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SADE, Marquis de (1740-1814). The word sadism, referring to sexual perversion involving the infliction of pain, is derived from the name of Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade, usually called the Marquis de Sade. He was a French author who, because of his remarkably scandalous life, spent more than 27 years in prison. Most of his works, still considered obscene and unpublishable, were written during his prison years. They include `Justine', published in 1791, 'Juliette' (1798), 'The 120 Days of Sodom' (written in 1785 but not discovered until 1904), `Aline and Valcour' (1795), `Philosophy in the Boudoir' (1795), and `Crimes of Love' (1800). Later writers saw in him an example of the eternal rebel.
(Quotations from 120 Days of Sodom, Aline and Valcour, and Philosophy in the Boudoir can be seen here)
Sade was born on June 2, 1740, in Paris, pursuing a military career as a youth during the Seven Years' War (1756-63). He then married, but at the same time he began living the scandal-ridden life of a libertine. He was soon convicted of acts of violence and debauchery and sent to prison. He was sentenced to death in 1772 but was given a reprieve. He fled briefly to Italy. No sooner was he back in Paris in 1777 than he was again arrested. He was imprisoned at Vincennes, in the Bastille in Paris, and finally in the insane asylum at Charenton. From 1790 to 1801 he was free and living in Paris, where he offered several plays to the Comedie-Francaise. In 1801 he was arrested for having written `Justine'. In 1803 he was confined again to Charenton and remained there until his death on Dec. 2, 1814.
(For a chronological walk through his life's events, click here )
Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised (1791), is informed by the confessional and picaresque narrative techniques developed in France and England during the 18th century. The adventures of the heroine also reflect a growing taste for Gothic romance. Justine is the victim of a variety of cruelties--moral, sexual, and physical. By holding tenaciously to her innocence and virtue, Justine vexes and excites the men around her and causes her own deep suffering. Her worldly and corrupt sister, on the other hand, lives happily as a prostitute. Justine tends at times to become a catalog of sexual activity, but the novel illustrates de Sade's belief that self-restraint is not in accord with human nature, which has a fundamental need to inflict pain. de Sade's ideas have influenced many writers, notably Baudelaire and Lautreamont. Her sister gives her name to a complementary novel, Juliette (1797; Eng. trans., 1968).
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