Life and Times
youth: 1740 - 1762
marriage: 1763 - 1771
prison: 1772 - 1790
the works: 1791 - 1803
asylum: 1804 - 1814
Prison Letters
read them
receive them
About Neil Schaeffer

The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : The Prison Letters : Archive : April, 1779
Sade to Mlle de Rousset.
[April 1779]
Me, criticize your style! speak... speak... my little beast, had you rubbed your eyes well before you wrote that?... Eh! no, no! Surely you were still sleeping, and as there is always some part in you which is not on my side and as I prefer to believe that it belongs to sleep rather than to wakefulness, you must be still dreaming this unflattering dream, since it has pleased you to pick a quarrel with me on a thing which you would oblige me to search the entire planet if you wanted me to find support for the idea that your style is not delicious! My little beast, like a new Don Quixote, I will go to break my lances at the four corners of the world to prove that my little beast is, of all the little female beasts breathing between the two poles, she who writes the best and who is the most lovable. There you have what I trust is the exact opposite of your nasty suspicion. I do not at all blame your letter to the Chanoine. I said only that accustomed /almost despite yourself/ to place intelligence above all, you had put a little too much of it in a letter that required only nonsense. This criticism of you is not, I believe, very damaging, and you can accept it from me very easily, can't you?

Yes, my dear Saint, yes, you will gallantly and /voluptuously/ fill up your four pages. At least, these four pages -- since four pages are necessary -- amuse me, divert me. However, Madame [de Sade], your dear companion, does not have the same talent, far from it, because I believe that it is difficult to fill /her four pages/ with the most stupid and boring absurdities, since with her, it is a question only of filling them. What would it cost her to fill them more agreeably? I would rather she copied the Mercury; at least I would get the news. [. . .]

Let us move on to more pleasant things. "The desire to understand you in order to penetrate..."and all the rest of that short sentence of foolishness that follows is charming, my little Saint, and a thousand times better in that style of writing than all the letters of the Chanoine. You have exactly hit the heart of that sort of tone... But there is a delightful transition in your letter and one that I hold up as more valuable than the most beautiful periods of Bossuet and of Flchier: namely, "Oh! there's no better beast than poor Rousset... Would you like a little lesson in Proven?al right now?" How much gaiety, how much sprightliness, how much grace in that transition! It made me die of laughter for a quarter of an hour, and in view of that, I would say that you do not write well! I would permit you to tie me to a stake and have pass in review before me in naturalibus the prettiest women or girls in Paris, as a punishment for my terrible slander, if ever I am able to perform it. [. . .]

Oh! do not tempt me any more; I am warning you once again: you will answer for it before God. "To kiss the Pope's ass": truly, it is doubtless necessary to kiss it when one wants to obtain an indulgence, that is to say, the men, because with the women, it is exactly the opposite. I once performed this sacred ceremony and from that time on, after such clemency, so as to sin no more, I have been as virtuous as a girl of fifteen. Well, I declare! your salacious innuendoes are going to /incite/ my flesh. You like to be for me the serpent that tempted Eve, but you will not succeed in that. I have found /in the buttocks of the Holy Father/ all the grace, efficacious, victorious, sufficient, kind, concomitant, subsequent, real, virtual, habitual, congruous, persistent, easy, sanctified, uncreated, natural, interior, exterior, expiring, inspiring, operating and cooperating, by means of which I am icy pure!... Oh! renounce, renounce, my child, these thoughts, vain and /sullen/, which are only the traps of the devil to corrupt a flesh already so fragile. Contrast these hollow pleasures, these fleeting pleasures, with the eternal pains which must be their punishment, and return to the right path. Your situation gives me pain, my dear child; you have need of assistance on the road to heaven. I freely offer myself as your guide, but abandon forever these worldly ideas; believe that it is only the pure heart that one must offer the Almighty, and that the least stain renders us unworthy of the future happiness I wish for you.

In the name of the Father, etc.

previous | next

E-mails from prison!
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.

Home | Life & Times | Prison Letters | Bibliography | About Neil Schaeffer