Free PDF, epub, site ebook. Justine (or The Misfortunes of Virtue) is set just before the French Revolution in France and tells the story of a young woman. Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue - Free download as PDF File .pdf) or read Memoirs of a Voluptuary, Or the Secret Life of an English Boarding School, Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue is a novel by Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, A censored English translation of Justine was issued in the US by the Risus Press in the . Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.
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Justine by Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade. An early work by the Marquis de Sade "Justine, Or, The Misfortunes of Virtue" The Days of Sodom & Other Writings ebook by Marquis de Sade, . ISBN: ; Language: English; Download options: EPUB 2 (Adobe DRM). Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue (Oxford World's Classics series) by The Marquis de Sade. Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format.
Detesting the sophistries of libertinage and of irreligion, in word and deed combating them unwearingly, I fear not that those necessitated by the order of personages appearing in these Memoirs will put thee in any peril; the cynicism remarkable in certain portraits they were softened as much as ever they could be is no more apt to frighten thee; for it is only Vice that trembles when Vice is found out, and cries scandal immediately it is attacked.
To bigots Tartuffe was indebted for his ordeal; Justine's will be the achievement of libertines, and little do I dread them: they'll not betray my intentions, these thou shalt perceive; thy opinion is sufficient to make my whole glory and after having pleased thee I must either please universally or find consolation in a general censure. The scheme of this novel yet, 'tis less a novel than one might suppose is doubtless new; the victory gained by Virtue over Vice, the rewarding of good, the punishment of evil, such is the usual scheme in every other work of this species: ah!
But throughout to present Vice triumphant and Virtue a victim of its sacrifices, to exhibit a wretched creature wandering from one misery to the next; the toy of villainy; the target of every debauch; exposed to the most barbarous, the most monstrous caprices; driven witless by the most brazen, the most specious sophistries; prey to the most cunning seductions, the most irresistible subornations for defense against so many disappointments, so much bane and pestilence, to repulse such a quantity of corruption having nothing but a sensitive soul, a mind naturally formed, and considerable courage: briefly, to employ the boldest scenes, the most extraordinary situations, the most dreadful maxims, the most energetic brush strokes, with the sole object of obtaining from all this one of the sublimest parables ever penned for human edification; now, such were, 'twill be allowed, to seek to reach one's destination by a road not much traveled heretofore.
Have I succeeded, Constance? Will a tear in thy eye determine my triumph? After having read Justine, wilt say: "Oh, how these renderings of crime make me proud of my love for Virtue!
He seized me by the collar of my dress and told me that on this first occasion he himself would show me what was involved. But my plight gave me courage and strength, I managed to struggle free and, as I rushed to the door: You are not worthy of the wealth which you abuse so vilely, nor even of the air you breathe in a world made foul by your brutal ways. I was returning dejectedly to my lodging plunged into the black, depressing thoughts to which the cruelty and corruption of men inevitably give rise, when my eye seemed for a moment to catch a glimpse of fair weather.
The woman with whom I lodged was acquainted with my distress.
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She now came up to me and said that she had at last discovered a house where I would be gladly received, provided my behaviour was beyond reproach. I accept most gladly! He lived in a first-floor apartment in the rue Quincampoix with an aged mistress he called his wife who was as least as spiteful as he. If ever even the tenth part of a denier should find its way into your pocket, I shall have you hanged, do you hear Sophie?
If my wife and I enjoy a few comforts in our old age, they are the fruit of our unending labours and extreme abstemiousness.
Do you eat a great deal, my child?
L'Anti-Justine; ou, Les Delices de l'amour by Restif de La Bretonne
Good God! Soup is something we hardly ever make, just once, on Sundays, and we have been working like Turks these forty years.
We do not require much in the way of attendance and there is no servant but you. Not only was there infinitely more work than my age and strength allowed me to undertake, but would I be able to live on what I had been offered?
I took care, however, to avoid making difficulties and moved in that same evening. But a calamity so terrible in its consequences for me stood waiting at the finish of my second year there that it is with no little difficulty, when I think back, that I now bring myself to relate a few humorous details before telling you of the setback I mentioned.
