The personality of the Marquis de Sade in the modern world is associated with the same number of myths and fictions as the no less impressive and terrifying Count Dracula. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family, the young man supported the revolutionaries and even renounced his noble titles.
If now the name of de Sade is associated exclusively with harsh forms of sexual intercourse, then in the 18th century his books were condemned solely for reasons of morality and ethics, but not in connection with his addiction to rough bed games.
Throughout his life, the eccentric Frenchman promoted the personal freedom of everyone and the endless pursuit of pleasure in spite of everything, to satisfy all his needs. A philosopher, and the Marquis de Sade undoubtedly was a philosopher, he denied all the norms of morality and morality that, in his opinion, interfered with the enjoyment of pleasure.
With the light hand of the Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who studied the works of the Marquis, his surname gave the name to the term “sadism.” At first, the word sadism was used to describe obtaining sexual satisfaction by inflicting physical or mental suffering on a partner. Later, the term became widely used and began to denote the desire to intentionally cause pain to another living being.
Childhood and youth
Donatien Alphonse François de Sade was born in Paris on June 2, 1740. His family belonged to an ancient and famous aristocratic family. Donatien’s great-grandfathers bore the title of count, which indicated that they belonged to royal officials, and his grandfather was the first to receive the title of marquis. The boy’s father preferred to sign himself as Count de Sade.
By the way, Laura de Noves, to whom Petrarch dedicated his poems, also belonged to the glorious de Sade family. The title of nobility in the de Sade family passed from father to son, but the archives do not contain documents confirming the legal grounds for Donatien de Sade to use the title of marquis rather than count.
Donatien’s mother served as a maid of honor to the Princess de Condé and cherished the hope that her son Donatien would become friends with the little Prince de Condé, which would benefit the family in the future. But these hopes were not destined to come true. The prince did not arouse the sympathy of little de Sade, and after a childhood fight, Donatien was sent to live with relatives in a village in Provence at the insistence of Princess de Condé.
The boy was only five years old when he went to live with his uncle the abbot. Life in a huge gloomy castle-fortress left its mark on the boy’s psychology and worldview. Donatien’s favorite pastime as a child was to hide in the large basement of the castle and sit there alone all day.
Until the age of ten, the boy was educated at home, and in 1750 he returned to Paris, where he entered the Jesuit Corps. Throughout his studies, the young man continued to live at the expense of his uncle, since his parents divorced and his mother left for the province after the divorce. After graduating from the Jesuit Corps, Donatien decided to build a military career. At the age of 15, the boy had already received the rank of junior lieutenant. For the courage shown in the battles of the colonial seven-year war, the young man received the rank of captain, after which he resigned at the age of 23.
Philosophy and literature
While in forced exile in Italy in 1774, the Marquis de Sade studied the occult and wrote plays. In total, the Marquis de Sade wrote 14 novels, 6 historical works, the texts of which are lost, 2 essays, 18 plays and 9 political pamphlets. In memory of the eccentric philosopher and writer, 9 films were made and 12 works by other authors were written.
In his books, Donatien de Sade did not so much describe sexual orgies with elements of violence, but rather considered certain philosophical problems. So the Marquis considered it inappropriate to divide society into several layers. According to Donatien, there are only two classes among people – slaves and masters.
The philosopher was one of the first to voice concerns about overpopulation of the planet and propose mass wars as a solution to the shortage of natural resources. But the leitmotif of all the works and lifestyle of the Marquis de Sade was a complete denial of the norms of morality, morality and religion. A person, in his opinion, becomes himself only by freeing himself from moral dogmas. And this is the only path to happiness and limitless pleasure.
Returning to the capital, a stately nobleman with a military rank planned to marry the youngest daughter of the president of the French tax chamber. However, the father did not want to give the girl to Donatien, but in return invited him to marry the eldest Rene-Pélagie Cordier de Montreuil. The wedding, which was blessed by the king and queen himself, took place in May 1763.
However, Donatien was not ready for family life. He led a dissolute lifestyle, drank and did not hesitate to visit a brothel, for which he was once placed under arrest, and then expelled from Paris to the provinces. But the following year, de Sade, with the permission of the king, returned back to the capital.
Three years later, Donatien’s father died, as a result of which the Marquis de Sade inherited the estate, lands and the title of viceroy in several provinces. And in the spring in Paris, de Sade’s legal wife gave birth to his son, who was named Louis-Marie. However, neither age, nor the birth of his first child, nor a responsible position and status could change Donatien’s violent temper.
