Sunday, April 13, 2008

Extreme furniture

Richardson's Clarissa's coffin:
It is placed near the window like a harpsichord, though covered over to the ground: and when she is so ill that she cannot well go to her closet, she writes and reads upon it, as others would upon a desk or table.
Valmont, to the Marquise de Mertueil, in Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons (the translation is Helen Constantine's, the new Penguin edition), on the prostitute Emilie:
This indulgence on my part is in exchange for her kindness in serving as a desk on which to write to my beautiful devotee [the virtuous Madame de Tourvel]. I thought it would be amusing to send from the bed, from the arms almost, of a girl a letter -- interrupted, indeed, for a downright infidelity -- and in which I give her an exact account of my situation and conduct! Emilie, who has read the letter, laughed and laughed, and I hope you will too.

[The letter to Madame de Tourvel follows:]

... In fact, as I am writing this to you, the situation I am in makes me more conscious than ever of the irresistible power of love. I have difficulty in keeping enough self-control to order my ideas. And already I foresee that I shall not be able to finish this letter without being obliged to break off. Surely I may hope that you will one day share the passion I feel at present? . . . . The very table on which I am writing, dedicated for the first time to this use, has become for me the sacred altar of love. How much more beautiful it will be now in my eyes! I shall have traced upon it my vow to love you for ever!

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