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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : The Prison Letters : Archive : July 1777
Sade to his wife.
July 1777

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 get it.

If you do what I ask, my dear love, I will be grateful to you.

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Sade was incarcerated for 14 years without trial before being freed by the French Revolution. In that time he wrote hundreds of letters to his wife. Receive a new letter every week never before translated into English. Click here to subscribe.

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