So let me say, Madame, that no lights were ever lit in that house. Fortunately, the apartment of my master and mistress looked on to the street lamp outside and this freed them of the need to have any other glim: They made no use of linen. No wine was served, water being, as Madame Du Harpin held, the natural drink of the first men on earth and the only drink prescribed by Nature. Whenever bread was cut, a basket was placed beneath to catch the crumbs that fell, and to them anything left over from meals was carefully added, the whole being fried together on Sundays with a little rancid butter, this constituting festive fare for the day of rest.
Clothes and upholstery were not to be beaten, for fear of wearing them out, but were to be lightly switched with a feather duster. The shoes worn by my master and mistress were bottomed with iron, and both husband and wife still clung reverently to the footwear which had served them on their wedding-day. But there was one practice, odder still by far, which I was required to follow regularly once a week.
But would to God that these shameful practices were the only ones to which these dreadful people subscribed. Living on the floor above was a gentleman with a decent competency, being possessed of rather fine jewels. Now perhaps because he lived so near or perhaps because his effects had already passed through his hands, the extent of his wealth was well known to my master. I often heard him and his wife say how much they regretted a particular gold casket worth 30 or 40 louis which would certainly have remained in his possession had the attorney he employed known his business better; to make up the loss of the returned casket, the honest Monsieur Du Harpin now proposed to steal it and I was charged with the business.
What is there to prevent me from turning against you the same weapons which you place in my hand, for what reasonable objection could you make were I to rob you according to your own principles? I settled for this reply but from that time forward I was aware both of the misfortunes which hung over my head as a result of such a proposition and of my error in answering him so categorically.
But there was no middle path: I had either to commit the crime he spoke of or to reject what he proposed out of hand.
Had I then had a little more experience of the world, I should have quitted the house at once. But it was already written in the book of my destiny that each honest prompting of my nature would be repaid by misfortune. I was therefore forced to submit to fate, it being impossible that I should ever escape it. Monsieur Du Harpin allowed close upon a month to pass, that is until about the time of my completing a second year in his household, without mentioning or giving the slightest sign of ill will towards me for having refused his bidding, when one evening, withdrawing to my chamber after my work was done, there to enjoy a few hours of calm, I suddenly heard my door broken down and not without fright observed Monsieur Du Harpin leading a police officer and four men of the watch to my bedside.
You will find it in her room or about her person. Against evidence so incontrovertible there was no reply. I was immediately seized, bound, and led to the Palace prison, during which time I could not gain the smallest hearing for anything I might have said in my defence.
The trial of any hapless person who lacks credit or protection is a quickly expedited business in France where virtue is thought incompatible with poverty and the ill fortune of the accused is proof sufficient of guilt in the eyes of magistrates. An unjust assumption persuades courts that whoever was most likely to have perpetrated the crime is in fact the person who committed it; sentiments are gauged by the state in which the accused appears and the moment he is seen to have neither title nor wealth to prove that he is honest, it becomes self-evident that he is not.
In vain did I try to defend myself and provide the court advocate I was briefly allowed to have with the best arguments: A woman of 40 years called Dubois, notorious for abominable actions of every kind, was also on the point of having sentence of death carried out on her, her sentence at least being better deserved than mine since the case against her was fully attested, whereas it was impossible to find any crime that could be laid at my door.
I had aroused the interest of this woman. One evening, only a few days before we were both to forfeit our lives, she told me that I should not go to bed but, doing nothing to attract attention, should stay by her side and keep as close to the gates of the prison as could be managed. It will be my handiwork. It is possible that someone may well be burned to death, but no matter, for what is uppermost is that you and I shall escape.
Three men, who are my accomplices and friends, will meet us and I shall answer for your freedom.
The flames caught, the conflagration was horrible to see, ten people were burned to death, but we made off safely. That same day we reached a cottage in the forest of Bondy belonging to a poacher, a different kind of criminal from the others but a close associate of our gang. But a word of counsel: Misplaced delicacy brought you to the foot of the gallows while a gruesome crime enabled me to escape the rope: You are young and pretty.
I shall answer for making your fortune in Brussels, if you wish. I am bound there now, for I was born in that city. Within two years, I shall raise you to untold heights, but I warn you now that it is not along the narrow paths of virtue that I shall lead you to fortune. Anyone of your age who wants to get on quickly in life must be prepared to undertake more than one trade and be adept at managing more than one intrigue at a time.
