Long reduced to the status of pornographic writer and pervert, Sade is today considered an illustrious figure in French literary heritage. Although raised and educated among the Jesuits at the College of the Royal Cavalry, Sade spent much of his life in prison, where he died.
An old Provencal nobility
Donatien Alphonse François de Sade was born in Paris in 1740, into a family of very old Provencal nobility. Between the ages of 4 and 10, his education was entrusted to his uncle, Father Jacques-François de Sade, at the Château de Saumane in the Luberon.
Sade was thirty years old when he squandered the dowry and income of his wife, Renée-Pélagie Cordier de Launay, married in 1763.
After having repaired his forty-two-room Lacoste castle, which was in bad condition, he gave free rein to his passion for comedy by building a theater and hiring actors. He sends invitations to the nobility of the surroundings for parties and theatrical performances of which he is the stage manager and stage master. We can consider that it was the first theater festival in history.
During this first stay in Lacoste Moussu lou Marquès also earns the nickname of pistachio – petticoat – when we learn that the young person who accompanies him is not his wife but a theater actress answering to the name of Beauvoisin.
After a first experience of prison, due to particularly perverse sexual practices, the young marquis was forced in 1771 to take refuge in the Château de Lacoste with his wife, who then facilitated his domestic misunderstandings.
They lead a life of excess and debauchery there which obliges them to recruit their servants outside the region because, as the Marquis said “in the Luberon and the surrounding area, I am now known as the white wolf”.
In 1772, following a scandal during a trip to Marseille (read box), Sade is the subject of a death sentence in absentia pronounced by the Parliament of Provence.
Works not just erotic
He leaves France for Italy. On his return, the Parliament of Provence commuted the death sentence to a lighter sentence, demanding of the marquis that he amends. Sade therefore resides in Lacoste until 1778, continuing his orgies there. A lettre de cachet puts an end to his relative tranquility and he is imprisoned in Vincennes, then in the Bastille.
He played a certain role at the beginning of revolutionary events but was soon interned at the Charenton hospice, a lunatic asylum, where he died in 1814. This enigmatic character entirely conceived by a perversity, developed in his works, which do not make up not just erotic aspects, theories of radical and desperate atheism. Indeed, behind the erotic and amoral pen of this debauchery hides “fierce criticism” of the company of the Ancien Régime.
> Source: Illustrated Dictionary of Provence.
The Marseille scandal
It is with a complaint to the senechaussee of the city, filed by a certain Marguerite Coste, that this hallucinating affair begins. The two accused are the Marquis de Sade and his valet Lafleur. While they arrive from Lacoste, in Vaucluse, they are accused of having the four prostitutes recruited, of having drugged, but above all of having constraints to an orgy.
We are not at the origin of the word “sadism” for no reason. The most surprising thing is that it seems that it was the marquis or his valet who demanded to undergo the whip, a swift adorned with curved pins. The poor girl forced into this exercise fainted before the bloody buttocks of the Marquis, who counted the blows by notches with her pocket knife on the mantelpiece. “240 blows”, they say.
Several practices followed that the law and morale condemned so well that after this memorable evening, the authorities decided to go and arrest them in his castle in Lacoste. But the house is empty and their property is seized. The Marquis set sail for Italy with his wife’s sister, Anne-Prospère, a pretty 21-year-old canoness who had left a convent.
On September 11, 1772, Sade was sentenced to death. But on the run, it was in effigy that he was executed on September 12 in the Place des Prêcheurs.