THE MARQUIS DE SADE
Marquis' Many Scandals
Sade's encounter with the young prostitute was his first debauch to become fodder for public gossip since his marriage, and the first sign that the young charmer whom the "Presidente" had come to love and trust was indeed the sexual deviant she had first feared he was. Within ten days of the incident, Sade was arrested by Inspector Marais and imprisoned within the dungeon of Vincennes, a historic Parisian fortress. His father, who was only just beginning to see his son in a kinder light thanks to the praise and affection of the "Presidente," was livid. "An outrageous debauch which he went about coolly and alone," raged the Comte, who had spent the better part of his young adult life engaging in passionate orgies. While outraged, the "Presidente" sought to shield her daughter from the nature of Sade's offense, even while Pelagie was fully aware that her husband had been arrested.
Sade himself, startled to find himself imprisoned for behavior he had thought to be commonplace among the nobility, donned a most contrite face and pleaded for mercy from the police:
"This is a favor I dare to ask you on my knees, with tears in my eyes. Be kind enough to reconcile me with a beloved person (Pelagie) whom I am weak enough to have offended so grievously...I beg you, monsieur, do not refuse me the privilege of seeing the dearest person I have in the world. If she had the honor of being acquainted with you, you would realize that her conversation...is capable of restoring to the straight and narrow path a wretch who feels unsurpassable despair at ever having left it."
Thanks in part to the seeming authenticity of Sade's entreaties, but mainly to the lobbying of the de Montreuil family, Sade was released from Vincennes after three weeks of imprisonment. While sternly admonishing the Marquis for his outlandish conduct, the "Presidente" also stated her belief that he was still possessed of a wholly redeemable and trustworthy character. Of this she would be continually proven wrong over the next several years. Indeed, within a year of this first scandal, Sade had taken up with a ravishing young French actress in Paris, Mlle. Colet. The eighteen-year-old beauty was so well practiced in the art of erotica that she was able to fetch a price of 720 livres, or $2,800 in today's money, for an evening's "work." A woman of such "high station" was beyond Sade's financial means, and so he had to settle for the occasional tryst at times when she was not with one of her more well-to-do suitors.
Inspector Marais, the police official who had imprisoned Sade after the Testard affair in Paris, had been charged with the task of keeping Sade under official police surveillance since his release from Vincennes. He kept a detailed report of the frequency and location of his trysts with Mlle. Colet, a report he shared with the Presidente, among others. She confronted her son-in-law with her knowledge of the affair, and convinced him to cease his philandering. As with the Testard affair, the two agreed that Pelagie should be kept ignorant of Sade's activities with the young actress. But, what perhaps began as an honorable agreement to keep one or two separate incidents under wraps soon developed into a normalized quid pro quo, wherein Sade continued his debauched behavior, the "Presidente" invariably discovering each respective debauch, and the two of them conspiring to keep Pelagie uninformed lest the news shatter her frail sensibilities. Despite such a duplicitous arrangement, the bond between the two remained strong for some time.
However, even the generous patience of Sade's mother-in-law was put to the test. In the spring of 1765, Sade arrived at his ancestral estate of La Coste, a medieval castle just east of Avignon. A woman, who was presumed by the locals to be his wife, accompanied him. In fact, his striking companion was merely his current paramour. Sade was once again "vacationing" from his wife by enjoying the company of another woman. Unashamed of carrying on in this way with his lover, Sade not only shared his bed with her at La Coste, he held elaborate parties at the castle, and invited members of the nobility from across the region to share in the gaiety. Most often, the Abbé de Sade was among the host of guests seen partying at La Coste, a man who knew too well that his nephew's current amour du jour was not his wife. This did not prevent the abbé from partying with abandon, and he said not a word of his nephew's shamefully public philandering until local gossip about the subject threatened to implicate him in the scandal. Ultimately, it was the abbé himself who revealed Sade's secret to the "Presidente," whose anger at being betrayed once more by the Marquis frayed the already fragile arrangement they had established. She responded to the abbé: "He can rest assured that even though I've hidden his follies from his wife...in order to spare them from lifetime estrangement...when he'll be in danger of even worse errors and misfortunes I shall firmly inform her, and convince her of her unhappy fate."
While Sade's affair with the Parisian faded out by fall, his love affair with La Coste blossomed. He returned to the castle in the summer of 1766 to perform much-needed renovation work on the aging fortress. Not to leave his work without a personal touch, Sade also added a secret room with which he used to store some of his more lurid pornographic devices, and a library boasting titles such as The Voluptuous Life of Capuchins and Tales of Priests' and Monks' Fornications. While unaccompanied by Pelagie, who remained with her parents bedridden and mourning her recently stillborn child, Sade apparently was chaste during this particular summer.
Sade's father, the Comte de Sade, died in January of 1767, but rather than send the Marquis into a prolonged period of mourning and chastity, the event seemed to awaken Donatien's dormant libido. He dallied with a number of women during the spring, but returned to La Coste for another chaste summer. Pelagie, pregnant once again, gave birth to her first son, Louis-Marie de Sade on August 27, 1767. The Marquis returned to Paris to be with his wife, and once again the "Presidente" found herself believing that de Sade's nature, tamed by the mantle of fatherhood, would finally become the faithful and doting husband she believed him capable to be.
However, the "Presidente's" hopes were ill founded once again when, on Easter Sunday, April 4th, 1768, Sade victimized another unsuspecting young woman. Rose Kellor, an unemployed cook and widow, was seen by Sade begging for alms outside of the Church of the Little Fathers in Paris. The Marquis stepped forward and offered her money in return for "domestic" services. She reluctantly agreed, and was brought to a cottage in the countryside outside of Paris, all the while being reassured by Sade that he will take good care of her. Upon entering the cottage, Sade brought her to a room and ordered her to take off her clothes. Frightened and bewildered, the young woman asked why, to which Sade replied, "For fun." She stripped of everything but her shirt, but this only served to enrage Sade, who ripped the shirt from her body. He then flung her to the bed, face down, and began to whip her bare buttocks with a cat-o-nine-tails. Oblivious to the woman's terrified screams, Sade came to orgasm, emitting violent shrieks of his own.
After taking a few moments to regain his composure, Sade left the room. Kellor immediately ripped the bed sheets into long strips, which she tied together into on long rope. She secured the rope to the bed stand, and lowered herself out of the window into the garden, from which she fled back in the direction of Paris. Villagers, responding to her screams, came out to find Kellor half-naked and covered in her own blood. She was taken to the home of the local police, who in turn brought her before a judge the following day to give her deposition. The Marquis had returned to his in-laws' home on Sunday evening, but already news of his assault had reached the family by Monday afternoon. For the first time in all of his history of philandering, the Marquis did not spare Pelagie the details of his sordid encounter with Ms. Kellor. However, rather than being scandalized and devastated by his account, Pelagie instead began to immediately create legal devices by which her husband could be protected from prosecution. It was a role she would, in time, fully usurp from her mother, a role that on certain levels could be likened to Hillary Clinton's defense of her husband's many sexual dalliances. However, it is perhaps in usurping this role that it was ultimately Pelagie who drove the final wedge between the "Presidente" and the Marquis.
Due to the tireless efforts of both the "Presidente" and Pelagie, Sade ultimately served only four months in prison for his offense. However, he learned that he could now count on his own wife to assist him in his never-ending quest for diverse and elaborate sexual outlets, and would one day enlist her aid in organizing a scandalous six-week orgy at La Coste. This was not accomplished, however, until after Sade had orchestrated an orgy of his own, one that included his valet, Latour, and four prostitutes in the city of Marseilles. This elaborate encounter, which took place on July 27, 1772, involved the consumption of Spanish fly, and a number of ménage a trois scenarios, wherein the Marquis would either whip a prostitute while masturbating his valet, make love with a prostitute while being sodomized by his valet, or sodomize a prostitute who was simultaneously performing fellatio on Latour. Among Sade's more bizarre and startling requests was for his female companions to consume a great deal of his Spanish fly candies: his goal was to give them gas so that he might "take in their wind", as it were. He also requested that he be able to whip the young women with a particularly violent-looking implement, one that was already covered with his own blood.
Frightened by the bizarre and brutal nature of his requests, the women begged to be let go. They departed, but Sade and Latour soon found another young women named Marguerite Coste. Ultimately, Sade had dismissed Latour for the evening, and was unable to convince Marguerite to allow him to sodomize her. Sodomy being a crime in France, she refused, but not before consuming the entire box of Sade's Spanish fly candies. He departed after this, but soon thereafter she became terribly ill and began vomiting the candies. She was taken to a doctor by concerned neighbors and, once she was stabilized, was then brought to the police where she gave testimony regarding Sade's request for sodomy. Her testimony, along with that of the four other traumatized prostitutes, was more than enough to convince the authorities to issue an arrest warrant for the Marquis and his valet, Latour. Police authorities arrived at La Coste shortly thereafter to arrest the two men, only to discover that they had been tipped off and had fled the castle to go into hiding. Sade's sister-in-law, the ravishing Anne-Prospere, with whom the Marquis was strongly suspected of having an affair, in turn, accompanied them. While she would return to La Coste without the Marquis, her association with him and Pelagie's continued defense of her husband secured the unending wrath and enmity of the "Presidente."
Sade was on the lam for a number of months, roaming across the European continent. Latour remained in his company, while Anne-Prospere returned to be with her family in France. As of November, Sade, Latour, and two additional servants, Carteron and Martin Queros, were holed up reclusively in a villa located in the nation state of Sardinia. For unfathomable reasons, Sade, at the moment when the authorities of the French Crown searching for him and his mother-in-law was determined to use all of her influence to see him destroyed, chose to send a letter to this very woman. Sade effectively handed the "Presidente" his own head on a platter. She seized the opportunity, and, through the French minister of foreign affairs, arranged for the Sardinian authorities to apprehend Sade. This they did on December 8, 1772, and Sade was spirited away to the French prison of Miolans. Although his confines were comfortable enough for a prisoner, for the first time in his life Sade was denied the most basic liberties: he was prohibited from receiving visitors, and even his mail was heavily censored by police authorities.
Immediately, Sade's scheming mind devised a means to escape. As per his habit, the Marquis employed his most common and resourceful tool, his charming personality and ability to manipulate others. Within a few months' stay at Miolans, Sade had convinced the warden that he was a criminal on the mend, a harmless noble who had suffered a momentary lapse of reason. As this impression began to take firmer hold in the warden's mind, he extended Sade's liberties, permitting him to take company with other prisoners and to wander the grounds of the castle. In similar fashion, surveillance of the Marquis became more relaxed, just as the insidious libertine knew it would. Sade had established an irreproachable reputation as a model prisoner, one he finally used to his advantage on the night of April 30, 1773.
That evening, the guard responsible for monitoring Sade's cell found nothing out of the ordinary when he saw a candle flame flickering from within, and did not bother to verify with his own eyes that Sade himself was in the cell. It wasn't until much later in the night, when the candle remained unextinguished, that Sade's captors finally thought to enter the cell, only to find him missing. On a table, next to an almost completely spent candle, Sade had left two letters for the warden: one was a detailed inventory of all of his personal belongings, of which there were many of great value; the other was a bold declaration of independence from the prison. In it, Sade took pains to thank his captors for a most pleasant stay, and even sought to shield them from recriminations by stating that it was his own cleverness, and not their ineptitude, that had made his freedom possible. Finally, Sade warned them that all efforts to pursue him would be met with violence. With his typical Sadeian flair, he wrote: "Fifteen well-mounted, well-armed men await me at the base of the castle...They are all sworn to risk death rather than see me captured again. I shall defend my freedom if it costs me my life. I have a wife, and children, who would pursue you unto death if you harmed me."
Sade spent the next year-and-a-half on the lam, roaming across Western Europe, staying only a few nights at a time in any given location. By December of 1774, however, he had gained enough courage to secretly make his way back to La Coste, once again to be reunited with his wife. Never one to play the contented house-husband, Sade drew Pelagie into his latest conspiracy. He requested that she assist him in orchestrating his latest sexual fantasy, an orgy that was shocking even by Sadeian standards, and that would effectively lead to the events that put an end to his conquests of the flesh.