Do you hear me, Sophie, do you catch my drift? Make up your mind quickly. We must leave this place, for we shall be safe here for a few hours only. But I am also appalled that I should owe my life to a crime and you may be assured that if I had been given any choice in the matter, I would sooner have perished than set my hand to it.
I am only too sensible of the dangers I have run by committing myself to those feelings of decency which will ever grow in my heart.
But whatever the thorns of virtue, I shall always prefer them to the false beams that shine on prosperity, for these are dangerous marks of favour and the fleeting accompaniment of crime. I carry within me notions of religion which, thanks be to God, will never desert me.
If Providence makes my course in life arduous, it is only so that I shall be the more amply rewarded in a better world. This hope is my consolation: It is a joy which would be soon extinguished in my heart were I to desecrate it with criminal actions and, being then filled with the fear of tribulations yet to come in this world, more terrible by far, I should also have in view the dreadful prospect of the punishments which heavenly justice reserves in the next for those who offend against it.
The callousness of the rich justifies the knavery of the poor, my child. If their purses would open to satisfy our needs and if humanity reigned in their hearts, then virtue would take root in ours. But as long as our distress, the patience with which we bear it, our honesty and our subjection serve merely to add weight to our chains, our misdemeanours are their handiwork and we should be dupes indeed to reject crime as a means of lightening a yoke which they fasten around our necks.
We were all born equal in the eyes of Nature, Sophie. How I love hearing rich people, the judges, and the magistrates, oh, how I love seeing them preaching virtue at us! Oh, how difficult it must be for them to refrain from theft when they have three times as much as they need to live on, how difficult never to think of murder when they are surrounded only by admirers and submissive slaves, how exceedingly painful indeed to be temperate and sober when they are intoxicated by sensuality and the most succulent dishes are set before them—and they must find it trying indeed to be frank and honest when the need to lie scarcely ever arises.
But the likes of us, Sophie, have been condemned to crawl on the earth, like the serpent upon its belly, by that same barbaric Providence which in your folly you have made your idol. We are looked on with scorn because we are poor, humiliated because we are weak, and in every part of the globe find nothing but gall and thorns—and yet you believe that we should deny ourselves the uses of Crime, though Crime alone opens the door to life which it sustains, preserves, and prevents from losing altogether.
You would wish upon us only toil, despair and suffering, poverty and tears, odium and the gallows! No, Sophie, no! Either the Providence which you revere was made only to deserve our contempt, or else its intentions were quite different.
Learn to know Providence better, Sophie, acquaint yourself with its ways and be persuaded that if Providence places us in situations where acting wickedly becomes necessary and at the same time allows us to choose to be wicked, then its laws are served no less well by evil than by good and Providence thus gains as much by the one as by the other.
The state into which we were born at her behest is a state of equality. Whoever disturbs that state is no more guilty than anyone who seeks to restore it, for both parties act upon impulses implanted in them, and have no choice but to act upon them, clap a blindfold to their eyes, and enjoy the result. But in my heart a stronger voice than hers fought against her sophisms.
I heard her out and then declared for the last time that I was resolved never to allow myself to succumb to corruption. I leave you to your wretched fate. But if they ever hang you, as will surely happen given the fatality which saves crime and inevitably punishes virtue, at least remember to say nothing of us. Their principles and customs, the gloomy place where we had halted, the degree of safety they believed they enjoyed, their drunkenness, my youth, innocence, and appearance—all served to encourage them.
They left the table where they had been sitting, talked among themselves, and consulted Dubois. I leave you to imagine, Madame, the effect this execrable proposition made upon me. But the jade merely laughed at a predicament which to me was appalling but which to her seemed a matter of small consequence. Here you are, required to oblige four lusty lads like these! There are ten thousand women in Paris, my girl, who would pay out good money to be in your shoes just now. What must I do?
If you are prepared to pay this price, I guarantee the rest. By accepting, I should be courting new perils, I own, but they were less pressing than those I faced at that moment. I might be able to avoid those which still lay in the future but there was nothing to preserve me from the danger now threatening me. Save me from these brutal men and I shall never leave you.
I have just admitted her as a full member. I order you not to do her any violence: You can see for yourselves how useful her youth and that pretty face are going to be to us. We must use her to further our interests and not sacrifice her to our pleasures. But the passions can have such power over man that no words can tame them. The men I now faced were in no mood to listen to reason. All four advanced towards me together in a state which was hardly calculated to allow me flattering hopes of being preserved, and with one voice declared to Dubois that even if there had been a gallows on the spot, I should still be their prey.
