Questions to accompany Molière’s Tartuffe:
1. What vices or problems does Tartuffe represent? Are those vices present only in him? Is there anything in the character or behavior of the others which in any way resembles or echoes the problems of Tartuffe?
2. Is Tartuffe the only one to blame for the problems in the home?
3. Are there characters in the play who stand for virtues or positive qualities? Who are they? What do they represent?
4. Aside from Tartuffe, are any other characters in the play criticized for their vices? If so, who are they and what are those vices?
5. What is Orgon's problem? Why does he admit Tartuffe into his home?
6. What does Orgon expect to gain from his association with Tartuffe?
7. What does Tartuffe symbolize?
8. Does Orgon change after meeting Tartuffe? Does Tartuffe make Orgon into a more pious or more Christian man?
9. What are true piety and true Christianity according to Molière?
10. Is there any symbolic significance to the strongbox that Orgon entrusts to Tartuffe? What is Orgon giving away?
11. What does the intervention of the king at the end represent? What does it suggest? Is the king a symbol? What does he stand for?
Questions to accompany Molière’s The Doctor Despite Himself:
1. What are the elements of Molière’s comedies?
2. Why do you think his comedies were so popular at the time? To what kind of public do they likely appeal?
3. Which types do the main characters represent (Sganarelle / Martine)?
4. In which ways are The Docteur and Tartuffe similar?
5. Which are Molière’s main targets of social criticism?
La Fontaine – FABLES
The Grasshopper and the Ant
The Grasshopper having sung
All the summer long,
Found herself lacking food
When the North Wind began its song.
Not a single little piece
Of fly or grub did she have to eat.
She went complaining of hunger
To the Ant's home, her neighbor,
Begging there for a loan
Of some grain to keep herself alive
Til the next season did arrive,
"I shall pay you," she said
"Before next August, on my word as an animal.
I'll pay both interest and principal."
The Ant was not so inclined:
this not being one of her faults.
"What did you do all summer?
Said she to the grasshopper.
"Night and day I sang,
I hope that does not displease you."
"You sang? I will not look askance.
But now my neighbor it's time to dance."
The Crow and The Fox
Master Crow sat on a tree,
Holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox was attracted by the odor,
And tried to attract him thus.
"Mister Crow, good day to you.
You are a handsome and good looking bird!
In truth, if your song is as beautiful as your plumage,
You are the
Hearing these words the Crow felt great joy,
And to demonstrate his beautiful voice,
He opened his mouth wide and let drop his prey.
The Fox seized it and said: "My good Sir,
Know that every flatterer,
Lives at the expense of those who take him seriously:
This is a lesson that is worth a cheese no doubt."
The Crow, embarrassed and confused,
Swore, though somewhat later, that he would never be
tricked thus again.
Translation by Michael Star
THE DONKEY AND THE LAPDOG
Let's not force our talent,
As nothing would be performed gracefully:
Never has a dolt, no matter how much he tries,
Could ever be taken for a gentleman.
Few people blessed by the Heavens,
Possess the inborn gift to seduce in life.
'This is a matter one has to allow them,
So as not resemble the Donkey in the Fable,
Who in order to ingratiate himself to his master,
Went over to caress him. "How come? in his soul said he,
This pup, because of his cute ways,
Will continue to live as a companion
With Milord and Milady;
And I will get blows with a stick?
What does he do? he gives his paw;
At once he is kissed;
If need be, I'll act the same way to be petted,
It is not difficult at all."
With such a tender thought in mind,
Seeing his master in a jovial mood, he comes up clumsily,
Raises a very battered paw,
Puts it on his master's chin lovingly,
Adding as an extra expression of love,
His most gracious braying to this bold action.
"Oh ! oh ! what a caress ! and what a melody !
Said the Master at once. Hey there, *Martin stick!"
Martin stick comes running; the donkey changes his tune.
Thus ended the little comic drama.
Beware, another's talent may not necessarily be yours.
*Martin bâton: Stickmartin, type-name for a donkey drover.
Mme de Lafayette – the Princess of Lafayette – the Princess of Clèves
gallantry never appeared with more luster in
As he was happily turned to excel in bodily exercises, he took a particular delight in them, such as hunting, tennis, running at the ring, and the like diversions. Madam de Valentinois gave spirit to all entertainments of this sort, and appeared at them with grace and beauty equal to that of her grand-daughter, Madam de la Marke, who was then unmarried; the Queen's presence seemed to authorize hers.
The Queen was handsome, though not young; she loved grandeur, magnificence and pleasure; she was married to the King while he was Duke of Orleans, during the life of his elder brother the Dauphin, a prince whose great qualities promised in him a worthy successor of his father Francis the First.
The Queen's ambitious temper made her taste the sweets of reigning, and she seemed to bear with perfect ease the King's passion for the Duchess of Valentinois, nor did she express the least jealousy of it; but she was so skilful a dissembler, that it was hard to judge of her real sentiments, and policy obliged her to keep the duchess about her person, that she might draw the King to her at the same time. This Prince took great delight in the conversation of women, even of such as he had no passion for; for he was every day at the Queen's court, when she held her assembly, which was a concourse of all that was beautiful and excellent in either sex.
Never were finer women or more accomplished men seen in any Court, and Nature seemed to have taken pleasure in lavishing her greatest graces on the greatest persons. The Princess Elizabeth, since Queen of Spain, began now to manifest an uncommon wit, and to display those beauties, which proved afterwards so fatal to her. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, who had just married the Dauphin, and was called the Queen-Dauphin, had all the perfections of mind and body; she had been educated in the Court of France, and had imbibed all the politeness of it; she was by nature so well formed to shine in everything that was polite, that notwithstanding her youth, none surpassed her in the most refined accomplishments. The Queen, her mother-in-law, and the King's sister, were also extreme lovers of music, plays and poetry; for the taste which Francis the First had for the Belles Lettres was not yet extinguished in France; and as his son was addicted to exercises, no kind of pleasure was wanting at Court. But what rendered this Court so splendid, was the presence of so many great Princes, and persons of the highest quality and merit: those I shall name, in their different characters, were the admiration and ornament of their age.
The King of
Navarre drew to himself the respect of the entire world both by the greatness
of his birth, and by the dignity that appeared in his person; he was remarkable
for his skill and courage in war. The Duke of Guise had also given proofs of
extraordinary velour, and had, been so successful, that there was not a general
who did not look upon him with envy; to his velour he added a most exquisite
genius and understanding, grandeur of mind, and a capacity equally turned for
military or civil affairs. His brother, the Cardinal of Loraine, was a man of
boundless ambition, and of extraordinary wit and eloquence, and had besides
acquired a vast variety of learning, which enabled him to make himself very
considerable by defending the Catholic religion, which began to be attacked at
that time. The Chevalier de Guise, afterwards called Grand Prior, was a prince
beloved by the entire world, of a comely person, full of wit and address, and
distinguished through all
The King had such an affection for the Constable, that he was no sooner possessed of the Government, but he recalled him from the banishment he had been sent into by Francis the First: thus was the Court divided between Messieurs de Guise, and the Constable, who was supported by the Princes of the blood, and both parties made it their care to gain the Duchess of Valentinois. The Duke d'Aumale, the Duke of Guise's brother, had married one of her daughters, and the Constable aspired to the fame alliance; he was not contented with having married his eldest son with Madam Diana, the King's daughter by a Piemontese lady, who turned nun as soon as she was brought to bed. This marriage had met with a great many obstacles from the promises which Monsieur Montmorency had made to Madam de Piennes, one of the maids of honor to the Queen; and though the King had surmounted them with extreme patience and goodness, the Constable did not think himself sufficiently established, unless he secured Madam de Valentinois in his interest, and separated her from Messieurs de Guise, whose greatness began to give her uneasiness. The Duchess had obstructed as much as she could the marriage of the Dauphin with the Queen of Scotland; the beauty and forward wit of that young Queen, and the credit which her marriage gave to Messieurs de Guise, were insupportable to her; she in particular hated the Cardinal of Loraine, who had spoken to her with severity, and even with contempt; she was sensible he took the party of the Queen, so that the Constable found her very well disposed to unite her interests with his and to enter into alliance with him, by marrying her granddaughter Madam de la Marke with Monsieur d'Anville, his second son, who succeeded him in his employment under the reign of Charles the Ninth. The Constable did not expect to find the same disinclination to marriage in his second son whom he had found in his eldest, but he proved mistaken. The Duke d'Anville was desperately in love with the Dauphin-Queen, and how little hope so ever he might have of succeeding in his passion, he could not prevail with himself to enter into an engagement that would divide his cares. The Mareschal de St. Andre was the only person in the Court that had not listed in either party: he was a particular favorite, and the King had a personal affection for him; he had taken a liking to him ever since he was Dauphin, and created him a Mareschal of France