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With a foreword by 





FOREWORD by Professor J. B. S. Haldane, F.R.S. - 






LIFE 1740-1814 

i. Literary principles, 
ii. Miscellaneous works, 
iii. Aline et Valcour. 

iv. Les 1 20 Journees, Justine y and 

v. Literary Influence. 


i. La Metric. 

ii. General principles. 


i. Class Divisions, 
ii. Nature of Property. 

iii. The ruling classes their 
policies and mechanism. 

iv. Their relation to the poor. 
The poor. 

v. Law and Justice. Prisons. 
The death penalty. 

vi. Other considerations. 

vii. Butua & parable of civilisa- 












i. Utopia. 1788 
ii. Plan for a European Federa- 
tion. 1788 
iii. Anarchy. 1 794 ? 
iv. Plan of legislation for the new re- 
public. 1795 






EITHER of two courses is openj^hej^^ 
jo preservFTus^self-respect. He may dismiss this book 
unread as aiiotKeFa^nipt by a L high-brow^ to Whitewash 
a mongterT Or ^Kelmay.j:eaa lt"._ He will then discover 
that if 3e~Sade^ on several occasions indulged in abnormal 
pleasures, he also risked his life to save that of a woman 
who had caused him to be imprisoned for thirteen years ; 
that if a psychologist has attached his name to a form of 
cruelty, he was actually an inveterate opponent of capital 

When the monster legend is dissipated, it becomes 
clear that de Sade was a very remarkable and original 
thinker. To-day we find the philosophical fathers of the 
French Revolution slightly ridiculous because they 
generally assumed that with the abolition of a particular 
set of abuses the golden age would return. De Sade saw 
a great deal further. He had no illusions about the 
natural goodness of man, but he believed that with com- 
plete economic and sexual equality human conditions 
could be greatly bettered. He anticipated the views of 
Mai thus on population, and the tolerance of the Danish 
penal code as regards sexual behaviour. 

In certain other respects he went far beyond even the 
most 'advanced' social thinkers of the present day. 
Whether the attempt will ever be made to put his ideas 
on sexual morality into practice is doubtful. Nevertheless 
they are interesting because they are logical less of a 
compromise with our existing morality than those of 
Plato or More. If de Sade had not passed twelve years 
in almost solitary confinement in the Bastille his political 


system might have been more practical and have stood 
a greater chance of adoption. But it would have been 
less intellectually coherent, and therefore less interesting 
to the student of political ideas. 

It is unlikely that the original documents on which 
Mr. Gorer's work is based will be made available to the 
public within our own time. For this reason his book 
will be absolutely indispensable to the student of political 
thought who wishes to trace the genesis of many ideas 
which are now accepted, and others which are still 
violently controversial. It will furnish intellectual 
ammunition to both sides. The conservatives will be 
able to say that sexual and economic equality are part of 
the same system of ideas as the tolerance of murder and 
rape. The radicals will find in de Sade a political thinker 
who foresaw with considerable accuracy the failure of the 
French Revolution to achieve liberty, equality and 
fraternity, and pointed to the causes of this failure. 

Mr. Gorer has not attempted to disguise his sympa- 
thies, and it is probable that his book would have been 
less valuable had he done so. It would have been beyond 
the powers of one who did not share many of de Sade's 
opinions to reconstruct them, as he has done, from the 
fragmentary remains of his works. His bias is at least 
undisguised and can therefore* be allowed for without 

As a biologist I cannot conclude without a few words 
on de Sade's outlook on sex. It was based on actual 
observation, and forms a contribution to the natural 
history of man. Unfortunately our knowledge of human 
biology is still so fragmentary that a comprehensive study 
of human erotics lacks an adequate background, and 
stands out as an obscenity. A man or woman who has 
studied the anatomy of the rest of the body can approach 
that of the reproductive system without undue excite- 
ment, and in the same way, when human physiology is 



part of common knowledge, the physiology of sex will 
find its natural place in our intellectual equipment. And 
a study of its abnormalities will throw considerable light 
on the normal process, as it has already done in the hands 
of Freud. 

The time will then have come when de Sade's novels 
will be appropriate for the educated public, and it may 
well be that he will be regarded not as a purveyor of 
filth, but as a man who was greatly in advance of his age 
in the range of his interests. It may be remarked that in 
no other form but fiction could his observations on human 
behaviour have been published 140 years ago. Mean- 
while, Mr. Gorer has done a service to students of psycho- 
logy in pointing out that de Sade must be regarded as 
a pioneer in their study, even though his work might 
have been of greater value had he been born a century 

I do not wish to suggest that de Sade was a man of 
perfectly balanced mind, whose works are to be taken as a 
guide either to thought or morality. He would perhaps 
have been unhappy in any age. But he was doubly 
unfortunate, not only in incurring imprisonment under 
the ancien regime but in surviving the period of the French 
Revolution during which some at least of his ideas were 
put into practice. If Mr. Gorer's book had no other 
justification, it would deserve an audience because it 
renders a posthumous justice to a very remarkable writer 
who was the victim both of himself and of his fellow men. 



Two excuses are usually demanded for a book about the 
Marquis de Sade; firstly a justification for writing at all 
about such a monster, and alternatively the reason for 
adding yet another book to the existing quantity con- 
cerning him. My excuse for both actions is that I have 
found the unfolding of his ideas extremely interesting, 
and hope others will do the same; and that without 
exception all the books already published deal exclusively 
with his life and legend, and with the mechanics of the 
plots of his novels, occasionally with a faint and distorted 
summary of his ideas concerning sex, but never with any 
development of his theories either on that or any other 

I claim, therefore, that this is the only book in any 
language which has presented the ideas of this extra- 
ordinary man in any way; and the only one which allows 
the general public to judge him through his own words. 
To as great an extent as possible I have quoted him 
verbatim: and to avoid making a bilingual book I have 
translated him into English, paying more attention to the 
accuracy than to the elegance of the translation. The 
quotations have involved me in an awkward code of dots ; 
de Sade himself frequently employs . . . three dots for 
his own effects; so I have been driven to use four dots 
.... to indicate the omission of some words in a 

sentence and five dots to indicate the omission 

of complete sentences. 

I imagine the chief reason why there has been no book 
on the ideas of de Sade during the hundred and twenty 
years since his death is due to the difficulty of obtaining 



copies of his works and to the astounding obscenity of 
many of these works once obtained. (Throughout this 
book I distinguish 'obscenity' and * pornography' in the 
same way as D. H. Lawrence did obscenity referring to 
the subjects discussed and language used, pornography 
to the titillating intentions of the writer.) From most 
booksellers a demand for his works will produce an 
ignorant stare, violent indignation, or the leering offer 
of the kind of pornographic works of which de Sade said 
" these miserable little volumes composed in caffs or 
brothels demonstrate simultaneously two voids in their 
authors their heads and their stomachs are equally 
empty." 1 * 

By chance I happened to find copies of Aline et Vakour 
and of Juliette on the open shelves of booksellers in 
Cambridge and London respectively and bought them 
out of curiosity. As they were respectable shops the 
books were not outrageously dear. In Juliette at first 
reading I only found that boring and nauseous perversity 
I had been led to expect, but Aline et Vakour^ which on 
account of its lack of obscenity has been almost completely 
neglected by people writing about de Sade, appeared to 
me so full of pregnant ideas that I returned to Juliette 
with new eyes. I then found that if the obscenity can 
be, if not overlooked, taken in one's stride, there was 
presented a Weltanschauung of curious originality and 
force. I thereupon set about trying to collect the rest 
of his works with indifferent success ; and had it not been 
for the energies of one man and the great kindness of 
another I should probably still be searching. Monsieur 
Maurice Heine has since the war been collecting and 
editing de Sade's books and manuscripts in limited 
editions and various magazines, which has placed at our 
disposal a great deal of hitherto unknown material ; and 
Mr. C. R. Dawes, whose book on de Sade is within its 

* For the sake of tidiness I have placed all references to sources at the end of 
the book. 



self-imposed limits the best yet written on the subject, 
responded to a plea for assistance from a complete stranger 
with a kindness for which I can find no adequate thanks. 

This summer, in a discouraged rest from the vain 
efforts to get a hearing as a playwriter, I decided to try 
to systematise de Sade's ideas with the double object of 
trying to clear my own head by measuring my own ideas 
against those of an original and extreme thinker, and to 
gain some understanding of the events around us, both 
at home and abroad, which seemed to correspond so 
closely with the circumstances depicted by de Sade. This 
book is the outcome, I have found that it has given for 
myself pretty well the results I wanted; if it succeeds in 
doing so for anyone else I shall be gratified. 

Before the discussion of de Sade's ideas I have placed 
a short biography and an attempted criticism of his 
writings. The biography was necessary to situate him 
historically the development of his thought is bound up 
with the history of his times and to attempt to dispel 
the bluebeard legend surrounding him. As far as I have 
been able I have given the main sure facts about him and 
nothing else ; I have not kept any of the legends and in 
only one case have I gone into any detail. That is the 
story of the scandal of Marseilles, of which the true facts 
were first brought to light by M. Maurice Heine this 
summer; and I thought it was advisable to try to dispel 
the false versions which have to now perforce been given 
of this incident. I have not mentioned the other details 
of his sexual life which are now known as they do not 
seem to me to have any importance or interest except for 
impertinent and rather morbid curiosity. The chief 
originality of this chapter lies in the autobiographical 
quotations which, with one exception, have not (as far 
as I know) been collected together or noted before. 

In trying to give an account of de Sade's intentions and 
their result in his works I have done a thing which has 



never been attempted to my knowledge so far. The plots 
of the main works have been given several times, but, 
as my analysis of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes shows, this 
can better than any other way disguise the spirit and the 
bearing of a book. The rest of the book is simply 

Many of his ideas are still so novel and so revolutionary 
that they must inevitably offend some people. I have 
tried my utmost to reduce this offence to the minimum 
without distorting his real thought. I may enter a caveat 
that I am presenting the ideas of de Sade, not my own ; 
I have been as objective as I can and cannot accept respon- 
sibility for his theories, some of which shock my sen- 
sibilities as much as they can shock any reader's. 

The chief pitfall of which I have been conscious is the 
danger of picking out phrases and sentences which suit 
my purpose and distorting them away from their context. 
To guard against doing this, or the suspicion of having 
done it, I have given some long and uninterrupted quota- 
tions, of which perhaps the whole is not apposite to the 
matter discussed but which illustrate the tendencies of the 
passage. When I have wished to give my own opinion 
I have done so in the first person, thinking it dis- 
honourable to hide behind the impersonal or editorial 
attitude and undignified to squirm behind the Chinese 
fan of 'the present miserable author.' 

When I first contemplated this book I thought in my 
ignorance of history that it would be possible to say 
definitely whether de Sade was original or not in advancing 
his ideas, such as the theory of the optimum population, 
or of equal rights for men and women ; but I soon aban- 
doned this attempt and have contented myself with 
stating his ideas and leaving to those who are more 
learned in such matters than I am the question of priority. 
The priority of statement of some political ideas which I 
claim for him is justified by Guido de Ruggiero's History 



of European Liberalism \ his originality on the subjects 
of psychology and sex is unquestioned, for such subjects 
were only discussed in the century after his death. 

This book is open to attack from two different sources ; 
from those who consider such a monster better buried in 
oblivion and who will find in the ideas I have attempted 
to assemble but further proofs of his monstrosity; and 
from that smaller group, with its nucleus in the 
Surreelistes, who will consider that any attempt to 
rationalise and explain the arch-criminal and arch-rebel 
is blasphemy. To both such possible detractors I will 
reply in the words de Sade used in the preface to Aline et 

" Nevertheless we will have critics, contradictors and 
enemies without a doubt: 

It is a danger to love men, 
A crime to enlighten them. 

So much the worse for those who will condemn this work, 
and will not feel in what spirit it has been made: slaves of 
prejudice and habit, they show that they are swayed 
solely by opinion, and the torch of philosophy will never 
shine for them." 2 

August October ', 1933. 



. . . . Le MONSTRE-AUTEUR . . . 

Restif de la Bretonne. 1 797. 

Readers acquainted with the Justine and Juliette of the Marquis de 
Sade will comprehend my horror and indignation at the style of 
amusement these dens afforded. The volumes referred to (the most 
blasphemous and obscene ever painted and which came hot from hell 
soon after the date of this letter) are filled with the records of experi- 
ments tried for the purpose of exciting by every species of torture the 
most unheard of debaucheries. 

W. Beckford. Note added to 
a letter written in 1784. 
(// may be noted that de 
Sade had published nothing 
at this date.) 

Get atroce et sanglant blasphtmateur, cet obscene historien des plus 
formidables reveries qui aient jamais agite la fievre des dimons y le 

Marquis de Sade Croye%-moi y qui que vous soyex, ne 

touches pas a ces livres, ce serait tuer de vos mains le sommeil, le doux 
sommeil . . . J. Janin. 1834. 

Ce frtnttique et abominable assemblage de tous les crimes et de toutes 
les saletts. F. Soulie. 1837. 

De Sade une des gloires de la France un martyr. 

P. Borel. 1839. 

y'oserais affirmer, sans crainte d'Stre dtmenti, que Byron et de Sade 
(je demande pardon du rapprochement) ont peut-etre ttt les deux plus 
grands inspirateurs de nos modernes, l'un afficht et visible^ Vautre 
clandestin pas trop clandestin. Saint-Beuve. 1 843. 



That Illustrious and ill-requited benefactor of humanity. 

Usually the work is either a stimulant for an old beast or an emetic 
for a young man> instead of a valuable study to rational curiosity. 

I only regret that in justly attacking my Charentonjw* have wilfully 
misrepresented the source. I should have bowed to the judicial sen- 
tence if instead of "Byron with a difference" you had said "De Sade 
with a difference." The poet, thinker, and man of the world from 
whom the theology of my poem is derived was a greater than Byron. 
He indeed \ fatalist or not, saw to the bottom of gods and men. 

Did he lie? did he laugh? does he know it? 

Now he lies out of reach, out of breath, 
Thy prophet, thy preacher, thy poet? . . . 

A. C. Swinburne (between 
1 860 and 1880). 

Ilfaut toujours en revenir a de Sade, c'est-a-dire a Vhomme nature/, 
pour expliquer le mal. C. Baudelaire. 

yournaux Intimes. 

Flaubert, une intelligence hantie par de Sade 

Causerie sur de Sade, auquel il revient toujours. 

Journal des Goncourts. 

The Marquis de Sade is perhaps one of the most extraordinary men who 
ever livedanda very interesting subject for a psychological 'study; Nature 
has produced some strange abortions, both physical and mental, but 
probably never a greater mental monstrosity than de Sade. 

Pisanus Fraxi (H. S. Ashbee). 

Le Marquis de Sade fut Vhomme indiquS pour synthitiser et pousser 
jusques a ses derniers limites Vart de la spermocracie anormale et 
monstrueuse. 11 depassa dans ce genre toute l y antiquitf, ilfixa dans un 
monde d'horreurs les colonnes d'Hercule des dtmentes priapees. 
Jamais heureusement on n*ira dtsormais aussi loin, de Sade aura 
bornf r horizon du champ trotique. Octave Uzanne. 1901. 

C'est le 2 juin y 1 740 qui vit naitre un des hommes les plus remar* 
quables du dixhuitieme siecle, disons m$me de Vhumanitt en gtntral. 
. . . Les (Euvres du Marquis de Sade constituent un objet de 



l y histoire et de la civilisation autant que de la science mfdicale. . . . 
11 y a encore un autre point de vue qui fait des ouvrages du Marquis 
de Sade pour rhistorien qui s'occupe de la civilisation y pour le mtdecin, 
le jurisconsult e, Veconomiste et le moralise un veritable puits de 
science et de notions nouvelles. 

Eugene Dilhren (Ivan BlochJ.igoi, 1904. 

Get homme qui parut ne compter pour rien durant tout le dixneuvieme 
siecle, pourrait bien dominer le vingtieme . . . Le Marquis de Sade, 
l y esprit le plus libre qui ait encore exist f. . . . Le lecteur qui aborde 
ces romans ne remarque souvent que la lettre, qui est dtgoutante, et 
l y analyse ci-dessous n'en peut malheureusement pas livrer l y esprit. 

G. Apollinaire. 1909. 

Sade, D. A. F. French licentious writer . . . 

Encyclopedia Britannica. 1 3th Edition. 

De Sade wrote according to his lights and though his ideas were 
extravagant he was at least sincere. It is just that, perhaps, which 
makes him such a sinister figure. Mere obscenity is always disgusting 
and nearly always dull; but there was much more than that here and 
he was savagely in earnest. 

C. R. Dawes. J 9 2 7- 

ye n y arrive pas a le prendre au sfrieux. 

P. Bourdin. !9 2 9- 

Un ecrivain qtiilfaut placer sans doute parmi les plus grands. 

J. Paulhan. *93 O - 

II y a done lieu de croire que Sade> apres avoir inquittt tout un siecle 
qui ne pouvait le lire, sera de plus en plus lu pour remfdier a 
rinquietude du suivant. M. Heine. J 93- 

Del/o scrittore non diciamo poi dello scrittore di genio mancano al 
Sade le qualita piu elementari. Poligrafo e pornografo a maggior 
titolo d'un Aretino, tutto il suo merito sta nell 9 aver lasciato dei 
documenti che rapresentano la fase mitologica infantile del/a psicopato- 
logia: informafiabesca egli da laprima sistematologia delle perversioni. 

M. Praz. J 93- 



Hier also, wenn irgendwo, 1st Sade unnormal, defekt. Statt der 
Spannung liegt Spaltung vor und zwar eine Spaltung die nicht mit 
Dammerxustanden und Stdrungen des Bewusstseins verbunden ist. 
Er weicht dem Konflikt aus, verantwortet sich nicht vor sich selbst 

und empfindet nie die Notwendigkeit, sich zu ordnen Wie 

man mit dieter doppelter Buchfuhrung ein genialer Mensch wird 
%eigt Kierkegaard: wie ein negativer von armer nutzloser Tragik: 
Sade. O. Flake. 1930. 

Rien en saurait plus tenir a Fecart de cette voix inouie ceux qui sont 
capables de I* entendre et ne mtconnaitront jamais le sens profond de sa 
revelation. M. Heine. I 93 1 ' 

That frenzied pornographer .... Sade was born in Paris in 1 740 
and in 1772 was condemned to death for the sexual practices to which 
he has left his name. He made his escape and he was afterwards 
imprisoned at Vincennes and in the Bastille, where he wrote several 
phantastic romances in which his imagination dwelt upon those objects 
and scenes which excited and satisfied his peculiar sex-mania. He 
died insane in 1 8 1 4. 

Desmond Macarthy. 1933- 


I care not whether a man is Good ^r Evil ? all that T 
Is whether he is a Wise man or a Fool. 



LIFE, 1740-1814 

Si les hommes, en entrant dans la vie, savaient les peines qui les 
attendent: qu'il ne dependit que d'eux de rentrer dans le n&mt, en 
serait-il un seul qui voulut remplir la carridre! 


Aline et Valcour. 

The Bastille trembles . . . 

And the den named Horror held a man 
Chained hand and foot: round his neck an iron band, bound to the 

impregnable wall; 
In his soul was the serpent coil'd round his heart, hid from the light, 

as in a cleft rock, 

And the man was confined for a writing prophetic. 


The French Revolution. 

"CONNECTED by my mother with the highest in the land; 
by my father with all that was most distinguished in 
Languedoc; born in Paris in the midst of luxury and 
abundance, I believed as soon as I could think that nature 
and fortune had joined together to cover me with gifts. 
I believed this because people had been foolish enough 
to say so to me and this absurd prejudice made me 
haughty, despotic, and quick to anger; it seemed to me 
that the whole world should give way to my caprices and 
that it was only necessary to form them for them to be 
satisfied. I will give you one example from my child- 
hood to convince you of the dangerous principles that 
were so idiotically allowed to grow in me. 

"Born and brought up in the palace of the illustrious 


prince (a connection of my mothers) of nearly my age, 
I was encouraged to be with him as much as possible, 
so that my childhood friend should be useful to me all 
my life; but my vanity at the time, which didn't under- 
stand anything of this calculation, took offence one day 
in our childish games because he wanted to take some- 
thing from me, and more especially because, doubtless 
with great reason, he thought his rank entitled him to it; 
I revenged myself by many reiterated blows, without any 
consideration stopping me; only force and violence could 
separate me from my adversary. 

"At about that time my father was engaged in diplo- 
matic negotiations ; my mother went with him and I was 
sent to my grandmother in Languedoc whose too blind 
kindness encouraged in me all the faults I have mentioned. 

" I returned to Paris to go to school, under the guidance 
of a firm and intelligent man, doubtless most suitable to 
shape my youth but whom unfortunately I did not stay 
with for long. War broke out. My people, in a hurry 
for me to serve, did not finish my education and I joined 
my regiment at an age when I should naturally have 
been going to school. 

". . . . The campaigns opened and I venture to say I 
did well. The natural impetuosity of my character, the 
fiery soul I had received from nature only added further 
force and activity to that ferocious virtue called courage, 
doubtless incorrectly considered the only one necessary 
for a soldier. 

"When our regiment was crushed in the penultimate 
campaign of that war we were sent to barracks in 
Normandy; from there my misfortunes began. ~ 

"I was just twenty-one; till then entirely occupied 
with the work of war, I had neither known my heart nor 

realised that it was sensitive (He describes the 


LIFE 1740-1814 

seduction and abandonment of a young girl of good 
family, the usual custom in the mess.) 

" My father called me to Paris that winter and I hurried 
to him: his health was failing, and he wished to see me 
settled before he died; this project and the pleasures of 

the town diverted me I spent two years in different 

pleasures. , . ."* 

This is the account Valcour, the hero, gives of himself 
at the beginning of the novel Aline et Valcour \ the details 
have nothing to do with the plot and correspond so 
entirely with what we know of de Sade that it is justifiable 
to treat them as autobiographical. 

Louis-Donatien-Franfois-Alphonse (or Aldonze there 
is considerable ambiguity concerning de Sade's Christian 
names: an ambiguity which was later to cause him con- 
siderable inconvenience and danger during the later 
years of the Republic when one version of his name was 
inscribed on a list of dmigrs.) |vlarquis and later Comte 
de Sade was born on the second of June, 1 740, in the 
house of the great PrinceT Cond, wHcTwas a connection 
of his mother's. He was the first and apparently the 
only child of the Comte de Sade, Chevalier-comte de 
la Coste et de Mazan, Seigneur de Saumane, Lieutenant- 
gn6ral pour le roi de la Haute et Basse Bresse, Bugey, 
Valromey et Gex. The family, whose title of nobility 
dated from the first years of the fourteenth century, was 
one of the most important of Provence. One of de Sade's 
direct ancestors was Hugue de Sade, husband of the 
Laura who inspired Petrarch's delicate and platonic son- 
nets. It is more than usually pointed irony that the 
representatives of the two extremes of sexual imagination 
should be so directly joined. 

De Sade's father was a typical grand seigneur, cold, 
restrained and formal to the highest degree. He was also 



extremely extravagant and when he died left little behind 
him except inalienable land and debts. He had filled the 
post of Ambassador, first in Russia and later in London. 
His numerous brothers and sisters were with a single 
exception ecclesiastics. 

At the age of four de Sade went to stop with his grand- 
mother at Avignon ; some time later he was given into the 
care of his uncle, the Abb Francois de Sade, who had at 
that date withdrawn from the fashionable life in Paris to 
devote himself to the study of Petrarch at Vaucluse. The 
Abba's researches on the family poet are said to be still 
useful to students. 

In 1750 he went to the college of Louis-le-Grand, then 
the most famous in Paris, and stayed there for four years. 
There is a tradition, unverifiable as far as I can tell, but 
not improbable, that he was already developing his 
senses, becoming a good musician, dancer and fencer, 
and spending a great deal of time in the picture galleries 
of the Louvre. In later life his fondness of the arts con- 
tinued; I have not been able to discover in what direction 
his musical taste lay, but in painting his preference went 
to the classical Italian masters, particularly Titian, Tin- 
toretto and Veronese. 

In 1754 the seven years' war with Germany broke out 
and he was sent to his regiment. He served with dis- 
tinction, rising from sub-lieutenant in the royal regiment, 
to captain of a regiment of cavalry. Most of his time was 
spent in Germany, where he learned the language, and it 
is possible that he travelled further north. In 1761 he 
returned to France. 

Nothing is known of the two following years. Possibly 
the story of the seduction and desertion of a young girl 
quoted above is true. His return to Paris and his enjoy- 
ment of the pleasures of the capital certainly is. 


LIFE 1740-1814 

In 1 763 the father of de Sade decided that his son, now 
iged nearly twenty-three, should settle down and there- 
: ore arranged a marriage for him. The bride he chose 
aras Rene, the twenty-year-old eldest daughter of Mon- 
jieur de Montreuil, President de la Cour des Aides a 
:itle corresponding roughly to that of high court judge. 
The Montreuils were extremely rich, though correspon- 
dingly avaricious, and Renee's dot was munificent. They 
were striking examples of the rise of the 'robinocracie,' 
:he preponderance of lawyers which marked the end of 
:he ancien regime. The President was almost entirely 
xlipsed by his wife, who managed the affairs of her 
family and of everyone with whom she came in contact 
with an energy, an unscrupulousness and a zeal which 
demand a certain admiration. She was extremely 
influential at the Court and she possessed a charm which 
ie Sade averred she must have got from the devil. She 
bad a very strong family pride, and excused her most 
inexcusable actions by pointing to family interests. 

The first time de Sade went to visit his intended bride 
it happened that Rene was indisposed and he was left 
to be entertained by one of her younger sisters, the 
thirteen-year-old Louise. Louise was blonde and lively, 
well developed in every way; she entertained the young 
marquis by singing and playing on the harp in a touching 
and accomplished manner; by the end of the interview 
the two young people were deeply in love and de Sade 
had taken a dislike to his intended bride before he had 
met her. His entreaties to be allowed to marry Louise 
were repulsed both by his parents and hers. Louise was 
easily her mother's favourite child and Madame de 
Montreuil had for this daughter a most jealous affection. 
It was possibly this jealousy which first aroused the deep 
dislike for her son-in-law which drove her to attack and 



ruin him to the best of her ability during the next thirty 
years. She is, incidentally, one of the only two women of 
whom we have any record who resisted de Sade's great 
charm. The other was the dancer Mademoiselle Riviere 
of the Opera, whom in the autumn of 1767 de Sade was 
unable to persuade to spend with him at his house at 
Arcueil those evenings when she was not appearing. 

Succumbing to family pressure de Sade married Rene 
on the seventeenth of May, 1763, in circumstances of the 
greatest pomp, in the presence of the King and Queen and 
most of the members of the Court. Presumably a short 
honeymoon followed the marriage, for a son was born 
in the following year, but almost immediately he turned 
to debauchery, and in September of the same year he was 
arrested for the first time and imprisoned in Vincennes. 

Beyond the fact that de Sade was concerned in some 
orgy which made a considerable scandal at the time, 
nothing is known, or, to my knowledge, even guessed at 
about this first contact with the law. He was apparently 
imprisoned for about two months, after which he was 
released, perhaps by his wife's intercession, but exiled for 
nearly a year to L'Aigle, in Normandy. 

It is from this period that dates the first writing we 
possess of de Sade. It is a letter to the governor of the 
prison and in view of future developments is worth 
quoting at some length. I do not think it is hypocritical. 

"Unhappy as I am here, sir," the letter goes, " I do not 
complain. I deserved the vengeance of God and feel it: 
to bemoan my sins and weep over my faults are my only 
employ. Alas, God could have annihilated me without 
giving me time to repent: what thanks must I give Him 
for allowing me to return to the fold. Sir, I pray you to 
allow me the means to accomplish this by permitting me 
to see a priest. Through his good offices and my own 


LIFE 1740-1814 

sincere repentance I hope soon to be fit to approach the 
holy Sacraments, whose complete neglect was the first 
cause of my fall 

" I hope also that you will be good enough to refrain 
from telling my family of the true reason of my im- 
prisonment: I would be utterly destroyed in their esti- 

"I venture to remark also that I was married on the 
seventeenth of May and can assure you that I only set 
foot in that house in June. Then I went to the country for 
three months. . . . However short may have been the 
period of my sins I am none the less guilty: it has been 
long enough to enrage the supreme Being whose just 
anger I now feel." 

The governor noted on the letter that a priest had been 
sent to him. 

In September, 1764, de Sade returned to Paris. It is 
likely that at that time he was already pursuing those 
ingenious experiments in sensuality that have since made 
him infamous, for in that year Police-Inspector Marais 
reports that he has strictly advised la Brissaut, without 
further explanations, not to provide him with girls to go 
with him to his little house. It is most probable that 
during the next three years he took part in the fashionable 
life in Paris and was then given the sobriquet of 'the 
divine marquis, 1 in emulation of the divine Aretino, for 
his father died in 1767 and he then succeeded to the title 
of Comte. He was still nominally in the army; he did 
not retire till the age of thirty-one, in 1771, when he held 
the rank of mestre de camp, the equivalent of colonel 
in a cavalry regiment. 

In October, 1767, his reputation was already bad, for at 
that date the police-inspector notes, "We will soon be 
hearing again of the horrors of the Comte de Sade." At 


Easter of the following year the affair Keller occurred, anc 
his reputation was fixed for ever. 

This affair has been so much written about that it is 
unnecessary to describe it again at length. Those curious 
to know the full details should see the books referred tc 
at the end of the chapter, or better still the appropriate 
letters of the Marquise du Deffand to Horace Walpole 
which are the only contemporary account of the affair 
Apparently de Sade was solicited in Paris by a widow oi 
thirty, took her to his house near Arcueil, forced her tc 
strip, whipped her, anointed her with some ointment anc 
put her comfortably to bed. The woman was frightened 
escaped from the window by knotted sheets, and com- 
plained to the police. She said he had also cut her aboui 
with a small knife but was unable to show any scars twc 
days later, which makes the fact improbable. Foi 
although contusions might leave no surface marks aftei 
treatment by some ointment, there is no known salve 
which will make cuts disappear. De Sade was probabl) 
being funny when he said to the police that far from being 
reprimanded he deserved public thanks for calling atten- 
tion to an ointment which could miraculously heal al 
wounds. In any case the affair caused an enormous 
scandal. The magistrates threw themselves with gusto or 
to such a savoury case; the chief judge was the Pr^sideni 
de Maupou, a sworn enemy of de Sade's father-in-law 
In a humorous story de Sade wrote about this persona 
enemy later; 2 he makes one of the enemies of de Maup^oi 
remark, " Recall to the memory of the judges of Paris 
.... that famous adventure of 1 769 (sic) when their hearts 
far more moved to pity by the whipped bottom of a street- 
woman than by the people, whose fathers they style them- 
selves and whom nevertheless they let die of hunger 
determined them to accuse a young officer who on his 

LIFE 1740-1814 

return from the sacrifice of the best years of his life in 
the service of his king found his only laurels in the 
humiliation prepared for him by the greatest enemies of 
the country he had been defending." It is also possible 
that Sartine, the infamous Sartine who made a fortune by 
his corruption and then retired from office on the ground 
that he was ruined, the Sartine whom de Sade never tired 
of attacking, was already on his tracks. 

The results of this case however were not very serious 
for de Sade. He was condemned to pay Rose Keller a 
hundred louis (with which dowry she remarried a month 
later) and was imprisoned for six weeks, first at Saumur 
and then at Lyons. He was then released through the 
good offices of his wife and his mother-in-law on condition 
that he should not return to Paris but should live at the 
family property of La Coste, near Marseilles. 

For the next three years he lived there luxuriously but 
discreetly. His wife was with him some of the time, 
either at La Coste or at Saumane, a property of his in the 
neighbourhood. His two other children were born at 
that period. Part of the time, however, he had a dancer 
called La Beauvoisin living with him, and is said to have 
introduced her as his wife, while his real wife was in Paris. 
He had a private troupe of actors, who performed plays 
he wrote. There is still extant an invitation to a Monsieur 
Girard, dated January, 1772, asking him to come to the 
second performance of his comedy and asking for his 
frank criticism of his work. This is the first indication 
we have of de Sade's writing. For the rest of his life he 
was connected with the theatre as author, actor and pro- 
ducer, finding in it on different occasions relaxation, 
friendship, love, and even a means of subsistence. 

At some time towards the end of this period his wife 
brought with her her young sister Louise, now a woman 

33 c 


of twenty-one, released from her convent. She probably 
considered that eight years should have been sufficient 
to damp their mutual love, but she was wrong, 

In June of 1772 occurred the second important scandal 
in the life of de Sade, the scandal of the poisoned sweets. 
Until last year the truth about this affair had been com- 
pletely unknown and all accounts of it have been far 
from the facts ; but Maurice Heine, the untiring revealer 
of de Sade's life and works, has discovered the copies of 
the original indictment and published them in the review 
Hippocrate (Number One, March, 1933) together with the 
depositions of the witnesses. This article should be con- 
sulted for the full details. 

De Sade went to Marseilles on some business, accom- 
panied by his valet La Tour, a tall, pock-marked man 
dressed in sailor's clothes. Wishing to amuse himself 
without too much publicity he sent his servant to make all 
arrangements for him for two consecutive evenings; 
owing however to a subsequent supper arrangement the 
arrangements for the two evenings were compressed into 
one. He visited a woman called Marguerite Coste with 
his servant, whom, by some caprice, he called Monsieur 
le Marquis, while he himself was addressed as La Fleur. 
He gave the woman a number of sweets flavoured with 
aniseed and containing cantharides, enjoyed her in a 
simple way, since she refused more complicated ones, and 
left. Some time after the woman was taken extremely 
ill with a great deal of vomiting and continued in a critical 
state for some days before recovering. 

The same day, probably a little earlier, had taken place 
another orgy, also arranged by the valet. Three girls 
were engaged from a bawd, but taken to a newer and more 
discreet part of the town, as the brothel was too public. 
There they were received one after the other by the 


LIFE 1740-1814 

marquis and his valet and slightly beaten by him. They 
were then asked to beat him in his turn, and he took out 
of his pocket a whip made of parchment studded with big 
and little nails and covered with bloodstains. This was 
more than the girls could stand soft-hearted and simple 
as most whores so he had a twig broom sent for, and 
received from the three girls and his valet no less than 
eight hundred strokes, if the score he kept on the wall 
is not an exaggeration. He also bedded with the girls 
and his valet, treating the girls as his valet treated him, 
which so 'suffocated' the onlookers that they burst into 
tears. He also gave these girls some of the sweetmeats; 
one ate them, the others threw them away. The girl 
that ate them was also sick, though much less so than 
Marguerite Coste. 

I have given this case in some detail (though very much 
modified and shortened as comparison with the article 
already quoted will show) as it is of very great interest 
for the study of de Sade. It is the only known account 
of his sexual habits and is as far removed as possible from 
what is ordinarily considered 'sadistic 1 behaviour. I do 
not think, however, that any generalisations can be made 
from the behaviour of this one day; de Sade was almost 
certainly exploring conscientiously and practically all 
possible extensions of sensual pleasure, from which he 
was to draw his theory and criticism some years later. 
Both his physical and mental courage were adequate to 
the task. 

Within a week his arrest and that of the valet were 
ordered; but they had both left the country, de Sade at 
last accompanied by his dearly loved Louise. A few 
weeks later he and his valet were both condemned to 
death for poisoning (which was absurd: all the invalids 
were completely recovered) and sodomy, for which the 



death penalty was no longer inflicted; de Sade was to be 
beheaded and the valet hanged after making public 
penance. In their absence they were condemned as 
defaulting and contumacious, and de Sade's property was 

The complete disproportion between the severity of the 
sentence and the alleged crime (it must be remembered 
that we only have the accounts of hostile witnesses) is 
so great that further explanations are needed. A variety 
are forthcoming. 

Firstly, by an unfortunate coincidence, the Parlement at 
Aix, where the judgment took place, was under the 
influence of the same de Maupou who had condemned 
de Sade in Paris four years before. This man appears to 
have been a puritan, with the salacious mind and bitter 
cruelty that one associates with puritanism. Also, as 
explained before, he was a personal enemy of de Mon- 
treuil, Sade's father-in-law, and anything which would 
disgrace his family would be of advantage to him. This 
would partially account for the continuance of the case, 
even after the 'poisoned' girls had withdrawn their com- 
plaints. It would also account for the charge, if true, 
de Sade brings against him 3 of manufacturing false 
evidence ; he makes de Maupeou say in the story already 
referred to: "Well, wasn't it a scandalous affair? Didn't 
a thirteen-year-old valet whom we had bribed come and 
tell us, because we wished him to tell us, that that man 
was murdering whores in his chateau, didn't he tell us a 
story of Bluebeard which nurses to-day wouldn't deign 
to use to put their children to sleep ?" In the same story 
he says 4 "Colic is an important illness at Marseilles and 
Aix, since we have seen a troop of idiots, fellows of this 
judge here, decide that some prostitutes who had the colic 
had bztn poisoned" and further: 5 "In 1772 a young noble- 


LIFE 1740-1814 

man of the province wanted in playful revenge to whip 
a courtesan who had made him a bad present; this joke 
was treated as a criminal affair, as murder and poisoning, 
and this judge won all his colleagues over to this ridiculous 
opinion, destroyed the young man and had him con- 
demned to death by contumacy, since they could not get 
hold of his person.'' These judgments of de Sade on 
his own condemnation, written in 1787, are interesting 
and have not as far as I know been pointed out before. 

But there is also another possibility, equally mentioned 
by de Sade and also so far ignored; it is that the actual 
charge was merely an excuse, the real reason for his con- 
demnation being political activities. The passage in 
question 6 is discussing the later capture of de Sade in 
Paris in 1777 and will be quoted at the appropriate time; 
when the judge (as always a favourite villain with de 
Sade, quite understandably) boasts of the way the accused 
was caught six years after the crime his interlocutor says, 
"'Sir, your story horrifies me: I suppose the man in 
question must have been guilty of high treason/ 'Not 
at all, writings against us magistrates . . . against kings ; 

some other youthful adventures '" and, lest any 

reader should fail to recognise the subject of this passage 
he adds a footnote, " Monsters capable of this horror, you 
grow pale as you recognise your victim. . . ." 

The probability of this interpretation is encouraged by 
the fact that in March of the following year when he was 
in prison in Chambry, the ambassador de la Marmora 
wrote to the governor "to keep the prisoner as close as 
possible, to prevent him flooding the public with his 
terrible writings and memoirs." Certainly the word 
'memoirs' is ambiguous, but surely even at that period 
an ambassador would be more concerned with political 
than with immoral pamphlets. 



Another reason which makes me think this likely is 
the letter from Mademoiselle de Rousset, the friend of 
his wife, who in 1 780 succeeded after great risks in seeing 
the indictment against him. She writes: "By this bold 
stroke we have discovered that the Prsidente is not so 
guilty as we had thought. He has deservedly even more 
powerful enemies. Before he can hope for anything some 
people must die and the others forget." This is certainly 
vague enough; but since in his debaucheries he seems to 
have been involved exclusively with whores, servants and 
peasants, his more powerful enemies must have been 
instigated by some other motive. 

Before this new arrest in December of the same year 
de Sade and his sister-in-law had been enjoying in Italy 
their nine-year-long frustrated love. But not for long. 
Within a few weeks de Sade was alone again. It is not 
quite clear what happened. The generally accepted 
version is that Louise fell ill and died suddenly, at the age 
of twenty-two. There is a possibility however that they 
separated and that Louise returned home. Certainly a 
Mademoiselle de Launay, by which title Louise was 
known, was living until 1780, when she died of smallpox. 
If, however, Louise had died it is possible that her title 
had passed to a younger sister. The whole incident is 

In any case the elopment had so infuriated Madame de 
Montreuil that she used all her influence at the Court and 
in the embassies to get de Sade arrested; and by her 
machinations he was eventually captured at Chamb^ry in 
Savoy, then part of the kingdom of Sardinia. She dis- 
covered his whereabouts by intercepting his letters. It is 
probable that before this new imprisonment de Sade 
passed through Geneva and he may then as he claims 7 
have visited Rousseau and been encouraged by him in 


LIFE 1740-1814 

his intention to devote himself to literature. The passage 
is of interest. "Rousseau was then living/' Valcour, who 
as we have seen is in part a self-portrait of de Sade, is 
made to say, "and I went to see him; he had known my 
family and received me with great kindness; he praised 
and encouraged the project that he saw that I had formed 
to renounce everything to give myself over entirely to the 
study of literature and philosophy; he gave me good 
advice and taught me to separate true virtue from the 
detestable systems under which it is smothered. . , 

"'My friend/ he said to me one day, 'as soon as the 
rays of virtue shone on men, they, too dazzled by their 
radiance, put in the way of these waves of light the 
prejudices of superstition, and the only sanctuary that 
remained for virtue was the bottom of the heart of honest 
men. Detest vice, be just, love your neighbours, en- 
lighten them; then you will feel virtue resting sweetly in 
your soul, and you will have daily consolation for the pride 
of the rich and the stupidity of the despot.*" 

If this passage is not autobiographical it is difficult to 
understand its existence, for there is no other example in 
the whole book of a famous person being mentioned by 
name; moreover Valcour in the story is not a writer but 
exclusively an unhappy lover. And surely it is not 
improbable that de Sade, so recently bereaved and so 
nearly ruined financially should have made at that time 
the resolve to change his life entirely. It is pleasant to 
think that these two great revolutionaries, the one 
romantic, the other realist, should have met, though it is 
distressing that the influence of the romantic should have 
so entirely dominated both his century and the following 

De Sade was a prisoner in Chamb&y for five months. 
He seems to have been fairly comfortable there, spending 



a good deal on his upkeep and gambling with his fellow 
prisoners. On the first of May in 1773 he broke his 
parole and escaped through a lavatory window, leaving 
behind him an ironical note of condolence and advice for 
the governor. The details of the escape the dummy in 
the bed, the light left burning, the ladder made out of 
sheets are in the best tradition of the adventure novel. 
Travelling under an assumed name and by night he made 
his way back home to the chateau of La Coste and to his 

Of the many enigmas which make the interpretation of 
de Sade's life so difficult, none is more obscure than the 
character of Madame de Sade. She has been called a 
saint of married life, a convenient but misleading label. 
Not only did she submit to her husband, she actively 
aided and abetted him ; indeed some of her actions seem 
to indicate that she was also his procuress. One of the 
young girls whom she had taken into her service and who 
later was reclaimed by her parents gave the most lurid 
accounts of de Sade's behaviour towards her; of his wife 
however she had only praise, adding that she was usually 
the first victim of a rage which was near madness. (There 
is no certainty that this girl's story is true; de Sade's 
reputation at the time was so bad that anything could be 
believed against him, and the story was dragged out by 
his enemies.) But he undoubtedly did make a chamber- 
maid pregnant, and in order to prevent this girl telling 
inconvenient tales she had her arrested and kept in a 
convent under a completely false charge of theft. She 
seems to have abandoned her children to their grand- 
mother without a murmur; she fought for her husband 
against his family and hers; she humiliated herself out of 
all measure ; and yet she maintained to the end an almost 
unmitigated innocence. 


LIFE 1740-1814 

She cannot possibly be considered simple-minded; she 
was not particularly religious; passionate love is not 
altogether an adequate explanation, for love demands 
some return, and although de Sade generally treated her 
kindlily and affectionately, he can never have given the 
impression of being in love with her. I think if we had 
a portrait of her, her conduct might be more under- 
standable. I imagine her to have been very plain we 
know she was tall, gawky, ungraceful, and extremely 
shabby in her dress, wearing clothes ten years old and 
her love for de Sade to have been the endless gratitude of a 
passionate woman with no sort of sex appeal for the one 
man who had gratified her. It cannot be argued that she 
was constrained in any way; on the contrary every sort 
of device and bribe was used to separate her from her 
husband; in 1778 threats were used to prevent her 
rejoining him; her mother, who was working for what she 
considered to be her daughter's interests, became for 
fifteen years her daughter's greatest enemy. 

Madame de Montreuil is easier to understand. She 
was a very rich and very clever woman with too little to 
do, so that all her energies went into intrigue. After 
de Sade's elopment with her favourite daughter her one 
aim was de Sade's destruction. He must be imprisoned 
for life. At the same time the sentence against him must 
be quashed and all scandal concerning him hushed up; 
for otherwise her daughter and grandchildren would be 
dishonoured and her numerous other children would lose 
all chance of marrying well. With this double aim in 
view she used her very considerable influence with the 
judges and the Court to get the sentence revised; at the 
same time she used every method to insure that once 
formally acquitted de Sade would stand no chance of 
freedom, by bribing more or less overtly de Sade's 


relations and servants; she even bought his lawyer, so 
that de Sade could make no move of which she did not 
know immediately. During his enforced absences de 
Sade left his keys with this lawyer-steward; Madame de 
Montreuil took advantage of this fact to get the lawyer to 
break into his desk and steal some notes of his which could 
be used against him. Although de Sade seems to have 
suspected this double-crossing on the part of his lawyer 
he was never quite convinced of it ; moreover this man 
Gaufridy was on the spot and could collect his money 
during his many absences; so that despite his suspicions 
he never broke with him. 

On de Sade's return to La Coste his wife used what 
money was left to them to turn the chateau into a real 
fortified place, with high walls and a drawbridge ; and for 
a great part of the next four years the pair lived there in a 
state of siege, seeing no one except the servants and the 
lawyer; the bridge was only down for a few hours in the 
middle of the day. It is possible that secret rooms were 
built, for in the beginning of 1774 a party of soldiers 
came to search for de Sade ; but although they turned the 
place upside down they did not find him. 

