The young man Alphonse, better known as the Marquis de Sade, had it all: tall, robust, handsome, wealthy, of noble birth and cult. He could have gone down in history as an enlightened man with a captivating pen and lofty prose. However, for some reason that experts do not understand, his path was twisted and he ended up being persecuted by the authorities accused of perpetrating sadomasochistic sexual practices (baptized thus, a century later, in his name). Since then, many enemies have dreamed of him spending his life behind bars, although none of them tried as intensely as their mother-in-law, to which this controversial character dedicated a visceral hate letter from prison once he was captured.
Donatien Alphonse François de Sade He came into the world in June 1740 and, despite belonging to a powerful family of the French nobility, he did not enjoy a simple childhood. With an absent father (since her work as a diplomat forced her to be away from her family), the future Marquis de Sade passed from hand to hand at the age of four, when her mother left her to become a nun. A decade later, he entered the military academy, where he was appointed an officer and directed to the battlefields. As a teenager, he returned tired of the war and decided that, as a good aristocrat that he was, he would dedicate his life to read, to write and cultivate.
At least that’s how he exposed it to his family. Instead, he forgot to explain that the wick of depravity had lit inside him. From then on, young Alphonse’s life was marked by the spree, the orgies, the seductions, he rough sex and the sodomy with women and men of all ages. These eccentricities, together with economic interest, led his father to arrange a marriage for him with a young woman from a wealthy bourgeois family, but who lacked titles. What better way to straighten him out and earn a few coins too?
But it was in vain. His continuous perversions, including those perpetrated in the «Marseille case“(Where he was accused of drugging several girls to carry out” acts against nature “) or the sexual martyrdom From a beggar woman, they earned him being persecuted by the authorities and becoming an outlaw. This is how he became the character the writer described Simone de Beauvoir in the 20th century:
«Imperious, angry, impulsive, exaggerated in everything, with a disorder in the imagination, in regard to the customs, as there was no similar; Atheist to fanaticism, here I am in two words, and something else still, kill me or accept me as I am, but do not change.
Perverse mother in law
Sade was captured in 1777. At 37 years old and with a very long list of depravities behind him, the king gave direct orders that he be imprisoned. No case was opened against him; there was also no prior trial. He was simply thrown into a cage. Although not so much because of their sexual perversions, something common to a greater or lesser degree among the nobility of the time, but because of their lack of discretion. The next 13 springs were spent in three different places: the Vincennes castle, the mythical Bastille prison (from 1784) and, when the revolutionary tension forced the authorities to transfer him, a mental hospital located in the commune of Charenton.
It can’t be said that he wasted his time when he was behind bars. With the support of his wife, who sent him food and books to dozens, during the first two years he dedicated himself to reading the works of authors such as Voltaire, Virgilio The Montaigne. His favorite subjects, as a good illustrated man, were history and philosophy. But his favorite hobby was always writing. In Vincennes he shaped, for example, “Dialogue between a priest and a dying man”, a kind of plea in favor of atheism. Although also the most popular “The 120 Days of Sodom”, a book of a sexual nature, as it was clear in its first pages when describing the protagonist: “The duke had become used to passive sodomy, and endured attacks with the same vigor with which he actively returned them.”
Between book and book, the Marquis de Sade always left time to write letters in which he dispatched himself at will against his enemies. And he had no one greater than his mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuilobsessed with ending her daughter’s marriage once and for all and defined by historians as spiteful and vindictive. After saving his neck on several occasions, he became his particular nemesis.
Visceral Hatred Letter
There were hundreds of examples: he persecuted him when he escaped from the authorities in Marseille, he intervened so that he was tried for «debauchery and pedophilia»And, among many other things, he insisted that the pending cases against him be reviewed over and over again. The last of his outrages was the worst: tricking him into thinking he was safe and the agents could capture him.
