MARQUIS DE SADE: HIS LIFE AND WORK
THE LIFE OF MARQUIS DE SADE
Who does not know this famous verse in praise of the first meeting with Laura, Madonna Laura, by Francesco Petrarch in his most famous Sonnet? What has this symbol of tender feeling to do in a book on Marquis de Sade? Laura, whom Petrarch met on that memorable Monday in the holy week in 1327 in the Church of Santa Chiara at Avignon, daughter of Audebert de Noues, was the wife of a Hugo de Sade, the ancestor of the family of de Sade. A strange and cruel jest in the history of literature: in the beginning a light from heaven, in the end, the darkness of hell!
Hugo de Sade, the husband of Laura, called the "old man," left many sons, one of whom, Paul de Sade, became the Archbishop of Marseilles and the confidant of the Queen, Jolande of Aragoine. He died in 1433 and left his wealth to the Cathedral of Marseilles.
Hugo, the third son of the first Hugo de Sade and the beautiful Laura, was the progenitor of the three branches of the house, Mazan, Eiguières and Tarascon. His oldest son, Jean de Sade, was a learned jurist and was named president of the first parliament of Provence by Louis II, King of Anjou. His brother, Elzear de Sade, was so powerful that Emperor Sigismund allowed him to use the imperial eagle on his coat of arms.
Pierre de Sade, of the branch of Eiguières, was the first governor of Marseilles (1565-1568). He cleaned the city of all evil elements.
Jean Baptiste de Sade, Bishop of Cavaillon, wrote many pious religious works. He died in December 21, 1667.
Joseph de Sade, Seigneur d’ Eiguières, born in 1684, was a very famous general and had notable victories both on land and sea. He held many important posts and received many decorations and honors. He died on January 29, 1761.
Hippolyte de Sade was also noted for his amazing sea exploits. Voltaire sent him a poem on the occasion of his marriage and Hippolyte replied using the same intricate verse scheme. He died in 1788.
Jacques François Paul Alphonse de Sade, the uncle of our Marquis de Sade, had a great influence upon him and hence must be described in more detail. He was born in 1705 and was the third son of Gaspar François de Sade. He devoted himself to the study of theology, became the general vicar of the Archbishop of Toulouse and Narbonne (1735) stayed for many years in Paris, where he experienced very profane and happy days at the side of the beautiful Madame de Ia Popelinière, the mistress of the Marshal of Saxony. He was an elegant writer, a spirited man, who gave himself up to "all frivolous pursuits of the century" and knew when to say farewell to "the vices of Paris" and return to the solitude of Vaucluse, where he pursued his studies on Petrarch and Laura and wrote many famous works on them as well as an excellent translation of all of Petrarch’s works.
If one thinks in terms of hereditary influence it is clear that Marquis de Sade inherited the properties of his uncle and not his father. It so happened that the uncle undertook the education of his nephew for some time. At any rate the nephew had both his main characteristics: a love for frivolity and for writing. For Marquis de Sade was an ardent bibliophile. And if the uncle cared for love only in his youth, the nephew made his life work the theory and practice of vice.
The father of Marquis de Sade, Count Jean Baptiste François Joseph de Sade, was born in 1700, entered the military service and became the ambassador to Russia (1730) and London (1733). He allied himself with the Bourbons by marriage with Marie Eléonore de MailIé, niece of Cardinal Richelieu and court lady of Princess Condé. The great Condé had also married a Maillé. Comte de Sade was appointed in 1738 the general-lieutenant for Bresse, Bugey and Valromey; he bought the property of Montreuil at Versailles and returned to private life. He died on January 24, 1767, and left many manuscripts of anecdotes, moral and philosophical ideas, as well as a large correspondence on the war during the years 1741-1746.
We would here like to mention the eldest son of Marquis de Sade, Louis Marie de Sade, born in 1764 at Paris. He was a famous army officer and fought in many campaigns. He was also noted for his writings, especially his History of the French Nation (1805), a scholarly investigation. He was killed by brigands in Otranto on June 9, 1809.
