, Merteuil takes Danceny as a lover.

From Wikipedia.

And so on...

Posted 12/6/2015 3:59pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The 41st and last day of the Cormo breeding group with a 400 lb. Corriedale ram standing next to several 125 lb. Saxon Merino ewes; tomorrow we separate the rams from the ewes.

Leading up to lambing, we will feed the smaller Saxon Merino ewes moderately so a single Cormo lamb is about 7 lb. at birth; twins will each weigh less.

Posted 12/6/2015 6:08am by Eugene Wyatt.

Tom Hardy portrayed the Kray twins in Legend. The film needed subtitles. It was in set in England, in the 60's and the characters spoke a London slang.

Not understanding the language of the film made me better comprehend the *slang of movies*, i.e. how stock characters interact within the screenplay writing and the direction. 

Union Square and Grand Army Plaza were busy this time of year. Thank you, New York.