And the quarrel growing warm, all four champions grabbed each other by the hair and let fly with their fists, brawling amongst themselves and knocking each other to the ground. Meanwhile, only too happy with this turn of events which gave me time to make good my escape, and with Dubois being occupied in trying to separate them, I made a run for it, reached the forest, and the hut was soon lost from view.
Thou seest my weakness and my innocence, and knowest the trust with which I place all my hopes in Thee. Preserve me from the dangers which beset me, or by a death less ignominious than that which I have escaped, grant at least that I be recalled promptly to Thy eternal bosom. He is stronger who has prayed. I stood up fortified by courage and, since it was now beginning to grow dark, I crept into a thicket where I could spend the night with the smallest risk of discovery.
The sense of security I felt, my exhausted state, and the small measure of relief which I had lately tasted, all contributed to my passing a good night.
The sun was already high when my eyes opened once more upon a new day. The moment of waking is the most critical time for the unfortunate: I crouch in their lair and hide myself from men just as they do. What difference is there now between them and me? What was the point of being born to suffer so pitiable a fate? I was scarcely done when I heard a sound nearby.
For a moment I thought it was some beast of the forest but gradually I made out the voices of two men. The horrible offence which outrages both Nature and established law, the heinous crime upon which the heavy hand of God has so often descended, I mean that infamy which was so new to me that I could scarcely conceive of it, was there, before my very eyes, consummated with all the impure refinements and dreadful proceedings which the most considered depravity could inject into it.
The other appeared to be a young domestic in his service. He was 17 or 18 years old and very pretty. The spectacle was as lengthy as it was scandalous, and to me the time seemed to hang all the more cruelly since I dared not move for fear of giving myself away. Finally, the felonious players who had enacted these criminal scenes, doubtless being sated, stood up and were about to rejoin the path which led them home when the master drew near to the bush which hid me to satisfy a need.
My tall bonnet gave me away. He saw it. Our mysteries have been observed by the uninitiate, to wit, a girl. Come here and we shall winkle the hussy out and discover what the devil she is doing here. Dragging myself out, I collapsed at their feet. Few have suffered calamities equal to mine. I beg you, do not allow the predicament in which you discovered me to start suspicions of me in your mind, for my situation is the result of misfortune and not of any wrongs that I have done.
Do not increase the sum of the ills which lie heavy upon me, but on the contrary, I beseech you, kindly furnish me with some means of escaping the rigours by which I am pursued.
It is regrettably only too commonly observed that sensual excess drives out pity in man. Its ordinary effect is to harden the heart. Whether this is because most carnal excesses require a kind of apathy of soul or whether the violent effect they produce on the nervous system weakens the sensitivity by which it operates, it nevertheless remains a fact that a professional libertine is rarely a compassionate man.
I observed you both, this other gentleman and you, sitting on the grass, and I believe I noticed that you stayed there a while talking.
That is all, I do assure you. Come, Jasmine. It is still early. All-seeing Themis has pronounced the slut guilty. What we are about to do is no crime, my friend, but virtue. It will be a restoration of the moral order of things, and since there are times when we ourselves unfortunately upset that balance, we should have the courage to redress it whenever the occasion arises.
They used their braces, handkerchiefs, anything that came to hand, and in a trice I was bound so cruelly tight that I found it impossible to move hand or foot.
When this operation was completed, the blackguards removed my skirts, raised my petticoats above my head and took out their hunting-knives.
I fully believed that they were about to hack and slash my hindquarters which in their ferocity they had bared completely. Serve me well and you will not have cause to regret it, my child. My mother needs a second waiting-maid. I shall present you to her. But should you take advantage of my kindness or betray my trust Look closely at the oak which was to have been your hanging-tree.
I kissed his knees and swore in every way I could think of that my conduct would be beyond reproach. But as untouched by my happiness as he had been by my distress, Monsieur de Bressac said: Your conduct will speak for you and your conduct alone will decide your fate. Its magnificent appointments informed me that whatever position I was to have in this household, it would surely be better remunerated than that of head-housekeeper to Monsieur and Madame Du Harpin.
Meanwhile, Monsieur de Bressac went upstairs to see his mother, explained about me, and a half-hour later came to fetch me and presented me to her.
Madame de Bressac was a woman of 45, very beautiful still, who seemed to me highly respectable and, even more to the point, exceedingly considerate, though her words and principles were not unmixed with a certain asperity. She was two years the widow of a man of the highest rank who had brought her in marriage no fortune other than the noble name which he had conferred upon her. The expectations of the young Marquis de Bressac thus centred on his mother, for what his father had left him was barely adequate for his ordinary needs.
The estate was worth at least 60, livres a year and Monsieur de Bressac had neither brothers nor sisters. He could never be prevailed upon to enter the army, for anything which took him away from his choicest pleasures was so unbearable to him that he refused categorically to submit to constraints of any sort. The Countess and her son spent three months of the year on their estate and the rest of the time in Paris, and those three months which she insisted that her son spend with her were torture to a man who could never absent himself from the centre of his pleasures without lapsing into despair.
The Marquis de Bressac commanded me to relate to his mother the same tale which I had already told him. When I had finished my story, Madame de Bressac said: I shall institute no enquiries about you beyond satisfying myself that you are, as you say, the daughter of the man you mentioned. If indeed you are, then I knew your father, a circumstance which will be an added reason for my interesting myself in your welfare. As for your difficulties with Du Harpin, I shall make it my business to settle matters with a couple of visits to the Chancellor who has been a friend of mine for many years.
He is the most upright man in France. All that is required to overturn the charges against you so that you may return to Paris without fear is to prove your innocence to him. But you must bear in mind, Sophie, that what I promise you now is conditional upon irreproachable conduct on your part.
In this way you can see that the pledges which I ask from you will not fail to turn to your advantage. Within three days, the information requested from Paris by Madame de Bressac arrived and proved to be all I could have wished for. All my thoughts of misfortune faded at last from my mind, their place being taken by hopes of the sweetest consolations to which I now felt justified in looking forward.
But it was not written by Heaven that poor Sophie would ever be happy, for should a few instants of peace chance to settle upon her, they would only serve to make her feel more bitterly still the moments of horror which would surely follow.
We were hardly arrived in Paris when Madame de Bressac began to busy herself on my behalf. The First President of the Court asked to see me. It was recognized that if I had taken advantage of the fire in the Palace prison, I had taken no part in causing it and I was assured that all proceedings against me were quashed by the magistrates appointed to examine the matter without their having need to resort to further formalities.
It may easily be imagined how closely such good offices bound me to Madame de Bressac: However, it did not enter into the intentions of the young Marquis de Bressac to have me draw so close to his mother.
Independently of the appalling lewdness of the kind I have described to you into which the young man threw himself blindly and even more wildly in Paris than in the country, it was not long before I perceived that he hated the Countess with all his being.
In truth, she did all she could to put an end to his debauches or at least to curb them, but she perhaps being over-harsh in her manner of proceeding, the Marquis, further inflamed by the effects of her strictness, plunged with renewed vigour into his excesses, and all the profit the poor Countess derived from her persecution of him was to be heartily detested. Believe me, Sophie, if I did not badger her at every turn she would probably forget what promises she gave to take care of you.
She makes much of all the steps she takes, but they have all been my handiwork. I think I can fairly say therefore that if you feel grateful to anyone, it should be to me, and the return I ask of you will seem all the more disinterested in your eyes since you know enough of me to be quite certain that, however pretty your face, it is not your favours that I seek. No, Sophie, the services I expect from you are of a different order, and when you are quite convinced by all I have done for you, I trust you will find it in your heart to give me everything I am entitled to expect in return.
But answer I did, saying whatever came into my head and without giving sufficient thought to my replies. The moment has come, Madame, when I must tell you of the only real wrong I ever did in my life for which I reproach myself. Wrong is perhaps not the word, more an unparalleled extravagance, but certainly not a crime.
It was simply an error which rebounded against myself alone and which I do not believe was an instrument wielded by the equitable hand of Heaven to plunge me into the abyss which was secretly opening beneath my feet. I had been unable to see the Marquis de Bressac without feeling drawn to him by sentiments of tenderness which, try as I might, I could not overcome.
Whatever thoughts I had about his aversion to women, the depravity of his tastes, and the moral distance which separated us, there was nothing on earth I could do to drench the flames of my dawning passion, and if the Marquis had asked me to lay down my life, I should gladly have sacrificed it for his sake and thought I had done little enough to oblige him.