On the second day of June in the year 1740, one of the most remarkable men of the eighteenth century, indeed of modern times, was born in the home of the great Condé. Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, Philosopher of Vice and professeur de crime, as Michelet and Taine call him, received the title of Comte after his father's death, but since he became notorious even before then the name Marquis de Sade clung to him. At the age of four he was sent to his grandmother at Avignon in sunny Provence, then a few years at Ebreuil with his uncle who carefully gave him his first lessons and prepared him for admittance in 1750 to the College Louis le Grand in Rue Saint Jacques in Paris. This institution was deemed the best in all France and gave the students the opportunity of a well-grounded and diverse education. They had to give public speeches, present plays, debate, etc. More care was taken of the mind than of the body which became defensively inured to the blows and floggings of the teacher.
There are many descriptions of the personality of de Sade at this tender age, but all are not wellfounded. According to Uzanne he was at this age an "adorable boy with delicate, pale face from which two great black eyes gleamed." But already there was an atmosphere of evil about the entire environment around him and was even more dangerous because of his almost "feminine charm" which inspired involuntary sympathy. Lacroix gives him a "graceful figure, blue eyes and blond, well-kept hair." A German author indulges himself in the following fantasy: "The young Vicomte was of such startling beauty that even in his early youth all the ladies that saw him stood stock still in rapt admiration. He also had a charming voice that pierced into the hearts of all women. He was always dressed in the latest of fashions, bright, colorful clothing that set off his appearance perfectly."
At any rate Marquis de Sade made as a youth a striking appearance. There exists unfortunately no authentic portrait of him. There are, of course, many pictures of him, mostly poor lithographs, but all have been proven to be false.
We also do not know in what mental condition Marquis de Sade left the College Louis le Grand. He is said to have been "an inveterate bookworm from earliest youth and early established a philosophic system on epicurean principles. He was also devoted to fine art and was a proficient musician, dancer, fencer and sculptor. He spent many days in the art galleries, especially those in the Louvre, Fontainebleau and Versailles." That de Sade loved music is confirmed by Lacroix and that he often visited art galleries is proven by his description of the collection of paintings in Florence (Juliette IV, 19 ff.).
Janin believes that when de Sade left school be was already a "fanatic of vice.” De Sade left school in the same year (1754) that Maximilian de Robespierre entered.
The young Marquis then entered the regiment of Cheraux-Legers, became a sub-lieutenant in the king's regiment, lieutenant with the Carabiniers and finally captain of a cavalry regiment, serving in the seven-year-war with Germany. According to Lacroix he returned to Paris in 1766 where his father reproached him with "many youthful follies," but in 1763 de Sade was already in Paris. In May, 1880, a letter of the Marquis dated Vincennes, November 2, 1763, was found giving the date of his marriage, May 17, 1763. This is supported by the circumstance that the oldest son of the Marquis, Louis Marie de Sade, became a lieutenant in the Soubise Regiment in 1783. Since it is quite improbable that a boy of 16 could become a lieutenant Marquis de Sade must have returned to Paris to be married in 1763.
The history of the marriage has been described in detail by the bibliophile Jacob from contemporary accounts. Marciat is inclined to place great value from a psychological standpoint on this marriage for the moral deviations of Marquis de Sade. We cannot agree. De Sade's moral decline had already started. The "youthful follies" his father threw up at him, were a part of the general depravity of the French Army as a result of the seven-year-war. His father wanted the son married to rescue him from "the evil practices that flourished in the army during the war."
Montreuil, president of the Cour des aides, long a friend of the father, Marquis de Sade, had two daughters, 20 and 23 years of age, both pretty and well educated but differing in character and external figure. The elder, a brunette with black hair and dark eyes, was very majestic in appearance, very pious and passionless. The younger, a blue-eyed blonde, in spite of her youthful age appeared mature, was very intelligent, "of a heavenly disposition and charm" and was of a very passionate nature.
