Related Searches


Marquis de Sade

[sahd, sad; Fr. sad]
Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, Marquis de Sade (June 2, 1740December 2, 1814) was a French aristocrat, revolutionary and writer of philosophy-laden and often violent pornography. He was a philosopher of extreme freedom (or at least licentiousness), unrestrained by morality, religion or law, with the pursuit of personal pleasure being the highest principle. Sade was incarcerated in various prisons and in an insane asylum for about 32 years of his life; eleven years in Paris (10 of which were spent in the Bastille) a month in Conciergerie, 2 years in a fortress, a year in Madelonnettes, 3 years in Bicêtre, a year in Sainte-Pélagie, and 13 years in the Charenton insane asylum. Much of his writing was done during his imprisonment. The term "sadism" is derived from his name.


Early life and education

The Marquis de Sade was born in the Condé palace, Paris, to Comte Jean-Bastiste François Joseph de Sade and Marie-Eléonore de Maillé de Carman, (cousin and lady-in-waiting to the princess of Condé).

He was educated by an uncle, the abbé de Sade. Later, he attended Jesuit lycée, then pursued a military career, becoming Colonel of a Dragoon regiment, and fighting in the Seven Years' War. In 1763, on returning from war, he courted a rich magistrate's daughter, but her father rejected his suit, and, instead, arranged a marriage to his elder daughter, Renée-Pélagie de Montreuil; that marriage engendred two sons and a daughter.

In 1766, he had a private theatre built in his castle at Lacoste in the Provence; in January of 1767, his father died.

Title and Heirs

The de Sade men alternated using the marquis (marquess) and comte (count) titles. His grandfather, Gaspard François de Sade, was the first to use marquis; occasionally, he was the Marquis de Sade, but is documentarily identified as the Marquis de Mazan. The de Sade family were Noblesse d'épée, of the oldest, Frank-descended nobility, so, assuming a noble title without a King's grant, was customarily de rigueur. Alternating title usage indicates that titular hierarchy (below duc et pair) was notional; theoretically, the marquis title was granted to noblemen owning several countships, but its use by men of dubious lineage caused its disrepute. At Court, precedence was by seniority and royal favour, not title. There is father-and-son correspondence, wherein father addresses son as marquis.

Twentieth-century descendant, the Comte Xavier de Sade, was the first to defend the family name and be interested in the Marquis's controversial work. Until 1948, Comte Xavier had known little of his ancestor because the Marquis de Sade's works went unpublished and unread in France until the 1960s. Thus, when he found a trunk containing journals, letters, manuscripts, and legal documents, he granted access to biographer Gilbert Lêly; the works were published from 1948 to the 1960s. The Comte Xavier and his descendants own the copyrights and the family name, a peculiar legal manoeuver because the Marquis de Sade died and his copyrights expired two centuries earlier.

To avoid association with the Marquis de Sade, descendants have refused the Marquis title, despite all aristocratic titles being dormant since 1848. Bibliographically, the de Sade family have some original manuscripts, others are in universities and libraries, or were destroyed in the eighteenth century. Moreover, the Comte Xavier de Sade founded a winery, honouring the Marquis de Sade, vinting champagne and claret, introduced to market in the late 1980s. Before Comte Xavier, most descendants were against using any of the Marquis's names, yet he named a son Donatien.

Scandals and imprisonment

It is said that Sade lived a scandalous libertine existence and, purportedly, repeatedly procured young prostitutes as well as employees of both sexes in his castle in Lacoste. He was also accused of blasphemy, a serious offense at that time. His behavior included an affair with his wife's sister, Anne-Prospere, who had come to live at the castle.

One of Sade's first major scandals occurred on Easter Sunday in 1768, in which he procured the sexual services of a woman, Rose Keller whether she was a prostitute or not is widely disputed. He was accused of taking her to his chateau at Arcueil, imprisoning her there and sexually and physically abusing her. She escaped by climbing out of a second-floor window and running away. It was at this time that la Presidente, Sade's mother-in-law, obtained a lettre de cachet from the king, excluding Sade from the jurisdiction of the courts. The lettre de cachet would later prove disastrous for the marquis.

Beginning in 1763, Sade lived mainly in or near Paris. Several prostitutes there complained about mistreatment by him and he was put under surveillance by the police who made detailed reports of his escapades. After several short imprisonments he was exiled to his chateau at Lacoste in 1768.

An episode in Marseille, in 1772, involved the non-lethal poisoning of prostitutes with the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly and sodomy with his manservant Latour. That year the two men were sentenced to death in absentia for sodomy and said poisoning. They fled to Italy, Sade took his wife's sister with him and had an affair with her. His mother-in-law never forgave him for that. She obtained a lettre de cachet for his arrest (a royal order of arrest and imprisonment, without stated cause or access to the courts).

