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The Marquis De Sade: A New Biography Paperback – January 27, 1998
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So he tells us that libertine behaviour was quite common at the French court in the environs of which De Sade grew up. The Regency Court was notorious for its debauchery; so was the personal life of Louis XV. The contemporary penal system in France was extremely "sadistic" - and De Sade actually denounced it. Thomas also draws what read like exculpatory parallels between De Sade's notorious writings and those of Samuel Richardson, Mrs Ratcliffe or Matthew Gregory Lewis.
All the same, De Sade went to extremes even by the standards of those days. In 1763 (he was then 23 and had not long been married) a young girl complained to the police: she had been able to talk herself out a terrifying situation in which the marquis proposed to sodomize her and to whip her with metal-tipped thongs, and De Sade had his first spell in prison, this time for only a few months. He soon resumed his hobby of flagellating young women, sometimes as many as four at a time brought to his rented "petite maison" from a working class district in the east of the city, while having more orthodox sexual encounters in his own house with a series of mistresses which, in due course, would include his sister-in-law.
De Sade was a compulsive recividist. There would be three more incidents (1768, 1772 and 1774) which would lead to prison sentences. Thomas comments that in the one in 1768 De Sade had been "the victim of a certain degree of bad luck", and that the girl's ordeal was "trivial" compared with the vicious whippings inflicted on women criminals were far worse.Read more ›