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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : The Prison Letters : Archive : March 22, 1779
Sade to his wife.
[March 22, 1779]

Yesterday night I wrote a long letter to Milli Rousset whose purpose, my dear love, is to offer her my farewells...since she is leaving. That was the little secret that she did not want you (as you profess) to allow you to see in her letter. I leave you to judge the folly of that, and I rely on your prudence and on your friendship both for me and for her to put a halt to this ridiculous plan. Besides, it all too clearly shows me how much my detention is likely to be long, because, if it were only a matter of a few months, she would honor the promise she made to me to wait for me. As regards signals, I believe it is impossible to send a clearer one than that, and I assure you that if this is not just some joke, as I prefer to hope, and if she indeed departs, I would be thrown into a profound despair, being both deeply sorry to lose her, and quite certain, then, that my sufferings have no end at all. I beg you to clarify this for me, because until then I am holding in abeyance both my usual way of thinking as well as my anguish. I expect it in your very next letter, and in the meantime, I am going to answer what you just wrote to me, line by line, following my usual practice.

I am really happy that you are putting on some weight and that my diet suits you so well. Rest assured that it is quite special and that I look forward to use it myself as soon as I get out of here.

M. Le Noir has in no way increased my promenades. It was pointless to have erased the line, "he seemed surprised that you were confined," because M. Le Noir knows about this as well as I, and because M. le commandant would not confine me on his own if he did not have an order for it; he never does anything on his own. Therefore, if M. Le Noir seemed surprised to you, etc., it's that he was just putting on an act for your benefit. [. . .]

The only signals that give me pause are those with clear and obvious signs, quite weighty and quite broad, like that of the Almanac that she [Mlle de Rousset] gave me for New Year's, for example... A lovely New Year's gift, /with an addition/. To wit, the little mirror, shattered into a thousand pieces, unquestionably and positively means that the new year will not be happy for me, there being nothing so unlucky as broken mirrors. That is what I call a very clear signal. Oh! that sort, I understand... But as to the others, in truth, I don't even bother with them. I do not know how /to read it/, Milli Rousset tells me, in her letter... Ask her for me what must be done to know how to read it: is it necessary to turn the paper cross-wise, or upside down? Let her at least tell me so /I learn how to read it/! Would she have me understand by that that I do not know how to read into /the marks, the periods, commas, lines, ----/, etc., with which, imitating you, she has learned to stuff her letters? If that is what she means, she is right to claim that I do not know how to read. And in that case, she can be certain that were she to write to me in that manner for a hundred years, I would be none the wiser, because I will not go to school over it. She is wrong, she adds, to have told me the truth two times when I asked for it but once... So ask her for me, I beg you, to which of the two phrases that I transcribed yesterday is consigned this illustrious truth, because since one says white and the other black, it is best that I know which is the one that speaks the truth, so that by accommodating myself to it, I will bother you no more over this matter... /The truth!/ I am really astonished that she dares insist that she has told me the truth! Does she even know it, this truth, that I am asking for? It is brief, it is quick; it is pointless to drown it in a sea of drivel about the next world. You must write me in one single line: /You will be released the ---- of the month of ---- in the year of ---- at ---- o'clock in the morning or the evening/. What I am asking for, as you see, is very brief; and there was no need to fiddle around so much to tell it to me. That did not require thirty blank checks, or ... etc. That required only one little note, which you could have sent to me just as easily as you had sent your diabolical blank checks [for Sade to sign so that his wife could obtain money]. But you say you cannot do it?... Lie, outrageous lie... Rather, say that you do not want to do it, but at the same time be assured that I will never forget your treatment of me.

So you have written to Gothon [Sade's servant at La Coste] "to write to me every month."... A pleasing prospect, indeed... /every month/... so I have a hundred of them to spend here!... /Every month/, that's lovely. You wrote to her because I told you to, splendid! but the outcome will be that Gothon, as soon as she sets eyes on the phrase /every month/, will conclude that I still have a very long time to be in here, and she will no longer remain under that happy illusion in which I told you it was necessary to keep her, so that, believing she would see us arrive at any moment, she would always maintain the chateau in good order and above all would not give it over to raising silkworms. Manage things so that the two goals are accomplished.