It had been agreed by the fathers that Marquis should marry the elder daughter and as luck would have it, he saw at his first visit to the home of President Montreuil only the younger daughter since her sister was ill. He immediately fell passionately in love with the younger who entranced him with her musical enthusiasm, her sweet voice and excellent technique at the harp. When de Sade met the older sister at his second visit, he felt only distaste for her and made known that he wanted to marry the younger. The president flatly refused and the Comte de Sade gave his son the choice between submission to his will or return to the army in an obscure post and disinheritance. So the Marquis, whose appeal "to the heart of the mother of the two girls found only a cold reply" was forced to marry the older sister. The younger had already returned de Sade’s love and had sought in vain to move her parents by cries and prayers. Lacroix declares in detail that de Sade had married the older sister only in thought of committing adultery with the younger and that he very probably had come to an understanding with both sisters. Madame Montreuil, who understood the nature of her son-in-law from the very beginning, placed the younger daughter in a convent to escape the threatening scandal.
It is undecided whether this marriage is the chief origin of the demoralization of Marquis de Sade, as Marciat believes. It assuredly explains the hatred of marriage that is found in all of the works of de Sade. That his wife gave him no cause is shown by Ginistry's Letters of Marquise de Sade. She is revealed in these letters as a good wife, always tender and loving to him, stood by his side in all the scandals that surrounded him, helped him in a thousand ways during his stay in prison, assisted him in his flight from prison, in short, showed him all the care and regards of a loving wife. Women were said to have been irresistibly drawn to him by the "air of vice" that surrounded him. Ginistry has shown in detail how the Marquis evaluated his wife's love. We give one of the letters from his wife: "You know the world much better than I and do what you Will. I am only the servant for your commands. You know that you can count on me as your best and dearest friend." De Sade wrote on the margin of this letter: "How can one lie so shamelessly?"
It is not strange that in the first year of the marriage after vain attempts by the Marquis to find the younger Montreuil, that he broke out into wild debaucheries, threw away his health and wealth with the assistance of the most notorious roués of his time and the "Coryphée of perfumed orgies" of the Duke of Fronsac and Prince Lamballe and did not disdain to use lackeys in wild saturnalias.
Initiated in the "secrets of the petites maisons and bordellos" he sought to outdo his companions by devising new, refined vices. Indeed there is a contemporary report that ascribes the idea of the Deer Park to Marquis de Sade. Even a few months after his first marriage de Sade, but 23 years old, was imprisoned in Vincennes because of great excesses in a petite maison. Here he was very retiring and quiet and made no trouble, only asked for a servant and for permission to enjoy some fresh air at intervals. In a letter dated November 2 he asked that his wife be informed of his imprisonment, without giving any reasons, and desired a priest to be sent to him. He closed with the words: "As unhappy as I am, I do not bewail my fate; for I desire divine punishment; to repent for my errors, to repair my wrongs will hence be my only desire." He must already have written an obscene book about this time. For be wrote in this letter of the "unfortunate book" which he wrote the preceding month. Which of his writings de Sade referred to is not clear. Cabanès believes that he referred to Justine but this is not borne out by present literary evidence and data.
Perhaps Marciat is correct in saying that this letter to the governor of the prison is written in a hypocritical style and intention, but it is also possible that this was one of the religious seizures that are so frequent with the perverse and libertines. There is at hand a letter to the prison chaplain, Griffer, on November 4, 1763: "We have a new prisoner at Vincennes who wishes to speak to a priest and has immediate need of your services although he is not sick. The person is Marquis de Sade, a young man of 23 years. Please visit him as soon as possible and I will be grateful if you report to me."
Paul Verlaine has written that the Marquis de Sade spent a great part of his life in prisons. Counting from his last sentence at Charenton he spent 27 years in 11 jails: of these 27 years 13 were in his old age. In the solitude of the prison he worked on the material for his books. We can describe the entire manhood of Marquis de Sade as an interrupted prison life of dramatic proceedings that spread his name and "fame" throughout the world.
The reason for his second imprisonment was one of the most talked of contemporary proceedings. It was the Keller Affair.
We have many different accounts of the Keller affair. The most important is that of Madame du Deffand in a letter written ten days after the incident to the English writer and statesman, Horace Walpole. She so wrote: "Here is a tragic and very strange story. A certain Comte de Sade, nephew of the abbé and Petrarch-student, met on Easter Tuesday a tall, well-built woman of 30 years who asked him for alms. He questioned her at length, showed much interest, promised to free her from her misery and make her the superintendent of his petite maison near Paris. The woman eagerly assented and was ordered for the next day. When she appeared the Marquis showed her all the corners and rooms of the house and finally brought her to the attic. There he ordered her to undress completely. She threw herself at his feet and begged him to spare her since she was a respectable woman. He threatened her with a pistol that he drew from his pocket and so forced her to obey. Then he bound her hands together and whipped her savagely. When she was completely covered with blood he applied salve to all her wounds and had her lay down. I do not know whether he gave her food and drink. At any rate he first saw her again an the following morning, looked at her wounds and saw that the salve had worked effectively. Then he took a knife and made cuts on her entire body, again placed salve on all her wounds, and left. The victim succeeded in testing her bonds and to free herself by means of a window to the street. It is not known whether she was injured by the fall. A great outcry arose. The police-lieutenant was informed. De Sade was imprisoned. What will happen further is not known; it may be that this will be all the punishment since he comes from highly respectable people. It is said that the reason for his dreadful action was to prove the value of his salve."
On the following day (April 13) Madame du Deffand wrote: "Since yesterday I have been informed of further details of this affair. The place in which he had his petite maison was Arceuil. He whipped and cut her on the same day and poured balsam on her wounds. Then he untied her hands, covered her and placed her on a good bed. As soon as she was alone she made a bold escape through the window. The police-lieutenant had de Sade imprisoned. The latter had the audacity to claim that his crime was a noble public service because he had thus shown to the public the miraculous working of a salve that immediately cured all wounds. She received a large sum of damages from him and he was therefore freed."
This is the most trustworthy report of the affair. The other accounts of the notable case deviate so greatly from one another that they befog rather than clear the details of the event. Janin wrote that Marquis de Sade had in Arceuil a petite maison where he held his orgies. The windows were covered with double shutters and the house was padded (matelassé) inside so that no sound or sight was granted the passerby. On an Easter morning, April 3, 1768, his servant and confederate brought there two common prostitutes; the Marquis himself, on his way to Arceuil, met a poor woman, Rosa Keller, widow of a certain Valentine, who was vying to earn her bread by prostitution. De Sade spoke to her, promised her food and sleep, addressed her very reservedly and tenderly, so that she rode in the carriage with him to Arceuil. The Marquis brought her to the second story of the dimly lighted house, where both prostitutes drunk and decorated with flowers, sat at a richly laden table. She was here gagged, entirely undressed, bound and beaten until she was "only a single wound" whereupon the orgy with the two prostitutes began. Then Janin described the flight of the victim, the riot, the imprisonment of the criminal who was found dead-drunk in a pool of "wine and blood."
Eulenberg gives practically the same account and adds that the sadism was evidently a preparatory act to incite de Sade for the girls.
Lacroix reports that Keller was whipped under obscene circumstances which Madame du Deffand did not describe in her letters to Walpole but that even the "greatest prudes told to each other all the scabrous details without any feminine modesty." He adds that Keller was cut in many places with a knife and that the wounds were sealed again with Spanish wax.
Rétif de la Bretonne, who knew the Marquis since 1768, gave in his Nights of Paris an entirely different account of the history of the "femme vivante dissequé." Marquis de Sade is said to have met Keller on the Place des Victoires, brought her to his house, placed her in an anatomy-room, where a great number of people were assembled, and made preparations to vivisect her. "Who wants this unfortunate being in the world?" said the Marquis in a grave voice. "She can do nothing and will serve to reveal to us the mysteries of the human structure." At a lull in the vivisection the woman is supposed to have freed herself and escaped. In her later story she claimed she saw a number of corpses in the house.
According to Cabanès, it was much simpler: Rosa Keller took one look at the room and company and fled to the street, nude as she was.
