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More about the Chevalier de Sade

More about the Chevalier de SadeMore about the Chevalier de Sade
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The Chevalier Louis Philippe Henri élisabeth [or Isabeau] de Sade, born on 8 May 1753 in Antibes and died in Paris on 26 December 1832, member of the Ordre de Malte, was the cousin of the famous Marquis Donatien Alphonse François de Sade and was around ten years younger than him. Both prolific writers, they communicated, as much in their writing as in their acts, a frank contempt for authority, which caused the divine Marquis to be imprisoned for many years and the Chevalier to be shackled to a Royal Navy ship. Louis de Sade pursued a career as a ship captain until the French Revolution, then he joined the reserve of the English Naval Artillery. Through the political troubles that affected France at the turn of the 19th century, the Chevalier remained a loyal royalist and ardent defender of Louis XVI; he displayed his talents as a polemicist from the first revolutionary uprisings, and even lamented the Restoration of royalty by Louis XVIII in unpublished writings contained in the archives.

Belonging to the eminent, although penniless, Eyguières branch of the de Sade family, the Chevalier Louis de Sade received the title of Chevalier from the Ordre de Malte from birth. He bears one of the oldest names in Provencal nobility and was the godson of the son of Spain, Dom Felip, and Marie Louise Élisabeth de France, daughter of Spain and eldest daughter of the king of France Louis XV. Despite his prestigious title, the lack of means within the Provencal branch of the Sades prevented him, unlike his illustrious cousin, from following a gentleman's education; he therefore received basic training at Aix en Provence, then in a Parisian boarding school where he was the comrade of Mirabeau and the future viceroy of Corsica, Lord Minto, before joining the French Royal Navy at the age of 15. Throughout his life he will compensate for his lack of classical culture with an overflowing thirst for knowledge, which is reflected in particular in the thousands of pages in his archives dedicated to ancient history.

After four years of squadrons in Toulon, the Chevalier de Sade was given the post of Lieutenant on 4 March 1780 by the hand of King Louis XVI, who entrusted him with the command of the ship L'Eclair, a two-mast ship armed with 22 canons, with which he campaigned on the coasts of Italy and Provence. On the eve of the Revolution, his differences with the hierarchy of the navy deteriorated greatly. In order to distance him from France, he was appointed to the frigate iercelet, of which he abandoned command. His career as a political writer began during his imprisonment on the Toulon flagship, following his insubordination, where he published Mes loisirs sur le vaisseau amiral ou Lettres aux Etats Généraux sur une nouvelle constitution du gouvernement de la France. Uncompromising concerning the constitutional monarchy that he considers as an impeachment of royalty, he is struck off the navy lists after having refused to stick to the civic oath imposed by the Constituent Assembly. Co-signing an oath to royalty and to the Catholic church with other naval officers in September 1791 in Nice, he left France the following year and emigrated to England where he returned to service within the navy of King George III. Before his departure for Great Britain, the Chevalier signed a pamphlet «à mes compatriotes» «To my compatriots» in the Paris Gazette, urging members of the Provence nobility to rally the army of the Comte d'Artois in order to overturn the revolutionary forces. As Artillery Captain of the British navy, in 1794 he participated in the negotiations of the ephemeral Anglo-Corsican kingdom. His friend, the viceroy Sir Gilbert Elliot, Lord Minto, to whom he dedicated his Tydologie ou science des marées, sent him to Malta in order to obtain additional troops from the Grand Master of the Order, the Chevalier de Rohan.
It is at the turn of the 19th century, taking refuge in Lisbon, then in London for ten years or so, that the Chevalier embraced his vocation as a writer and published his first significant works. His emigration to England and his numerous stays at sea gave him the opportunity to meditate on French politics and perfect his scientific knowledge. He re-joined the French navy in 1815 before resigning a year later, disappointed with the monarchy of Louis XVIII. Entirely devoted to his writing activities, the spent the last fifteen years of his life between his residence at Château_Thierry and the Hôtel d'Espagne, rue de Colombier in Paris. He continued, without success, his attempts to publish his Lexicon, but succeeded nevertheless to publish several works despite his weak low naval officer pension: in 1820 he published L'Art de faire les lois, and in 1822, Préceptes politiques à l'usage de la monarchie, and finally in 1831, De la démocratie à l'occasion des élections populaires, his last published work. The autobiographical elements disseminated in his personal archives reveal the portrait of a solitary man, who dedicated his life to making his political convictions heard. He died in Paris on 26 December 1832 at the age of 79, leaving behind an unpublished work of several thousand pages.
Heir to the Lumières, ship captain and fervent royalist, Louis de Sade was a writer and self-taught scientist born of one of the oldest families of the Provencal nobility. Worthy successor of Pierre-Simon La Place, whose work he continues on the influence of the stars on the tides, the Chevalier also has an ambition commensurate with Alembert with his Lexicon, a major project for an Encyclopaedia of «technical political science words,» which is above all a pretext to the sociological, philosophical and politically engaged reflections on all the notions and values of his time. For example, this is the case with its long definition of «word and thing,» both a linguistic analysis of the dichotomy between language and its designation and a violent pamphlet against the consequences of the misuse of language. This titanic work remained unfinished and was partially published posthumously. A large majority of his writings was not published, leaving thousands of pages of his personal archives to be studied.

