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Marquis de Sade random quotes and writings.

Updated on July 25, 2010

Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade: The discovery:

A few years ago while browsing among dusty old books at an antique book fair I discovered a French writer who has become one of my favourite authors, the Marquis de Sade. What started as simple curiosity for his erotic novels developed into a passion for his radical philosophy of freedom, his extreme individualism and his focus on sexuality as a driving force. Later on I developed an admiration for this revolutionary materialist thinker and writer who had the dubious privilege of living during France’s most turbulent years and major socio-political changes that drove the country from a monarchy to a republic and then to an empire.

The Marquis de Sade, born Donatien Alphonse François in 1740 in Paris is one of the most criticized authors in history.His works include not only erotic novels combined with philosophical discourse, but also short stories, plays, and political writings. During his lifetime, his writings and lifestyle cost him several social scandals and imprisonment in different locations such as 10 years in the Bastille, a couple of years in a fortress and 13 years in the Charenton asylum. Most of his works were written during his imprisonment time.

Sade’s life

The marquis de Sade lived a scandalous libertine life which included an affair with his wife's sister. During one of his stays in Paris several prostitutes complained about his mistreatment and he was imprisoned for short periods of time. At one point he was even accused of kidnapping a woman and keeping her in one of his castles where he abused her sexually and physically. Sade was also accused of trying to poison prostitutes with the aphrodisiac Spanish fly and of sodomy with a man servant. Those charges were enough to condemn someone to death in his time but, due to his influence, Sade got away with imprisonment. However, I agree with Anthony Walker (who wrote a biography of Sade) that Sade’s excesses were to a point laughable as they never lead to any real harm or loss of life. The fact was that as Walker points out, Sade’s “Bum-whipping and the distribution of aphrodisiac sweets would take on, in the minds of ignorant Victorian prudes (and of many such today!) the magnitude of horrendous "sadistic" acts which have defined Sade ever since for the wilfully ignorant and the consumers of gutter press sensationalism.”

In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the author of Justine and Juliette and Sade was arrested and imprisoned without trial. In 1803 the Marquis de Sade was declared insane and transferred again to an asylum at Charenton. The director of the institution, the Abbé de Coulmier, allowed and encouraged him to stage several of his plays, with the inmates as actors, to be viewed by the Parisian public. In 1809 new police orders put Sade into solitary confinement and deprived him of pens and paper. It was here that Sade began an affair with a 13-year-old daughter of an employee at the asylum. The affair lasted about 4 years, until Sade's death in 1814.

Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings

The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales (Oxford World's Classics)
The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales (Oxford World's Classics)
In his bleak, claustrophobic universe, there is no God, no human affection, and no hope. This is a fully annotated edition including an introduction, a biographical study, and a history of the censorship of these writings.

Marquis de Sade works:

Unfortunately, only a few of Sade’s works have been translated to English and it is only when read in its original French language that you can understand the beauty and power of the language used to discuss his philosophy and describe his wildest fantasies.

Some of Sade’s most popular works are:

"Dialogue Between A Priest And A Dying Man", a play written during his first imprisonment when he was only 23 years old. Here, Sade joins the ranks of the atheist-materialist philosophers refuting all theological arguments for the existence of a God.

"The Crimes of Love", a masterpiece that explores emotional cruelty and the exploitation of women and the poor and trusting by villainous aristocrats whose sole morality is perverse pleasure and the misuse of others.

"Reflections On The Novel", a book where Sade offers advice to would-be creative writers.

"Tales of a Provençal Troubadour of the Eighteenth Century", a collection of short stories which show Sade as one of the greatest humorists of all time.

"The Misfortunes of Virtue" was written in only a fortnight and become the first version of his novel « Justine ».

"The 120 Days of Sodom" a work that Sade started while imprisoned in The Bastille and he considered his masterpiece. This is one of his most hard core sexual accounts at times grotesque and absurd.

"The 120 Days of Sodom", A catalogue of sexual aberrations and the first systematic exploration of the psychology of sex

Random quotes by the Marquis de Sade

“My manner of thinking, so you say, cannot be approved. Do you suppose I care? A poor fool indeed is he who adopts a manner of thinking for others!”

About women:

“I've already told you: the only way to a woman's heart is along the path of torment. I know none other as sure.”

Quotes About laws:

“Are not laws dangerous which inhibit the passions? Compare the centuries of anarchy with those of the strongest legalism in any country you like and you will see that it is only when the laws are silent that the greatest actions appear.”

“Social order at the expense of liberty is hardly a bargain.”

“The horror of wedlock, the most appalling, the most loathsome of all the bonds humankind has devised for its own discomfort and degradation.”

“What is more immoral than war?”

“Destruction, hence, like creation, is one of Nature's mandates.”

Quotes About sex:

"Sex" is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.”

“It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure.”

“In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice.”

“Lust is to the other passions what the nervous fluid is to life; it supports them all, lends strength to them all ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge, are all founded on lust.”

About theft

"How can you expect the man who has nothing to honour a law which protects the man who has everything? It is his duty, surely, to attempt to redress the balance!"

About death penalty

"Either murder is a crime, or it is not. If it is not, why punish it? If it is, then by what perverse logic do you punish it by the same crime?" It also is tantamount to bad arithmetic, since "now two people are dead instead of one!"

About blasphemy

“Blasphemy can only exist if God exists. If there is no God, then blasphemy and all other "religious crimes" are likewise non-existent. So how can you have laws against them? If one, on the other hand, believes in a God, can he really believe his God to be so petty as to take offence at being calumnied? Such a God isn't worthy of honour!

Quills Trailer

Quills, a film portraying Sade

What others have said about Sade

Must We Burn Sade?
Must We Burn Sade?
This intriguing collection of essays seeks to examine Sade for what he was - a writer of novels and letters, a creator of plays and stories, and an author of essays and political manifestos. The contributors examine the literary, theatrical, political, social, and philosophical aspects of Sade's work, acquitting him of the false accusations and trials that have plagued his name by revealing his influences and motivations, and by providing an understanding of society's fear of Sade.

What other writers have to say about the Marquis de Sade:

Simone de Beauvoir in her essay Must we burn Sade? (1952) attempted to locate traces of a radical philosophy of freedom in Sade's writings, preceding modern existentialism by some 150 years.

In the psychoanalytical field Sade has been seen as a precursor of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis in his focus on sexuality as a motive force.

The surrealists admired him and famously called him "the freest spirit that has yet existed".

Pierre Klossowski, in his book Sade Mon Prochain (1947), analyzes Sade's philosophy as a precursor of nihilism.

Anthony Walker says “Sade's antics never led to loss of life and are merely laughable. It was the humiliation these sex games, held at brothels all over Paris and also in Provence, caused madame la presidente (his mother in law)  that led to Sade being imprisoned by lettre de cachet, and nothing more."

As a manner of conclusion

In popular culture Sade’s name evokes sexual violence, hence the term Sadism. However, if his works still seem relevant it is not just because of his sexually explicit writings but also because of the message behind his philosophical discourse. Sade’s philosophy of extreme individualism became a reality in the economic liberalism of the following centuries. His works are still valid in the sense of the criticism of the powerful and the hypocritical values of our society. For me Sade was a man who dared live his life the way he wanted to and dared to defy censorship.

Hubchallenge Day 22


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