Sade and Latour were caught and imprisoned at the Fortress of Miolans, in late 1772, but escaped four months later.

Sade later hid at Lacoste where he rejoined his wife who became an accomplice in his subsequent endeavors. He kept a group of young employees at Lacoste, most of whom complained about sexual mistreatment and quickly left his service. Sade had to flee to Italy again. During this time he wrote Voyage d'Italie, which, along with his earlier travel writings, has never been translated into English. In 1776 he returned to Lacoste, again hired several servant girls, most of whom fled. In 1777 the father of one of those employees came to Lacoste, to claim her, and attempted to shoot the Marquis at point-blank range. Fortunately for Sade, the gun misfired.

Later that year Sade was tricked into visiting his supposedly ill mother, who in fact had recently died, in Paris. He was arrested there and imprisoned in the Château de Vincennes. He successfully appealed his death sentence in 1778 but remained imprisoned under the lettre de cachet. He escaped but was soon recaptured. He resumed writing and met fellow prisoner Comte de Mirabeau who also wrote erotic works. Despite sharing this in common, the two came to dislike each other immensely.

In 1784 Vincennes was closed and Sade was transferred to the Bastille. On July 2 1789 he reportedly shouted out from his cell, to the crowd outside, "They are killing the prisoners here!" causing somewhat of a riot. Two days later he was transferred to the insane asylum at Charenton near Paris. (The storming of the Bastille, marking the start of the French Revolution, occurred on July 14.)

He had been working on his magnum opus Les 120 Journées de Sodome (The 120 Days of Sodom). To his despair he believed that the manuscript was lost during his transferral; but he continued to write.

He was released from Charenton in 1790 after the new Constituent Assembly abolished the instrument of lettre de cachet. His wife obtained a divorce soon after.

Return to freedom, involvement with the Republic and imprisonment

During Sade's time of freedom, beginning in 1790, he published several of his books anonymously. He met Marie-Constance Quesnet, a former actress, and mother of a six year old son, who had been abandoned by her husband. Constance and Sade would stay together for the rest of his life. Sade was by now extremely obese.

He initially ingratiated himself with the new political situation after the revolution, supported the Republic, called himself "Citizen Sade" and managed to obtain several official positions despite his aristocratic background.

Due to the damage done to his estate in Lacoste which was sacked in 1789 by an angry mob, he moved to Paris. In 1790 he was elected to the National Convention where he represented the far left. He was a member of the Piques section, a section notorious for its radical views. He wrote several political pamphlets, in which he called for the implementation of direct vote. However there is much to suggest that he suffered abuse from his fellow revolutionaries due to his aristocratic background. Matters were not helped by the desertion of his son, a second lietenant and the aide-de-camp to an important colonel the Marquis de Toulengeon, in May 1792. De Sade was forced to disavow his son's desertion in order to save his neck. Later that year his name was entered - whether by error or willful malice - on the list of émigrés of the Bouches-du-Rhone department.

Appalled by the Reign of Terror in 1793, he wrote an admiring eulogy for Jean-Paul Marat to secure his position. Then he resigned his posts, was accused of "moderatism" and imprisoned for over a year. He barely escaped the guillotine, probably due to an administrative error. This experience presumably confirmed his life-long detestation of state tyranny and especially of the death penalty. He was released in 1794, after the overthrow and execution of Maximilien Robespierre had effectively ended the Reign of Terror.

In 1796, now all but destitute, he had to sell his ruined castle in Lacoste. The ruins of the castle were acquired in the 1990s by fashion designer Pierre Cardin who now holds regular theater festivals there.

Imprisonment for his writings and death

In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette. Sade was arrested at his publisher's office and imprisoned without trial; first in the Sainte-Pélagie prison and, following allegations that he had tried to seduce young fellow prisoners there, in the harsh fortress of Bicêtre.

After intervention by his family, he was declared insane in 1803 and transferred once more to the asylum at Charenton. His ex-wife and children had agreed to pay his pension there.

Constance was allowed to live with him at Charenton. The benign director of the institution, Abbé de Coulmier, allowed and encouraged him to stage several of his plays, with the inmates as actors, to be viewed by the Parisian public. Coulmier's novel approaches to psychotherapy attracted much opposition. In 1809 new police orders put Sade into solitary confinement and deprived him of pens and paper, though Coulmier succeeded in ameliorating this harsh treatment.

In 1813, the government ordered Coulmier to suspend all theatrical performances.

Sade began an affair with 13-year-old Madeleine Leclerc, daughter of an employee at Charenton. This affair lasted some 4 years, until Sade's death in 1814. He had left instructions in his will to be cremated and his ashes scattered but, instead, he was buried in Charenton. His skull was later removed from the grave for phrenological examination. His son had all his remaining unpublished manuscripts burned, including the immense multi-volume work Les Journées de Florbelle.

Appraisal and criticism

Numerous writers and artists, especially those concerned with sexuality, have been both repelled and fascinated by de Sade.

The contemporary rival pornographer Rétif de la Bretonne published an Anti-Justine in 1793.

Simone de Beauvoir (in her essay Must we burn Sade?, published in Les Temps modernes, December 1951 and January 1952) and other writers have attempted to locate traces of a radical philosophy of freedom in Sade's writings, preceding modern existentialism by some 150 years. He has also been seen as a precursor of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis in his focus on sexuality as a motive force. The surrealists admired him as one of their forerunners, and Guillaume Apollinaire famously called him "the freest spirit that has yet existed".

Pierre Klossowski, in his 1947 book Sade Mon Prochain ("Sade My Neighbor"), analyzes Sade's philosophy as a precursor of nihilism, negating both Christian values and the materialism of the Enlightenment.

One of the essays in Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) is titled "Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality" and interprets the ruthless and calculating behavior of Juliette as the embodiment of the philosophy of enlightenment. Similarly, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan posited in his 1966 essay "Kant avec Sade" that de Sade's ethic was the complementary completion of the categorical imperative originally formulated by Immanuel Kant.

In his 1988 Political Theory and Modernity, William E. Connolly analyzes Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom as an argument against trend of earlier political philosophers, notably Rousseau and Hobbes, and their attempts to reconcile nature, reason and virtue as basis of ordered society.

In The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography (1979), Angela Carter provides a feminist reading of Sade, seeing him as a "moral pornographer" who creates spaces for women. Similarly, Susan Sontag defended both Sade and Georges Bataille's Histoire de l'oeil (Story of the Eye) in her essay, "The Pornographic Imagination" (1967) on the basis their works were transgressive texts, and argued that neither should be censored.

By contrast, Andrea Dworkin saw Sade as the exemplary woman-hating pornographer, supporting her theory that pornography inevitably leads to violence against women. One chapter of her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1979) is devoted to an analysis of Sade. Susie Bright claims that Dworkin's first novel Ice and Fire, which is rife with violence and abuse, can be seen as a modern re-telling of Sade's Juliette.

Works written by de Sade


  • Justine, Les Infortunes de la Vertu (ou les Malheurs de la Vertu, or Good Conduct Well-Chastised)
  • Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded (l'Histoire de Juliette, sa soeur [ou les Prosperites du vice])
  • The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Licentiousness (Les 120 Journees de Sodome, ou l'Ecole de libertinage)
  • The Crimes of Love (Les Crimes de l'Amour, Nouvelles heroiques et tragiques)
    • Vol. I
      • Juliette et Raunai, ou la Conspiration d'Amboise, nouvelle historique
      • La Double Epreuve
    • Vol. II
    • Vol. III
      • Rodrigue, ou la Tour enchantee, conte allegorique
      • Laurence and Antonio, An Italian Tale (Laurence et Antonio, nouvelle italienne)
      • Ernestine, A Swedish Tale (Ernestine, nouvelle suedoise)
    • Vol. IV
      • Dorgeville, ou le Criminel par Vertu
      • La Comtesse de Sancerre, ou la Rivale de sa fille, anecdote de la Cour de Bourgogne
      • Eugénie de Franval (recently published by Hesperus Classics under the title of Incest)
  • Voyage d'Italie
  • Le Portefeuille d'un homme de lettres (Destroyed / Lost)
  • OEuvres diverses (1764 - 1869)
    • Le Philosophe soi-disant
    • Voyage de Hollande
  • La Marquise de Gange (1813)
  • Contes et Fabliaux du XVIII siecle, par troubadour provencal
    • Historiettes
      • Le Serpent
      • La Saillie gasconne
      • L'Heureuse Feinte
      • Le M... puni
      • L'Eveque embourbe
      • Le Revenant
      • Les Harangueurs provencaux
      • Attrapez-moi toujours de meme
      • L'Epoux complaisant
      • Aventure incomprehensible
      • La Fleur de chataignier
    • Contes et Fabliaux
      • L'Instituteur philosophe
      • La Prude, ou la Rencontre imprevue
      • Emilie de Tourville, ou la Cruaute fraternelle
      • Augustine de Villeblanche, ou le Stratageme de l'amour
      • Soit fait ainsi qu'il est requis
      • Le President mystifie
      • La Marquise de Theleme, ou les Effets du libertinage (Destroyed / Lost)
      • Le Talion
      • Le Cocu de lui-meme, ou les Raccommodement imprevu
      • Il y a place pour deux
      • L'Epoux corrige
      • Le Mari pretre, conte provencal
      • La Chatelaine de Longueville, ou la Femme vengee
      • Le Filous
    • Appendice
      • Les Dangers de la bienfaisance
  • Aline et Valcour, ou le Roman philosophique (1795)
  • Adelaide de Brunswick, princesse de Saxe
  • Les Journees de Florbelle, ou la Nature devoilee, suivies des Memoires de l'abbe de Modose et des Adventures d'Emilie de Volnange servant de preuves aux assertions (Destroyed / Lost)
    • Les Conversations du chateau de Charmelle (First Draft of Les Journees Florbelle, Destroyed / Lost)
  • Les Delassements du libertin, ou la Neuvaine de Cythere (Destroyed / Lost)
  • La Fine Mouche (Destroyed / Lost)
  • L'Heureux Echange (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Les Inconvenients de la pitie (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Les Reliques (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Le Cure de Prato (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Histoire secrete d'Isabelle de Baviere, reine de France (1953)


  • La Liste du Suisse (Destroyed / Lost)
  • La Messe trop chere (Destroyed / Lost)
  • L'Honnete Ivrogne (Destroyed / Lost)
  • N'y allez jamais sans lumiere (Destroyed / Lost)
  • La justice venitienne (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Adelaide de Miramas, ou le Fanatisme protestan (Destroyed / Lost)


  • Reflections on the Novel (Idee sur les romans, introductory text to Les Crimes de l'Amour)
  • The Author of Les Crimes de l'Amour to Villeterque, Hack Writer (1803) (L'Auteur de "Les Crimes de l'Amour" a Villeterque, folliculaire)


  • Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man (Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond)
  • Philosophy in the Bedroom (La Philosophie dans le boudoir)
  • Oxtiern, The Misfortunes of Libertinage (1800) (Le Comte Oxtiern ou les Effets du Libertinage)
  • Les Jumelles ou le /choix difficile
  • Le Prevaricateur ou le Magistrat du temps passe
  • Jeanne Laisne, ou le Siege de Beauvais
  • L'Ecole des jaloux ou la Folle Epreuve
  • Le Misanthrope par amour ou Sophie et Desfrancs
  • Le Capricieux, ou l'Homme inegal
  • Les Antiquaires
  • Henriette et Saint-Clair, ou la Force du Sang (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Franchise et Trahison
  • Fanny, ou les Effets du desespoir
  • La Tour mysterieuse
  • L'Union des arts ou les Ruses de l'amour
    • Divertissement (missing)
    • La Fille malheureuse (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Les Fetes de l'amitie
  • L'Egarement de l'infortune (Destroyed / Lost)
  • Tancrede (Destroyed / Lost)

Political Pamphlets

  • Adresse d'un citoyen de Paris, au roi des Français (1791)
  • Section des Piques. Observations presentées à l'Assemblee administrative des hopitaux (28 octobre 1792)
  • Section des Piques. Idée sur le mode de la sanction des Lois; par un citoyen de cette Section (2 novembre 1792)
  • Pétition des Sections de Paris à la Convention nationale (1793)
  • Section des Piques. Extraits des Registres des déliberations de l'Assemblée générale et permanente de la Section des Piques (1793)
  • La Section des Piques à ses Frères et Amis de la Société de la Liberté et de l'Égalite, à Saintes, departement de la Charente-Inferieure (1793)
  • Section des Piques. Discours prononcé par la Section des Piques, aux manes de Marat et de Le Pelletier, par Sade, citoyen de cette section et membre de la Société populaire (1793)
  • Petition de la Section des Piques, aux representants de peuple français (1793)
  • Les Caprices, ou un peu de tout (Destroyed / Lost)

Letter Correspondence/Personal Notes Posthumously Published into Books

  • Letters From Prison
  • Correspondance inédite du Marquis de Sade, de ses proches et de ses familiers, publiée avec une introduction, des annales et des notes par Paul Bourdin (1929)
  • L'Aigle, Mademoiselle..., Lettres publiées pour la première fois sur les manuscrits autographes inédits avec une Préface et un Commentaire par Gilbert Lely (1949)
  • Le Carillon de Vincennes. Lettres inédites publiées avec des notes par Gilbert Lely (1953)
  • Cahiers personnels (1803-1804). Publiés pour la première fois sur les manuscrits autographes inédits avec une préface et des notes par Gilbert Lely (1953)
  • Monsieur le 6. Lettres inédites (1778 - 1784) publiées et annotées par Georges Daumas. Préface de Gilbert Lely (1954)
  • Cent onze Notes pour La Nouvelle Justine. Collection "La Terrain vague," no. IV (1956)


