Wednesday, August 17, 2005

a letter Marquis De Sade sent to his wife while he was incacerated in an asylum.
[July 27, 1780]

Well! there you are in your profound silence... That is well done; it is right sometimes torest upon one’s laurels. I am going to do the same thing, as you will find out. But the difference between us two is that I myself have nothing to say, and that consequently it is utterly pointless for me to write; but you, on the other hand, if you were willing, or if you were able, you would have a lot to say. Take careful note that I say: If you were able, and let this make you clearly see that I am treating you fairly, and to what a degree I am persuaded that you are as much constrained to perform the nonsense that they make you do, as I am to receive it. Let this make you see clearly once and for all, that through all this, my feelings for you will never change. My portion of hatred is not divisible; I would be too afraid that it would diminish by being shared, and I too much crave keeping it whole for her who deserves it most.

Despite all your kindnesses and all the lovely signals, my health is considerably deteriorating. It is impossible for me to live without taking the air, especially during this season. I am completely unable to eat or to sleep. When preventing me from taking exercise, they should at least leave me undisturbed at night. But to make me suffer dreadful headaches all day long by depriving me of sleep, and to keep me from taking the air, which is the only thing that can relieve them, this amounts to giving me every sort of suffering at the same time, and this lovely treatment I rather think I shall never forget. So send me, at least, the flask of eau de Cologne that I askedyou for a long time ago: if I had had it here with me all those days I so much suffered from nerves and from headaches, it would have helped me a lot. You will admit, that this is a perfect example of petty, gratuitous harassment--to refuse me even this slight assistance. Ah! what a fine lesson all that teaches me! and how I will profit by it! Always remember that I would much prefer to dash my brains against these walls than not to some day force your execrable mother into saying: “He is absolutely right; I repent of it. In dealing with that sort of personality, it was wrong to act in that way.”

I was really convinced the other day not only how much they want me to suffer, but even how much they would be heartbroken if an illness interfered with all the wickedness they heap on me here. By actual count, I have spent seventeen nights without for a single minute closing what is called an eyelid. I was like a veritable corpse, to the point of making me afraid to look at myself. The surgeon comes to ask me how I am. “My looks will tell you better than I can,” I reply. “But no... not at all. In fact, you look wonderful,” he says. Good, I say to myself, that is all I need to fully convince myself that this fellow sees me exactly like the surgeon of the Inquisition who takes the pulse during the torture in order to determine if one can bear it longer,and who invariably says: “Continue.” My surgeon (I truly believe it) has an order to report how I appear; but have no illusions: he fully understands, from the manner in which they speak to him, that they very much want his report to prolong the torture? By means of which, this fellow, to whom this essentially matters nought, always reports that things are fine, as long as he does not see me suffering a fatal seizure.

Moreover, for themselves, bear in mind that all these wicked people have their own interest in deceiving the families, and so they do it; in a word, the most horrible abuses which, under cover of this fine secrecy, are daily committed in these prisons, are one of the things that ought most deserve the attention of people with influence, if there really were justice in France and if those concerned did not have a much greater interest in stifling protest with gold or with pretty girls. Everything is fine, all is well, everything is the best possible when there is a girl in your bed and money in your pocket. Gold and c[unts], there you have the gods of my country, and would I stay in France, I, who will never have a lot of the former and who will be extremely ashamed to debase myself to the point of prostituting the latter in those so closely related to me?... No, no, I will not stay here!... I swear it, I would rather go and live in Japan; I would certainly meet with more honesty there and I would certainly not see so many horrors... And besides, do they punish over there? Just once in my life, I would love that, in fairness, they compare the life of the unfortunate victims they imprison here, with the wicked deeds of those who keep them behind bars, and then let them see which ones better deserve to carry the keys to the doors! A bit of bad luck, an indiscretion, some treachery by lackeys or friends on the one hand, compared to a thousand injustices, a thousand abuses, a thousand atrocities on the other, but which one is covered up and which one’s reputation is destroyed?...