Finally there is an account by Brierre de Boismont which Manciat relates to the Keller affair but which we believe to be another case. Some years before the Revolution some people in a lonely street of Paris heard weak cries coming from the ground-floor of a house. They broke into it and found a nude girl, white as wax, upon a table. Blood streamed from cuts in all parts of the body. When the victim was revived she said that she had been enticed, beaten and cut by Marquis de Sade after which he satisfied himself on her. According to Brierre de Boismont this affair was hushed up, the victim receiving damages.
The Keller affair went off quite easily for de Sade. He was first imprisoned at the castle in Saumur but was released in six weeks after Rosa Keller had received damages of 100 louisdors.
He then again started on his debaucheries in the lowest spheres of the theatrical and literary world, associated with people of all sorts of callings, surrounded himself with prostitutes and gave free rein to his perverse inclinations. Montreuil finally had the police forbid the Marquis entrance to his castle, La Coste, when he was informed of the vices of his son-in-law by an actress (probably Beauvoisin of the Théâtre Français).
His wife who had asked for permission to visit the Castle Saumur in order to be near him, was foolish enough to inform him that her sister had finally left the convent. De Sade, whose desire for the younger sister had never diminished, hypocritically pretended indifference to his wife. But the first chance he was alone with his beloved, he fell at her feet, swore that he loved only her and that all the crimes had been the result of his unfortunate love. He threatened to take his life if his plea was not heard and he understood from the features of the silent young girl that he would receive a favorable answer. So, according to Lacroix, he conceived the plan of committing a strange crime, dazzle his sister-in-law with a suicide and thus get her to flee with him. The execution of this plan is the Marseilles Scandal (The Cantharidic Bonbon Orgy).
Bachaumont's secret memoirs has the following report under the date July 25, 1772: "I am told that Comte de Sade, who in 1768 caused great disorder by his crimes with a prostitute on whom he wanted to test a new cure, has just played in Marseilles a spectacle at first amusing but later horrible in its consequences. He gave a ball to which he invited many people and for dessert gave them very pretty chocolate pastilles. They were mixed with powdered 'spanish fly.' Their action is well known. All who ate them were seized by shameless ardor and lust and started the wildest excesses of love. The festival became an ancient Roman orgy. The most modest of women could not restrain themselves. The Marquis de Sade abused his sister-in-law and then fled with her to escape the threatening penalty of death. Many persons died as the result of the excesses and many others still suffer recurrent pains."
This account is plainly exaggerated. According to Lacroix who received his information from a trustworthy eyewitness, Marquis de Sade left with his servant for Marseilles. He had provided himself with cantharidic bonbons which he distributed in a public house. One prostitute sprang from a window and killed herself. The others, half nude, gave themselves to the most infamous debaucheries even in the midst of a great crowd. Two girls died as a result of the poison. De Sade read a letter from the council announcing the judgment of death upon him, showed this letter to his sister-in-law, called himself a monster and threatened to kill himself. She pleaded with him to flee and he enticed her to accompany him. After an hour they departed.
According to the Universal Biography this account is also false because no one died and only a few persons were "lightly harassed." Rétif de la Bretonne places the scene of the action in Paris in the Faubourg St Honoré. This is important since Rétif, who hated the Marquis, declared no one died as a result of this orgy.
It is hence quite certain that the affair did not lead to any deaths. Marseilles often saw such scenes which were part of the extravagant life of the ancien régime. According to authentic documents discovered by Cabanès the only actual facts in this famous affair were the visit of Marquis de Sade to one or a number of bordellos at Marseilles and the distribution of innocent bonbons to the prostitutes.
Marquis de Sade was sentenced by the Parliament in Aix on September 11, 1772, to death on account of sodomy and poisoning in contumaciam. The severity of this sentence was ascribed to the Chancellor Maupeou who wanted to make an example of de Sade. The death sentence was finally lifted on June 30, 1778. The Marquis had to pay a penalty of 50 francs; according to the author of Contemporary Biography he received only an admonition.
He had in the meantime fled with, his sister-in-law to Italy where he led a quiet life with her until after a short, severe illness she suddenly died and he fell back into his old habits. He was then seized in Piedmont and imprisoned in Fort Miolans on December 8, 1772. He conspired with his fellow-prisoner, the well-known de Songy (Baron de I'Allée), and they escaped on the night of May 1, 1773, with the aid of the Marquise and 15 men. They went to Geneva and from there to Italy where he met his wife. He soon changed her company for that of a mistress. He returned in 1777 to France where his wife and mother-in-law occupied themselves with his rehabilitation.
After a short stay in Provence where he led a vicious life, de Sade was seized, brought to Paris and imprisoned in the chief tower of the fortress at Vincennes. In a letter to the governor he implored him to allow him to see his wife. Somehow he got in touch with her and through her efforts he secured a reversal of judgment. De Sade was brought to Aix where Counselor Siméom brilliantly defended him and brought about an annulment of judgment on June 30, 1778. But by the influence of his mother-in-law, who rightly feared de Sade's freedom more than his imprisonment, the judgment was made retroactive and he was brought back to Vincennes. He was guarded by Inspector Marais, already well known to us. At a stop in Lambesc on July 5, 1778, he succeeded in escaping, again with the aid of his wife. But he was shortly thereafter (September 7) discovered by Marais at his castle and this time brought back without mishap to Vincennes. In 1784, he was transferred to the Bastille.
From 1774 to 1790, in the flower of his manhood, Marquis de Sade sat in prison. There is no doubt that here he made the first outlines of his works.
In his first year at Vincennes he was placed in a cold, damp room containing only a bed. No other furniture. His food was pushed through a small bole. Books and writing materials were withheld. This he found extremely painful.
His wife, who clung to him with patient love, finally got permission to send him books, writing materials and some other useful items. She later received permission to visit him. But every visit started a scandal. The Marquise had to be protected from the anger and wild fits of her husband. Hence police-lieutenant Le Noir denied her visits on September 25, 1782. Not until July 13, 1786, was she again allowed to see the Marquis. As a precaution there were always people present to protect her from the violence of her husband.
Marciat finds in the life of Marquis de Sade before his imprisonment a tendency to be cruel, a hatred for all women and an untamable sexual lust. He rightly concludes that thirteen years of imprisonment, from his twenty-eighth to fifty-first year, must have wrought terrific havoc on his body and mind, since confinement made every satisfaction of his mighty sexual inclination impossible.
This is seen in his increased irritability due to his illness. It is proven by the endless mistrust of his wife as shown by the notations on his wife's letters, which ascribe sexual motives to all her actions. The prison made a deep impression on de Sade. In the solitude of the cell his fantasy roamed free in images of passion and cruelty. It could be his only substitution for reality. As soon as he received books he sought in them all the possible examples and models for his vicious presentations which he placed as a record in his many manuscripts. This also was plainly a means of escape for his tired mind and body. He wrote and read incessantly while in prison.
Unfortunately the diaries kept by de Sade from 1777 to 1798, 13 books, were burnt so that an important aid for knowledge of his mental state was lost forever. He had marked down in his diaries everything that he had "said, done, heard, read, wrote, felt, or thought for 13 years." Only his works are left for a judgment of his personality.
It is interesting to note that while in prison the Marquis kept a correspondence with some of his former mistresses. There recently came up at auction some of these letters, filled with passionate remembrances.
By chance, Mirabeau was imprisoned at Vincennes at this time and, curiously enough, he also wrote his obscene works there. A strange effect of prison life!
There exists a remarkable letter by Mirabeau on his relations with the Marquis. "De Sade yesterday set the prison in an uproar and without the slightest provocation called me most infamous names. I was permitted by Rougemont (the governor of the prison) to walk about the court, while his request to do the same was denied. He asked me for my name so that at his release he could cut off my ears. I lost my patience and told him: 'My name is that of an honorable man, who never was imprisoned for strangling women.' He was silent and since then has never opened his mouth to me. It is dreadful to be in the same place with such a monster.”