In 1 774 Louis XV died and the lettre de cachet against 
de Sade under his name lost its validity; moreover de 
Maup^ou was finally disgraced and there was considerable 
hope of de Sade's rehabilitation, Madame de Sade started 
a lawsuit against her mother for persecution and later went 
to Paris to try to interview the necessary people to get 
the sentence quashed. She received a great deal of 
encouragement but nothing concrete; in the autumn her 
funds were completely exhausted and she had to return 
to La Coste; with her back turned the mother was able 
to destroy all that her daughter had accomplished. The 
lawsuit against Madame de Montreuil seems to have 


LIFE 1740-1814 

petered out inconclusively. On her return she brought 
with her two young girls from Lyons and Vienne, and 
also a young secretary for her husband. In November 
the chateau was closed for the winter. 

Whether there were any orgies at the chateau this 
winter, and if so of what nature and who took part in them 
can only be guessed at. Certainly in the spring the 
parents of the three young people Madame de Sade had 
brought with her all turned up to demand the return of 
their children; but Madame de Montreuil was so 
intimately concerned with the whole affair that it is diffi- 
cult to tell whether she was really trying to cover up the 
traces, as she claimed, or to manufacture fresh evidence. 
Considering de Sade's character there is reason to suppose 
that there was considerable foundation for complaints ; in 
which case the r6le his wife played becomes even more 
peculiar. She imagined she was again pregnant this 
winter, but inaccurately; on the contrary it was her 
chambermaid who was in this interesting condition; to 
shut her mouth Madame de Sade had her arrested on a 
false charge and held under a lettre de cachet, until her 
father also turned up. 

Either this winter or two winters later de Sade started 
his systematic study of sexual psychopathology. He had 
written two volumes before his arrest in 1778, and had 
also made numerous notes. There seems to be little 
question that the famous papers which Madame de Mon- 
treuil had stolen from de Sade's desk were notes for this 
work; in all probability they were each an analytical 
description of the behaviour of all the people with whom 
he had to do, and also possibly second-hand accounts. 
This early work was all destroyed by the order of his 
mother-in-law, to his great distress; thirteen years later 
he was still trying to recover these papers. 



The complaints made by the little girls in the spring 
made it unsafe for de Sade to stay at La Coste ; he there- 
fore went to Italy, and spent a year visiting Florence, 
Rome and Naples. At the last place he was presented at 
Court, and it is possible that he had an interview with the 
Pope. It is not known whether he travelled alone; in a 
footnote to Juliette* he claims complete accuracy for the 
description of the various historical personages, on the 
ground that he visited Italy with a very beautiful woman, 
whom " uniquely on the principle of sexual philosophy I 
introduced to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, to the Pope, 
to Princess Borghese, and to the King and Queen of 
Naples." This is obviously unverifiable. 

In 1776 the President of the Parlement at Aix sent a 
memoire to the Garde des Sceaux protesting against the 
excessive condemnation of de Sade; so that it was probably 
with a feeling of some hopefulness that he returned to 
La Coste. He did not guess that in his absence his 
mother-in-law had bought over his lawyer. Moreover 
both he and his wife were so short of money that they had 
barely enough to eat. At the end of the year another 
parent of another chambermaid turned up to demand his 
daughter; he shot at de Sade but missed him. This 
chambermaid was called Justine. She was a very plain 

At the beginning of 1777 de Sade and his wife set out 
separately for Paris, he in the company of a valet, she with 
the maid Justine. He had barely arrived when his 
mother-in-law had him arrested, on February 1 3th. 

It has always been supposed that the reason of this visit 
was some debauchery neither his detractors, or with 
few exceptions his defenders, are willing to find anything 
else either in his life or works but he has again given an 
explanation 9 : "A gentleman, who had a case against him 


LIFE 1740-1814 

at the Parlement of Aix . . . and which the Parlement 
.... was only willing to compose with his wife's family 
on the condition of a long detention, this gentleman, I 
say, who had been in hiding for several years, carried away 
by the imbecile delicacy of wanting to care for his dying 
mother came to Paris in spite of dangers. Hardly was he 
in the dead woman's room than his wife's family had him 
arrested. He complained of this procedure . . . they 
laughed in his face and threw him into a dungeon of the 
Bastille, where amusingly enough he could weep at the 
same time for the loss of his liberty, the death of his 
mother, and the barbarous stupidity of his relations." 
This is the passage to which de Sade draws attention by 
identifying himself in a footnote. The old Comtesse de 
Sade did die in January of this year. Since the autobio- 
graphical facts have recently been proved true, there 
seems no cause to doubt his explanation of the real reason 
of his persecution. 

He was held in Vincennes for a little over a year. He 
got permission to communicate with his wife and their 
joint efforts, accompanied by his protestations of penitence 
for his contumacy, succeeded in having his case re-heard 
at Aix in June, 1778. The previous conviction was 
quashed as 'erron et vicieux de forme' and the punish- 
ment altered to a fine of fifty francs, an admonition from 
the bench and an order to keep away from Marseilles 
for three years. From that date to the end of his life (with 
the exception of a few months in 1793) no accusation was 
ever brought against him, yet he spent all but ten of the thirty- 
seven years that remained to him in close confinement. 

The means by which he was kept in prison till the 
revolution was a lettre de cachet, granted to his mother- 
in-law. This monstrous piece of tyranny, by which a 
person is kept in preventive imprisonment, was a well- 



known feature of the ancien regime. It was made 
doubly intolerable by being granted to certain private 
persons for reasons of family interest or private revenge. 
Nowadays, of course, it is only used by the State. (Cf. the 
almost universal preventive arrest of Communists before 
announced manifestations, or the imprisonment of Tom 
Mann under a statute of Edward III; in the latter case 
the magistrate was good enough to tell the prisoner that 
it was not necessary for him to be charged with any 

It is possible that de Sade was forced to acquiesce to 
this lettre de cachet. In the story about de Maupou 
already referred to he says, 9 " The idea of a lettre de cachet 
revolts you, but wasn't it by barbarously advising it that 
you finished the destruction of that gentleman ? Did you 
not dare by a prevarication as dangerous as it is punishable 
to place this unfortunate soldier between the choice of 
prison and infamy, and only suspended your powers on 
condition that he should be crushed by those of the 

Here again de Sade came against one of his implacable 
legal enemies. The police-inspector Marais, who was 
working against him fourteen years earlier, was once more 
in charge of him ; and it was from him that he escaped for 
the last time at Lambesc on the road from Aix to Paris. 
The details of this escape are given in several different 
versions, more or less contradictory. He succeeded in 
getting a boat to Avignon and returned to La Coste for 
the last time. His wife was in Paris, in ignorance of what 
had happened; when she learned of her husband's freedom 
she tried to rejoin him but was restrained by force by her 
mother. De Sade had stopping with him as a guest a 
friend of his wife's who was also perhaps a relation of his, a 
Mademoiselle de Rousset an indefatigable, sprightly, 

LIFE 1740-1814 

provincial blue-stocking, well-meaning, muddle-headed 
and consumptive, incurably arch and daring in her con- 
versation and letters. She espoused the cause of the de 
Sades wholeheartedly, living with Madame de Sade in 
Paris for several years and helping her in her efforts to 
regain her husband's freedom; she carried on for a time 
a flirtatious correspondence with the prisoner, in which 
they exchanged verses in Provencal, somewhat to Madame 
de Sade's disturbance, though quite unjustifiably; even- 
tually, when there was no hope of de Sade's release she 
returned to La Coste with the intention of putting things 
in order, made a fantastic muddle of everything, and died 

De Sade was only at La Coste for a couple of months, 
but he seems to have cherished the illusion that he was 
now to be left in freedom, that the anger of his mother-in- 
law was satisfied; his wife, too, tried to mollify Madame 
de Montreuil but her mother refused to see her and 
returned her letters unopened. In September Marais 
succeeded in tracking him down and he was taken to 
Vincennes without further incident. 

The inspector, however, over-reached himself. When 
he arrested de Sade he said, "Now then, little man, speak 
up. You're going to be shut up for the rest of your life 
for having done this and that in a black room upstairs 
where there are dead bodies!" This complete realisation 
of the bluebeard legend in all its details seems merely 
laughable; but police-inspectors must learn that even if 
they are sent by a lady to arrest her son-in-law they must 
treat their prisoner with the respect due to one of her 
relations 1 The unfortunate Marais was dismissed and 

At Vincennes for the first time de Sade experienced the 
full bitterness of imprisonment. He was kept in a cold 



and damp dungeon, furnished only with a bed that he 
had to make himself. He was fed like a fierce animal in a 
menagerie, the food being pushed through a hole in the 
door. He was refused both writing-materials and books, 
except for one letter he was allowed to send and receive 
each week. A couple of pathetic little notes of that period 
have been preserved. One complains of being " Without 
air, without paper, without ink, without everything in the 
world/' The other is probably a request for " An hour's 
exercise and permission to write, once a week." 

A regime of this sort for any man must be murderous ; 
for a person like de Sade, who prized liberty above every- 
thing, and who was removed from the greatest sexual 
licence to complete abstinence at the age of thirty-seven, 
the physical and mental torture must have been over- 
whelming. We know very little of the psychosexual 
effects of imprisonment on adults ; the only book I know 
of on the subject is Karl Plattner's Eros im Zuchthaus, 
which is mostly autobiographical and unscientific, but 
nevertheless sufficiently revealing. It explains a good 
deal of de Sade's behaviour, especially the way he acted 
towards his wife. 

There is little wonder that de Sade went nearly mad 
under this treatment; there is rather cause for wonder 
that he did not become permanently insane. That he 
was not far from madness at the time is proved by his 
annotations to his wife's letters that have since been 
recovered and published. The forms his obsessions took 
were an idea (not unfounded) of persecution by his wife's 
family and her connivance with them (which was untrue) 
and also of his wife's infidelity. He also went mad about 
numbers. Numbers had a permanent fascination for 
him; in Juliette, for example, he is continually working 
out the exact state of his heroine's finances, and deducing 


LIFE 1740-1814 

her income from her present capital; he also insisted on 
the numerical values of the excesses of his various charac- 
ters. In Marseilles, as we have seen earlier, he kept a 
tally of the strokes he had received, and he informed the 
last of the girls that he had still twenty-five strokes to 
give. In the present circumstances he attached mystical 
ideas to the numbers he could find in his wife's letters; 
e.g., "The connection you make between the number 
thirteen and treachery proves that you deceived me on the 
thirteenth of October, 1777," and again on a note from 
his daughter which was added to a letter: "This letter has 
seventy-two syllables corresponding with the seventy-two 
weeks of my imprisonment ; it has seven lines and seven 
syllables which are exactly the seven months and seven 
days from the seventeenth of April till the twenty-second 
of January, 1780." He also covered the letters of his 
wife with obscenities and suspicions. 

His wife, however, understood or overlooked his 
behaviour and continued to work for him and provide 
him with what luxuries she could. The restraints of his 
imprisonment must have been relaxed by the end of the 
year, for we find his wife sending him clothes, books, 
perfumes, writing-materials and home-cooked food. Her 
letters as always are full of solicitude and submission; 
he seems after a time to have lived in a little comfort. 
Moreover he had an external diversion; he started the 
literary flirtation with Mademoiselle de Rousset. 

In 1779 de Sade had still some hopes of release. The 
principal inhabitants of La Coste sent a petition for his 
release, and his wife and Mademoiselle de Rousset were 
working in Paris. Madame de Montreuil, however, was 
able to counter every move and at the end of the year de 
Sade resigned himself to what seemed likely to be a life-long 
imprisonment and turned his back on the world. His wife 

49 D 


was supposed to be looking after his estates; and except 
for occasional interviews with her, which were often for- 
bidden by the governor on account of de Sade's violence 
(Plattner's book gives several examples of equally violent 
behaviour between husband and wife, even when they 
were deeply in love with one another. Such behaviour 
should not be taken at its face value), he had no contact 
with the outside world. He refers to this period of his 
life as his 'pressurage,' taking the metaphor from the 

For a number of years Madame de Sade devoted her- 
self to her husband's interests, despite the warning of her 
uncle that thereby she was ruining the matrimonial 
prospects of her brothers and sisters ; but gradually she 
got older and lazier; she became an invalid and money 
got harder and harder to find; Madame de Montreuil 
changed her tactics and became kind; her children grew 
up and replaced her husband in her affections; finally in 
1787 she abandoned the administration of her husband's 
estate to trustees; she retired into a convent and left her 
husband to himself. Madame de Montreuil had won. 

It was at this period that de Sade took his vocation 
as a writer with full seriousness. He was reading 
omnivorously I do not think there is one major writer 
in any European language whom he does not refer to 
either directly or by implication and studying the 
technique of writing. Of his work in Vincennes only two 
small fragments have been published a short dialogue on 
religion and the plan for a comedy and I do not know if 
much else has survived. All through his imprisonment he 
kept a diary, partly written in cypher, but it has either 
been destroyed or is still in the possession of his descen- 
dants. It is probable, however, that he worked out his 
technique of writing that he afterwards adhered to, 


LIFE 1740-1814 

It was his custom first of all to make a rough plan of 
the work in project just a few pages noting the salient 
traits of his characters and working out the time schedule 
and similar mechanical details. When his mind was clear 
on the main outlines of the work he would write the first 
draft extremely quickly, abbreviating and not revising. 
He would do about four thousand words a day. His 
handwriting was neat and even, and very close. He left 
big margins, in which at the first revision he would insert 
all necessary additions and corrections. Longer additions 
he would write in a separate notebook. When the original 
draft had been improved and reshaped to his complete 
satisfaction he would make a fair copy of the whole. The 
only exceptions were made when he was short of paper, 
as in the case of the 120 Journees^ of which the first draft 
(all that survives), written in almost microscopical hand- 
writing, covers both sides of a thirteen-yard roll of paper. 
He also kept notebooks filled with quotations and odd 
sentences. His technique of writing has been compared 
with some justice to that of Balzac and Proust. 

In February, 1784 de Sade was transferred to the 
Bastille and given quarters in the ironically named Tour 
de la Libert. But though physical freedom was denied 
to him he attained with his pen such mental freedom as 
few have known either before or since his time. Every 
variety of human behaviour was scrutinised and criticised 
by him with an extraordinary individual independence. 
In his twelve-year isolation he developed a complete 
philosophy. The only interruptions of his solitude were 
the occasional visits of his wife, and these were discon- 
tinued after a time. 

By far the greater part of the writings of de Sade that 
we possess were written during this period. A great deal, 
however, was lost or destroyed and we know only a 

5 1 


fraction of his output. He wrote in every conceivable 
style plays in verse and prose, short stories of a comic 
and also a dramatic nature, novels, essays and miscellanies. 
From notes and fragments we know the titles of some of 
the works that have been lost. There are thirty-five acts 
of plays, of which we barely know the titles. There was a 
large collection of short stories to be published as Les 
Contes et Fabliaux d*un Troubadour Provenfal, in which a 
dramatic and even tragic story was to be followed by a 
comic one, in the style of the Decameron, to the number 
of fifty. There was a four-volume literary miscellany 
La Portefeuille d'un Homme de Lettres, of which all but a 
few traces have disappeared. The four-volume novel 
Aline et Valcour was written in 1788. The draft of Les 120 
Journees de So dome is dated 1785, The first version of 
Justine was written in 1787, the second probably the 
following year; and it is to my mind almost certain that 
the first three volumes of Juliette also were written before 

Catalogued in this way the output of de Sade seems 
enormous; but it must be remembered that for six years 
at least he had no other occupation than reading and 
writing; all his work was carefully planned and written 
and intentional^ he did not use his powers of imagination 
as others have done, including Mirabeau who was for 
some time his fellow prisoner, as a sedative, 

De Sade clearly foresaw the revolution that was 
approaching, even prophesying it in some of his writings. 
It is even tempting to say that he caused it. In June of 
1789 he tried to escape by forcing his way through the 
sentries but was prevented. Thereupon he had the idea 
of inciting the people against the Bastille, which he did 
by scattering from his windows notes describing the 
bad treatment the prisoners were receiving; on July 2nd 

LIFE 1740-1814 

he improvised a loudspeaker from a tube and a funnel and 
called on the populace to rescue the prisoners who were 
having their throats cut. A crowd was gathered by this 
device and the governor of the prison thought sufficiently 
seriously of the danger to write: "If Monsieur de Sade is 
not removed to-night from the Bastille I cannot be answerable 
to the King for the safety of the building." On July 3rd he 
was therefore transferred to the asylum of Charenton. 
Eleven days later the ancient and almost empty fortress 
of the Bastille was stormed by the mob, whose anger 
against it had been so inexplicably roused. Three- 
quarters of de Sade's manuscripts " whose loss he wept for 
with tears of blood " were lost on this occasion, thanks to 
the dilatoriness of his wife, who put off fetching them from 
day to day. She also had destroyed some other manu- 
scripts of his which he had confided to her, on the grounds 
that they might be possibly politically dangerous. 

In March 1790 the constituent assembly released 
all prisoners held by lettre de cachet, and on Good Friday 
in 1790 de Sade re-entered the world, a free man at the 
age of fifty, after thirteen years almost continual imprison- 
ment, mostly in virtual solitary confinement. It is pos- 
sible that his sons met him at his release; but the elder 
shortly after emigrated to Germany, thereby causing his 
father considerable danger; the younger was a knight of 
Malta and stayed at his post abroad during most of the 
Revolution. His wife had obtained a separation and 
refused to see him, nor did they ever meet again; their 
only contact was through their lawyer in quarrels over 
money, Madame de Sade kept their daughter Laura, 
who seems to have been almost a mental defective, with 
her. It seems as though the two women emigrated during 
the Terror. 

When de Sade first came out of prison he was homeless 



and penniless and found the re-entry into the world very 
difficult, as indeed is generally the case with released 
prisoners. In a letter to the lawyer he describes his con- 
dition as follows: " In prison my sight and my lungs have 
been ruined (he seems to have been practically blind in 
one eye since 1784); being deprived of all exercise I have 
become so enormously fat that I can hardly move; all 
my feelings are extinguished; I have no longer any taste 
for anything, I like nothing any more; the world which 
foolishly enough I so wildly regretted seems to me so 

boring . . . and so dull I have never been more 

misanthropic than I am now that I have returned among 
men, and if I seem peculiar to others they can be assured 
that they produce the same effect on me. I had been 
very busy during my imprisonment, and had fifteen 
volumes ready for the press; on my release I have only 
about a quarter left, thanks to the criminal carelessness of 
Madame de Sade. . . ." 

For the next ten years he is in continual communication 
with his lawyer, always demanding money, money, 
money. He has never enough, for with the inflation the 
value of money is always descending; moreover he had 
great difficulties in collection, firstly as being the father 
of migrs, and later as being erroneously inscribed by a 
mistake in Christian names as an Emigre himself. These 
letters show the worst side of his character, testy and 
sycophantic in turns, disingenuous to the point of dis- 
honesty, disproportionately avaricious. Where money is 
concerned de Sade shows all the vices of his family, and 
of many of his compatriots. His only excuse is his age 
and infirmity, and the fact that he was a great deal of the 
time in actual want. Also his behaviour is very much on 
a par with that of the rest of his relations and in-laws with 
whom the lawyer had to deal. There are few people who 


LIFE 1740-1814 

would appear to advantage in their dealings with their 
lawyer and steward; de Sade, who had a Frenchman's 
reverence for the centime, certainly does not. 

Almost as soon as de Sade was freed he regained the 
administration of his estate, and accepted the deed of 
separation from his wife, by which he agreed to, but did 
not, pay her alimony. For a little while his sons were with 
him. In June he went to live with a forty-year-old widow, 
la Pr^sidente de Fleurieu, through whom he made some 
useful acquaintances; but the arrangement was not a 
success and in the autumn he set up house with a woman 
called Constance Renelle, the wife of a Monsieur Quesnet. 
Madame Quesnet was probably an actress (by another 
account she was the wife of an emigr) ; but she was a 
cultivated and intelligent woman with a large and useful 
circle of acquaintances ; according to de Sade she was a 
paragon of all the virtues. They were very devoted to 
one another and shared good and bad fortune together; 
their mutual affection only ended with de Sade's death. 

In the winter of 1790, as soon as he had settled down 
with Quesnet he nicknamed her * Sensible' and she 
responded by calling him 'Mo'ise' he sent for his books 
and furniture from La Coste and settled down to the 
business of being a professional writer. He had con- 
siderable success with his plays. One was accepted 
unanimously by the Comedie Fran^aise, but for some 
reason was never performed. Le Comte Oxtiern was acted 
with a certain success at the Theatre Moliere in 1791. 
Several others were accepted by different theatres. He 
appears to have mixed a great deal with actors at this 
time ; one Monvel, a revolutionary, was one of his chief 
friends, and he took lessons in acting from another called 
Mol. As far as we can tell from the indications all the 
manuscripts have disappeared he seems to have special- 



ised in the dramatic comedy in verse, in the classical 
tradition. Considering himself a professional playwright 
he was ready to write pieces to order; and it is his admis- 
sion of this fact in a letter to his lawyer which has led 
some people to suppose that his pen was always venal 
despite the consistency of all his published work. 

In 1791 also the first version of Justine appeared ; it had 
a considerable success and ran through five editions in 
the next ten years. The novel Aline et Valcour was also 
accepted, but for various reasons connected with the pub- 
lishers did not appear till two years later. 

At this period he was nearly ruined, for his name had 
been included in the list of former nobles published in 
1791. Also his health was bad. Nevertheless he worked 
for the Revolution to the best of his abilities ; he became 
secretary and speaker for the Section des Piques (formerly 
Venddme), the section to which Robespierre belonged. 
It was in the latter function that he was chosen to make a 
funeral oration in favour of Marat and Le Pelletier, which 
oration had so much success that it was printed and dis- 
tributed through France at the public expense. 

I do not know whether it is pure chance that thus 
joined these three names together, but it is a happy coin- 
cidence. De Sade has much in common with both the 
subjects of his eulogy. Marat was a scientist before he 
was a revolutionary; his work on the diffraction of light, 
though considered incorrect nowadays, was far nearer to 
what is to-day held to be the truth than that of his con- 
temporaries ; but because of its very novelty he had the 
heresy to try to criticise Newton he was excommunicated 
by the learned bodies of the time. His revolutionary 
activity was chiefly journalistic, starting under the old 
regime and continued despite persecution and illness to 
the day of his murder. He was continually critical; 


LIFE 1740-1814 

neither success nor reputation were safe from him. It 
was only in his savagery that de Sade, sworn enemy of the 
death penalty, could not follow him. 

Le Pelletier was also a strict egalitarian who achieved a 
certain power. He believed, as did de Sade, in the 
enormous possibilities of education for the alteration of 
man's habits, and until he too was murdered devoted his 
energies to that end. 

De Sade was assiduous in his functions with the 
Societe, and wrote another petition in their name to the 
people of France. He also made a petition about religion, 
which he claims was the origin of all the anti-religious 
movement; this, however, has not been preserved, unless 
the first part of the pamphlet quoted in Chapter VI is an 
elaboration of it. He was also engaged in the inspection 
of hospitals. 

But when the senseless butcheries of the Terror 
occurred de Sade could follow the revolutionaries no 
longer. Those people who are surprised at his gentleness 
and moderation at this time show a very superficial under- 
standing of both his character and his work. 

Among the innumerable other victims of the mob's fury 
were the President and Madame de Montreuil, his wife's 
parents who were the immediate cause of his misery for 
the last twenty years. By a curious coincidence de Sade 
was president of the bench before which they came to 
trial. With a magnanimity worthy of his heroine Justine 
he voted against their execution; and like Justine he 
found that virtue was always punished; he was imprisoned 
for moderantism. 

I do not think that it is necessary to seek elaborate 
explanations for de Sade's behaviour on this occasion. He 
had the courage now as throughout his life to act up to his 
theories. He had already voiced his complete disbelief in 



the death penalty. And his own account of his actions 
explain his motives. "I am broken, done in, spitting 
blood," he wrote, "I told you I was president of my 
section ; my tenure has been so stormy that I am exhausted. 
Yesterday, for example, after having been forced to with- 
draw twice I was forced to abandon my seat to the vice- 
prsident. They wanted me to put to the vote a horrible, 
an inhuman project. I definitely refused. Thank God, 

that's the end of that During my presidency I 

had the Montreuils put on a liste ^puratoire (for pardon). 
If I had said a word they were lost. I kept my peace. I 
have had my revenge/' 

For the next ten months he passed through four 
different prisons, each more ghastly than the other, 
expecting death any minute. His final prison at Picpus 
was the worst of all. It was a beautiful place with a lovely 
garden. In the centre of the garden was the guillotine. 
More than a thousand people were executed under his 
window and buried in the garden during a month of his 
imprisonment there, a great number being his fellow- 
prisoners. It is possible that he had to help in the burial. 
The date of his own execution was fixed but the reaction 
occurred just in time. There is little wonder that a year 
later he was still haunted by this nightmare. It is neces- 
sary to keep this experience of his in mind when con- 
sidering his work. 

Finally in October he was released by the efforts of 
Madame Quesnet. It is possible that the deputy Rovre, 
though unknown to him personally, may have been 
responsible for this. He later sold to him his estate at 
La Coste; the cMteau had been pillaged and destroyed 
by the peasants. 

In the winter of 1794 life in Paris was torture. Paper 
money was practically valueless, food nearly unobtainable, 


LIFE 1740-1814 

and the weather the coldest of the century. (It is a curious 
coincidence that excessive cold and excessive misery often 
seem to go together.) Under these circumstances de Sade 
set about trying to earn a living. 

There is still in existence a letter of his dated February, 
1795 to the Conventionnel Bernard demanding employ- 
ment in any form, whether as ambassador, writer, keeper 
of a library or a museum or indeed any position where he 
could gain a subsistence. His application seems to have 
been unsuccessful and he had to rely on his writing. The 
novel Aline et Valcour was issued by a different publisher 
with some success; and he wrote and published at the 
same period La Philosophic dans le Boudoir. This is not 
only the shortest of his works but also the most nearly 
pornographic; it was probably written with the direct 
aim of money-making. The ideas in it are almost entirely 
repetitions from his major works, and were it not for the 
incorporation of a very important political pamphlet which 
will be considered later in detail it would not be of much 
interest. It is possible also that from this year should be 
dated the pamphlet entitled Une Idee sur le mode de la 
sanction des Lois in which he proposes that laws should be 
brought forward by the deputies but voted on directly 
by the people, because "one should admit to the sanction- 
ing of laws that part of the people who are most 
unfortunate, and since it is them that the law strikes 
most frequently they should be allowed to choose the law 
by which they consent to be stricken."* 

De Sade's vision of a real revolution faded away. 
Socialism had disappeared and nationalism was trium- 
phant. Private property was still respected, there was still 
glaring inequality, office seekers and rogues were still in 
power. Babeuf 's egalitarian revolt, with which de Sade 

* M. Heine dates this pamphlet 1792. 



was certainly in sympathy if he was not implicated in it, 
was bloodily crushed by authority; business was as usual; 
the revolution, at any rate as he envisaged it, had failed. 
In his pessimism, his disgust and rage at mankind, he 
threw on to the booksellers' shelves those poisoned bombs, 
the ten volumes of La Nouvelle Justine ou les Malheurs de 
la Vertu suivie de VHistoire de Juliette sa sceur. With 
terrific irony he presented a copy bound in white vellum 
to each of the five directors. 

These volumes were published if not written during the 
only five years in the whole history of Christendom in 
which they could be openly sold. Despite the engravings 
which adorned the first edition and which stress 
exclusively if rather naively the obscenity of the work, 
these books were openly displayed in the bookseller's 
windows. In 1801 Napoleon had all the copies that he 
could find destroyed, and since that date his work has 
been persecuted and burned. Organised authority has 
vowed an inveterate war against his work and his ideas; 
only recently have a few people dared to start republishing 
his books in small, costly, limited editions ; and though he 
is now in some quarters praised as rashly as he was blamed 
before (chiefly with a desire to shock) he still remains 
almost completely unread. 

But although the publication of this work may have 
aided the reputation of de Sade (albeit his life long he 
officially denied the authorship with considerable vigour) 
it did not help him financially, and in 1797, the same year 
as these volumes appeared, we find another letter from 
him asking to be paid as soon as possible for some work 
he had done. In the summer of the next year he returned 
to Provence for the last time accompanied by Quesnet, in 
an effort to get some money from thence. The journey 
was in every way disastrous. Not only did he get no 


LIFE 1740-1814 

money, he found his name was by mistake on a list of 
migrs from which, owing to the confusion in Christian 
names, he could not get it removed ; he was also involved 
in an action for slander. From this date until about 1 804 
when his family settled an annuity on him in exchange for 
all his property (except a small portion he had settled on 
Quesnet) he was in the greatest misery and poverty 
imaginable. In 1799 he was glad to get a job at the 
theatre at Versailles for forty sols a day, which sum had to 
keep both him and Quesnet's son by her husband, while 
the faithful Sensible' made every effort in Paris to get 
work or help. His play Oxtiern was revived there with 
some success; he himself acted the r6le of Fabrice, the 
young lover. A letter from him covering two copies of 
this play has been preserved ; he begs the addressee to try 
to get the same play performed at Chartres ; he would be 
willing to act in it again, and in any case would come to 
supervise rehearsals. 

His already broken-down health gave way under this 
regime ; his sight became so bad that he could no longer 
see to write ; he was forced to spend three months of the 
winter of 1799-1800 in the public hospital at Versailles, 
absolutely penniless, with only the food and clothes of 
charity. Even from this refuge he was finally turned out 
44 dying of hunger and of cold," and in danger of being 
imprisoned for debt. In the spring his situation must 
have improved; either his sons, who had now returned, 
or Quesnet, or his incurably dilatory steward must have 
come to his help. 

He had already in the July of the previous year been 
in communication with the Theatre Fran^ais (not for the 
first time) urging them to perform a patriotic play of his 
called Jeanne Laisne or the Siege of Beauvai$\ the subject is 
historical and he explains at some length how he had gone 



to the original records to verify the heroine's name and 
other details. The theatre, however, would not accept it 
because Louis XI appears on the stage, and a year later 
he appealed over their heads directly to the Conventionnel 
Goupilleau de Montaigu. This letter, coming from a 
once proud man, now nearly sixty and destitute, has a 
rather tragic interest. It is too long to quote more than 
a portion of it. After some rather fulsome compliments 
he writes: "You are all agreed, Citoyens Repr^sentants, 
as are all good republicans, that it is extremely important 
to elevate the public spirit by good examples and good 
writing. My pen is said to have some energy, my philo- 
sophical novel, Aline et Vakour^ has proved it ; then I offer 
my talents to the service of the Republic, and offer them 
willingly. I was unhappy under the old regime, so you 
can understand that I must fear a return to an order of 
which I should inevitably be one of the first victims. The 
talents I offer to the Republic are disinterested ; if a plan 
of work is made out for me I will execute it, and I dare to 
say that it will be satisfactory. But I pray you, citizen, 
put a stop to that horrible injustice which is cooling for 
me the feelings with which I am warmed; why do they 
wish to give me cause for complaint against a government 
for which I would lay down a thousand lives if I had them ? 
Why has all I own been confiscated for the last two years, 
and why during that period have I been reduced to charity 
without in the least deserving such horrible treatment? 
Aren't people convinced that instead of emigrating I was 
occupied in all sorts of employment during the most 
terrible revolutionary years ? Do I not possess the most 
authentic certificates possible? Then if they are per- 
suaded that I am innocent, why am I treated as guilty? 
Why do they try to force into the ranks of the enemies of 
the Republic one of its warmest and most zealous par- 



tisans ? It seems to me such conduct is as unjust as it is 

" In any case, Citoyen Reprsentant, I offer my pen and 
my talents to the government, but don't let unfairness, 
poverty and misery weigh on me any longer, and have 
me taken off the list (of ex-nobles) I beg of you, aristocrat 
or not, what difference does it make: have I ever acted 
like an aristocrat ? Have I ever been known to share their 
conduct and their sentiments ? My actions have destroyed 
the wrongs of my origin, and it is to that reason that I 
owe all the attacks that the royalists have made on me, 
especially Poultier in his paper of the I2th fructidor last. 
But I defy them as I hate them. . . . 

" In a word, citizen, as a first sample of what I can offer 
I propose to you a tragedy in five acts, a work most com- 
petent to awake in every heart love for their country. . . ." 

He then goes on to describe the plot of his tragedy. 
Goupilleau seems to have answered politely and kept him 
dangling; the play was not, as far as is known, performed. 

It will be seen that de Sade protests almost over- 
emphatic admiration for the republic, which, as I pointed 
out earlier, had fallen so far short of his ideals. But bad 
as the republic was, it was better than the danger that de 
Sade, with his keen political foresight, saw approaching, 
the danger of a new tyranny, of an empire, of Napoleon. 
With quixotic rashness this old man tried to warn his 
lethargic fellow citizens; in the summer of 1800 he 
printed and published at his own expense a roman d cle> 
ZoloS et ses deux Acolytes^ in which Napoleon, Josephine 
and their chief friends, Monsieur and Madame Tallien, 
Barras, Madame Visconti and others could be easily 
recognised, either by the anagrammatic names of the 
characters or by the detailed physical descriptions. In 
this work de Sade applied his own principles of attacking 



by mockery, rather than by indignation and force. 10 He 
made Napoleon and Josephine ridiculous. 

It is hard to understand nowadays how this book pro- 
voked such a violent storm and scandal; it is nearly 
incomprehensible. We can only suppose that his claim 
that it represents history is true ; that he displayed in the 
most ludicrous light anecdotes then current about these 
people and that they were accepted as true by his readers. 
The only passage that has any interest for us is his analysis 
of the reasons for Napoleon's future success, reasons that 
are equally valid to-day for the rise of dictators. He 
says 11 : "All the parties in France cross and shock one 
another there is no rallying point. The so-called aris- 
tocrat detests the rule of men covered with blood and 
crime. The mad demagogue is furious that people dare 
to muzzle him and that those in power leave him to dis- 
grace. The nervous and indifferent who form the greatest 
number pray for a single master who joins courage to 
vision, virtue to talent, and they find him in d'Orsec 
(Napoleon). His marriage with Zolo (Josephine) gains 
him the adhesion of the proscribed class. " Elsewhere he 
pays tribute to Napoleon's military abilities. 

He paid the penalty of his rashness. He should have 
remembered the distich he had placed at the head of Aline 
et Valcour. 

"It is dangerous to love men, 
A crime to enlighten them." 

In March, 1801, he was arrested with his publisher 
Bertrandet on the specious excuse that he intended pub- 
lishing Juliette (which had actually been on sale for five 
years), "an immoral and revolutionary work." The 
charge against the publisher was soon after withdrawn. 

He was imprisoned first at Sainte-P^lagie, then at 

LIFE 1740-1814 

BicStre. His case did not come up for hearing. In a 
letter of June, 1 802, he demands that he should be judged : 
he had been imprisoned for fifteen months although 
legally he should have been tried within ten days. The 
Minister of Justice replied by giving an order that he 
should be forgotten for a while. In April, 1803, ^ e was 
declared mad and transferred to the asylum at Charenton, 
officially at the request of his family. 

This was a favourite trick of Napoleon's, to declare 
mad any enemy of his whom he could not catch on a 
criminal charge. The poet D^sorgues, M. de Laage, the 
Abb6 Fournier, to mention only a few of the best known, 
were similar victims of an odious despotism. 

There is no question that de Sade was really insane; 
even the doctors in charge of him denied it. It would 
have been perhaps more merciful for him if he had been. 
Even the consolation of his writing was denied to him 
now; periodically police officers came to hunt for his 
manuscripts, wherever he hid them, and confiscated them. 
Some were kept, some were seized at his house prior to 
his arrest, others after his death; the greater part were 
burnt by the police at the request of his son. The old age 
of Lear was not more tragic than that of this man, living 
too sane among lunatics. 

By a piece of good fortune the asylum was under the 
conduct of an exceptionally sensible man, the ex-Abb^ 
Coulmier, who understood and sympathised with de Sade. 
Under his protection de Sade developed a project which 
saved him from dying from boredom; he instituted a 
theatre for madmen. Occasionally he got actors and 
actresses from outside; more often he trained the less 
violent of the lunatics to act themselves, coaching them 
and producing the spectacles ; they acted both the ordinary 
repertory and plays specially written for them by de Sade 

65 E 


himself. We cannot know to what extent he did this 
consciously as a therapeutic measure ; it is anyhow a line 
of approach that could be developed with advantage by 
alienists to-day. As a method of re-education play-acting 
offers enormous possibilities. 

It was possibly due also to Coulmier's benevolence 
that the novel Les Journees de Florbelle a work in which 
Louis XV, Fleury and the Comte de Charolais were 
among the characters got so near publication before 
it too was seized by the police in 1807, an d that La 
Marquise de Gange, if it is by him, was published in 

It was also due to Coulmier that he was able to enjoy a 
certain amount of freedom of communication and to 
receive visits. Quesnet, whom for the sake of appearances 
he described as his natural daughter (there is certainly no 
truth in this statement) visited him freely; it is even pos- 
sible that she lived in the asylum for a certain time. One 
of the only two letters which survive from this epoch bear 
both their names; it is concerned with the settlement de 
Sade made on her. The other letter is about a variety of 
subjects ending up "/ am not happy but I am in good 
health. That is all I can say/' 

The performances in the asylum became quite a social 
event. Guests came in from outside, though the issuing 
of invitations depended entirely on the director. We have 
a list of invitations for May 23rd, 1810, which includes 
the local mayors and curates, doctors, a lady-in-waiting of 
the Queen of Holland and various other people; also 
thirty-six employees of the building and sixty patients. 
On these occasions de Sade acted as producer and master 
of ceremonies. On special occasions, such as the director's 
birthday, or a visit to the asylum of a notability such as 
the Cardinal Maury, de Sade composed special allegorical 


LIFE 1740-1814 

pieces or else wrote a poem to be recited or sung for the 
occasion. The verses written for the visit of the Cardinal 
in 1812 still exist; they are such as one might expect 
as competent as a poet laureate would produce on a 
similar occasion, and equally untouched by poetry. 

But even now de Sade was not free from persecution. 
In 1808 the head doctor wrote to the chief of the police 
(incidentally it would be interesting to know what the 
police had to do with an asylum) a violent attack on de 
Sade, grudging him his comparative freedom of move- 
ment and communication and demanding his removal to 
some fortress. He attacks the play-acting by the lunatics 
as unorthodox and liable to bad effects (though it had 
been going on for some years he could not show any) and 
states formally that de Sade was in no way mad "his only 
delirium being that of vice." Coulmier, however, was 
able to resist this impertinence and de Sade stayed at 
Charenton and the play-acting was continued till 1813. 
Then the same doctor got his way and the plays were 
forbidden; they were replaced by concerts and balls. 

In 1808 de Sade appealed vainly to Napoleon for his 
release. In his letter he stated that he had spent over 
twenty years of the most miserable life in the world in 
prison, that he was now nearly seventy, almost blind, and 
suffering from gout and rheumatism in the chest and 

There are several accounts of him in his old age. They 
show him to be quick-tempered as always, extremely 
polite, graceful in his movements, rather fat and white- 
haired; we can picture him to some extent. There is no 
known portrait of him at any time of his life and the only 
description of him in his youth that I can find is the rather 
summary one of the witnesses at Marseilles where he is 
described as shorter than his servant, fair-haired and 



rather plump. At that time he was smartly dressed and 
wore a sword. 

Of the last years of his life we know nothing. He died 
on December 2nd, 1 8 14, at the age of seventy-four. The 
cause of his death was given as " pulmonary congestion." 

Nine years earlier in a fit of great bitterness he made 
his will, which was found after his death. The last 
paragraph was as follows : 

"I expressly forbid my body to be opened under any 
consideration soever. I ask with the greatest emphasis 
that my body shall be kept for forty-eight hours in the 
room I shall die in, placed in a wooden coffin which shall 
only be nailed down on the expiration of the time men- 
tioned ; during this interval an express messenger shall be 
sent to the sieur Lenormand, wood merchant, at Versailles 
to pray him to come himself accompanied with a wagon 
to fetch my body to be transported under his escort to 
the wood on my property at Malmaison in the commune 
of Mance near Epernon, where I wish it to be placed, 
without any sort of ceremony, in the first thicket on the 
right in the said wood, entering from the direction of the 
old chateau by the large road which divides the wood. 
My grave shall be dug in the thicket by the Malmaison 
farmer under the inspection of M. Lenormand, who will 
only leave my body after it has been placed in the said 
grave ; if he wishes he can be accompanied in this cere- 
mony by those of my relations and friends, who, without 
mourning of any sort, will have the kindness to show me 
this last mark of attachment. Once the grave has been 
filled it shall be sown over with acorns so that subsequently 
the said grave being replanted and the thicket being 
tangled as it was before, the traces of my tomb may dis- 
appear from the face of the earth, as I flatter myself that 
my memory will be wiped away from the minds of men. 


LIFE 1740-1814 

1 'Made at Charenton-Saint-Maurice, while of sound 
mind and body, January 3Oth, 1806. 

(Signed) D. A. F. SADE." 

Even in death he was thwarted. The passionate atheist 
was given Christian burial and a stone cross set over him. 
But that was not sufficient indignity. Hardly was the 
earth settled over his coffin when body-snatching disciples 
of Gall, the phrenologist, dug up and stole his skull, as a 
subject for their 'science/ They pronounced that this 
skull "Resembled that of all old people; it was a curious 
mixture of vices and virtues, of benevolence and crime. 
It was small and well-shaped; at first glance it might be 
taken for a woman's head, especially as the bumps of 
tenderness and love of children are as prominent as 
in the head of H61oise, that model of tenderness and 

They seem to have thought that these conclusions were 
paradoxical. Actually it is not a bad epitaph. 

Note. The facts in this chapter are mainly selected from previous 
books on de Sade, particularly 'Eugene Diihren,' Der Marquis de 
Sade und seiner Zeit y Guillaume Apollinaire, preface to L'CEuvre 
du Marquis de Sade y Dawes, The Marquis de Sade, and numerous 
articles and prefaces by Maurice Heine. 

The collection of letters written to the lawyer Gaufridy and 
published by Paul Bourdin in 1929 under the title of La Gorrespon- 
dance intdite du Marquis de Sade gives a good deal of information, 
especially about the years 1774-1777 and 1790-1800. About 
half the letters are from de Sade, the rest being from his relations, his 
wife, his mother-in-law, Mademoiselle de Rousset, and various people 
with whom he had business. Nobody's character comes particularly 
well out of this correspondence; they are mostly about money, 
speculations about wills, and methods of defrauding the revenue, 
etc. They do however clear up a number of riddles in the life of 
de Sade. Unfortunately the letters are only a selection, and M, 


Bourdin has such a bias against de Sade that one cannot tell to what 
an extent such a selection is representative. Anything which is 
against de Sade is true, anything in his favour is an exaggeration or a 
lie. He cannot even mention a list of de Sade's books without 
suggesting that he has bought but not read them. M. Bourdin 
is a very superior person, but despite his prejudices the book is 
informative, though not interesting. 


The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life. 

The Second Letter to the People of Corinth. 

I must create a system or be enslaved by another Man's$ 
I will not reason and compare; my business is to create. 




ALMOST the last piece of writing from de Sade's pen that 
has come down to us is an Essay on the Novel which he 
wrote as a preface to Les Crimes de r Amour ^ a collection of 
eleven of the tragic and dramatic short stories (their 
length almost allows them to be called short novels) from 
his projected Contes et Fabliaux du Dixhuitieme Siecle par 
un Troubadour Provenfal, which he had written in 1787. 
This Essay, written and published in 1800, when all his 
major work was written, is of considerable interest, for 
not only does it give his ideas on the function and art of 
the novel, and fiction generally, but is also a tacit criticism 
and justification of his own work. The fact that he 
formally denies the authorship of Justine therein is of no 
importance; at the date of writing it was the only policy. 
He starts by sketching the origin of the novel. 
Deriding those people who would seek an origin in one 
country or in one people, he places the origin of fiction 
in two ingrained human weaknesses prayer and love. 
The first fiction arose when the first religion was invented. 
Man's mythopoeic faculties were first occupied with gods, 


then demi-gods and finally heroes. Somewhat later ideal 
and lyrical love-stories were written. He glances over 
the novels of the Romans and Greeks incidentally he 
states that Petronius' Satyricon should not be considered 
a novel; he shared with his contemporaries the idea that 
it was a personal satire on Nero to consider in greater 
detail the productions of Christian Europe, and especially 
France. Neither the chansons de geste nor the fabliaux 
can be considered as real novels, though the latter come 
nearer to being so ; it was only when gallantry was added 
to observation that the novel was born. Almost at once 
the novel reached its apogee Don Quixote is for him the 
best novel ever written. He also rates very highly the 
Princesse de Cleves of Madame de Lafayette, mentioning 
in passing the absurd supposition that being a woman 
she must have had help from men to make a masterpiece ; 
women, he says, are more fitted to novel-writing than 
men, owing to their greater delicacy. His judgments on 
the French novels of the eighteenth century are so just 
and so much in accordance with the accepted taste of 
to-day that they do not need repeating; he gives Voltaire 
and Rousseau their just praise, and takes to task Crebillon, 
Tanzai and their followers writers who are considered 
typically 'eighteenth century' for their immorality. 
From these he excepts Provost, whom he admires very 

He then turns to the English novel. "Richardson and 
Fielding," he says 1 "taught us that only the profound 
study of man's heart, nature's maze, and that alone can 
inspire the novelist whose work shows us not only the 
man as he is or pretends to be that is the historian's 
task but as he can be, as he is influenced by vice and all 
passion's shocks; so that one must know and employ 
them all to use that style; they taught us, too, that virtue's 



continual triumph is not always interesting. . . ," He 
adds that virtue is only one of the heart's phases. 

