“I have been a long time in telling you what I think of the Comte de Valmont. The fact is that it was only by an heroic effort that I managed to finish it. Not but what this work is honestly conceived and fairly well written. But the effect of reading through these thousands of pages is so profoundly wearisome that one is scarcely in a position to do justice to the work of Abbe Gerard. One cannot help being vexed with him for being so unnecessarily tedious.
“As so often happens, the best part of this book are the notes, that is to say, a mass of extracts and selections taken from the famous writers of the last two centuries, notably from Rousseau. All the ‘proofs’ and apologetic arguments ruin the work unfortunately, the eloquence and dialectics of Rousseau, Diderot, Helvetius, Holbach, and even Voltaire, differing very much from those of Abbe Gerard. It is the same with the libertines’ reasons refuted by the father of the Comte de Valmont. It must be a very dangerous thing to bring forward mischievous doctrines with so much force. They have a savour which renders the best things insipid, and it is with these good doctrines that the six or seven volumes of the Comte de Valmont are filled. Abbe Gerard did not wish his work to be called a novel, and as a matter of fact there is neither drama nor action in the interminable letters of the Marquis, the Count and Emilie.
“Count de Valmont is one of those sceptics who are often met with in the world. A man of weak mind, pretentious and foppish, incapable of thinking and reflecting for himself, ignorant into the bargain, and without any kind of knowledge upon any subject, he meets his hapless father with all sorts of difficulties against morality, religion and Christianity in particular, just as if he had a right to an opinion on matters the study of which requires so much enlightenment and takes up so much timed. The best thing the poor fellow can do is to reform his ways, and he does not fail to neglect doing this at nearly every volume.
“The seventh volume of the edition which I have before me is entitled, La Theorie du Bonheur; ou, L’ Art de se rendre Heureux mis a la Portee de tous les Hommes, faisant Suite ait ‘Comte de Valmont,’ Paris Bossange, 1801, eleventh edition. This is a different book, whatever the publisher may say, and I confess that this secret of happiness, brought within the reach of everybody, did not create a very favourable impression upon me.”]