“No Tomorrow,” a Libertine Tale


Anatole France described Vivant Denon as a character who had stepped out of a Watteau’s painting. An artist and writer, Vivant Denon happens to be the first curator of Le Musée de Louvre. He left us hundreds of lithographs, valuable sketch books, and a famous libertine story, No Tomorrow. In fact he left us two versions of the same story, the 1777 version and the 1812 version. I would like to offer my reader an opportunity to compare the 1777 and 1812 variant openings, for these opening lines reflect remarkably the changes in tone that take place between the late XVIII and the early XIX centuries:

The countess took me as her lover without loving me; she cheated on me; and when I got mad, she left me; that was the sequence. Then I, who used to love her, decided to avenge myself and took her as a mistress when I no longer loved her (1777).

I loved the countess with all the naïveté of a twenty-year-old, and whenever she cheated on me, I would get mad; that is why she left me; but as soon as I repented, she took me back; so, in the end, because of my naïveté and in spite of being cheated, I remained her lover and the happiest of men (1812).

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