He then deals with the 'Gothic 1 novel. 2 "Then there 
are the new novels, nearly whose whole merit lies in magic 
and phantasmagoria, with the Monk at their head, which 
are not entirely without merit; they are the fruit of the 
revolution of which all Europe felt the shock. For him 
who knows the misery the wicked can inflict on mankind 
the novel became as difficult to write as it was boring to 
read; there was no one who did not undergo more mis- 
fortunes in five years than the best novelist could describe 
in a century; therefore hell had to be called in to help and 
interest, to find in nightmare merely what one knew 
ordinarily just by glancing over the history of man in this 
age of iron. But how many inconveniences this style 
offers ; the author of the Monk has not avoided them any 
more than Radgliffe (j/V); there is the alternative of 
explaining the magic trickery, and then there is no more 
interest, or else of never lifting the curtain, which causes 
complete lack of verisimilitude. If a successful work 
appeared without being wrecked on either point, far from 
blaming the means employed we would offer it as a 
model." It is hardly open to doubt that in this paragraph 
he is explaining his own intentions in his major works, 
particularly Justine. 

After this historical survey he makes some general 
considerations on the novel. He defines it as "The 
picture of contemporary manners," "/<? tableau des 
mceurs stculaires" and claims that it can be as useful as 
history to the philosopher; the one shows the fa?ade, the 
other the whole man. 

He then proceeds to give advice to other writers. 
"The most essential knowledge is certainly that of the 
heart of man, to be learned by misfortune and travel : one 



must have seen men of all nations to know them and one 
must have been their victim to appreciate them; mis- 
fortune's hand, in exalting the character of him whom it 
crushes puts him at the right distance to study men; 
he sees them there as the traveller sees the furious waves 
break against the rock on which the storm has thrown 
him; but in whatever situation nature or chance has 
placed him let him keep quiet when he is with other 
men; one doesn't learn by speaking but by listening; 
which is why chatterers are usually fools/' 3 

The only rule is verisimilitude. Descriptions of places, 
unless imaginary, should be exact. It is not necessary to 
keep to the original plan, for ideas that come in the course 
of writing are just as useful, provided the interest is 
kept up. Incidents the short story inserted into the 
body of the main work was still general when this was 
written must be even better than the main body to 
justify themselves. An author should never moralise, 
though his characters may. But above everything don't 
write unless you have to; if you need money make boots 
and we will respect you as a competent cobbler; if you 
write for money your work will show it. 

Finally he justifies himself for the attacks made on 
Aline et Valcour. "I don't want to make vice amiable; 
unlike Crbillon and Dorat I don't wish to make women 
adore their deceivers but to loathe them. ... I have 
made my heroes who follow the career of vice so loath- 
some that they will surely inspire neither pity nor love; 
thereby I make bold to say I become more moral than 
those who allow themselves * toning down"'; 4 and in an 
outburst of justifiable pride he adds, "We^ too> we know 
how to create" 

Even a work as innocuous as this was not allowed to 
go without detractors. An otherwise unknown journalist, 



Villeterque, filled a column in attacking de Sade as 
advocating crime and immorality; in an extremely witty 
and spirited reply de Sade justifies himself, analysing his 
essay and stories; he applies the Aristotelean canon of 
purging by pity and terror and asks, "From what can 
terror spring, save from pictures of crime triumphant, or 
pity save from virtue in distress?" 6 


De Sade's work can conveniently be divided into three 
groups, depending upon his attitude towards his readers ; 
the first group which is directly addressed to all readers, 
the third of works written principally for himself and of 
which he himself says, "I only address myself to those 
capable of understanding me; such people can read me 
without danger.' ' The second group is midway between 
the two, and is only represented by Aline et Valcour\ 
this very curious novel is extremely personal and exhibits 
the various facets of de Sade's mind as clearly as any of 
his works; but the 'gauzes' to use his own word 
with which parts are enveloped show a sensitiveness to 
the reader's prejudices which prevent its inclusion in the 
third category. 

If de Sade's work had come down to us in its entirety 
it is practically certain that the first or * public' group 
would be of preponderating bulk ; but by a curious irony 
it is that part of his work more than any other that has 
been destroyed or lost; so that our judgment of his con- 
tribution to conventional literature is purely provisory. 
All his theatrical work obviously falls into this category, 
for a play is only still-born till it is acted before an 
audience ; but of his twenty or more comedies and dramas 
in verse and prose we know nothing save the plots of 
three of them and the titles of a few more. In the given 



plots he employs the devices which he also uses in his 
novels babies changed in the cradle and the Aristotelean 
Anagnorisis, or recognition of characters by one another, 
either just in time or just too late (the chief distinction 
between melodrama and tragedy); we cannot know the 
way he developed these very general devices. He appears 
to have shown some originality in form, if not in content, 
for we possess the plan for an entertainment made up of 
five different pieces tragedy, comedy, opera, pantomime 
and ballet respectively, each complete in itself yet each 
adding to the main plot or frame which held the pieces 
together. I have much sympathy with this idea per- 
sonally, for to me a visit to the contemporary theatre is 
almost always an agony of boredom ; after the first quarter 
of an hour the style is set and not deviated from till the 
final curtain. He also wrote three full-length historical 
novels; these again we only know of by their titles. 
Incidentally in his renovation of the historical novel also 
he seems to have been a precursor; I do not know of any 
other eighteenth-century novelist who used history as a 
frame for romance and went to the original sources and 
documents for verisimilitude. Waverky was published 
some years after his death. 

His four-volume Portefeuille d'un Homme de Lettres 
has fared little better; we only know a very rough plan of 
the work and a few isolated scraps. It was to be in the 
form of a correspondence between a man in Paris and two 
young ladies in the country and was to cover a very wide 
range of subjects, from the art of writing a comedy to the 
etymology of words ; there was to be a dissertation on the 
death penalty, a plan to employ criminals in such a way 
that they should be useful to the State, a letter on luxury, 
and another on education, treating of forty-four points 
of morality. The letter on play-writing was to contain 



fifty rules which would give all the necessary guidance for 
such an art. The more serious subjects were to be 
diversified by anecdotes; of these a dozen have come down 
to us. They are amusing and well told. A certain 
number are definitely indecent in a humorous 'gaulois' 
style the last thing one would have expected from 
de Sade; a couple deal with well-attested local ghost 
stories. After his diary from 1 777-1790 this is the work 
whose disappearance I regret the most. The diary, if it 
could be found, would almost certainly be the most 
extraordinary document humanity has ever known. 

The rest of the works which have disappeared but 
the existence of which we know of may be mentioned 
here. They include four novels, one of them humorous ; 
memoirs and confessions; plans for a public brothel, and 
for a spectacle similar to that of the Roman gladiators 
(his intention in this proposal will be found in Chapter 
VIII); and the strange historical novel already mentioned 
Les Journees de Florbelle in which public characters 
whom he may well have known figured. A great deal of 
his correspondence chiefly dealing with business or 
family affairs has been published. His political pam- 
phlets have been referred to in the first chapter. He 
probably wrote more which have not been identified. 

In brief, all that remains to us of his normal literary 
work, besides the essay already referred to, are thirty- 
seven short stories. Of these eleven were published in 
his lifetime, a twelfth under the editorship of Anatole 
France in 1881, and the remainder in 1927, edited by 
Maurice Heine, who transcribed them from the manu- 
scripts in the French National Library. On the whole 
they are very competent, written in a sober and economical 
style (though, as are nearly all his works, bespattered by 
fixed epithets and mechanical similes of the order of 



1 beautiful as a rose'); the denouement is well worked up 
to and dramatically emphasised; Les Crimes de V Amour 
are nearly all on the thesis of the struggle between virtue 
and vice usually with disastrous results to the actors of 
either side ; they are chiefly remarkable for the meticulous 
accuracy of the local and historical details. 

The humorous stories are much slighter; they are 
chiefly surprising in that they show in de Sade a sense of 
humour and gaiety that could never have been suspected 
from his other work ; they have an epigrammatic neatness 
which would give the author an honourable place among 
his lighter contemporaries. I give two short quotations 
as samples of this style : 

" There is a sort of pleasure for one's pride in making 
fun of faults one doesn't possess oneself, and such 
pleasures are so sweet to all men, and particularly to fools 
that it is extremely uncommon to see them give them 
up ... also it gives an opportunity for spiteful remarks, 
pale jokes and flat puns; and for society that is to say 
for a collection of people whom boredom brings together 
and stupidity modifies it is so pleasant to talk for two or 
three hours without saying anything, so delicious to shine 
at others' expense and to mention and blame vices one is 
far from having ... it is a sort of tacit self-praise ; for 
that people even consent to join together, to unite to 
crush the person whose great crime consists in not 
thinking like the rest; then they go home mightily 
pleased with the wit they have shown, when obviously 
they have thereby merely proved their stupidity and their 
pedantry." 6 

The second quotation is from the story already men- 
tioned, The Mystified Magistrate^ in which de Sade makes 
fun of his judges. It is by far the longest of his humorous 
stories and very spirited; the backbone which holds the 



different incidents is that old hardy annual of French 
farce, the prevention of the consummation of a marriage. 
The magistrate has been made drunk and is giving his 
profession of faith in his office ; unfortunately the pun is 
untranslatable. "Dame, voyez-vous," he says, "J'aime 
les moeurs, j'aime la temperance et la sobrit, tout ce qui 
choque ces deux vertus me revoke et je svis; il faut 
tre severe, la sverit< est la fille de la justice . . . et la 
justice est la mere de . . . je vous demande pardon, 
madame, il y a des moments ou quelquefois la m^moire 
me fait faux bond. . . Oui, oui, c'est juste, repondit la 
folle marquise. . , ," 7 

In this category of works addressed entirely to the 
general public I would include La Philosophic dans le 
Boudoir, in spite of its erotic content and vocabulary; its 
chief raison d'etre is the hundred-page pamphlet French- 
men, a further effort if you wish to be republicans, which 
occupies about a third of the book and which will be 
considered in great detail later; the frame in which it is 
placed was, I think, an attempt to diffuse the pamphlet 
more effectively than would be done if it was offered by 
itself, and also to make money. 

The plot of the work is the sexual education of a young 
girl, a perpetual device of pornographic writers. True, 
it is done with more verve and greater variety than in 
most similar books, and the intellectual equivalent of 
sexual emancipation receives at least as much space as 
the physical side; there are many traces of de Sade's 
individual approach to such problems; but the aim of 
the book is obviously to excite the reader and therefore 
pornographic; it is the only work of de Sade's against 
which such an accusation can be laid with honesty. It 
is written in dialogue form; the seven actors are little 
more than lay figures and have no existence 'off the stage/ 



D'Alm^ras, one of the first French writers to take Sade 
seriously, believed this book was not by him, probably 
because it is unworthy of him; but he acknowledges it 
himself in Justine and the style and intellectual attitude 
make the attribution doubly certain; it must be regret- 
fully accepted and excused, if an excuse is necessary, by 
the author's circumstances at the time of its writing. 


I had hoped that in this criticism of de Sade's works I 
should be able to dispense with the necessity of detailing 
the plots, referring any readers who might be curious to 
the books already published about him ; the remainder of 
his books have been dealt with at length, but Aline et 
Valcour has, as far as I know, only been carefully con- 
sidered once in a work published in a small limited edition 
in 1901 ; later writers have been content with the merest 
caricature of a summary and a regretful remark to the 
effect that the book contains no obscenities, and with the 
exception of one poisoning and a few flagellations, no 
scenes of cruelty. It is possible however for a book to have 
interest, even with the exclusion of these two subjects. 
I am forced, therefore, to give a rather long account 
of it. 

It is really three completely distinct novels, linked 
together by rather slight threads of a secondary intrigue. 
The main book (occupying the first and fourth volumes) 
is a dramatic and tragic story told in letters; the second 
volume is an account of a symbolical voyage, somewhat 
in the style of Swift; the third volume is an adventure 
story. For convenience I shall refer to these different 
parts as the story of Aline and Valcour, the story of Sain- 
ville, and the story of Leonora respectively. 

The story of Aline and Valcour is told in letters and 



was undoubtedly influenced by Richardson and Choderlos 
de Laclos. A poor young man, Valcour, is in love with 
Aline, the daughter of the Magistrate de Blamont. 
Aline loves him in return and his suit is favoured by her 
mother, a charming woman and a sincere Christian. 
These three are all honourable people, governed by their 
heart rather than by their head, sentimental, virtuous, 
religious and stupid. Aline's father disapproves of the 
match owing to its imprudence; he has found for his 
daughter a thoroughly acceptable husband in the financier 
Dolburg, a rich man already three times widowed, a friend 
of de Blamont's and his companion in debauchery. 
Aline, however, is constant in her love, and seconded by 
her mother uses every possible device to postpone the 
arranged wedding, De Blamont, infuriated by this 
resistance uses all his powers to cause the wedding to 
take place. 

The scene is set for the conflict. On one side there is 
sentiment, honour, religion the heart; on the other the 
intellect which acknowledges no laws but those of reason, 
no prejudices, no tacit agreements. The heart is bound 
to lose, for it considers itself bound by conventions and 
decencies at which the intellect laughs. 

The action is straightforward. When all legal means 
of forcing his daughter to the marriage have been foiled 
either by Madame de Blamont or friends, de Blamont 
tries to have the girl kidnapped. This too fails, as does 
an attempt to bribe Valcour to renounce his claims, and a 
subsequent attempt to have him assassinated. De 
Blamont therefore decides to isolate the girl, removing 
by one device or another all her friends, and finally 
causing her mother to be poisoned by a servant he had 
seduced. Alone and powerless, the girl is taken to a 
distant country property of her father's, where she is 

81 F 


held a prisoner by her father and Dolburg. Escape is 
impossible, all her appeals for pity are dismissed; in 
complete despair the girl commits suicide. 

The book is extremely well written. The characters 
and beliefs of the different actors are excellently revealed 
in their letters; the emotion continually and carefully 
heightened, and the climax is handled with considerable 
restraint and deep feeling. Unfortunately there is a 
sub-plot, concerned with a lost elder daughter of Madame 
de Blamont, which, although it helps the intrigue (it is 
the excuse for the introduction of the two other novels) 
and serves to reveal de Blamont's character, is the cause 
of a great deal of diffuseness, and is probably the chief 
reason for the book never having been accorded its due. 
Slightly pruned, the novel could stand against any other 
product of its country and century. 

The dominating figure of the whole book is de Blamont, 
the prototype of the * sadistic' villain. Although he only 
writes six of the seventy odd letters of which the book is 
formed, his shadow is cast on every page. He is a 
materialist, an intellectual, guided entirely by his own 
pleasures and advantage ; he has worked out a philosophy 
to justify his conduct. He gives an impression of deathly 
coldness. Even his debauches and atrocities heighten 
that impression. In face of his single-minded, un- 
scrupulous, cold determination the rest of the characters 
are like birds trying to escape from a snake. He is 
probably the most terrifying character ever created, the 
more so as we see him chiefly through the eyes of his 
victims. Although de Sade's later works abound in far 
greater monsters their very number and the lack of con- 
trast lessen their effect. 

It has already been remarked that this novel is partly 
autobiographical, Valcour's life-story is de Sade's; in 



Aline, so charming, so gay, so constant in her love despite 
all opposition it is surely not too far-fetched to see a 
portrait of the long-loved Louise de Montreuil ; and the 
broken-hearted letter that Valcour writes on hearing of 
Aline's death is, in its intensity, certainly an echo of the 
author's own despair. The charitable and long-suffering 
wife of de Blamont may well be a picture of Madame de 

The story of Sainville is completely different. It is an 
account of a voyage, but such a voyage as only Gullivers 
make. It is principally concerned with two countries, 
Butua on the Gold Coast, and Tamoe, somewhere in the 
South Seas. In the preface de Sade says, " Nobody as yet 

has penetrated to Butua .... save the author If 

with the more agreeable fictions of Tamoe he tries to 
console his readers for the cruel truths he has been obliged 
to paint in Butua, should we blame him?" Although 
nobody perhaps has penetrated to Butua, we all live 
in it; for, by a curious coincidence, he has adopted the 
same device as Miss Edith Sitwell for exposing existing 
civilisation in the symbols of African barbarity; and 
though he nowhere approaches the level of Gold Coast 
Customs,* one of the finest, if not the finest poem of this 
century, he produces effects and contrasts which are not 
unworthy of the comparison. In Tamoe de Sade has 
painted his Utopia. This volume will be analysed in 
subsequent chapters. 

The story of Leonora is the longest of the three, the 
most full of incident, and the dullest. The young lady 
is kidnapped and goes through adventure after adventure 
all over the world before returning home. She is a most 
disagreeable character, cheating and lying, using her 

* When writing this I had not seen Miss SitwelTs Romance, which surpasses 
both her own earlier works and all her contemporaries'. 



beauty to lead men on and extort favours and help from 
them with promises she has never any intention of ful- 
filling. She manages to preserve her virtue through all 
dangers. She has somewhat unjustly been compared with 
Juliette; but the latter paid for what she got: she wasn't 
that sort of a cheat. In Spain, Leonora undergoes some 
of the vicissitudes which later afflict the unhappy Justine 
the cut-throat inn, the murderous monks, the band of 
beggars. Some of the incidents and minor characters are 
of great interest; the salient points will be dealt with as 
occasion arises, 

In several different places de Sade prophesies the 
imminence of the Revolution. The book was twice sup- 
pressed in the early nineteenth century as being politically 


From every point of view Les 120 Journees de Sodome 
is one of the most extraordinary books in the world. 
Even its history is peculiar. The manuscript we possess 
is a single roll of paper about thirteen yards long and not 
quite five inches wide, covered on both sides by an almost 
microscopical writing (in print the work covers nearly 
500 pages of royal quarto) ; this was written by de Sade 
in thirty-seven evenings, writing from seven to ten every 
night, starting August 2oth, 1785,^ the Bastille. On his 
removal from there the manuscript was lost, or stolen, 
and came into the possession of a French family where it 
remained for over a century. Then a hundred and twenty 
years after its composition it was published by Dr. Ivan 
Bloch (' Eugene Diihren') in a very limited edition; a 
second and corrected edition was started in Paris in 1931, 
but the enterprise seems to have fallen through. 

And yet this monstrous work perhaps 150,000 


words is the merest skeleton of what was originally 
intended. It was to be in four parts, preceded by an 
introduction and perhaps followed by an epilogue; but 
except for the introduction and the first part, which have 
been fairly fully developed, it is only in the form of 
detailed notes. We shall probably never know whether 
de Sade used this canvas to write the complete book. As 
with The Castle of Kafka we have only the fragment of 
the intended whole; and these two fragments, utterly 
opposed as they are in every way, can both be qualified as 

The central portion of the book is a description of every 
form of sexual perversion, to the number of six hundred, 
"expressly excluding all the pleasures allowed or for- 
bidden by that brute of which you talk ceaselessly, with- 
out knowing it, and which you call nature/' 8 This is 
not only the first psychopathia sexualis, but by far the 
most complete ever written, despite the scientific and 
pseudo-scientific collections of the last fifty years. It 
includes every range of intellectual, sensual and physical 
activity which can possibly be brought into this category. 
Dr. Bloch was undoubtedly justified in claiming for this 
work a very high place as a scientific document, and 
claiming that it alone would place de Sade among the 
very first writers of his century. 

These perversions were to be described by four old 
women, who were to place them in the stories of their 
lives, thus giving four detailed life histories with their 
economical and social background. 

These historians were to recount the perversions, to 
the number of five every evening during a four-month 
orgy, lasting from the end of October till the beginning 
of March, to four excessively debauched war-profiteers, 
their four wives, and their harem of twenty-eight subjects 



of every age and sex in a lonely and desolate medieval 
castle in Switzerland. During the four months the 
development of the thirty-six characters and their mutual 
interaction was to be described. 

The introduction sets the scene and gives elaborate 
physical and mental portraits of the actors. This portrait 
gallery is an astounding performance, as a piece of writing 
hardly ever equalled. They are monstrous figures, well 
over life size, painted with extreme naturalism, yet 
crystallised to an individualism the naturalist school never 
attained. De Sade is absolutely merciless; we are not 
spared a single wrinkle, a single sore, unpleasant smell or 
habit, not a single meanness or treachery; no detail of 
cowardice or filth is hidden. But the canvas is not 
monotonous; religion and beauty are there too, childish- 
ness and romanticism; the whole gamut of human 
possibilities are exhibited in their extremest development. 

The work starts off with a thunderclap. "The exten- 
sive wars which Louis XIV had to wage in the course of 
his reign, which ruined the State's finances and the 
people's faculties, none-the-less found the secret of 
enriching an enormous quantity of those bloodsuckers 
who are always on the look out for public calamities, 
which they engender instead of appeasing, in the direct 

intention of thereby making greater profits It 

was at the end of this reign .... that four of these con- 
tractors imagined the singular party of debauchery we 
are going to describe. It would be a mistake to imagine 
that only business people took part in this malpractice, 
it had at its head very great gentlemen indeed. The 
Duke de Blangis and his brother the bishop had both 
made enormous fortunes by these means, and are suffi- 
cient proof that the aristocracy did not disdain this 
method of making a fortune, any more than other people. 



These two illustrious persons, intimately bound by 
pleasure and interest to the financier Durcet and the 
Judge de Curval, were the first to imagine the debauch 
we are going to describe; they communicated it to their 
two friends and these four formed the principal actors 
of those famous orgies." 9 

This single paragraph gives a good sample of de Sade's 
penetrating social criticism. It is no accident that his 
four villains are representatives of the four groups which 
represent law and order. 

This very slight sketch will give some notion of the 
scale on which the work is planned. Details of the plot 
can be found in the books mentioned at the end of the 

De Sade was driven by two motives to write this work. 
The first was undoubtedly scientific; as he himself 
writes 10 : "Men already so different from one another in 
all their other manias and in all their other tastes, are 
even more so sexually, and he who could fix and detail 
these perversions would accomplish one of the finest 
works on morals one could wish for, and perhaps one of 
the most interesting." In Justine he offers a similar 
explanation. "But shall we not wear out our reader's 
patience in describing new atrocities?" he asks. "Have 
we not already sufficiently soiled their imaginations with 
tales of filth? Should we hazard new ones? Hazard 
hazard, replies the philosopher. People don't realise 
how important these pictures are to the soul's develop- 
ment ; our great ignorance of this science is only due to the 
stupid modesty of those wont to write on such matters. 
Held in by absurd fears they only tell us of puerilities 
that every fool knows and do not dare to lay hands fear- 
lessly on the human heart and portray its gigantic divaga- 
tions. We will obey since philosophy commands and 



will fear no more to paint vice naked/' 11 His sincerity 
cannot be doubted; it is only his lack of a polysyllabic 
vocabulary which makes him scientifically suspect to-day. 

The second motive which actuates this work is a mis- 
anthropy unequalled in human history. Lear and Timon 
are but pale shadows compared to de Sade at this epoch. 
His aim is no less than to strip every covering, both 
mental and physical, off man and expose him to our 
disgusted gaze as the mean and loathsome creature he is. 
It is the supreme blasphemy. Our gods you may attack, 
individuals you may show to be monsters, but to attack 
the human race is unforgivable. Even the paler 
'scientific' exposures of the Viennese psychoanalysts have 
called forth the most indignant remonstrances; no wonder 
de Sade, with his cold and objective exhibition of the 
most carefully hidden corners of our unconscious minds, 
of our daily weaknesses and meannesses, has been tracked 
and pursued by authority all over the world. 

In this work the blasphemy reaches Mephistophelean 
heights. Curval complains that there are only two or 
three crimes to commit. "How many times," he cries, 
"Have I not wished that I could catch the sun and deprive 
the world of it, or use it to burn up the earth ?" 12 Never 
again did de Sade reach this pitch; though when the 
Revolution falsified all the hopes he had set on it he drew 
near the same level in La Nouvelle Justine. He allows 
himself to make paradoxical moralising asides; "If crime 
has not the delicacy of virtue, has it not ceaselessly a 
character of grandeur and sublimity that surpasses and 
will always surpass the monotonous and effeminate 
features of the latter?" 13 And again, "Beauty is simple, 
ugliness extraordinary." 14 

De Sade realised the unique quality of this work. At 
the end of the Introduction he calls on his friend the 


reader "to prepare your heart and spirit for the most 
impure tale that has ever been written since the world 
exists, such a book not existing either among the ancients 
or the moderns/' 15 As Maurice Heine has pointed out 
with considerable perspicacity, when de Sade lost the 
manuscript (? manuscripts) of this work he lost his 
masterpiece, and knew it; and it is probably due to the 
vain effort to repair this loss, from the scientific point of 
view, that we get the numerous obscenities in the final 
edition of Justine and Juliette. The account of the 
monastery Sainte-Marie-des-Bois in La Nouvelle Justine 
in particular seems to be a vain effort to reconstitute the 
lost work. 

In contrast with the fragmentary remains of Les 120 
Journees we have no less than four complete versions of 
Justine, written over a space of ten years. The first 
version, Les Infortunes de la Vertu^ is the original rough 
draft; it is a long short story written in a fortnight in 
1787, and was never intended by the author for pub- 
lication. It was transcribed from the manuscript by 
Maurice Heine in 1930. This manuscript was worked 
over, corrected and expanded by the author in his usual 
fashion during the following year, and a version Justine^ 
ou les Malheurs de la Vertu was published soon after de 
Sade's release, in 1791, in two volumes. The following 
year it was brought out again by another publisher with 
slight alterations the chief being that it is his mother, 
and no longer his aunt, that the 'homosexual' de Bressac 
feels so strongly about psychologically an important 
change. This version had a considerable success in the 
ten following years. Although the sexual element is 
present none of the first three versions can be considered 
obscene. Finally in 1 797 the book was entirely re-written 
and expanded to more than double its size, largely by 



the inclusion of the life-story of two minor characters; 
probability is destroyed, the natural development is lost, 
the story is drowned in a deluge of blood and semen. 

The basic fable is the same throughout all the versions ; 
it is the story of a young girl left suddenly without 
resources who tries to make her way through life following 
the precepts of religion in which she believes completely, 
and the misfortunes and discomforts she undergoes. In 
its original conception it was almost certainly meant to 
be an ironical tale in the style of Voltaire-Zrf<^/ indeed 
is quoted on the first page; it was to be as it were a pen- 
dant to Candide, the story of the chaste but unfortunate 
Cunegonde. Justine was to pass from the hands of one 
extraordinary character to another's, a miser's, a 'homo- 
sexual's,' a coiner's, a vegetarian and a temperance 
reformer's. In every case the exercise of some Christian 
virtue, chiefly pity or charity or the negative abstention 
from crime, was to land her in one predicament after 
another. The final moral was to be not 'cultivate your 
garden,' but 'learn how to correct the caprices of fortune' 
anglice 'God helps those who help themselves.' 

But almost immediately de Sade saw that this subject 
necessitated more serious treatment, for he was not 
attacking a minor foolishly optimistic philosophy, but 
the whole basis of Christianity and the Christian con- 
ception of human nature, Christianity assumed that 
gratitude, remorse, a natural leaning towards gratuitous 
kindness and charity were fundamentals of human 
behaviour in a Christian country, and that, there was a 
providence which especially looked after the good and 
pious. De Sade intended to show how unfounded such 
assumptions were, how worldly success was only to be 
obtained by a facade of virtue combined with a strict 
attention to business unalloyed by scruples or unneces- 



sary honesty, and how indifferent was providence to the 
characters of the people it struck through its instrument 
nature. Justine is killed by lightning. 

So from being the Candide of Christianity Justine 
became the Don Quixote. The parallel is very close. Both 
protagonists believe in a state of affairs and a humanity 
which in fact do not exist; both prefer to stick to their 
delusions rather than to learn from experience, and in 
consequence go from one disastrous and ridiculous situa- 
tion to another, finally dying in misery, still convinced 
that their vision of the world is a true one. Justine is 
consoled by her assurance that she is right, comforted by 
prayer, and upheld by her hopes of heaven. 

In this spirit the first published version of Justine was 
written (as also the rough sketch). The tale is well told 
and the incidents lively and diversified; it is one of the 
most depressing books ever written. For, in spite of 
experience, we all have a tendency to hope that virtue 
will be rewarded in the end; the continuous triumph of 
vice, as the continuous triumph of common sense in 
Don Quixote^ lends a certain monotony to the work. Not 
that Justine meets exclusively vicious people ; at Grenoble 
she is befriended by at least three disinterested people, 
including an honourable judge; a certain Monsieur 
Servan, whom de Sade designates by the initial 'S,' is 
honoured by being especially pointed out by de Sade as 
a just and disinterested magistrate in a naughty world. 
But the good are in a terrible minority; and except in 
this one case they are never in a position to influence their 
fellows; the world is composed of rogues and their 

The history of Paris between 1791 and 1797 is amply 
sufficient to account for the alterations between the two 
versions. During that time de Sade had witnessed the 


incredible brutalities of the Terror, the fever of blood and 
lust and crime which had swept the masses in whom he 
had hoped ; he had seen the failure of the Revolution to 
right any of the major wrongs of a suffering country, the 
reinstatement of private property and profit, the bloody 
suppression of BabeuFs egalitarian revolt. The first 
version of human nature in Justine must be re-written ; 
man was not merely a self-seeking hypocrite, he was the 
most bloodthirsty, cruel and lustful animal that had ever 
encumbered the face of the earth. La Nouvelle Justine 
is the final vomiting of de Sade's disgust and disappoint- 

In the preface he claims that he has acquired the right 
to say everything and then goes on to remark that in a 
century as philosophical as this no one will be scandalised 
by any descriptions or systems he may employ! (Com- 
mentators on de Sade are so fascinated or appalled at his 
obscenity that they have no eyes for. any other quality; 
yet his irony is sufficiently strong to be appreciated, even 
if he had not stressed his intention in several foot-notes.) 
He then goes on: "As for the cynical descriptions, we 
believe that since every situation of the soul is at the dis- 
position of the novelist, there are none which he has not 
the right to employ; only fools will be scandalised; true 
virtue is never frightened or alarmed by pictures of vice, 
only finding therein a further motive for the sacred pro- 
gress it has imposed on itself. Perhaps there will be an 
outcry against this work; but who will protest? The 
libertines, as formerly the hypocrites against Tartuffe" 

This last sentence needs a little consideration, 
for in it de Sade gives away the intention which motivated 
the writing of the book. It was certainly not porno- 
graphic he lacks every qualification for that; he neither 
beautifies nor romanticises sex, his descriptions are of 



the most summary, his vocabulary business-like and 
monotonous, the half-a-dozen necessary and common- 
place words (the distinguishing mark of pornography, 
after its romantic, poetic attitude to sex is its peculiar 
vocabulary of synonyms); it was not primarily the 
demonstration that in present civilisation virtue is oppressed 
and crime prosperous; it was the exposition of human 
nature at its greatest development, untrammelled by fear, 
and particularly in this book of that tangle of instincts 
called sex. His prophecy about his detractors has proved 
correct; starting from his personal enemy, Restif de la 
Bretonne, it has been the gallants, the lady-killers, the 
successful amorists who have attacked de Sade with the 
greatest violence and have been the most distressed by his 
debunking of their behaviour. 

If Justine may be compared with Don Quixote the story 
of Juliette her sister is an earlier and intensely serious 
version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The last-mentioned 
delightful work, it will be remembered, is the story of a 
poor young girl who becomes the mistress of her employer 
whom she shoots ; at her trial she gains the favour of the 
judge and jury by sexual means; she then goes to Holly- 
wood where she is taken as mistress by an elderly and 
unpleasant button-manufacturer; she deceives him when 
and as occasion arises ; she involves a rich young man in a 
breach of promise suit and compromises with his relatives 
for money. The man who is keeping her then sends her 
on a trip to Europe; on the way over she indulges in a 
little espionage; in London she makes love to a man till 
he gives her an extremely valuable diamond tiara ; in the 
Central of Europe she makes the acquaintance of an 
austere but extremely rich young man whom, by the aid 
of considerable lying and subterfuge, she persuades to 
propose to her; she makes every effort to prepare for a 



breach of promise case to obtain heavy damages, but at 
the last moment, after the robbery of some uncut diamonds, 
decides to marry him so that she can finance another man 
with whom she fancies herself in love. 

This will probably be claimed to be a wilful distortion 
of a charming and humorous work; but I do not think 
the actual plot can be otherwise described ; and (with the 
necessary changes made for time and place) if the actual 
complaisances which Lorelei was forced to have with her 
different lovers, the details of the business plans of Mr. 
Eisman and the political intentions of Major Falcon had 
been given, you would have a very fair idea of the con- 
tents of Juliette. 

When Juliette, like her sister, was suddenly left an 
orphan without resources and was equally denied both 
help and charity from the quarters from which she 
expected it, she decided to utilise the one asset she pos- 
sessed and went into a brothel. Her religious con- 
victions had already been undermined by the Mother 
Superior of the convent where she was educated, and 
convinced that no one would help her unless she helped 
herself she set about the task of getting money by every 
possible means. She spent a couple of very unpleasant 
years at the brothel, robbing her clients as much as she 
could, when she met an elderly, disagreeable, criminal 
and extremely intelligent business man, whose mistress 
she became. After some time she met at dinner at his 
house a person called Saint-Fond, a 'statesman,' the most 
powerful and richest man in the kingdom, a repulsive 
megalomaniac; she became less his mistress than the 
supervisor and administrator of his pleasures, a sort of 
Pompadour. She retained this position for some time, 
enjoying very great wealth and numerous privileges, but 
she was always in a dependent state, She lost Saint- 



Fond's patronage by betraying her horror at a monstrous 
project of his to starve to death two-thirds of the popula- 
tion of France. At the age of twenty-two she found her- 
self again nearly as poor as she was seven years earlier, 
but a good deal more experienced. She went to Angers 
and started a gambling-den; she there met a respectable 
provincial nobleman and became his wife. For two years 
she endured the boredom of matrimony, then poisoned 
her husband and went to Italy to seek her fortune in 
company with a card-sharper. She travelled through the 
different states of which the peninsula was then composed 
making money by every possible means stealing and 
swindling, running brothels and gambling-houses, 
occasionally prostituting herself. At the age of twenty- 
five she needed alcohol and opium to stimulate her, she 
was so exhausted. In her travels through Italy she met 
the most important people of the time, the King of 
Sardinia, the King and Queen of Naples, the Pope, and 
the most prominent members of the aristocracy. She 
amassed a second large fortune, but that in turn was partly 
confiscated for a time by her refusal to supply the Doges 
of Venice with poison. She returned to France to enjoy 
the money she had sent ahead of her ; eventually the Doges 
restored the rest of her fortune and she settled down to 
enjoy the ten years of life that remained to her; she died 
at the age of forty. As might be guessed from the life 
she was forced to lead she was not very fond of men ; her 
deepest and most passionate friendships were with 
women. The chief of these were a woman named Clairwil, 
a cold and vicious person, Princess Borghese, and a 
strange person with 'psychic* powers called la Durand, 
an exploiter of the quack magical religions of the time 
and a vendor of poisons. 

The principal motive of this book is not sex, but 



money, the means of acquiring it, the power it gives, 
the civilisation and institutions which surround it in 
a word, capitalist society. There is hardly a single phase 
of the contemporary civilisation, from education to the 
Church, from care of the poor and disabled to politics, 
which is not scrutinised. The characters are all capitalists, 
business men, aristocrats, kings and the higher clergy; 
they are condemned out of their own mouths. All 
through the book there is a tentative search for some form 
of civilisation which would do away with the misfortunes 
of virtue and the prosperities of vice at the same time; 
the conclusions reached will be examined later. 

This is by far the most realistic of de Sade's books. 
Research has shown that one after another of the institu- 
tions and persons that de Sade denounced were not 
figures of a diseased imagination but historical truth. 
Two hundred and fifty pages of Diihren's book are filled 
with parallels between de Sade's work and the history of 
the epoch. From the description of the brothel where 
Juliette started her apprenticeship to the horrible 
behaviour of Ferdinand and Caroline, King and Queen of 
Naples, there is little that is not historically true. Even 
the man-eating ogre Minski has a historical counterpart 
in the famous Blaise Ferrage. With regard to the 
Italian part of the book we have seen that de Sade claimed 
complete accuracy for all the details, which are based on 
personal experience. This may be true, for Casanova has 
shown how easy it was for people of far less distinction 
than de Sade to approach foreign royalty. His description 
of Ferdinand and Caroline is certainly not an exaggeration 
of the facts. Juliette's interview with the Pope is in 
another category. 

Although this book was not published till 1796 I feel 
certain it was written earlier. The optimism alone dates 


it. Moreover the footnotes bringing the work up to date 
show conclusively that the first three volumes, up to 
Juliette's marriage, were written before the death of 
Mirabeau in 1791. De Sade comments on his erotic 
works, saying of him, " Mirabeau, who wanted to be 
smutty to be something, and who is not and never will 
be anything all his life." And he adds in a footnote, 
"Assuredly not a legislator; one of the best proofs of the 
folly and delirium which characterised the year 1789 in 
France is the ridiculous enthusiasm inspired by this vile 
spy of the monarchy. What is the impression that 
remains to-day of this immoral and unintelligent man ? 
That of a hypocrite, a traitor and a fool." 16 

The rest of the work, with the possible exception of 
the rather sickening ending, was almost certainly written 
in 1793 or '94, when anti-monarchical feeling was at its 
height, possibly during de Sade's imprisonment for 
moderantism. It is the only time when de Sade shows a 
disposition to take kings seriously; at other times he 
looked behind and beyond them. In the story Juliette 
et Raunai he makes his point of view quite clear when he 
says, " Tyranny, which first frightens sovereigns, or 
rather those that govern them, ends almost always in pro- 
viding them with pleasures." 17 In the present case he 
was probably trying to use the popular feeling against 
kings to carry the people with him in his attack on the 
far more sinister powers which lay behind these figure- 

As a historical document this book is of considerable 
value, and it contains many extremely pregnant ideas; 
as a novel it is poor, losing by its very accuracy, diffuse 
and episodic; some of the characters, particularly the 
statesman Saint-Fond, who has nearly a whole volume 
devoted to him, are well drawn ; but regard for truth, and 

97 G 


de Sade's comparative ignorance, make many of the others 
little more than lay figures. There are a large number of 
well-written descriptions of Italy its countrysides, its 
towns, its ruins and its works of art; but I have never 
personally found much pleasure in the Baedeker school 
of writing, however minute the observation and however 
exquisite the language, Juliette's methods of getting a 
living necessitate a good deal of obscenity; but there is 
far less attempt at analysis than in La Nouvelle Justine; 
rather was de Sade trying to reconstitute the lost 
1 20 Journees by presenting a collection of sexual mono- 
maniacs and fetishists, but he nowhere approaches the 
level of the earlier work. It would be possible though 
difficult to make a bowdlerised version of Juliette which 
would still be of considerable interest, a feat quite impos- 
sible with the two other works. 


Although the ban on the greater part of de Sade's works 
has never been lifted since 1801 (save for a small number 
of extremely limited and expensive editions) his books by 
means of clandestine reprints have enjoyed a long and 
wide circulation. How wide it is impossible to estimate, 
but there have been learned books quoting him from 
nearly every country in Europe; and probably the greater 
number of readers have used him, to employ the 
admirable phrase of Swinburne, "either as a stimulant 
for an old beast or an emetic for a young man, instead of a 
valuable study to rational curiosity" During the nine- 
teenth century de Sade's work must have appeared com- 
pletely satanic ; before some corners of the veil of taboo 
covering sex had been lifted by the psychologists and 
psychoanalysts, and the findings given a fig-leaf of 
scientific respectability by a vocabulary free from associa- 



tions, his knowledge and ideas must have been considered 
infernal. His revolutionary ideas too must have been 
extremely upsetting, when not incomprehensible; that 
they often were (and are) misunderstood can be proved 
by the fact that the ghastly projects he puts into the 
mouths of his reactionary 'fascist* characters were taken 
to represent his own desires; as I have already pointed 
out, sex is for most people so overwhelmingly important 
and exclusive, obscenity so fascinating and repulsive, 
that they put aside all other considerations when faced 
with such subjects; and the fact that de Sade treats sex 
objectively as merely one of the major factors of life 
completely escaped them. To treat religion ironically is 
understandable, if reprehensible; to treat sex ironically is 

De Sade's influence on the literature of Europe since 
his death has been considerable. Saint Beuve, who was a 
canny critic, bracketed him with Byron as one of the twin 
inspirations of modern writers. His influence was 
obvious and openly confessed in the cases of Flaubert, 
Baudelaire, Swinburne,* Dostoievski, and Lautreamont. 
To-day his most open disciples (though they completely 
caricature him) are the French surreelistes, with their 
rather impotent desire for violence, both intellectual and 

Despite numerous pointers de Sade has been completely 
neglected by the historians of literature, with a single 
exception. At the end of 1930 a learned and polyglot 
Italian called Mario Praz wrote a * reproving' work to 
use Saki's charming phrase on the romantic literature 
of the nineteenth century, chiefly French and English, 

* Swinburne particularly was soaked in de Sade, reading and quoting him 
constantly ; a great deal of Atalanta and Poems atid Ballads First Series are inspired 
by him. The Fourth Chorus in Alalanta> Anactoria and Dolores especially are 
practically transcriptions (see Lafourcade, Jetmesse de Swinburne, Vol. II.). 



with side-glances elsewhere at other politically suspect 
countries and individuals, with the horrific title La Carne^ 
La Morte et il Diavolo nella letteratura romantica. The 
chief originality of this work lies in the study of the 
influence of de Sade ; in the index de Sade has easily the 
greatest number of references, only approached by the 
'sadic' poets Swinburne and Baudelaire. With peculiar 
ingenuousness he starts by denying de Sade any merit 
soever: "Dello scrittore non diciamo poi dello scrittore 
di genio mancano al Sade le qualit piu elementari. 
Poligrafo e pornografo a maggior titolo d'un Aretino, 
tutto il suo merito sta nell' aver lasciato dei document! 
che rapresentano la fase mitologica, infantile della 
psicopatologia."* After which downright statement he 
proceeds to show his influence on a list of authors which 
seems, at first glance, to contain most of the major names 
of French literature of the century, and some quite respect- 
able ones outside; of course all these authors may have 
been without any sensibility or discrimination. Among 
those listed are the following: Baudelaire, Shelley (in 
The Cenci\ Swinburne, Maturin, J. Janin, Soulie, Petrus 
Borel, de Musset, Sue, Victor Hugo, Theophile Gautier, 
Georges Sand, the painter Delacroix, Flaubert, Lautr^a- 
mont, O. Mirbeau, d'Annunzio, Stendhal, Huysmans, 
Barbey d'Aurevilly, Peladan, Barrs, Rachilde, Villiers 
de Tlsle Adam, Remy de Gourmont and Dostoievski. 
This list is not exclusive, and possibly one or two of the 
names are wrongly included as undergoing direct 
influence; but in any case the catalogue is sufficiently 
remarkable when it is considered that these authors were 
all influenced by the works of a man who lacked the most 
elementary qualities of a writer. I should hesitate to 

* It is interesting to note that the correct attitude to-day to de Sade's work is 
no longer indignant disgust, but boredom and a refusal to take him 



suggest that any of Signer Praz* pontifical judgments are 
fallible, especially as he has actually read Justine and 
Juliette (I am not certain of this : there is an extraordinary 
identity between his quotations and those made by G. 
Lafourcade in his treatise on Swinburne), and gives quite 
long if slightly ridiculous quotations from them; a number 
of these quotations are derived from the manichaean 
theology of the 'statesman' Saint-Fond, a subject only 
introduced to add superstition to the other cowardices 
and vices of this monster, and which is afterwards very 
thoroughly refuted; obviously such ideas are ridiculous; 
they were intended to be so. 

It is not, however, with de Sade as a writer, but as a 
thinker and precursor that I am primarily interested; and 
the rest of the book will be occupied with him in those 

Note. For details of the plots of de Sade's works any of the books 
mentioned at the end of the first chapter should be consulted. 
Guillaume Apollinaire gives the best account of Les 120 Journees^ 
Dawes of Justine et Juliette. Diihren's account is sketchy, with 
much emphasis on details which are chastely given in Latin. A 
German called Otto Flake has also written a book on Sade, mostly 
founded on Diihren; he gives some notion of the plots, but the 
book so overflows with moral indignation that it is chiefly interesting 
as a proclamation of Herr Flake's pure mind. 
Addendum. Since writing this chapter I have seen an article by 
Maurice Heine on Le Marquis de Sade et le Roman Noir (Nouvelle 
Revue Franfaise, August, 1933) in which he claims priority for 
dc Sade in the use of Gothic trappings to the adventure novel, on 
the historical ground of the dates of his books, compared with those 
of Mrs. Radcliffe and 'Monk' Lewis. 

This seems to me difficult to justify, when the work of Clara 
Reeve and the wide diffusion of such German books as Boden's 
Children of the dbbey are taken into account. From the purely 
literary point of view de Sade's chief originality still seems to me to 
lie in his use of history for romance. 



Chi disputa alegando I'autoritA non adopra lo'ngegno, ma piuttosto 
la memoria. 



All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following 

1. That man has two real existing principles, viz., a Soul 

and a Body. 

2. That Energy, calPd Evil, is alone from the Body; and 

that Reason call'd Good, is alone from the Soul. 

3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following 

his Energies. 
But the following contraries to these are true: 

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call'd 

Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five 
Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. 

2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and 

Reason is the bound or outward circumference of 

3. Energy is eternal delight. 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 


WHEN dealing with a thinker so widely read, so eclectic 
and at the same time so original as de Sade it is difficult 
to speak of masters or predecessors. The number of 
authors he quotes is prodigious, ranging through all 
classical and modern literature from Rousseau and 
Hobbes to the Bible, from Herodotus and the Christian 
Fathers to the travels of Captain Cook, Thomas More and 



the Encyclopedists. But there is one author whom he 
quotes more often than any other and who obviously had 
a preponderating influence on the formation of many of his 
ideas; that author is La Metric, a philosopher now so 
completely forgotten that I may perhaps be forgiven for 
giving a short account of his life and principal ideas. 

Julien Offray de La Metric was born in 1 709, the son 
of a merchant. He was trained for the Church as a 
Jansenist, but after a precocious bout of piety he wrote 
an apology at the age of fifteen he became disgusted with 
theology and started the study of medicine. He was 
qualified at Rheims at the age of nineteen and practised 
for five years ; he then went to Leyden and studied under 
the famous Boerhaave. He translated his master's work 
on venereal diseases, and added his own work on the same 
subject, a work which received considerable abuse. In 
the course of the next few years he published several 
other medical books. In 1742 he returned to Paris and 
was made doctor to the army corps of the due de Gram- 
mont, in which capacity he took part in the siege of 
Fribourg. During these operations he caught a fever 
and was so struck by the alterations in his personality 
as the result of delirium that he wrote a book on the sub- 
ject called The Natural History of the Soul which was 
published at the Hague in 1745, supposedly as a trans- 
lation from the English. He was at once attacked by the 
ecclesiastical authorities and forced to resign his com- 
mission. In compensation he was made inspector of 
hospitals ; but he employed his leisure in writing a couple 
of plays which made fun of the doctors and medicine of 
his time. This did not lessen the animosity felt against 
him and in 1746 his books were burned by the public 
executioner and he was forced to flee for his life. He first 
went to Saz near Ghent, but he was accused of spying 



and had to escape to Ley den. There he wrote Man a 
Machine a work which with characteristically impudent 
wit he dedicated to the extremely pious Haller as an 
offering to his love of truth. The outcry caused by this 
work was enormous and his life was in constant danger. 
By a piece of luck he managed to cross the frontier into 
Prussia, where he was given asylum by Frederick the 
Great, "the Solomon of the North/ ' as he constantly calls 
him. Frederick created a nominal post for him Reader 
to the King and gave him a pension. They quickly 
became very friendly, somewhat to Voltaire's annoyance 
and jealousy. He wrote a number of essays in the next 
three years, the most important being The System of 
Epicurus and the Anti-Seneca^ or Discourse on Happiness. 
The minor works include UHomme Plante, Les Animaux 
plus que Machines^ La Volupte^ and L? Art de Jouir, the last 
two being delicate 'eighteenth-century' lucubrations on 
love and gallantry. He presented a collected edition of 
his works to Frederick in 1751 and died in November of 
that year from eating poisoned food. Frederick pro- 
nounced a discourse in praise of him before the Berlin 
Academy in I752. 1 

We must now examine the ideas that gained for 
him the attacks not only of the representatives of ortho- 
doxy, but even such comparative free-thinkers as Vol- 
tair?, Maupertuis, Diderot, Holbach, Grimm and many 
others. Even Goethe many years later praised him 
extremely grudgingly. His principal heresy was the 
statement that the object of science is the discovery of 
truth and that this can be obtained exclusively by the use 
of evidence and experiment. In short he posited the 
basis on which all modern scientific work rests. He fol- 
lowed this up by the equally shocking statement that man 
must be considered as an animal that if as Descartes 



said, animals were machines, then so was man ; if man 
was more than a machine, then so were the animals. 
In short he posited the basis on which all modern 
medicine and biology rests. Finally he claimed that the 
idea of a ' soul ' deprived of senses is inconceivable, and 
that the soul developed and decayed with the body and 
was subject to the same modifications as the body 
e.g., various intoxications, delirium, neurosis and mad- 
ness. The dualism of Descartes, Malbranche or Leibnitz 
was untenable, because unverifiable. In short he posited 
the basis on which nearly all modern psychology rests. 
For all science to-day is materialist in its assumptions, 
whatever it may be in its popularisations ; it is a pity that 
it has forgotten this precursor and well-nigh martyr in 
the cause of objectivity. 

It is difficult to realise to-day the strangle-hold main- 
tained by religion on every department of thought up to 
the middle of the last century. In most countries to-day 
religion is so much on the defensive, so 'broadminded' 
and complaisant and unassuming, that we can hardly 
throw our minds back to the time when Darwin was 
preached against in every pulpit and Hegel denounced 
as heretical. Similar conduct to-day in the Bible Belt of 
the United States is smiled at and deplored even by the 
most pious of churchmen. In the middle of the 
eighteenth century affairs were very different; not only 
the central ideas but even the minor dogmas of the 
Catholic Church must not be questioned. For La Metric 
never called himself an atheist, but an agnostic ; he con- 
sidered the existence of God and some sort of survival 
after death as probable but unverifiable and therefore to be 
excluded from philosophy; he adds that we have no means 
of knowing which cult pleases God the most; and all cults 
are objectionable on account of the wars they engender. 



In the preface to his collected works he makes a rather 
disingenuous apology for himself. He admits that 
philosophy is contrary to both morality and religion, 
but denies that it can destroy or harm them. Philosophy, 
which is entirely concerned with evidence, stands in the 
same relation to nature as morality does to religion. But 
it can never affect the masses, for its appeal is based on 
reason, to which the masses are blind, whereas religion 
is based on emotion, and therefore potent. Although it 
never touches politics it is useful to rulers as it enables 
them to see through rhetoric and similar emotional 
appeals. Legislators will control men better as philo- 
sophers than as orators, as reasonable rather than 
reasoning beings. Philosophy for him is materialist, 
pragmatical, atheist. (" Atheists are virtuous by con- 
viction, theists if at all by superstition/ 1 ) It can only be 
based on physical science, derived from sensual observa- 
tion, and must be completely unbiased by pre-conceived 
ideas of any sort. 

He then makes a personal justification, claiming that 
there need be no correspondence between an author and 
his work, for he writes for truth and speaks and acts for 
convenience. Finally he closes with an exordium that 
must have touched de Sade very closely. He demands a 
'republican' freedom of thought and writing, and exalts 
spiritual over physical liberty. And he advises the future 
philosopher to write anonymously and "as though you 
were alone in the universe, or as though you had nothing 
to fear from man's jealousy and prejudice." 

The Treatise on the Soul is an exposition of his 
mechanistic view of man. A great deal of his theory is 
invalidated for us by the central position he gives to 
the theory of the animal spirits or electric fluid in the 
nerves, by means of which all perceptions are conveyed 

1 06 


to the brain. This idea, which originated in Mal- 
branche, was universally held till the beginning of the 
nineteenth century; de Sade takes it over unquestioned; 
it gave a satisfactory, but oversimplified account of 
sensations. He denies the metaphysical conception of 
the soul, claiming that it only exists through sensations; 
he defines it as the motive principle of passive matter. 
Later he makes the assumption, which de Sade places 
in a central position in his metaphysics, that motion, at 
any rate potential motion, is a property of matter. He 
then examines the various faculties from this point of 
view. Judgment is the comparison of ideas founded on 
memory and association. Too good a memory is bad 
for judgment. Imagination is the voluntary reproduction 
of sense impressions. In health it is weaker than external 
impressions, but in delirium or under drugs it can be 
stronger, and in any case need not be true. Hysteria 
is voluntary there is no wish to be cured. Love is a 
soitjrf madness^. Passions are based on the pleasure-pain 
principle. Instincts are mechanical reactions, equally 
valid for humans and animals, as can be seen by the 
latter's pantomime. Sensations of the sou/ are due to know- 
ledge and pleasure and pain caused by modifications of the 
self. Happiness is an involuntary manner of thinking and 
feeling; men are happy by accident, but philosophy 
teaches resignation. Will is the result of pleasure-pain 
stimuli. Good taste is majority taste. Genius is general 
excellence. It is easy to be a good mathematician because 
the subject is so limited. Free Will is probably a true 
conception. Faith is necessary to explain the origin of 
evil, the nature of the soul, and life after death. 

Man a Machine is a development of the same thesis ; it 
is primarily a refutation of Descartes. The human body 
is defined as a self-winding machine, with courage as a 



coefficient of food, but a machine so complicated that 
it is impossible to get a clear idea of it or a definition. 
Character and morals differ with temperament, heredity 
and environment. Mind and body are interdependent, 
the one modifying the other (fever and anxiety both 
prevent sleep). Anatomically there is a great similarity 
between men and mammals, the chief difference being that 
man speaks and that he possesses the heaviest and most 
complicated brain. Man at birth is the weakest and 
stupidest of all animals, for his instincts are feeble; the 
more sense an animal has, the less instinct. Imagination 
image-forming is the chief function of the soul, all 
other faculties deriving from it. Philosophy is imagina- 
tion^plus self-crjtjcigm. "**" "" 

In the course of this essay he lets drop a number of 
generalisations, unconnected with the subject, which 
have either directly or through the criticism they provoked 
from him a great significance in the study of de Sade, 
Nature^he sa^jiot God, is the primejpiavjer^.hutLN^faLire 
is purposeless and inequality is one of.lier characteristics. 

IT i. * ^ - " ~~" '- -~ ~ _ - ' 

THenatural law is, " Don't do to others what you wouldn't 
have done to you." In people appearance and character 
correspond (an idea de Sade held very firmly). Motion 
is a property of matter, vide the muscular reactions of 
dead animals. Anything which doesn't touch the senses 
is an impenetrable mystery. In the eyes of nature all 
creatures are equal ; there is only one substance, differently 
modified in the universe. Finally three axioms: " Never 
generalise in science"; "Only good doctors should be 
judges"; "We were not^born to be wise but to bejjjjppy, 
from the WOTmjojhe eagle." 

The System of Epicurus is a number of apothegms 
defining his attitude to life. It is definitely hedonistic 
and pragmatical. It jsjaQjLOiil^^ 

1 08 


causes^ but useless to worry about them.. _ Nature is the 
prime mover and is amoral, indifferentjind purposeless. 
Man waTtEe last in creation because he is the most com- 
plicated. Lifej^ 

jtoo seriously; materialism is the antidote to misanthropy. 
Man is not responsible for his qualities or defects, and 
therefore remorse is useless, nor is he criminal for 
following his instincts. Death is annihilation, and there- 
fore unimportant; what do we risk in dying? and what 
don't we risk in living? Knowledge is only gQodLiitJs 
usefuL^^^Just as medicine is often only a science of 
remedies with fine names, philosophy is only a science of 
fine words : it's doubly lucky when the first cure and the 
second mean something." 

The Anti-Seneca is a plea for sensibility against stoicism. 
Happiness, depends on character and is nn in 

One can be happy in refraining from what causes 
remorse: but thereby one often refrains from pleasure, 
from the demands of Nature." nius^^s^i^jferable Jo 
an unpleasant^reality. Knowledge is~only good, in so 
far as it is conducive to happiness, and to worry about the 
future is folly. Menj]eJ^ 

education; nevertheless the disposition to evil is such 
tKaFTriS easier for the good to become bad than for the 
bad to become good. Virtues and vices only exist 
relatively to society, and the appearance of virtue is as 
good as virtue itself. Happiness comes from con- 
sciousness, not from fame, and remorse is a childish and 
useless feeling. Crime is also a search for happiness 
it is a question of character. Happiness is irrespective 
of virtue and a man who has a greater satisfaction in evil- 
doing will be happier than he who has less in good works. 
There are criminal natures who enjoy torturing. The 
instincts are stronger than education. Happiness does 



not depend entirely on sensuality^thcmgh the pleasures 
ofjhe intellect arr nn ty partial *-Men rqn 

socially JjgfLJ^Ppy personally. .^ Public opinion is 
unimportant and famejdecfiitful. Adversity is the mid- 
wife of the virtues; suicide is justifiable but stupid. 

In La Folupte and UArt de Jouir he gives his pre- 
scription for happiness. It is very delicate, very sen- 
timental, and very erotic, illustrated with excerpts from 
imaginary classical idylls. He dislikes obscenity and 
obscene books (which he considers dangerous as destroy- 
ing illusions) and prefers what I can only qualify as 
elegant poetic pornography. For him, pleasure is 
inexistent without sentiment. Within the limits he sets 
himself he shows considerable interest and knowledge 
in sexual technique and variations, even going beyond 
what is generally considered permitted with the explana- 
tion that "Tout est femme dans ce qu'on aime." Des- 
pite, and partly on account of, his boastings, one gets the 
impression that he was not particularly potent. 


I have found it desirable to give this rather detailed 
precis of La Metrie's ideas in the somewhat boring style 
one associates with the works of Aristotle as it is a con- 
venient point from which to consider de Sade's general 
philosophy. He accepted from La Metric completely 
the materialist conception of man and the universe, much 
elaborating the thesis, but not questioning it, and with it 
La Metrie's view of nature. He also accepted from him 
the idea that the pursuit of happiness is the main object 
of all activity after self-preservation, and the fatalistic 
acquiescence in the irresponsible divagations of character. 
He seized on and elaborated at enormous length the 
purely temporal and local aspect of actions regarded as 



virtuous and vicious; he makes huge catalogues of 
examples drawn from the literature and folklore of every 
country to show that actions regarded as virtuous in 
eighteenth-century France were considered vicious at 
other times and places, and conversely; so much so that 
an early critic considered this to be his main object in 
writing. It is an interesting part of his work, and is one 
of the earliest examples of systematic comparative an- 
thropology from the moral rather than the physical 
aspect. Finally he accepted the paramouncy of imagin- 
ation in intellectual, and sensation in physical activity, 
the uselessness of remorse, the value of truth for its 
own sake and the supreme importance of educa- 

His chief difference with La Metric was one of 
character. La Metric was a happy and contented man, 
an epicurean, with epicurean pococurantism. He was 
interested in truth as an abstract idea, not as it affected 
his fellows; like many scientists and philosophers he had 
no desire to apply his results to life. Even his 
devotion to truth was not fanatical; he quotes with great 
approval Montaigne's remark, "La verite doit se soutenir 
jusqu'au feu, mais exclusivement." He was quite happy 
to be illogical and he never attempted to develop his ideas 
to their logical conclusion. 

De Sade on the other hand was a fanatic his moderan- 
tism during the Terror is sufficient proof and mercilessly 
logical, " Philosophy is not the. jxt .of . consoling .fools : 
its only_ aim_j_s__ to .Xeack- truth .and .destroy prejudices." 2 
Also he was only interested in truth as it affected mankind 
here and now and all his original work was concerned 
with man in his relations to God, to the State and to his 
neighbours in other words religion, politics and what 
for convenience can be called sex; but before examining 



his diagnoses and suggestions in these three departments 
of human life it will be convenient to deal in more detail 
with a few of his more general ideas. 

Perhaps the most important of his philosophical con- 
ceptions is his distinction between 'real' and 'objective* 
ideas and his treatment of the idea of cause-and-effect; 
the passage in question 3 is rather long and elaborated; 
I have abbreviated it as much as possible. The Mother 
Superior is instructing Juliette. 

"What is reason ? It is the faculty given to me by nature 
to determine me in favour of one line of conduct as opposed 
to another, according to the pleasure or pain involved; 
a calculation obviously determined by the senses. Reason, 
as Fret says, is the balance with which we weigh objects 
and by which .... we know what we ought to think 

by their mutual relation The first effect of reason 

is to assign an essential difference between the object 
that appears and the object that is perceived. Repre- 
sentative perceptions of an object are again different. 
If it shows us objects as being absent, but formerly 
present, that is called memory. If it shows us objects 
without warning us of their absence that is called imagina- 
tion, and that is the true source of all our errors .... in 
that we suppose a real existence in the objects of these 
interior perceptions and believe that they exist apart from 
us, since we conceive them apart from us. To make this 
distinction clear I will give to this branch of idea the name 
of Objective idea,' to distinguish it from a true perception 
which I will call a 'real idea.' .... The infinitesimal 
point, so essential to geometry, is an 'objective idea'; 
bodies and solids are 'real. 1 .... Before proceeding 
further it must be remarked that the confusion of these 

two groups of ideas is extremely common People 

were forced to imagine general terms for groups of 



imilar ideas; and they called * cause* any thing which 
)roduces some change in a body independent of it, and 
effect * any change produced by a cause. As these terms 
:all up for us a more or less confused image of existence, 
iction, reaction, change, the habit of using them has made 
as think that they correspond to a clear and distinct 

Derception People are unwilling to reflect that 

since all things act and react on one another incessantly 

:hey produce and undergo change at the same time " 

This idea has considerable importance in his analysis of 
sex and other instincts and is the chief reason for his 
difference with the 'causal' findings of psychoanalysis. 

It follows from this that words should be examined 
with the greatest caution. "Like all the fools with the 
same principles you will reply to me that all these (prob- 
lems of the soul, etc.) are mysteries; but if they are 
mysteries you understand nothing about them, in which 
case how can you decide affirmatively about a thing of 
which you are incapable of forming any idea? To 
believe in or affirm a thing one must at least know what 
one is believing in and affirming. To believe in the 
immateriality of the soul is equivalent to saying that one 
is convinced of a thing of which it is impossible to form 
any 'real' notion; it is believing in words without attaching 
any meaning to them; to affirm that a thing is what one 
says it is is the height of folly and vanity." 4 

On materialism. "People offer us as an objection that 
materialism makes man simply a machine, which they 
find very derogative to humanity; will that humanity be 
much more honoured when you say that man acts under 
the secret impulsions of a spirit or something which 
animates him somehow ?" 5 And again: "The esteem 
which so many people have for spirituality seems to have 
its only motive in the impossibility in which they find 

113 H 


themselves of defining it in an intelligible manner 

when they say to us that the soul is finer than the body 
they tell us nothing except that that of which we have 
absolutely no knowledge must be far more lovely than 
that of which we have some faint idea.'' 6 Unlike most 
of his contemporaries de Sade did not believe that the 
sum of possible knowledge was now in the possession of 
his generation, though he considered that the development 
of chemistry and physics might one day render everything 
possible. 7 

He categorically denies the existence of free will. He 
places the following speech in the mouth of the Cardinal 
Bernis, at the time the Ambassador of France, formerly 
reputed to be one of the Pompadour's lovers ; his reputa- 
tion for chastity was not above suspicion (see Casanova) 
nor were his verses particularly moral; and although de 
Sade allows him considerable wit and intelligence, as was 
his due, his reputation and his rank are sufficient to 
embroil him in some of Juliette's most disreputable 
adventures. I give the speech in full as it is a good 
example of de Sade's methods. 

"The faculty of comparing different methods of action 
and deciding on the one which appears to us to be the 
best is what is meant by free will. Does man possess 
that faculty? I make bold to affirm that he doesn't 
possess it, and that it would be impossible for him to do 
so. All our ideas owe their origin to physical and 
material causes which lead us in spite of ourselves, because 
these causes belong to our organisation and the exterior 
objects which influence us; our motives are the results of 
these causes, and consequently our will is not free. 
Assailed by different motives we hesitate, but the instant 
when we make up our mind doesn't depend on us; it is 
necessitated by the different dispositions of our organs; 



we are always led by them, and it never depends on us to 
take one mode of action rather than another; always 
moved by necessity, always the slaves of necessity, the 
very instant when we think we have the most completely 
demonstrated our free will is the one in which we are led 
most invincibly. Hesitation and indecision make us 
believe in the freedom of our will, but that pretended 
freedom is only the instant when the weights in the 
balance are equal. As soon as a decision is taken it is 
because one side is heavier than the other, and it is not 
we who are the cause of the inequality but physical objects 
which act on us and make us the plaything of all human 
conventions, the plaything of the motor force of nature, 
like the animals and plants. Everything depends on the 
action of the nervous fluid and the difference between a 
criminal and an honest man consists in the greater or less 
activity of the animal spirits which compose this fluid. 

'"I feel/ said F&nelon, 'that I am free, that I am com- 
pletely in the hands of my own decisions.' This gratuitous 
assertion is impossible to prove. What makes the Arch- 
bishop of Cambrai so sure that, when he made up his 
mind to embrace the pleasant doctrine of Madame 
Guyon, he was free to choose the opposite path? The 
most that he can prove to me is that he has hesitated, but 
I defy him to prove to me that he was free to take the 
other path, from the moment that he decided as he did. 
'I modify myself with God,' this author continues, 'I am 
the real cause of my own will.' But F^nelon has not 
considered in saying this that since God is the stronger he 
has made Him the real cause of all crimes ; also he has not 
considered that nothing destroys God's omnipotence as 
man's free will, for that omnipotence of God which you 
suppose, and which I grant to you for a moment, is only 
such because God has ordained all things from the begin- 



ning, and it is in consequence of this invariable ordina- 
tion that man can be no more than a passive being who 
can change nothing in the order of things and who con- 
sequently has not free will. If he had free will he could 
at any moment destroy this first established order, in 
which case he would become as powerful as God. A sup- 
porter of the divinity like Fenelon should have considered 
this subject more carefully. 

"Newton skated warily over this great difficulty, daring 
neither to go into it deeply nor to embroil himself in it; 
Fenelon, more positive though far less learned, adds, 
'When I will a thing it is in my power not to will it; 
when I do not will a thing it is in my power to will it. 1 
No. Since you didn't do it when you wanted, it is 
because it wasn't in your power to do so, and because all 
the physical causes which must direct the balance pressed 
it down, this time, on the side of the action that you did 
take, and choice was no longer in your power from the 
moment that you had been determined. Therefore your 
will was not free; you have balanced, but your will was 
not free and never is. When you let yourself go in the 
direction that you have chosen, it is because it was impos- 
sible to you to choose the other. You have been blinded 
by your indecision, you have believed yourself capable 
of choice because you have felt yourself capable of 
balancing. But that indecision, the physical effect of 
two external objects presented simultaneously, and the 
freedom to choose between them are two very different 
things. " 8 Earlier in the work de Sade had for con- 
venience defined everything capable of acting on man, 
including memory, prejudices, etc., as external objects. 

I am going to close this chapter with an exhortation to 
consistency which is not particularly apposite, but which 
I want to bring in and for which I can find no other 



opportunity. It is from the consistent villain de Blamont 
to his vacillating companion in vice. He writes: 9 

"That's what your end will be; I see you from here 
surrounded by priests proving to you that the devil is 
waiting for you, and you trembling and blanching, 
crossing yourself and forswearing your tastes and your 
friends, and then dying like an imbecile. And why will 
you be like that . . . because you have not any prin- 
ciples ; I have told you that you only listen to your passions 
without reasoning about their causes, you have never had 
enough philosophy to submit them to systems which can 
identify them with yourself; you have jumped over all 
your prejudices without trying to destroy any of them; 
you have left them all behind you and all will return to 
distress you when there will be no longer any means of 
fighting against them." 

Would that our innumerable well-meaning muddle- 
headed socialists and pacifists would take the gist of this 
passage to heart! 



Remove away that black'ning church. 
Remove away that marriage hearse. 
Remove away that man of blood 
You'll quite remove the ancient curse. 


Gnomic Verses. 

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good 
and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys reason. Evil is 
the active, springing from energy. 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 

Are gone to praise God and His Priest and King 
Who make up a heaven of our misery. 


Songs of Experience. 

ALL his life de Sade was obsessed by God. People who 
wish to denigrate him by calling him mad would have 
far more justification in calling him a religious, rather 
than a sexual maniac. There is not a single one of his 
writings but is occupied with religion; quite a number 
deal with sex not at all, or at most summarily. 

We have seen that in his youth in 1763 he attached 
great importance to the sacrament and speaks of religion 
with considerable piety. There is little reason to question 
his sincerity; his family, during its seven hundred years 
of recorded existence, has had a continual connection 
with the Church; faith in God and His service was a 
family tradition. 



In 1782 he had changed his position. It is from that 
year, the third of his continual imprisonment, that date 
the first writings of his that have come down to us ; and 
the very first that is developed is an elegant little Dialogue 
between a Priest and a Dying Man. This short essay in 
the style of Fontenelle is concerned with the inadequacy 
of the religious description of the universe; the addition 
of the mysteries of God to the mysteries of Nature only 
make the understanding of the latter more difficult; 
with the unsatisfactory nature of prophecies, martyrs, 
miracles ("To believe in a miracle I should want to be 
absolutely sure that the phenomenon you claim as such is 
absolutely contrary to the laws of Nature for only so 
can it be a miracle : and who knows enough of Nature to 
be able to swear that this is the precise point at which she 
draws a line and where she is outraged?" 1 ). The whole 
opuscule is a well-reasoned piece of dialectic; it is 
moderate and dignified in its language. 

From this time onwards de Sade cannot leave God and 
religion particularly the Catholic Church alone. By 
comparison he showed a certain amount of respect and 
toleration to Protestantism, I do not think there are 
fifty pages in any of his works in which the subject is 
not mentioned. His knowledge of the literature con- 
cerned with it is encyclopaedic. He would seem to know 
the Bible almost by heart; he quotes and deals with 
Christian apologists from the early Fathers to Scot, 
F^nelon, Pascal and even more recent theologians; he 
mentions the Koran and Confucius ; he deals in theological 
quibbles of the greatest niceness and subtlety ; he is aware 
of the distinctions of the heresies which have at different 
times rent the Church; he discusses at length every one 
of its central dogmas. 

All this learning is employed in an attack on God and 



the Church which for length and intensity can seldom 
have been equalled; he attacks them with reason, with 
ridicule, with imprecations, with blasphemy; he attacks 
from the philosophical, the economic, the political, the 
ideal and the pragmatic angle; he ranges from the dis- 
cussion of inconsistencies in the Bible (in the style of the 
question, "How could Pharaoh's cavalry pursue the Jews 
in a country where cavalry cannot operate, and further 
how did Pharaoh come to have any cavalry since, in the 
fifth of the plagues of Egypt, God had caused all the 
horses to perish?" 2 ) to the Black Mass, from the history 
of the Papacy to the pre-Christian origin of the Eucharist, 
from the dogma of Hell to the economic foundations of 
the Church's property. 

The basis of all this is obvious. De Sade was a pas- 
sionate idealist and could neither forgive a God who 
permitted all the evil and misery of which he was so 
terribly aware, nor a Church whose explanations could 
not satisfy his reason, and whose practice and representa- 
tives so completely belied the principles they professed 
to observe. The culminating point of his attack is 
Juliette's interview with Pope Pius VI ; it opens as follows : 
44 'Haughty phantom,' I replied to this old despot, 
'your habit of deceiving other men makes you try to 
deceive yourself. .... Listen to me, you Bishop of 
Rome, and allow me to analyse for a moment your power 
and your pretentions. 

'"A religion is formed in Galilee whose bases are 
poverty, equality and hatred of the rich. The principles 
of this holy doctrine are that it is as impossible for a rich 
man to enter into the kingdom of heaven as for a camel 
to go through the eye of a needle ; that the rich man is 
damned, uniquely because he is rich. The disciples of 
this cult are expressly forbidden to make any provision, 



Their head Jesus says positively, "I have not come to 
be served but to serve . . . There shall be neither first 
nor last amongst you . . . He among you who would 
raise himself shall be debased, and he who will be first 
shall be last" (a). The first apostles of this religion earn 
their bread in the sweat of their brow. That is all 
true?' 'Certainly/ 'Well, then, I ask you what relation 
there is between these primitive institutions and the 
enormous riches that you have given to you in Italy. 
Does your wealth come from the Gospel or from the 
roguery of your predecessors ? . . , Poor man, and you 
think you can still impose upon us!' 'Atheist, at least 
respect the descendant of Saint Peter.' 'You're not 

descended from him ()'" 3 Juliette then proceeds 

to analyse the origin of the papacy and to account for its 
growth by its political usefulness to the different rulers 
during the troubled centuries of the middle Empire; 
she blames the Church's obscurantism in the Middle 
Ages, and then gives a brief but comprehensive history 
of the crimes and inconsistencies of the Papacy. 

To the passage quoted de Sade adds two curious foot- 
notes. The first (a) follows the quotation from the 
Gospels; he writes, "It is amusing that the Jacobins in 
the French Revolution wished to destroy the altars of 
a God who used absolutely their language, and even more 
extraordinary that those who detest and wish to destroy 
the Jacobins do so in the name of a God who speaks like 
the Jacobins. If this is not the nee plus ultra of human 
absurdity I should like to know what is." The second () 
is an elaborate discussion of the real meaning of the name 
Peter and the Holy Pun made on that word in which he 
decides that the Christian Peter is the same as Arnac, 
Hermes and Janus of the ancients, all of whom had the 
gift of opening the gates to some paradise; and he employs 



Phoenician, Hebrew and Latin etymology to prove 
that Peter, or Kephas, can mean Opener as well as 

Again and again he reverts to the inconsistency between 
Christian profession and practice; the most savage 
reactionary in his works is the Bishop of Grenoble. Con- 
tinually, too, he stresses the political reasons which 
allowed the Church to emerge and which account for its 
continual support. The statesman Saint-Fond is made 
to say, "The force of the sceptre depends on that of the 
thurible; these two authorities have the greatest interest 
in mutual help and it is only by dividing them that the 
masses will shake off the yoke. Nothing makes people 
so abject as religious fears; it is right that they should fear 
eternal punishment if they revolt against their king; 
that is why the European powers are always on good terms 
with Rome." 4 When Juliette is talking to Ferdinand of 
Naples, she says, with a strange echo of Lenin's famous 
epigram, "You keep the people in ignorance and super- 
stition .... because you fear them if they are en- 
lightened ; you drug them with opium .... so that they 
shall not realise the way you oppress them." 5 

He attacks the Church as an economic racket. "Un- 
questionably priests had their motives in inventing the 
ridiculous fable of the soul's immortality; could they 
otherwise have made moribunds contribute?" 6 This 
theme is developed with several variations. 

Religion is dangerous as a basis on which to build 
morality; for if the falseness of the foundations are 
recognised, the whole edifice will tumble down. 7 
Similarly the fact that it may be a consolation to some is 
not a sufficient reason for it. "I cannot see that the desire 
to appease a few fools," says the Mother Superior to 
Juliette, "is worth the poisoning of millions of honest 



folk; and anyhow is it reasonable to make one's desires a 
measure of the truth?" 8 

Saint-Fond, the reactionary statesman, is superstitious 
and credulous; it is the last insult that de Sade can give 
to his villains. He believes in a sort of Manichaean 
diabolism, in which hell plays a central part; and he thinks 
that by some ritual he can make his victims sell their 
souls to the devil. The confession of this weakness is an 
excuse for a fifty-page examination of the dogma of hell 
considered from every possible angle. 9 First of all the 
Old and New Testaments are examined with great detail 
to prove that the idea of eternal damnation does not exist 
in them, that the idea of Gehenna was purely local and 
temporal; secondly he demonstrates the inefficacy of 
the fear of hellfire as a method of restraining men from 
evil-doing, for the damned, who cannot repent, are 
invisible and therefore no use as a warning to the living, 
and crime is if anything more common in the countries 
where such beliefs are held; thirdly he ridicules the 
muddled thinking which can associate fire and torments 
with disembodied spirits; and finally he expatiates on the 
barbarity of a God who can punish finite faults with 
infinite pains. This is the centre of his complaint; for 
him, as for Blake the great 'sadistic' poet, the Christian 
God is too base and too immoral to be accepted. "So," 
he writes, " after having made man extremely unhappy 
in this world, religion gives him the vision of a God .... 
who will make him even more so in the next. I know 
they get out of this dilemma by saying that God's good- 
ness will give place to his justice; but a goodness which 

gives place to terrible cruelty is not infinite Would 

it not have been more in keeping with his goodness, with 
reason and with equity only to have created plants and 
stones, rather than to form men whose conduct can bring 



on them infinite pain? A God treacherous and evil 
enough to create a single man and then to expose him to 
the danger of self-damnation cannot be considered as 

perfect; he can only be considered as a monster " 

And finally, "If you want a God, let Him be faultless and 
worthy of respect ! " 

This cry is continually re-appearing; man has made 
God in his own image, 10 God is either impotent or cruel; 11 
give us a God worthy of respect ! 

His hatred for the God that had deceived him is rabid. 
No opportunity for reviling, for ridicule, for imprecations, 
for blasphemy is neglected; the mockery and insults are 
so intense that they tend to miss their effect. With con- 
siderable inconsistency (at least on the surface) a number 
of black masses are described. (It is an interesting com- 
ment on human frailty that the engraving illustrating 
one of these is nearly always torn out from the first 
edition; the possessors didn't mind reading the descrip- 
tions or admiring the naive obscenities of the other ninety- 
nine plates ; but a line had to be drawn somewhere !) De 
Sade indeed feels called upon to make excuses; the 
importance others would attach to such acts is their 


In place of the God he could not respect, de Sade 
enthroned Nature as the prime mover of the universe; 
but this Nature is not a consistent conception; in the 
fifteen years covered by his writings the idea undergoes 
constant modifications. In the Dialogue she is considered 
as pleasant, beneficent and philanthropic, somewhat in 
the style of Rousseau; within three years she becomes 
"That unknown brute" 'bete,' I think, carries the idea 
of stupidity without any moral inflection; another three 
years and it is "the disorders of that stepmother, 



Nature "; until finally in La Nouvelle Justine she becomes 
a sort of malevolent goddess, entirely occupied in harming 
mankind, and who is best seen in the Sahara desert or the 
crater of Etna. 12 

This degradation of Nature is accompanied by_a 
deradation of man and of "The kw nf 

latter changes from "MaW r^/*rc oc K^ppy as yon wish 
to be yourself " to "Please yourself no matter at whose 

sole object in creation is to have 

the pleasure of destruction; while man is destroying, is 
giving free vein to all the criminal instincts Nature has 
planted in him, he is being natural, following in Nature's 
plans; virtue, and education which leads to virtue, is 
unnatural. It follows that ethically man's mission is an 
endless battle against this adversary, this ogress Nature; 
but pleasure and pain are her weapons, and the former 
can only be achieved from following her will. 

From this personification of Nature there emerges a 
version of Bernard Shaw's peculiarly unscientific worship 
of the "Life Force" a Force which possesses all the 
ascetic, benevolent and partly informed qualities of its 
inventor; de Sade's version is not so personal. "Once 
man has been launched on to the earth he received direct 
laws from which he cannot depart; these laws are those 
of self-preservation and propagation . , . laws which 
affect him and depend on him, but which are in no way 
necessary to Nature ; for he is no longer a part of Nature ; 
he is separated from her. He is entirely distinct, so much 
so that he is no longer useful to her progress ... or 
necessary to her combinations, so that he could quadruple 
his species or completely annihilate it, without in the least 
altering the universe. If he multiplies he does right in 
his own eyes, if he decreases he does wrong, equally in 
his own eyes. But in the eyes of Nature it is quite dif- 



ferent. If he multiplies he does wrong, for he deprives 
Nature of the honour of a new phenomenon, the results 
of her laws being necessarily creatures. If those that 
have been launched didn't multiply, she would launch 
new beings, and would enjoy a faculty she has no longer. 
Not that she could not have it if she wished to, but she 
never does anything uselessly, and as long as the first 
beings launched propagate themselves by the faculties 

they have in them, she will not propagate any more 

You will object perhaps that if this faculty of self-propaga- 
tion, which her creatures have, harmed her, she would not 
have given it to them . . . but she is not free, she is the 
first slave of her laws . . . she is enchained by her 
laws which she cannot alter in any jot or tittle, and one 
of these laws is the vital urge of her creatures once made 
and their faculty for self-propagation. But were these 
creatures to stop propagating or be destroyed then 

Nature would regain her primal rights Does she 

not prove to us how much our multiplication irritates 
her .... by the plagues with which she ceaselessly visits 
us, the divisions she sows amongst us .... by the wars 
and famines, plagues and monsters, criminals like 
Alexander, Tamberlaine, Gengis Khan, all the heroes 
which devastate the earth. . . ," 14 The Pope, who 
makes this speech, goes on to prove the equality of all 
things in the eyes of Nature, and therefore the unimpor- 
tance of murder, whether through passion, ritual, custom 
or war, with examples drawn from every country. 

This view of Nature, with its implications, is the best 
known in fact practically the only known part of de 
Sade's Weltanschauung; for La Nouvelle Justine, by far 
the most notorious of his books, is almost exclusively 
occupied with the development and application of this 
theory; in this book almost all the characters are anti- 



social 'natural' men, as in Juliette they are anti-social rich 
men. The epigraph to the book : 

On n'est point criminel pour faire la peinture 
Des bizarres penchans qu'inspire la Nature. 

stresses the point. 

Nature proceeds by destruction and corruption: 
" When the seed germinates in the earth, when it fertilises 
and reproduces itself is it otherwise than by corruption, 
and is not corruption the first of the laws of generation ?" 15 
and consequently human destruction and corruption 
follow Nature's laws. Do not our instincts urge us to 
such actions, and are not our instincts the voice of 
Nature? 16 It follows that we are in no way responsible 
for our tastes and inclinations: "Is man the master of his 
tastes ? One should be sorry for those that have strange 
ones, but never insult them; their wrong is Nature's; they 
were no more capable of coming into the world with 
different tastes than we are of being born plain or beauti- 
ful. " 17 ; and he who abandons himself most recklessly to 
the promptings of Nature will be happiest, although 
nowadays "we are more creatures of habit than of 
Nature/' 18 

This conception has far more extensive results than 
the removal of responsibility from man for his criminal 
behaviour; it is an implicit and explicit criticism of the 
backward-looking optimism of Rousseau and all his 
school, including Condorcet and Babeuf. It completely 
dethrones the 'noble savage' with what glee does not 
de Sade comb the accounts of foreign travel for instances 
of savage barbarity, lust and superstition 1 and the notion 
that man can revert to justice and happiness. If the idea 
that a satisfactory civilisation must be man-made, planned 
and unnatural had been able to gain currency when de 



Sade first formulated it the history of the revolutions of 
the eighteenth, nineteenth and most of the twentieth 
century would not be so disheartening. 

For de Sade, savage man knows only two necessities 
hunger and lust; 19 there is only one distinction 
force, 20 the result of Nature's inequality. "What mortal 
is fool enough to assert, against all the evidence, that men 
are born with equal rights or strength? Only a mis- 
anthropist like Rousseau would dare to establish such a 
paradox, because, being very weak himself, he prefers 
to degrade to his own level those to whom he did not dare 
raise himself. But how can a pigmy be the equal of .... 
Hercules? .... In the beginning of societies .... a 
family or village being forced to defend itself chose amongst 
its members the person who seemed to unite the qualities 
(strength, cleverness, etc.) mentioned above. Once the 
chief had been given this authority he took slaves from 

amongst the weakest When societies became 

established, the descendants of these first chiefs, accus- 
tomed to represent their fathers, although often far from 
equalling them in physical or moral qualities, continued 

to exercise authority This was the origin of 

aristocracy They inherited a power handed over 

to their predecessors by necessity; they abused it by 
caprice " 21 

This view of the origin of society has the double 
advantage over Rousseau's of being more in accordance 
with probability, and of placing the golden age of man- 
kind in the future, rather than in the past. The next two 
chapters will be occupied with de Sade's diagnosis of 
contemporary civilisation and the various remedies he 



Prisons are built with the stones of law, 
Brothels with bricks of Religion. 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 

In every cry of every Man 
In every Infant's cry of Fear, 
In every voice, in every ban, 
The mind-forged manacles I hear. 

How the chimney-sweeper's cry 
Every black'ning church appals; 
And the hapless soldier's sigh 
Runs in blood down palace walls. 

Songs of Experience. 


IN Europe society is divided into two antagonistic 
classes the haves and the have-nots. This point is so 
fundamental for de Sade that he stresses it in every book. 
In Aline et Valcour the good king Zam begins his 
description of his visit to Europe by saying :" Every where 
I could reduce men into two classes both equally pitiable; 
in the one the rich who was the slave of his pleasures; 
in the other the unhappy victims of fortune; and I never 
found in the former the desire to be better or in the latter 
the possibility of becoming so, as though both classes 
were working for their common misery ....;! saw the 

129 i 


rich continually increasing the chains of the poor, while 
doubling his own luxury, while the poor, insulted and 
despised by the other, did not even receive the encourage- 
ment necessary to bear his burden. I demanded equality 
and was told it was Utopian; but I soon saw that those 
who denied its possibility were those who would lose by 
it "! 


He defines his conception of these classes very exactly. 
"Don't think that I mean by the people the caste called 
the tiers-etat [bourgeoisie in the limited sense]; no, I 
mean by the people . , . . those who can only get a living 
by their labour and sweat/' This is the beginning of a 
treatise on the class-war by the extremely savage fascist 
Bishop of Grenoble ; and de Sade, trying to guard against 
the misunderstanding of which he has been a perpetual 
victim, adds a footnote saying, "Considering in whose 
mouth we place these projects of despotism and terror, 
our readers will not be able to accuse us of trying to make 
them liked." He deceived himself on his readers' 

The Bishop continues: "That is the class that I would 
abandon to perpetual chains and humiliation . . . . ; all 
others ought to join together against this abject class .... 
to fasten chains upon them, since they in their turn will 
be enchained if they relax." He then outlines a series of 
oppressive measures to be enforced against the workers 
and peasants, which include public torture and execution, 
and adds, "By these projects how well will the hatred 
be satisfied of those numerous gentlemen for this wretched 
class of which Saint-Pouanges, Archbishop of Toulouse, 
could not see a representative without belabouring him 
with abuse and blows, or having him set upon by his 
servants l" a 




This distinction of classes is founded on property; 
and with unaccustomed epigrammatic terseness de Sade 
defined property as "a crime committed by the rich 
against the poor." 3 But he examined this institution 
more closely. " Going back to the origin of the right of 
property/' he writes, "we come necessarily to usurpation. 
But theft is only punished because it attacks the right 
of property; but that right is in origin itself a theft, so 

that the law punishes theft because it attacks theft 

As long as there is no property legitimately established 
(which is impossible) it will be very difficult to prove 
theft a crime." 4 

He accepts Rousseau's premise of the Social Contract 
but his elaboration of the idea is individual. "When laws 
were made and the weak consented to lose some of his 
liberty to preserve the rest, the continued and peaceful 
enjoyment of his possessions was undoubtedly the first 
thing he desired, and the first object of the restraints he 
asked for. The stronger consented to laws he knew he 
could wriggle out of, and they were made. It was pro- 
nounced that every man should possess his heritage in 
peace, and anyone troubling it should be punished. But 
that was not the work of Nature but of man, henceforth 
divided into two classes; the first who gave up a quarter 
of its rights to possess the rest in peace ; the second who, 
profiting by this quarter and seeing it could have the 
other three portions when it wanted consented to prevent, 
not his class despoiling the weak, but the weak despoiling 
one another, so that it alone could despoil them at its 
ease. So theft .... was not banished from the earth 
but changed its form; people robbed legally. Magis- 
trates robbed in having themselves paid for a justice they 
should give gratuitously. The priest robbed in having 


himself paid for acting as a mediator between man and 
his God. The merchant robbed by profiteering, by 
having his goods paid at a third more than their real 
intrinsic value. Sovereigns robbed in imposing on their 
subjects arbitrary taxes and imposts, etc. All these 
thievings were permitted and authorised under the 
specious name of 'rights,' and action was only taken 
against the most natural, that is to say against the man 
who lacked money and tried to get it from those whom he 
suspected to be richer than him, without considering that 
the first thieves, to whom not a word was said, were the 
unique cause of the crimes of the second. . . . When 
the miserable peasant, reduced to charity by the enormous 
taxes you impose upon him, leaves his plough, takes arms 
and goes to await you on the highroad you commit an 
infamous action if you punish him ; it is not he who is 
in fault. . . ." 5 



These remarks on property come at the beginning of 
"Juliette^ and are obviously intended to act as guide to the 
motives of the politicians, kings, and financiers who 
people the six volumes of this work. The first three 
volumes deal with France, the fourth with Italy; and most 
of the fifth consists of a brief review of the sovereigns of 
Northern Europe, with the exception of England. With- 
out giving a precis of the whole work it is difficult to 
illustrate de Sade's very thorough examination of the 
ruling classes; he exposes a system of corruption and 
intrigue which often reads like a description of the United 
States to-day, together with a hard-heartedness and 
sanctimonious cynicism which might have served as a 
model to Hitler's Germany or our own National Govern- 



ment. The astounding feature of the book is its 
modernity; it is difficult to realise that it is the eighteenth 
and not the twentieth century he is describing. The 
following speech of Saint-Fond, for example, might easily 
be part of a manifesto by one of the franker members of 
the front Tory benches. "We are frightened/' he says, 
"of a revolution in the kingdom shortly; we see its germ 
in a too numerous population. The greater the extension 
of the masses, the greater the danger ; the more enlightened 
they are the more they are to be feared. First of all 
we are going to suppress all the free schools whose lessons, 
propagating too rapidly, give us painters, poets and 
philosophers where we only want labourers. What need 
have people like that of talents, and what use is there in 
giving them to them? Let us rather diminish their 
number; France has need of a vigorous bleeding, and it 
is the shameful parts we must attack. To attain this 
aim we are first of all going to attack the unemployed with 
the greatest rigour; it is almost always from that class that 
agitators appear; we are going to destroy the hospitals 
and refuges; we don't want to leave the masses a single 
asylum which can encourage their insolence. Bound 
under chains a thousand times heavier than those they 
bear in Asia, we want them to crawl like slaves, and we will 
spare no means to accomplish this aim. 'These pro- 
ceedings will be long,' said Clairwil, 'and if you want to 
act quickly you want speedier ones: war, famine, plague.' 
'The first is certain,' replied Saint-Fond, 'We are shortly 
going to have a war. We don't want the third for we 
might be among the victims. As for famine, the corner 
in grain at which we're working, will firstly cover us with 
riches and will soon reduce the masses to eating one 
another. The Cabinet has decided on it because it is 
prompt, infallible, and will cover us with gold.'" 