The first scenes of the Revolution took place before the imprisonment of Marquis de Sade, who from youth had great sympathy for the movement. On July 2, 1789, before the storming of the Bastille, he halted the passersby on Rue Saint Antoine by means of a speaking trumpet, and soon had a great crowd listening to his loud insults of the governor of the Bastille. As the result of this incident Marquis de Sade was imprisoned at Charenton on July 4 and so missed the storming of the Bastille which took place on the fourteenth. He was freed from Charenton on March 29, 1790, by demand of the people. His first act was to hasten the separation from his wife. He also became estranged from his family; his sons left the country at the beginning of the Revolution. According to Lacroix he took a mistress who acted the hostess at his home. He lived first in the Rue Pot de Fer, near Saint Sulpice, later in Rue Neuve des Mathurins, Chausée d'Antin, No. 20. According to most reliable reports the Marquis was in a bad way as far as material wealth went. There exists a letter written in the year III of the Revolution, in which de Sade asked for a position as librarian or museum-conservator because he was completely without means, having lost his literary property at the storming of the Bastille, his lands at Marseilles by confiscation. There is another letter written in the year VI of the Revolution in which he asked payment for a poem he wrote and the return of a comedy. Soon after his release from Charenton he began to write a great number of comedies which he sold to the numerous theatres. For a couple extra louisdors he himself would play a part.
During the Revolution de Sade’s chief works appeared one after the other in quick succession. A year after his release, 1791, there appeared Justine, which was written for the most part in prison. The first edition is just erotic; those later, especially the last edition of 1797, contain all the bloody details. Marciat rightly believes that the influence of the milieu, the mighty events in the Revolution, called forth these later changes. Another novel written in the Bastille was Aline and Valcour which appeared in 1793. Then followed in 1795 Philosophy in the Boudoir and in 1797 as a crowning glory the double publication of Justine and Juliette. His 120 Days of Sodom was also written in the Bastille in 1785 but was not discovered until 1904. Until 1804, the year of his new imprisonment, the Marquis' pen was sterile, a fact which will later be explained.
Much has been made of the fact that Marquis de Sade at times denied the authorship of his works. But that signified nothing. It was a common practice of contemporary writers; for example, Voltaire and Mirabeau. Again, de Sade probably did not care to sit in prison any longer. At any rate he acknowledged to his personal friends that he was the author and presented to them a deluxe edition of Justine and Juliette in ten volumes.
We are scantily supplied with information on the private life of Marquis de Sade during the Revolution. One can only conclude from his earlier affairs that he resumed his previous vicious life. When Marquis de Sade was again seized in 1801 his bedroom was found full of large pictures representing the "principal obscenities of the novel, Justine." Many stories are told of finding instruments of torture in his bedroom. He had his walls decorated with pictures of all sorts of enemas and nude figures in all kinds of postures.
Especially notable is the political activity of Marquis de Sade during the French Revolution. He had clearly and early foretold its appearance. He said in Aline and Valcour, written in the Bastille in 1788: "A great Revolution is being prepared in this country. It has become tired of the crimes of our rulers, their cruelties, debaucheries and stupidities. It is tired of despotism and is getting ready to break its chains." In the solitude of his cell he had time to develop systematically all the Revolutionary principles, especially the fight against God, empire and priests.
The "martyr of the Bastille" also took a lively part in the leading incidents of the Revolution. He became secretary to the Section des Piques, also called Section de Place Vendôme and Section de Robespierre. In the disorders of September 2, when everyone remained at home, he thought he would be safest in the bosom of his section. So he left his home in Rue Neuve des Mathurins and went in the evening to the Place Vendôme. The friends of Robespierre were not there but in the Jacobin club. De Sade was recognized only as a man who had been in prison under the ancien régime. "Would you like to be our secretary?" "Gladly." He took the pen.
