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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : The Prison Letters : Archive : May 12, 1779
Sade to Mlle de Rousset.
[May] 12, [1779]

A quick note in response to your letter of the 7th [in which Mlle de Rousset recounted two humorous stories about how her acquaintances are afraid of her because of her intelligence].

The 9th, at night.

Your two little stories are comical and have amused me. Is it only now that you discover that people fear intelligence? . . . Nothing can make you more enemies, and the reason is simple. With intelligence you more readily recognize the ridiculous, with intelligence you cannot stop yourself from laughing at it, and quite naturally the result is that those who are ridiculous and without intelligence enormously fear you and end by hating anyone who sees through them so well and can paint them in their true colors. The simplest thing, you know, my dear Saint, is /to run with the pack/, never to display superiority, and to try to use one's intelligence only to make others shine the brighter. In that way, one is perhaps less happy, because a wicked wit is a great pleasure, I grant you, but one is more tranquil and /tranquility is worth more than pleasure/. Ah! my little beast, here is someone to bring me my oats; I must leave you now to go eat. I will get back to you for my desert, I will have you for my little compote. Adieu.

As it seems to me that I have answered nearly all of the points of your letter, I am now going to make this statement by way of a small apology for my manner of writing and speaking Provencal. Please have the kindness to note and to put at the forefront of your . . . yes . . . it is your brain that I want to say (assuming that you have one, which is something not yet proven), that it is impossible, dear Saint, that I could speak Provencal either with the delicacy or with the style that you display. I have never spoken it in Provence except with the peasants. In the upper circles you know that one speaks only French, with the result that it is impossible, just as you have clearly seen, that my style and my language could be anything but low comedy; it could only make you laugh. If you are pleased with it, well and good! But if you laugh at me, I will stop it.

When I was [. . . ] in Germany, where I made six campaigns [in the cavalry], not being yet married, I was assured that in order to learn a language well, it was necessary to sleep regularly and continually with a woman of that country. Persuaded of the truth of this maxim, during one of my winter encampments at Clves, I rigged myself out with a nice fat baroness who was three or four times my age, and who taught me rather pleasantly. At the end of six months, I spoke German like Cicero!

If you think that it will be necessary to follow the same method with the Provencal, with the exception of the fat baroness, since, having become a bit more demanding, I desire a bit more equality, by means of which, I say, if you think this method will prove convenient, and if you wish to serve me as teacher on terms much sweeter than my fat baroness imposed on me, then I am yours with all my heart, my dear Saint! In return, I will teach you some pleasant things that I know . . . to play the hautboy, to dance on a rope, to sweep a chimney, . . . to tell a good story, and other little social graces that I possess to the core and which it will be my distinction and deep satisfaction to teach you. [. . .]

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