The Marquis de Sade (1740 – 1814) was an 18th-century French nobleman, writer and philosopher famous for his ‘libertine sexuality.’(1) He was and still is a misunderstood figure. He was a complicated person who rejected his title and went against the Enlightenment principles of the day. (2) The 18th Century Enlightenment stood for reason, rationality, science and humanism whereas the Marquis stood for rebellion, extremism and anti-humanism. (3)
“‘Either kill me or take me like this, for I will not change,’” wrote the imprisoned Marquis de Sade to his wife from prison. (4) Sade was incarcerated in various prisons and asylums for 32 years of his life. (5)
His first and only marriage was to Renee Pelagie de Montreuil. They met only two days before their wedding. Renee was complicit in many of the Marquis de Sade scandalous affairs.
“Sade kept a secret apartment. It was there that the Marquis de Sade began testing the limits of human sexuality.’ (6)
Best known for his erotic works (which include “The 120 Days of Sodom” and “Philosophy in the Bedroom”) and hedonistic lifestyle – he lived excessively – the words sadism and sadistic are derived from his name. (7) He was sexually deviant even by today’s standards and some debate whether he was abusive to his partners who were mostly prostitutes. (8)
One of his most famous reported deviances was named the ‘Rose Keller Affair’. Rose Keller was a young prostitute who Sade took back to his secret apartment.
Allegedly he “locked her up and abused her sexually.” Rose Keller escaped, and the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned for his ‘obscene acts’. (9)
The Marquis de Sade is remembered for his sexual deviance which subverted the prudish nature of society during the 18th Century as well as his pornographic (combined with philosophic discourse) novels and works. He is not only a complicated person, but his legacy is complicated as well. Was he a sadist? Or did he merely push the boundaries of a conservative society? One thing for sure is that the Marquis de Sade will live on as a controversial figure.
A few days before the French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, de Sade had shouted through a window, “They are massacring the prisoners; you must come and free them.” He was transferred to the insane asylum at Charenton, where he remained until April 2, 1790.
(1), (5), (7) Wikipedia contributors, “Marquis de Sade, “Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Marquis_de_Sade&oldid=839218490 (accessed May 5, 2018).
(4), (6), (8) Serena, Katie, “Just How Sadistic Was the Marquis de Sade, Really?”, https://allthatsinteresting.com/marquis-de-sade (accessed May 5, 2018)
“Marquis de Sade – Biography”, The Biography.com website,
https://www.biography.com/people/marquis-de-sade-9469078 (accessed May 5, 2018)
(2), (3) Farago, Jason. “Who’s Afraid of the Marquis de Sade?”, https://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141006-marquis-de-sade-still-shocking (accessed May 5, 2018)
(9) Nadeau, Maurice, “Marquis de Sade” Encyclopedia Brittanica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marquis-de-Sade (accessed May 5, 2018)
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