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Louis, Chevalier de SADE Ensemble complet des archives du Chevalier de Sade

Louis, Chevalier de SADE

Ensemble complet des archives du Chevalier de Sade

1791-1832, divers, autre.


The Complete Archives of Louis, Chevalier de Sade
1791-1832 | ca 12,000 leaves | various format


Unpublished political, scientific and historical archives

The complete manuscript unpublished papers of Louis, Chevalier de Sade (1753-1832), author of the Lexicon politique and cousin of the famous Marquis.
The important geopolitical, historical, and scientific archives of a learned aristocrat, a privileged witness of the end of the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, the Consulate, Empire, and Restoration.
A unique fund of research on the implementation of a constitutional monarchy.

Exceptional collection of the Chevalier Louis de Sade's personal archives, the cousin of the Marquis de Sade, representing 12,000 handwritten pages, including several thousand unpublished and written by his hand. The Chevalier shows a thought system that he describes as «holistic,» including historical, political and scientific reflections.
Louis, Chevalier de SADE

If we take the French Revolution as the birth of an experiment, both secular and political, the Chevalier de Sade was without doubt one of its early critics. Not only of the Revolution, which had many other detractors, but of its political ideology, which would go on profoundly to impact the two hundred years that followed.
What he calls «positive politics» is «based on reasoning and experience». «The theory did have some attractions for me; I studied it with care, I savored its principles. Now, I see their value only in terms of the impact of their implementation, what we've seen them produce in the peoples of which history has given me knowledge. This is my method; I know that it is, all in all, the opposite of the methods utilized by the men who have governed us and written our constitutions to this very day without deviation. This continuous divergence between what has been done and what should never have been done increased my confidence in the path to be followed and at the same time fortified my determination to keep to the views I had adopted, of judging laws by the historic consequences they entail rather than by the lyrical, supposedly conclusive, metaphysical arguments with which these innovators continually, and still to this day, assault us.»
The Chevalier de Sade, who saw the world in terms of his own time and place, could be nothing other than a Royalist. There were practically no examples of democracy in the history known to the Chevalier, apart from the Classical democracies of Greece and Rome which had been experiments only in very elitist forms of democracy. These were very well known to this political scientist, whose papers contain 7,000 pages dedicated to the history of the Classical world.
The republic ushered in by the Revolution, was more than just a political system – it was the realization of a philosophical political ideal. And while most of those opposed to the new regime saw in it above all a threat to their personal situations, their religious beliefs or even more simply their habits, the writings of the Chevalier de Sade show no such dogmatic influence; or at least, he never uses dogma to justify his arguments.
Louis de Sade, a gentleman without a fortune and without significant ties, was conservative through philosophical and historical conviction and not out of interest. It is with this perfect intellectual honesty that he studies the essays, memoirs and political or theoretical works of his contemporaries.
Running counter to Enlightenment thought, the Chevalier's view of society owed very little to philosophy. Though he puts together a serious theoretical history of the development of Man from the condition of «savages» to the forging of various societies, he does not posit Man's ideal nature, as some of his contemporaries did. Rather, the Chevalier examines the gap between nature and the civilized being without passing moral or philosophical judgment, as was the fashion at the time. «The political error that damned Europe in the 18th century was basing its reasoning and legislative principles on Natural Law and forgetting that the social order of Empires is based on territorial possessions.»
The Chevalier applies this sense of restraint to all his arguments, including the Industrial Age – which is to say his own – which, according to him, «has done much good and much harm, and brought us many benefits and many misfortunes.»
This effort at objectivity serves to make up a conservative thesis, but unlike many ideologues of all stripes, the Chevalier does not build up a didactic argument, all of whose elements seek to prove the author's viewpoint. Louis de Sade, who was not intending to publish these writings and therefore has no readership to convince, does not force his arguments to fit the mold of his thinking, but aims to be exhaustive. Thus, he explores all the various avenues, those that both conform to, and do not conform to, his way of seeing the world.
In this respect, that writings of the Chevalier are a peerless collection of the breadth of thinking of an enlightened aristocrat at the heart of the most significant political and social rupture in our history.
Unlike his cousin, the famous Marquis de Sade, the Chevalier was clearly a man of the Ancien Régime. But he was far from being one of its caricature figures who symbolized its decline or its suicidal stagnation; he was the representative of a hereditary monarchy, a political system proved both by timeand in many different places.
Without wealth or power, the Chevalier was not – by standing up for the Monarchy – standing up for his own privileges. Rather, he was describing a social structure that was under threat not from the Revolution (which was merely a consequence), but by the failings of its elites and their misunderstanding of the foundations of Kingship. One is struck by how little he refers to Faith or the Divine Right of Kings.
The Chevalier was an objective thinker rooted in his time, in the same way as the Encyclopedists, but at the service of a world that was soon to disappear, rather than the world just being born.
Like Chateaubriand, than whom he was 15 years older, the Chevalier presents us with a discourse that is deliberately kept posthumous, and thus detached from the constraints of his social and political position. But, unlike the famous memoirs of the former, the papers of Louis de Sade are not those of a famous writer and a French Peer, marked by a political career and a literary authoritativeness that influenced his writing. The posthumous publication of Memoirs from Beyond the Grave was a premeditated political and literary act which shows a desire to make a mark on the new world just taking shape. The posthumous publication of Chateaubriand's masterpiece was carefully foreseen and organized by its author.
The writings of Louis de Sade are of a different sort. It was his need for exhaustiveness that forced the Chevalier to accept that he would – inevitably – be unable to finish his undertaking. At 75, gathering together his papers, he expressed the wish that his work be continued by others and not published as  it stood.
This lack of ego about a work that seems to have taken up an entire lifetime, confirmed by the paucity of other publications during the course of his life – which did not present a major problem for him – was the basis of the Chevalier's thinking and contributes to the unique nature of these writings in a period when publication, the request of permission to publish, the regulation of public morals and the risk of aggressive legal action generally led to the necessity of people censuring themselves as well as taking into account the needs of the reader.
This free-thinker was little given to these wise restrictions. His first work, written on the eve of the Revolution in the hold of the admiralty ship in which he had been placed under arrest by warrant for rebellion, was immediately censured and ground underfoot by the Monarchist government.
It was called: «Mes loisirs sur le vaisseau amiral ou Lettres aux Etats Généraux sur une nouvelle constitution du gouvernement de la France [My free time on the admiralty's ship, or Letters to the Estates General on a new constitution for the government of France].» The other works he had published later were all very much politically engaged and even his scientific study of tides, La Tydologie, included a number of comparisons to the great social and political movements of the Revolution.
A rebellious spirit, then, despite his attachment to Monarchic principles, the Chevalier was at the same time an iconic figure of the pre-Revolutionary French aristocracy and a representative of one of the least well-known and yet most significant classes of the Ancien Régime, the younger brothers of Lords, Gentlemen without fief, «noble by birth, but third class citizens by the condition of their fortunes,» as he put it when describing himself.
The Chevalier is also notable for his less than orthodox education and career for an intellectual and writer of the age. Born into the more humble branch of the Sade family, the Eyguières (unlike the Marquis, who was descended from the noble branch of the Saumanes), Louis de Sade was at a very young age, after a period with the Jesuits, sent to the hard boarding establishment of the Abbé Choquart, where he knew Mirabeau, of whom his memories are hardly outstanding: «If in my youth, instead of being submerged in the worst of boarding establishments, though not cheap, I had had good teachers, I would have gotten somewhere...With an upbringing straight out of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, raised to the purity of morals by the abbé Choquart, I knew nothing but how to fight, play Barre, climb roofs, steal apples, and a few bits of algebra.» The reference to his contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau is without doubt – for this ardent Royalist – the harshest of criticisms aimed at this institution for the correction of ill-disciplined boys. From the age of 15, the Chevalier was enrolled in the Navy and it was therefore as a pure autodidact that he acquired most of his considerable knowledge. Thus, he had no knowledge of Greek or Latin unlike many of his educated contemporaries, but he did have a huge well of knowledge in all the fields of physical and human sciences. It is not only his documents, but also the tasks that were entrusted to him, that bear witness to this fact. He was made a squadron commander, asked to install Benjamin Franklin's new invention, the lightning rod, on all the private houses in the port of Brest, and entrusted with numerous missions of intercession during the first phase of the Revolution, as well as being commissioned to write for several short-lived counter-Revolutionary publications.
The Chevalier de Sade was intellectually very active and was engaged in his interactions with important political actors. It seemed that this autodidact enjoyed real esteem in scientific circles, as witnessed by the translation into English and publication of his study on the extinct volcanoes of Coblenz in the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts in February 1804. That study had been undertaken in 1792 and sent by the noted mineralogist and crystallographer Jacques Louis de Bournon to his British colleague, the famous chemist William Nicholson, editor of the journal.
But it was only with the publication of Tydologie that the full depth of the knowledge the Chevalier had acquired during his years in the navy and his subsequent exile came to light, as well as the specific and overarching character
of his thinking.
This work, published in 1810, represents perfectly the development of the Chevalier's thinking and underlines the impressive variety of the papers he has bequeathed to us.
The Chevalier seems, essentially, to perceive the physical world and the sociological and intellectual worlds as one coherent mass, in which each element and event can be understood according to a shared scientific rationale. Heavily influenced by the work of Francis Bacon, the Chevalier sought to write his own Novum organum scientiarum, towards which the ydologie was a first attempt. The ambition of this overarching analysis of the sciences did not escape his contemporaries, as witnessed this report by A. L. Millin in the Annales encyclopédiques of 1818 :
«The ydologie is the core around which the author brings together the various methods that until now have been used to advance the cause of human knowledge. In it, he examines the advantages and inconveniences of each in the various branches of our knowledge where we have employed them. This work therefore is applicable to all who are interested in the sciences, even political science and the science of law. Botanists, astronomers, anatomists and geometrists will find in it a great many problems and new solutions, which will be useful for them in order to advance the bounds of their favorite science...The author points out methods which, in the hands of a man of genius, will permit him – so he says – to trace effects back to the laws of the fundamental causes which bring them about....Thus, one can say that geologists, anatomists, geometrists, horologists, chemists, grammarians, botanists, philosophers and statesmen will not find this work to be without interest and perhaps even not without humor. The author rarely chooses well-trodden paths, and it is rare indeed that anyone who does should be right. It is for learned men to judge if the ideas of the author are innovations, or obstacles that will damage the progress of science.»
But ydologie, as the Chevalier himself realized, was merely an outline of the system that he wanted to erect, some of whose details still remained to be worked out. The following years were therefore devoted to the study of history, sciences, and politics, with an exhaustiveness witnessed by these archives.
For Louis de Sade broke with Bacon's scientific method and established a link not only between the sciences but also between the sciences and politics. Convinced that one single principle underlies the world in all its aspects, he was looking – in his work, which shows a high level of learning – for a historical and metaphorical logic. he archive of funds that he put together is not therefore an aristocratic intellectual hobby but an attempt to glimpse the underlying common logic that dictates both the sciences and history.
An in-depth study of his historical works would allow someone to uncover the choices made by the Chevalier de Sade as a historian as well as those in his scientific writings.
But if the philosophy of sciences, which appears to be separate from his unfinished works, still remains to be studied, the historical and scientific archives that the Chevalier produced as a whole present another significant field of interest for those wishing to explore the thinking of Louis de Sade, and – what's more – understand how an 18th Century aristocrat responded to the major shakeups of the French Revolution.
Essentially, the Chevalier, who could not boast a depth of ideological knowledge inherited and transmitted naturally through an aristocratic education, was forced to acquire the level of learning that matched his rank all by himself. herefore his archives are not only a record of his reading – which is the basis of his thought – but also of his own understanding and interpretation of what he read. Thus we find out a great deal about the reference works on which he relies for his historical knowledge through his associations and what he deduces from them and retains of them. His choice of reading as well as his dead-ends give the reader an almost exhaustive, and at any rate incredible panorama of the intellectual arcana of this symbolic representative of a society doomed to disappearance.
All the Chevalier's intense political thinking is thus uncovered by the light shed on his bibliographical sources as well as his personal experiences, described at length in his autobiography, which is written in the third person and remained unpublished. At the twilight of his life, he retraces his wanderings, typical of a committed aristocrat, from the early days of the Revolution till the second Restoration. We learn about his pre-Revolutionary military career, his first political writings that earned him a warrant for his arrest and detention in the hold of a ship. He also describes the wavering of military authority following the first shocks of the Revolution, his entry into the counter-Revolutionary resistance, at first official, and later his clandestine efforts to turn the situation around. Finally, we follow him into exile in England and see his slow acceptance of the ineluctable transformation of his society, without his ever losing his fighting spirit (unlike many aristocrats who, at the moment of its greatest crisis, abandoned much more easily the old society to which he, the Chevalier, did not see – right to the very final line of his writings – any viable alternative).
It is without doubt the impressive consistency of his thinking, right from his first published texts to the considerable manuscript work that is his Lexicon, which remained partially unpublished, that allows us to consider the Chevalier's writings as a unique intellectual construction without parallel in the extant personal archives from this key period in the history of France and the Western world.
More than a simple account of the individual life of an aristocrat caught in the upheaval of revolution, these 12,000 pages are the work of a real thinker of the Monarchic regime, and a record of the philosophical and scientific ideas so intimately tied to that particular world view.
 

>> En savoir plus sur le Chevalier de Sade (Biographie & Bibliographie...)

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