at an age in which others rarely obtain the least dignities. His favor with the King gave him a luster which he supported by his merit and the agreeableness of his person, by a splendor in his table and furniture, and by the most profuse magnificence that ever was known in a private person, the King's liberality enabling him to bear such an expense. This Prince was bounteous even to prodigality to those he favored, and though he had not all the great qualities, he had very many; particularly he took delight and had great skill in military affairs; he was also successful, and excepting the Battle of St. Quintin, his reign had been a continued series of victory; he won in person the Battle of Renti, Piemont was conquered, the English were driven out of France, and the Emperor Charles V found his good fortune decline before the walls of Mets, which he besieged in vain with all the forces of the Empire, and of Spain: but the disgrace received at St. Quintin lessened the hopes we had of extending our conquests, and as fortune seemed to divide herself between two Kings, they both found themselves insensibly disposed to peace.
Dowager of Loraine had made some overtures about the time of the Dauphin's
marriage, since which a secret negotiation had been constantly carried on; in
fine, Coran in Artois was the place appointed for the treaty; the Cardinal of
Loraine, the Constable Montmorency, and the Mareschal de St. Andre were
plenipotentiaries for the King; the Duke of Alva, and the Prince of Orange for
Philip the II, and the Duke and Duchess of Loraine were mediators. The
principal articles were the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth of
The King, during
the Treaty, continued on the frontiers, where he received the news of the death
of Queen Mary of England; his Majesty dispatched forthwith the Count de Randan
to Queen Elizabeth, to congratulate her on her accession to the Crown, and they
received him with great distinction; for her affairs were so precarious at that
time, that nothing could be more advantageous to her, than to see her title
acknowledged by the King. The Count found she had a thorough knowledge of the
interests of the French Court, and of the characters of those who composed it;
but in particular, she had a great idea of the Duke of Nemours: she spoke to
him so often, and with so much earnestness concerning him, that the Ambassador
upon his return declared to the King, that there was nothing which the Duke of
Nemours might not expect from that Princess, and that he made no question she
might even be brought to marry him. The King communicated it to the Duke the
same evening, and caused the Count de Randan to relate to him all the
conversations he had had with Queen Elizabeth, and in conclusion advised him to
push his fortune: the Duke of Nemours imagined at first that the King was not
in earnest, but when he found to the contrary, "If, by your advice,
Sir," said he, "I engage in this chimerical undertaking for your
Majesty's service, I must entreat your Majesty to keep the affair secret, till
the success of it shall justify me to the public; I would not be thought guilty
of the intolerable vanity, to think that a Queen, who has never seen me, would
marry me for love." The King promised to let nobody into the design but
the Constable, secrecy being necessary, he knew, to the success of it. The
Count de Randan advised the Duke to go to England under pretence of traveling;
but the Duke disapproving this proposal, sent Mr. Lignerol, a sprightly young
gentleman, his favorite, to sound the Queen's inclinations, and to endeavor to
make some steps towards advancing that affair: in the meantime, he paid a visit
to the Duke of Savoy, who was then at Brussels with the King of Spain. The
death of Queen Mary brought great obstructions to the Treaty; the Congress
broke up at the end of November, and the King returned to
There appeared at this time a lady at Court, who drew the eyes of the whole world; and one may imagine she was a perfect beauty, to gain admiration in a place where there were so many fine women; she was of the same family with the Viscount of Chartres, and one of the greatest heiresses of France, her father died young, and left her to the guardianship of Madam de Chartres his wife, whose wealth, virtue, and merit were uncommon. After the loss of her husband she retired from Court, and lived many years in the country; during this retreat, her chief care was bestowed in the education of her daughter; but she did not make it her business to cultivate her wit and beauty only, she took care also to inculcate virtue into her tender mind, and to make it amiable to her. The generality of mothers imagine, that it is sufficient to forbear talking of gallantries before young people, to prevent their engaging in them; but Madam de Chartres was of a different opinion, she often entertained her daughter with descriptions of love; she showed her what there was agreeable in it, that she might the more easily persuade her wherein it was dangerous; she related to her the insincerity, the faithlessness, and want of candor in men, and the domestic misfortunes that flow from engagements with them; on the other hand she made her sensible, what tranquility attends the life of a virtuous woman, and what luster modesty gives to a person who possesses birth and beauty; at the same time she informed her, how difficult it was to preserve this virtue, except by an extreme distrust of one's self, and by a constant attachment to the only thing which constitutes a woman's happiness, to love and to be loved by her husband.
This heiress was,
at that time, one of the greatest matches in
It is impossible to express the sentiments of Monsieur de Nemours, and Madam de Cleves, when they saw themselves alone, and at liberty to speak to one another, as they had never been before: they continued silent a while; at length, said Monsieur de Nemours, "Can you, Madam, pardon the Viscount for giving me an opportunity of seeing you, and speaking to you, an opportunity which you have always so cruelly denied me?" "I ought not to pardon him," replied she, "for having forgotten the condition I am in, and to what he exposes my reputation." Having spoke these words, she would have gone away; but Monsieur de Nemours stopping her, "Fear not, Madam," said he; "you have nothing to apprehend; nobody knows I am here; hear me, Madam, hear me, if not out of goodness, yet at least for your own sake, and to free yourself from the extravagancies which a passion I am no longer master of will infallibly hurry me into." Madam de Cleves now first yielded to the inclination she had for the Duke de Nemours, and beholding him with eyes full of softness and charms, "But what can you hope for," says she, "from the complaisance you desire of me? You will perhaps repent that you have obtained it, and I shall certainly repent that I have granted it. You deserve a happier fortune than you have hitherto had, or than you can have for the future, unless you seek it elsewhere." "I, Madam," said he, "seek happiness anywhere else? Or is there any happiness for me, but in your love? Though I never spoke of it before, I cannot believe, Madam, that you are not acquainted with my passion, or that you do not know it to be the greatest and most sincere that ever was; what trials has it suffered in things you are a stranger to? What trials have you put it to by your rigor?"
"Since you are desirous I should open myself to you," answered Madam de Cleves, "I'll comply with your desire, and I'll do it with a sincerity that is rarely to be met with in persons of my sex: I shall not tell you that I have not observed your passion for me; perhaps you would not believe me if I should tell you so; I confess therefore to you, not only that I have observed it, but that I have observed it in such lights as you yourself could wish it might appear to me in." "And if you have seen my passion, Madam," said he, "is it possible for you not to have been moved by it? And may I venture to ask, if it has made no impression on your heart?" "You should have judged of that from my conduct," replied she; "but I should be glad to know what you thought of it." "I ought to be in a happier condition," replied he, "to venture to inform you; my fortune would contradict what I should say; all I can tell you, Madam, is that I heartily wished you had not acknowledged to Monsieur de Cleves what you concealed from me, and that you had concealed from him what you made appear to me." "How came you to discover," replied she blushing, "that I acknowledged anything to Monsieur de Cleves?" "I learned it from yourself, Madam," replied he; "but that you may the better pardon the boldness I showed in listening to what you said, remember if I have made an ill use of what I heard, if my hopes rose upon it, or if I was the more encouraged to speak to you."
Here he began to relate how he had overheard her conversation with Monsieur de Cleves; but she interrupted him before he had finished; "Say no more of it," said she, "I see how you came to be so well informed; I suspected you knew the business but too well at the Queen-Dauphin's, who learned this adventure from those you had entrusted with it."
Upon this Monsieur de Nemours informed her in what manner the thing came to pass; "No excuses," says she; "I have long forgiven you, without being informed how it was brought about; but since you have learned from my own self what I designed to conceal from you all my life, I will acknowledge to you that you have inspired me with sentiments I was unacquainted with before I saw you, and of which I had so slender an idea, that they gave me at first a surprise which still added to the pain that constantly attends them: I am the less ashamed to make you this confession, because I do it at a time when I may do it without a crime, and because you have seen that my conduct has not been governed by my affections."
"Can you believe, Madam," said Monsieur de Nemours, falling on his knees, "but I shall expire at your feet with joy and transport?" "I have told you nothing," said she smiling, "but what you knew too well before." "Ah! Madam," said he, "what a difference is there between learning it by chance, and knowing it from you, and seeing withal that you are pleased I know it." "It is true," answered she, "I would have you know it, and I find a pleasure in telling it you; I don't even know if I do not tell it you more for my own sake, than for yours; for, after all, this confession will have no consequences, and I shall follow the austere rules which my duty imposes upon me." "How! Madam; you are not of this opinion," replied Monsieur de Nemours; "you are no longer under any obligation of duty; you are at liberty; and if I durst, I should even tell you, that it is in your power to act so, that your duty shall one day oblige you to preserve the sentiments you have for me." "My duty," replied she, "forbids me to think of any man, but of you the last in the world, and for reasons which are unknown to you." "Those reasons perhaps are not unknown to me," answered he, "but they are far from being good ones. I believe that Monsieur de Cleves thought me happier than I was, and imagined that you approved of those extravagancies which my passion led me into without your approbation." "Let us talk no more of that adventure," said she; "I cannot bear the thought of it, it giving me shame, and the consequences of it have been such that it is too melancholy a subject to be spoken of; it is but too true that you were the cause of Monsieur de Cleves's death; the suspicions which your inconsiderate conduct gave him, cost him his life as much as if you had taken it away with your own hands: judge what I ought to have done, had you two fought a duel, and he been killed; I know very well, it is not the same thing in the eye of the world, but with me there's no difference, since I know that his death was owing to you, and that it was on my account." "Ah! Madam," said Monsieur de Nemours, "what phantom of duty do you oppose to my happiness? What! Madam, shall a vain and groundless fancy hinder you from making a man happy, for whom you have an inclination? What, have I had some ground to hope I might pass my life with you? has my fate led me to love the most deserving lady in the world? have I observed in her all that can make a mistress adorable? Has she had no disliking to me? Have I found in her conduct everything which perhaps I could wish for in a wife? For in short, Madam, you are perhaps the only person in whom those two characters have ever concurred to the degree they are in you; those who marry mistresses, by whom they are loved, tremble when they marry them, and cannot but fear lest they should observe the same conduct towards others which they observed towards them; but in you, Madam, I can fear nothing, I see nothing in you but matter of admiration: have I had a prospect of so much felicity for no other end but to see it obstructed by you? Ah! Madam, you forget that you have distinguished me above other men; or rather, you have not distinguished me; you have deceived yourself, and I have flattered myself."
"You have not flattered yourself," replied she; "the reasons of my duty would not perhaps appear so strong to me without that distinction of which you doubt, and it is that which makes me apprehend unfortunate consequences from your alliance." "I have nothing to answer, Madam," replied he, "when you tell me you apprehend unfortunate consequences; but I own, that after all you have been pleased to say to me, I did not expect from you so cruel a reason." "The reason you speak of," replied Madam de Cleves, "is so little disobliging as to you, that I don't know how to tell it you." "Alas! Madam," said he, “how can you fear I should flatter myself too much after what you have been saying to me?" "I shall continue to speak to you," says she, "with the same sincerity with which I begun, and I'll lay aside that delicacy and reserve that modesty obliges one to in a first conversation, but I conjure you to hear me without interruption.