(It may be remembered that in 1932-33 the National 
Government attacked the principle of free secondary 
education and scholarships; lowered the dole by the 
means test; and sent up the price of bread and many other 
foodstuffs by means of tariffs, quotas, import boards and 
the like. Their preparations for war on the other hand, 
are far too efficient to allow criticism.) 

Saint-Fond then continues his speech with an exaltation 
of the State which neither Hitler nor Mussolini could 
improve on. " 'For a long time,' continued the minister, 
* penetrated as I am with the principles of Machiavelli, 
I have been completely persuaded that individuals are of 
no account in politics. Secondary machines of govern- 
ment, men should work for the prosperity of the govern- 
ment, and not the government for the prosperity of men. 
Governments occupied with the individual are weak, the 
only vigorous one is that which counts itself for every- 
thing, and men for nothing; the greater or lesser number 
of slaves in the State is indifferent, what is essential is 
that the chains weigh heavily on the people, and that the 
sovereign should be despotic. While Rome was a 
democracy she was weak and feeble; when tyrants took 
authority she was mistress of the earth. All force should 
be concentrated in the sovereign, and since that force is 
only moral, since physically the masses are the more 
powerful, it can only be by an uninterrupted series of 
despotic actions that the government can acquire the 
physical force it lacks; otherwise it will only exist in 
ideal. When we wish to impose on others we must 
accustom them little by little to see in us what really 
doesn't exist, otherwise they will see us as we are and we 
will infallibly lose.' 'I have always believed/ said 
Clairwil, 'that the art of governing men is the one which 
demands the maximum of hypocrisy/ 'That is true/ 



replied Saint-Fond, 'and the reason is obvious; you can 
only govern men by deceiving them; one must be hypo- 
critical to deceive them; the enlightened man will never 
let himself be led, therefore it is necessary to deprive him 
of enlightenment to lead him as we want, and that can 
only be done by hypocrisy. . , . The government must 
have more energy than the governed ; well, if that of the 
governed is mixed with crimes, how can you expect the 
government itself not to be criminal ? Are the punish- 
ments used against men anything except crimes ? What 

excuses them? State necessity '" 6 Elsewhere he 

(Saint-Fond) develops his desire for a plutocratic oligarchy 
with a slave basis; 7 he gained his position by sleeping with 
the king's mistress. 

I have thought it better to give one fairly long and 
exhaustive quotation, rather than the large number of 
shorter ones that I had originally prepared. They are all 
of much the same tenor; they all exhibit the same greed 
for money and power; Machiavelli is continually quoted; 
and all exhibit the same hatred and fear of the masses. 
The chief of the police at Rome, e.g., plans to kill off all 
the unemployed on the grounds that "they are not only 
a charge on the honest man, but will become dangerous 
if the dole is stopped." 8 Juliette is one of the most 
thorough, as it is by fifty years the first, analysis of a 
society ruled by money. 

Noirceuil, one of Juliette's earlier lovers, gives her as a 
present an income of a thousand crowns with the remark 
that it was intended for the hospitals: "The sick will have 
a few soups less, and you a few more fal-lals." 9 and in 
Aline et Valcour the judge remarks: "The happiness of 
being above others gives one a right to think differently 
from them; that is the first effect of superiority; the second 
is its abuse .... which allows one man to betray the 



State, make his fortune and retire on the grounds that 
he is ruined (the abominable Sartine), another to destroy 
the internal trade of France, because his mistresses' 
absurd plan is worth two million to him (the criminal 
Lenoir); and a hundred others get together to make a 
corner in the people's food, and then starve the same 
people by re-selling to them the food they have stolen 
from them at ten times its proper value." 10 

These passages read as though they were extracts from 
some work of Upton Sinclair's describing the American 
Red Cross scandals, or the operations of Chicago's magis- 
trates and speculators. Indeed there is a certain resem- 
blance between the two authors, including the gusto with 
which they describe capitalist villainy; but de Sade's 
more firmly embedded and logical principles would never 
have led him into making a hero and martyr of such a 
person as William Fox. Both, for instance, might have 
remarked: "He conducted his business honestly; wasn't 
that more than enough ground for him to be promptly 
crushed?" 11 

At the head, at any rate nominally, of the different 
States, were kings. Nominally, for in some States the 
financiers and politicians held the real power; Saint- 
Fond is more powerful than the king himself. De Sade 
gives a rapid glance at the holders of the greater number 
of European thrones. He wrote in a period when royalty 
was particularly unfortunate in its representatives and 
rich in fools and monsters. France possessed the some- 
what ludicrous Louis XVI and his wife; Tuscany, 
Leopold; Naples, the appalling Ferdinand and Caroline; 
Russia, Catherine the Great, nymphomaniac and poisoner 
. . . the list is tedious. De Sade has a certain amount of 
praise for Gustavus III of Sweden and more for Frederick 
of Prussia, the philosophical king; and he passes over 



in silence the King of England. De Sade never takes 
them very seriously, though his criticisms are not 
unfounded; he makes the perspicacious remark that if 
kings are beginning to lose credit in Europe it is their 
humanity which is destroying them. 12 

The accompaniment of tyranny is organised religion. 
"When the strong wished to enslave the weak he per- 
suaded him that a god had sanctified the chains with which 
he loaded him, and the latter, stupefied by misery, 
believed all he was told." 13 This point was dealt with in 
the last chapter, but a curious passage in Aline et Falcour^ 
a discussion between a Frenchman and a Portuguese, is 
worth quoting. The Portuguese is complaining of the 
damage done to his country's commerce and agriculture 
by the Inquisition, and the preponderating place the 
English have gained in their internal commerce; the 
Frenchman advises a revolt against the Inquisition: 
"Destroy and annihilate them; enchain these dangerous 
enemies of your freedom and commerce in their own 
chains; let the last autodafe in Lisbon be these criminals. 
But if you ever had the courage to do this a very funny 
thing would happen; the English, who are quite rightly 
the enemies of this monstrous tribunal, would neverthe- 
less become its defenders; they would protect it because 
it serves their purpose; they would support it because 
it holds you in the subjection they desire; it would be all 
over again the story of the Turks protecting the Pope 
against the Venetians, so true is it that superstition is a 
powerful arm in the hands of despotism, and that our 
own interest often forces us to make others respect what 
we ourselves despise." 14 

Politics and finance are succinctly summed up in two 
sentences: "Politics, which teach men to deceive their 
equals without being deceived themselves, that science 



born of falseness and ambition, which the statesman calls 
a virtue, the social man a duty, and the honest man a 
vice. . . ," 15 "The financier taught me about the 
raising of taxes the atrocious system of enriching one- 
self alone at the expense of many unfortunates . . . 
without thereby helping the State." 16 

War is simply public and authorised murder, in which 
hiredmen slaughter oneanother in the interests of tyrants. 17 
It proves nothing except the ambition of the people 
promoting it "The sword is the weapon of him who is 
in the wrong, the commonest resource of ignorance and 
stupidity/' 18 It is merely imperial brigandage. "When 
Bras-de-fer and his companions join together to rob a 
coach, are they any different to two sovereigns who join 
together to despoil a third ? Yet the latter expect laurels 
and immortality for crimes unnecessarily committed, 
while the former will only get contempt, shame and the 
gibbet for crimes authorised by hunger, the most 
imperious of laws." 19 The inconsistency of governments 
is laughed at when "they teach publicly the art of murder, 
and reward him who is most successful in practising it, 
and yet punish the man who gets rid of his enemy for a 
private reason." 20 He had no patience with the notion of 
honour whether it concerned private duels or war. "It 
is pride, not necessity, which makes tyrants order their 
generals to destroy other nations." 21 About duels, he 
says, "Honour is an illusion born of human conventions 
and customs, which are merely based on absurdity; it is 
equally untrue that a man gains honour by assassinating 
his country's enemies and that he loses it by assassinating 
his own." 22 

The object of colonial expansion is to acquire cheap 
labour and raw materials: "As long as a State's riches is 
counted in gold, the mineral being in the bowels of the 



earth, labour is necessary to get it up, therefore slavery 
is necessary and the subjugation of negroes by the 

whites " 23 We are shown colonial expansion at 

work, in the person of a kindly and honourable Portu- 
guese delegate employing every form of lying, bribery 
and treachery for the aims of State ; when he is acting for 
his prince he can commit crimes which would make him 
tremble if they were personal. 24 Understandably the 
great fear of the people of Tamoe in the South Seas is 
European colonisation. 

We have seen that de Sade described the English 
penetration of Portugal ; similarly of Sweden he writes : 
"The English are always ready to serve those they think 
they can swallow up one day, after having disturbed their 
trade or weakened their power by means of their usurious 
loans. " 25 It may be remarked in passing that de Sade 
seems to have had a great liking for the English; he is 
continually excluding them from his strictures and 
praising them for their honesty. He also prophesies a 
great future for the United States: "The Republic of 
Washington will grow little by little, like that of Romulus, 
and will first subjugate America, and then make the rest 
of the world tremble.'' 26 


Besides contractual relations there are also emotional 
connections between the haves and have-nots. The 
feelings of the rich for the poor can be divided into two 
groups dislike and fear on the one hand, pity and 
charity on the other. The former are the commoner. 
When Juliette was suddenly left orphaned and penniless 
she appealed for charity to the Mother Superior of the 
convent where she was being educated, thinking that as 
she had always been a great favourite of hers when she 



was rich, she would get help when she was poor. She 
was rudely rebuffed and at first could not understand why. 
" Alas, I said to myself, why does my misfortune make her 
so cruel? Are rich Juliette and poor Juliette two dif- 
ferent creatures? .... Ah! I did not realise yet that 
poverty was a charge on wealth, nor did I know how much 
it was feared by the latter ... to what extent wealth 
flees from it, and that the fear it has of being forced to 
relieve it results in a strong antipathy for it. But, 
I continued reflecting, how is it that that libertine, nay 
criminal woman, does not fear the indiscretion of those 
whom she treats so brusquely? Another puerility on 
my part; I didn't know the insolence and effrontery in 
vice displayed by wealth and credit. Madame Delbene 
was the Superior of one of the most famous Abbeys in 
Paris, she had an income of 60,000 livres, influence with 
everyone of importance at Court and in town; to what 
extent should she not despise a poor girl like me, young, 
orphaned and penniless, who could only oppose her 
injustice with reclamations which would soon be disposed 
of, or complaints which, immediately treated as libels, 
would perhaps have gained for the girl who had the 

boldness to utter them, eternal loss of liberty! 

Very well," I said to myself, "my only plan is to try to 
become rich in my turn, then I will be as shameless as 
this woman, and will enjoy the same rights and the same 
pleasures." 27 Her plan succeeded; as Saint-Fond's mis- 
tress she became excessively rich, and a local famine gave 
her an excuse to put in practice the lesson she had learned. 
"People came to beg for charity; I was firm and with 
great impertinence coloured my refusal with the excuse 
of the enormous expenses my gardens were causing me. 
4 How can I afford to give charity/ I said insolently, * when 
I have to have mirrored boudoirs in my woods and alleys 



adorned with statues ?'" 88 (c.f., the continual cry that 
crushing taxation makes the upkeep of large estates 
impossible, and yet people loll in luxury on the dole). 

This is the most common attitude ; it is adorned some- 
times by the pleasure people feel in their opulence con- 
trasted with the surrounding misery. This trait is most 
general with financiers. 29 

Among others, however, and particularly among the 
less rich, this attitude is replaced by the exercise of the 
vile virtues pity and charity. "Pity is a purely egoistical 
feeling, which makes us be sorry for the misfortunes of 
others which we fear for ourselves. If there was a person 
exempt from all human ills, not only would he not feel 
any sort of pity, he could not even conceive it. Another 
proof that pity is only a passive reaction .... is that we 
are always more moved by a misfortune that happens to 
an unknown under our eyes than that of our dearest friend 

a thousand miles away Another proof that this 

sentiment is founded purely on weakness and cowardice is 

that it is stronger in women and children than men 

Similarly the poor, who are nearer to misery than the rich, 
are naturally more touched by the misfortunes chance 
offers to their eyes ; since these ills are nearer to them they 
have greater sympathy with them. . . ." 30 He goes on 
to claim that it is an undesirable and insulting feeling. 

Similarly charity "is bad for the poor .... and even 
more dangerous for the rich, who thinks he has acquired 
all the virtues when he has given a few shillings to the 
clergy or idlers a sure method of covering your own 
vices by encouraging others. '" 31 Elsewhere charity is 
defined as "a vice of pride, rather than a virtue of the 
soul." 32 De Sade continually harps on this theme, per- 
haps with the presentiment that in his old age he would 
be reduced to this indignity, (Despite his general 



scepticism, de Sade admits as verified presentiments, 
thought-reading, dowsing, clairvoyance and phantasms 
of the living. 33 ) 

The attitude of the poor to the rich varies between a 
religious and patriotic resignation and complete cynicism. 
The poor do not figure largely in his works, nor are they 
very articulate. The adventuress la Dubois says to the 
resigned Justine, "The hard-heartedness of the rich 
legitimises the rascality of the poor; let their purse be 
opened to our wants, let humanity reign in their hearts, 
and virtues can establish themselves in ours; but as long 
as our misery, our patience in supporting it, our honesty 
and our slavery only help to double our burdens our 
crimes become their work. ... It amuses me to hear 
rich people, judges, magistrates, preach virtue to us; it is 
indeed difficult to refrain from stealing when one has 
three times more than one needs to live, indeed difficult 
never to think of murder when one is surrounded with 
flatterers and prostrate slaves, terribly hard truly to be 
temperate and sober when pleasure intoxicates them and 
the most delicate food surrounds them, a real hardship to 
be truthful when they have no interest in lying/' 34 Later 
in the book, when Justine, more miserable than ever, 
meets la Dubois who has achieved prosperity, the latter 
explains, "I want equality, I only preach that. If I have 
corrected the caprices of fate it is because, crushed and 
annihilated by the inequalities of fortune and rank, seeing 
on the one side tyranny and on the other misery and 
humiliation, I desired neither to shine with the pride of 
the rich nor to vegetate in the humility of the poor." 35 
De Sade has some extremely moving passages in which 
he describes the life of the poor. "The unhappy man 
waters his bread with tears; a day's hard work hardly 
gives him enough to bring back in the evening to his 



family the wherewithal to preserve life; the taxes he is 
obliged to pay take away the greater part of his thin 
savings; his naked and illiterate children dispute with 
the beasts of the forest the vilest food, while his wife's 
breasts, dried up by want, cannot give to the nursling 
that first part of nourishment which will give him the 
strength to go, to get the rest, to share that of the wolves ; 
till finally, bowed down under the weight of years, ill- 
treatment and grief, always under the hand of misfortune, 
he sees the end of his career coming, without the star of 
heaven having for one instant shone pure and serene on 
his humbled head." 36 

In La Philosophic dans le Boudoir the young chevalier 
reproaches the libertine Dolmanc: "When your body, 
tired out by pleasures alone, rests languidly on beds of 
down, look at theirs, worn out by the work which makes 
you rich, gather a little straw to protect them from the 
cold of the earth, whose surface they, like the beasts, 
have as only resting-place; give a glance to them when, 
surrounded by succulent dishes with which twenty chefs 
tickle daily your sensuality, these poor people dispute 
with the wolves the bitter roots of the dried earth ; when 
laughter, graces and sport lead to your impure couch the 
most charming objects of Cythera's temple, see this 
unhappy man lying beside his sad wife, satisfied with the 
pleasures he gathers among tears, without suspecting 
that others exist; look at him when you refuse yourself 
nothing, and float in the midst of superfluity; look at 
him, I say, lacking even the first necessities of life; cast 
your eyes on his desolate family; see his trembling wife 
tenderly dividing herself between the attentions she owes 
to her husband languishing beside her and those ordered 
by Nature for the pledges of their love; deprived of the 
possibility of fulfilling any of these duties, so sacred for a 



sensitive mind, hear her, without trembling, if you can, a! 
you for the superfluity your cruelty refuses her, . . . 
Dolmanc replies: "You are young, as your conversatic 
proves, and inexperienced; later you will not speak so w< 
of men, when you know them. Their ingratitude dri< 
up my heart, their perfidiousness destroyed in me tho 
virtues for which I was born perhaps as much 
you. . , ." 37 

These passages are over-written, but they do, I thin 
show real feeling of a sort which the reputation of tl 
monster-author would not lead one to expect; and it w 
probably of himself that de Sade thought when he quot< 
Marmontel's remark: "II y a un exces dans la sensibili 
qui avoisine Tinsensibilit^." 38 


It follows from the foregoing analysis of society th 
the law-courts only dispense a class justice, in favour 
the rich. "The judge generally takes the part of t] 
stronger both by personal interest and the secret ai 
invincible inclination which makes us all favour o 
equals/' 39 "The case against a poor woman witho 
credit or protection is quickly dealt with in Franc 
Honesty is believed to be incompatible with miser 
and in our law-courts poverty is sufficient proof again 
the accused. . . ." 40 

The object of the law is not to prevent crime, but 
keep crime within certain prescribed limits. "Ti 
difference that laws have made is that instead of t! 
strong having power as primitively, it is now the ri< 
and well-born" 41 (c.f. origin of laws in last chapte 
"The laws of a people are never anything but the ma 
and the result of the interests of the legislators." 48 " Ti 



object of laws is either to multiply crimes, or to allow them 
to be committed with impunity." 43 Only the smaller 
fry among criminals get caught: "I didn't steal enough, 
a little more vision and all would have been kept quiet; 
it is only second-class malefactors who get caught." 44 
" There are two sorts of criminals, one whose powerful 
fortune and immense credit put out of danger, and the 
other, born poor, who will not be able to escape if he is 
taken." 45 

When the law gets hold of a guilty man (or a supposed 
guilty man: "A hundred innocent for one guilty, that is 
the spirit of the law" 46 ) its object is not reformation, but 
revenge, "The laziness and folly of legislators led them 
to invent the law of talion. It was much easier to say, 
4 Let us do to him what he has done/ than to proportion 
spiritually and equitably the punishment to the crime." 47 
The stupidity of punishments made de Sade cry: "Mur- 
derers, imprisoners, fools of every country and every 
government, when will you prefer the science of knowing 
man to that of shutting him up and killing him?" 48 

The ideas of justice and crime are anyhow purely local 
and arbitrary, as de Sade points out at great length. "The 
claim of your semi-philosopher Montaigne that justice 
is eternal and unalterable at all times and places is false; 
it depends on human conventions, characters, tempera- 
ments, local morality. If this were so, the same author 
continues, it would be a truth so terrible .that one would 
have to hide it from oneself. But why disguise such 
essential truths ? Should man hide from any of them ?" 49 
In this connection his pamphlet on the manner in which 
laws should be sanctioned, already described in the first 
chapter, should be remembered. 

The punishments of the law were motivated by the 
spirit of revenge, and de Sade, who pronounced revenge 

145 K 


unworthy of an honourable man (even reporting to the 
police) 60 five years before he so signally put his theories 
into practice considered the penalties then in vogue as 
barbarous as they were useless. 

"I don't say that one should let crimes continue, but I 
claim that it is better first of all to decide, which hasn't 
been done, what really troubles society and what in fact 
doesn't do it any harm; once the tort is recognised people 
should work to cure it and extirpate it from the nation, 
and you don't succeed in doing that by punishment; 
if the law were wise it would never inflict any punishment 
except one which tends to correct the guilty and preserve 
them to the State. The law is false when it merely 
punishes, detestable when its only object is to destroy the 
criminal without teaching him, to frighten without 
improving him, and to commit an infamy as great as the 
original one without gaining anything from it." 61 

The punishments used, then as now, were torture, 
imprisonment and death. Torture, whether used for 
discovering evidence (third degree) or for punishment 
(the cat, etc.) were for de Sade such obvious barbarities 
that their only use was to make the citizen of a country 
where they were employed blush for shame. 62 

Mere deprivation of liberty was equally useless. " The 
only excuse (of prisons) is the hope of correction; but 
you must know very little of man to imagine that prison 
can ever have that effect on him; you don't correct a male- 
factor by isolating him, but by giving him back to the 
society he has outraged; from there he should receive his 
daily punishment, and it is the only school at which he 
can improve; reduced to a fatal solitude, to a dangerous 
vegetation, to a tragic abandonment, his vices germinate, 
his blood boils, his head ferments; the impossibility 
of satisfying his desires fortifies the criminal cause of 



them, and he comes out slyer and more dangerous 

If your prisons .... had produced even a single con- 
version .... there would be some point in continuing 
them, but you cannot quote a single example of a man 
made better by chains. How can he be ? How can one 
become better in the midst of depravity and degradation ? 
Can one gain anything in the midst of the most contagious 
examples of greed, roguery and cruelty? Characters 
become degraded, morals corrupted; you become vile, 
lying, ferocious, sordid, treacherous, mean, underhand, 
a perjurer like those who surround you; in a word all 
your virtues are changed to vices and you come out full 
of horror for mankind, occupied only in harming them 
and revenging yourself." 53 

As an example they are equally useless; crimes are 
committed for two reasons either want or passion. If 
either stimulus is strong enough no amount of fear is 
going to restrain the criminal ; the heaviness of penalties 
does not decrease the amount of crimes ; their only result 
is to make the petty criminal more desperate. 64 New 
laws merely create new crimes ; the only solution is to change 
society to a form in which crime does not become a 
necessity for anyone. " Destroy the interest a person has 
in breaking the law and you will take away the means 
from him of contravening it." 65 

The only exception to this rule is the case of criminal 
natures who commit crime because it is a crime, for the 
sole pleasure of breaking laws. " Against such it is useless 
to make laws; the stronger the ramparts raised against 
them, the greater the pleasure in breaking them down 
.... such people are rare .... one should try to win 
them by kindness and honour, or else attempt to make 
them change the motives of their habits" (sublimation). 56 

His final conclusions are: "Honour is man's guiding 



rein ; if you know how to use it properly you can lead 
him where you will; with a whip always in your hand 
you humiliate, discourage and finally lose him/' 57 "If 
you destroy a man's self-respect you make a criminal out 
of him." 58 "Once a criminal is recognised as dangerous 
he must be withdrawn from society .... either by 
banishment or by making him better by forcing him to 
be useful to the people he has outraged. But don't 
throw him inhumanly into those poisoned cloacas, where 
all that surrounds him is so gangrened that it becomes 
uncertain which will finish his corruption the quicker, 
the frightful examples he receives from those in charge 
of him or the hardened impenitence of his unhappy 
companions . . . murder him even less, for blood 
repairs nothing and instead of one crime you now have 
two. . . ." 59 

The whole passage on crime and punishment is quite 
extraordinary; had space permitted the whole fifty pages 60 
from which the above extracts are drawn were worthy 
of quotation; doubly extraordinary indeed, for not only 
is it in accordance with the ideas and experience of the 
most modern penologists both theoretical and practical 
(cf., for example Lawes' 20,000 Tears in Sing Sing); 
it is unique in being the considered opinion of a prisoner 
written while he was still in prison. 

Both in his works and in his life de Sade showed him- 
self an inveterate enemy of the death penalty; it is a theme 
continually recurring in his works from the earliest 
onwards. The one case in which he hesitated was that 
of a crime against the State ; but even for this he preferred 
exile. His numerous arguments against it reduce to the 
syllogism, "Is murder a crime or not? If it is not, why 
punish it? If it is, why punish it by a similar crime?" 61 
His account of its origin is curious. "The Celts justified 



their horrible practice of human sacrifice with the excuse 
that the gods could only be appeased by the redemption 

of one man's life by another's When contact 

with the Romans altered their customs the victims 
destined to the gods were no longer chosen among the 
old men or the prisoners of war; only criminals were 
sacrificed, always under the absurd supposition that 
nothing was so pleasing to God's altars as the blood of 
man When governments became Christian any- 
thing which that doctrine condemned was turned into 
a capital crime; little by little your sins were turned into 
crimes; you thought you had the right to imitate the 
thunder you placed in the hands of divine justice, and you 
hanged and broke on the wheel because you imagined 
that God did so. ... Nearly all the laws of St. Louis 
are founded on these sophistries. We know it and we 
don't change, because it is far simpler to hang men than 
to find out why we condemn them. . . ," 62 


(a) Patriotism. De Sade was always a strong local 
patriot. In his earliest work he writes: " Kings and their 
majesties alone impress me; he who does not love his 
country and his king is not fit to live." 63 His respect 
for kings soon diminished, but his love for his country 
continues all through his writings. He was, however, 
always against imperialist aggression; he advises his 
country to " Fortify its frontiers . . . and renounce the 
spirit of conquest; only occupied in protecting your 
boundaries you will no longer have the necessity of 
keeping up a large army. By this means you would give 
back a hundred thousand men to agriculture and do away 
with the licence and debauchery of the barracks. . . ." 64 
The enthusiasm he professed for the republic has already 



been seen. This love of his land did not, however, carry 
with it necessarily the idea of a sovereign State ; one of 
the characters in Juliette is made a member of a Lodge at 
Stockholm, in which the oath is taken "to exterminate all 
kings; to wage eternal war on the Catholic religion and 
the Pope; to preach the liberty of nations; and to found a 
universal republic." 65 See also Section ii in the following 

() The Directoire. Obviously de Sade could not 
express openly his criticisms of the actual government at 
the time of publication; and although Juliette and in a 
less degree La Nouvelle Justine are a tacit criticism in 
nearly every line, there is only one occasion in which de 
Sade openly criticises the Republic, and then only in a 
footnote. The occasion is the initiation of a minor charac- 
ter into the Masonic Lodge at Stockholm mentioned 
above where a senatorial anti-monarchical conspiracy is 
being hatched; de Sade takes advantage of this oppor- 
tunity to attack the Masons for their self-seeking under 
the cover of philanthropy. The following interrogation 
between the Master and the man who wants to become a 
member takes place : 

"6* What motives make you detest the despotism 
of kings ? 

A. Jealousy, ambition, pride, desperation in being 
lorded over, the desire to lord it over others myself. 

Q. Is the people's happiness of any importance to 

A. Not in the least. I am only interested in my own. 

Q. And what r6le do the passions play in your way 
of thinking about politics ? 

A. The strongest. I have never believed that the 
so-called statesman had any other real intentions than the 
fullest gratification of his desires : his plans, the alliances 



he makes, his projects, his taxes, even his laws are 
designed for his personal happiness. The public good 
never enters his thoughts and all that the duped masses 
see him do is merely to increase his own wealth or power/* 
To this dialogue he adds the revealing footnote: " Spirit 
of the revolution of Stockholm, have you not somehow or other 
come to Paris?"** 

(c) Family Group and Position of Women. In the family 
group de Sade saw the greatest danger to equality and to 
the State; family interests are necessarily anti-social. He 
proposed to avoid this inconvenience by the establishment 
of national schools for all children. 67 

He considered that the position of women both sexually 
and legally was anomalous and unfair; consequently he 
demanded complete equality of women and men in every 
circumstance. 68 This notion of de Sade's is indeed so 
important that Guillaume Apollinaire, one of his most 
intelligent commentators, considered that it was chiefly 
to illustrate this thesis that he wrote Justine and Juliette 
and chose heroines instead of heroes. 

(d] Education. Education was for de Sade potentially of 
supreme importance, and it is therefore comprehensible 
that he complained of the current education, which was 
then even more stupid and unsuitable than it is to-day. 
" Instead of teaching young men what they ought to 
know they put in its place a thousand idiocies which are 
only good to be trampled on as soon as one reaches the 
age of reason. It would seem that they were only trying 
to produce monks bigotry, fables, useless follies, and 
never a sensible moral maxim. Go further, ask a young 
man his true duties to society, ask him what he owes to 
himself and to others, what line of conduct he should take 
to be happy; he will tell you that he has learned to go to 
Mass and recite litanies, but he doesn't understand a word 


of what you are talking about, that he has learned 
to sing and dance, but not to live among men/' 69 If for 
litanies you substitute what is drolly called 'history,' and 
for singing and dancing, cricket and football, the passage 
is just as pertinent to-day. 

(e) Agriculture. De Sade agreed with the contemporary 
physiocrats in considering agriculture not only the main 
industry of man and of countries, but also as the only 
true source of all wealth. 70 "The man who goes to mine 
gold from the bosom of the earth and leaves the friendly 
soil which would nourish him with far less trouble is an 
extravagant fool worthy of the greatest scorn.' ' 71 He 
considered that to a great extent the actual impoverish- 
ment of France was due to the too great centralisation and 
the absence of the proprietors from their lands, so that 
"instead of lords living despotically on their own lands 
.... thirty thousand intriguing slaves fawn before one 
man" 72 a criticism which history amply justifies. 

(/) Population. De Sade was much occupied with the 
idea of the optimum population, and in La Philosophic 
dans le Boudoir he reaches conclusions very similar to those 
put forward by Malthus three years later in his Essay 
on Population. He did not pronounce definitely whether 
France had passed the optimum, though he rather sus- 
pected it had; the future danger was anyhow grave. 73 
He pointed out the contradiction of France complaining 
of a falling birth-rate, and insisting on the celibacy of 
monks, nuns, soldiers and other functionaries. He was 
against the preservation of malformed or diseased chil- 
dren: "Any child who is born without the necessary 
qualities which will allow him to become one day a useful 
citizen has no right to life and the best thing to do is to 
deprive him of it the moment he gets it." 74 




The second volume of Aline et Valcour consists of the 
description of the strange voyages of a young man called 
Sainville. By a series of odd adventures he is cast on to 
the Gold Coast in Central Africa. He tries to make his 
way across the continent and after some days' hard 
travelling he has the misfortune to observe a scene of 
torture and cannibalism practised by one negro tribe on 
their captured enemies ; but, as de Sade remarks in a foot- 
note, "If it is a crime among savages to be conquered, 
why should not they be allowed to punish criminals in 
this way, just as we punish ours by similar proceedings? 
So that if the same horror is found in two nations the one 
has no right to be indignant with the other, because the 
first acts with a little more ceremony: it is only the 
philosopher who admits few crimes and kills no one who 
has a right to be indignant with both." 

Sainville is taken prisoner and led before the King of 
Butua, who grants him his life provided he will take up the 
post of inspecting the candidates for his harem, a post up 
till then occupied by a renegade Portuguese, who is 
appointed his mentor and guide. 

The inhabitants of Butua are cruel and licentious can- 
nibals. Women are in a completely inferior position, 
little above that of the beasts of the field, whose work they 
have to do. The king, who is also the high priest, is an 
absolute monarch; the provinces are under the rule of 
chiefs only answerable to the king, to whom they have 
to pay tribute; but since they have merely to collect it 
by any means they see fit from the peasants this doesn't 
present much difficulty. 

The only people who equal the king and his nobles in 
power are the priests. They worship a god half human 
and half snake, who is the cause of all things, the prime 



mover of the Universe. This god delights in human 
sacrifice, and after a man has transgressed his rules he 
can only be absolved by a sacrifice (preferably the object 
of his transgression) and a payment to the church. 
There are numerous other superstitions, including a 
belief in the resurrection and paradise, in which white 
women and freshly cooked little boys will be at their 
complete disposal. There is complete collaboration and 
understanding between the king and the priests, and the 
latter can use the law to enforce or punish any neglect, 
slight, or failure to pay tithe, with the utmost rigour, as in 

The priests have complete charge of education. The 
principal and practically the only thing they teach women 
is the most entire resignation to the will of their husbands; 
the men are taught to submit themselves, first to the 
church, then to the king, and lastly to their particular 
chiefs ; they should be ready to lay down their life for any 
of these causes. 

Outside the family, in which the father is complete 
master, with power over life and death, the peasants are 
severely punished for the slightest crimes. "For it is 
not as though there were no laws, there are perhaps too 
many, but all have a tendency to favour the strong against 
the weak." Theft and murder are disregarded among 
the nobles but punished with the utmost rigour among 
the people ; they are punished personally by the local chief 
who calls in his friends to help him; for such occasions 
are parties of pleasure, corresponding to hunting parties 
in Europe. 

With the exception of the king, whose succession is 
gained by trials of strength and endurance, property 
goes exclusively from father to eldest son ; this, however, 
actually only applies to the nobles, for the poor possess 


practically nothing, and what little they do is always liable 
to be taken from them. 

The people are devout, credulous, superstitious and 
almost illiterate. Their few sciences, such as astronomy, 
are frowned on by the priests, and almost smothered in 
superstition. What little medicine is known is in the 
hands of a sort of secondary priesthood, who never give 
help except for payment. The population is falling 
rapidly, owing to the ill-usage of the women. The people 
get drunk on a sort of alcohol made from maize. They 
have absolutely no thought for the future. Their com- 
merce consists of the exchanging of rice and maize for 
fish from their neighbours; this trade is often a cause of 

The king is an exaggerated image of his countrymen, 
even more cruel, lecherous and superstitious than they 
are. The description of him and his habits is completely 
nauseating. The people might have revolted against 
him without the aid and support of the priests. 

This people and their customs are explained and com- 
mented on by the renegade Portuguese, who, after a first 
revolt, bowed to the necessity of living among such 
people, and even ended in acquiring most of their habits. 
The most monstrous and revolting aspects are justified 
by him as being natural, since they do not upset the 
natives, and are found elsewhere in the world, 

I have not emphasised the numerous descriptions of 
cannibalism, cruelty, infanticide and lust which are given, 
as I think I have already made tolerably clear the nature 
of the country into which de Sade claimed that he alo#e 
had penetrated. 



What is now true was once only imagined. 
Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 

Nought loves another as itself. 
Nor venerates another so, 
Nor is it possible for thought 
A greater than itself to know. 


Songs of Experience. 

I. UTOPIA. 1788 

BY good fortune Sainville managed to escape from 
Butua; he made his way to the coast where he succeeded 
in hiring a ship with which he intended to make his way 
home. But a series of storms drove him far out of his 
course into unchartered and temperate waters in the 
South Seas. When provisions and water were nearly 
exhausted he arrived at an unknown island; he approached 
it in the hope of being able to re-provision. The natives 
were friendly, and one who spoke French conducted him 
to the king. To make his way to his house he had to pass 
through the city of Tamoe; it was town-planned, con- 
sisting of circular boulevards set with uniform two-storey 
houses surrounded by gardens. When he reached the 
king's house he was astounded to notice that except for 
its slightly larger size it was no different from any other; 
there were no guards and no parade of any sort; people 
entered freely. The old King Zam came t<5 greet him; 


he offered him hospitality and anything he might require ; 
he kept Sainville as his guest for a fortnight, telling him 
his history and showing him his kingdom; he talked 
French fluently. 

In his youth Zam6 had been sent by his father to 
Europe to learn what civilisation could teach him which 
would be of benefit to Tamoe ; and plentifully equipped 
with gold, which was the island's only metal, he made the 
grand tour. Except for some mechanical devices all 
that he saw of Europe frightened and disgusted him ; and 
he returned home with the intention of avoiding as far as 
might be the terrible inequalities and oppressions, the 
superstition, the misery, the fear, and the crimes with 
which he saw the lives of all but a handful of Europeans 
darkened. He brought back with him a number of tools 
for agriculture and manufacture, and a certain amount of 
skill in various trades. 

He found the greatest causes of European misery in 
four things private property, class distinctions, religion 
and family life. He therefore proceeded to abolish or 
transform these institutions. Absolutely all property was 
made over to the State. Under certain conditions people 
had the usufruct of property, provided they developed it 
properly, during their life-time; on death it reverted 
automatically to the State. The State controlled all manu- 
factures. Since everybody was working for the State, 
directly or indirectly, and since all had equal wealth or 
rather commodities and comfort class distinctions were 

As soon as a child was weaned he or she was put into a 
State school, where they remained till marriage at the age 
of fifteen. The parents could visit them at these institu- 
tions as often as they wished, but the children must not 
leave. They became there just as good sons and better 


citizens. The children were divided into three groups, 
up to six, six to twelve, and twelve to fifteen. In the 
first two groups they were taught such things as are 
suitable to their years, including reading, writing and a 
little arithmetic; in their last three years they were taught 
their civic duties and practical agriculture; the colleges 
were supported by gardens worked by the students. They 
were also prepared for marriage and it was impressed on 
them that such a state is a mutual partnership and can 
only be happily maintained by the efforts of both parties. 
The boys in addition were taught military drill, and as 
recreation dancing, wrestling and all sports, the girls 
cooking, sewing and clothes-making, these latter being 
exclusively women's jobs. When a boy reached the age 
of fifteen he was taken to a girl's school to choose a wife, 
unless through temperament or tastes he felt a strong 
aversion for matrimony, in which cases he was allowed to 
remain single on condition that he undertook public 
works. When a boy had chosen a girl he met her daily 
for a week under the supervision of the school masters 
and mistresses. At the end of that period they were asked 
to decide whether they would be married or not; if either 
of the parties disliked the idea the boy had to choose again, 
continuing until a mutual agreement was reached. 

When a couple finally decided they were given a 
house and ground by the State. For the first two years 
they were helped and advised by their parents and neigh- 
bours a service which they had to repay by assistance 
in old age. 

The greater part of the population were engaged in 
small-holding agriculture. If, however, a man preferred 
some other job he was allowed to take it. If it was a job 
which only called for occasional practice, such as building, 
medicine, etc., they had their plot of land the same as the 



others and during their enforced absences the land was 
looked after by the bachelors and divorced ; if, however, 
it was a full-time job, such as work in a factory, they were 
given a landless house and supplied with goods by the 
State. The only direct taxation was in kind for this 
purpose and for public granaries which held two years* 
supply of corn against famine. 

Divorce was granted at the request of either party on 
the following grounds: ill-health, sterility (either volun- 
tary or otherwise), bad temper, cruelty or adultery. 
Nobody was allowed more than two divorces. Unmarried 
and divorced people had smaller houses and less 

There were asylums for lonely or infirm old age 
attached to the schools ; in the capital they were attached 
to the king's house. 

If people neglected their land they were moved to 
uncultivated ground where greater effort was required 
for the same result; if they showed improvement their 
original home was given back to them. 

There were no prisons and no death penalty. Moral 
faults were punished by a distinguishing dress and the 
refusal of privileges, chiefly visiting the king. More 
serious crimes were announced by the town crier through 
the town. A convicted murderer was put into an open 
boat with food for a month, and his description circularised 
so that he could not land elsewhere on the island. People 
with irremediable anti-social characters were exiled. 
Outstanding civic virtue was rewarded by military titles 
which are meaningless but flatter the holder. In passing 
judgment on a man all his actions were taken into account. 
Only crimes which harm society were taken any notice of. 
Brothels were forbidden, as the fifteen-hundred-year-old 
error of France which sacrifices part of its female popula- 



tion to preserve the honour of the other part is as repug- 
nant as it is foolish. All civil cases were satisfied by 

All luxury arts were forbidden. Painting, music, 
dancing, the theatre were encouraged but were only 
developed by amateurs. All the art was inclined to 
furnish moral propaganda. 

The boys' schools and the towns other than the capital 
were under the direction of elderly bachelors, to show that 
if they could not be useful in one way they are in another. 
They were only excluded if the temperamental reasons 
which caused them to choose celibacy were obviously 
anti-social. The commanders of the towns were changed 
annually. The girls' schools were under the direction 
of widows, or divorced women if the reason for their 
divorce did not render them unsuitable. 

There was no standing army but all male citizens were 
potential soldiers. Their only fear was European invasion 
and colonisation, against which they had erected defences. 
They occasionally had field days. 

All priests were banished and religion reduced to a 
vague theistic Nature worship, of a voluntary nature. 
There were no temples and no vested interest in religion. 
There were also no professional lawyers and discussion of 
theology or law was punished as one of the gravest anti- 
social crimes. There was no money and commerce was 
restricted to exchange within the island. Any surplus 
was given away to their less advanced neighbours. 
Zam advocated economic self-sufficiency. 

By these measures Zam6 claimed to have practically 
eliminated misery and crime. By suppressing luxury 
and introducing equality he did away with pride, greed, 
covetousness and ambition. By suppressing religion he 
did away with wars and massacres. By doing away with 

1 60 


the family group he destroyed the greatest enemy of 
equality and the State; by doing away with heritable 
property he abolished the reasons for patricide and 
infanticide. With equality there was no reason for theft 
or revolution or possibility for charity, except the help 
of neighbours and the sick. The ease of divorce and the 
equality of the sexes did away with the greater number of 
sexual crimes; such vices as were not affected by these 
measures were done away with not by suppression 
which is the best means of propagation but by public 
opinion, which was manifested by disgust, ridicule and 
tolerance. Economic self-sufficiency eliminated a great 
deal of the friction which leads to war. The State was the 
unrivalled and unquestioned possessor of all wealth. 

As for Zam himself, his chief object had been not 
to be feared but loved. " Your sovereigns only know how 
to be kings: I have learned to be a man/' he claimed in 
almost the same words as the author of the Zauberflote 
used three years later. He had nothing which the poorest 
of his subjects hadn't got. Like them he was a vegetarian 
and water drinker, not from motives of religion, but of 
diet and humanity. At Sainville's expressed surprise he 
retorted: "Do you think I could eat if I thought that the 
gold dishes in which I was served were got at the expense 
of my fellow citizens and that the weakly children of those 
who make such luxury possible would only have to sup- 
port their sad life black bread ground with misery, 
washed down with the tears of grief and despair?" 
But his work was nearly done; when he has finished his 
task which included re-educating his son, who showed 
'homosexual' tendencies, to the love of the beautiful 
artisan's daughter to whom he had been married he 
will lay down his crown; even so modified a kingship is 
unsuitable to his country; for them, as for France, only a 

161 L 


complete republic would satisfy their true desires. Fre- 
quently Zam prophesies the coming republic. 1 

It was probably this portion of Aline et Valcour which 
was the cause of its condemnation in 1815 and 1830. 


The following is part of a dialogue between a sort of 
Robin Hood chief of a band of robbers called Brigandos 
and a noble he is holding to ransom. 

Brigandos: Since we are talking about politics let me 
tell you of a plan of mine; I want to redivide Europe and 
reduce it to four republics the Northern, Southern, 
Eastern and Western. 

Nobleman: Why do you choose that vicious form of 
government ? 

Brigandos: It is the best of all. 

Nobleman: Which is precisely why you will never be 
able to make people who have been weighed down by the 
yoke of monarchy accept it. It is possible to pass from 
good to evil it is the progress of nature which tends 
ceaselessly to degradation ; the contrary is not practicable. 

Brigandos: Rome started with kings; she only became 
republican after having realised all the dangers of a 

Nobleman: Granted; but Republican Rome was sub- 
jugated in its turn, and the chains of the Caesars were 
heavier than those of the Tarquins ; I assure you that you 
will not find a single republic which the aristocracy has not 
gangrened. And since aristocratic government is the 
worst of all, don't wish that sort of rule on Europe. I 
repeat that despotism is always nearer a republican than a 
monarchical government. 

Brigandos: Yes, when it has the nobles at its head, as 
in Venice; then obviously the complete oppression of the 



people would follow. But a people who would revolt, 
destroy the monarchy and establish its base on the impre- 
scribable rights and duties of man would be a model to 
all, and that is the form of government I desire to give to 
Europe. Let me go on with my divisions, for the multi- 
tude of little states drives me to despair. I divide our 
continent into four republics, as follows: The Western 
Republic will consist of France, Spain, Portugal, Majorca, 
Minorca, Corsica and Sardinia, on condition that these 
countries get rid of all their inquisitors and clergy and 
send all such garglers of blest bread to the middle of 
Africa to say their Masses. The Northern Republic will 
be composed of Sweden and its dependencies, England 
and its dependencies, Belgium, Holland, Westphalia, 
Pomerania, Denmark, Ireland and Greenland. Russia 
will form the Eastern Republic ; I want her to give to the 
Turks whom I expel from Europe all her Asiatic posses- 
sions, which could only be useful to her on the supposition 
of her wishing to trade by land with China, which she 
doesn't do; in recompense I give her Poland, Tartary 
and Turkey in Europe. The Southern Republic will con- 
sist of the whole of Germany, Hungary, and Italy, from 
which I exile the Pope, for nothing could be more useless 
to my project than a sodomitical priest with an income of 
twelve millions, whose only business is to distribute useless 
indulgences and agnuses. This Republic will have Sicily 
and all the islands between her and Africa. That is my 
division. I desire eternal peace between these four 
governments; I want them to give up all dealings with 
America, which is merely ruining them, and to limit 
themselves to mutual trade ; and above all I want them to 
have a single religion, a simple and pure cult free from 
idolatry and monstrous dogmas ... a religion in fact 
that the people can follow without having recourse to that 



insolent vermin which is erected as mediator between 
their weakness and heaven; and which only succeeds in 
deceiving without improving them. According to my 
plan Danzig will be a free city where each republic will 
have a senate. There all discussions will terminate 
friendlily and the decisions of the judges will become the 
laws of the states; if the decisions arrived at are not 
satisfying, ten deputies from each republic can come and 
fight in person, without exposing millions of men to the 
danger of killing one another for interests which are 
very rarely theirs. 

