Letters: Victor Hugo to Adèle Foucher

24 October 2019

Saturday Evening, January, 1820.

A few words from you, my beloved Adèle, have again changed my state of mind. Yes, you can do anything with me; and tomorrow, were I even dead, the sweet tones of your voice, the tender pressure of your lips, would call me back to life again.

How differently I shall feel as I go to sleep to-night from what I did last evening! Yesterday, Adèle, all confidence in the future had abandoned me; I no longer believed that you loved me; yesterday the hour of my death would have been welcome to me.

And yet I said to myself: "If it is quite true she does not love me, and nothing in me has deserved her love, that love without which there is no charm left for me in life, is that any reason I should die? Is it for my own personal happiness that I exist? Oh no! My whole existence is devoted to her, shall be hers in spite of herself. And by what right have I aspired to win her love? Am I more than an angel or a deity? I love her, it is true — I — even I! I am ready for her sake to sacrifice everything with joy — even the hope that she may love me; there is no a limit to the devotion for her that I am capable of; for one of her looks, for one of her smiles. But could I do otherwise? Is she not the one supreme object in my life? If she shows me indifference, if she even hates me, it will be my misfortune — that is all. What matter can it be, since it does not impair her happiness? Oh! yes; if she cannot love me, I must only blame myself. My duty is to wait upon her steps, to envelop her existence with my own, to be her defence against all perils, to offer her my head to set her foot on, even to place myself between her and every sorrow, without making any claim for myself — without expecting any reward. Too happy if from time to time she deigns to bend upon her slave a look of pity, and. Oh ! if only she remembers me, and turns to me in a moment of danger!

Alas! would she but permit me to give my life that all her desires might be accomplished, all her caprices attained! Would she but permit me to kiss with devotion and respect her very footsteps; would she but consent to lean upon me sometimes in life’s difficult places — then I should have obtained the only happiness to which I have the presumption to aspire.

Because I am ready to give everything up for her sake, is that any reason she should owe me any gratitude? Is it her fault that I love her? Must she fancy herself constrained because of that to love me? No! she may make what use she pleases of my devotion, she may paye me with hatred for my services, she may scorn my idolatry, she may treat me with contempt, but I shall have no right whatever to complain of such an angel, nor to cease for a moment to lavish on her the care that she dis dains. And when each one of my days shall have been marked by some sacrifice made for her sake,on the day of my death I shall not have paid all the infinite debt that my existence owes to hers.”

Such were my thoughts at this time yesterday, Adèle, my much beloved, and such were the resolutions of my soul. They are the same to-day. Only now I have the certainty of happiness, of a happiness so great that I cannot think of it without trembling,and hardly believe it, even now.

Then is it true you love me, Adele? Tell me, may I put faith in that most ravishing idea? Does it not strike you that I might become mad with joy if I could pass my whole life at your feet, sure of making you as happy as I should be myself; sure of being adored by you, even as I adore you? Oh! your letter has given me back peace; your words this evening filled me with happiness. Receive my thanks a thousand times ; Adele, my beloved angel, I should like to kneel before you as I would before a divinity. How happy you have made me ! Adieu, adieu! I shall have a happy night dreaming of you.

Sleep sweetly, and let your husband take the twelve dear kisses that you promised him, and many more for which you have not yet given him permission.

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