Yet he could not but be sensible of my eagerness to anticipate and undertake anything which might please him, nor was it possible that he could remain ignorant of my attentions which, in my blindness, extended to seconding his waywardness at least in so far as decency permitted, and to hiding them from his mother.
My manner of proceeding had to some extent earned me his trust and, anything coming from him being precious to me, I so chose not to see how little his heart offered me that at times I was vain enough to believe that he was not indifferent towards me. But how promptly was I disabused by the extravagance of his carnal lusts!
Since his tastes, odious though they are, rank with the most expensive, the Marquis made prodigious inroads into his fortune. Occasionally, I took the liberty to point out the disadvantages of his conduct. But if I tried to speak to him of his mother and the grief he caused her, all I obtained in return was resentment, ill temper, anger, impatience at seeing a fortune which should already be his remaining so long in her hands, the most inveterate hatred for a respectable mother, and the most brazen rebellion against the sentiments of Nature.
Can it then truly follow in the case of a man who, indulging his tastes, has so categorically infringed the sacred laws of Nature that the necessary consequence of his first transgression is the appalling ease with which he goes on to commit all other crimes with impunity? Sometimes I resorted to persuasion through religion in which I have almost invariably found consolation. I endeavoured to open the heart of this perverse man to its balm, being almost certain that I should hold him in a net of faith if I could succeed in communicating its charms to him.
But the Marquis gave me little time to employ these means of persuading him.
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As a declared enemy of our sacred mysteries, a stubborn kicker against the purity of our doctrine, and a furious opponent of the existence of a Supreme Being, the Marquis, instead of allowing me to convert him, sought rather to corrupt me. Now if this everlasting world of ours, like all the others which hang in the infinite plains of space, had no beginning and can never have an end; if all the products of nature are the consequential effects of laws by which Nature herself is bound; if her perpetual actions and reactions presuppose the movement which is an integral part of her essence, then what role is left for the prime mover which you gratuitously impute to it?
Believe me, Sophie, the God you admit to is nothing but the fruit on the one hand of ignorance and on the other of tyranny. When the strong first set out to enslave the weak, they convinced their victims that God sanctified the chains that bound them, and the weak, their wits crushed by poverty, believed what they were told.
All religions are the destructive consequences of this first fiction and merit the same contempt as its source deserves. There is not one of these fairy-tales which does not march under the banner of imposture and stupidity.
In all these mysteries which stagger human reason, I see only dogmas which outrage Nature and grotesque ceremonials which warrant nothing but derision. From the moment my eyes were opened, Sophie, I loathed all these disgusting shams. I vowed I should trample them beneath my feet and never return to the fold as long as I lived. If you wish to be a rational being, follow my lead.
Firmly attached to what it teaches, fervently believing that all the kicks that come my way are no more than the effects of libertinism and the passions, shall I sacrifice the sweetest thoughts I know in life to sophisms which make me tremble? Madame de Bressac, a woman of virtue and piety, was not unaware that her son justified his wayward conduct by using all the paradoxes of the unbeliever. Oftentimes she communicated her grief to me and, being of a mind to think me possessed of a little more good sense than the other women who attended her, she took a fancy to confiding her sorrows to me.
He reached the stage where he no longer hid them from her.
Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu
Not only did he surround his mother with the dangerous rabble who served his pleasures but he went so far in his insolence as to tell her, within my hearing, that if she tried to interfere with his tastes once more, then he would convince her of their power to charm by demonstrations thereof in her presence.
Such talk and his behaviour cut me to the quick, and I did all in my power to summon from deep within me reasons for stifling the wretched passion which consumed me. But is love a sickness which can be cured? Every argu- ment I put up against it served only to stoke it higher, and the perfidious Bressac never seemed to me more alluring than when I had assembled in my mind all the reasons that should have led me to hate him.
One evening, shortly after quitting my mistress, I was taking the air on the balcony of my chamber, unable to make up my mind to go to bed, it being excessively warm, when the Marquis knocked unexpectedly on my door and begged me to give him leave to talk with me for part of the night.
Alas, every moment granted me by the cruel architect of my unhappiness seemed so precious that I dared not pass up the chance of a single instant with him. He entered, closed the door carefully and, flinging himself on to a chair next to me, said in a slightly embarrassed way: Swear now that you will never reveal anything of what I am about to say.
That is threat enough for me. Take my life, sir, it is yours, I owe it to you. But you must never think that you will prevail upon me to be a party to a crime the very idea of which my heart could never counten- ance. To your unphilosophical eye, two crimes are involved: As far as the destruction of a fellow being is concerned, Sophie, you can be clear in your own mind that it is an illusion.
The power to destroy life is not given to man who at most has the power to change its forms, but not the ability to obliterate it. Now, all forms are equal in the eyes of Nature. Nothing is lost in the immense melting-pot where endless variations are produced.
Each quantity of matter thrown into it is continually renewed and given a new shape. Whatever part we play in the process cannot offend directly against the whole. Nothing we can do outrages Nature directly. Our acts of destruction give her new vigour and feed her energy, but none of our wreckings can weaken her power. So of what concern is it to Nature, endlessly creating, if a mound of flesh which today has the shape of a woman, should reproduce itself tomorrow as countless insects of different types?
Have you courage enough to assert that it requires more effort on her part to construct an individual such as we are than to make a worm and that therefore Nature should logically take a greater interest in us? Or if her degree of concern, or rather unconcern, is the same in both cases, what can it matter to Nature if, through what we call the crime of one individual, another is changed into a fly or a lettuce? But if the most careful study of Nature should prove to my satisfaction that everything which flourishes on this earth, even the least perfect of her works, is of equal importance in her eyes, I should never imagine that the transformation of one of these beings into a thousand others could ever infringe her laws.
I should say to myself: But why should this footling consideration give me pause? On what grounds should it stay my hand? Was she thinking of me when lubricity drove her to conceive the foetus from which I grew?
Should I be grateful to her for thinking of her pleasure? In any case, it is not the blood of the mother which shapes the child, but the blood of the father only. The female womb fructifies, preserves, and amplifies, but does not of itself contribute any vivifying ingredient. If she dealt with us kindly, we can love her, indeed perhaps we should.
Will they not add, that it makes no difference to the general plan whether such-and-such a one is by preference good or bad, that if misery persecutes virtue and prosperity accompanies crime, those things being as one in Nature's view, far better to join company with the wicked who flourish, than to be counted amongst the virtuous who founder? Hence, it is important to anticipate those dangerous sophistries of a false philosophy; it is essential to show that through examples of afflicted virtue presented to a depraved spirit in which, however, there remain a few good principles, it is essential, I say,- to show that spirit quite as surely restored to righteousness by these means as by portraying this virtuous career ornate with the most glittering honors and the most flattering rewards.
Doubtless it is cruel to have to describe, on the one hand, a host of ills overwhelming a sweet-tempered and sensitive woman who, as best she is able, respects virtue, and, on the other, the affluence of prosperity of those who crush and mortify this same woman.
But were there nevertheless some good engendered of the demonstration, would one have to repent of making it? Ought one be sorry for having established a fact whence there resulted, for the wise man who reads to some purpose, so useful a lesson of submission to providential decrees and the fateful warning that it is often to recall us to our duties that Heaven strikes down beside us the person who seems to us best to have fulfilled his own?
Such are the sentiments which are going to direct our labors, and it is in consideration of these intentions that we ask the reader's indulgence for the erroneous doctrines which are to be placed in the mouths of our characters, and for the sometimes rather painful situations which, out of love for truth, we have been obliged to dress before his eyes.
Do you think the anger and the violence were too confronting for more conservative readers? Cruel bankruptcy brought her father to so ruinous a pass that his only means of escaping the most dreadful fate was to flee in haste to England, leaving his daughters in the care of his wife who died of grief within the space of one week after his departure.
You submitted the following rating and review. To bigots Tartuffe was indebted for his ordeal; Justine's will be the achievement of libertines, and little do I dread them: they'll not betray my intentions, these thou shalt perceive; thy opinion is sufficient to make my whole glory and after having pleased thee I must either please universally or find consolation in a general censure.
And it is in that direction that you had now best move. And will he not say that when virtue, however fine a thing it be, unhappily proves too weak to resist evil, then virtue becomes the worst path he can follow, and will he not conclude that in an age that is utterly corrupt, the best policy is to do as others do?