Nobleman: This plan was imagined by a certain French 
Abb6 de Saint-Pierre who wrote about it at the beginning 
of the century. 

Brigandos: Not at all, sir; I know the book you speak 
about. The Abbe didn't divide Europe in this way; he 
left all the little sovereign states which agitate and divide 
it; he didn't, as I do, join these powers together, while 
suppressing what is harmful in them; in a word the 
Abbe de Saint-Pierre renounced the system of equilibrium 
in favour of that of alliances ; I only erect the system of 
alliances as a consolidation of that of equilibrium, and 
therefore my plan is better. 

Nobleman: It wouldn't insure eternal peace. 

Brigandos: To the extent that it equalises it diminishes 
the chances of war. 

Nobleman: Ambition will still be the same; it is the 
poison of man's heart and will only disappear with him, 

Brigandos: This passion would now be motiveless. The 
reason why one nation declares war on another is because 
it wishes to recover or to invade territory in any case 
because it wishes to have as much as or more than the 
nation it attacks. But if the nations are equal the attack 
becomes unjust, whence, in my system you would have 



three states against one, and the aggressor, knowing this, 
would keep the peace. It is very difficult to establish 
equilibrium between a large number of unequal weights; 
nothing is easier when the four weights are of the same 

Nobleman: But you must at least have a patriarch if you 
drive away the Pope; religion must have a head. 

Erigandos: My dear sir, a good religion only needs a 
God; start by reaching a unanimous agreement on the 
essence and attributes of the one you admit by agreeing 
that he only needs our hearts and that the rest is as 
dangerous as it is useless. Since there would be then no 
necessity for you to cut one another's throats concerning 
the fashion in which God should be served you would 
have no need of a head ; it is almost always on his account 
that you have fought one another about your gods; 
without the head's debaucheries and disorders Luther 
would never have separated; and consider the oceans of 
blood that disagreement has spilt. No, sir, no Pope; a 
God is already plenty; I must consider you all very sensible 
to allow you that; the system of such an existence is 
the most dangerous present one can give to fools. 2 

III. ANARCHY. 1794? 

The following is a portion of a conversation between 
two Italians in Rome. 

A. If we were convinced of the indifference of all our 
actions, if we realised that those we call just and unjust 
are seen quite differently by Nature, we would make less 
false calculations. But the prejudices of childhood deceive 
us and will continue to lead us into error as long as we 
have the weakness to listen to them. It would seem as 
though the torch of reason only lights us when we are 
no longer in a position to profit from its rays, and it is 


only after folly has succeeded folly that we manage to 
discover the source of all those that ignorance has made 
us commit. The laws of the land still almost always serve 
us as compass to distinguish the just from the unjust. 
We say such an action is forbidden by the law, therefore 
it is unjust; it is impossible to find a more mistaken 
manner of judging than this, for the law is founded on the 
general interest; now nothing is more in contradiction 
with the general interest than particular interest, and at 
the same time nothing is juster than the latter; therefore 
nothing is more unjust than the law which sacrifices all 
particular interests to general interests. But man, you 
object, wishes to live in society and therefore must 
sacrifice some portion of his private happiness to that of 
the public. Agreed; but why do you want him to have 
made such a pact without being sure of gaining as much 
as he sacrifices? Now, he gains nothing from the pact 
he has made in consenting to the laws; for you inhibit 
him far more than you satisfy him, and for one occasion 
in which the law protects him, there are a thousand when 
it stands in his way; therefore either the laws should not 
be consented to or they should be made infinitely milder. 
The only use of law has been to postpone the annihilation 
of prejudices, to keep us longer under the shameful yoke 
of error; law is a restraint which man has placed on man, 
when he saw with what ease he broke all other restraints ; 
how, after that, could he suppose the supplementary 
restraint could ever be of any use ? There are punish- 
ments for the guilty; agreed, but I only see in them 
cruelties and no means of making man better, and that is, 
to my mind, what one ought to work at. Besides one 
escapes these punishments with the greatest ease, and that 
certainty encourages the spirit of the man who has made 
up his mind. Let us convince ourselves once and for all 



that laws are merely useless and dangerous; their only 
object is to multiply crimes or to allow them to be com- 
mitted with impunity on account of the secrecy they 
necessitate. Without laws and religions it is impos- 
sible to imagine the degree of glory and grandeur human 
knowledge would have attained by now; the way these 
base restraints have retarded progress is unbelievable; 
and that is the sole service they have rendered to -man. 
People have dared declaim against the passions and 
enchain them with laws. But compare the one with the 
other ; let us see whether passions or laws have done more 
good to mankind. Who can question the truth of Hel- 
vetius' remark that passions in the moral sphere corres- 
pond to movement in the physical? The invention and 
the marvels of the arts are only due to strong passions; 
they should be regarded, the same author continues, as 
the productive germ of the spirit, and the mighty spring 
of great actions. Individuals who are not animated by 
strong passions are merely mediocre beings. ( It is only 
strong passions which can produce great men; when one 
is no longer, or when one ceases to be passionate one 
becomes stupid./ This point established, how dangerous 
are not laws which inhibit the passions? Compare the 
centuries of anarchy with those of the strongest legalism 
in any country you like and you will see that it is only 
when the laws are silent that the greatest actions appear. 
If they regain their despotism a dangerous lethargy dulls 
all men's spirits; if you no longer see vices you can hardly 
find a virtue; the springs get rusty and revolutions are 

B. Then you would do away with laws ? 

A. Yes. I maintain that man, returned to a state of 
nature, would be far happier than is possible under the 
ridiculous yoke of the law. / don't want man to renounce 


any portion of his strength or potentialities. He has no 
need of laws to get justice done to him; Nature has given 
him the instinct and the necessary force to get it for 
himself; and that justice he will make for himself will 
always be more prompt than that which he can hope for 
from the languorous hand of the law, because in the 
former case he will merely consider his own interest and 
the wrong he has suffered, whereas a people's laws are 
never anything else but the mass and the result of the 
interests of all the people who have co-operated to their 

B. But without laws you will be oppressed. 

A. What does it matter to me if I am oppressed if I 
have the right to do likewise ; I would rather be oppressed 
by my neighbour whom I can oppress in my turn, than 
by the law against which I am powerless. I have far less 
reason to fear my neighbour's passions than the law's 
injustice, for my neighbour's passions are controlled by 
mine, whereas nothing stops or controls the injustices 
of the law. All man's faults are in Nature; therefore 
there can be no better laws than hers; she imprints a 
single one in the heart of all men to satisfy ourselves, 
to refuse our passions nothing, whatever the cost to 
others. So do not try to inhibit the impulsions of this 
universal law, whatever the effects may be; you have no 
right to stop them; leave the care of that to him who is 
outraged; if he is harmed he will know how to defend 
himself. The men who thought that from the necessity 
of living together that of making laws derived fell into 
the greatest error; they had no more need of laws united 
than isolated. A universal sword of justice is useless; 
this sword is naturally in the hands of everyone. 

B. But everyone will not use it properly, and unfair- 
ness will become general. . . 



A. That is impossible. Peter will never be unjust to 
Paul if he knows that Paul can revenge himself im- 
mediately for the injustice; but he will be if he knows he 
has merely to fear the laws which he can get round, or 
from which he can escape. I will go further, I will grant 
you that without laws the sum of crimes increases, that 
without laws the universe would be a volcano from which 
the most horrible crimes would erupt every minute; in 
that state of perpetual lesion there would be even fewer 
disadvantages; there would doubtless be far less than 
under the rule of laws, for often the law strikes the 
innocent, and to the mass of victims produced by the 
criminal you must add that produced by the unfairness of 
the law; under anarchy you would have those victims less. 
Certainly you would have those sacrificed by crime, but 
you will not have those immolated by the iniquity of the 
law; for since the oppressed would have the right to 
revenge himself he would surely only punish his aggressor. 

B. But anarchy which opens the door to arbitrariness 
gives necessarily the cruel image of despotism. . . 

A. That too is a mistake ; it is the abuse of law which 
leads to despotism; the despot is the man who makes the 
law . . . who makes it speak or who uses it to further 
his own interests. Take away this method of abuse from 
the despot and you will have no more tyrants. There 
has not been a single tyrant who hasn't made use of laws 
to exercise his cruelties; everywhere where man's rights 
will be sufficiently fairly divided for everybody to be in a 
position to revenge himself for the injuries he receives 
there will surely never be a despot, for he would be struck 
down by the first victim he would try to immolate. 
Tyrants are never born in anarchy, you only see them 
raise themselves up in the shadow of the law or get 
authority from them. The reign of laws is therefore 



vicious and inferior to anarchy; the strongest proof of my 
proposition is the necessity a government finds itself in to 
plunge itself into anarchy when it wishes to remake its 
constitution. To abrogate its old laws it is obliged to 
establish a lawless revolutionary regime; and from this 
regime finally other laws are born. But this second state 
is necessarily less pure than the former, since it derives 
from it, since it has been necessary to bring into force the 
first good thing, anarchy^ to arrive at the second good 
thing, the Constitution of the State. Men are only pure in 
a state of Nature ; as soon as they go away from it they 
are degraded. Give up, I say to you, give up the idea of 
making man better by laws ; you merely make him thereby 
more cunning and more wicked . . . never more virtuous. 

B. But crime is a plague on the earth; the more laws 
there are, the fewer crimes. 

A . That too is wrong. The multitude of laws makes 
the multitude of crimes 3 

This theme is again developed at length in the last 
volume of Juliette by another Italian. "Give man back 
to Nature, she will lead him far better than your laws. 
Above all destroy those vast cities, where the conglomera- 
tion of vices forces you to repressive laws. What need 
has man to live in society? Give him back to the wild 
forests where he was born and let him do there all that 
he can ; then his crimes, as isolated as he, will do no harm 
and your restraints become useless: savage man knows 
only two needs 'copulation* and food both natural, 
and nothing which he can do to obtain either can be 
criminal. All that produces in him other passions is the 
work of civilisation and society " 4 

This last volume, with its added bitterness, and its 
lack of notes to bring it up to date, is probably later 
than the rest of the work, and may well date from 1796 



when the whole work was first published. By the time 
the passage quoted above was written de Sade had lost 
all hope. He had returned to the hopeless pessimism of 
earlier years when he had written, "How tempted I am 
to go and live among bears when I consider the multitude 
of dangerous abuses, the crowd of intolerable follies, 
which, thanks to a few musical comedies and songs, 
people don't even seem to suspect/' 5 



About a third of the Philosophic dans le Boudoir is 
occupied by a pamphlet entitled Frenchmen, a further effort 
if you wish to be Republicans! this pamphlet is a hundred 
pages long and therefore it is impossible to give more than 
a precis of it; it is a pity as it shows de Sade at his most 
typical and vigorous. The passages which are quoted 
verbally will be distinguished by quotation marks. It is 
divided into two sections religion and laws or morals.* 


"I am going to offer you far-reaching ideas; if people 
will listen to them and reflect on them some if not all 
may rest; I will have contributed in some part to the 
progress of illumination and will be content. I do not 
disguise the fact that I am troubled at the slowness of our 
advance; and I am disturbed by the realisation that we 
are on the eve of missing our aim again. Can one believe 
that it will be reached when we have been given laws? 
Don't imagine it. What are laws without religions? 
We need a cult, and a cult made for the republican 
character which will remove the danger of ever returning 

* The word 'mceurs' is ambiguous, containing at the same time the ideas 
of 'morals' and 'customs.' I have used only the first, but hope readers will 
keep in mind the double significance. 



to that of Rome, In an age when we are convinced that 
religion should be founded on morality, and not morality 
on religion, we need a religion which goes with our 
customs, which would be as it were the development and 
necessary consequence, and which can raise the soul and 
hold it at the level of that precious liberty which is to-day 
its only idol. 

" Can Christianity be suitable for a free warrior people ? 
No, my compatriots, don't believe it. If unhappily for 
him the Frenchman should bury himself again in the 
veils of Christianity the pride, tyranny and despotism of 
the priests . . , and the lowness, stupidity and platitudes 
of this religion would lower the pride of the republican 
soul and quickly place it again under the yoke its 
energy has just thrown off. Never let us forget that this 
puerile religion was one of the best arms in the hands of 
our tyrants; one of its first dogmas is Give unto C<esar 
the things which are Cesar's, but we have dethroned 
Caesar and we do not intend to give him anything more. 
You would be deceiving yourselves, Frenchmen, if you 
think that a clergy which has given the oath will be any 
different from a refractory one there are some vices 
which are incurable. Within ten years by means of 
Christianity with its superstitions and prejudices, your 
priests, despite their poverty, would regain their former 
empire over your soul; they would chain you to kings 
again because these two powers mutually aid one another, 
and your republican edifice would fall down, deprived of 

It is not enough to prune the tree of superstition, it 
must be eradicated root and branch; freedom and equality 
are so far from the ideas of Christ's ministers that they 
would do everything to destroy them, overtly or covertly. 
Their actual poverty is no restraint; it was the same at the 



beginning of Christianity. " Annihilate for ever that 
which one day may destroy your work. Consider that 
the fruit of your efforts is destined to your grandchildren, 
and your duty and your honour demand that you do not 
leave them any of the germs which could one day replunge 
them into that chaos from which we have emerged with 
such difficulty/' 

These prejudices are already being dissipated; the 
people have suppressed the temples and thrown over the 
idols ; it is agreed that marriage is now merely a civil act. 
But you mustn't stop there. " The whole of Europe, with 
its hand already on the bandage that blinds it, awaits 
from you the effort which should tear it from their eyes. 
Make haste; don't allow holy Rome y which is making 
every effort to repress you, the opportunity to keep a few 

proselytes Frenchmen, I repeat that Europe 

awaits from you deliverance from the sceptre and the 
thurible. You cannot free it from royalist tyranny without 
breaking the reins of superstition; the two are too in- 
timately linked ; if you allow one to subsist you will soon 
fall back under the empire of both. A republican should 
not bow the knee either before an imaginary being or a 
vile impostor; his unique gods should be courage and 
liberty. Rome disappeared when Christianity was 
preached, and France is lost if she still reveres it 

"To convince ourselves of this let us examine the few 
individuals who remain attached to the senseless cult 
of our fathers and we will see that they are the irrecon- 
cilable enemies of the present system, that in their number 
is that caste, so justly despised, of royalists and aristocrats. 
Let the slave of a crowned brigand bow, if he will, before 
an idol of flour such an object is suitable for his muddy 
soul; he who can serve kings should adore gods! But 
for us, my compatriots, for us to crawl under such des- 


picable restraints, rather a thousand deaths than another 
enslavement! Since we consider some cult necessary let 
us imitate those of the Romans ; actions, passions, heroes 
were the worthy objects of their worship. Such idols 
elevated the soul and electrified it; they did more; they 
communicated the virtues of the object worshipped. The 
adorer of Minerva wished to be prudent; courage was in 
the heart of the man at the altar of Mars." All heathen 
idols personified some active virtue; Christianity on the 
contrary merely passive ones. Theism is equally useless, 
both philosophically and ethically; atheism alone is 

All leaders of religion made their gods a tool for their 
secular advancement; and there is only one step from 
superstition to royalism. Always one of the first of the 
king's oaths at his coronation is the maintenance of 
the religion in vogue, as one of the strongest political 
bases of their throne. Religion and liberty are incom- 

"Let us stop thinking religion can be of any use to 
men. Have good laws, and you can do without religion. 
But the people want one, you say; it amuses them and 
keeps them quiet. Very well ! Then give us one suitable 
to free men .... but not Christianity, which we will 
relegate to the perpetual neglect from which the infamous 

Robespierre wished to drag it Let us treat the 

idols as we have treated the kings; we have placed the 
symbols of liberty on the pedestals which formerly held 
kings; similarly let us place the effigies of great men 
(whose reputations are long established) on those formerly 
occupied by saints." It is a mistake to think the peasants 
will resist. Place statues of Mars, Minerva, Liberty in 
conspicuous places, and hold festivals annually in which 
prizes will be given to those who have served their 


country best. In that way at last some virtues will be 
produced by religion. 

There is no need for such a revolution to be other than 
bloodless; " Believe me, the people are far more sensible 
than you think and will shake off the chains of superstition 
as easily as those of tyranny. You fear them without this 
restraint; how absurd! A person who is not restrained by 
the material sword of the law will not be by the moral 
fear of hell's tortures. . . . Perhaps people will say the 
time is not ripe to consolidate our revolution in so striking 
a fashion. Ah! my fellow citizens, the road that we have 
travelled since 'eighty-nine was far harder than that which 
remains in front of us 

4 'Frenchmen, if you strike the first blow, your national 
education will do the rest; but start work at once on this 
task ; let it become your chiefest care ; above all base it on 
that essential morality which religious education so 
neglected. Replace theistic follies by excellent social 
precepts; instead of learning to recite useless prayers, 
which they will make a point of forgetting as soon as they 
are sixteen, teach your children their duties to society; 
teach them to cherish those virtues of which you barely 
spoke before, and which suffice for their individual hap- 
piness without your religious fables; make them realise 
that happiness consists in making others as fortunate as 
we wish to be ourselves. If you found these truths on the 
chimeras of Christianity, as you had the stupidity to do 
before, as soon as your pupils realise the futility of the 
bases, they will pull down the whole edifice and will 
become criminals, simply because they believe that the 
religion which they have rejected, forbade them to be so. 
On the contrary, if you make them realise the necessity 
of virtue, because their own happiness depends upon it 
they will be honest people by egoism. ... A simple 


philosopher should instruct these new pupils in the 
incomprehensible sublimities of Nature" and teach them 
what is known of science and biology, and show that 
religion is founded on ignorance and fear. By these 
means you will produce good soldiers, good fathers and 
good husbands; you will make them men the more 
attached to their country because no idea of subservience 
will enter into their heads. Then true patriotism will 
flower in every heart; "it will reign in all its force and all 
its purity because it will be the only dominant sentiment, 
and no other idea will modify its energy; then your second 
generation is safe, and your work, consolidated by it, 
will become the law of the universe. 

"But if by fear or cowardice these counsels are not 
followed and you leave in existence the foundations of the 
building you thought to destroy, what will happen? 
These foundations will be rebuilt on again and the same 
collossi will be replaced, but with the cruel difference that 
they will be cemented this time so strongly that neither 
your generation nor those that will follow you will be 
able to overthrow them 

"At the same time I do not propose massacres or 
exportations ; such horrors are too far from my mind for 
me to think of conceiving them a second. No, do not 
assassinate or export; these atrocities belong to kings and 
the criminals who imitate them; it is not by acting as 
they do that you will bring them in horror. Let us reserve 
our violence for the idols ; we only want ridicule for those 
that serve them; the sarcasms of Julian did more to 
destroy Christianity than all the tortures of Nero. Let us 
destroy all idea of God and turn our priests into soldiers ; 
some are already and let them stay in a profession which 
is so noble for a republican; but don't let them speak to 
us any more either of their God or his religion. 


44 Let us condemn whoever first mentions these subjects 
to be mocked at, made fun of, and covered with mud in 
the market place; eternal prison will be the lot of him who 

commits twice the same fault In six months it 

will be all over, your infamous God will have disappeared, 
and that without ceasing to be just and jealous of the 
esteem of others, without ceasing to fear the sword of the 
laws and to be honourable men, because we will have 
realised that the true friend of his country should not, 
like the slave of kings, be led by phantoms; because in a 
word it is neither the frivolous hope of a better world nor 
the fear of greater evils than those that Nature sends us 
which should lead a republican, whose sole guide is 
virtue and only restraint remorse." 


" After having shown that theism is completely unsuit- 
able to a republican government, it appears to me neces- 
sary to prove that the present morals of France are equally 
unsuitable. This is the more essential as it is the morals 
which will serve as motives for the laws which are going to 
be promulgated. 

"Frenchmen, you are too enlightened not to feel that 
a new government calls for new morals; it is impossible 
for a citizen of a free State to act in the same way as the 
servant of a despot; the differences of interests, duties and 
mutual relations necessarily demand a quite different line 
of conduct; a crowd of little errors, of little social crimes 
which were considered extremely essential under the 
government of kings, who had to make ever more and 
impose ever new restraints to make themselves respected 
and unapproachable by their subjects, will not exist now; 
other crimes, such as regicide and sacrilege should equally 
disappear in a republic which no longer recognises kings 

177 M 


or religion. In addition to liberty of the conscience and 
liberty of the Press, citizens, one should accord, with few 
exceptions, liberty of action, and except for crimes which 
disturb directly the bases of the State, there are practically 
no crimes for you to punish in a State founded on liberty 
and equality; for under thorough examination it appears 
that only that is criminal which the law reproves; for 
since nature dictates to us equally vices and virtues, 
according to our organisation .... her inspiration would 
become a certain rule for what is good or bad. To 
develop further my ideas on such an essential subject, I 
am going to classify the different actions in man's life 
which up till now have been called criminal, and measure 
them against the true duties of a republican. 

" At all times man's duties have been divided into three 
classes towards God, towards his neighbour, and towards 
himself. 1 ' 

The first series of crimes towards God obviously 
have no more existence. "If there is one thing more 
extravagant than another in this world it is to see men who 
only know their God and what he demands by their 
limited ideas, try to decide on the nature of what pleases 
or annoys Him. I don't want to stop at the freedom for 
all cults; I would like people to be free to laugh at and 
ridicule all of them," and a congregation be treated like 
a comic spectacle, "But don't destroy the idols in anger, 
break them up in play." 

The second class is the duty of man towards his neigh- 
bour and is the most extensive of all. 

"Christian morality, far too vague about the relations of 
man with his fellows, uses bases so full of sophistry that it 
is impossible to admit them, for if one wants to erect 
principles, great care must be taken not to found them on 
sophistries. This absurd morality tells us to love our 


neighbour like ourselves. Nothing could be more sub- 
lime, were it possible that what is false can be beautiful. 
It is impossible to love our neighbour like ourselves, for 
it is against all the laws of Nature and her organ alone 
should direct us ; we can only love our neighbours as good 
friends which Nature gives us, and with whom we should 
live more easily in a republican State, since the disappear- 
ance of distances must necessarily draw the links closer. 

" Therefore let humanity, fraternity and kindness pro- 
scribe for us our reciprocal duties, and let us each fulfil 
them with all the energy that nature has given us on this 
point, without blaming and above all without punishing 
those whose colder or more atrabilious temperaments do 
not find in these bonds, which are yet so touching, all the 
pleasures which others discover in them; for it will be 
agreed that it would be absurd to prescribe universal 
laws; it would be as ridiculous as a general who would 
order uniforms of the same measure for the whole army; 
it would be a terrible injustice to demand that men, whose 
characters are different, should obey the same laws ; what 
suits one does not suit another. 

"I agree that we cannot make as many laws as there 
are men ; but the laws can be so clement and so few that 
all men whatever their character can comply with them. 
I would also demand that this small number of laws be of 
a sort that could adapt themselves to all different charac- 
ters ; the directing spirit would be to punish more or less 
according to the character of the person in question. It 
has been shown that there are some virtues whose practice 
is impossible to certain men, as there are some remedies 
which are intolerable to certain physiques. Would it 
not be the height of injustice if you make the law strike a 
man when he cannot possibly obey it; it would be like 
forcing a blind man to distinguish colours. 



"From these first principles results the necessity to 
make clement laws, and above all to do away for ever 
with the death penalty, for a law which attacks man's life 
is impracticable, unjust, inadmissible. As will be shown 
later, there are cases when men may be justified in attempt- 
ing another's life, but the law cannot be, for it is passion- 
less, and "passion is the only excuse which can legitimise 
the cruel action of murder; man receives from Nature 
impressions which may make such an action pardonable, 
but the law on the contrary is always in opposition with 
Nature and receives nothing from her; since it has not the 

same motives it cannot have the same rights The 

second reason for doing away with the death penalty is 
that it has never repressed crime, since it is committed 
daily at the foot of the scaffold. 

"In a word, this penalty should be suppressed because 
there is no calculation more stupid than that of killing one 
man for having killed another, since obviously instead of 
one man the less you have two ; and it is only executioners 
and fools who can be happy with such arithmetic." 

The crimes which can be committed against our neigh- 
bour fall into four categories Calumny, theft, acts of 
impurity which can cause distress to others, and murder. 

"All these actions were considered as capital offences 
under a monarchical government, but are they equally 
grave in a republic ? That is what we intend to analyse by 
the light of philosophy the only way in which such an 
examination should be conducted. Do not tax me with 
being a dangerous innovator; do not say that there is a 
risk of lightening, as perhaps these writings may do, the 
remorse in the malefactor's heart, or that there is a greater 
evil in increasing, by the mildness of my system, the 
inclination these same malefactors have for their crimes; 
I here protest formally that I have no such perverse views ; 

1 80 


I am exposing those ideas which have been identified with 
me since I reached the age of reason, and against whose 
diffusion the infamous despotism of tyrants was directed 
for so many ages ; so much the worse for those whom these 
great ideas would corrupt; so much the worse for those 
who can only catch hold of the evil in philosophical 
opinions and who are susceptible to corruption from 
everything 1 Who knows if they wouldn't be tainted by 
reading Seneca or Charron! It is not those whom I speak 
to; I only address myself to people capable of under- 
standing me, and such can read me without danger. 

"I confess quite frankly that I have never thought 
calumny an evil. . . ." Either the calumny falls on a 
wicked or a good man. In the former case a useful service 
has been done; in the latter it will encourage the good 
man to further efforts, so that he can throw off the un- 
warranted opprobrium. It is therefore not to be con- 
sidered as a crime. 

"Theft is the second fault to be considered. If we 
examine antiquity we will see that theft was allowed in 

many republics, like Sparta ; some other people 

regarded it as a martial virtue; it is certain that it 
encourages strength, courage and address, all virtues 
useful to a republic. I will make bold to ask impartially 
if theft, whose effect is to equalise riches, is a great evil 
in a government whose aim is equality? Undoubtedly 
no, for if it tends to equality on either side, it makes the 
possessor more careful in guarding his goods. There was 
a people who used to punish, not the robber, but he who 
let himself be robbed, in order to teach him to take care 
of his property. This leads us to wider reflections. 

"God forbid that I should wish to attack or destroy 
here the oath for the respect of property which the nation 
has just pronounced; but may I be allowed some remarks 



on the injustice of this oath ? What is the spirit of an 
oath pronounced by all the members of a nation ? Is it 
not to maintain complete equality among citizens, to 
submit them all equally to a law which protects the 
property of all ? Then I ask you if it is a just law which 
orders him who has nothing to respect him who has 
everything? What are the elements of a social pact? 
Doesn't it consist in abandoning a little of one's freedom 
and property to assure and maintain the preservation of 

"All laws are based on this supposition; it is the motive 
of the punishments inflicted on him who abuses his 
liberty; also it authorises taxes; and the reason why a 
citizen doesn't complain when he receives demands is 
because he realises that by means of what he gives he 
preserves the remainder; but once again by what right 
will he who has nothing bind himself to a pact which 
only protects him who has everything? If you are acting 
justly by preserving with your oath the properties of the 
rich, are you not acting unjustly in exacting this oath 
from the preserver who has nothing ? What interest has 
he in this oath of yours ? and on what grounds do you 
demand that he promise a thing which is uniquely 
favourable to the man who by his riches is so different 
from him? Assuredly nothing could be more unjust; 
an oath should have an equal effect on all who subscribe 
to it; it cannot possibly bind a man who has no interest in 
its maintenance, because it would then no longer be the 
pact of a free people; it would be an arm for the strong 
against the weak, against which the latter should revolt 
continually; the rich alone enslaves the poor, the rich 
alone has an interest in the oath the poor pronounces 
with so little consideration, that he does not see that by 
means of this oath, extracted through his good faith, he 



binds himself to do a thing which cannot be done for him 
in turn. 

"If you are convinced, as you ought to be, of this bar- 
barous inequality, do not aggravate your injustice by 
punishing him who has nothing for having dared take 
something from him who has everything; your unfair oath 
gives him more right than ever. When you forced him to 
perjury by this oath, which is absurd for him, you 
legitimise all the crimes this perjury leads to; therefore 
you have no right to punish that which you have caused. 
I will not insist further in trying to make the horrible 
cruelty of punishing thieves felt. Imitate that wise law 
of which I spoke and punish the man who is careless 
enough to let himself be robbed, not the robber; consider 
that he is authorised by your oath, and that by so acting 
he is merely following the first of Nature's laws that of 
self-preservation, no matter at whose expense. 

"The next class of crime that we have to examine con- 
sists of actions motivated by lust, especially those which 
can harm others prostitution, adultery, incest, rape and 
sodomy. It is indisputable that all what are called moral 
crimes, of the sort we have just named, are completely 
indifferent to a government whose sole duty is to preserve 
by any means possible its essential form. That should be 
the unique morality of a republican government. But 
since it is always being attacked by the despotic govern- 
ments which surround it, one can hardly reasonably sup- 
pose that its methods of preservation would be moral 
methods ; for it can only preserve itself by war, and nothing 
is less moral than war. 

"Now I ask how it can be shown that in a State which 
is immoral by obligation it is essential that the individuals 
should be moral? I go further and say that it is good that 
they should not be. The legislators of ancient Greece 


felt completely the important necessity of keeping the 
members corrupt, so that their moral dissolution should be 
reflected in the dissolution useful to government, and 
thereby should result that spirit of insurrection which is 
always indispensable to a republican government, which, 
since it is completely happy, must necessarily excite the 
hatred and jealousy of countries surrounding it. These 
wise legislators considered that insurrection was not a 
moral state; therefore it would be as absurd as it would be 
dangerous to demand that those who must maintain the 
perpetual immoral movement of the machine of State 
should themselves be very moral^ because the moral state 
in man is one of peace and tranquillity, whereas his 
immoral state is one of continuous motion, which brings 
him near the insurrection always necessary to the govern- 
ment of the republic of which he is a member. 

44 Let us now examine in further detail and start with 
modesty. Modesty is unnatural and local, founded on 
the inclemency of the climate and coquetry. "Lycurgus 
and Solon, convinced that the results of immodesty keep 
the citizen in the state of immorality essential to a republic 
forced young girls to appear naked in the theatres. Rome 
imitated this example with the games of Flora; most 
pagan mysteries were performed in this state ; nudity even 
passed for a virtue among some nations. Be that as it 
may, from immodesty come lecherous impulses; the 
results of these impulses compose the so-called crimes 
which we are analysing, of which the first is -prostitution. 
Now that we have recovered on this subject from the 
crowd of religious errors which held us captive, and that, 
nearer to nature on account of the quantity of prejudices 
we have annihilated, we only listen to her voice, in the 
assurance that if there was a crime in anything it would 
be rather in resisting the inclinations that she inspires 



than in following them ; and since we realise that lechery 
is a result of these inclinations it is less a question of 
repressing this passion in ourselves than in regulating 
the means by which it can be satisfied in peace. Therefore 
we should devote ourselves to the task of regulating this 
subject and to establish all the necessary safety, so that 
the citizen whom need unites with the objects of his lust 
can give himself over with these objects to all that his 
passions demand, without being inhibited by anything, 
because no human passion has more need of the fullest 
possible extension of liberty than this one. Various 
buildings, healthy, large, properly furnished and com- 
pletely safe shall be erected in all towns ; there, every sex, 
every age, every creature will be offered to the caprices of 
the libertines who will come to take their pleasure, and the 
most complete subordination will be the rule for the 
people present; the slightest refusal will be punished 
arbitrarily by him who has suffered from it. I must again 
explain here, and measure this against republican morals; 
I have promised to be equally logical everywhere and I 
will keep my word. 

"If, as has been said, no passion has need of such a 
great extension of liberty as this one, no other is so des- 
potic; it is then that man wishes to command, to be 
obeyed, to surround himself with slaves bound to satisfy 
him; well, whenever you deprive man of this secret means 
of getting rid of the measure of despotism Nature has 
placed at the bottom of his heart, in order to exercise it 
he will fall back on the objects which surround him and 
disturb the government. If you wish to avoid this danger, 
give free play to these tyrannous desires, which despite 
himself torment him ceaselessly; contented with the 
exercise of his petty sovereignty in the midst of his 
harem of ingles and sultanas , ... he will come out 


satisfied, and without any wish to disturb the govern- 

"See how the Greek legislators, penetrated by these 
ideas, treated debauchery in Athens and Sparta; they 
drugged the citizen with it, far from forbidding it; no 
sort was outlawed, and Socrates, whom the oracle declared 
to be the wisest man on earth, passed indifferently from 
the arms of Aspasia to those of Alcibiades, and was no less 
the glory of Greece. I will go further, and however con- 
trary my ideas may be to current customs, since my object 
is to prove that we must hurry to change these customs if 
we wish to keep the form of government we have adopted, 
I will try to prove that the prostitution of women known 
as honest is no more dangerous than that of men, and 
that not only should they take part in the debaucheries 
exercised in the buildings I establish, but that such 
buildings should also be erected for them, where their 
caprices and the needs of their temperament, far more 
ardent than ours, can equally be satisfied in every way. 

"First of all by what right do you claim that women 
should be excepted from the blind submission, which 
Nature proscribed to them, to man's caprices, and 
secondly by what other right do you pretend to enforce 
on them a continence which is impossible to their con- 
stitution and useless to their honour?" 
( In nature, women were 'vulguivagues,' that is to say 
belonging to all the males, like other female animals; 
interest, egoism and love modified this; people thought 
they were enriching themselves by taking a woman and the 
goods of her family. But "no act of possession can ever 
be exercised on a free person; it is as unjust to possess a 
woman exclusively as it is to possess slaves; all humans 
are born free and with equal rights; let us never forget 
that; consequently no sex can have a legitimate right to 



the exclusive possession of another, and no sex or class 
can possess the other exclusively. Therefore a woman 
.... would have no right in refusing .... by saying 
she was in love I ... as that would be exclusion 

"If, then, it is incontestable that we have the natural 
right to express our desires to every woman, we have 
equally that of forcing them to submit to our desires, not 
exclusively, that would be a contradiction, but momen- 
tarily. (I do not contradict myself; I am talking of 
enjoyment, not of possession ; I have no right to the posses- 
sion of the stream that I come to on my road, but I have 
to its enjoyment.) .... 

( Modesty, or the attachment to another man, would 
be no motive for a woman's refusal. Love, which can 
be called madness of the sou! is equally inadmissible because 
anti-social. Under the system established any man 
could summon any girl or woman to appear in one of the 
houses mentioned, and there, under the safeguard of the 
matrons, she must satisfy with the most complete humility 
and submission all the caprices the man desires, no matter 
of what sort. Age limits are fixed by the limits of desire. 

Women will have exactly the same rights as men; "it 
is absurd to have placed their honour and their virtue in 
the anti-natural strength with which they resist their 
inclinations which are far stronger than ours ; this moral 
injustice is the more scandalous since we consent to make 
them weak by seduction and then punish them because 
they have yielded to all the efforts we have made to en- 
compass their fall. The whole absurdity of our morals, it 
seems to me, is founded on this iniquitous atrocity, and 
this simple exposition should make us realise the extreme 
necessity that we are in to change them for purer ones." 

Consequently women will have exactly the same 
licence as men. The only possible danger in this is 


fatherless children ; but what does that matter to a republic 
where every individual should have no other mother than 
his country, when all who are born are children of the 
fatherland. "How much more will those love it, who 
never having known any but it will know from birth that 
it is from their country alone that they must expect every- 
thing! Do not think that you can make good republicans 
as long as you isolate children in their families children 
who should belong only to the republic. In the family 
they give to a few individuals the love that they should 
divide among all their brothers, and adopt the often 
dangerous prejudices of these individuals; their opinions 
and ideas become isolated and all the virtues of a statesman 
become impossible for them. They give all their affection 
to those that have borne them and none to those who make 
them live, make them known and make them illustrious, 
as if these second benefits were not far stronger than the 
first"; since therefore family interests are anti-social it is 
to the advantage of the republic that the family be des- 
troyed and children belong entirely to the fatherland. 

Since women will have the same licence as men and will 
be encouraged to use it as and when they desire, openly 
and without shame, the question of adultery hardly arises. 
It is an added barbarity in our ancestors that they regarded 
a woman's infidelity as a crime; indissoluble unions are 
intolerable for both parties, but particularly for women. 
Thomas More, and the habits of the Tartars and the 
Peruvians are quoted to show that debauchery in a woman 
is neither undesirable nor criminal. 

Similarly incest is of no importance and is general in 
some parts of the world. Rape would appear to be the 
form of lechery which is most harmful, "nevertheless, it 
is certain that rape an action which is so rare and so 
difficult to prove does less harm than theft, since one 



deprives a person of property and the other merely 
deteriorates it. Anyhow what can you object to the 
raper if he replies that he has done very little harm, since 
he has merely placed the object which he has abused a 
little earlier in the condition which love and marriage 
would soon reduce her to ? 

"But what of sodomy > that so-called crime, which called 
down the fire of heaven on the towns which practised it, 
is it not a monstrous act for which the punishment cannot 
be strong enough? It is terribly painful for us to have 
to reproach our ancestors with the judicial murders they 
committed for this subject. Is it possible to be so bar- 
barous as to dare to condemn an unfortunate whose crime 
consists in not having the same tastes as ourselves ? We 
shudder when we think that less than forty years ago the 
absurdity of our legislators was still at that point. Con- 
sole yourselves, citizens, such absurdities will take place 
no longer; the wisdom of your legislators answers for that. 
Completely enlightened on this weakness of some men, 
we realise to-day that such an error cannot be criminal, 
and that Nature does not attach enough importance to 
the fluid in our loins to be enraged at the route we make 
this fluid take. 

"What is the only crime which can exist here? Surely 
not placing oneself in such or such a position, unless you 
wish to hold that some parts of the body are different from 
others, that some are pure and others impure, but as it is 
impossible to advance such absurdities the only possible 
crime can be in the waste of semen. But I ask you is it 
probable that that semen is so precious in the eyes of 
Nature that it cannot be wasted without crime ?" 
Obviously not. It is completely indifferent how or with 
whom pleasure is taken, since all inclinations are natural. 
Sodomy is usually caused by organisation, occasionally 



by satiety; in either case it is indifferent. It is more 
common in republics, and useful for them, as is proved 
by the examples and the writings of the Romans and 
Greeks. It is a habit which is found all over the world 
and various quotations show that it was encouraged for 
the martial and civic virtues it produces. It is therefore 
completely indifferent to a republic, as are all other and 
obscurer vices. 

"Only murder remains to be examined in the second 
class of crimes. Of all the wrongs that man can do to his 
fellows, murder is undoubtedly the cruellest of all, since 
it deprives him of the only gift he has received from 
Nature and the only one whose loss is irreparable. Never- 
theless several questions present themselves here, apart 
from the wrong that murder causes to its victim. 

1. Is this action really criminal in the pure laws of 
Nature ? 

2. Is it politically? 

3. Is it harmful to society ? 

4. How should it be considered by a republican 
government ? 

5. Should murder be suppressed by murder? 

"We will examine separately each of these questions; 
the subject is sufficiently important to warrant prolonged 
attention. Maybe our ideas will be considered somewhat 
strong; but what of it? Have we not acquired the right 
to say everything? Let us develop these great truths in 
men's eyes; they expect them from us; it is time for error 
to disappear, its bandage must fall with that of the king, 

"The first question was: Is murder a crime in the 
eyes of Nature ? Doubtless we will humiliate man's pride 
in reducing him to the ranks of the other productions of 
Nature," but nevertheless he is merely an animal like 
any other, and in the eyes of Nature his death is no more 



important than that of a fly or an ox. And, anyhow, 
death is not final, but merely a transmutation to some other 
form of life, man into worm. Destruction is Nature's 
method of progress, and she prompts the murderer to 
destruction, so that his action shall be the same as plague 
or famine. 

"Is murder a crime politically? Let us confess on the 
contrary that it is unfortunately one of the principal 
springs of politics. Did not Rome become mistress of 
the world by force of murder ? Is it not by force of murder 
that France is free to-day ? It is unnecessary to warn the 
reader here that we are speaking of murders caused by 
war and not the atrocities committed by insurrectionaries 
and counter-revolutionaries; these latter, vowed to public 
execration, only need to be remembered to excite eternally 
the horror and indignation of all. What human science 
has more n'eed of support by murder than politics, which 
tend ceaselessly to deceit, and whose only aim is the 
growth of one nation at the expense of another ? Are the 
iniquitous wars, the fruits of these barbarous politics, 
other than the means by which the nation is nourished, 
fortifies and extends itself? And what is war except the 
science of destruction ? The strange folly of man who 
teaches publicly the art of murder and honours him who 
succeeds the best therein, and then punishes the man who 
for a private quarrel gets rid of his enemy 1 Is it not time 
to turn back on such barbarous paradoxes ? 

"Is murder a crime against society ?" Obviously one 
or two members more or less are indifferent to it, otherwise 
would it engage in battle ? 

"How should murder be considered in a republican 
and war-like State? It would assuredly be extremely 
dangerous to cast obloquy on this action or to punish it. 
Republican pride demands a certain amount of ferocity; 



if it softens there is a loss of energy and subjugation will 
quickly follow. A very strange reflection presents itself 
here, but as it is true in spite of its strangeness I will say it. 
A nation which starts as a republic will only be upheld by 
virtues, because to arrive at the greater one must always 
start by the less; but a nation which is already old and 
corrupt and will have the courage to shake off the 
monarchical yoke to adopt the republican will only main- 
tain itself by many crimes; for it is already criminal, and 
if it tried to pass from crime to virtue, that is to say from 
a violent to a calm state, it would fall into inertia with its 
inevitable ruin as the result. " 

Murder is permitted or encouraged in many States 
and at many different times. In the classical republics the 
murder of slaves was not taken notice of. Among many 
savages murder is considered an act of bravery, and men 
are not admitted to full rank before they have committed 
one or more murders. There were also human sacrifices 
and men running amuck in many nations. A number of 
nations to-day tolerate open murder. "What nation was 
greater or more cruel than Rome, and what nation pre- 
served longer its freedom and its liberty ? The spectacle 
of gladiators kept up its courage ; it became war-like by the 
habit of turning murder into a sport. Twelve or fifteen 
hundred victims filled the arena daily, and there the 
women, far more cruel than the men, demanded that the 
dying should fall gracefully and that they should be 
statuesque even in the convulsions of death 

* Everywhere in fact it was rightly believed that a 
murderer, that is to say a man who could smother his 
sensibility sufficiently to kill his fellow and to brave public 
or private vengeance, must be extremely courageous and 
consequently precious in a warlike or republican govern- 
ment. Let us now examine the nations, even more 



ferocious, who indulged in infanticide; we shall see such 
a course universally adopted and even sometimes enjoined 
by law." See for example the American Indians or the 
Madagascans. "In the republics of Greece all children 
were carefully examined at birth and if they were mal- 
formed, so that they could never defend the republic, 
they were immediately destroyed; there they did not 
think it necessary to erect richly endowed asylums to 
preserve that vile scum of the human race. Until the 
capital was changed, Romans who could not feed their 
children exposed them. The ancient legislators had no 
scruple on this account, and none of their codes suppressed 
it. Aristotle advised abortion and these old republicans, 
full of enthusiasm and love for their country, did not 
recognise that individual commiseration one finds in 
modern nations; people loved their children less, their 
country more. In all the towns of China an enormous 
number of abandoned children are found daily in the 


"It cannot be denied that it is extremely necessary and 
politic to put a limit to the population in a republic; the 
exact opposite is the case in a monarchy; there tyrants 
measured their wealth by the number of their slaves and 
consequently needed men; but an excess of population 
is undoubtedly a real vice in a republic; nevertheless one 
shouldn't cut throats to lessen it as our modern decemvirs 
said ;* it is merely a question of not allowing it to exceed 
the limits prescribed by its happiness. Take care not to 
multiply too much a people in which each individual is 
sovereign ; revolutions are always the effect of too big a 
population. If for the glory of the State you allow your 
warriors the right to destroy their fellows, for the preserva- 

* Robespierre seriously advanced the plan of killing off two-thirds of the 
population, thereby giving a model to the project of Saint-Fond which caused 
Juliette's revulsion and disgrace. 

193 N 


tion of the State you should allow everybody to get rid of 
children they cannot nourish or which cannot be useful; 
and also grant the citizen the right to get rid of, at his 

own risks and peril, all enemies who harm him 

Let monarchists say that a State is great in relation to its 
population ; a State will always be poor if the population 
exceeds its supplies necessary for life, and will always be 
prosperous if it is kept to the right level and can sell its 
excess . . . , . but you should not destroy grown men to 
diminish the population. It is unjust to shorten the days 
of a properly developed individual ; birth control on the 
contrary is not 

"It is time to resume. Should murder be punished 
by murder. Undoubtedly not. The only punishment 
which a murderer should be condemned to is that which 
he risks from the friends or the family of the man he has 
killed. I pardon you, said Louis XV to Charolais* who 
had just killed a man for his amusement, but I also -pardon 
him who will kill you. All the bases of the law against 
murderers is contained in that sublime sentence. (Salic 
law punished murder with a fine.) 

"In a word murder is a horror, but a horror often 
necessary, never criminal, and essential to tolerate in a 
republic/' Above all it should never be punished by 

As far as man's duties towards himself are concerned, 
the philosopher will only follow them as far as they affect 
his pleasure or his self-preservation; consequently it is 
useless to recommend their practice to him, and even 

* Charolais, prince of the blood by his birth and by his tastes, is the real 
'sadist' of the eighteenth century, and many of the legends which surround de 
Sade would be more properly applied to this man who, as Michelet says "n'aimait 
le beau sexe qu'a Pe"tat sanglant." The stories concerning him are extremely 
unpleasant ana he almost certainly served de Sade as a model in his extant works, 
as well as in the lost Journits de Fhrbelle, in which he appeared tinder his own 


more so to punish him for not following them. The only 
action which has been blamed in this category is suicide 
which it is idiotic to call a crime. 

"The long-established habit of supporting despotism 
had completely enervated our courage; our morals had 
been depraved but we are born again; soon people will 
see of what sublime actions the genius and character of 
the French are capable, now they are free; let us uphold 
at the price of our fortunes and our lives that liberty which 
has already cost us so many victims ; we will not regret 
any of them if we reach our aim ; they sacrificed themselves 
voluntarily; do not let their blood be uselessly spilt; 
but we must stand united * . . united, or the fruits of 
our efforts are lost; let us erect excellent laws on the 
victories we have just gained; our first legislators, still 
slaves of the tyrant we have finally thrown down, only 
gave us laws worthy of the tyrant they still revered; let 
us redo their task, let us think that it is for republicans 
that we are working; let our laws be as mild as the people 
they are to sway. 

"In demonstrating as I have done the nullity and 
indifference of a multitude of actions which our ancestors, 
biased by a false religion, regarded as crimes, I have 
reduced our work to very little. Let us have few laws, 
but good ones it is not a question of multiplying 
restraints, but merely giving to those we do use the quality 
of indestructibility and see that the laws that we do 
make aim only at the peace and happiness of the citizen 
and the glory of the republic; but once you have chased 
the enemy from your country, Frenchmen, I would not 
wish that the ardour of your principles should carry you 
further ; you can only carry them to the ends of the world 
with fire and the sword. Before you try to do this, 
remember the unhappy success of the Crusades. Once 


the enemy is the other side of the Rhine fortify your 
frontiers and stay at home; revive your trade, give your 
manufactures energy and markets; help the arts to 
flourish again, and encourage agriculture which is so 
important in a government like yours; your object should 
be to be able to furnish all the world without having need 
of anybody. Let the thrones of Europe fall down of their 
own accord ; your example and your prosperity will soon 
overturn them without the necessity of your interference, 

"Invincible in the interior and a model to all people 
by your police and your good laws, every government in 
the world will try to imitate you and will be honoured by 
alliance with you; but if for the vain honour of carrying 
your principles afar you abandon the care of your own 
prosperity, that despotism which is merely asleep will 
reawake, internal dissensions will rend you, you will 
exhaust your finances and your army; and all that so that 
on your return you can kiss the chains that tyrants who 
will have conquered you in your absence will load you 
with; all that you want can be done without leaving your 
homes; let other nations see you happy and they will 
hurry to seek prosperity by the route that you have traced 
for them/' 6 

This pamphlet was reprinted separately and anony- 
mously as propaganda for the Commune in 1848. 

I have thought it best to present de Sade's constructive 
political thought over the fateful years 1788-1795 with- 
out comment, in historical order, and as much as was 
possible in de Sade's own words, so that readers could 
observe for themselves the development through the 
thesis of political equality and subordination to the State 
(Sections i and ii) and the antithesis of complete individual 



freedom (Section iii) to the synthesis of the practical 
programme of the last Section. 

As a revolutionary thinker de Sade was in complete 
opposition to all his contemporaries firstly in his complete 
and continual denial of a right to property, and secondly 
in his view of the struggle as being not between the 
Crown, the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy or the clergy, 
or sectional interests of any of these against one another 
(the view of all his contemporaries) but of all these more 
or less united against the proletariat. By holding these 
views he cuts himself off entirely from the revolutionary 
thinkers of his time to join those of the mid-nineteenth 
century. For this reason he can with some justice be 
called the first reasoned socialist. In his attempt to con- 
ciliate the conflicting demands of the individual with 
political fairness for all he still stands alone, despite 
Kropotkin and the anarchists. 

Writers about de Sade invariably reproach him for the 
mild way in which he conducted himself during the 
Revolution and call him merely a parlour socialist. 
Apparently they expected this man of over fifty to indulge 
in the torture and rapine that legend has associated 
with his name; they would not understand that a person 
who could analyse so clearly the brutality of others 
should find such brutality disgusting and abhorrent. As 
a matter of fact de Sade did all that was humanly possible 
in the way of speaking and writing to persuade his fellow- 
citizens to follow him in his well-developed plans; but 
he spoke a language which none then, and too few now, 
can understand, 

It was inevitable that he should be merely a theoretical 
and Utopian socialist. It was only his experience and 
that of the earlier nineteenth century which allowed 
practical socialism to be born. But as a theoretical 



socialist he saw extraordinarily justly, as can be seen by 
his prophetic deductions concerning the immediate future 
of France, and also his extremely apt criticism of the 
League of Nations which another century would realise 
with all the inherent faults he detected. There are con- 
siderable correspondences between the legislation he sug- 
gested and that actually adopted by Russia in 1919. 

Ethically de Sade was more revolutionary still in his 
attempt to effect a complete cleavage with judeo-Christian 
morality and its conception of human nature. Here, too, 
we are slowly catching up with him ; of the proposals that 
were so paradoxical in 1795 I imagine that only two are 
shocking to-day the justification of murder, and the 
concept of universal brothels and general promiscuity. 

The justification of murder comes from the fact that 
de Sade was a logician and not a casuist. Foreign counter- 
revolutionaries were on French soil and must be driven 
off, if the Republic were to live. But murder is taking life, 
no matter what the circumstances or excuse. Therefore 
murder must be unfortunately justifiable, for all citizens 
are equal on all occasions. His logic of course becomes 
paradoxical as logic pushed to extremes always does. 
His plan for universal brothels and promiscuity is not 
mere paradoxical perversity but is a considered solution for 
the problems which arise from his view of sex and allied, 
instincts, a view which will be examined in the following 
chapters. Meanwhile there is one point I would like to 
remark on. 

The claim that citizens of a free republic must be 
immoral seems to be a non-sequitur. But since I first 
noticed this point I have remarked that it is the most 
reactionary people and the most reactionary governments 
such as Germany and Italy which put the greatest 
emphasis on purity and morality. In Hitler's Germany, 



probably the most savage of contemporary countries, a 
woman is not allowed in any Nazi meeting if she employs 
rouge or powder {Daily Telegraph^ page u, 8/9/33) an d 
the continual emphasis on sexual and racial purity from 
such sources leads me to believe that de Sade's observation 
is justified. It is with regret that I note the growing 
puritanism of the communists in Russia since the abandon- 
ment of war-time communism. 



Children of the future age, 
Reading this indignant page 
Know that in a former time 
Love, sweet love, was thought a crime ! 

Songs of Experience. 

Love seeketh only Self to please, 
To bind another to its delight, 
Joy's in another's loss of ease, 
And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite. 
W. Blake, 

Songs of Experience. 

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse 
unacted desires. 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 

IN writing about sexual matters the great difficulty is 
vocabulary. There are in English half-a-dozen small 
words which are absolutely essential to the matter and 
which lie under one of the strongest taboos that we 
acknowledge. These three nouns and three verbs are 
supposed not to exist, as far as public speech or writing 
are concerned, though in conversation generally they 
receive a good deal of currency, both in their real meaning 
and in their mystical apotropaic significance. One word 
indeed is so charged with evil that even the thirteen 



volumes of the New Oxford Dictionary are not a strong 
enough exorcism, although the word in question has at 
least three hundred years of literary history. 

So strong is the magic contained in these groupings of 
letters that we have had within the last few years the 
curious spectacle of a book published in two editions, 
the only difference as far as I know being the alteration 
of one letter in the words 'muck' and ' beggar '; but the 
edition in which this alteration was made cost about six 
times as much as the vulgar text. 

The natives of the Trobriand Islands, who are in so 
many respects a model to us all, consider eating as private 
as any other bodily function. Should a science of dietetics 
arise among these people presumably the expounders of 
this new knowledge would speak about ' ingurgitation/ 
'imbibing/ and 'the buccal orifice/ so that the ears and 
eyes of the nice might not be offended by the sight or 
sound of the crude monosyllables so full of associations 
and magic, which had till then been used only for rude 
talk or swearing. 


When in the middle of the last century a few bold 
professors came to the conclusion that sex was neither 
an obscene mystery nor a dirty joke on the part of Nature 
they invented for its discussion an aseptic polysyllabic 
Greco-Latin vocabulary, completely free from associations 
of any sort. From that time onwards they were able to 
describe and talk about sexual matters in terms which 
showed clearly enough that the subject could have no 
possible contact either with the writer or his readers. 
After the war this licence was seized upon by lay authors 
and people now can and do write and talk about 'homo- 



sexuality* until one is driven to wish that this habit was 
still only referred to "by that foul word which crowns 
the seaman's phrase/' as the Byronic author of Don Leon 
so chastely says. 

Despite the asepsis of the professors, sex does still 
play a part in our lives, and the scientific aura they have 
given to these unscientific manifestations of vitality has 
produced a complete distortion of human life. They aver 
that we are brought into the world by * copulation/ but 
surely nobody thinks of themselves as 'copulating/ not 
even the most astringent scientists unless maybe Chris- 
tian Scientists do. 

The late D. H. Lawrence felt this contradiction so 
strongly that he risked his established reputation to 
employ four out of the six tabooed words. (Incidentally 
the two words he did not use will tell the perspicacious 
more about this writer than the deluge of volumes since 
his death.) Like de Sade, he felt that "'sex' is as impor- 
tant as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one 
appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false 
modesty as the other." 1 

De Sade was fully conscious of the choice of vocabu- 
laries before him the choice between the poetic circum- 
locution, the scientific asepsis, and the crude mono- 
syllables and consciously chose the last. ". . . .This 
isn't an indecent anecdote .... but a part of human 
history which we are going to learn, and the developments 
of morals ; if you wish to learn from it you must be exact, 
which things swathed in gauze never are. Dirty minds 

are offended at everything Obscenity may revolt, 

disgust and instruct, but does not excite . . ," 2 

I am as convinced as either of these authors of the 
desirability of using everyday language for everyday 
acts, but I lack their heroic courage. I shall therefore 



take refuge behind the sanctified terms of the scientists, 
making my protest against this falsification by the use 
of inverted commas, in the hope that readers will retrans- 
late such terms into healthier Anglo-Saxon. 


De Sade gives such an extension to the idea of sex that 
it becomes practically synonymous with the idea of 
pleasure, and sex at times means simply the stimulus of 
agreeable sensation; all physical and most mental sen- 
sations of a positive nature are grouped under this term. 
That all physical sensations should be so qualified is a 
fairly obvious notion; the extension to the imagination 
and the intellect was a further step which was unheard 
of when he made his investigations, but is now also 
generally acepted. He considered the pursuit of pleasure 
to be the object of human life, and thought that physical 
satisfaction was stronger than mental 3 ; consequently 
"it is only by enlarging the scope of one's tastes and 
one's fantasies, by sacrificing everything to pleasure, that 
that unfortunate individual called man, thrown despite 
himself into this sad world, can succeed in gathering 
a few roses among life's thorns." 4 He was the first 
to formulate the now generally accepted conception of 
the overwhelming importance of sex. " Sex is to the 
other passions what the nervous fluid is to life; it sup- 
ports them all, lends strength to them all .... 
ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge, are all founded on 

According to de Sade, very young children are shame- 
less, sexually inquisitive and endowed with strong sexual 
feelings, 6 Children are naturally polymorphous perverts. 
" Everyone is born with dispositions more or less great for 
perversions and all are more or less differently con- 



stituted; and love, which comes after these first received 
impressions bends them to its service, corresponding to 
their activity. If the impressions are weak, love, which 
is fostered by them, becomes stronger than them and is 
sweet and reasonable; if on the contrary they are strong, 
passion like a whirlwind .... breaks, tears and 
devours all that opposes it; it becomes a fiery flame which 
burns all that it meets, and finds only further fuel in all 
that is presented to stifle it. All these are the results of 
love; the naughty child breaks its toy; he has pleasure in 
smashing it to bits and soon weeps bitter tears on the 
ruins his temper has made. Such is love and its effects; 
such are its incredible extravagances, sometimes impure 
and sometimes cruel, but always natural . . . which the 
fool doesn't know about, the thick-headed puritan 
punishes, and the philosopher respects because he alone 
knows the human heart and holds the key. Other people 
are always being surprised at the combined effects of the 
heart and the instincts; and as it is extremely common 
for the one to be good and the other evil, when both are 
in action together there are often seen in the same person 
a number of virtues and vices mixed; people fall back on 
human contradiction without seeing that the results are 
not due to inconsequence but simply to the united effects 
of two necessarily different principles, with consequently 
different effects, Hadrian loved Antinous just as 
Aboard loved H^loise; one had bad instincts, the other 
a good heart/' 7 

De Sade also believed that deep family affections, 
especially when the loved member was of the opposite 
sex, contained deeply hidden incest desires. 8 These are 
his chief points of contact with the Viennese school of 

As far as adult sex-life was concerned de Sade divided 



people into three categories. The first, and much the 
largest, consisted of people whose imagination, courage 
or desires were weak or repressed and therefore their 
lives sexually were without remarkable incident. In this 
connexion he says that "continence is far from being the 
virtue it is supposed to be; it has many dangers and no 
good effects; it is as harmful for men as for women; it 
is bad for the health. . . ." 9 The second category 
consists of natural perverts, and the third of libertines 
who consciously imitate the obsessions of the second 
class to enlarge their experience. It is almost exclusively 
with these two categories that de Sade deals, though the 
first class furnishes the vile bodies with which the 
experiments are made. Since the habits of the third 
class are the same as the second with the difference 
that the perversions are wilful instead of congenital it is 
de Sade's investigation of that class which we must now 

He insists strongly that perversions are congenital and 
involuntary in most cases. " What man wouldn't change 
his tastes at once if he could and wouldn't prefer to be 
like the rest of mankind instead of being peculiar if he 
had the power? It is the most stupid and barbarous 
intolerance to prosecute such a person; he is no more to 
blame .... than a man who is born lame or hump- 
backed. It is as unjust to make fun of or to punish a man 
like that as it is to mock or insult a cripple. A man with 
strange tastes is really an invalid " 10 

Perversions may be divided into two groups, mental 
and physical; and the second group be further divided 
into four sub-groups, according as to whether the per- 
version lies in the action, the object of affection, the type 
of person, or the pantomime ritual performed. To be a 
little clearer, a person may get most pleasure from some 



action other than normal ' copulation/ from some person, 
animal or object other than a member of the opposite 
sex, from an exclusive type or dress (blondes, ballet 
dancers, guardsmen, parlour-maids or people dressed 
up to look like any of these, etc., etc.), or from the 
re-enacting of some fixed scene, with the partner, how- 
ever often varied in fact, always playing the same r6le. 
The first two categories obviously overlap. 

In Les 1 20 Journees de Sodome de Sade has fixed 
permanently almost every variety of perversion in each 
of these categories. How he was able to do this seems 
quite inexplicable, for though he had led a life of con- 
siderable and varied debauchery for at least fifteen years 
to my mind he was as a physiologist might say * being 
his own rabbit' it is quite impossible for any one 
man to have experienced personally the six hundred 
often mutually contradictory perversions he lists. Both his 
examples and explanations show considerable similarity 
with those of Professor Krafft-Ebing, Mr. Havelock 
Ellis and other modern anthologists, though his range 
is far larger and more inclusive. He describes the per- 
versions with the greatest economy and in the simplest 
language, so that his * histories' lack the human interest 
of Ellis's and the coy latin of Krafft-Ebing's. He tried 
fitfully and unsuccessfully to recapture these details in 
Justine and Juliette after the loss of the earlier manu- 
script, but with indifferent success. 

Among intellectual perversions he describes, besides 
the more obvious class such as 'voyeurs' and 'exhibi- 
tionists/ many with less physical effects, such as the 
pleasure of moral seduction, 11 without the enjoyment of 
the result, kleptomania, which he explains as a substitute 
for rape 12 and fetishes for smells, colours, and stuffs, 
of a sort that one had thought known only to the editor 



of that strangely innocent English paper for perverts. 
Some of his cases have very peculiar reactions to money; 
one person cannot enjoy pleasure unless combined with 
stealing or cheating, 13 another can only enjoy bought 
pleasures 14 while yet a third insists on paying those he 
believes to be richer than himself and in robbing those 
he believes poorer. 16 Students of Dr. Ernest Jones will 
realise the accuracy of these observations. 

I think de Sade's description of perverse actions is 
absolutely complete, ranging from the pleasure of 
combing hair to lust-murder, through every possible 
gradation from the ridiculous to the revolting, from the 
pleasure to be got from snotty little girls to the enjoy- 
ment of the greatest ugliness, infirmity and corruption, 
from foot fetishism to 'coprophagy.' Beyond calling 
attention to the fact that this was by almost exactly a 
century the first objective study of sexual phenomena, 
I do not think there is any need for further elaboration. 

In the class of perverse objects, 'homosexuality' is 
by far the most conspicuous. De Sade's observations on 
this subject are curious. Firstly he considers natural 
homosexuality as opposed to that suggested by satiety 
a rare phenomenon ; I do not think there are more than five 
male 'homosexuals' in the whole of his thickly peopled 
works; of these, two are almost exclusively pathics. 
He states categorically that they all vary in their secondary 
sexual characteristics from more normal males, as well 
as in their voice and character. 16 The attitude of society 
has forced them to be somewhat false and treacherous. 

There are even fewer exclusive 'female homosexuals'; 
I can only recollect three ; but then as now it was a disorder 
much less marked and exclusive than its male counter- 
part. De Sade has a certain admiration for these women, 
finding them more intelligent and witty than the average, 



I have an impression on the other hand that he disliked 
the males, for he makes them nearly all slightly ridiculous, 
with their assumption of being a nation within the 
nation; he emphasises, however, their cruel position 
in society and stresses their lack of responsibility for 
their habits. I am completely at a loss to understand 
the reasonings of those critics who suggest that de Sade 
was himself * homosexual ' ; for though he and his libertines 
have this habit, they also have all others; and the well- 
attested presence of mistresses through nearly the whole 
of his life in freedom makes it appear that this suggestion 
was considered by its authors to be merely another and 
gratuitous insult. 

If de Sade were to return to life to-day I think that 
he would find the greatest change in sexual life, after the 
use of drugs, in the great spread of male 'homosexuality,' 
especially among the bourgeoisie. This I imagine to be 
partly due to the respectability of the new nomenclature, 
and the aura of martyred literary merit which Wilde, 
Gide and Cocteau have invested it with, but chiefly to a 
neurotic fear of life and responsibility. As far as my 
observation goes it is commonest, or at least most open, 
in those countries in which the War and its sequels the 
economical and political crises have had the severest 

De Sade also dealt with the obsession of types one 
case only likes red-headed women, another blonde sewing- 
hands 17 and the desire for various pantomimes. 18 
Among other generalisations he remarks that impotents, 
or almost-impotents, are always spiteful and cruel, that 
degradation grows with age, and that all sexual activity, 
especially when repressed or when carried to excess, can 
produce obsession amounting to monomania. 

For de Sade, as has already been said, human hap- 



piness depends upon the greatest possible extension of 
pleasure. But since our constitution and nature would 
most probably keep us to one range of experience, either 
normal or perverted, it is only wilfully and by an intel- 
lectual effort that we can extend our possibilities for 
pleasure. This idea of deliberately cultivating our taste 
for sexual pleasures is indescribably shocking to us, to 
whom, with very few exceptions judeo-Christian morality 
is still a very strong prejudice; and it is because de Sade 
did this and sincerely advised others to do it that his 
reputation is surrounded by an aura of horror far greater 
than that of the most repulsive lust-murderers, from 
Gilles de Retz* to Jack the Ripper. But it is only in the 
sexual sphere that this is considered reprehensible; in 
all other human activities the cultivation of a wider taste 
is held to be most praiseworthy. The study and develop- 
ment of the arts has no other aim than to enable us to 
perceive beauty and harmony in shapes sounds and 
colours that were before either meaningless or repulsive. 
And an English country parson, who would faint with 
horror if it were suggested that he or his wife should try 
to extend in any way their sexual pleasures, will have no 
hesitation in smearing his child with the bloody tail of a 
newly killed fox and encouraging him to enjoy such 
activity, or in feeding on such stomach-turning delicacies 
as putrescent game or cheese. And not only will he 
manage to swallow such naturally revolting food, he will 
consider it more enjoyable than more ordinary nourish- 
ment, and will refuse fresh game or cheese as flat and 
tasteless. "The greatest pleasures are born from con- 
quered repugnances." 19 

* Or so reputed. There seems reason, however, to believe that dc Retz was 
a self-immolated witch, rather than a monster. See Murray God of the Witches > 
also Fleuret De Gilles de Rats A Guillaumt Apollinaire. 

209 o 


I have used this metaphor purposely as being the 
most apt ; de Sade himself employs it often : " Do 
we not see every day people who have accustomed 
their palate to an irritation which pleases them, alongside 
people who could not for a moment support such 
irritation ?" 20 

It follows that the sphere of sexual pleasures can only 
be extended by overcoming the reactions of disgust or 
pain. These two notions are so intimately linked that 
it is difficult to tell where moral fear ends and physical 
fear begins. To continue the gastronomic metaphor I 
do not know whether I am more repelled by the notion 
of eating rotten meat or by the fear that the experience 
will be physically unpleasant. It needs both courage and 
imagination to overcome these natural reactions; for 
encouragement there is the obvious and great pleasure 
taken by other people in what seems to be unpleasant or 
meaningless activity. 

Courage is a temperamental quality and little can be 
done to supply its absence, save by demonstration and 
argument to show that what is feared is weak or meaning- 
less. This de Sade does at enormous length, using every 
argument to show that the religious or moral inhibitions 
applied to certain acts are unfounded; from the moment 
the result is pleasure the proceeding must be natural, 
for pleasure is a stimulus of nature exclusively. 

But such courage, whether natural or instilled, is 
useless without imagination. " Imagination is pleasure's 
spur .... directs everything, is the motive of every- 
thing; is it not thence that our pleasure comes? Is it 
not from that that the sharpest pleasures arise ?" 21 And 
again, " Didn't you tell me that the pleasantest moral 
sensations come from the imagination ? Well, if we allow 
that imagination to wander freely, if we let it cross the 



last frontiers which religion, decency, humanity, virtue, 
in a word all our so-called duties would erect to it, would 
not its divagations become prodigious? And wouldn't 
their very immensity irritate us the more? In which 
case the more we wish to be moved, to feel violently, the 
more must we give rein to our imagination in the most 
singular routes. . . ," 22 

It was de Sade's considered and very sincere opinion 
that pleasure, and especially physical and sexual pleasure 
is the chief aim of human existence; "We are born to 
* copulate '" he says in almost the same words as D. H. 
Lawrence (incidentally had these two known of each 
other they would have hated and despised each other's 
ideas) "We are born to 'copulate,' we accomplish 
Nature's laws in * copulating,' and any human law which 
goes against Nature's is only worthy of disdain." 23 It is 
for that reason that he preaches "your body is yours and 
yours alone ; you are the only person in the world who has 
a right to take pleasure from it and to permit whoever 
you will to get pleasure from it. /Take advantage of the 
happiest time of your life ; they are but too short those 
happy years of our pleasures ; if we are fortunate enough 
to have taken advantage of them pleasant memories con- 
sole and divert us in our old age. Do we waste them? 
. . , bitter regrets and horrible remorse rend us, and 
join with the torments of age to surround us with tears 
and thorns on the sad path to the grave |> . ," 24 

It is now perhaps easier to understand why de Sade 
wished for legally enforced promiscuity. Happiness 
depends on the greatest possible extension of sexual 
pleasure; but his very strong regards for the rights of 
every individual prevents him conceiving the idea of a 
caste of slaves or quasi-slaves 25 (wives [and whores) who 
will be the objects by which this extension of pleasure is 



to be obtained ; and therefore his only solution was to give 
everybody momentary rights over the body of every 
citizen. Logically there is something to be said for the 
idea, but I doubt if it is practical. 

De Sade suffered from the universal human assumption 
that his sexual constitution was the normal type. He was 
possibly more justified than most people, owing to the 
enormous extension he had adopted. We still know so 
extraordinarily little of the workings of this instinct 
among 'normal' people, that unless our behaviour is 
almost criminally extravagant we cannot conceive that 
other people feel very differently to ourselves. Until 
'normal' behaviour is statistically investigated and defined 
it will be almost impossible for sincere writers not to fall 
into this trap. The scientific works so far published 
almost inevitably deal with cases which by their peculiarity 
have been brought in touch with doctors or the law (Have- 
lock Ellis, conscious of this contradiction tried to collect 
a few examples of 'normal' behaviour in the appendices 
of his Psychology of Sex; the insufficient results are 
astonishing) so that sexually humanity appears to be 
divided into two camps perverts and the rest. The 
falseness of this dichotomy can be seen as soon as a man 
tries to put his conclusions sincerely on paper; and we 
have the curious spectacle of H. G. Wells claiming that 
it is normal to love several women simultaneously, con- 
fronting many writers who say passions are mutually 
exclusive; and Frank Harris and Bernard Shaw holding 
up their hands simultaneously at each other's monstrous 
departure from the normal which for the former repre- 
sents roughly seducing a new woman each week and for 
the latter a mild and barely physical flirtation about once 
in ten years. 




So far we have only dealt with physical satisfactions. 
De Sade admits that the pleasures which can be got from 
the exercise of virtues, such as kindness, pity or charity 
are very real, but claims that for that reason they contain 
no special merit. 26 Moreover he considers the obliga- 
tions of gratitude intolerable; "A man by a gratuitous 
kind action puts himself above you, hurts your pride and 
causes you thereby to feel an unpardonable mortifica- 
tion/' 27 It may be remembered that charity was one of 
the undesirable qualities done away with by the con- 
stitution of Tamoe. He also fully acknowledges the very 
great pleasures which can be gained from the arts; 28 
he even points out the great poetry of some parts of the 
bible. 29 But he does not consider such joys to be incom- 
patible with, or superior to physical pleasure. 

There are, however, three emotions very intimately 
connected with sex desire, love and jealousy. For de 
Sade desire is sometimes as pleasurable as satisfaction 
("Happiness is not in the enjoyment but in the desire, 
and in destroying the difficulties in the way of its accom- 
plishment . . ." 30 ); love is misery and folly, jealousy 
a useless insult. 

De Sade takes love very seriously indeed; there are* at 
least three long passages, one over thirty pages, entirely 
devoted to its analysis. In its intensity, however, it is a 
rare phenomenon ; I can only think of three characters in 
his works who persist in love after enjoyment and know- 
ledge, with perhaps the unhappy Justine as a fourth, who 
naturally falls in love with a ' homosexual.' The following 
definition of love seems to me adequate : 

V"We call love that interior sentiment which draws us, 
as it were in spite of ourselves, towards some object, 
which makes us desire to unite ourselves with it, to be 



ceaselessly near it, which flatters and intoxicates us when 
we succeed in thus uniting ourselves, and which torments 
us and drives us to despair when some foreign cause makes 
us break this union.) If this extravagance never drew us 
to anything except pleasure taken with this ardour and 
intoxication it would merely be ridiculous; but since it 
leads us to a certain metaphysic which changes us into 
the loved object and makes its actions needs and desires 
as dear as our own, by that alone it becomes extremely 
dangerous by making us neglect our interests for those 
of the loved one; by identifying us, so to speak, with this 
object it makes us adopt its misfortunes and griefs and 
add them to the sum of our own. Besides the fear of 
losing this object or of seeing its affections cool disturbs us 
ceaselessly; and from the calmest state of mind we pass 
insensibly to the cruellest that can be found in the world. 
If the recompense and the reward of so much misery 
was anything other than ordinary pleasure, perhaps I 
would advise risking it; but all the cares, torments and 
thorns of love only lead to what one can easily gain 
without it; where then is its use? 

" When I meet a beautiful woman and fall in love with 
her, I haV^n't any different aim from the man who sees 
and desires her without any sort of love. We both wish 
to go to bed with her; he only wants her body, whereas 
I, through a false and dangerous metaphysic, blind myself 
on my real motive which is exactly the same as my rival's, 
and persuade myself that I merely want her heart, that 
all idea of sex is excluded, and I persuade myself so well 
that I would willingly agree with that woman to love her 
for herself alone, and to gain her heart at the cost of 
sacrificing all my physical desires." 31 

Madame de Mistival says to the girl she is educating: 
" You talk about the bonds of love; may you never know 



them ! For the sake of the happiness I wish for you I 
pray that your heart may never know such sentiments 1 
What is love ? It can only be considered, I suppose, as 
the resulting effects of the qualities of a beautiful object 
on us; these effects carry us away and inflame us; if we 
possess this object we are happy; if we cannot obtain it 
we are in despair. But what is the basis of this sentiment ? 
Desire. And what are its results? Madness, Let 
us keep to the motive and protect ourselves from the 
results. (The motive is to possess the object; very well, 
let us try to succeed, but with prudence; let us take our 
pleasure when we possess the opportunity and console 
ourselves in the opposite case ;^ a thousand other objects 
similar and often far better man the one we have lost 
will console us; all men and all women are alike. . , . 
What a deception that intoxication is which absorbs in 
us the results of our senses and puts us into such a state 
that we only see, we only live through the adored object! 
Is that living ? Isn't it rather depriving ourselves volun- 
tarily of all life's charms? Isn't it insisting in staying in a 
burning fever which absorbs and devours us without 
leaving us other happiness than metaphysical pleasures 
so similar to the effects of madness ? If we were certain 
always to love the adored object, and never to be separated 
from it, love would still be an extravagance doubtless, 
but at least it would be excusable. But does that happen ? 
Have we many examples of these eternal unions which 
never subside ? A few months' enjoyment will soon put 
the object in its rightful place and make us blush for the 
incense which we have burned on its altars; often we 
cannot even conceive what was capable of so seducing 
us." 32 

De Sade knew what he was writing about. He was 
one of those comparatively rare mortals who have the 



faculty of falling deeply in love, and thwarted love had 
made his life miserable for nine years. Not all who 
write in praise of this passion can say as much. 

The following passage on jealousy, love and desire 
will complete the description of de Sade's views on these 
subjects. "I have sometimes heard it asked whether 
jealousy was a flattering or an insulting mania, as far as 
the woman is concerned, and I admit that I have never 
doubted that since this emotion was merely selfish, 
women have nothing to gain by the action it produces on 
the spirit of their lovers. One isn't jealous because one 
loves a woman very deeply but because one fears the 
humiliation which would result from her changing; and 
the proof that this passion is purely egoist is that there is 
not a single honest lover who would not agree that he 
would rather see his mistress dead than unfaithful. Con- 
sequently it is her inconstancy rather than her loss which 
afflicts us, and therefore ourselves alone whom we consult 
in this event. From which I conclude that after the 
unpardonable extravagance of being in love with a 
woman the greatest that one can commit is to be jealous 
of her. This sentiment is insulting for a woman, since 
it proves to her that we do not esteem her; it is painful 
for us and always useless, for it is a sure method of sug- 
gesting to a woman the desire to deceive us by letting 
her see the fear that we have of that happening. Jealousy 
and fear of cuckoldry are two things which clamp 
prejudice on to our pleasure with women; without this 
cursed habit of foolishly desiring to bind moral and 
physical things together on this subject we would soon 
get rid of our prejudices. Why, can't you go to bed with 
a woman without loving her, and can't you love her 
without going to bed with her? But what need is there 
for the heart to have a r6le in a situation in which only 



the body plays a part? It seems to me that there are 
there two very different desires and needs. Araminta 
has the loveliest body in the world; her voluptuous face 
and her dark eyes full of fire .... promise the greatest 
pleasure. What need is there that the sentiments of my 
heart should accompany the act which gives me the body 
of this creature? It seems to me again that love and 
pleasure are two very different things; that not only is it 
not necessary to love to get pleasure, but even that it is 
enough to get pleasure not to love. For feelings of 
tenderness arise from similarities of temperament and 
taste, and are in no way inspired by lovely breasts or a 
well-burned bottom; and these objects which, according 
to our tastes, can excite strongly our physical affections 
have not, it seems to me, the same right on our moral 
ones. To continue my comparison: Jane is ugly, forty 
years old, without a single grace in all her person, not 
a regular feature, not a single beauty; but she is witty and 
has a charming character and millions of traits which 
agree with my sentiments and my tastes ; I have no desire 
to go to bed with Jane but I shall nevertheless love her 
madly; I shall want very strongly to have Araminta, but 
I will detest her cordially as soon as the fever of desire 
has passed, because I have only found in her a body, 
and none of the moral qualities which could gain for her 
the affections of my heart," 33 

It may be added that de Sade shared the family 
reverence for the family "poet, Petrarch, whom he several 
times refers to as "the sweet singer of VaucluseJ* 



Cruelty has a human heart, 
And Jealousy a human face; 
Terror the human form divine 
And Secrecy the human dress. 

The human dress is forgdd iron, 

The human form a fiery forge, 

The human face a furnace seaPd, 

The human heart its hungry gorge. 

Appendix to the Songs of 
Innocence and Experience. 

"It is impossible ... for an engineer to wreck his own 
machines: it would be like a parent striking a dagger into the heart 
of his child." 


during his trial in Moscow , April y 1933. 

NEARLY a century after de Sade had made his analysis 
of the sexual instincts and perversions a German professor 
called^ Krafft-Ebing started the work anew, and with a 
mixture of impropriety and ignorance took de Sade's 
name for one of the perversions he had described and 
defined Sadism as 'sexual emotion associated with the 
wish to inflict pain and use violence'; with even greater 
impertinence he took the name of a living second-rate 
novelist, Sacher-Masoch, to give the name Masochism 
to 'the desire to be treated harshly, humiliated and ill- 
used/ Incidentally the idea of taking the names of 
living writers for naming sexual perversions could be 



an amusing game, but one which for fear of libel I shall 
not pursue. 

Although these definitions were so unsatisfactory that 
they have been altered and amended by nearly every 
writer on the subject since, the words have passed into 
almost universal use and have indeed been so extended 
as to become nearly meaningless. Sadism now, at any 
rate for lay writers, is practically a synonym for cruelty, 
and masochism for unhappiness with a slight suggestion 
of pleasure; as such they are useless additions to an 
already overloaded vocabulary and merely serve to give 
a false impression of objective detachment and an aura 
of non-existent science. 

Seeing that the connection between sexual pleasure 
and pain is a single manifestation without clear dividing 
marks between the active and passive attitudes Havelock 
Ellis followed Schrenck-Notzing in using the term 
Algolagnia for all activities in which sex and external 
pain were united. I would like to continue the use of 
this term for such manifestations and keep the word 
Sadism for the special group of instincts which de Sade 
was the first, and almost the only person to describe and 
which constitutes by far his most important contribution 
to psychology. I am aware of the obvious ambiguity 
of using a word which has already so many meanings, 
but I cannot see any way out of the dilemma; for it is 
de Sade's contribution to analysis and there is no existing 
word to cover the points evolved and I have neither the 
qualifications nor the desire to invent another hybrid 

I should like to recall here the passage already quoted 
in Chapter III on cause and effect in which he says, 
" Since all things act and react on one another incessantly 
they produce and undergo change at the same time." 



For Sadism and sex are two instincts strongly joined and 
as strongly separated; they each modify the other con- 
siderably but it cannot be said that either causes the 
other; they act and react incessantly on one another. 

Sadism, as described by its analyst I would define as 
the pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the 
external world produced by the observer. This is a universal 
instinct and very strong, only following the instinct for 
self-preservation, and the sex instincts, of which it is a 
manifestation and which are a manifestation of it. It 
might also be defined as * pleasure in the ego's modifica- 
tions of the external world/ but I think the first definition 
is clearer. 

It will be seen that this definition is extremely wide 
and covers an enormous range of human activity from 
the creation of works of art to the blowing up of bridges, 
from making little girls happy by giving them sweets to 
making them cry by slapping them. It would be incorrect 
however to say that it covers all human activities for there 
are two essential clauses; there must be sensible modifi- 
cations of the external world, and they must be the willed 
production of the agent. That is to say that there can 
be Sadistic satisfaction in painting a picture, but not in 
painting a house under another person's orders and 
following another person's taste; there can be Sadistic 
pleasure in killing a person, but not if that killing is 
ordered and independent of the killer. 

Like all human emotions this is ambivalent, and can 
be either constructive or destructive. It can be applied 
to people or things, but obviously the greatest and most 
marked modifications can be made on other human 
beings; and emotional connections with other human 
beings are liable to be more or less sexual. In sexual 
intercourse itself the modifications are very strong and 



obvious; by your actions exclusively a person like the 
rest of the world is changed into a writhing, panting, 
often almost speechless animal in an ecstasy of pleasure- 

Which is it ? Pleasure or pain ? Could an uninstructed 
observer watching human beings or animals 'copulate' 
tell whether the couple were making love or fighting, 
whether the spasms were unbearable pleasure or unbear- 
able pain ? 

To my mind it is a question of degree, not of difference. 
All pleasure is bounded by pain in its excess, sometimes 
on both sides, sometimes on one side only. The pleasures 
of temperature for instance are confined within a very 
narrow limit with unnumbered degrees of pain on either 
side. Some people can push back the limits of pleasure 
a little; they can train themselves to enjoy bathing in 
water so cold or so hot that to most others it would be 
agony; but the limits of pain are still there. The same 
standard is applicable to the pleasures of the other senses : 

Pleasure is pain diminished, 
Pain is the absolute. 

What is certain is that you can produce far greater, 
more varied, and more obvious modifications on other 
people by pain than by pleasure, and therefore greater 
satisfaction for the agent; and it is because de Sade 
described also these satisfactions that his name and his 
reputation have received their present stigma from people 
who can understand the letter, even if they completely 
ignore the spirit. 

It is because pain and destruction are easier and more 
spectacular that de Sade principally described such actions 
in his characters, which he described as portraying "not 
man as he is or pretends to be, but as he can be, as he is 



influenced by vice and all passions' shocks"; and because 
of his pessimistic view of human nature he made destruc- 
tive Sadism far more common than constructive. This 
is particularly true of La Nouvelle Justine, the work by 
which he is most often judged; in a number of his other 
works this feature is barely stressed at all. La Nouvelle 
Justine is above everything an attempt to explain why the 
revolution failed and is throughout coloured by the fact 
of de Sade's imprisonment for moderantism. His con- 
clusion is that by far the greater number of people desire 
to hurt and oppress their fellows; the desire to aid and 
assist them is far less common though by no means 
absent from this work, as many commentators suggest. 
To illustrate this point he allows his characters to do 
whatever their imaginations suggest; and it follows from 
his view of human nature that they mostly tend to torture, 
cruelty and murder. His literary conscience prevents 
him presenting this for him almost universal human trait 
with too great a monotony in all his works the gradation 
and development of his revelations are most cunningly 
revealed bit by bit; consequently his imagination and 
knowledge lead him to describe an astounding collection 
of tortures. Both his personal experience and his his- 
torical researches were called into play; many of the 
acts described have direct historical parallels in the 
Revolutionary butcheries ; a number of others are taken 
directly from the amusements of such people as Charolais, 
Blaise Ferrage, Count Potocki, Bullion, the Duke de 
Richelieu and many others both of his own and former 
epochs. It might indeed be claimed that as far as the 
scenes of cruelty in Justine and Juliette are concerned 
that de Sade was acting less as an imaginative writer than 
as an anthologist. Although this description of tortures 
and murders is usually supposed to be de Sade's chief 



originality, there is actually very little which could not be 
paralleled in Foxe's or Wright's Book of Martyrs; the 
horrors described and illustrated in this pious book are 
as frightful as those of de Sade; he merely collected 
the facts in the form of fiction and arranged them to 
create a crescendo ; but if he had only done this he would 
have made a work of little use, and one which moreover 
would not have been condemned but which might well 
have served for the secret gloatings and morbid imagina- 
tions of the humanitarian, as Foxe for the pious protestant. 
The description of the acts of Bishop Bonner, for example, 
by Wright is almost to the vocabulary identical with that 
of the clergy by de Sade. It is because he went behind 
the religious, political or legal excuses for these acts and 
described with accuracy and insight the real motives of 
the butchers and persecutors that his work becomes 
extraordinarily original and important; and it is for the 
same reason that the authorities who still use the same 
excuses for the same brutalities have condemned and 
pursued his work with a vigour they have never applied 
to any other writer. The people who imagine that de 
Sade intended Justine and Juliette to be incitements to 
cruelty show extraordinarily little insight, unless indeed 
they are speaking from personal experience, and find 
even the coldest and most objective descriptions exciting. 

Even in these works de Sade did not entirely ignore 
constructive Sadism, though, except for a couple of 
scientists, it is mostly manifested by kindness and 

A more mental side of this destructive Sadism is the 
destruction of barriers, moral or legal, and the pleasure 
of knowing that one's actions or words would cause 
extreme distress to other people. The search for this 
pleasure the reputation of dare-devilry will often 



lead to seemingly paradoxical results the sinking of the 
ego in self-sought humiliation. The most obvious expres- 
sion of this is the constant confession of the guilt of 
notorious crimes by actually innocent people. 

The amount of satisfaction this instinct seeks naturally 
varies with the individual character and circumstances. 
But it is a strong and universal instinct, and if not granted 
any direct satisfaction will seek it in devious and usually 
socially more harmful ways. Like the sexual instinct 
chance may determine for the individual a fixation for 
one special form of satisfaction. 

The most direct methods of satisfaction are constructive 
work of any sort, and domineering, either sexually, 
individually, or socially; the most spectacular Motive- 
less' crimes of destruction, particularly arson and murder. 
For most people sufficient direct satisfaction is impossible 
to obtain, and the lack is supplied by imaginative fantasy, 
either self-inspired or suggested by entertainment. 

It can be argued that mass production by machino- 
facture has eliminated a great deal of constructive Sadistic 
pleasure to-day. This is in part compensated by the 
introduction of mechanical tools for private amusement 
cars, wireless, cameras which enable some people to 
have the pleasure of * doing things with their hands/ of 
constructively modifying their environment. But these 
pleasures are too narrowly distributed to make a counter- 
balance. Very little direct destructive Sadism is allowed 
usually; lovers carve their initials on trees when they've 
got trees, and Nazis carve reversed swastikas on the faces 
of Jews, when they've got Jews; but on the whole people 
have to seek satisfaction either by identifying themselves 
with some larger group in the community the party, 
the army, the empire or by fantasy. 

The amount of Sadistic satisfaction afforded by popular 



entertainment is as astounding as it is historically 
unparalleled. The most direct are those entertainments in 
which death Sadistic destruction at its most complete 
plays a potential, and often an actual part speed-racing 
in various dangerous machines, perilous acrobatics and 
so on. But the forms which touch the greatest public 
are the exteriorised fantasies, the cinema and the popular 

The cinema is becoming more and more Sadistic. 
Film after film is engaged in the contemplation of succes- 
ful crime and murder, or of beauty and virtue in distress 
the themes of Justine and Juliette. What is probably 
the best American, and therefore the best film ever made, 
/ am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang> was a complete essay 
in the various forms of Sadism. It was probably an 
accident, but a very significant accident, that the pro- 
tagonist was changed from a real estate agent in the 
autobiography to a constructive engineer in the film 
that his chief desire was not to make money, but to build. 
The Russian film, and indeed Russian propaganda 
generally, is trying to concentrate the energies of the 
spectators on constructive Sadism Dnieperstroy instead 
of Al Capone. 

But it is in literature that the most spectacular change 
has taken place. The elaborate contemplation of murder 
and crime and especially gangsters in the Press is I 
imagine a fairly new but very popular phenomenon. But 
the fantasy of Sadistic crime in recent years has dominated 
the novel in unexampled fashion. Before the war the 
novel of crime or detection was not much occupied com- 
paratively with destruction Sherlock Holmes was far 
more engaged with robberies, coining, kidnapping, lost 
documents, etc., than he was with murder; and the novels 
of Phillips Oppenheim, which are fairly typical of the 

225 p 


period, are mostly concerned with lost documents. But 
to-day a detective story means a story about murder. 
I should think the words * death' or 'murder' occur in 
the title of a quarter of the books published far more 
frequently than any other noun; the novels in question 
range from the classical contemplation of evidence 
with one corpse in the first chapter to orgies of blood- 
letting, with a mechanical triumph of law in the end. 
The most popular books of the Sexton Blake variety 
reduce detection to a minimum. The happy weakening 
of the bonds of Christian * morality' and the spread 
of contraceptive knowledge has made the demands for 
vicarious sexual satisfaction less strong; the conditions 
of modern life have made the demands for vicarious 
Sadistic satisfaction far stronger, and so Charles Garvice 
and Elinor Glyn have given place to Edgar Wallace and 
Agatha Christie as the most popular dream manufacturers. 
It is a curious comment on the minds of ministers of the 
Church that they should think the contemplation of 
murder more moral than the contemplation of love; 
for clergymen frequently state in the Press that the 
detective story is far healthier than the 'sex' novel. 

