Renowned physicist Pierre Curie (1859 – 1906) shared more than a house and bed with his wife Marie: in 1903 they shared the Nobel Prize. Born in Poland, Marie Sklodovska was not only young and charming, but also Pierre’s intellectual equal. The following letter contains one of his many marriage proposals, which she initially refused. Eventually, however, he won her heart and they were married in 1895.
August 10, 1894
Nothing could have given me greater pleasure that to get news of you. The prospect of remaining two months without hearing about you had been extremely disagreeable to me: that is to say, your little note was more than welcome.
I hope you are laying up a stock of good air and that you will come back to us in October. As for me, I think I shall not go anywhere; I shall stay in the country, where I spend the whole day in front of my open window or in the garden.
We have promised each other — haven’t we? — to be at least great friends. If you will only not change your mind! For there are no promises that are binding; such things cannot be ordered at will. It would be a fine thing, just the same, in which I hardly dare believe, to pass our lives near each other, hypnotized by our dreams: your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream, and our scientific dream.
Of all those dreams the last is, I believe, the only legitimate one. I mean by that that we are powerless to change the social order and, even if we were not, we should not know what to do; in taking action, no matter in what direction, we should never be sure of not doing more harm than good, by retarding some inevitable evolution. From the scientific point of view, on the contrary, we may hope to do something; the ground is solider here, and any discovery that we may make, however small, will remain acquired knowledge.
See how it works out: it is agreed that we shall be great friends, but if you leave France in a year it would be an altogether too Platonic friendship, that of two creatures who would never see each other again. Wouldn’t it be better for you to stay with me? I know that this question angers you, and that you don’t want to speak of it again — and then, too, I feel so thoroughly unworthy of you from every point of view.
I thought of asking your permission to meet you by chance in Fribourg. But you are staying there, unless I am mistaken, only one day, and on that day you will of course belong to our friends the Kovalskis.
Believe me your very devoted
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