Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de SADE
Lettre autographe inédite à sa femme. L'oeil du Marquis : « ... et suis-je donc ici pour des années ? Adieu je suis au désespoir. »
s.n., s.l. s.d. (février 1783?), 11,7x19,1cm, Une page sur un feuillet remplié.
SADE Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de
Unpublished autograph letter to his wife. L’œil du Marquis: “... et suis-je donc ici pour des années? Adieu je suis au désespoir.”
N. p. [Vincennes Castle] n.d. [February 1783?], 117 x 191 mm (4 5/8 x 7 1/2 ”), one page on a folded leaf “What monster, oh dear God, what monster breathes these lazy expressions that you use and am I then here for years to come? Farewell, I am at the edge of despair.”Unpublished autograph letter by Donatien Alphonse François de Sade written in a fine and close hand on one page addressed to his wife.
Madame de Sade’s Paris address to fourth page.
Two small burns with loss of a few letters to top of first leaf.
Undated, this letter was written at the beginning of February 1783 during the Marquis’ incarceration in the prison at Vincennes.
The letter, full of both physical and emotional pain, was written from the locked cell in the dungeon to which ‘Monsieur le 6’ was confined, denied visits for over two months and suffering from partial blindness and terrible headaches. Apparently rambling, the letter is a mixture of thanks, complaints, supplications and reproaches, and is as much a love letter as a letter of hate, revealing the terrible vulnerability of the prisoner during this transitional period of his incarceration. It was in fact precisely during this period that the unique literary universe of the Marquis de Sade took shape in his sick head.“I received the doctor’s letter and I thank you for it, I shall reply if ever my head allows me.”
It was at the beginning of 1783 that the Marquis suffered from significant swelling to his eyes; he lost the use of his eyes almost completely from January to July 1783. Sade wrote a detailed report of his illnesses in an important record entitled Diary of my Eye
. As for his headaches, he writes in his Diary
for February: “9th, suffering terribly, I had a good night but strong headaches. The 10th it was so bad with my head that I couldn’t get up till three”. It is, by the by, this sole allusion that allows us to date the letter. The “doctor”
mentioned here is none other than Henri Grandjean, the King’s surgeon and eye doctor, and that of the royal family, sent to examine the prisoner following his insistent demands: “Please send me an eye doctor, the best in Paris” (letter to Renée-Pélagie, 4 February 1783). The Marquis was very concerned at the time at the prospect of losing his sight, as we can see by his frequent use of the verb “to see” every few lines: “come see me”
, “if I see them”
and ”if you could see me”
It was nonetheless while suffering from the onset of this blindness and various pains that deprived him of all other distractions and confined him to inactivity that Sade began to conceive his future erotic Odysseys, as he would note in a letter a few months later, in April 1783: “My eye is unchanged, and even the prospect of a cure seems to be very far off...Thus I am less occupied, I read less and work less, and my mind wanders to other things with a force so prodigiously more lively that, really, however grave the inconveniences I am faced with, I am almost tempted not to mind. I’ve always heard it said that when one of the senses is diminished, it triples the power of the imagination, and I am the living proof. It has made me come up with a singular rule of sensual pleasure. I am deeply convinced that one can whip up the pleasure of love to the utmost possible extent in shutting down one or two of the senses, or even more, each time one wants to climax.”.
But at the time, the Marquis, still far from this fruitful introspection, is overwhelmed by the ever-present suffering that seems to keep him in a state of profound confusion. Weakened by this violent affliction, Sade is “at the edge”
of imminent “despair”
and, stepping out of the virile pose that he usually adopts, becomes a powerless victim, subject to the cruelty of the Montreuil clan.: “Will I never gain the slightest favor from the executioners who surround you, are they not tired of persecuting me? As for me, I am tired of suffering. Oh, God, I’m exhausted.”
This supplication seems to prefigure the long complaints of the future Justine who, the victim of an unfortunate fate and the most appalling punishments, allows herself to fall into lamentation. Like his heroine, Sade here displays an unfeigned vulnerability, marked by the extraordinary vocative litany of “Oh, God”.
Wounded as much emotionally as physically, he turned to Renée-Pélagie who, despite the ban on visiting her husband (in place since 28 November 1782), and her entering the convent of Sainte-Aure, continued to be faithful to him and to correspond with him.
Nonetheless, these dutiful exchanges seem to make the Marquis peculiarly angry: “Let me breathe for two weeks at least, in the name of God, without harassing me like you do with dagger blow upon dagger blow.”
In the rare extant letters from Renée-Pélagie from this period, there is, however no trace of animosity or of “execrable letters”
, which more probably reflect an expression of Sade’s paranoia.
We can also see on display here an obviously bipolar personality, which reveals a Sade divided between the physical suffering brought on by his illness and an emotional suffering caused by the prohibition on visits. “I wanted to add that if you could arrange to come and see me before the beginning of Lent, the greatest service you could do me would be to bring yourself the things that would make me die if I saw them arrive without you”
. To avoid going mad, he put together a relatively detailed calendar, as the numerous references to time in his letter attest. He wants peace “until the first of March”
, which is to say “at least two weeks”
, which would put a potential visit from his wife off until “about the start of Lent”
or in other words “around the first of March”
, but which could potentially be pushed “until the 8th”
But the reassuring calendar of these conjugal visits suddenly dissolves in a frightening sense of time where the precise awareness of the time that’s gone by “in the six years that I’ve suffered”
echoes, as well as the uncertainty of his future in prison. “Am I then here for years to come?”
From then on, the Marquis de Sade, an aristocrat nonetheless hapless when it came to his liberation, and who devoted all his energies to this one goal, became a permanent resident of the dungeon at Vincennes. And from this new attitude was to come, not much later, the possibility of finding a far greater liberty than the one he longed for most of his life: writing.
One of the rare intimate letters of the Marquis de Sade that remains unpublished.
Provenance: family archives.
11 800 €
Réf : 59364