De Sade was an enthusiastic admirer of the bloodthirsty Marat and after his murder by Charlotte Corday, delivered his funeral oration, all filled with revolutionary phrases and celebrating "holy and divine freedom" as the only goddess of France. But all are agreed in saying that the Marquis was secretly despised and hated by the members of his section as well as by the other revolutionaries. According to Cabanès he was still called Marquis by his companions and adds that he was the only living Marquis under the rule of Robespierre and Fouquier. He was probably a republican not from political conviction but rather from his war against justice and law in general, because of his théorie du libertinage. He was the philosopher of vice but not a passionate politician. He developed a theory of absolute evil but in life he was very gentle, prudent, and full of virtuous phrases, which did not fail to please the great terrorists. A paradoxical action gave them the excuse of proceeding against him. He saved his wife's parents from the scaffold, for which he was condemned as a "moderate" and on December 6, 1793, upon the command of the Comité de la Sûreté Générale he was imprisoned in turn at Madelonettes, Carmes and Picpus; he, after a year of prison, finally received his freedom through Rovère, to whom he sold his property at La Coste. He had money for a while, once more.
De Sade went back to his literary activity which was hindered under the Directory. Indeed he had presented to each of the members a special deluxe edition of Justine and Juliette. At that time all the notorious works of Marquis de Sade were publicly sold. They were found in all bookstores and catalogues. A great capitalist financed the sale. This lasted until 1801. In the preceding year Marquis de Sade had published a novel Zoloë and Her Two Acolytes, a pamphlet against Josephine de Beauharnais (Zoloë), the ladies Tallien (Laurenda) and Visconti (Volsange), Bonaparte (Baron d'Orsec), Barres (Vicomte de Sabar), a senator (Fessinot), etc., all carrying on the most shameless infamies in a petite maison.
On account of this diatribe de Sade was seized on March 5, 1801. Without being legally tried he was brought to the prison of Sainte Pélagie, because a "trial would have provoked great scandal," and because the punishment was "even too mild for the crime." The prefect complained that de Sade seduced the young people in Sainte Pélagie and he was sent to Bicêtre. Upon the pleas of his family he was brought to Charenton on April 26, 1803. All his manuscripts and books were again confiscated. The practice of setting people in prison without trials was common in the rule of Napoleon. The poet Desorgues who wrote a chanson against Napoleon with the refrain
was interned in Charenton where he died in 1808. Many other authors met the same fate. De Sade indeed came off lucky. Buckle cites many similar fates in his History of Civilization in England.
We possess many interesting accounts of Marquis de Sade's stay in the insane asylum at Charenton. The most notable is the report of the famous Dr. Royer Collard on the Marquis in 1808. We give it verbatim:
This report had no results. Marquis de Sade remained in Charenton. There is a justification for the conjecture that he preferred this to a prison. He was the especial favorite of the director of Charenton, Abbé Coulmier. He was thus allowed the greatest possible freedom. Royer Collard's repeated complaints on the theatre finally resulted in its removal. But in its place were substituted concerts and balls! This he also made many protests against, but it was not until May 6, 1813, that they were stopped.
We have many impressions of the personality of Marquis de Sade during his stay at Charenton but they are none too trustworthy. Janin describes the perverted influence he had on the patients and the tender sympathy he showed to young and pretty girls. Lacroix writes that all the persons he met gave the best reports of him. Nodier recalls that he “spoke politely, solemnly and respectfully of all that was deserving of respect." But the "grace and elegance" were not borne out by his appearance for he was enormously fat. His tired eyes, though, would at times suddenly light up in excitement. According to the Universal Biography de Sade retained his perverted habits until his death.
Marquis de Sade died at the age of 74 on December 2, 1814, at 10 o'clock in the evening, easily and quietly as a result of a long illness which had nevertheless not impaired his vigor. De Sade wrote of his illness in a letter to Napoleon dated June 17, 1808. He bitterly complained that he had led a most unhappy existence for 20 years in three different prisons. He was 70 years old, almost blind, suffered from gout, and had very severe pains in the breast and stomach. This could be confirmed by the doctors at Charenton. He therefore begged His Majesty to release him. The archives at Charenton state that the Marquis had been ill for some time from "liver trouble as a result of asthma." The end was sudden: he became severely ill two days before his death. His son, Armand de Sade, was present and burnt all the "dangerous papers" of his father. He was scarcely dead when "his skull was seized as an invaluable booty as if with one stroke the secret of the strange constitution would be discovered." The skull was like all others. It was a notable mixture of vice and virtue, of crime and honor, of hate and love. It was small, well formed and very like a woman's.
After his death the following testament was found: