In this letter, while waiting to hear from his lover Clémentine Curial, Marie-Henri Beyle (pen name Stendhal) becomes so anxious that he decides to write her reply himself—including within it the news that he most fears. In fact, however, their affair continued until September of 1826, when, Stendhal wrote, “No woman’s departure ever caused me so much grief.”
Paris. the 24th of June 1824, at noon
You can have no notion of the black thoughts into which your silence has plunged me. I was thinking that yesterday night, when you were packing, you might have found the time to write me three lines, which you could have put into the box at Laon. When no letter came yesterday, I hoped for one this morning. “Whilst changing horses at S—,” I said to myself, “she will have asked for a sheet of paper.” But no: occupied solely with her daughter, she forgets the being who can no longer think of anything but her!
As I pondered at my desk, with the shutters closed, my black grief found entertainment in composing the following letter which you will perhaps write to me before long—for, after all, what would it have cost you to write me a few words? Here, then, is the letter which I shall have the sorrow to read:
“My dear Henri, you exacted from me a promise to be sincere. This opening to my letter already enables you to foretell what remains to be said. Do not take it too greatly to heart, my dear friend. Bear in mind that, in default of keener sentiments, I shall always be bound to you by the sincerest friendship, and shall always take the tenderest interest in whatever may befall you. You realise, my dear friend, from the tone of this letter that a very sincere trust in you has taken that place in my heart which was formerly occupied by feelings of another sort. I like to believe that this trust will be justified, and that I shall never have to repent what I have been to you.
“Farewell, my dear friend, let us both be reasonable. Accept the friendship, the tender friendship, that I offer you. and do not fail to come and see me when I return to Paris.
“Farewell, my friend…”
For Stendhal’s description of the seven stages of love, click here.
Find a review of Stendhal’s autobiography, The Life of Henry Brulard, here.