Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade, was an aristocrat and member of the Decadent court of Louis XV's France. Sade wrote crude descriptions of sexual intercourse and incest, and was banned by religious powers from using a pen.
Sade's works were many, including novels, historiettes, plays and political pamphlets. Among the most notable of them are:
- Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man - One of the earliest works by Sade, written while incarcerated in the Chateau de Vincennes in 1782, it is a dialogue between a dying libertine and a priest about the mistakes of a pious life, and is expressive of Sade's atheism.
- The 120 Days of Sodom (a.k.a. The School of Licentiousness) - One of Sade's most infamous works, about four corrupt libertine nobles (the Duc, the Bishop, The President, and the Durcet) who spend 120 sex-filled days. Written in secret while he was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1785, it was believed to have been lost until it was discovered hidden in his cell over a hundred years later. Later made into an infamous 1975 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
- Justine (a.k.a. The Misfortunes of Virtue) - Written in 1787-88 and published in 1791, this is one of the two novels (the other being Juliette) that got Sade thrown in prison for the last thirteen years of his life by Napoléon Bonaparte.
- Juliette (a.k.a. The Prosperities of Vice) - A sequel of sorts to Justine, published six years after the first novel, the story is about Justine's sister, many ways her polar opposite. The Villain Protagonist engages in every form of depravity, up to and including murder.
- Philosophy in the Bedroom - A pornographic narrative published in 1795, fifteen-year-old Eugénie is "educated" in the ways of the libertine by Madame de Saint-Ange, her brother Le Chevalier de Mirval, and their friend Dolmancé.
Sade is one of the reasons the French prison the Bastille has such an infamous reputation. Although it held a handful of political prisoners who were all treated reasonably well, two weeks before the Storming of the Bastille` he shouted to the crowd outside his cell that prisoners were being killed, sparking a riot. He was transferred to an insane asylum before the actual Storming occurred.
After the Revolution, Sade became a citizen and gained several official offices, and eventually stood in the National Convention representing the Far-Left, as his political writings supported a property-free Utopia. This put him at odds with nearly every other French Revolutionary, which still supported some degree of property and capitalism. He was appalled by the Reign of Terror, during which he was imprisoned for a year and nearly executed, and his home in Lacoste was ransacked by an angry mob. Upon the death of Maximilien Robespierre, he was released along with others imprisoned. However, he was broke and had to sell his Lacoste castle.
When Napoleon came to power he ordered the arrest of the "anonymous author" of Justine and Juliette and Sade was imprisoned without trial. He was transferred to a harsher prison and two years later his family convinced the courts to put him in an insane asylum at Charenton. There the director, the Abbé de Coulmier, a Catholic Priest, had a liberal and progressive attitude towards rehabilitation. Coulmier let Sade's ex-wife stay with him and allowed Sade to write and stage his plays for the public using fellow inmates. The government eventually ordered Coulmier to stop all theatrical performances and after the fall of Napoleon, Coulmier was relieved of his duties.
Sade died in 1814. His skull was later removed from his coffin for phrenological examination, and his son had all his unpublished manuscripts (including a multi-volume epic called Les Journees de Florbelle) posthumously burned.