What other critics have said about "La Princesse de Clèves"

Its place in the 17th Century novel- The length of the novel


W. D. Howarth
Earlier novels in France had been shapeless and episodic with a multiplicity of characters and a lack of artistic focus, e.g., L'Astrée by d'Urfé, written from 1607 to 1627. In these books authors included subsidiary stories and  digressed freely.

Howarth recognises that there are:

Four secondary stories in La Princesse de Clèves:

1. The story of Diane de Poitiers

This first subsidiary episode begins on page 28 of the text and is approximately 6 pages long. (See summary notes page 8.)

 The story is provoked by a question from la Princesse de Clèves , who, still in her teens and unable to imagine love after the age of twenty-five, asks her mother how the king can be so much in love with Diane de Poitiers who is much older than he is-  in fact,  her granddaughter has just married-.  Furthermore, she had previously been the mistress of his father, the late king and has, according to rumour, other lovers besides the King.

Her mother begins her answer with a judgement that forms a graceful condemnation of Diane de Poitiers, making clear her opinion that:
She was neither young nor beautiful
She had not been faithful to the king
She had not loved him for himself alone without concern for glory and power
She had not used her power honestly and in the King’s interest alone.

Mme. de Chartres feels the need to make an apology for the forthcoming historical account. Her daughter replies that, on the contrary until now she has felt ignorant of the factions and intrigues at the court. She had not realised until recently the enmity between the Constable and the Queen as their conduct does not reveal this.

Mme. de Chartres said that Diane de Poitiers hated the Constable for suggesting to the king that he was not the father of all the children she had borne in their time together.  Her friendship towards the Constable, of which she made a big show, was false.

She warns her daughter not to judge by appearances at the court.

Continuing her history lesson to her daughter, Mme. de Chartres tells how Diane, then a beautiful woman, saved her father, when he was to be beheaded for treason against the previous king Francis I.  (1523)  Mme. de Chartres talks of her intervention with significant reticence; she says that Diane:

….fit si bien (je ne sais par quels moyens) qu’elle obtint la vie de son père.

The historian Brantôme is much more blunt in his suggestion about what she did.  The father died of the shockof his experience several days later but Diane remained as mistress of the King.

In 1526, the Queen Mother , perhaps deliberately,  brought the king together with one of her young girls.  Her only advantage over Diane was her extreme youth, but she replaced Diane de Poitiers as official mistress to the king. The king continued his relationship with his former mistress as well and the two women felt a mutual violent jealousy.  The king had, in fact, a little group of mistresses with whom he shared his favours in turn.

The death of his eldest son from a suspected poisoning came as a heavy blow to Francis I.  He did not have the same affection and respect for his second born son, Henry. He thought him timid and lifeless.  Diane de Poitiers suggested that to remedy  these failings, she should become his mistress.  She succeeded and Henry’s passion for her has continued unabated for twenty years.

Francis I was angered and upset by his son’s relationship with his former mistress.  It turned his sympathies further against Henry and in favour of his third son, the Duke of Orleans who was handsome, ambitious and spirited.

The rivalry and hostility between the two brothers dated back to childhood.  La duchesse d’Étampes formed an alliance with the Duke of Orleans against Henry and Diane de Poitiers and thus two cabals became established at the court.

The Emperor favoured the Duke of Orleans and in the peace treaty with France offered the Duke of Orleans the 17 provinces of the Netherlands and his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Henry, the Dauphin was in command  of the armies which had brought the Emperor’s army to the verge of defeat.  To prevent his final victory, la duchesse d’Étampes treacherously informed France’s enemies where the supplies they lacked could be found. However she and the Duke of Orleans were not to reap the benefits.  The Duke of Orleans died of the plague – Madame de Lafayette uses typical delicacy to describe it and calls it: “une espèce de maladie contagieuse”.  Two years later, Francis I died. 

In spite of his father’s recommendations against the Duke of Montmorency,the first thing the new king did was to bring back the Constable.  Henry’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, drove  the  duchesse d’Étampes from the court, took personal control and dismissed her enemies.  Le Comte de Taix, grand master of artillery was disgraced and removed from his post for warning Henry about his mistress’s infidelities.  One of her lovers, le Comte de Brissac, did arouse the king’s jealousy; nevertheless his domination by his mistress was such that the only immediate action he took was to ensure that the Comte was kept away from court by appointing him Governor of Piémont.  When eventually he came back  on the pretext of asking for more troops and supplies, the king’s lingering hatred ensured that he went away empty handed.
(The king’s jealousy about Brissac is mentioned again in the novel- see page 12 Summary Notes)

Mme.de Clèves adds that, besides Brissac, the king has had many other causes for jealousy, but has either not found out or not dared to complain.