The Chevalier left a bank of astonishing eclecticism for posterity, the careful inventory of which has allowed for the discovery of tens of manuscripts of unseen and ready to be published works. From England where he had taken refuge from 1792 until 1815, then in Paris, the Chevalier worked to identify the causes of the revolutionary political divide as well as point out those culpable of such disgrace. Amongst the thousands of unpublished pages, there are some manuscripts of the highest importance, illustrating his work as a theorist of the French Revolution, in particular a 240-page history on the Vendée royalist revolt offering a passionate and authentic analysis from the view point of an emigrant aristocrat. He also signs a diatribe on Louis XVI's minister intitled Histoire du mois de juillet 1789 ou L'Hégire de M. Necker, relating the misdeeds of Louis XVI's minister, responsible, according to him, for the taking of the Bastille. His archives also contain the unpublished manuscript, Parallèle entre les révolutions anglaise de 1688 et française de 1788, which is an audacious exercise of historical comparison, the fruit of his admiration for Great Britain.
The Chevalier shamelessly judges the historic errors of King James II by relating them to those of Louis XVI: «James II abusing his power to acquire the power of a King of France and Louis XVI violating the fundamental laws of his kingdom to lower his power to the level of that of a King of England, this was a major error on behalf of them both.» However, he draws this surprising conclusion: «Louis XVI would have been an excellent King of England.»

The majority of his writing focuses on the French Revolution, which precipitates his future as a writer and political thinker. The Chevalier de Sade's archives are made up of scientific, political and historical writings, as well as a section of family correspondence and autobiographical writings of extraordinary rarity, constituting a unique and very precious source of information, which sheds light on the other works.
The Chevalier employed the services of a copyist, whose hand is found distinctly in certain leaves.

Political writings

The archives contain 2500 pages of political writings, including 11 unpublished manuscripts intended to be included in the Lexicon, offering a critical view of French society at the time of the Revolution (4 âges de l'ordre social, L'Hégire de M. Necker, L'Art de faire exécuter les lois, l'Innovatiomanie, La Guerre de Vendée, Le Mot & la chose, Les 3 âges des colonies, Les Bonnes Gens, Mon rêve, Le Paraguay). Louis de Sade remained deeply affected by the collapse of the French royalty, even holding on to the Restoration of the monarchy under Louis XVIII. He instils these opinions in the Lexicon, a dictionary modelled on the Encyclopaedia, which he worked on throughout his life: «People keep asking me if this work is finished. My response is always the same: No it is not, it can never be.
POLITICS is a science like astronomy, chemistry, botany, finally like all branches of human knowledge, destined to expand and improve.» In addition to more than 90 unpublished definitions from the Lexicon, the archives conserve 1511 pages of manuscript that were likely excluded from the version published posthumously because of their excessive volume.
La Vendée is the most important unpublished manuscript, offering a detailed account and a personal analysis of the bloody revolt of the Chouans, «the most just and legal resistance that there has been amongst men,» which he followed with hope from England. The Chevalier paints a picture of the grandeur and the decadence of the Vendée, filled with ancient and historical references, making this last royalist burst a true Homeric epic, where «we saw new Camille, Penthesilea face up to all the dangers, bearing the dread and death in the ranks of the Republican army.»
The most beautiful passages are dedicated to the Chevalier de la Charrette, martyr of the Vendeans, a «Céladon poitevin» who was «a statesman, similar to Auguste, when he became the owner of the Roman empire.» Retracing the Catholic and royal army's feats of arms, he laments the chaos of its political and military organisation, while glorifying the essential role that it held against the revolutionaries. Despite his desire for objectivity, we must read this admirable account in the light of the intimate convictions of the Chevalier, who remained a man of the Ancien Régime until his death: «I should, as an impartial historian, compare [the cruelties committed by the Vendeans] with those that, on this occasion, were practised by the revolutionaries... The Vendean royalists lost a lot in these debates and not one was enriched by them; the patriots gained a lot and many were enriched...»
He draws conclusions from the disagreements that the Vendean uprisings experienced by placing the blame on the leadership of the revolt: «The misfortune of the Vendée and of France on the other hand, hoped that none of the leaders of this holy resurrection, despite their goodwill and their brilliant qualities, knew how to show its spirit at the height of the political situation where the circumstances had taken it.»
We also find amongst the unpublished manuscripts of the Lexicon an interesting 208-page diatribe against Necker, a minister supported by the revolutionaries and considered solely responsible by the Chevalier for the Revolution through the disruption of government institutions that he started in 1788. L'Hégire de M. Necker recounts the story of the fateful month of July 1789, marked by disgrace, then the return of Necker as Prime Minister of finances on 16 July, recalled by the king in order to appease the revolutionaries that had taken the Bastille two days earlier. The Chevalier describes him as a false prophet who abused the trust of Louis XVI and audaciously compares him to Mahomet: «both saw themselves at the head of a sect of many zealous partisans... both used them to regenerate the respective government which protected them and worked to destroy the doctrines, existing institutions and to declare themselves supreme ruler... both were chased by the police of the states where the they caused trouble... Their hegira, their flight from the main stage of their exploits gave the signal to begin the uprisings, quarrels, murders... in a month both were revolutionairies.»
However, we note a real respect for the prophet of Islam who opposes the disgrace placed upon the minister: «The former created a major empire and legitimised the just admiration that posterity had for him, while the latter overthrew a great empire and legitimised the just indignation that history overly justified.»
Day after day, L'Hégire details the events, which, since Necker's departure on 12 July, have sealed the history of France and signed the death of the monarchy: «France, undecided on which principle to devote itself, or what kind of government it must now submit to, waited, in the perplexity of its heart and the anxieties of uncertainty, for the one that would bring it the following three powers: the king, the National Assembly or the Paris Commune? It was for whom out of the three to have the throne of St Louis.»
He reviews the Parisian rebellions and the damaging role of Necker who gathered all of the Revolution partisans in his lap: «The National Assembly, the Commune of Paris, the stupid, the fearful and all of the bad subjects of France had only one voice and one action to speed up Necker's return.» The knight deconstructs in passing the myth of the taking of the Bastille: «We expected for hundreds of prisoners to come out. There were only 7 of them and not one of them had been locked up for a state crime: 4 for bills of exchange and 3 others because of disorder that would have condemned them to libellous punishments, if justice had been restored to to them...» This long diatribe is also studded with cutting remarks and good words; the Chevalier joyfully tackles «this lottery that we call révolution, the worst of all those invented to date» and one of the most famous symbols, the guillotine «this universal panacea, which, in an instant, cuts all its ills in one go and without fear of relapse.»

Scientific writings

The second part of the Chevalier's archive is a collection of 2000 pages of 17 notes and first drafts of scientific works on an incredible variety of subjects, such as algebra, geology, electricity, architecture, sound, anatomy, game studies and finance. These sciences are used in particular for navigation or for historical science. The archives indeed retain the elements of an unpublished future work of 270 pages, entitled Notes et extraits sur la chronologie ancienne, comparing the different calculation and time serialisation methods. The Chevalier refers in particular to the Mexican, Egyptian, Chinese and biblical calendars, calling in turn on chronography, astronomy and cosmogony. Our ignorance on these scientific subjects has prevented us from studying this fascinating collection more precisely.

Historical writings

The most significant part of the Chevalier's papers is dedicated to history, representing 7500 pages, shared between original reflections and sources that fuel his political science research. In particular the collection contains an impressive unpublished manuscript, Le Parallèle entre les révolutions anglaise de 1688 et française de 1788. This manuscript is based on an impressive amount of knowledge and reflections of hundreds of pages on the history of England, spanning from the conquest of Emperor Claudius of Britain in the year 43 AD until 1701. Greece and Ancient Rome are amongst the civilisations most studied by the Chevalier, taking up several thousands of pages and to which he regularly alludes in his political writings. During his many trips across the Mediterranean between 1791 and 1794, he decided to document his reflections on ancient political history in the form of letters that remain unpublished, based on the writings of numerous Roman historians. He completes his classical culture by reading the ancient poets, of which he has hundreds of copied pages from the Iliad and the Odyssey, odes by Pindar, as well as the Aeneid by Virgil.


Mémoires sur l'administration des Fonderies, in Paris at Gattey Libraire, under the Arcades of the Palais Royal, 1 June 1787 Mes loisirs sur le vaisseau amiral ou Lettres aux Etats Généraux sur une nouvelle constitution du gouvernement de la France, in Toulon by l'Imprimerie du Vaisseau amiral, Paris, T. Barrois, 1789 Lettre à Mr. de Fleurieu ministre et secrétaire d'Etat ayant le Département de la Marine sur le serment civique exigé par tous les fonctionaires publics de l'État by Mr. le Chevalier de Sade, [1791] Détails historiques sur l'arrestation d'Albert de Rioms, commandant d'artillerie in Toulon, 1791 «À mes compatriotes », Gazette de Paris, 9 December 1791 De la Tydologie, ou de la Science des marées... par le chevalier de Sade, London, B. Dulau, 1810-1813 Dialogues politiques sur les principales observations du gouvernement français depuis la restauration et sur leurs conséquences nécessaires par l'auteur de la Tydologie, London, Deboffe, 1815 L'Art de faire des lois, Paris, at Pinard, 1820 Les Préceptes politiques ou les moyens de s'avancer dans une monarchie, Paris, Treuttel & Wurtz, 1822 Des orateurs et des écrivains politiques dans un gouvernement représentatif, Paris, Lamy, Opigez & Mongie, 1823 Causes de la grandeur et de la décadence de l'autorité des Européens en Amérique par M. le chevalier de Sade [prospectus], Paris, Imp. De Tastu, [1827 ?] De la démocratie à l'occasion des élections populaires, Paris, G-A Dentu, 1831 Extracts from Lexicon politque published during the lifetime of the Chevalier de Sade [1] Corps représentatifs à Bourges. Mauvais ministres. - «Impr. de Everat» [2] Présages. Centuries de Nostradamus. Fables de La Fontaine. Des 88. - «Impr. de A. Barbier» [3] Attroupemens. Réveillon. - «Impr. de A. Barbier» [4] Corps politiques. Monumens. - «Impr. de A. Barbier» [5] Royalistes. Ultras. Parti des ultras. Apathie des royalistes. Des ventrus, ou des royalistes à la mode en 1824. - «Impr. de A. Barbier» [6] Origine des constitutions politiques. - «Impr. de A. Barbier» Posthumous work Lexicon politique ou Définition des mots techniques de la science de la politique, Paris, A. Pougin, 1837-1838
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