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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : Life & Times : Asylum (1804-1814)

1803
March, accused of trying to molest some young prisoners near his cell, Sade is sent another prison, Bicêtre.
prison window at Vincennes April 27, Sade is transferred to the insane asylum at Charenton in order to avoid further scandal and a public trial of his allegedly pornographic works. His family (his ex-wife, his two sons, and his daughter) agree to pay for his pension there. Sade and the director of Charenton, François Simonet de Coulmier, develop a relationship of friendship and mutual respect, as Sade helps the director test a new therapy by putting on plays with patients and professional actors.
1804
August, Mme Quesnet is permitted to move into a room next to Sade's.

1805
April 14, Coulmier permits Sade to leave the asylum grounds and attend Easter mass at the parish church of Charenton-Saint-Maurice. Charenton is reprimanded by the police authorities, exposing a rift in the way both sides viewed the danger to the public posed by the 65-year-old alleged pornographer.

1806
Sade writes one of his last letters to his old lawyer Gaufridy: "Perhaps you would now like a word about me? Very well, I am not happy, although I am well."

1807
June 5, Sade's massive ten-volume erotic novel begun in 1806, Les Journées de Florbelle ou la Nature dévoilée, is seized in a police search of his room (after Sade's death, it would be burned by his son, Donatien-Claude-Armand).
1808
Sade's daily Journal reveals the return of his counting mania and his paranoid belief that random numbers can foretell the date of his release.

September 15, Sade's younger son, Donatien-Claude-Armand, marries his cousin Louise-Gabrielle-Laure de Sade.

1809
June 9, Sade's elder son, Louis-Marie, serving in Napoleon's army in Italy, is killed in an ambush.

the battlements at Saumane


July 12, Napoleon's prison commission informs him that the prisoner Sade "preaches crime in his speech and in his writings" and that he ought to "be kept in detention and deprived of all outside communication."

October 18, new police orders put Sade into solitary confinement and deprive him of pens and paper. Coulmier succeeds in ameliorating this harsh treatment.

1810
July 7, Sade's wife Renée-Pélagie dies at her family's estate in Normandy.

1812
December 4, Sade completes his novel, Adélaïde de Brunswick.

1813
May 6, the government orders Coulmier to suspend all theatrical performances.

Sade finishes the final draft of a novel, Histoire secrète d'Isabelle de Bavière, and publishes another, La Marquise de Gange.

1814
July 21, Sade's surviving Journal records a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old worker in the asylum, Magdeleine Leclerc. Their sexual relations had started much earlier, for Sade's meticulous records indicate that this is their 57th sexual rendezvous. Sade is also teaching her to read and write.

November 27, Magdeleine visits "for two hours, and I was very pleased with it," Sade wrote in his Journal.

December 2, after a brief illness, Sade dies in his sleep at the age of 74. He left a generous bequest to Mme Quesnet who stayed with him to the end.

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