The Marquis de Sade unmasked!
Bravo to Suzanne for recognizing the Marquis de Sade under the guise of the ci-devant Marquis de Lacoste in Mistress of the Revolution!
In this little exchange, Lacoste-Sade expresses his opinions to my heroine Gabrielle, who, in the midst of the Revolution, now prudently goes by the name of Citizen Labro.
“You have no idea, dear CitizenLabro, how strong the prejudices bred by superstition and fanaticism stillare.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look no further than the relations between the sexes. It is clear that all women belong to all men.”
“No,it is not clear to me at all. I have the good fortune to belong to no one.”
“It is wrong, my dear, very wrong. You ought to belong to any man who wants you.”
I raised my eyebrow.
“Yes,”he continued. “You forget, dear Citizen, that we are all born free and equal in rights.”
“What has it to do with me belonging to any man who wants me? Since I am free, I belong to one but myself.”
“Oh,but we are not talking about the liberty of women here. What matters is equality between men. If you allege your liking for one man to decline the proposals of another, you violate the principle of equality.”
“Nonsense.I need not allege anything to decline anyone’s attentions. Do you really believe then that a woman has not only the right, but the duty to give herself to any man who requests her favours?”
“What kind of liberty would I enjoy, if I could not use it to tell a man I dislike to go to hell?”
“Ah,but you would not do so for the sake of liberty. You would do it out of modesty. That despicable feeling is not found in nature. Look around: animals are not modest.”
“Maybe not, but we are not animals. Your opinions, Citizen Lacoste, reflect the most absolute contempt for the rights of women.”
Lacoste’s ideas here are directly inspired by Philosophy in the Boudoir, a work published by Sade around 1795.
Also Lacoste, in Mistress of the Revolution, fondly speaks of his mother-in-law as “the ugliest and most vindictive sow in all of France,” and we learn that she had him locked up under the Old Regime for disgracing his wife’s sister, who was fifteen,and eloping with her to Italy. Again this is straight from Sade’s curriculum vitae.
Sade’s life is in some ways so emblematic of his time (the end of the Ancien Regime, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era) that it seemed impossible not to make at least a passing reference to him. I mention his Justine in my second novel, For The King, and he may make an appearance in my third book. I did not expect him there at all, but it turns out that he may have a connection to the case that is the base of the novel. How things happen…
So why did I change Sade’s name to Lacoste in Mistress of the Revolution? For many reasons, the obvious one being not to incur the ire of Sade purists if I incorrectly placed him as a prompter in the Theatre du Marais, which really existed during the Revolution. Also I wanted to play with my readers, to see if any recognized him. I picked the name Lacoste, which was one of Sade’s chateaux in Provence, as an additional clue. Again, my congratulations to Suzanne!