Her own daughter even admitted that she distilled a visceral hatred against Alphonse: “He is not a criminal whom she persecutes, but a man whom she considers rebellious to her orders and wills.” In part he was right, although it was also influenced by the fact that Madame de Montreuil had agreed to marry her to Sade in order to enjoy her noble title and climb several rungs in the social ladder. That her family, bourgeois and wealthy, was associated with a depraved man of such caliber did not benefit her at all. In any case, what is clear is that the abhorrence was mutual, as shown by the letter that, from the Chateau de Vincennes, the Marquis wrote in 1783 (shortly before being transferred to La Bastille) to ‘the wicked stupid who torment »:
Vile henchmen of the tuna sellers of Aix, crawlers and infamous servants of the torturers, let’s see if you can invent torture for me from which at least some good may result. What is the effect of the inaction in which your spiritual blindness keeps me, except to curse and lacerate the unworthy pimp who so meanly managed to sell me to you? Since I can no longer read or write, this is the one hundred and eleventh torture I have invented for her. This morning, while I was suffering, I saw her, the harlot, I saw her skinned in life, dragged on thistles, and finally thrown into a barrel of vinegar. And I said:
You foul creature, this for selling your son-in-law to the torturers!
Here, pimp, this for renting your two daughters!
Here, this for ruining and disgracing your son-in-law!
Here, this for making him hate the children for whose cause you are supposed to have sacrificed him!
Here, this for having destroyed the best years of his life when you were the only one who could help him after his conviction!
Take this for having preferred, before him, the vile and detestable descendants of your daughter!
Here, this for all the evil that you have overwhelmed him with for thirteen years, with the intention of making him pay for your stupid things!
And I increased her tortures and insulted her in her pain, and I forgot mine.
The pen falls from my hand, I must suffer. Adieu torturers; I have to curse you ».
If there was anyone Sade beat, it was his mother-in-law. Bastille fell, and with the arrival of the French Revolution, the marquis was released after the new government annulled all the sentences ordered by the monarch in which there had been no trial. Although it is certain that the good lady would have licked her lips with joy when she learned how her last days ended … Alphonse lived badly with an actress who was always stalked by the two sides that were vying for power. The ones, more conservativesThey considered him a depraved libertine; the others, revolutionaries to the extreme, they accused him of belonging to the nobility. And that, even though it worked for the new system. In this way he made it clear himself:
«I am not, in fact, in favor of any party and I am a composite of all of them. I am anti-Jacobin; I hate them to death. I adore the king, but I detest the old abuses; I love a large number of articles of the constitution, but others stir me up. I want the nobility to be restored to its splendor because taking it away does not lead to anything; I want the king to be the head of the nation; I do not want a National Assembly but two chambers as in England, so that the king has a mitigated authority, balanced by the concurrence of a nation necessarily divided into two orders (the third is useless, I would delete it). This is my profession of faith. What am I today? Aristocrat or Democrat? You will tell me, if you please … because I don’t know »
In the end, and as might be expected, he was locked up again in 1801 in a madhouse. From there he wrote to Napoleon himself asking for mercy.
«Monsieur de Sade, the father of a family, within which he sees for his consolation a distinguished son in the armies, has dragged for nine years, in three consecutive prisons, the most miserable life in this world. Septuagenarian, almost blind, overwhelmed by gout and rheumatism in his chest and stomach that make him suffer horrible pain.
It didn’t work. The Sire, who claimed to have read in one of Sade’s novels “The most abominable book that the most depraved imagination has ever conceived,” kept him prisoner. With Louis XVI he had the same luck. Passed away on December 2, 1814 in the Charenton asylum. His body was buried under the strictest secrecy by one of his sons; the same one, by the way, who burned all the unpublished manuscripts that his father jealously kept in his cell. Thus ended the life of this curious and controversial character. Little Alphonse, who, one day, his mother had abandoned and whose father could not take care of. But the same adult who had been carried away by his sexual voracity.