Just about six months before my departure for Spain, I first met the Chevalier des Grieux. Though I rarely quitted my retreat, still the interest I felt in my child's welfare induced me occasionally to undertake short journeys, which, however, I took good care to abridge as much as possible. I was one day returning from Rouen, where I had been, at her request, to attend a cause then pending before the Parliament of Normandy, respecting an inheritance to which I had claims derived from my maternal grandfather. Having taken the road by Evreux, where I slept the first night, I on the following day, about dinner-time, reached Passy, a distance of five or six leagues.
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The young chevalier des Grieux renounces his riches and his noble family to be with the incomparable Manon. Together they are swept into poverty, misfortunes, and ultimately, tragedy in the New World. This love story has been immortalized in opera. And, as with other grand romances of history and literature, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Tristan and Iseult, the passion of these young fierce lovers captures the imagination and sympathies of the reader.
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The reader can be no more certain than des Grieux that she really loves him, or that she could really love anyone. Such sensibility is not to be found among the commercial or working or even the ruling classes, but only among the leisured rural gentry. The 'quality' alone can provide a higher ideal than the coarseness and amorality of absolutism which invariably subdues passion in the interests of politics. The magnates with whom des Grieux comes in contact are unfeeling, as exclusively concerned for their own pleasure and amusement as Manon is.
A knight's tale
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