There is one wide-spread type of Sadist to-day that 
de Sade didn't foresee, the only type as far as I know; 
and that is the animal lover. To be the master tyrant 
and destiny of any animal is already direct Sadistic 
satisfaction ; but it is apparently not sufficient. The anti- 
vivisectionists protest against the use of animals for the 
relief of human suffering; and often they say, with uncon- 
scious self-revelation, that if such experiments must be 
made, they should be performed on other humans 
murderers, communists, huns. And their continuous 
charge of Sadism (meaning pleasurable cruelty) against 
scientists is equally damning; "I have always remarked 



that people who are very quick to suspect a certain sort 
of crime are those who are addicted to it themselves; 
it is very easy to conceive what one admits, but not so 
easy to understand what is repugnant." 1 This generalisa- 
tion of de Sade's is very widely applicable. 

There is one other pleasure which is usually classed as 
Sadistic, but I think incorrectly the pleasure that comes 
from the contemplation of the pain, misery or discomfort 
of others which cannot possibly be considered the work 
of the contemplator (this must not be confused with 
fantasy in which the spectator temporarily identifies 
himself with the active Sadist); this is a very real and 
general pleasure for which there is no name in English 
but which the Germans call Schadenfreude. I do not 
think this pleasure is Sadistic but as it were the opposite 
face of pity. The one is sorrow for ills that might have 
touched us, but did not, the other joy for ills that might 
have touched us, but have not. It is therefore to my 
mind more closely connected with the instinct for self- 
preservation than with that of construction-destruction. 
De Sade considered this pleasure the most barbarous of 
all: "I learned then that if there are some men who can 
get pleasure from the pains of others under the impulsion 
of revenge or loathsome lust, there are others so bar- 
barously organised that they enjoy these same pleasures 
without other motives than the satisfaction of pride or 
the most horrible curiosity. Man is then naturally evil, 
in the delirium of his passions as much as when they are 
calm, and in both cases the ills of his fellow can become 
the source of execrable pleasures for him." 2 

The criminal Noirceuil, in advising Juliette how to 
treat a ward who has been entrusted to her analyses and 
distinguishes the two pleasures. "What I should do in 
your place," he says, "would be to amuse myself as much 



as I wanted with this girl, and steal her fortune, and then 
place her in such an unhappy position that you can at 
every moment increase your happiness by the charms of 
watching her languish; as far as pleasure is concerned 
that will be better than killing her. The happiness I 
advise will be far stronger; for you will have both the 
physical satisfaction from the pleasures you have had 
with her and the intellectual satisfaction of comparing 
her lot with yours ; for happiness consists more in those 
sorts of comparisons than in actual pleasures. It is a 
thousand times sweeter to say when you see miserable 
people, ' I am not like them and that is what puts me above 
them/ than merely to say, 'I am enjoying myself, but I 
am enjoying myself in the midst of people as happy as I 
am/ It is the privations of others which make our 
pleasures felt; in the midst of equals we could never be 
content; that is why it is said so rightly that to be happy 
one should always look down, not up. If then it is the 
spectacle of others' misery whose comparison must com- 
plete our happiness one must obviously not relieve 
them. . . . Not only that : we must create unfortunates 
whenever the opportunity occurs to multiply that class 
and to compose one which, since it is your own work, will 
make far sharper the pleasures provided. So .... 
you should reduce this girl to asking charity and then 
refuse her, and thereby increase your pleasure by a com- 
parison the more striking and enjoyable since it will be 
your doing." 3 

The distinction between accidental misfortune and 
that caused by voluntary action is I think valid. 
Incidentally this passage will help explain the (probably 
unconscious) reactions of people emotionally opposed 
to any form of egalitarian socialism. The writer who 
seems to excite this sort of opposition more than any 



other is H. G. Wells in his 'prophetic' writings; from 
Max Beerbohm to the current reviewers of The Shape of 
Things to Come we get the continual complaint that a State 
in which everybody could be happy and healthy would be 
unpleasant and uninteresting; until I read this passage 
of de Sade I was always at a loss to understand why such 
comparatively benevolent people should oppose so 
passionately the fancied abolition of ignorance, disease, 
and poverty, and that reviewers should attack what seemed 
to me the unquestionably desirable aims of Wells' work, 
rather than the political prejudice in favour of a sort of 
liberal fascism and the blind optimism which has to 
posit a miraculous comet or a discriminating plague to 
achieve these aims; but I now realise that the genteel 
intellectual when threatened in his one point of superiority 
is to be reckoned with as an anti-social obstructionist. It 
should not now be necessary to point out that the pas- 
sage quoted above comes from a novel in which de Sade 
is describing the thoughts and actions of his characters, 
not his own. 


In the works of de Sade that are left to us there is no 
complete definition of Sadism. Whether it existed in 
any of his lost philosophical works can only be a matter of 
speculation; it is possible that it did not, for psychology 
as a study had still to be invented. But as I will try to 
show he got very near to defining it; and in Juliette he 
wrote a novel of Sadism in action. I should have thought 
the completely non-sexual acts from which the actors of 
this novel get satisfaction would have been enough to 
show other readers that Sadism wasn't merely a branch 
of sex; for though he uses the same physiological terms 
for the satisfaction felt, he also does so for gluttony. 



The best possible example will be an extract from the 
book. The following is an incident which occurred when 
Juliette was about twenty-one; she was at that time at the 
height of her prosperity as Saint-Fond's mistress; she 
was left alone by him in his country house; after seven 
years of decreasingly unpleasant experience she was 
enjoying for the first time a little independence. The 
story is told by her, 

"But in what sort of a moral state had so much wealth 
left me ? That, my friends, is what I do not dare to admit 
and what I must yet confess to you. The extreme 
debauchery in which all my senses were daily drowned 
had so dulled the reactions of my heart that I do not 
believe I would have given a farthing of my treasures 
to save an unhappy life. About that time there was a 
famine in the neighbourhood, accompanied with the 
greatest distress, . , . My charity was asked for, and 
I refused, pointing out the enormous expenses my 
gardens were causing me Analysing my sen- 
sations, I discovered, as my teachers had told me, that 
instead of the unpleasant sentiment of pity, a certain 
pleasure produced by the ill I thought I was doing in 
refusing these unfortunates, which circulated in my 
nerves a feeling like that one gets each time one breaks 

a restraint or overcomes a prejudice I felt 

pleasure in simply refusing to relieve unhappiness, what 
would I not feel if I were myself the real cause of this 

"A quarter of a mile from my house there was a 
wretched cottage belonging to a poor peasant called 
Martin Des Granges, who had eight children and a wife 
whose sense and economy justified her being called a 

"Elvire, my maid, and I brought some Boulogne 



phosphorus with us; I had charged this intelligent girl 
to distract the attention of the family while I went and 
hid the phosphorus carefully in the straw of an attic 
above the poor room. On my return I petted the chil- 
dren, chatted with the mother about domestic details; 
the father pressed refreshment on me, received me as 
best he could . . . Nothing made me hesitate .... 
and I left after giving the mother some ribbons and 
the children sweets. On my returning home I was in 
such a state that I had to ask Elvire for relief. .... 
When I got home I was in an indescribable condition; 
it seemed as though all disorders and vices had combined 
together to come and debauch my heart, I felt as though 
I were in a sort of drunkenness, a sort of madness : there 
was nothing I wouldn't have done, no sort of vice with 
which I would not have soiled myself. I was in despair 
that I had affected so small a portion of humanity; I 
would have liked the whole of Nature to have felt the 
effects of my influence. I threw myself naked on a 
sopha in one of my boudoirs and ordered Elvire to bring 
all my men to me and to let them do what they liked, 
provided they cursed me and treated me like a whore. 

And I was happy; the more I wallowed in 

filth and infamy, the more my mind was fired and the 

more my delirium increased 

"Returning to my boudoir we saw the sky lit up. 
'Oh, madame,' said Elvire, opening a window, look, 
look! There's a fire ... a fire where we were this 

morning.' I almost fainted 'Let us go out,' 

I said to her, 'I think I hear cries, let us go and enjoy 
the delicious spectacle. It is my doing, Elvire, my doing. 
I must see everything, hear everything, nothing must 
escape me.' We went out with our hair flowing, our 
dresses disordered, intoxicated; we seemed like two 



bacchantes. At twenty yards from this scene of horror, 
hidden behind a low mound which prevented us being 
seen without hiding anything from us, I fell again into 
the arms of Elvire who was almost as moved as I was. 
Illuminated by the murderous flames which my ferocity 
had kindled, hearing the shrill cries of misery and 
despair which my lust called forth I was the happiest of 

"At last we went to see the details of my crime. I 
was sorry to see that two of my victims had escaped; I 
recognised the other corpses and turned them over with 
my feet. 'All these people were living this morning,' 
I said to myself, 'I have destroyed them all in a few 
hours for my pleasure . . . and so that is what murder 
is: a little matter disorganised, a few combinations 
changed, some atoms broken and returned to Nature's 
crucible from whence they will return in a few days in 
another form; where is the evil in that? Are women or 
children more precious to Nature than flies or worms? 
If I take life from the one, I give it to the other; where 
is the crime in what I do?' This little revolt of my head 
against my feelings caused me another strong sen- 
sation If I had been alone I don't know where 

my madness would have carried me. Like the negroes 
I might have devoured my victims. They were all 
heaped there . . . only the father and one of the 
children had escaped; the mother and the seven others 
were under my eyes ; and I said to myself as I looked at 
them, touched them even ... 'It is / who have just 
committed these murders, it is my work and mine alone? 
No traces were left of the house ; one could hardly guess 
where it had stood. 

"Will you believe me, my friends, that when I told 
Clairwil what I had done she told me that I had only 



played at crime and had committed several grave mis- 

"'First of all,' she said .... * you behaved stupidly, 
and if anyone had come you would have given yourself 

away Secondly you did the thing in a small 

way, only setting fire to a cottage when there are big 

villages just by and you are left with the 

unpleasant remorse of having been able to do more and 

not having done it; and even considering what 

you did do there is still another big mistake. I would 
have had Des Granges prosecuted. He was in the position 

to be prosecuted as incendiary When a fire 

starts in the house of one of the lower orders on your 
land you have a right to have the case looked into by the 
local magistrates to be sure that he isn't guilty. How 
do you know that that man didn't want to get rid of his 
wife and children to go and cadge elsewhere? As soon 
as his back was turned you should have had him arrested 
as a fugitive and an incendiary and given him up to 
justice. With a few pounds you could find witnesses, 
Elvire herself would have been of use; she could bear 
witness that in the morning she had seen the man wan- 
dering in his attic without any purpose; that she had 
asked him about it and he hadn't been able to reply; 
and in eight days you would have been given the pleasure 
of seeing this man burned at your door." 4 

This typical passage is interesting for many reasons; 
it is even more revolting than most in its very probability; 
it is as revolting as the burning of the Reichstag in 
Berlin, on February 27th, I933> to which it has such a 
striking resemblance. (I must apologise for the constant 
references to Nazi Germany, but its history in all its 
details is so similar to the conditions de Sade describes 
that it almost seems as though one were reading the 



plot of an unknown novel of his, and the apt comparisons 
spring spontaneously.) 

In this incident can be seen all the typical features of 
the destructive Sadism as described by this author and 
perpetrated by so many lesser men; its independence of 
and interdependence with sex; its continuous emphasis 
on the personal nature of the act; the preference given 
to the influence of personality on other people rather than 
on objects; and the desire for voluntary humiliation. It 
also contains the continual dilemma of the Sadistic hero 
the impossibility of real crime. "I have rationalised my 
fantasies too well," Clairwil complains. "It would have 
been a thousand times better if I had never done so; if 
I had left them in their envelope of crime they would at 
least have excited me, but the indifference my philosophy 
gives them prevents them touching me any more/' 5 
As Proust and Huysmans have both pointed out this is 
the final misery of evil. 

Torture, murder and arson are the most satisfying as 
they are the most complete acts of destructive Sadism; 
de Sade, who had seen the uncontrolled excesses of the 
nobles before the Revolution and of the masses during it 
knew to what lengths unfettered human nature can go; 
and consequently they form the chief diversions of the 
vile characters he writes about. But not the only ones; 
he also notes the pleasures to be got by frightening people 
by banging doors, or from making little girls cry, from 
scandal-mongering or from shocking people; "There is a 
petty triumph for one's amour propre in shocking people, 
which is not to be despised." 6 

De Sade considered that this human instinct, especially 
when deprived of direct satisfaction was the most dan- 
gerous of all anti-social forces ; to prevent its destructive 
forces from causing too much havoc he wanted it to be 



canalised into sexual activity. " There is not a single man 
who doesn't want to be a despot when he is excited .... 

he would like to be alone in the world any sort 

of equality would destroy the despotism he enjoys then; 
.... if he makes others suffer he tastes all the charms 
which a nervous individual feels in the exercise of his forces ; 
he dominates then, he is a tyrant; what a pleasure for his 
amour propre ! " 7 " I would like women to employ active 
flagellation, by which means cruel men get rid of their 
ferocity. A few do, I know, but not as many as I should 
like. Society would profit by means of this issue given 
to female cruelty; for if they cannot be cruel in this way 
they are in another and spread their poison in the world 
and drive their husbands and children to distraction. . . . 
The other means by which they could calm their passions 
are dangerous/' 8 

It was for this reason as a sort of social insurance 
that de Sade wished for the universal brothels and for the 
visitors to find therein "the most complete subordination 
with the right to punish arbitrarily, under the eyes of the 
guardians, any disobedience/' It would be interesting 
to find out whether such a policy would have the desired 

It was for a similar reason that he proposed the adoption 
of cruel spectacles like bullfights, gladiators, boxing and 
wrestling. "People would be frightened at first glance 
I realise, at the project of such inhuman sports. But 
can you doubt that they would soon be as popular as your 
balls and comedies ? Can you doubt that your fine ladies 
with their nerves and their vapours would not come to 
dissipate them at these popular massacres ? The, Porcias 
and Cornelias wept at the tragedies of Sophocles and yet 
went just as readily to the excitements of the Roman 
Circus Such spectacles worthy of a great nation 



would only be revolting for us because our eyes are not 
accustomed to them ; perhaps one would shudder at the 
former (the tragedies); one would crush one another to 
be present at the latter. Aren't our public places crowded 
every time a judicial murder takes place? (What is very 
strange is that it is mostly women; they have then more 
leaning to cruelty than we, and that because their organisa- 
tion is more sensitive. That is what fools don't under- 
stand.) It would be exactly the same case here. We 
would be consistent indeed to take objection to such 
things, while we allow so many secret atrocities. And 
who knows if, by thus giving issue to human cruelty, 
we wouldn't dry up at the source their mysterious crimes ? 
The celebrated Marechal de Retz would perhaps not 
have murdered four or five hundred children, if there had 
been spectacles where his lust could have found satis- 
faction. . . ." 9 It was probably with the same intention 
that he drew up a plan for a spectacle of gladiators. This 
meeting-ground of the catharsis of Aristotle and the 
sublimation of Freud is curious. 

From the moment when he started his analysis of 
human behaviour de Sade stressed this desire for domina- 
tion, which if it does not find an outlet sexually will 
create one elsewhere; in the 120 Journees he makes his 
characters speak of "the importance of despotism in the 
pleasures we enjoy," "the unhappy perversion which 
makes us take pleasure in the misfortunes we cause others ' ' ; 
in the castle where the orgies take place the sight of the 
instruments of torture alone was sufficient to maintain 
"the subordination so essential in such cases, subordina- 
tion from which derives nearly all the pleasures of the 
persecutors." 10 And in Justine the murderous innkeeper 
asks, "What is crime? It is an action which subordinates 
men to us and raises us infallibly above them; it is the 



action which makes us the master of others' lives and 
fortunes. . . ." n 

At this point, where the discussion of destructive 
Sadism leads into that of algolagnia it may be as well to 
remark that though de Sade practised the latter both 
actively and passively there is no reason whatsoever to 
suppose that he either practised or desired to practise 
the former; he described with an accuracy and a verve 
which is unequalled the mechanism of criminals, tyrants, 
oppressors and persecutors; but he was not therefore a 
criminal or a persecutor himself. He deliberately stated 
that such objective description was intended to be 
scientific; he claims that the portrayal of " Man's charac- 
ter, completely naked, furnishes all the necessary tints 
for the philosopher who cares to seize them, and after 
having seen him thus, one can surely divine the result of 
the spasms of his loathsome heart and fearful passions." 12 
His work, far from being a justification of crime is a 
horrified analysis and indictment of human nature 
similar to, but more dispassionate and at the same time 
more violent than Swift's. 

Algolagnia the intimate connexion of sex and pain 
is the meeting-place of the sexual and the constructive- 
destructive (Sadistic) instincts. From de Sade's analysis 
it would be incorrect to give either instinct the priority, 
to say that either was the cause of the other. All direct 
sexual manifestations can be considered as Sadistic acts; 
all creative and destructive manifestations are considered 
by the Viennese psycho-analysts to be of sexual origin. 
According to de Sade and to my mind correctly 
these two instincts are of potentially equal strength. 
The part played by cruelty in * normal ' sexual intercourse 
has been sufficiently dealt with by learned people who 
have made a study in such subjects, so that it is unneces- 



sary to recapitulate their findings about love-bites and 
similar acts. Of cruelty de Sade says, "Far from being a 
vice, it is the first sentiment that Nature impresses on us. 
The child breaks his rattle, bites his nurse's breast, kills 
his pets long before he reaches the age of reason. Cruelty 
is instinctive in animals, in whom the laws of Nature are 
far more obvious than in us, and in savages who are nearer 
to Nature than civilised people; it would therefore be 
absurd to claim that it is a result of depravity. . . . 
Cruelty is in Nature; we are all born with a portion of 
cruelty that only education modifies; but education is 
not natural ; it contravenes Nature as much as cultivation 

does trees cruelty is then nothing else than 

man's energy, uncorrupted by civilisation " 13 

He continues: "We generally distinguish two sorts of 
cruelty; that which is born from stupidity, which is 
never analysed and never reasoned about and likens the 

person with such a constitution to a wild beast 

and the other, which is the result of excessive sensitiveness 
of the organs, is only known to extremely delicate people, 
and the excesses which it carries them to are merely the 
refinements of their delicacy, too quickly disturbed by 
their excessive sensibility and which, to make their 
feelings more acute employs all the resources of cruelty. 
How few people conceive these distinctions . . . How 
few feel them! But they exist and are unquestionable/' 14 

It is possible that de Sade was describing himself in 
this last passage. There is no question that his sensibility 
was excessive; his extreme devotion to and appreciation 
of the arts would alone show that. And it was his 
excessive horror for even minor and usually unnoticed 
cruelties apart from sexual excitement which drove him 
to the sweeping condemnation of humanity in Justine 
and Juliette, and to the endless attacks on the Church and 



the State. The cynicism was a badly fitting protective 

His attempt to analyse algolagnia is for us to a great 
extent invalidated by his ideas of physics and anatomy; 
it is nevertheless I think of sufficient interest to give in 
some detail. Saint-Fond asks Noirceuil to explain how 
it is possible to obtain pleasure either by seeing others 
suffer or by suffering oneself. He replies as follows: 

"According to the definition of logic, 'Pain is merely 
a sentiment of aversion which the soul conceives for 
some movements contrary to the construction of the body 
it animates/ That is what Nicole says; he distinguished 
in man an airy substance which he called soul from the 
material substance which we call body. Since I do not 
admit this edification and only see in man a completely 
material animal I will say that pain is the result of the lack 
of connexion of foreign bodies with the organic molecules 
of which we are composed; so that instead of the atoms 
given out by these foreign bodies linking themselves 
with those of our nervous fluid, as they do in the com- 
motion of pleasure, they only present their rough sides 
and prick and repel those of our nervous fluid and 
never mingle with them. Yet, although the effects are 
repellent, they are always effects, so that whether pleasure 
or pain is presented to us there is always a certain com- 
motion of the nervous fluid. Well, what will prevent 
this commotion of pain, far stronger and more active 
than the other, eventually exciting in this fluid the same 
warmth which arises from the mingling of the atoms given 
off by the objects of pleasure ? And being moved for the 
sake of the emotion, what is to prevent me from getting 
accustomed by habit to be as satisfied by the emotion 
produced by the repellent as by the sympathetic atoms? 
Made blas by the effects of those which merely produce 



a simple sensation, why should I not accustom myself 
to receive the same pleasure from those whose effect 
is poignant ? Both emotions are received in the same place ; 
the only difference is that one is mild and the other violent; 
but for blas people isn't the latter far preferable to the 
former? Do not we see daily people who have accus- 
tomed their palate to an irritation which pleases them, 
beside others who could not for a moment support such 
irritation? Now is it not true (once my hypothesis is 
admitted) that it is the habit of man in his pleasures to 
try to move the objects which serve these pleasures in 
the same way as he himself is moved, and that these 
actions are what is called in the metaphysic of pleasure 
'the effects of his delicacy'? Then is it not simple that 
a man with an organisation such as we have described, 
by the same processes as ordinary people and by the same 
principles of delicacy imagines that he will cause emotion 
to his partner by the same means which affect him? 
He is acting in just the same way as others; I agree that 
the results are different but the original motives are the 
same .... both use on their partner the same means 
they themselves employ to procure pleasure. 

"'But,' replies to this the person moved by a brutal 
pleasure, 'that doesn't please me.' Very well; it remains 
to be seen whether I can compel you or not. If I cannot, 
go away and leave me; if on the contrary my money, 
my credit or my position give me either some authority 
over you or some certainty of quashing your complaints, 
endure all that it pleases me to impose upon you without 
saying a word, because I must have my pleasure and I 
cannot get it without tormenting you and seeing your 
tears flow. But in any case do not be astonished or blame 
me, because I am following the movement that Nature 
has placed in me, and by forcing you to share my hard 



and cruel pleasures, the only ones which can lift me to 
the summit of happiness, I am acting with the same 
principle as the effeminate lover who only knows the 
roses of a sentiment of which I only admit the thorns ; 
for in tormenting you I am doing the only thing which 
moves me, just as he does in making sad love to his 

4 * It is not pleasure which you want to make your partner 
feel, but impressions you want to produce; that of pain 
is far stronger than that of pleasure, and it is incontestable 
that it is better that the commotion produced on our 
nerves by this foreign spectacle should be produced by 

pain rather than by pleasure One wants to give 

one's nerves a violent commotion; one realises that that 
of pain will be far stronger than that of pleasure; one uses 
it and is satisfied. 

"'But,' a fool will object, * beauty softens the heart, is 
interesting; it is an invitation to mildness, to pardon; 
how can you resist the tears of a pretty girl who begs 
mercy from her executioner with joined hands?' But 
actually ... it is from this condition that the sort of 
libertine we are talking about gets his greatest pleasure; 
he would be very upset if he was working on an inanimate 
object which felt nothing; the objection is as absurd as 
if a man were to tell me one should never eat mutton, 
because the sheep is a mild animal. VThe passion of lust 
wishes to be served; it is exigent, tyrannous, it must be 
satisfied with the complete abstraction of any other con- 
sideration. Beauty, virtue, innocence, candour, poverty, 
none of these can serve as protection to the object we 
covet. ) ( On the contrary, beauty excites us more ; 
innocence, candour, virtue add further charms; poverty 
gives us our victim and makes it pliant; so that all these 
qualities only serve to inflame us the more and can only 

241 Q 


be regarded as further vehicles to our passions. There is 
here, moreover, a further barrier to break; there is the 
sort of pleasure which is got from sacrilege or the pro- 
fanation of objects offered to our worship. That beautiful 
girl is an object for the homage of others; by making her 
the object of my sharpest and cruellest passions I have 
the double pleasure of sacrificing to this passion a beautiful 
object and an object worthy of public esteem. Is it 
necessary to dally longer over this thought to feel the 
delirium it provokes? But one has not such an object 
to hand every day; yet one is accustomed to play at being 
a tyrant and would like to be always ; very well, one must 
learn to compensate oneself by other little pleasures; 
hard-heartedness towards unfortunates, the refusal to 
relieve them, the action of plunging them oneself into 
misfortune are in a way substitutes " 15 

This long speech, put into the mouth of a criminal 
has several interesting points. The most curious is that 
passive is supposed to precede active algolagnia. It is 
also interesting to observe the transition, very cunningly 
marked and developed, from active algolagnia to destruc- 
tive Sadism; when from direct sensual satisfaction Noir- 
ceuil passes to the consideration of the effect such an 
act would have on other people; until in the last paragraph 
he reaches completely sexless Sadistic satisfaction. 

I have already said that the conception of constructive- 
destructive Sadism is de Sade's most important con- 
tribution to psychology. It has also an extremely wide 
application. By admitting its existence together with 
that of sex we get an understandable explanation of 
a great deal of human behaviour and human misery. 
It will explain the firebug and the motiveless murderer; 
it will explain the nagging harshness and malicious 
scandal-mongering of wives and teachers, the cruelty of 



fathers, imperialists and revolutionaries. It will explain 
the horrible fact that whenever men get unrestrained 
power over their fellows whether in revolution or 
counter-revolution, in prisons in America, Guiana, 
Morocco, Poland, Hungary, Germany, or through their 
position among races they are allowed to believe inferior 
in the colonies, in Putumayo, in the Belgian Congo, in 
Polish Ukraine or among non-Aryans in Germany, or 
through position and wealth as in Cuba or the native 
Indian States, they will practise on their victims the most 
revolting tortures, and tortures which receive a greater 
or lesser, and usually greater sexual tinge. And not only 
does it explain these horrors, it suggests a possible 
solution ; if you can give to all people the education and 
opportunity for constructive Sadism, you may perhaps 
do away with the unnecessary miseries that human beings 
now delight in inflicting on their fellows. 




IT is necessary to consider de Sade in three different 
aspects to be able to pass any sort of judgment about 
him as a man, as a writer, and as a thinker. Of his 
life we know too little to be able without presumption 
to make any final pronouncement; his chief qualities 
seem to have been great charm, courage, a quick temper, 
kindness, greed, very strong idealism coupled with a 
sensibility that was harrowed by the smallest attempts 
against the individuality of anyone, an adventurous and 
extremely highly developed erotic temperament and a 
passionate love of justice. It was these last two qualities 
which got him into trouble, trouble completely out of 
proportion with any offence. All the harm that has ever 
been recorded against him is that he made a few women 
unwell or uncomfortable for a few days; I do not wish 
to whitewash him, but twenty-seven years' imprisonment 
and a " bitch of a life" as his valet called it are so com- 
pletely out of proportion to his offences that it has taken 
away for ever from posterity the right to condemn. He 
treated his wife, who loved and helped him according 
to her lights, very shabbily; but with good reason he 
considered her the indirect cause of all his misfortunes. 
The phrenologists came nearer the truth than they usually 
do when they said that his skull showed the usual mixtures 
of vices and virtues, of benevolence and crime but that 
the bumps of tenderness and love of children were 
developed to an almost unparalleled degree. 

As a writer de Sade suffered from three serious faults, 
too great a facility, excessive prolixity, and the inability 



to shorten his work. A person who can write more than 
adequately in all styles will write very well in none. 
But his prolixity was his chief bane; he would develop, 
re-develop and expand the same themes again and again 
in his works ; and at every turn he would add to his books 
till they swelled to prodigious size. Too rarely he would 
cut out an incident. That is the chief reason why, 
despite their unparalleled sombre grandeur, his works 
are frequently boring, and also perhaps the cause why 
his rough sketches are from the literary point of view 
the most satisfying of his works. 

Of his width of interest and great originality as a 
thinker I hope that this book is sufficient evidence. As 
much as any man he could adopt the device from 
Terence Nihil humani a me alienum puto. 


A speculation which has often exercised me is what de 
Sade would be and do to-day, were he alive and at the 
height of his power. The influence of judeo-Christianity, 
though still sufficiently sinister, is now on the defensive; 
for an ever-growing number of people and in nearly all 
branches of knowledge it has disappeared as a force to be 
reckoned with; he would no longer need to expend so 
much vitality and energy on this attack. The uncharted 
lands of scientific socialism, psychology and the study 
of sex which he first explored are now well-developed 
and built over; indeed in some parts they resemble slums. 
Since his interests were entirely concerned with man as 
an individual and as a social being he would probably 
still continue the study of these three subjects, no longer 
outlawed and taboo. The only living person I can think 
of who at all resembles him in his width of interest 
and I mean this as a compliment to both people is 



Havelock Ellis; but as far as I know the latter has never 
been much occupied with politics. 

I cannot decide whether the communism of Lenin and 
Stalin would be sympathetic to him. From the political 
point of view it is attempting to accomplish nearly a. 
his favourite ideas; and it has in many respects made the 
life of the Soviet citizen freer from unnecessary trouble 
and worry than any other system. I do not know if he 
would consider these gains sufficient to compensate the 
almost complete sinking of individuality in the State. 

What is quite certain is that it would still be his duty 
to write Justine and Juliette. The century and a half 
which have passed since their first writing have more 
than justified his gloomiest prognostications; Fate, who 
always treated him with high irony, was never more 
pointed than when she marked the centenary of his 
death with the outbreak of the European war. It would 
no longer be necessary for him to rake classical literature 
for examples of gratuitous cruelty and oppression; the 
daily Press would furnish him with sufficient examples. 
The two following cuttings, taken at hazard from a num- 
ber which have occurred while I have been writing this 
book, give the outlines of complete plots for further 
Sadistic works. The first is from the Week-End Review 
of August 1 9th, 1933, the second from Reynold's of an 
illegible date later in the same month. 

"A great part of German post-war political history has been 
darkened by the shadows of these men, who, shrinking from no 
crime whatsoever, are almost all pathological cases, sadists, drug- 
addicts, homosexuals. One of them is Edmund Heines, leader of 
the Silesian S.A., who was sentenced to death for murder in 
Stettin. . . Heines organised the sensational bomb outrages in 
Silesia in July, 1932, and the bestial murder at Potempa, where a 
worker was tortured to death before his wife's eyes. Another is 



Ober-Leutnant Schultz, leader of the Berlin S.A., former com- 
mander of the 'Black Reichswehr,' proved by the German courts 
to have been responsible for at least half-a-dozen murders, who was 
in prison for a long time. A third is Captain von Killinger, leader 
of the S.A., in Saxony, who participated in the murders of Erz- 
berger and Rathenau, and is famous for his book Lights and Serious 
Sidelights on the Putsch in which he describes in unprintable (sic) 
terms how he ordered the whipping of a young girl. To the same 
circle belong the S.A. leader, Graf Helldorf, Chief of Staff of the 
S. A., in Munich, Roehm (renowned for his homosexual affairs with 
children of tender years) and others, including till recently the 

Bavarian S.A. leader George Bell Bell later came into 

conflict with the remaining accomplices (of the burning of the 
Reichstag), fled to Austria, and was murdered there by pursuing 
agents sent by Heines." 

The second cutting refers to the Maharajah of Patiala. 

"This document, on the basis of an ex-parte statement made by 
witnesses, alleged that the Maharajah put pressure, tantamount to 
kidnapping, on the wives and girls of poor families to induce them 
to enter his harem. 

Husbands and fathers who protested were imprisoned and in some 
cases tortured. 

The Maharajah and his European friends hunted over growing 
crops and prohibited the destruction of wild animals, so that two- 
thirds of the country's agricultural produce was wasted. 

Following the publication of the indictment a statement was 
issued by the Government of Patiala on April 14, 1930, declaring 
that the charges were so serious that they would not be allowed to 
pass unchallenged, and that steps would be taken to vindicate the 
Maharajah's honour at an early date. 

On his visits to London the Maharajah has always spent money 
lavishly on luxury, contrasting deeply with the dire poverty of his 
dominion, where masses of people say they are "too poor to marry." 

Out of curiosity I started making a collection 
of pertinent cuttings from the very unsensational one 
daily and four weekly papers I receive, but within a very 
short time the collection became too unwieldy, even 



though I excluded crimes against which a legal charge 
was made. Industrial Sadism alone, particularly, during 
this period, in America, reached orgiastic heights. The 
chief difference since de Sade's time is firstly the scale 
of operations, and secondly that his millionaires excused 
the means by which they got their fortunes by employing 
their loot for their pleasures, whereas ours accumulate 
for the sake of accumulation. It is perhaps significant 
that most of our millionaires are Protestant, 

More than ever it would to-day be de Sade's duty to 
bring his black indictment against man and against 
society, and to-day, as earlier, the only answer he would 
get would be persecution, and the suppression and 
destruction of his works. 




I do not propose to give a complete bibliography of the various 
editions and unpublished manuscripts of de Sade as that has already 
been very adequately done in the three standard reference books 
about him: 

Eugene Dtihren (Ivan Bloch): 

Der Marquis de Sade unde Seine Zeit: Le Marquis 
de Sade et son Temps. (Harsdorf, 1901, in French and 
German.) Neue Forschungen uber dem Marquis de 
Sade. (Harsdorf, 1904, in German only.) 

Guillaume Apollinaire: 

L'GEuvre du Marquis de Sade. (Bibliothdque des 
Curieux, Collection Les Maitres d' Amour, Paris, 1909.) 
Besides a very good introduction and bibliography this 
volume contains the only available selection of de Sade's 
work. Its quality is hampered by the tone of the series 
in which it appeared but it contains good examples, and 
particularly the very important pamphlet Franfais, 
encore un effort si vous voulez etre Republicains! in full. 

C. R. Dawes: 

The Marquis de Sade. (Holden, London, 1927.) 

The numerous other works about him contain little that is true or 
relevant which are not contained in these three. 

The following list comprises, as far as I know, all of de Sade's 
published work. I have given it as far as I can ascertain in the 
order in which it was written. The capital letters indicate the 
editions I have used, so that references may be checked. It will 
be seen that there are a few works I have not been able to trace. 
The British Museum contains some of his books, but uncatalogued 
and under bond and seals which, I am told, require the presence of 
the Archbishop of Canterbury and two other trustees to be loosed. 


1. Plot of play Zelonide. Written 1782. Not intended to be 
published. The play, under the title Sophie et Desfrancs was 
unanimously accepted by the Comedie Fran?aise in 1790 but never 
TJURE,No. i, MARCH, 1933. 

2. Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond. Written 1782. 

3. Les 1 20 Journees de Sodome ou UEcole du Libertinage, 
written August and September, 1785. First published by Eugene 

4. Les Infortunes de la Vertu the first version of Justine 
written in June and July 1787, and not intended for publication. 

5. Justine, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu> written 1788, first 
published 1791. Two vols. 

6. Contes et Fabliaux d y un Troubadour Provencal du XVIII- 
erne Siecle. Fifty stories written before October, 1788. Of these 
eleven were published in his lifetime under the title Les Crimes 
de I* Amour, a twelfth by Anatole France in 1881, and twenty- five 
CONTES ET FABLIAUX, 1927. I have also read ERNES- 
TINE and La Double Epreuve (CABINET DU LIVRE 1926), 
Juliette et Raunai in LES CRIMES DE L'AMOUR, 
BRUXELLES, GAY ET DOUCE 1881, and Miss Henriette 
Stralson in the work edited by Apollinaire quoted above. 

7. Aline et Valcour ou le Roman Philosophique. Written 1788, 
first published 1792. PUBLISHED BY J. J. GAY, 
BRUXELLES 1883, four vols. 

8. Oxtiern ou le Malheur du Libertinage play acted in 1791, 
published 1801. 

9. Discours prononct d la fete decernte par la Section des Piques 
aux manes de Marat et Le Pelletier, 1793. QUOTED BY 



I o. Petition de la section des Piques aux representants du peuple 

1 1 . Idee sur le mode de la sanction des lois. 1 795 ? QUOTED 

12. Juliette ou les Prosperites du Vice. Written 1790?- 1796? 
r irst published 1796, definitive edition 1797. My copy is an 
JN DAT ABLE REPRINT, shown by the presence of the 
tuthor's name on the frontispiece, but the pagination is the same 
LS the definitive edition. Six vols. 

13. La Philosophic dans le Boudoir. First edition 1795. My 
IEPRINT of two vols. in-i6, of 206 and 247 pages. In Vol. I, 
[Dialogue I starts p. 9, Dialogue II p. 27, Dialogue III p. 30, and 
Dialogue IV p. 188; Vol. II opens with Dialogue V (the pam- 
)hlet occupying pp. 83-179), Dialogue VI starts p. 202, and 
Dialogue VII p. 209. 

14. La Nouvelle Justine. Written and published 1797. 
My copy is, if not the first, a VERY EARLY EDITION. The 
>agination is the same as the definitive edition. Four vols. 

1 5. Idee sur les Romans. Published as preface to Les Crimes de 
"Amour. 1 800. This and the following pamphlet are reprinted in 
8RUXELLES, 1881. 

1 6. UAuteur des Crimes de U Amour d Villeterque y folliculaire. 
Written and published early in 1801. 

17. Zolot et ses Deux Acolytes, ou quelques decades de la Vie de 
Trots Jolies Femmes. Written and published autumn 1 800. My 

1 8. Couplets chant is A Son Eminence le Cardinal Maury, le 
3 octobre 1 8 1 2, <J la maison de Santepres de Charenton. QUOTED 

19. La Marquise de Gange. Published 1813. (Except that 
this novel concerns a notorious law-case of the beginning of the 
seventeenth century, I have been able to find out nothing about it. 
I do not know if it is de Sade's work or not.) 

257 R 


The correspondence of de Sade was collected and edited by Paul 
Bourdin in 1929, that of his wife by Paul Ginisty in 1901. 

The preponderating place in the references of Juliette and Aline 
et Valcour is due partly to the wider scope of these works, and partly 
to the fact that they were the first I annotated. De Sade repeats 
himself considerably. 



PREFACE (pp. 1115) 

1. Juliette, III, 97 

2. Aline et Valcour, I, xiii 

CHAPTER I. LIFE (pp. 2570) 

1. Aline et Valcour, I, 25 

2. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 187 

3. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 180 

4. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 166 

5. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 183 

6. Aline et Valcour, IV, 220-221 

7. Aline et Valcour, I, 42 

8. Juliette, IV, 297 

9. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 213 

10. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, II, 105 

11. Zoloe et ses deux Acolytes, 123 


1. Les Crimes de F Amour, 114 (see bibliography) 

2. Les Crimes de P Amour, 119 

3. Les Crimes de P Amour, 123 

4. Les Crimes de P Amour, 134 

5. Les Crimes de TAmour, 143 

6. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 105 

7. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 141 

8. 120 Journees de Sodome, 75 

9. 1 20 Journees de Sodome, first paragraph 

10. 1 20 Journees de Sodome, 35 

11. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 172 

12. 1 20 Journees de Sodome, 196 

13. 120 Journees de Sodome, 10 

14. 120 Journees de Sodome, 51 



15. 120 Journees de Sodome, 75 

1 6. Juliette, III, 98 

17. Les Crimes de 1' Amour, 47 


1. Facts derived from the preface by Maurice Solovine to 

L'Homme Machine in the collection Les Chefs d'OEuvre 

2. La Nouvelle Justine, II, 28 

3. Juliette, I, 55-59 

4. Juliette, I, 78-79 

5. Juliette, I, 80 

6. Juliette, I, 81 

7. Juliette, IV, 241 

8. Juliette, III, 138-141 

9. Aline et Valcour, IV, 109 


1. Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond, 47 

2. La Nouvelle Justine, I, 174 

3. Juliette, IV, 269-271 

4. Juliette, II, 1 88 

5. Juliette, V, 243 

6. Juliette, I, 82 

7. Juliette, III, 267 and Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 98 

8. Juliette, I, 83 

9. Juliette, II, 289-337 
10. Aline et Valcour, III, 71 

n. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 240 

1 2. Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond, sub fin. 1 20 Journees 

de Sodome, 75; Aline et Valcour, III, 258; La Nouvelle 
Justine, IV, 63 

13. Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribond, 56; Juliette, I, 90 

14. Juliette, IV, 306-310 

15. Aline et Valcour, II, 61 

1 6. Juliette, I, 17 

17. Philosophie dans le Boudoir, I, 15 

1 8. Aline et Valcour, II, 69 



19. Juliette, VI, 212 

20. Juliette, I, 203 

21. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 4-6 


1. Aline et Valcour, II, 190; Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 123; 

Infortunes de la Vertu, 35; Juliette, V, 242 

2. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 277-290 

3. Aline et Valcour, III, 211 

4. Juliette, I, 210 

5. Juliette, I, 204-207 

6. Juliette, III, 126-131 

7. Juliette, II, 199 

8. Juliette, IV, 227 

9. Juliette, I, 368 

10. Aline et Valcour, IV, 226 

11. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 226 

12. Juliette, II, 190 

1 3 . Infortunes de la Vertu, 5 2 

14. Aline et Valcour, II, 89 

15. Aline et Valcour, II, 126 

16. Aline et Valcour, II, 188 

17. Juliette, IV, 7 

1 8. Crimes de P Amour, 25 

19. Aline et Valcour, III, 413 

20. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 164 

21. La Nouvelle Justine, I, 104 

22. Juliette, V, 277 

23. Aline et Valcour, II, 84 

24. Aline et Valcour, III, 119-124 

25. Ernestine, 5 

26. Aline et Valcour, II, 202 and 244 

27. Juliette, I, 183 

28. Juliette, III, 5 

29. 120 Journees, 193; see also Juliette, I, 212 

30. Juliette, II, 123-125 

31. Juliette, II, 130 

32. Philosophic dans le boudoir, I, 79 



33. Presentiments Juliette, VI, 51, 108; La Nouvelle Justine, II, 

351; Clairvoyance Juliette, III, 220; (La Durand is psychic) 
dowsing Juliette, VI, 143; Phantasms of the living in the 
stories Le Serpent and Le Revenant in Historiettes, Contes et 

34. La Nouvelle Justine, I, 75, v. Infortunes de la Vertu, 35 

35. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 308 

36. Juliette, I, 317 

37. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 181-184 

38. Aline et Valcour, IV, 5 

39. Aline et Valcour, II, 255 

40. Infortunes de la Vertu, 30; Nouvelle Justine, I, 68 

41. Aline et Valcour, II, 249 

42. Juliette, IV, 238 

43. Juliette, IV, 238 

44. Aline et Valcour, II, 8 1 

45. Infortunes de la Vertu, 174 

46. Aline et Valcour, I, 146 

47. Juliette, I, 218 

48. Aline et Valcour, IV, 6 

49. Juliette, IV, 8 

50. Aline et Valcour, III, 412 

51. Aline et Valcour, II, 247 

52. Aline et Valcour, II, 250 

53. Aline et Valcour, II, 238-241 

54. Aline et Valcour, II, 234 and Nouvelle Justine, I, 104 

55. Aline et Valcour, II, 261 

56. Aline et Valcour, II, 262 

57. Aline et Valcour, 11,235 

58. Aline et Valcour, II, 276 

59. Aline et Valcour, II, 276 

60. Aline et Valcour, II, 230-280 

61. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 174 

62. Aline et Valcour, II, 246-259 

63. Dialogue entre un prfitre et un moribond, 52 

64. Aline et Valcour, II, 205 

65. Juliette, V, 119 

66. Juliette, V, 115-122 

67. Aline et Valcour, II, 220; Juliette, I, 118-120; Philosophic dans 

le boudoir, I, 88 



68. Juliette, I, 132-133, Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 131 

69. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 243 

70. Aline et Valcour, II, 88, Juliette, VI, 217 

71. Aline et Valcour, II, 49 

72. Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux, 282 

73. Philosophic dans le boudoir, I, 88; Aline et Valcour, II, 206 

74. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 170 

75. Aline et Valcour, II, 57-157 

(pp. 156199) 

1. Aline et Valcour, II, 164-320 

2. Aline et Valcour, III, 245-250 

3. Juliette, IV, 234-242 

4. Juliette, VI, 212 

5 . Aline et Valcour, IV, 1 1 5 

6. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 83-179 


1. Juliette, I, in 

2. Aline et Valcour, II, 56 

3. Juliette, IV, 73 

4. Philosophic dans le boudoir, I, 7 

5. Juliette, II, 178 

6. 120 Journees de Sodome, 91, ff 

7. Aline et Valcour, III, 139-140 

8. La Nouvelle Justine, III, 309 

9. Juliette, I, 114 

10. La Nouvelle Justine, II, 212 

11. 1 20 Journees de Sodome, 102 and 142 

12. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 192 

13. Juliette, I, 201 

14. Juliette, IV, 130 

15. La Nouvelle Justine, III, 292 

1 6. Philosophic dans le boudoir, II, 34-37 

17. 120 Journees de Sodome, 154 and 169 

1 8. 120 Journees de Sodome, passim 

19. Juliette, VI, 94 

20. Juliette, II, 96, see also La Nouvelle Justine, II, 209, 225 

21. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 120 



22. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 126-127 

23. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 104 

24. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 93 

25. Juliette, V, 82 

26. Juliette, I, 260 

27. Juliette, I, 361 

28. Juliette, IV, 18 

29. Aline et Valcour, IV, 290 

30. 120 Journees de Sodome, 193 

31. Juliette, III, 171-172 

32. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 54-56 

33. Juliette, II, 79-82 


1. Aline et Valcour, IV, 149 

2. Infortunes de la Vertu, 154 

3. Juliette, VI, 294-295 

4. Juliette, III, 4-16 

5. Juliette, IV, 199 

6. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 170 

7. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, II, 192 

8. Philosophic dans le Boudoir, I, 182 

9. La Nouvelle Justine, IV, 288-290 

10. 120 Journees de Sodome, 5, 14, 58 

11. La Nouvelle Justine, III, 172 

12. Juliette, VI, 197 

13. Philosophic, dans le Boudoir, I, 175-176 

14. Philosophic dans le boudoir, I, 178-179 

15. Juliette, II, 94-102. See also La Nouvelle Justine, II, 213-220,