Diderot the Romantic | Harper's Magazine

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Diderot the Romantic



Sentiment and life are eternal. Someone who lives has always lived and will continue to live forever. The only difference I know between death and life is that now you live as a single entity (mass) and that later, after dissolution, twenty years from now, you will live in scattered distinct molecules . . .

The rest of the evening I was teased about my paradox. They offered me beautiful living pears, thinking grapes, but I said : Those who love each other during their life and who insist on being buried side by side are perhaps not as crazy as you might think. Perhaps their ashes touch, blend, and join together. Que scays-je? What do I know? Perhaps they have kept a residue of warmth and life that gives them pleasure deep in the cold urn that encloses them . . .

Oh, my Sophie, then I could keep the hope of touching you, feeling you, loving you, seeking for you, joining with you and becoming one with you when we are no more! . . . Let me keep this fantasy; it’s sweet; it guarantees me eternity in you and with you.

Denis Diderot, letter to Sophie Volland, Oct. 17, 1759 in: Correspondence de Diderot, vol. 2, pp. 283-84 (Georges Roth, ed. 1956) (S.H./E.H. transl.)

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