On finishing, Mme de Chartres again apologises for boring her daughter.


2. The story of Mme. de Tournon told by the Prince de Clèves

This the second subsidiary story of the book
Although the characters are historical the story appears to be an invention
This episode begins on page 47 of the text and is approximately 10 pages long. (See summary notes page 12.)
M.de Clèves apologised for his delayed return. He had had to stay to console an unhappy friend, desolate over the death of Mme. de Tournon. He must however undeceive his wife about the latter’s merit. Although publicly Mme. de to Tournon pretended that since the death of her husband she could love no other man, M. de Clèves had long known that she had a secret liaison with the Count de of Sancerre.  Now he has been astonished to learn that she was at the same time giving the same hopes of marriage to Estouteville.

Sancerre who was M. de Cleve’s close friend had hidden his love for widowed Mme. de Tournon from him. M. de Clèves discovered the affair by chance. He had confided in Sancerre a secret o£ a jealous quarrel between the King and Diane de Potiers over a ring, which the King believed she had given to a departing lover. The next day M. de Clèves heard the same story, word for word, from Mme. de Tournon and he knew that Sancerre must have passed the story on to her.

M.de Clèves was angry and Sancerre confessed the truth also that Mme. de Tournon was resolved to marry him in spite of his limited fortune.

 M.de Clèves felt anxious about a woman who could maintain such a hypocritical pose. However, Sancerre was able to excuse her pretence and M. de Clèves became reassured on seeing the two together

In time Sancerre detected a cooling in her feelings. He felt also that after 2  years their marriage was even further off.

M.de Clèves felt that the marriage would in any case harm his reputation (as he was not rich enough for her and could be suspected of self- interest) and that a secret affair would be the best.

M.de Clèves told his friend that he should invite his mistress to confide in him and should respect her if she confided that she did not love him or loved someone else.

Mme. de Clèves blushed when her husband added that he respected sincerity so much that if his mistress or even his wife confessed to him that she loved someone else, he would forget he was a lover or a husband in order to advise and pity her.

Page 53 la sincérité me touche d’une telle sorte, que je crois que, si ma maîtresse, et même ma femme, m’avouait que quelqu’un lui plût, j’en serais affligé sans en être aigri; je quitterais le personnage d’amant ou de mari, pour la conseiller ou pour la plaindre.

Sancerre spoke to his mistress but she was merely offended at his suspicions. Nevertheless she postponed their marriage until after a long journey he had to make.

On arriving in Paris two days ago, M. de Clèves had heard of the death of Mme. de Tournon. He had hastened to console Sancerre, who had just returned to Paris. He found him inconsolable, sure that she would have married him on his return, even though he had had few letters from her while he had been away.

M. de Clèves had to leave him to go to the court. When he returned shortly afterwards, he found Sancerre’s mood totally changed. He was furiously angry, having discovered that his mistress had been unfaithful to him. He now suffered from the pangs of jealousy as well as the pangs of bereavement.

Sancerre explains that his friend Estouteville had just visited him and had in great distress, unaware of Sancerre’s love, confided his own love for Mme. de Tournon. He had told Sancerre that he had loved Mme. de Tournon for six months, but that she had expressly forbidden that he should speak of it to his friend Sancerre. He, Estouteville, was to marry her at the time of her death and she had arranged that for appearance’s sake that it should be said that her father commanded this marriage.

Estouteville convinced Sancerre when he showed him letters from Mme. de Tournon, which were full of affection, such as Sancerre had never known.

Sancerre thus suffered pains of her death and of her infidelity.

M. de Clèves seeing his friend so distraught arranged for his brother to keep him company and to avoid further distress he made arrangements to keep Estouteville away from him.

Mme. de Clèves was surprised at this deceit. M. de Clèves pointed out the extent of this deceit. In fact, it had been Estouteville and not Sancerre who had been the reason for her coming out of her solitude- a truth she had successfully contrived to hide  from Sancerre.

We note the relevance of this second subsidiary episode to Mme. de Clèves’ own situation currently and as it subsequently develops. 

It shows:

The complication that a hidden love affair can bring into three lives:  the ever more complex web of deceit which is built up.

How this dishonesty diminishes the moral stature of the perpetrators and destroys their public esteem.

