Marquis de Sade
biography by Neil Schaeffer
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June, Sade employs Spanish Fly in a series of orgies at Marseilles with
prostitutes, who become ill from the drug. Condemned in absentia for
poisoning and for sodomy, Sade flees to Italy with
December 8, Sade is arrested in Savoy by means of a lettre de cachet
arranged by his mother-in-law, Mme de Montreuil. He is imprisoned at
the Fortress of Miolans.
April 30, Sade makes a daring escape from Miolans; later, he goes into
hiding around La Coste.
January 6, Mme de Montreuil arranges a police raid on La Coste to
arrest her son-in-law by means of a lettre de cachet, but he
flees in time and goes into deeper hiding.
Autumn, Sade returns to La Coste with five young servant girls and a
young male "secretary," and is joined there by his wife.
January, some of the relatives of the young servants lodge formal
complaints about their sexual mistreatment. Mme de Montreuil hushes up
the scandal and even has one of the most talkative servants imprisoned
for several years under a lettre de cachet.
July 17, Sade flees to Italy, complaining about his neighbors in
Provence: "If anyone so much as whips a cat in this province, they all
say, ‘It`s Monsieur de Sade who did it.'" In Italy he keeps a journal
of his views on art, sex, etc.
July, Sade returns to La Coste from Italy.
October, Sade hires several young servant girls, all of whom leave
except for Catherine Trillet.
January 14, Sade's mother dies in her convent in Paris.
January 17, M. Trillet comes to retrieve his daughter Catherine, whom
Sade calls "Justine." She refuses, and M. Trillet shoots point-blank at
Sade, but his gun misfires.
January 30, Sade and his wife depart the relative security of La Coste
for Paris to see his sick mother (but she was already dead and buried,
details Mme de Montreuil failed to mention in her letter).
February 13, Sade is arrested under the lettre de cachet
previously obtained my his Mme de Montreuil. He is imprisoned in the
royal chateau of Vincennes, "this grave where they have buried me
alive." He would spend 13 years behind bars.
December 31, Sade's uncle, the abbé, who helped to raise him,
June 14, Sade is conducted by Inspector Marais to Aix for his
successful appeal of the verdicts of sodomy and of poisoning the
Marseilles prostitutes. Nevertheless, he is informed that he must
return to prison under the lettre de cachet obtained by Mme de
July 16, on the return trip to Vincennes, Sade escapes from Inspector
Marais and hides out at La Coste, where he initiates an affair with his
intelligent and witty housekeeper, Mlle de Rousset.
August 26, Sade is arrested at La Coste by Inspector Marais (who is
eventually punished, possibly fired, for his disrespectful words to the
marquis). Marais transports Sade back to Vincennes. Sade will spend his
time writing letters to his wife Renée, demanding food, clothes,
and especially books. He will also write plays, stories, and novels.
Renée will beg the authorities, "Do not judge him from his
writings, but rather judge him by his deeds."
July 13, Sade's wife is granted her first visit in more than four
years. She had not seen him since the day of his arrest on February 13,
February 29, Sade is transferred to the Bastille when Vincennes is
closed as an economy measure.
October 22, Sade begins the final draft of his masterpiece, 120 Days of Sodom. He finishes 37 days later, and
hides the scroll in his cell (where a guard finds it and saves it
before the Bastille was destroyed).
July 8, Sade completes The Misfortunes of Virtue.
April 27, rioting breaks out in the neighborhood around the Bastille,
whose guard is reinforced.
June 2, from his cell, Sade shouts to the crowd below, using a
pissing-tube as a megaphone, saying that the prisoners are being
slaughtered inside and calling on the crowd to come to their rescue.
July 4, Sade is transferred to the insane asylum at Charenton, and thus
by two weeks misses out on being among the other four prisoners
lionized by the Revolution.
July 14, the Bastille is sacked; Sade loses all of his manuscripts.
April 2, Sade is released from Charenton after the National Assembly
votes to abolish lettres de cachet: "I am free at last."
However, his wife sues for separation and Sade is required to repay her
dowry (which he never does).
July 1, Sade, calling himself Citizen Louis Sade, joins the section of
the Place Vendôme, later called section des Piques, one of the
most radical of all Paris sections and the spawning ground of
August 25, Sade meets Marie-Constance Quesnet, age 33, a former
actress, abandoned by her husband. Sade's relationship with her and
with her six-year old son Charles will last the rest of Sade's life.
June, Sade publishes the first of his political pamphlets. Others
written for his section follow. He also publishes a clandestine edition
of his erotic novel Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue.
October 22, Sade's sado-sexual play Oxtiern is performed in
Paris and causes a disturbance.
next: the works!
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