Seven Years War in 1763, Sade embarkedrnupon the dissolute life that wouldrnultimately land him in prison. As informationrnnow revealed by Sade’s descendantsrnfor the first time discloses, Sade’srnfather long struggled first to arrange arnmarriage for his son and then to get himrnto the altar without venereal disease.rnAnd the marquis’s marriage to Renee-rnPelagie de Montreuil, daughter of a noblernde robe, was no obstacle to his chainrnof affairs and debauches with actresses,rncourtesans, and common prostitutes.rnLess than six months after his wedding,rnSade was arrested on charges of blasphemyrnand incitement to sacrilege for forcingrna prostitute to trample on a crucifix,rnalthough he was let off within a fewrnweeks.rnBut a certain Inspector Marais nowrnhad Sade under his surveillance, and forrnthe rest of his life he would be in and outrnof trouble with the authorities, whetherrnroyal, revolutionary, or imperial. In thernlegendary Arcueil affair (1768), for instance,rnthe marquis was imprisoned forrntaking a beggar woman to a house in thernParis suburb that he rented for just suchrnoccasions, whipping her until she bled,rnmaking small incisions with a pen knifernon her back, and dripping hot wax on herrnwounds. Again, he was set free, on therncondition that he retire to Provence, butrnhis next escapade got him in hotterrnwater. In June 1772 in Marseilles, hernengaged in a “Cytherean morning” withrnfour prostitutes and his valet, followed byrna night with another prostitute. Therngallant and generous marquis offeredrnthe women candies containing Spanishrnfly, an aphrodisiac. When two of themrnsubsequently became violently ill, Sadernwas brought up on charges of poisoning,rnas well as sodomy (with his valet). Sadernand the valet fled before being sentencedrnto death in absentia and executed in effigy-rnThus began a five-year period spentrnmainly on the run, although Sade alsornmanaged to get himself imprisoned inrn”the citadel” of Miolans (Savov) and tornescape, as well as to indulge in his greatrnSilling fantasy with approximately 20rnyoung servants at his fortress in Provence.rnFinally, Inspector Marais caught up withrnhim when the marquis foolishly visitedrnParis (from which he was barred), andrnSade spent the next 13 years writing arn”wrenching monologue”—in correspondencernand in fiction—from prison.rnThe marquis would have been liberatedrnfrom the Bastille on July 14, 1789,rnexcept that 12 days eariier he had misbehavedrn(using the funnel normally employedrnto empty his chamber pot intornthe moat as a megaphone to start a disturbance)rnand been moved to Charenton,rna home for the mentally ill that alsornhoused “police prisoners.” So it was notrnuntil the lettre de cachet (a secret letterrnarbitrarily used to keep “dangerous” orrn”scandalous” people under lock and key)rnwas abolished in 1790 that Sade was setrnfree—though not for long. The FrenchrnRevolution was in full swing, and whilernthe aristocratic marquis dropped the partitivernfrom his name, called himselfrnLouis Sade, and played the patriotic citizenrn(even writing pamphlets andrnspeeches for the revolutionary cause), hernwas eventually arrested under the 1793rn”law of suspects.” In fact, Sade barely escapedrnexecution just two days beforernRobespierre was guillotined. Releasedrnduring the Thermidorean reaction, Sadernreturned to writing the novels and playsrnhe had begun to produce during his longrnstint in prison, until he was arrested duringrna meeting with his publisher in 1801rnand deposited in a series of prisons beforernbeing sent once again to Charenton.rnThe grounds for his detention (althoughrnSade was never tried) were sexual obsession,rnand the books seized at the time ofrnhis arrest were burned. It was in Charentonrnthat Sade died in 1814.rnWhile the details with which Leverrnfills in this sketch of Sade’s life revealrnmuch about the man, almost equally interestingrnis what the book reveals aboutrnhis era. In 18th-century France, Leverrnwrites, “vice was an unwritten privilegernof the nobilitv.” The degradation inrnmorals coincided with the materialism,rnsensationalism, and individualism espousedrnby Enlightenment intellectualsrnand even relied on these philosophiesrnfor vindication. Locke, for example, becamernpopular in French salons, wherern(argues Lionel Gossmann in his FrenchrnSociety and Culture: Background for 18thrnCentury Literature) “both [his] sensationalismrnand his individualism couldrnbe welcomed by an aristocracy dedicatedrnto the social pleasures and newly emancipated,rnas far as its private life was concerned,rnfrom the ‘tyranny’ of Versailles.”rnThe materialists struck an additionalrnblow to Christian morality by arguingrnthat the moral and social order isrngrounded not in divine law but in nature.rnWhile Sade’s writings place him in thisrncamp, they also show that he consideredrnsociety to be without order; nature forrnhim is not harmonious but Hobbesian.rnMaterialism often slipped into pessimismrnin describing human relations,rnand Sade epitomizes the Age of Reason’srnquick descent from cheerful skepticismrnto gloom and despair.rnChoderios de Laclos’s Liaisons Dangereuses,rnwhich is often included withrnSade’s Justine and Cent Vingt Journees dernSodome in discussions of 18th-centuryrnlicentious literature, exemplifies the cynicalrnview many intellectuals of the periodrntook of human nature. Laclos associatesrnlove and sex with hostility and destruction,rnand his character Mme.rnMertreuil’s line “U vaut vaincre ou perir”rn(“One must win or perish”) proves truernfor the characters of this story. MilosrnForman’s film Valmont (loosely based onrnLaclos’s novel) delivers an equally cynicalrnmessage with the vicomte de Valmont’srnreproof of the marquise dernMertreuil; “You are confusing bets andrnmarriages, Madame. One must alwaysrnhonor a bet.” {Valmont vividly portraysrnthe decadence of Ancien Regime France,rnand it seems no accident that both itrnand Stephen Frears’ Liaisons Dangereusesrnwere produced in 1980’s America.)rnA deist rather than a materialist,rnVoltaire still admitted with Laclos thatrnhuman nature can be cruel. In Candidern(which Sade’s Justine parallels in inflictingrnmisadventure upon misadventure onrnits main character), Voltaire maintainsrnthat man engages bv nature in sin andrncorruption: when Candide and hisrnphilosopher companion Martin see twornships fighting, Martin says “that is howrnmen treat each other”; a few pages later,rnMartin assures Candide that men havernalways been “liars, cheats, faithbreakers,rningrates, brigands, weaklings, rovers,rncowards, enviers, gluttons, drunkards,rnmisers, self-seekers, carnivores, calumniators,rndebauchers, fanatics, hypocrites,rnand fools”; and a scholar at a dinnerrnparty the two traelers attend philosophizesrnthat life is “an eternal war.”rnBut if other 18th-century writers questionedrnthe harmony of nature, Saderndeepened and generalized their doubts,rnas Gossmann concludes. Sade’s workrncentered (as did his life) on what herncame to call “isolism,” or the radical impossibilityrnof communication betweenrnhuman beings. In Les Infortunes de larnVertu, the 1787 precursor to Justine, Sadernwrites: “Man is naturally wicked, he isrntherefore wicked in the frenzy of his passionsrnalmost as much as in their calm.rn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn