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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

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

Sunday night, on receiving yours.

You are leaving, Mademoiselle . . . The stroke is quite original. I would not have expected it, or rather, I would have been a complete fool not to reckon on it. Can I, without rudeness, ask you what makes you so completely break your word written in the following lines:

/You want me to promise not to leave Paris without you and that you will never be at La Coste without me . . . Very well, I grant you the first, etc.: letter 11: date: January 23./

In any event, Mademoiselle, as I do not flatter myself to think I can hold you back (whatever may be my wishes in the matter), I consider it my duty now to fulfill the two goals that I set for myself, in a situation that I had all too well foreseen. The first is to tell you that if you leave before I am free, /I will never see you again for the rest of my life/. The second is to examine your grievances so that you will not go away with the impression of me as a false and irrational man, a lying slanderer whom misery has embittered to the point of making misanthropic. And this is the topic with which I am going to open the discussion. When it is finished, I will call upon no one but you as judge . . . But you will flit about and miss the point, won't you? You will substitute explanations with jokes . . . And you will tell me that you have a dual personality . . . I believe it, but at least you must admit that the one of the two personalities which is not the true one plays a very contemptible role and that the god that controls it is a total knave . . . However, one is hardened against all these excuses . . . and one is amused to be worth the trouble . . . Are you then persuaded that this is likely to have a good outcome for the future? . . . Very well, Mademoiselle, before leaving, I beg of you, permit me one last favor of once more telling you /no/ . . . and swearing on all I hold most sacred in the world that I will leave here only with rage in my heart and with the strongest desire to let it explode. [. . .]

There is nothing more to do now than to wish you a good and pleasant trip . . . If I wanted to repeat myself here, I would tell you that since you are leaving without me, despite your promise, it is perfectly evident that I am not at the end of my suffering. The conclusion of your letter, /a time will come..... you will send me some news of you/, etc., suggests the idea of duration, which allows me all too clearly to see that I still have quite a long time to groan in this execrable prison, and that you have quite cruelly deceived me when you led me to imagine the end would come with the springtime, but I do not want to give an extra coat of gall and gloom to ideas already too somber . . . You should not doubt all the suffering that your departure is causing me . . . /It is a cruel blow!/ . . . For it was (despite your tactics) a kind of consolation for me to breath the same air as you . . . But it is not fair to abuse your kindness for so long . . . Besides, what can you do for me here? You see that this is dragging out . . . that it is a long way from being over. So go, Mademoiselle, go! Go back to your own business. After having thought of your friends, it is only fair that you think of yourself. But occasionally think of me, even in the midst of your pleasures.

So go to La Coste in August. I sentence you to go there. You will sit down on the bench . . . you remember this bench? . . . yes . . . and when you are there, you will say: "A year ago he was here beside me . . . yes, I sat here . . . and he sat just over there . . . he opened his heart to me with that candor and that innocence that was evident in all his dealings with me . . . I asked him to promise me........ he took my hand and he said to me..... 'My dear friend, I swear it.....' Well, I told him, this will be your happiness . . . And he replied: 'Could you advise me anything else? . . .' And then you will go into the little green parlor . . . and you will say . . . "That is where my table was . . . that is where I wrote all his letters, because he kept nothing secret from me . . . sometimes he sat down in the armchair . . . you remember this armchair? . . . and from there he said . . . 'Write . . . /we will/. . .' But Monsieur, /we/? 'Yes my dear friend, /we/. Our phrases should be like our hearts. Write /we/.'" Next, you will go and wind the clock..... Then you will take two or three turns around the great hall and you will say . . . "If I had utterly lost him . . . how dear to me would be all these places! . . ."

Yes, you will do all that, and I, always sad and miserable, always teetering between hope (perhaps utterly capricious), and the desire to put an end to my suffering, I will wander with you on all these little promenades and through all these recollections . . . Perhaps I will fly to you. I will hold your hand once more . . . Are you aware of the force of illusion upon a sensitive soul? You will think you see me, but it will be only your own shadow . . . You will think you hear me, but it will be only the sound of your own heart . . . Who knows if some pangs of remorse will not then seize your heart . . . You will remember these letters . . . Yes, these cruel letters on the subject of your leaving me . . . And I, who will have only them . . . similar to those unfortunates whom misery forces to feed upon the most unnourishing things, I will read them . . . because you wrote them . . .

Adieu, Mademoiselle . . . yes . . . adieu . . . I am not crying, at least not while writing this . . . No, in truth, I am not crying . . . You will keep in touch through Mme de Sade . . . and she will send you news of me. But you will do me the kindness of writing a few words before you go . . . to tell me the day . . . yes, the day . . . I want to know the exact day. Adieu. Once again, you observe that I am concluding without paying my respects.

Open . . . open your heart and you will see the feeling that has taken it over.

De Sade.

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