"I think I owe the affection you have for me, the poor recompense not to hide from you any of my thoughts, and to let you see them such as they really are; this in all probability will be the only time I shall allow myself the freedom to discover them to you; and I cannot confess without a blush, that the certainty of not being loved by you, as I am, appears to me so dreadful a misfortune, that if I had not invincible reasons grounded on my duty, I could not resolve to subject myself to it; I know that you are free, that I am so too, and that circumstances are such, that the public perhaps would have no reason to blame either you or me, should we unite ourselves forever; but do men continue to love, when under engagements for life? Ought I to expect a miracle in my favor? And shall I place myself in a condition of seeing certainly that passion come to an end, in which I should place all my felicity? Monsieur de Cleves was perhaps the only man in the world capable of continuing to love after marriage; it was my ill fate that I was not able to enjoy that happiness, and perhaps his passion had not lasted but that he found none, in me; but I should not have the, same way of preserving yours; I even think your constancy is owing to the obstacles you have met with; you have met with enough to animate you to conquer them; and my unguarded actions, or what you learned by chance, gave you hopes enough not to be discouraged." "Ah! Madam," replied Monsieur de Nemours, "I cannot keep the silence you enjoined me; you do me too much injustice, and make it appear too clearly that you are far from being prepossessed in my favor." "I confess," answered she, "that my passions may lead me, but they cannot blind me; nothing can hinder me from knowing that you are born with a disposition for gallantry, and have all the qualities proper to give success; you have already had a great many amours, and you will have more; I should no longer be she you placed your happiness in; I should see you as warm for another as you had been for me; this would grievously vex me, and I am not sure I should not have the torment of jealousy; I have said too much to conceal from you that you have already made me know what jealousy is, and that I suffered such cruel inquietudes the evening the Queen gave me Madam de Themines's letter, which it was said was addressed to you, that to this moment I retain an idea of it, which makes me believe it is the worst of all ills.
"There is scarce a woman but out of vanity or inclination desires to engage you; there are very few whom you do not please, and my own experience would make me believe, that there are none whom it is not in your power to please; I should think you always in love and beloved, nor should I be often mistaken; and yet in this case I should have no remedy but patience, nay I question if I should dare to complain: a lover may be reproached; but can a husband be so, when one has nothing to urge, but that he loves one no longer? But admit I could accustom myself to bear a misfortune of this nature, yet how could I bear that of imagining I constantly saw Monsieur de Cleves, accusing you of his death, reproaching me with having loved you, with having married you, and showing me the difference betwixt his affection and yours? It is impossible to over-rule such strong reasons as these; I must continue in the condition I am in, and in the resolution I have taken never to alter it." "Do you believe you have the power to do it, Madam?" cried the Duke de Nemours. "Do you think your resolution can hold out against a man who adores, and who has the happiness to please you? It is more difficult than you imagine, Madam, to resist a person who pleases and loves one at the same time; you have done it by an austerity of virtue, which is almost without example; but that virtue no longer opposes your inclinations, and I hope you will follow them in spite of yourself." "I know nothing can be more difficult than what I undertake," replied Madam de Cleves; "I distrust my strength in the midst of my reasons; what I think I owe to the memory of Monsieur de Cleves would be a weak consideration, if not supported by the interest of my ease and repose; and the reasons of my repose have need to be supported by those of my duty; but though I distrust myself, I believe I shall never overcome my scruples, nor do I so much as hope to overcome the inclination I have for you; that inclination will make me unhappy, and I will deny myself the sight of you, whatever violence it is to me: I conjure you, by all the power I have over you, to seek no occasion of seeing me; I am in a condition which makes that criminal which might be lawful at another time; decency forbids all commerce between us." Monsieur de Nemours threw himself at her feet, and gave a loose to all the violent motions with which he was agitated; he expressed both by his words and tears the liveliest and most tender passion that ever heart was touched with; nor was the heart of Madam de Cleves insensible; she looked upon him with eyes swelled with tears: "Why was it," cries she, "that I can charge you with Monsieur de Cleves's death? Why did not my first acquaintance with you begin since I have been at liberty, or why did not I know you before I was engaged? Why does fate separate us by such invincible obstacles?" "There are no obstacles, Madam," replied Monsieur de Nemours; "it is you alone oppose my happiness; you impose on yourself a law which virtue and reason do not require you to obey." "'Tis true," says she, "I sacrifice a great deal to a duty which does not subsist but in my imagination; have patience, and expect what time may produce; Monsieur de Cleves is but just expired, and that mournful object is too near to leave me clear and distinct views; in the meantime enjoy the satisfaction to know you have gained the heart of a person who would never have loved anyone, had she not seen you: believe the inclination I have for you will last forever, and that it will be uniform and the same, whatever becomes of me: Adieu," said she; "this is a conversation I ought to blush for; however, give an account of it to the Viscount; I agree to it, and desire you to do it."
With these words she went away, nor could Monsieur de Nemours detain her. In the next room she met with the Viscount, who seeing her under so much concern would not speak to her, but led her to her coach without saying a word; he returned to Monsieur de Nemours, who was so full of joy, grief, admiration, and of all those affections that attend a passion full of hope and fear, that he had not the use of his reason. It was a long time ere the Viscount could get from him an account of the conversation; at last the Duke related it to him, and Monsieur de Chartres, without being in love, no less admired the virtue, wit and merit of Madam de Cleves, than did Monsieur de Nemours himself; they began to examine what issue could reasonably be hoped for in this affair; and however fearful the Duke de Nemours was from his love, he agreed with the Viscount, that it was impossible Madam de Cleves should continue in the resolution she was in; they were of opinion nevertheless that it was necessary to follow her orders, for fear, upon the public's perceiving the inclination he had for her, she should make declarations and enter into engagements with respect to the world, that she would afterwards abide by, lest it should be thought she loved him in her husband's lifetime.
Monsieur de Nemours determined to follow the King; it was a journey he could not well excuse himself from, and so he resolved to go without endeavoring to see Madam de Cleves again from the window out of which he had sometimes seen her; he begged the Viscount to speak to her; and what did he not desire him to say in his behalf? What an infinite number of reasons did he furnish him with, to persuade her to conquer her scruples? In short, great part of the night was spent before he thought of going away.
As for Madam de Cleves, she was in no condition to rest; it was a thing so new to her to have broke loose from the restraints she had laid on herself, to have endured the first declarations of love that ever were made to her, and to have confessed that she herself was in love with him that made them, all this was so new to her, that she seemed quite another person; she was surprised at what she had done; she repented of it; she was glad of it; all her thoughts were full of anxiety and passion; she examined again the reasons of her duty, which obstructed her happiness; she was grieved to find them so strong, and was sorry that she had made them out so clear to Monsieur de Nemours: though she had entertained thoughts of marrying him, as soon as she beheld him in the garden of the suburbs, yet her late conversation with him made a much greater impression on her mind; at some moments she could not comprehend how she could be unhappy by marrying him, and she was ready to say in her heart, that her scruples as to what was past, and her fears for the future, were equally groundless: at other times, reason and her duty prevailed in her thoughts, and violently hurried her into a resolution not to marry again, and never to see Monsieur de Nemours; but this was a resolution hard to be established in a heart so softened as hers, and so lately abandoned to the charms of love. At last, to give herself a little ease, she concluded that it was not yet necessary to do herself the violence of coming to any resolution, and decency allowed her a considerable time to determine what to do: however she resolved to continue firm in having no commerce with Monsieur de Nemours. The Viscount came to see her, and pleaded his friend's cause with all the wit and application imaginable, but could not make her alter her conduct, or recall the severe orders she had given to Monsieur de Nemours; she told him her design was not to change her condition; that she knew how difficult it was to stand to that design, but that she hoped she should be able to do it; she made him so sensible how far she was affected with the opinion that Monsieur de Nemours was the cause of her husband's death, and how much she was convinced that it would be contrary to her duty to marry him, that the Viscount was afraid it would be very difficult to take away those impressions; he did not, however, tell the Duke what he thought, when he gave him an account of his conversation with her, but left him as much hope as a man who is loved may reasonably have.
They set out the next day, and went after the King; the Viscount wrote to Madam de Cleves at Monsieur de Nemours's request, and in a second letter, which soon followed the first, the Duke wrote a line or two in his own hand; but Madam de Cleves determined not to depart from the rules she had prescribed herself, and fearing the accidents that might happen from letters, informed the Viscount that she would receive his letters no more, if he continued to speak of Monsieur de Nemours, and did it in so peremptory a manner, that the Duke desired him not to mention him.
During the absence of the Court, which was gone to conduct the Queen of Spain as far as Poitou, Madam de Cleves continued at home; and the more distant she was from Monsieur de Nemours, and from everything that could put her in mind of him, the more she recalled the memory of the Prince of Cleves, which she made it her glory to preserve; the reasons she had not to marry the Duke de Nemours appeared strong with respect to her duty, but invincible with respect to her quiet; the opinion she had, that marriage would put an end to his love, and the torments of jealousy, which she thought the infallible consequences of marriage, gave her the prospect of a certain unhappiness if she consented to his desires; on the other hand, she thought it impossible, if he were present, to refuse the most amiable man in the world, the man who loved her, and whom she loved, and to oppose him in a thing that was neither inconsistent with virtue nor decency: she thought that nothing but absence and distance could give her the power to do it; and she found she stood in need of them, not only to support her resolution not to marry, but even to keep her from seeing Monsieur de Nemours; she resolved therefore to take a long journey, in order to pass away the time which decency obliged her to spend in retirement; the fine estate she had near the Pyrenees seemed the most proper place she could make choice of; she set out a few days before the Court returned, and wrote at parting to the Viscount to conjure him not to think of once enquiring after her, or of writing to her.
Monsieur de Nemours was as much troubled at this journey as another would have been for the death of his mistress; the thought of being deprived so long a time of the sight of Madam de Cleves grieved him to the soul, especially as it happened at a time when he had lately enjoyed the pleasure of seeing her, and of seeing her moved by his passion; however he could do nothing but afflict himself, and his affliction increased every day. Madam de Cleves, whose spirits had been so much agitated, was no sooner arrived at her country seat, but she fell desperately ill; the news of it was brought to Court; Monsieur de Nemours was inconsolable; his grief proceeded even to despair and extravagance; the Viscount had much a-do to hinder him from discovering his passion in public, and as much a-do to keep him from going in person to know how she did; the relation and friendship between her and the Viscount served as an excuse for sending frequent messengers; at last they heard she was out of the extremity of danger she had been in, but continued in a languishing malady that left but little hopes of life.
The nature of her disease gave her a prospect of death both near, and at a distance, and showed her the things of this life in a very different view from that in which they are seen by people in health; the necessity of dying, to which she saw herself so near, taught her to wean herself from the world, and the lingeringness of her distemper brought her to a habit in it; yet when she was a little recovered, she found that Monsieur de Nemours was not effaced from her heart; but to defend herself against him, she called to her aid all the reasons which she thought she had never to marry him; after a long conflict in herself, she subdued the relics of that passion which had been weakened by the sentiments her illness had given her; the thoughts of death had reproached her with the memory of Monsieur de Cleves, and this remembrance was so agreeable to her duty, that it made deep impressions in her heart; the passions and engagements of the world appeared to her in the light, in which they appear to persons who have more great and more distant views. The weakness of her body, which was brought very low, aided her in preserving these sentiments; but as she knew what power opportunities have over the wisest resolutions, she would not hazard the breach of those she had taken, by returning into any place where she might see him she loved; she retired, under pretence of change of air, into a convent, but without declaring a settled resolution of quitting the Court.
Upon the first news of it, Monsieur de Nemours felt the weight of this retreat, and saw the importance of it; he presently thought he had nothing more to hope, but omitted not anything that might oblige her to return; he prevailed with the Queen to write; he made the Viscount not only write, but go to her, but all to no purpose; the Viscount saw her, but she did not tell him she had fixed her resolution; and yet he judged, she would never return to Court; at last Monsieur de Nemours himself went to her, under pretence of using the waters; she was extremely grieved and surprised to hear he was come, and sent him word by a person of merit about her, that she desired him not to take it ill if she did not expose herself to the danger of seeing him, and of destroying by his presence those sentiments she was obliged to preserve; that she desired he should know, that having found it both against her duty and peace of mind to yield to the inclination she had to be his, all things else were become so indifferent to her, that she had renounced them for ever; that she thought only of another life, and had no sentiment remaining as to this, but the desire of seeing him in the same dispositions she was in.
Monsieur de Nemours was like to have expired in the presence of the lady who told him this; he begged her a thousand times to return to Madam de Cleves, and to get leave for him to see her; but she told him the Princess had not only forbidden her to come back with any message from him, but even to report the conversation that should pass between them. At length Monsieur de Nemours was obliged to go back, oppressed with the heaviest grief a man is capable of, who has lost all hopes of ever seeing again a person, whom he loved not only with the most violent, but most natural and sincere passion that ever was; yet still he was not utterly discouraged, but used all imaginable methods to make her alter her resolution; at last, after several years, time and absence abated his grief, and extinguished his passion. Madam de Cleves lived in a manner that left no probability of her ever returning to Court; she spent one part of the year in that religious house, and the other at her own, but still continued the austerity of retirement, and constantly employed herself in exercises more holy than the severest convents can pretend to; and her life, though it was short, left examples of inimitable virtues.