It illustrates the cruelty of this deceit and the deep hurt that it causes, and also the violent torment of jealousy that is unleashed..

As a result of his friend’s experience, M. de Clèves recommends a frank confession in these circumstances.  This is a course of action that Mme de Clèves has repeatedly considered.

Rather than a digression, this episode provides a rehearsal of the issues of the main story of the novel, acted out in the lives of other people.  


3. The story of Anne Boleyn told by the Dauphiness

The history of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII is the subject of the 3rd subsidiary story.  It begins on page 70 of the text and is approximately 3 pages long. (See summary notes page 16.)

Mme. de Clèves was anxious in case Nemours might be persuaded to go to see Elizabeth of England. She was eager to have news of him during his absence from court.. The authoress tells us that afraid to reveal her secret passion, Mme. de Clèves made enquiries  instead about Queen Elizabeth- asking about her beauty and her character.

Mary Stuart produces a portrait of the English queen.  Inspired by a jealousy, which the others present do not suspect, Mme. de Clèves comments that the portrait of Elizabeth flatters her beauty.  Mary Stuart denies this. She believes Elizabeth has the beauty and charm of Anne Boleyn, her mother. This leads the Dauphiness to tell the story of Ann Boleyn.

Whatever may be the justification for the length of this account of English history at this point, it is clear that Mme de Lafayette has made a careful study of the four historians who were her sources.  The result is a clear history, neatly confined to the essentials, and of course cleared of any shocking frankness or crudity, which the authoress would have encountered in the historical works.

She praises the beauty and charm and vivacity of Anne Boleyn.  Born in England to a noble family, she had come to France, serving the sister of Henry VII on her marriage to the French king Louis XII.   On the death of the latter, Anne had not returned to England but had become lady in waiting to Queen Claude, first wife of Francis I. Later she had joined the retinue of the king’s sister, Marguerite d’Angoulême (authoress of the Heptameron -a literary fact, not mentioned by the source historians but which Mme de Lafayette feels the need to include). It was Marguerite who introduced Anne to the ideas of the reformed religion.

At the French court, Anne, who already had all the social graces, learnt the French manners and charmed many men including Francis I.  On returning to the English court, she was much admired and became lady in waiting to the Queen, Catherine of Aragon. This brought her into the company of Henry VIII, who fell madly in love with her.

Cardinal Wolsey, the king’s first minister, had had aspirations to the papacy but had been angered by the Emperor’s lack of support.  In revenge, he worked for a union of France and England against the Emperor.  He began to claim that Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was illegitimate and proposed that Henry VIII should marry the recently widowed sister of the king of France- Marguerite d’Angoulême.-a match which Ann Boleyn favoured for her own purposes.

Cardinal Wolsey organised a splendid meeting of the two kings, with Anne Boleyn at the side of Henry, with a retinue of a Queen and treated as such by the French King.

After nine years as her lover, Henry married Anne before the process of dissolution of his first marriage had been completed.  On being denounced by the Pope, Henry declared himself head of the English church, a step which Mme de Lafayette economically describes as “le mauvais changement”.

Anne’s success was not last long.  After an occasion when Anne made  a great display of affection towards her brother, the Viscomte de Rochefort (Rochford), Henry was overcome by uncontrollable jealousy.  Henry’s anger was fanned by the jealous malice of the wife of Anne’s brother, the Vicomtesse de Rochefort, Henry, now detached from Anne by his love for Jane Seymour, put his queen on trial.  The court convicted Anne and her brother of an unnatural and adulterous love.  They were both beheaded

Mme de Lafayette tells us that Henry subsequently had several other wives, whom he repudiated.  Among these was Catherine Havart (Howard) whose confidante was the same Vicomtesse de Rochefort  Catherine Howard was later to suffer the same fate as Ann Boleyn on the scaffold and the Vicomtesse de Rochefort was beheaded with her.  The authoress sees this punishment as an act of poetic justice for the wrongs she had perpetrated against Anne Boleyn.

Mme de Lafayette strips her narrative of some of the unessential detail given by the historians.  However as a woman, her imagination is captivated by the picture of pageantry and dress and in the description the meeting of Henry and Francis at the field of the Cloth of Gold, she includes rich, vivid detail.  A final detail in the story has remained her woman’s memory; she tells us that, finally:

Henry mourut, étant devenu d’une grosseur prodigieuse.

