The Marquis de Sade
The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer
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Prison Letters : Archive : July 1777
|Sade to his wife.
I do not doubt that your mother is going to perpetrate yet another petty
treachery in using the magistrates to convince me that my freedom can come
only from complete acquiescence on my part to these ruinous whims that you
well know. What a triumph for her to obtain by threats and force [proxy power
over Sade's revenues] what she could have had and what I would have considered
a duty to give her, if it were in my power, as the first token of my gratitude!
This woman who has so much cleverness, as the abbé de Sade says, is
then unaware of the fact that whatever one signs in prison is not worth the
paper it is written on, and that the recantation that one is free to make
upon one's release will only end by disappointing those who are so badly
disposed as to demand it, and dishonor to those who are charged with obtaining
it. How much better it would have been for her to please without conditions,
and in that way oblige me to do everything without constraint. But this involves
an elegance of sensibility that she is not equipped to understand: these
words are not found in her dictionary.
Be that as it may, the respect that I have for the negotiator she misuses
[probably the abbé Amblet] will make me do all that I can; but it
will be quite likely that all that I could do will not be all that she asks.
And it is possible that you could be utterly ignorant of some of what I have
done in this regard. Finally, Madame, I ask you once and for all to be convinced
that I will not be the dupe of these ridiculous and imbecilic maneuvers,
lies, and tricks which they use against me, nor of you and your relatives
and of the charming allies of your relatives.
I have written two letters in order to facilitate the scholarly research
of the examiners, abbreviators, commentators, editors of my style [i.e.,
the prison censors]. By this means, they will be able to pick and choose.
Nothing can convey to you all what I have just suffered to see the positive
hope frustrated that I had of leaving here at the end of June; surely, it
has been long enough! Good God, what is going to become of me? By their dreadful
conduct, do they now want to bury me here for life? For the last time, listen
to me, because if you do not satisfy me on this matter, I swear to you that
you will never hear a word from me again and that when I leave here I will
leave you forever. So answer me clearly: a new number 3 placed in the third
letter in invisible ink, dated May 23, does it signify something, yes or
no? [This is an early example of Sade's poring over letters or events, current
or in the past, in an attempt to discover clues or "signals," as he called
them, that he believed would reveal the date of his release.] If it signifies
something, tell me at the end of your letter in invisible ink that I am a
very clever fellow, and if it does not mean anything, tell me that I am crazy.
There you have a cryptic way and a way perfectly suited to your character
of enlightening me about what I ask and which certainly will not compromise
you in any way. Rest assured that if you tell me, I will not breathe a word
of it and I will never even appear upset as if you had told me something,
so as not to compromise you.
Adieu, comfort me with what I ask of you; I have much need of it after all
that I have been suffering here these days. And do not try to tell me that
you have not received this letter, because you get all of them, and when
you say that, it is because you do not want to respond to what it contained.
Besides, I write this so idiotically in black and white that you surely will
If you do what I ask, my dear love, I will be grateful to you.
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