Fictional works

Sade's life and works have been the subject of numerous fictional plays, films, pornographic or erotic drawings, etchings and more. These include Peter Weiss's play Marat/Sade, a fantasia extrapolating from the fact that Sade directed plays performed by his fellow inmates at the Charenton asylum. Yukio Mishima, Barry Yzereef, and Doug Wright also wrote plays about Sade; Weiss's and Wright's plays have been made into films. His work is referenced on film at least as early as Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's L'Age d'or (1930), the final segment of which provides a coda to Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, with the four debauched noblemen emerging from their mountain retreat. Pier Paolo Pasolini filmed Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), updating Sade's novel to the brief Salo Republic; Benoit Jacquot's Sade and Philip Kaufman's Quills (from the play of the same name by Doug Wright) both hit cinemas in 2000; additionally several horror films have used Sade as a major character. He is referenced in several stories by science fiction writer Robert Bloch, while Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem wrote an essay analyzing the game theory arguments appearing in Sade's Justine. In a comical vein, in "Carry On" Don't Lose Your Head (1966), Charles Hawtrey's character "Duc de Pommfrit" is seen reading a book by de Sade before a foiled attempt to guillotine him. De Sade is also the main villain in Tobe Hoopers film Night Terrors.

He is name-checked by the DC Comics character Desaad; was a secondary character in the Grant Morrison's graphic novel series The Invisibles and in 2000 Guido Crepax created graphic novel combining Justine with Anne Desclos's Histoire d'O, supposedly following Sade's example of creating beauty from the vile and the degenerate.


He also appears in Tobe Hoopers film Night Terrors. he's also a major character in the movie "Quills".

Further reading about de Sade

  • Marquis de Sade: his life and works. (1899) by Iwan Bloch (download)
  • Sade Mon Prochain. (1947) by Pierre Klossowski
  • Lautréamont and Sade. (1949) by Maurice Blanchot
  • The Marquis de Sade, a biography. (1961) by Gilbert Lély
  • Philosopher of Evil: The Life and Works of the Marquis de Sade. (1962) by Walter Drummond
  • The life and ideas of the Marquis de Sade. (1963) by Geoffrey Gorer
  • Sade, Fourier, Loyola. (1971) by Roland Barthes (Life of Sade download)
  • De Sade: A Critical Biography. (1978) by Ronald Hayman
  • The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History. (1979) by Angela Carter
  • The Marquis de Sade: the man, his works, and his critics: an annotated bibliography. (1986) by Colette Verger Michael
  • Sade, his ethics and rhetoric. (1989) collection of essays, edited by Colette Verger Michael
  • Marquis de Sade: A Biography. (1991) by Maurice Lever
  • The philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. (1995) by Timo Airaksinen
  • Sade contre l'Être suprême. (1996) by Philippe Sollers
  • A Fall from Grace (1998) by Chris Barron
  • Sade: A Biographical Essay (1998) by Laurence Louis Bongie
  • An Erotic Beyond: Sade. (1998) by Octavio Paz (review)
  • The Marquis de Sade: a life. (1999) by Neil Schaeffer
  • At Home With the Marquis de Sade: A Life. (1999) by Francine du Plessix Gray
  • Sade: from materialism to pornography. (2002) by Caroline Warman
  • Marquis de Sade: the genius of passion. (2003) by Ronald Hayman
  • Marquis de Sade: A Very Short Introduction (2005) by John Phillips

External links

About his life and work

  • Sade, Marquis de. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 9, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service:

  • Marquis de Sade at the Internet Movie Database
  • Marquis de Sade. ., extensive assessment of his work, from the upcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature (bad link?)
  • Marquis de Sade, from "books and writers"
  • Site about Neil Schaeffer's biography of Sade, includes some letters written by Sade while in prison, a timeline, and a bibliography
  • Timeline of his life
  • Biography of Sade from Channel 4.
  • docs/sade.html A Brief Account of the Life of the Marquis de Sade. ., by Anthony Walker
  • Detailed description of one of de Sade's escapes
  • Extensive annotated bibliography, by Marina Pianu
  • Arms of the Sade family
  • Bataille on Sade by Geoffrey Roche
  • Works online


    Search another word or see soi-disanton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
    Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
    • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature