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The Cabinet Timeline of The Marquis de Sade

by David Carroll

This is an exerpt from an article that first appeared in Tabula Rasa #4
Copyright@ 1995 By D Carroll
Comments on text to: davidc@ansto.gov.au


1327
The famous poet Petrarch sights 'Laura' for the first time and writes a series of poems about her - this is actually Laure de Sade. Otherwise, the line is a series of important political and church officials.

1740
de Sade born June 2nd. His name was to be Louis Aldonse Donatien, but became Donatien Alphonse Francois instead (due to a mix-up).

1750-4
Educated by the Jesuit Louis le Grand College, after six years with his (somewhat licentious) uncle, the Abbe de Sade.

1754
Enrolled in cavalry training at the Light Horse School. He was appointed unpaid sublieutenant in the King's own infantry regiment the next year.

1753
Discharged with the rank of cavalry captain (after the end of the seven year war). Had spent some time gambling and 'never miss[ing] a ball or show: outrageous!'. De Sade's parents were in a sorry financial state at the time, and they had plans for him - marriage. Indeed he was engaged simultaneously to Lady Laure de Lauris and Lady Renee Pelagie de Montreuil - the first of his own choosing, the second as arranged by his family - a choice significantly down the ranks of nobility, but which involved large sums of money. Lots of wangling was done, with Sade's parents trying to hide their son's conduct from the Montreuil family and Sade himself trying to arrange to be with Laure. He was married to Renee on May 15th. Despite being forced into the union, the two seemed quite fond of each other (and though she did not share his libertine leanings she seemed to understand them), and Laure had found someone else.

Later he was imprisoned in Vincennes Fortress for fifteen days on charges of excessive behaviour committed in a brothel.

1764
de Sade was made Lieutenant-General of four provinces, and was acting as producer at a private theatre. His wife also helped at the theatre. His mistress for the next year or two was a Lady Beauvoisin.

1767
Louis Marie de Sade, our man's first son, was born on August 27th. The second was Donatien Claude Armand in 1769 and Madeleine Laure came in 1771.

1768
The flagellation of Rose Keller took place on April 3rd, Easter Day. The woman had been picked up by Sade and taken back to a house in Arcueil, where she was bound and flogged. Whether this was rape or not was contested in court. Physical evidence seems to support de Sade's story, but it's impossible to tell either way. Certainly he was made an object of public scorn over the affair. He was imprisoned but later released by Royal Order.

1770
Rejoins the army, becoming a Colonel.

1771
He spent a week in Fort l'Eveque prison for debts. He and his family moved to a country manor at La Coste. Lady Anne, younger sister of Renee, joined them, and already there is evidence of sexual relations between her and her brother-in- law (not to mention the Abbi, Sade's uncle).

1772
He had a comedy of his own writing staged.

Half-way through the year he engaged four prostitutes who, along with himself and his manservant Armand, engaged in an orgy with much flogging all round (including of the Marquis). During the event Sade offered the girls a number of aniseed sweets which seem to have been doctored somewhat inexpertly with Spanish fly and possibly another substance, anodyne. Instead of the desired aphrodisiac affect, the prostitutes became quite ill. The Marquis was brought to trial for poisoning and sodomy. Avoiding the law he skipped off to Italy and spent several months there, accompanied by Anne whom he passed off as his wife. While Sade was executed in effigy in Aix, the King of Sardinia had the man himself arrested and imprisoned at the Fortress of Miolans. The arrest was made at Marie Montreuil's request - this lady, Sade's mother- in-law, no stranger to social climbing and intrigue, was to be Sade's eternal nemesis.

1773
After some five months captivity (in a room known as the Great Hope - Interesting in a vague sort of fashion, his prison's levels included Hell at the bottom, up through Purgatory, the Treasure, the Hopes and Paradise.) Sade, along with two others, escaped the fortress simply by climbing out a window and running for the border. He left a note thanking the Commandant for his kindness (followed by a request to send his belongings, including his quite new blue frock cloak and two recumbent china dogs, back to his manor at La Coste). After some weeks the Marquis returned to La Coste himself, instigating legal proceedings to get his name cleared, and on careful guard against the occasional raids made on the property to recapture him.

