Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)

The Marquis de Sade produced graphic celebrations of sexual violence, incest, torture, and murder during a period that encompassed the end of the ancien régime, the French Revolution, and the reign of Napoleon. His most notorious works are a series of novels in which wealthy, powerful "libertines" systematically rape, torture, and kill an assortment of victims—primarily women and adolescents of both sexes—while articulating elaborate philosophical justifications for this behavior. Rejecting the existence of a Supreme Being, Sade posits a lawless and destructive Nature as the only rational guide to behavior; sexual cruelty and the will to power, being natural human impulses, should be fostered rather than discouraged. His reputation inspired the nineteenth-century psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing to attach the author's name to the concept of sadism, sexual gratification through the infliction of pain on others.

("Donatien Alphonse Francois Sade, Comte de." Gale Online Encyclopedia, Gale, 2021).


The debate continues on how to classify Donatien-Alphonse-François, comte de Sade, or the "divine marquis," as he is called by his admirers: is he an important Enlightenment philosopher or a sexually obsessed writer of perverted fiction? Where once his name was anathema, Sade, now the object of important biographies, is undergoing a reevaluation of his position not only in literary history but also in the history of ideas. At first his works were privately published in limited and discreet editions; they are now published in prestigious critical collections, available in mass-market paperback, and accessible in electronic format. Whether he is dismissed as a hack pornographer or lauded for his radical and prescient critique of Enlightenment philosophies, admirers and critics study Sade for his explorations of unleashed appetites and cold rationality.

Sade was a prolific writer of novels, tracts, dialogues, occasional poetry, and plays. Although most of his work has been banned at one time or another, his writings are now readily available. These plays for the most part are conventional, and this fact perhaps more than anything else condemns them to obscurity. However, Sade considered himself a playwright and continually pushed for their publication and staging. Dramaturgy is evident in all his texts, especially his novels, which present the world as a theater of cruelty where everyone has a role as perpetrator, spectator, and victim. Annie Le Brun explains that for Sade, the stage is the point of contact between reality and fantasy, the point of connection between the individual and the community, as well as the convergence of the secret and the public. His novels are, in fact, a theatricalization of his philosophy. Sade's theatricality appears in the loosely structured narratives made up of scenes of patricide, matricide, incest, rape, pedophilia, and coprophilia. Machinery, costumes, dramatic Gothic scenery, and props, as well as an emphasis on dialogue, hold an important place in Sade's writings. Sade, Le Brun contends, transformed his inner private life into a fictional ideological spectacle.

Sade was born on 2 June 1740 at the Hôtel de Condé in Paris to Marie-Eléonore de Maillé de Carman and Jean-Baptiste Joseph François, comte de Sade--diplomat, noted libertine of Louis XV's court, lord of Saumane and Mazan, and seigneur of La Coste. Related through his mother to the house of Bourbon-Condé, the young Sade could trace his paternal lineage back to the twelfth century and the family's nobility to the fifteenth. The family, fiercely proud of their Provençal heritage, claimed Petrarch's famous love, Laura, wife of Hughes de Sade, as theirs. Sade's two sisters died in infancy, leaving him the only survivor. On 3 June 1740 the sole male heir was baptized Donatien-Alphonse-François instead of Donatien-Aldonse-Louis, the name requested by his parents, who did not attend the ceremony. The mistake became his name of record. Later, Sade used variations of his intended name. This name play had grave consequences during the Revolution when he needed to prove his identity.

While the comte de Sade was often away on diplomatic missions or at court, his wife kept her position as lady-in-waiting to the princesse de Condé. At the magnificent Hôtel de Condé, Donatien-Alphonse-François spent the first four years of his life as a playmate of Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé. Although the prince was four years his senior and of an irascible temper, the young Sade matched him with what biographer Maurice Lever calls his violent and despotic nature. In 1744, following an incident between the two boys, the comte de Sade decided to send his son, the little marquis, to his grandmother in Avignon, then on to his uncle, Paul Aldonse de Sade, abbot of Saint-Léger d'Ebreuil at Saumane. Sade's father engaged Jacques François Amblet, who remained with the marquis for many years, as a tutor. The abbé de Sade, a scholar and close friend of Voltaire and Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise Du Châtelet, was a libertine. The young Sade had access to his uncle's well-stocked library and began his education there. Too far from Avignon to have playmates from his peer group, Sade played with the local peasants and learned to speak Provençal. He was the young lord of the manor and took his role as such seriously. Later in life, he insisted on feudal rights and ceremonies that were due his position.