This third episode has a relevance to the story as it describes the destructive force that illicit sexual passions can unleash.  The account given by Mme de Lafayette keeps admirably within the unity of this theme.  However the length of this story, forms an interruption that holds in suspense the essential story of the novel, the progress of the love of Mme. de Clèves and Nemours.  Although Madame de Lafayette has written a fascinating account, the length of this episode, from an earlier period of history, set in a foreign court is hard to justify and must be judged artistically a digression.

The critic, Valincour, who was a contemporary of Mme de Lafayette adjudged, immediately after the appearance of the novel, that the long digression on Diane Poitiers was artificial and unnecessary.


4. In the fourth subsidiary story, the Vidame de Chartres tells his own story.  . 

It begins on page 87 of the text and is approximately 6 pages long. (See summary notes page 19-20.)

It is the story of the amorous predicament in which the Vidame has entangled himself.  This intrigue, to his peril, also involves the Queen, Catherine de Medici.

The Vidame tells Nemours that since he came to the Court Catherine de Medici has always shown him particular kindness.  On his part, his feelings for her were no more than those of the respect that he owed to the Queen of France.  He had a mistress,  Mme. de Thémines with whom he was very much in love.

Two years ago, he found himself several times in intimate conversation with the Queen and on one occasion he had boasted that he was a man who could keep a secret. The Queen answered that she badly missed some-one, whose discretion she could trust and she began to treat the Vidame as her confidant.  He responded by increasing the respects he gave to her at court.

One day she contrived to be alone with him, to warn him that his secret love affair with some other lady was known of and could cause him some misfortunes, as her confidant, because a man would betray any confidence to his mistress.

The Vidame tells Nemours that he had had a second mistress, besides Mme. de Thémines   He was confident that the secret of his affair with Mme. de Thémines was secure and that the Queen would know nothing of it.  He recognised that his relationship with the second woman (whom he described as “less proper and less beautiful”) and he broke this off to ensure his position. He felt able then to tell the Queen that he had no mistress, at the same time flattering her by saying that only some-one far above what he could hope for could engage his love.

The Queen doubted his sincerity and gave him two days to make a full confession, before becoming her confidant. She added the threat that if he should deceive her, she would not forgive him for the rest of her life.

The Vidame, proud of an attachment to the attractive Queen of France and yet unwilling to give up Mme. de Thémines decided to risk concealing the truth. 
He swore to the Queen his sincerity and the Queen promised to promote the Vidame’s interests.

From then on, she confided her intimate feelings to the Vidame. She told how in spite of appearances she could not bear the control which Diane de Potiers exerted over the King and how Diane de Poitiers was unfaithful to the King and despised her, the Queen. She complained of the lack of respect that Mary Stuart showed her.  She claimed that the Constable held the real power in France and had shown his hatred towards her and how the King’s favourite the Maréchal de Saint-André treated her no better.

The Vidame had been touched that she had confided her true feelings to him alone.
He had continued, however, his affair with Mme. de­ Thémines. When the latter appeared to cool in her attentions towards him, his love had redoubled. These new attentions became apparent and were reported to the Queen and he was forced to repeat his oath of fidelity. Finally Mme. de Thémines appeared to break off their relationship.

At that time the Vidame had brought a new complication into his life as he had fallen in love with Mme. de Martigues who was in the circle of Mary Stuart.  The Queen of France, who was of a violently jealous nature believed the Vidame’s interest was in Mary, the Dauphine.  The situation at court had become dangerous because Mary’s uncle, the Cardinal de Lorraine, who was seeking the Queen’s favour was exploiting the disagreement between the Queen and his niece.

The Vidame fears that the letter will prove to the Queen that he had an affair with Mme. de Thémines and was unfaithful also to this mistress with yet another woman.  He is also afraid that letter will be seen by Mme. de Martigues, whom he loves, and that she will quarrel with him.

Nemours reproaches the Vidame for his conduct says that he has deserved his troubles. Nemours himself has a reputation but would not dream of such conduct.

On m’a acccusé de n’être pas un amant fidèle, et d’avoir plusieurs galanteries à la fois; mais vous me passez de si loin, que je n’aurais seulement osé imaginer les choses que vous avez entreprises.

Nemours believes it is pointless to pretend that the letter was addressed to him and fell from his pocket. He is appalled when told that Mary Stuart and some courtiers are already of this opinion, as this could harm him in the eyes of Mme. de Clèves.

To exonerate Nemours if required, the Vidame gives him a second letter from a friend of Mme.de Thémines, which proves the true ownership of the letter.

The lengthy build-up of the episode of the Vidame’s letter, has until this point, seemed to be nothing more than a digression as the Vidame and his mistresses are not central to the essential story.  The events however that follow link the Vidame’s predicament very closely with the development of the romance between Mme. de Clèves and Nemours.  They bring the relationship of the two lovers to a new level of intensity.

The first result is that by her reaction to the letter, Mme. de Clèves gives absolute proof to Nemours of the passion she feels towards him.  Nemours’ first concern had been to go and reassure Mme. de Clèves that the letter that was the subject of all the court gossip was not, as believed, written to him.  He was pleased when Mme. de Clèves at first refused to see him, knowing that her bitterness showed her feelings for him.  When they are brought together, the sharp and bitter retorts that she makes to Nemours and the coldness of her manner, confirm this clearly.  Previously, Mme. de Clèves would have dissimulated her feelings, aware of what they revealed, but now she has a reached a stage that her emotions of jealousy are so powerful that she takes no account of this.

The Vidame’s letter brings about two pivotal situations in the story, when Mme. de Clèves and Nemours are brought together in tête à tête meetings.  After Mme. de Clèves refused to speak to Nemours, he went to see M. de Clèves and explained that there was a serious problem over a letter, which was of great importance to the Vidame.  M. de Clèves took Nemours into his wife’s bedroom and left them to solve the Vidame’s problem together. 

After Nemours has convinced Mme. de Clèves of his innocence in the affair of the letter, the two lovers join together in a joint conspiracy to rescue her uncle from the dangerous situation into which his disgraceful conduct has led him.  Together, she and Nemours plot their course of action. They decide not to return the letter to Mary Stuart, in case she should show it to Mme. de Martigues and as they would not wish Mary Stuart to know the secrets which the Queen confided to the Vidame.

This meeting was a delightful opportunity for Nemours and the authoress tells us frankly that Nemours would have taken advantage of their intimacy for his own interests had not Mary Stuart summoned Mme. de Clèves at that moment and broken up their tête à tête.

It is Mary Stuart who sets up the second intimate meeting between Mme. de Clèves and Nemours.  The Dauphine is angry when Mme. de Clèves tells her that she has given back the letter, with which she entrusted her to Nemours.  She tells Mme. de Clèves to disguise her handwriting and re-write a copy that she can give to the Queen.

Perhaps it is because of the distraction of this intrigue that Mme. de Clèves is no longer fighting her love for Nemours and is secretly delighted that this gives her a pretext to be together with him again.  Her plan is not to write the letter from memory but to get the letter from Nemours and copy it word for word imitating the handwriting.  As second meeting between the two lovers becomes necessary as Nemours tells her that he has already returned the letter to the Vidame.  They both decide to recompose the letter together.

Shut away alone again, they both felt a charm in this situation.

Page 103  Cet air de mystère et de confidence n’était pas d’un médiocre charme pour un prince et même pour madame de Clèves.

At the same time the presence in the house of her husband and the realisation that they were doing this for her uncle made Mme. de Clèves feel relaxed.  However this task allowed the two to share their most happy moments together.  They worked light-heartedly. Nemours made constant jokes to interrupt their work. They made the work last for a long time.

However their pleasurable distraction was to prove disastrous for the future of the Vidame and Mary Stuart.  When the letter was finally completed it was such a poor copy that it convinced no-one. The Queen was convinced the letter was to the Vidame not to Nemours and that Mary Stuart was involved. The enmity that Catherine of Medici conceived for Mary Stuart led to her expulsion from France on the death of her husband later she drove Mary from France.

This incident also led to the downfall of the Vidame. Mme de Lafayette tell us briefly:

(Page 104):
"Leur liaison se rompit, et elle le perdit ensuite a la conjuration d'Amboise, où il se trouva embarrassé."

History tells us that the Vidame’s liaison with the Queen was broken and one year later in 1560, he was put to death supposedly on her order.  His name had been linked to the Huguenot conspiracy- la conjuration d’Amboise.  It is probable that the Cardinal of Lorraine had some hand in his downfall as well).

This fourth episode is therefore not only vital in the development of the main story of the novel, but is also integrated into the historical background in which the story is skilfully set.

The views of other critics on the relevance or otherwise of these subsidiary episodes.

Some critics are happy to accept all the episodes  carefully placed illustrations of the central theme of the novel.