1775
He held a series of orgies with his wife and young girls at La Coste.

1777
Arrested in Paris and taken to Vincennes Fortress. He wife petitioned long and hard for his release, but was not even told where he was being held.

1778
Refusing to plead insanity, the Marquis' 1772 case was retried and he managed to clear himself of the charges - legally making him a free man. But he remained in prison due to a lettre de cachet in force - an arrangement by which a prisoner's family (in this case his wife's parents) would pay for his 'rent' as a tenant of the system.

While being transferred to Vincennes he contrived to elude his four guards, returning to La Coste. A month later he was rearrested.

1782
Sade writes the first real attempt of his infamous style, Dialogue of a Priest and a Dying Man. He started work on 120 Days.

1784
The prisoner was removed from his prison as the building was being closed. He was taken to the Bastille, still under the lettre de cachet.

1785
He started work on 120 Days of Sodom in the form we see it in today.

1789
The Marquis was making as much a nuisance of himself as possible by this time, and had taken to drawing crowds outside by shouting (through an impromptu megaphone) from the windows that the guards were slaughtering the prisoners.

For his trouble he was transferred to Charenton Asylum (who weren't too happy about it either). Ten days later the Bastille was stormed, his possessions ransacked and scattered, and 120 Days lost to him forever.

1790
The Decree of Assembly released the majority of prisoners held under lettre de cachet. After some fourteen years of imprisonment, Citizen Sade walked free - into the middle of the French Revolution. In grave financial circumstances, and with Lady de Sade demanding a separation, he spent much time writing plays, to variable success (he was much enamoured by the theatre but never seemed to master the art - his best received play is Oxtiern, or the Effects of Libertinage). Later that year he would meet the last, greatest (and non-sexual) love of his life, Marie Constance Quesnet.

1791
The anonymous publication of Justine.

1792
After 'proving' himself a loyal member of the revolution with a series of political pamphlets (one of which he later claimed to have had thrown into the King's own coach) Sade was made Commissioner (whose duties consisted of management of the hospital system).

1793
Aline et Valcour is published under his own name, a novel of psychological rather than physical cruelty, with its fair share of suspense and social criticism to boot.

Held in contempt by one of the leaders of the Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat, Sade unknowingly escaped the guillotine only because of a mix-up in which the Marquis de la Salle was renounced by mistake. Before he could correct the error, Marat was killed.

The Montreuils, his former parents-in-law that had kept him a prisoner for so long, came under Chairman Sade's judicial power - and he acted to clear them of any charge. Indeed he was loathe (discretely so) to apply the death penalty to anyone.

He was arrested on suspicion of being an emigre (someone who had escaped from the country!), and betrayed by his colleagues because of his lax attitudes to 'law- enforcement'.

1794
Sade escaped execution again - because the sheer number of prisons and confusion of paperwork meant they couldn't find him. Later that year he was released.

1795
Philosophy in the Bedroom is published, a 'posthumous work by the author of Justine'.

1797
Justine was published in its final form (La Nouvelle Justine), quickly followed by Juliette. Sade and Mme Quesnet were having severe financial difficulties.

1800
The Crimes of Love, a selection of stories and novellas, was published.

1801
Sade was arrested and refused trial (because of the uproar it would cause) for being the author of Justine and Juliette.

1803-14
He was moved back to Charenton Asylum. Over sixty and in poor health, he would stay here until his death. Marie Quesnet was allowed to spend some time living with him whilst so incarcerated, and he spent much of his time writing plays to be performed by the inmates for the public. One of his doctors tried to have him transferred to a proper prison since he wasn't actually insane...

1807
Writes Les Journies de Florbelle, his last great work, now only existing in fragments.

1814
The Marquis de Sade died on December the 2nd, aged 74. His will left most of his money to Marie, though was contested by one of his sons (who would later attend further book burnings).

Once the grave is filled in, acorns are to be scatted over it, so that in time the grave is again overgrown, and when the undergrowth is grown as it was before, the traces of my grave will vanish from the face of the earth as I like to think memory of me will be effaced from men's minds, save for the tiny band of those who were kind enough to be fond of me to the end and of whom I carry a very warm memory to the grave.

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