In 1750, at the age of ten, Sade went with his tutor to Paris and studied at the Jesuit elementary school, collège Louis-le-Grand, where the best and most illustrious nobility sent their sons. Although the comte was in financial straits, he knew his son's future, and the family's in turn, was at stake. Young Sade studied Latin, Greek, and rhetoric. The Jesuits were known for their theatrical spectacles, and scholars believe Sade developed his love of spectacle and theater at this time, along with his predilection for flagellation. Sade remained at Louis-le-Grand until 1754, when he moved to the Ecole préparatoire de cavalerie (Preparatory School of Cavalry) and the king's light cavalry, where he assumed the post of sublieutenant in 1755. After serving as a standard-bearer in 1757, he bought a commission as a cavalry captain in April 1759. From 1757 to 1763 Sade took part in many campaigns of the Seven Years' War. When not on the battlefield, the marquis ran into trouble with his father for his licentious behavior and his gambling. The comte de Sade decided that it was time to find a rich wife for his son.

In 1763, after two unsuccessful attempts, a suitable marriage was arranged to Renée-Pélagie Cordier de Launay de Montreuil, the daughter of a wealthy, newly ennobled family. Although the dowry was substantial, the Montreuils kept tight control by dispensing it in allotments. The couple married on 17 May 1763 after obtaining royal permission. The marquis hired a young, pregnant fan-maker and occasional prostitute, Jeanne Testard, to visit one of his many apartments on 18 October of the same year. After spending a night with the marquis, the young woman filed a report with the police, stating that Sade had proposed both sodomy and flagellation to her, but that she refused. Even though both were not uncommon practices at the time, Sade was arrested and imprisoned for a few weeks at the Château de Vincennes for debauchery, mainly because of more serious charges of blasphemous acts with religious artifacts. At first seduced by Sade's charm, the marquis's mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuil, made excuses for his transgressions and helped arrange for his release; she later became one of Sade's worst enemies. Released conditionally, Sade was subject to supervised liberty at the Montreuils' château in Echaufour, Normandy. From then on, Sade's life formed a pattern of ever-increasing scandalous incidents followed by periods of incarceration.

On his best behavior for a while, Sade took up his father's post as the king's lieutenant general for Bress, Bugey, Valromey, and Gex in 1764. However, he soon accumulated substantial debts, in large part because of his liaisons with actresses. In 1765 the marquis traveled to his holdings in Provence, passing off his mistress as his wife. In La Coste his summer was spent staging other authors' plays and having parties at the château. Sade returned to Paris, where his wife soon joined him. Police surveillance reports and Sade's own correspondence give a detailed account of his scandalous behavior and liaisons. In 1767, a year after Sade had leased a petite maison (a small house for illicit amorous meetings) in Arcueil, the comte de Sade died unexpectedly on 24 January, leaving considerable debts. In the Sade family, the father was the comte and the son was the marquis. Upon the death of the father, the son would assume the title of comte and the grandson, the title of marquis. In effect, the title of comte and marquis alternated between fathers and sons. For unknown reasons, Sade, breaking with family tradition, retained the title of marquis after his father's death. The Sades' first child, Louis-Marie, was born on 27 August 1767.

On Easter Sunday, 3 April 1768, Sade hired Rose Keller, an employed cotton spinner begging on the Place des Victoires in Paris, to clean his rooms for 3 louis. Keller alleged that she was taken to Arcueil, locked up, threatened, and beaten with canes. Afterward, Sade washed Keller and applied ointment to her wounds. He then left her locked in a room from which she escaped. Charges were filed, and Sade was arrested on a royal warrant and sent to the château de Saumur. Questions remain as to the veracity of the account, but the incident is similar to the previous one in many ways. The case was brought to the Parlement in Paris, during which time the Montreuil family scrambled to buy Keller's silence. Sade's lack of discretion and his blasphemy, combined with powerful enemies of the Condés and Montreuils, singled him out for prosecution. He was taken from Saumur and confined in the Pierre-Encise prison at Lyon. Freed in November, Sade was allowed to stay at La Coste. In the meantime, his wife gave birth to their second child, Donatien-Claude-Armand, in Paris on 27 June 1769.

Since Sade was ordered to stay out of Paris and to keep a low profile, and perhaps wishing to escape his family's scrutiny, he decided to tour the Low Countries in 1769, chronicling his progress in Voyage en Hollande en forme de lettres (Travels in Holland in the Form of Letters; first published in the Oeuvres complètes, 1966-1967). The epistolary account, seven letters to an imaginary woman, is in the tradition of travel narratives; it remained unpublished until Gilbert Lély discovered the manuscript more than two hundred years later. The next two years passed sociably enough. Sade attempted to rejoin his regiment but met with resistance from the commander. Although unsuccessful in this matter, Sade ultimately was given an honorary commission as Mestre de cavalerie (Master of Cavalry) with the king's approval in 1771. That same year, his wife gave birth to their third child, Madeleine-Laure, on 17 April. The Sades' financial situation was dire, and when the goodwill of the Montreuils ran out, Sade was briefly imprisoned for debt at Fort-l'Evêque. He was released when he paid a deposit and a promissory note for the remainder. To raise funds, the Sades went to La Coste, where they were joined by Anne-Prospère de Launay, Sade's sister-in-law.

The year 1772 was a watershed for scandal in the marquis's life. Sade formed an illicit liaison with his pretty sister-in-law. He was also implicated in what is called "the Marseille Affair." Sade sent his valet, Latour, to recruit young women for a party. The scenario, albeit on a grander scale and with a larger cast, follows the two previous ones: flagellation, homo- and heterosexual sodomy, accompanied by sacrilegious acts. However, the ingestion of "special candies" (unbeknownst to the girls, the candies were made from an aphrodisiac known as Spanish Fly) made the girls deathly ill. Charged with poisoning, Sade fled to Savoy with his sister-in-law and his valet. Sade and Latour were found guilty of sodomy and poisoning and condemned to death in absentia, then executed in effigy in Aix-en-Provence. The liaison between her second daughter and her son-in-law was the last straw for Madame de Montreuil, who reversed her position from defender to that of implacable enemy. Madame de Sade was alone in defending her husband. On 8 December 1772 Sade was arrested and confined to the citadel of Miolans, near Chambéry; this time, Madame de Montreuil financed her son-in-law's incarceration. He escaped in 1773, and once free, he took refuge at La Coste until May 1774, when the death of Louis XV gave Sade new hope as the lettre de cachet (arrest warrant) expired and an appeal could be filed. Sade promptly indulged in the scandalous behavior for which he was well known, adding to the usual charges that of abduction of minors. The Nanon Affair quickly followed. This one involved one of the servant girls, a willing participant and mother of Sade's illegitimate child, who fled the château after an argument with Sade. She found herself accused of theft and subject to an arrest warrant to prevent her from speaking out. Sade was by now subject not only to the Montreuils' enmity but also to that of other branches of the Sade family.

Once again he found refuge abroad, this time in Italy; during his travels (1775-1776) he wrote Voyage d'Italie (Travels to Italy), which was not published until 1967. Sade returned to his château in France in June 1776. A few months later, problems and penury forced Sade and his wife to leave La Coste and travel to Paris, where he learned of his mother's death. Inspector Louis Marais promptly showed up with a warrant for Sade's arrest and incarcerated him in Vincennes. He was brought down to Provence to appear at the appellate hearing. The death sentence resulting from the Marseille Affair was finally overturned on 14 July 1778, but Sade's liberty was short-lived, as Marais presented a renewed lettre de cachet. Sade escaped, but on 28 August an angry Marais recaptured Sade and brought him back to Vincennes, where he resided from 7 September 1778 to 29 February 1784.

In Vincennes, Sade began writing in earnest. In 1782 he completed the Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond (1926; translated as Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man, 1927), in which he sets out his conception of nature as an endless cycle of creation and destruction. He also began Les 120 Journées de Sodome, ou l'école du libertinage (1931-1935; translated as The 120 Days of Sodom; or, The Romance of the School of Libertinage, 1954), thought to have been destroyed in 1789, but which resurfaced in 1904 when a truncated and faulty edition was published by German psychiatrist Iwan Bloch. Bloch used the pseudonym Eugène Dühren in order to avoid controversy; the 1904 version was ostensibly published in Paris, but in actuality it was published clandestinely in Berlin by Max Harrwitz. The narrative is structured like the Decamaron or the Heptamaron: each day features a tale and the practical experiences arising from it. The narrative takes place in a château among four libertines, who are typical Sadeian representatives of the state--a clergyman, a financier, an aristocrat, and a jurist--with four doctors and twenty victims, along with a dozen helpers and four historians. In Sade's attempt at a classification of vice, each month is dedicated to a particular passion, and the day's horrors accumulate in an inexorable progression. The text, divided into four parts and extremely detailed at first, slowly diminishes and finally dwindles to a collection of unfinished fragments.

In 1784 Sade was transferred to the Bastille and obsessively worked on the manuscript of Les 120 Journées de Sodome. In 1786 he began writing Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique (1795, Aline and Valcour, or the Philosophic Novel), in which an autobiographical element in the form of his own experiences with his wife, his adventures with his sister-in-law, and the Montreuil family's persecution of him appear cast in what Sade described as a "philosophical novel." The novel juxtaposes two travel narratives in an epistolary frame recounting the story of two couples: Aline and Valcour, who are persecuted by Aline's father, and the separated lovers Sainville and Léonore, who must traverse Africa to be reunited. The novel is written as a conventional moral tale but includes elements of the eighteenth-century adventure novel: pirates, kidnappings, travel narratives, a depiction of a utopian society, mistaken identities, and a love story. Sade also included racy material like that of the scandal novels and incest narratives from earlier in the century. The stories of the two couples are distinct: the condemned, passive love of Aline and Valcour is opposed by the dynamic story of Sainville and Léonore, who, by their actions, will ultimately triumph. However, the tales are connected through the two women, who are sisters. The marquis returned in later works to the device of using sisters to tell parallel tales.

Sade spent 1787 and 1788 writing fifty novellas and tales. Only eleven of the more conventional tales were published in the 1800 collection Les Crimes de l'amour (translated as The Crimes of Love, 1964). The remainder were published as Historiettes, contes et fabliaux (Short Stories, Tales and Fables) by Maurice Heine in 1926. One of the novellas, Les Infortunes de la vertu (The Misfortunes of Virtue), written by Sade in sixteen days and published separately in 1930, was the first version of the work for which Sade is best known and to which he obsessively returned. In 1788 he expanded this novella into the two-volume novel Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu (Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue; translated as Opus Sadicum: A Philosophical Romance, 1791), published clandestinely in 1791. On the one hand, the novel was condemned as dangerous and rejected outright. Lever explains that, with this text, Sade transgressed the boundaries of erotic discourse through the hyperbolic impossible combinations of debauchery that push the erotic scenes beyond any sense of reality. On the other hand, there may have been as many as six editions in ten years; the book was condemned but apparently read all the same. Lever argues that Justine falls outside of the confines of pornography as a genre because of the ironic, absurd, and repetitious nature of the Sadean scene; its impossibility carries it beyond the goal of pornography and titillation. Sade's work is dangerous and subversive not for its licentious nature, but rather for the philosophical import. Lever cites Roland Barthes's contention that "La grandeur de Sade n'est pas d'avoir célébrer le crime, la perversion, ni d'avoir employé pour cette célébration un langage radical; c'est d'avoir inventé un discours immense, fondé sur ses propres répétitions . . . monnayé en détails, surprises, voyages, menus, portraits, configuarions, noms propres, etc." (Sade's greatness is not that he celebrated crime or perversion or that he invented a radical language for doing so: it is rather that he invented a vast discourse based on its own repetitions . . . and converted into details, surprises, voyages, trivia, portraits, configurations, proper names, and so on. The antidote to censorship, in short, was to turn prohibition into the stuff of fiction).

In 1797 Sade once again reworked his novel into a ten-volume version, La Nouvelle Justine, suivie de l'histoire de Juliette sa soeur (translated as The Story of Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded , 1958-1960), in which all political, social, religious, and moral values prove bankrupt. One can look at Sade's vision of the universe that he describes in La Nouvelle Justine as a model for his system of writing, expansion, and rewriting: "L'univers est un assemblage d'êtres différents qui agissent et réagissent mutuellement et successivement les uns sur les autres; je n'y découvre aucune borne, je n'y aperçoios seulement qu'un passage continuel d'un état à un autre, par rapport au êtres particuliers qui prennent successivement plusieurs formes nouvelles. . ." (The universe is an assemblage of unlike entities which act and react mutually and successively with and against each other; I discern no start, no finish, no fixed boundaries, this universe I see only as an incessant passing from one state into another, and within it only particular beings which forever change shape and form . . . ).

The two versions follow and expand upon the first novella, which recounts the tale of young, innocent Justine, whose life is made up of a horrifying succession of episodes in which she is branded, tortured, whipped, raped, passed from one representative of society to another, and unjustly condemned to death. In Justine's story the cold, calculating narration contrasts sharply with the repetitive, chaotic events described. Variation and repetition, which resemble those of nature, are integral to Sade's aesthetics, along with enumeration, gradation, and amplification. Despite everything, Justine retains her pure spirit in a world where cruelty is the rule of the day, only to be rewarded by a bolt of lightning that deprives her of the promise of happiness at the end of the tale. The second version is an elaboration of the first; this time, Justine's sister, Juliette, acts as the person to whom the tale is recounted. In addition to Justine's story, the third version, structured as a bildungsroman, adds the story of Juliette, who, when faced with the same choices as her virtuous sister after being cast out into the world following the deaths of their parents and loss of their fortune, chose a life of debauchery and libertinism. Hers is the story of vice rewarded. The story of the sisters shows there is no moral and no reason--just passion, pleasure, and destruction in a cruel, indifferent world.

Although Sade was self-admittedly apolitical, he was not one to miss an opportunity to cause trouble, and his political agitation from his cell window was the cause of his transfer from the Bastille to Charenton, a mental institution, in 1789. Sade was liberated in 1790 upon the abolishment of lettres de cachet, and the heretofore-loyal Madame de Sade promptly filed for a separation. Sade began a long-term relationship with Marie-Constance Questnet and was careful to become an active citizen and to participate in his neighborhood's revolutionary political community, where, for a while at least, he was effective and rose to the rank of president of his section for a brief time in 1793.

From 1791 through 1793 Sade published political tracts, notably the Adresse d'un citoyen de Paris, au roi des Français (A Letter from a Citizen of Paris to the King of the French), in which he is in favor of a constitutional monarchy; Idée sur le mode de la sanction des lois (1792, An Idea on the Means of Sanction of Laws); as well as Discours . . . aux mânes de Marat et de Le Pelletier (1793, A Discourse . . . on the Remains of Marat and Le Pelletier). He also tried his hand at dramaturgy, but his attempts met with little success despite the conventional nature of the plays. In 1793 Sade's position as president of the section did not keep him from being arrested on various charges, including fraternizing with enemies of the republic and feigned patriotism, as well as his scandalous petition to serve in the king's constitutional guard. Condemned to death, he narrowly escaped execution in the confusion of 1794. Liberated the same year, he was destitute. His habit of using different forms of his name came back to haunt him; he found it impossible to have his name removed from a list of émigrés whose holdings were confiscated. His tenants were therefore exempt from paying rent. With little or no income in 1796, Sade was obliged to sell his château in Provence despite his hopes of financial gain upon the official publication in 1795 of Aline et Valcour as well as the clandestine appearance of La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ouvrage posthume de l'auteur de "Justine" (translated as The Bedroom Philosophers , 1953).

Sade's ruse of labeling his work posthumous was simply a strategy to evade criticism. Although La Philosophie dans le boudoir, like the Justine series, was not published under Sade's name, it was an open secret. Sade found the reputation of being the author of the notorious Justine a dangerous burden. La Philosophie dans le boudoir, a series of seven dialogues, has for its subject the sexual education of a young woman. Long erotic-didactic passages alternate with practical application as they do in Les 120 Journées de Sodome. Madame de Saint-Ange and Dolmancé take on the task of educating a young, innocent woman and disabusing her of all the moral principles taught to her by her mother. The young woman, Eugénie de Mistival, proves to be an apt pupil. In what can be considered a summary of his philosophy, Sade celebrates all the usual themes found in his works: murder, rape, theft, incest, adultery, torture, homosexuality, blasphemy, and sodomy. In fact, Sade inserts a tract, "Français, encore un effort si vous voulez être républicains" (French People, One More Effort If You Want to Be Republicans), a sort of social contract, in the center of his text. Read by Dolmancé, it proposes a civic code in a materialist mode. Eugénie, a talented pupil, soon outstrips the instructors as she puts their teaching into practice by torturing her mother, a common occurrence in Sadeian fiction.

Counting on income from his novels, but disappointed by the lack of sales, Sade found work as a theatrical employee in 1799 to make ends meet. In 1800 Sade published his play Oxtiern, ou les malheurs du libertinage (Oxtiern, or The Misfortunes of Libertinage), as well as eleven of his more conventional short fictions in Les Crimes de l'amour. Sade ran afoul of the authorities once again and was arrested in 1801 after the police raided his publisher's offices and later the warehouses. Various manuscripts were seized and destroyed, including a copy of the final volume of La Nouvelle Justine featuring authorial corrections in Sade's hand. This arrest was the result of a hostile press campaign attacking Sade's writings. An anonymous roman à clef, with Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife as targets, was attributed to Sade; and the newly installed consulate was sensitive to criticism as well as to issues of morality. Sade was first held at Sainte-Pélagie until 1803, when he was transferred to Bicêtre because of his scandalous seduction of one of the caretakers. His family, complicit in his incarceration, arranged to have him transferred to Charenton, where he spent the last years of his life. There he wrote "Journées de Florbelle ou la nature devoilée" (1804, Days of Florabelle or Nature Revealed), but the manuscript was seized and destroyed in a raid on his cell in 1807. Sade once again scandalized society by organizing theatrical presentations in Charenton to which the public was welcome. In 1812 Sade wrote Adélaide de Brunswick (published in English in 1954), an historical tale set in the eleventh century about the wife of Frederic, prince of Saxe, unjustly accused of infidelity. His last official publication was the novel La Marquise de Gange in 1813. In late 1814, Sade fell ill with fever and stomach ailments, as well as chronic asthma, hypertension, and edema of the lungs; he died on 2 December 1814.

In the nineteenth century, for conservatives, Sade represented the corruption of the ancien régime at the same time as he incarnated the terror of the Revolution. He was seen as a provocative rebel by some of the Romantics, who identified with his rejection of hypocrisy and saw in his search for absolute pleasure a mirror of their own quest for the sublime. In turn, at the end of the nineteenth century, the decadents took up Sade for inspiration. In the twentieth century, Sade and his work have been the subject of psychoanalytical, sociological, literary, biographical, political, and medical studies. Early in the century Guillaume Apollinaire, then Heine and later Pierre Klossowski and Georges Bataille promoted Sade's work, bringing out previously unpublished manuscripts and new editions of his writings, alongside critical essays and biographies, while the Surrealists particularly admired Sade's radicalism.

World War II, a time when Sade's tortured vision of humanity seemed prophetic, was a turning point in the push toward Sade's legitimization. Roger Shattuck, in Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography (1996), attributes critics' and philosophers' fascination with Sade to a twentieth-century post-Nietzschean death wish, and he points out that almost every year during the postwar period, a new edition or critical work appeared. Maurice Blanchot and Jean Paulhan took up Sade's cause in the late 1940s and added their voices to Bataille's. In the 1950s Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir debated the merits of Sade's metaphysics as well as his aesthetics, while Lély and Klossowski continued to publish on Sade. From the 1960s to the 1990s Barthes, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Philippe Sollers, Gilles Deleuze, Jane Gallop, and Le Brun published on Sade and his works. Although most of the studies offer readings of Sade that valorize one aspect or another in Sade's writings, other critics question the legitimization of pornography through Sade's newfound categorization as a moralist, philosopher, and novelist. There is no question, however, that Sade has found respectability with the publication of the prestigious three volume Bibliothéque de la Pléiade edition of his work (1990-1998), marking his admission into the eighteenth-century canon.

During the course of the twentieth century, at least nine major studies have been written on the marquis: by Iwan Bloch (1931), Lély (1961), Walter Lennig (1971), Donald Thomas (1976), Ronald Hayman (1978), Lawrence W. Lynch (1984), Alice Laborde (1990), Lever (1991), and Francine du Plessix Gray (1998). Sade as a dramatic figure has generally attracted attention from critics in various disciplines, including the theater and the cinema. Sade has been a central character in Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade (1965), Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade (1963), and Doug Wright's Quills (1996). Approximately twenty movies, most of which belong to the horror genre, have been adaptations of Sade's texts or have had Sade himself as a character, in pseudophilosophical, fantastic, horrific, or, in the case of director Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1976), political elaborations. Sade's life, if not his work, has found a new cinematic legitimacy: director Philip Kaufman's Quills (2000), which Wright adapted from his play, and director Benoît Jacquot's Sade (2000), adapted from Serge Bramly's novel La Terreur dans le boudoir (1994, Terror in the Bedroom), are biographical or rather fictional representations of episodes from Sade's life. In a real way, Sade has been transformed into myth.


From: Sol, Antoinette Marie. "Marquis De Sade." Writers of the French Enlightenment II, edited by Samia I. Spencer, Gale, 2005.


  • Further Reading

    From: Sol, Antoinette Marie. "Marquis De Sade." Writers of the French Enlightenment II, edited by Samia I. Spencer, Gale, 2005.



    • Pierre E. Chanover, The Marquis de Sade: A Bibliography (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1973).
    • Colette Verger-Michael, The Marquis de Sade, the Man, his Works and his Critics: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1986).



    • Henri d'Alméras, Le Marquis de Sade: l'homme et l'écrivain, d'après des documents inédits, avec une bibliographie de ses oeuvres (Paris: Albin Michel, 1906).
    • C. R. Dawes, The Marquis de Sade, His Life, and Works (London: R. Holden, 1927).
    • Iwan Bloch [as Eugen Dühren], Le Marquis de Sade und Siene Zeit (1931); translated by James Bruce as Marquis de Sade: His Life and Work (New York: Castle Books, 1948).
    • Gilbert Lély, D.-A.-F. de Sade (Paris: Seghers, 1948).
    • Maurice Heine, Le Marquis de Sade (Paris: Gallimard, 1950).
    • Lély, Vie du Marquis de Sade, avec un examen de ses ouvrages (Paris: Gallimard, 1952-1957; revised edition, (Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1965).
    • Lély, Etude sur sa vie et sur son oeuvre (Paris: Gallimard, 1961).
    • Walter Lennig, Portrait of de Sade: An Illustrated Biography, translated by Sarah Twohig (New York: Herder & Herder, 1971).
    • Donald Thomas, The Marquis de Sade (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1976).
    • Ronald Hayman, De Sade: A Critical Biography (London: Constable, 1978).
    • Jean-Jacques Pauvert, Sade vivant, 3 volumes (Paris: Editions Robert Lafont, 1986).
    • Alice Laborde, Les Infortunes du Marquis de Sade (Paris: Champion, 1990).
    • Maurice Lever, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1991); translated by Arthur Goldhammer as Sade. A Biography (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993).
    • Francine du Plessix Gray, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998).
    • Neil Schaeffer, The Marquis de Sade: A Life (New York: Knopf, 1999).



    • Timo Airaksinen, The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade (London & New York: Routledge, 1995).
    • Roland Barthes, Sade, Fourier, Loyola (Paris: Seuil, 1971); translated by Richard Miller as Sade, Fourier, Loyola (New York: Hill & Wang, 1976).
    • Georges Bataille, Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and Taboo, translated by Mary Dalwood (New York: Walker, 1962).
    • Bataille, Literature and Evil: Essays by Georges Bataille, translated by Alastaire Hamilton (New York & London: Boyars, 1985).
    • Simone de Beauvoir, "Faut-it brûler Sade?" parts 1 and 2, Les Temps Modernes, 74 (December 1951): 1002-1033; 75 (January 1952): 1197-1230; translated by A. Michelson as "Must We Burn Sade?" in The Marquis de Sade, edited and translated by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver (New York: Grove, 1966), pp. 3-64.
    • Maurice Blanchot, Lautréamont et Sade (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1963).
    • André Breton, "D. A. F. Sade," in The Anthology of Black Humor, translated by Mark Polizzotti (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997), pp. 18-29.
    • Albert Camus, L'Homme révolté (Paris: Gallimard, 1951).
    • Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (New York: Pantheon, 1978).
    • Henri Coulet, Le Marquis de Sade (Paris: A. Colin, 1966).
    • Lester Crocker, Nature and Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963).
    • Béatrice Didier, Sade: une écriture du désir (Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1976).
    • Pierre Favre, Sade utopiste. Sexualité, pouvoir, et état dans le roman Aline et Valcour (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1967).
    • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, translated by Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977).
    • Foucault, Les Mots et les choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1965).
    • Jane Gallop, Intersections: A Reading of Sade with Bataille, Blanchot and Klossowski (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981).
    • Marcel Hénaff, Sade. L'Invention du corps libertin (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1978).
    • Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, translated by John Cumming (New York: Herder & Herder, 1972).
    • Pierre Klossowski, Sade mon prochain (Paris: Seuil, 1947); translated by Alphonso Lingis as Sade, My Neighbor (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991).
    • Alice Laborde, Sade romancier (Neuchâtel: La Baconnière, 1974).
    • Jacques Lacan, Ecrits II (Paris: Seuil, 1971).
    • François Laugaa-Traut, Lectures de Sade (Paris: A. Colin, 1973).
    • Annie Le Brun, Sade, aller et detours (Paris: Plon, 1989).
    • Le Brun, "Sade and the Theatre," in Must We Burn Sade, edited by Deepak Narang Sawhney (Los Angeles: Humanity Books, 1999), pp. 99-113.
    • Lawrence W. Lynch, The Marquis de Sade (Boston: Twayne, 1984).
    • Jean Paulhan, Le Marquis de Sade et sa complice ou les revanches de la pudeur (Brussels: Complexe, 1987).
    • "La Pensée Sade," Tel Quel, 28 (Winter 1967).
    • Mario Praz, La Carne, la morte et il diavolo nella letteratura romantica (Milan: Casa editrice La Cultura, 1930); translated as The Romantic Agony (London: London University Press, 1933).
    • Philippe Roger, Sade: la philosophie dans le pressoir (Paris: Grasset, 1976).
    • Jean-Paul Sartre, L'Etre et le néant (Paris: Gallimard, 1943).
    • Norbert Sclippa, Le Jeu de la sphinge: Sade, et la philosophie des Lumières (New York: Peter Lang, 2000).
    • Roger Shattuck, Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996).
    • Philippe Sollers, L'Ecriture et l'expérience des limites (Paris: Seuil, 1971).