In October 1767, rumors spread throughout Paris that the Marquis de Sade had invited the young singer to sleep with him for money and be listed as his official mistress. The girl refused. And the next year the Marquis was in prison again: now he was accused of raping a girl named Rosa Keller. De Sade did not spend too much time in prison; soon, by personal order of Louis, he was released after paying a fine.
In an effort to hush up the scandal, the Marquis de Sade again signed up for military service, from where he returned a year later with the rank of colonel. Donatien chose the family estate as his place of residence. Soon after returning to social life, de Sade sent out invitations to the premiere of his own play, which took place at the Marquis’s estate.
And just six months later, the whole of France was rocked by the “Marseille Affair”, according to the materials of which Donatien de Sade and his lackey indulged in debauchery with four girls, having previously treated the girls with Spanish fly powder. In France at that time, drugs made from this insect were banned, since doctors established not only the strong stimulating effect of the substance, but also serious toxic damage to the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system.
After treating the girls to an aphrodisiac, the Marquis de Sade and his servant persuaded them to have group sex, including oral and anal. A few days later, all the girls who participated in the orgy first turned to doctors about a sharp deterioration in their health, and then to the court with statements against de Sade. A search was carried out at the Marquis’s estate, but nothing illegal was found, and de Sade himself, fearing punishment, disappeared with the footman.
The court decided to find the men guilty and sentence both to death as punishment. Donatien and his servant faced a procedure of public repentance on the main square of Paris, and then de Sade was to be beheaded and the footman hanged. On September 12, 1772, effigies of the marquis and servants were burned in Paris, but the guilty escaped punishment.
As it became known later, Donatien de Sade, having escaped from the police pursuing him, went to Italy, taking with him his wife’s sister, whom he wanted to marry in his youth. Already in Italy, through the efforts of the Marquis’s mother-in-law, he was arrested again, but in the spring of 1773, de Sade fled from the fortress with the help of Madame de Sade.
Donatien returned to the family estate in the French province, where he lived for a year as a recluse, in fear of being detained again. His legal wife, having lived with him for several months, fled secretly. And de Sade, unable to cope with his inclinations, decided to kidnap three young girls from a nearby village. He illegally kept the girls in his castle and raped them. In this regard, in the second half of 1774, Donatien fled to Italy again, without waiting for arrest.
Two years later, the scandalous man returned to his estate, where he lived, surrounding himself with young maids. Most of the girls ran away as soon as they got a job, but one still lingered. Catherine Trilet, whom the Marquis called Justine, later became the heroine of several books by de Sade. The girl’s father, realizing what his daughter was doing in the service of the titled master, burst into the castle and tried to shoot the marquis, but missed.
In the winter of 1777, having learned the news about the imminent death of his mother, Donatien went to Paris, where he was arrested and placed in custody. The restless de Sade soon managed to escape again, but his mother-in-law revealed his location to the police. From prison, Donatien wrote letters to his wife, where he complained about cruelty on the part of the guards. Then the Marquis began to write books. Madame de Sade became a nun after her husband’s final imprisonment.
In 1789, the Marquis was transferred to the Bastille, where he wrote the manuscript of the novel “120 Days of Sodom.” Shortly before the storming of the Bastille by revolutionaries, de Sade was transferred to a hospital for the mentally ill, where he spent about a year. At the end of her husband’s treatment, Madame de Sade obtained a divorce, suing her former husband for a considerable share of property and finances, after which the Marquis joined the revolutionaries. Under the name Louis Sade, without any titles, he lived with his mistress Marie Constance Renel, published manuscripts and staged his own plays on theater stages.
In 1793, Donatien was arrested again and sentenced to death for the third time in his entire biography, but the political events taking place in France saved the marquis. In 1801, the impoverished aristocrat was imprisoned for pornographic novels, and was soon transferred from there to a psychiatric hospital, because in prison he corrupted prisoners. On December 2, 1814, the 74-year-old Marquis de Sade died of an asthma attack. There is still controversy over the burial place of Donatien de Sade: according to one version, he was buried in a Christian cemetery, according to another, on his estate.
- “120 days of Sodom, or the School of debauchery”
- “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”
- “Aline and Valcourt, or a Philosophical Romance”
- “The History of Juliette, or the Successes of Vice”
- “Philosophy in the boudoir”
- “Crimes of Love, Heroic and Tragic Novels”