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July 13, 2008

How the Marquis de Sade was finally forced into politics.


And the moral of the story is never lean on the weird. Or they will chop your head off. Take my word for it, Bubba. I am an expert on these things. I have been there. --HST, 1994

Bastille Day is tomorrow, July 14, the French day of independence. According to Hunter Thompson in "Better Than Sex" (a 1994 book about U.S. politics), and some other sources, the Marquis de Sade, Parisian artist and French nobleman, played a role in this opening drama of the French Revolution. As Doctor Thompson notes, the Marquis, a serious artist, was out-front different, wild and independent; he didn't care what people thought or said about him. On occasion The Marquis would run amok on booze and laudanum to blow off steam. The mainstream French aristocracy and clergy were never happy with him. They "not only hated his art, they hated him".

By 1788, the Paris police routinely harassed him, and jailed him a few times. The Bastille itself and then an insane asylum were his homes in the days leading up to July 14. In turn, he began to hate cops--and the government. Well, by the summer of 1789, Paris, in its oppressive July heat, was about to explode anyway and, acccording to Thompson:

The mood of the city was so ugly that even the Marquis de Sade became a hero of the people. On July 14, 1789, he led a mob of crazed rabble in overrunning a battalion of doomed military police defending the infamous Bastille Prison, and they swarmed in to "free all political prisoners"....

It was the beginning of the French Revolution, and de Sade himself was said to have stabbed five or six soldiers to death as his mob stormed the prison and seized the keys to the Arsenal. The mob found only eight "political prisoners" to free, and four of those were killed by nightfall in the savage melee over looting rights for the guns and ammunition.

Posted by JD Hull at July 13, 2008 11:59 PM


This is pure rubbish. Consult any comprehensive history of the period and any biography of de Sade and you will discover that he had been removed from the Bastille 10 days prior to the storming and as he was imprisoned at Charenton asylum could not have led any mob nor participated in the mayhem. Additionally, he was agrieved that the manuscript of his magnum opus, The 120 Days of Sodom, was lost - secreted between stones in the wall of his cell (unbeknownst to him, however, it was preserved and finally published in the 20th century). Furthermore, though a sexual sadomasochist, there is no indication that he ever engaged in any civilian violence and was relieved of his position in the new revolutionary government and imprisoned for "moderation" for refusing to go along with The Terror's butchery and mass executions.

Posted by: James Nova at July 14, 2008 09:56 AM

Point taken, Jim--but do read the post again. There are clues.

Posted by: Holden Oliver at July 14, 2008 11:24 AM

It seems the Marquis de Sade was also something of a travel writer.

It's a miracle he found the time to get his kink on.

Posted by: Shaula at July 14, 2008 02:05 PM

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