The general view of critics is that she writes with restraint and shows a conciseness of style not typical of the period.  W. G. Moore qualifies this by telling us (56) that modern research reveals that other writers contemporary to Mme de Lafayette were now writing studies of love with the same conciseness. Their works are now forgotten however. He praises Mme de Lafayette for the effectiveness of the restraint that Mme de Lafayette achieves:

"She seems to have renewed a contemporary fashion and so limited her subjects as to give it a power which the restraint of her style makes memorable." (p56)


The novel’s treatment of the theme of love


The theme of love in earlier French literature:

The pastoral novels.  In these stories love was the theme and marriage provided the round­ing-off of the story as the lovers lived happily ever after.

The burlesque novels. In these stories was a different view of marriage. The comic sport of the heroes was to make cuckolds of husbands.

Earlier critics used to claim that Mme de Lafayette was the first to give the reader a drama of conjugal love. This is not true. Ashton tells us (Page XV) that little-known authors in the late 16th and early 17th Century had dealt with the same theme: the pathos of love when a partner, who had engaged in the traditional arranged marriage of reason, fell in love with some-one else, when such love was a crime.

What is certainly true is that Mme de Lafayette brings to the discussion of this moral dilemma of marriage in the 17th Century a new realism and a unique lucid psychological perception.

The new Realism of Mme de Lafayette

The subject had great topicality. The women of the Précieux movement who had feminist aspirations were revolted by marriages of convenience, with their  injustice of forcing parties into a marriage without love, and their inequality as women were usually the party tht suffered most

The Abbé de Pure in his novel "La Précieuse" is led to wonder: "s'il fallait dire se marier contre quelqu'un ou à quelqu'un."

The Précieux wanted husbands and wives to be equal partners within a marriage. They saw that in practice this would mean that many women would be forced to seek a satisfactory relationship outside their marriage in the same way as their husbands did.

Other Précieux either out of respect for the bonds of marriage, or out of disappointment with the experience of adultery took refuge in the concept of a, "honnête amitié" with a man, i.e., a platonic relationship.

The Lucid Psychological Perception of the novel

Lagarde and Michard say:(page 356) We have human truth in this novel.
The sentiments are true; the analysis of the passion in the soul of Mme de Clèves, of her husband and of the Duke de Nemours has not lost any validitywith the passing centuries.

Lagarde and Michard go on to say that the drama which is enacted in the heart of the heroine touches us directly: it can be summed up by these two maxims of La Rochefoucauld:

"La meme fermeté qui sert à résister à l'amour sert aussi à le rendre violent et durable."
"Qu'une femme est à plaindre, quand elle a tout ensemble de l'amour et de la vertu!"

The progression of the passion in the soul of Mme de Clèves.

Lagarde and Michard (p 359) show how the essential interest of the novel resides in the analysis of the progression of the passion in the soul of Mme de Clèves in spite of her efforts to remain mistress of herself. They distinguish several stages:

Stage I
The chance meeting between Mme de Clèves and Nemours at the     
ball. Passion is born right from the first meeting. 

Stage II          
The heroine believes Nemours is in love with la Reine Dauphine. The jealousy which she feels forces her to confess to herself the love which she feels for him,

Stage III
She renounces the effort of closing her heart to their love:
"Elle ne se flatta, plus de l'esperance de ne le pas aimer; ells songea seulement a ne lui en donner jamais aucune marque."

Stage IV         But even that is impossible:

a Is not her silence when Nemours steals her portrait already A mark of love?

B A little later Nemours suffers an accident and struck by a strong emotion, she betrays her love to him.

C Then she suffers a new attack of jealousy which prevents her from hiding her feelings. (It is a question of a letter written by a woman to the Vidame which she believes is addressed to Nemours).

Stage V          From then she has only one recourse left – to admit to her husband the confusion of her heart.

The closing pages of the novel

W. D. Howarth picks out the closing pages of the novel as a masterpiece of psychological analysis:
Mme de Clèves acknowledges the mixture of motives which make her still refuse Nemours:

"Ce que je crois devoir à la mémoire de M de Cleves serait faible s'il n'etait soutenu par l'interet de mon repos.......je ne vaincrai jamais mes scrupules et je n'espère pas aussi de surmonter l'inclination que j'ai pour vous. Elle me rendra malheureuse et je me priverai de votre vue, quelque violence qu'il m'en coûte."

Ashton comments on the soundness of Mme de Lafayette's psychological perception in the final scene between Nemours and Mme de Cleves. "There is no open rupture; Nemours still hopes; the hopes wane;
"Enfin des années entières s'étant passées, le temps et l'absence ralentirent sa douleur et éteignerent sa passion."