Here are a lot of books I am returning to you. Two volumes of the abbé Prévost, the restof M. d’Alembert... What a man! what a style! These are people I would have for arbiters and for judges, and not the idiotic gang that dares to govern me! I would have no trouble being exonerated by judges like these, because one has as little to fear when the matter is in the hands of Philosophy holding the scales, as one ought to tremble when one sees it in the hands of bigotry and greed... In addition, the two first volumes of the Cérémonies; I am sending it to you pretty fast, it seems. I never told you that this was a book to be read in a fortnight, and I could see quite clearly, when you sent it to me, that this was a clever device by which you would have me know that I still had a long time to suffer here. But by now I am used to all your stupid nonsense; I am bored by it; all that no longer bothers me at all. It remains to be seen if a proper way to improve a man is to shrivel up all the sensitive faculties of his soul; and notwithstanding your Cérémonies, they have so little upset me that I will undertake--if that is what is wanted--to leave here only when they are read: proof that my estimate of my sentence is on the high side, and has ever been so. [As to] the rest of the books that I still have here, [I] will not read them in a rush. I am warning you about this, because they, along with the Cérémonies, can only be books for serious reading. So it will go slowly. As to books for my light reading, all I have is your Troubadours: that will take about two weeks, that is, until August 15. I am asking you, for the aforesaid light readings, to look, together with Amblet, for some novels, both very interesting and philosophical,but, above all, not too black or too melancholy, utterly detesting both of these extremes. Once again: some novels, because at night here, it is absolutely impossible to undertake any serious reading.

For the 1st of next month: one cake of marsh-mallow (not syrup) and above all, I entreat you, my flask of eau de Cologne; do not forget it, I ask it of you as a favor. If you would like tosend some figs, they would give me pleasure: last year, the ones you sent at around the same season, as far as I can recall, arrived in good condition and did me a lot of good. I leave you free to repeat your generosity, and I beg you not to forget me when the fine peaches of Chartreux are in season.

Moreover, you will deeply put me in your debt by obtaining permission for me to take the air, because I tell you a thousand times that I am suffering horribly by lack of exercise and that it is a disgrace to deprive someone of the benefits belonging to every creature. Could not an over-abundance of benefits also serve to send a signal? and would it not also be clever and moving whereas that other method would not be? Amidst filth and grime neck-high, bitten by bedbugs, by fleas, by mice, and by spiders, served like a pig because the promptitude with which they scurry out of my room as soon as they have brought me my food never allows me either to remember or the time to ask what I need, and the three scullions of our innkeeper always ready to shoot off as soon as they open my door, is all of that not lovely, does all of that not add up to a delightful signal?... a truly touching and poignant signal? Do you really have to add to this the torture of the pneumatic air-extractor [alluding to the denial of his taking the air, or perhaps to his faulty stove]? I will not mention my hair, which is falling out since one of these signalling episodes involved my no longer taking care of my hair: I will not mention anything about this because I am no longer vain about my hair, thank God, and because when I get out of here I will certainly take to wearing a peruke... That is a good definite...

And really, my best friend, am I not mature by now?... No more illusions--I had them these forty lovely years following which I promised to renounce Satan and all his pomp and pretense... Now I am past forty, it is time to begin, little by little, to acquire a slight pallor of the grave: one is less surprised when it comes when one is prepared for it... So let it come, let it come when it will; I will wait for it, neither desiring it nor fearing it. It is only those who are favored by fortune who regret leaving this life; but those who, like me, count their years only by their misfortunes, do not have cause to look upon the moment of annihilation except as the happy occasion of the breaking of their chains. May the dear friend who alone could still sweeten my last days spare me the grief of surviving her, and may those unfortunate souls who owe their existence to us be able to enjoy it more than us! These are the only prayers that I still dare to ask God, and the only ones whose granting would cause some roses to bloom on the thorns of my life.


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