/Another kindness/: You decline to return my undershirts because you "hope" that I will have enough of them for the remainder of my detention. Now I have already told you very clearly that I had enough of them through May 1780. Therefore, /you hope/ that at that time I will have no more need of them. Now that's lovely. However, in the summer, I do not use them. Thus, I do not need the ones you have until twenty one months from now. And at that time /YOU HOPE/ that I will no longer need them. Thanks a lot, really! When I will come to look back on the time of my sufferings, I will be able to say that you have truly fulfilled your duty to me and that I have received from you some really enormous help and understanding. I well know that you are going to reply that I have no common sense, that I upset myself to no purpose, and that I always see everything in an unfavorable light. It has been two years, madam, since you wrote those lovely phrases to me, and yet you will admit that when you first said them, I did not upset myself in vain and I was not wrong to see them in a bad light. As I suffered for a very long time since then, who will assure me that this is not the same now? Am I better off now than before? Not one iota. And it is a truly extraordinary thing and one that is perhaps without equal that at the end of two years of misery, I am in the situation, both by means of the letters written to me and of the treatment I suffer, to find myself more on the decline now than I was during the first months... And you believe that I will forgive those who conceived this sort of torture for me? I will eat my heart out rather than not take my revenge for it... I will prove to these vile monsters, to these execrable beasts that hell has spewed forth for the misfortune of others, that I am not their plaything, and that if I had the bad luck to be their toy for a while, they could well someday become mine as well, whoever they may be.

Keep your bottle of muscatel. I asked if Chauvin had sent a lot of it, but as there is so little of it, I don't want any at all; and above all, do not buy any, because I won't drink any from the wine merchant... That would be adulterated with drugs; I want none of it... My fancy for it has passed... This is a phenomenon that is as horrible as it is unusual. Nevertheless, I experience this quite extraordinary sensation that I have never come across before. I would like some eminent psychologist to explain it to me: that is, twenty times a day, I crave with an exceptional violence all sorts of things, yet a moment later, without having gotten them, I experience a dreadful loathing of them. All those things that I requested from you, it was exactly like that, and as soon as I had them, they repelled me. Explain that to me. [. . .]

You have, m'love, very clearly let me know [Sade's term of imprisonment]: "your children have left happy about seeing you in two years." That's it, word for word. I deduce that means that I will not see them for the next two years. Now you change, fine! because I assure you it would have pained me deeply to leave this country without seeing them. I am crazy about them. If only you heard me talking to them by myself... You would think my head was spinning. There has not passed a night when I have not dreamed of them. I will write to them soon. [. . .]

It is a very remarkable thing, this portrait, that the saint [Mlle de Rousset] has made. [. . .] She accomplished it with her five fingers. At La Coste, there was only one thing I wanted her to do with those same five fingers, but that thing she never would do... Now, ladies, what do you think of that? You are going to imagine something naughty, but it is the most ordinary thing in the world. I would tell it to the holy Virgin herself, if she asked me, so ordinary and pure it is. When you ask me to explain it some day, I will... In the meantime, tell her that I was delighted more than she could imagine by her work, and I will keep her portrait all my life. Tell her further that one ought not leave when one loves people to the point of amusing oneself by sketching their portrait. Tell her also that as good as it is, I like to believe that it would have been an even better likeness if she had not worked from the painting [made by Van Loo], since I am sure that there is within herself a tiny image of me far more stunning than on Van Loo's canvas... However, if she leaves I will never see her again as long as I live. No leaving and no additias [/sic/] and we will always live happily together. With regard to you, my little fat hen, I kiss you on... and then on... and then on...

March 22, having eleven months still to suffer.

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