Letter to the Marquise

This short story is a reworking of a university assessment. Studying the life and work of the Marquis de Sade is a little obsession of mine. So much so that I am studying his work, Justine, for honours thesis. This is a work of fiction.

Want to read more of my works on the Marquis de Sade?
Read the poem, My name is beauty

To Madame de Sade,

I must impart upon you the events of my dream which have changed my life entirely. Though the dream is bittersweet, I confess I have repressed it for too long. The dream or, better fitting, nightmare haunts me as much in happiness as in sadness and I am caught by conviction to gratify you with it.

It was a warm night as I flattered the people of the ballroom with my presence. The smell of foie gras taunted my senses and I satisfied myself by bathing in its wondrous scent. The room was set in colourful disarray. And from the spectacle of ballroom jezebels I emerged, Napoleon’s adversaire, the great nobleman, Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade. A delicate sense of awe surrounded me. My eyes searched the room for the disgust I hoped I would find on the Corsican’s face. Oh, it sent shivers through me, I felt so powerful, to be a threat to the dear old Emperor. Shades of gold teased my eyes, every speck of light bouncing off every inch of the intricately detailed ballroom. And that dear old Corsican, just a foot above the recently polished parquet floor, sent me daggers. I walked past the Emperor, eyeing him intently, and from the crowd of deviant souls I heard one speak.

“Napoleon would see him in prison before he would see a win in war.”

Ha! Indeed, I have been in and out of prison more times than I can count. They scorn me with flattery. To think I am such a threat to the Corsican that I should be hidden behind the walls of Sainte-Pélagie.

Oh, but the creatures! Pathetic, they crave my attention. I sneered at them. I pitied them. They surrounded me in the hopes I would surrender myself to them. But do not fear, they are all beneath me. Women are whores.

My dearest queen, I confess I became aroused. A creature began to mock me with her vile tongue, and questioned my motives; my intentions with my “heroine” Justine. Oh, what a sweet and innocent creature she was, so ignorant; how I loathed her. Much like the dear Justine, I imagined no one loved her. But, oh! I started to hear the gentle banter of adoring devotees, gathered in the midst of the room.

“Justine was raped and beaten mercilessly, all because she was good-natured. Sade despises the good in humanity. By the laws and rules of men, Justine was a good woman and yet Sade punished her relentlessly for not adhering to his particular morals.”

Oh, the pitiful Justine. Pray, do continue, I thought.

Oui, Madame you are correct, but of course, she is at fault for her own innocence and beauty. What man can resist, in the world of Sade, an opportunity to corrupt? And further, we see that once she has been corrupted, she is of no further use to man. She has lost her virtue, the only thing that she holds dear; that is precious to her, and therefore she must die.”

My dear, they may call me a hater of women if they must – oh, how they pretend to despise me – but they cannot resist the temptation of my tantalising work.

“To add, woman’s existence is relative to man, she is nothing until man gives her meaning. The Marquis does not love Justine. She is nothing, as all women are nothing. He despises her.”

That I can confess with certainty, Justine is an example. I willingly submit her to terrible fates. These scholars, these disciples of mine, completely understood my insatiable desire to humiliate the ‘innocent’ Justine. Je déteste Justine! What do I care of the fate of woman? Justine is worthless because I made her so. She is no different from any other woman. She died because I made her die. I am the authorial power. I have power over the weak.

“But his desire is nothing short of that of modern France. Her people are just as sexually devious. Why are we to repress and condemn our natural urges?”

Why indeed? I thought. Dearest one, their constant appraisal of me was ever so delightful. Though it was just a dream, I imagine myself as the talk of every ball; of everyone.

Exactement. He confronts us with what we refuse to accept as reality. We punish him because we feel we are justified sinners unlike him.”

Oui, Mademoiselle. Can we really censure a man whose only crime is reflecting the despicable society in which he lives?

That is true, but my dear, what came next was horrifying.

“I theorise that the Sadean women are incapable of happiness because Sade is incapable of happiness himself.”

Bah! Dearest one, even you must know that in order to be happy and free we must do evil things? They continued the torture.

“Sade is complacent in humiliating Justine. It is clear that the persona – and I imagine it reflects his nature – is unmoved by human misery; using Justine to make a point about how we should not idolise virtue. Sade was indifferent to Justine, he did not love her. Perhaps he hated her, as he hated all women.”

Of course I did not love her; such a pathetic creature as she. How could anyone love her? Silence ensued as they reflected on my creation, before one of them started again.

“I wonder if Sade feels empathy for Justine, or if she is just a fantasy to him. Justine is confronted by horrible hardships; abuse, rape, persecution. She is sadness personified as she exclaims, ‘Oh, God, who decrees all, is it therefore written that no virtuous act shall be suggested by my heart but it shall immediately be followed by misfortune?’ But as Sade continues to deny authorship of Justine, sometimes in jest, what is he saying about his creation, Justine? Is she as sad and pathetic as Sade? Will he deny her and himself so he can be free of any political dangers inherent?”

It was a dream, still I confess I was completely caught off guard by the contempt they unleashed towards my good self. It is true that I denied authorship of Justine and continue to do so as it is for the freedom I crave; the freedom that that damn Corsican will deny me as long as I proudly give myself to my disciples. Alas! They condemn me to misery?

Dearest one, they professed to know me better than I know myself. I recall that dream to you the best I can. I was once a man of power, and yet here I am withering away in my cell. I relive that dream, in my mind, as I am confined by these walls; lusting after my instrument with which I cast my envious mark. The Emperor has deprived me of such joy. To take my ink, my quill, he has castrated me!

My beautifully furnished two-room suite cell saw the collapse of me, physically and mentally. I fell to the cold, hard ground in quiet reflection. I thought of Justine’s tortured life, her broken soul and saw myself.

Dearest one, I am imprisoned unjustly. I am denied freedom not only from the Emperor but from my family who curse me and deny me, just as I deny Justine. I face my fears within these walls, and yet my mind is haunted with my own reflection, of Justine. I fear madness will consume me, if it has not already.

Adieu, my dearest one! As you cannot conceive the dread I feel each and every day I am confined here and as you cannot free me, I must now say goodbye for I fear I will never be set free. All I have left to comfort me are the depressing immortal words of Justine: ‘Under what fatal star was it necessary that I should be born?’ I, unavenged as she, shall remain within these torturous walls until death takes me.

© 2015


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