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At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life Paperback – November 1, 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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About the Author

Francine du Plessix Gray is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, and the author of Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, the painter Cleve Gray.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140286772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140286779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although few of us would choose the Marquis de Sade as a friend, there can be no doubt that he was one of history's most fascinating and colorful characters. This book eschews sensationalism and gives us a fascinating glimpse of the private world of the man who prompted psychiatrist, Kraft-Ebbing, in 1882, to coin the term "sadism." Interestingly, sadism played but a small part in the life of de Sade; he was as much a masochist as anything else.
de Sade was born in Paris in 1740; his young mother was governess and lady-in-waiting to Prince Condé. At the age of four, de Sade threw one too many temper tantrums and was sent to the south of France, to his doting grandmother in Avignon. From Avignon, he was sent to various Jesuit schools where, at the time, flogging and sodomy were common practice. This, the author convincingly argues, provided the needed catalyst for the emergence of de Sade's true personality.
de Sade married his only wife at an early age, the plain and ungraceful Pélagie Montreuil, daughter of the intelligent and ambitious Madame Montreuil. The Montreuil's had money but no familial link to the aristocracy. For a time Madame Montreuil excused the sexual forays of her new son-in-law, but eventually her forgiveness become too much for him to ask; she turned against de Sade with a bitterness, becoming not only his mother-in-law, but his lifelong nemesis as well.
His marriage to Pélagie, however was a surprisingly good one. de Sade apparently awakened long-repressed passions in the young girl that remained until their separation many years later when she rejected him with much fervor.
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Format: Paperback
It often seems difficult for anyone reading a biography of the Marquis de Sade to approach the task objectively for the simple reason that his life and writings precede him in a way unlike most writers and historical figures. Thus, the noun precedes him--"sadist"-and the adjective-"sadistic"-our language itself fixing the man's transgressions before the fact of his biography, making the biography appear superfluous in light of the enormity of the man's crimes. But there was, indeed, a real human being behind the noun and the adjective--Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade--and Francine du Plessix Gray's "At Home With the Marquis de Sade" provides an insightful, sympathetic, well written picture of that human being in all his complexity.
Gray's biography concentrates largely on the relationship de Sade had with two women-his first wife, Renee-Pelagie de Sade, and his indomitable mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuil. De Sade's wife remained a constant companion to the erstwhile Marquis for more than a quarter century, suffering his sexual excesses (including dalliances with her younger sister, Anne-Prospere), the ensuing scandals and, ultimately, the many years of imprisonment. His mother-in-law, a social climbing women of fierce and irrepressible will who at first found the Marquis charming, ultimately became his worst oppressor, driven like the Eumenides to avenge de Sade's seduction of her virginal younger daughter, Anne-Prospere. She was, in Gray's characterization, a woman who exemplified "primitive female fury, a rage that is unquestioning in its self-righteousness." And it was Madame de Montreuil who unstintingly worked to keep the Marquis imprisoned for over thirteen years, freedom coming only with the fall of the Bastille in 1789, when the Marquis was forty-nine years old.
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An excellent book. I found out more about this guy's personality by reading this book than anything else that I read on him. How his wife tolerated him for as long as she did is truly amazing; and I found myself laughing out loud at this guy's gluttony and tyranny. It's incredible what these women had to endure with these men!
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By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
instead of reading this I suggest you pick up Maurice Lever's book "Sade" the family of the Marquis gave him the private letters and unpublished facts concerning their great great great grandfater. Fascinating.
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Format: Paperback
Francine Gray has humanized Sade for us. The full description of his activities prior to his arrest,as given by Gray, confirms what Sade says of himself,"I am a libertine: I have conceived everything one can conceive in that genre, but I've surely not done all I've imagined and surely will never do it.." Sade was a visionery of cruel and convoluted sex. As regards the use of whips and Cat-'o'-nine tails and sodomy, he was only following the style of his contemporary aristocrats, a way of life which treated prostitites and the lower orders as captive booty, like the nubile black slave girls were treated in the South here till the Civil war.That way of life amongst the French Aristocracy .seems to have continued at least till the twenties of the last century- see Proust's portrayal of the proclivities of Baron Charlus in the last volume of his 'Remembrance of Things Past' ['In Search of last Time' in the recent Penguin Edition]. The description of the French Revolution by Madame Sade is an insider's account of the cataclysm. The black tid-bits about the leaders of the French Revolution, - Mirabeau [incest with his sister and writing erotica] and Danton, ['who read Justine to masturbate']are quite revealing and also raise the question how it is that lechers and the morally defecient become leaders of rabble or are chosen as such by the rabble.Francine could have analysed what exactly was the attraction Sade had for women of all types- the intellectual Milli Rousset, the beautiful Anne Launay,his sister-in-law, the uneducated Constance and others.The book is, on the whole, a great read. B.T.Sampath
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