My Gazette stories to my mind oft showcase the off-kilter, from the agony of parents learning a cherished daughter became in another world a parricide, to the whimsey of how does a ruling emperor react to the potential embarrassment and subversion of His Majesty innocently presented by an up-time classic of childrens’ literature. In Vicious Practices, a French aristocrat finds himself betwixt and between those extremes. Yes, monsieur, in the future your family is world-famous. Everybody knows your name. Why? Ahh– my, do look at that funny squirrel, Seigneur de Sade . . .
About the Author
Tim Sayeau likes to think his sense of humour ranges from the cerebral to the prat-fall, from Wilde word-play to Goofy gallivants. From the compleat (so far) history of a university students’ union (with a print-run of about oh, eight, ten copies) to the 1632verse.
Jean-Baptiste de Sade, Seigneur de Sade, Seigneur de Saumane et Beauregarde, read again his copy of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry.
The one entry upon the Sade family.
The disgraceful, embarrassing, demeaning, outrageous, degrading entry.
Condemned to death for an ‘unnatural offence,’ he’d avoided execution first by fleeing, then by permanent sequestration in the Charenton lunatic asylum.
Incarceration for life as an incurably vicious, obscene, unnatural offender, who’d completed his dishonouring of the Sades by inspiring . . .
The word Sadism, meaning a form of sexual perversion, is derived from his name.
“From my name!” shouted Jean-Baptiste de Sade.
The one grace of the Britannica entry was that between now and Donatien’s birth in 1740, the seigneurs de Sade were raised to the marquisate de Sade.
Not that that helped the current Seigneur de Sade.
Yes, he could petition the King and the Cardinal to raise him to a marquis, on the grounds it had already happened.
Heavens, as noblesse d’épée, he could plausibly argue the Sades had always been so.
It honestly wouldn’t require much; ally his family’s unquestionably ancient lineage to some mild revision of legal rules and Latin terminology, and behold, a marquisate!
Except then he’d be the Marquis de Sade!
Already in the salons snickers were heard, whispered comments behind his back.
The coquettes of the French court now avoided him—or worse, sought him out!
Proposing practices he hadn’t thought possible!
Still didn’t, not even after . . .
“Well, anyway, once is not a habit,” he told himself.
“But now what do I do?” he asked the room.
Even were there not, entries such as Donatien Alphonse François’s were among the first looked up, shared around and talked about!
The terms sadist and sadistic appeared now in broadsheets and newspapers.
Not regularly, thank heavens, but appear those did.
Each one a dagger-strike to Jean-Baptiste’s soul.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he disconsolately entreated the Lord.
No answer came.
Several nights later Jean-Baptiste, Seigneur de Sade, was at a salon.
As usual, there were, as he walked by, whispered comments from behind, occasional snickers, and titters from women hiding behind their fans.
Taking a glass of white wine from a passing servant, the Seigneur de Sade sipped it and considered the evening.
Should he figure that blued, screwed, and tattooed as the up-timers charmingly put it, he might as well take advantage of Donatien’s reputation and indulge himself? That pair of soubrettes standing by the open windows presented possibilities.
But then, why should he? He was not his descendant!
Perhaps switch his titles around? The seigneur de Saumane et Beauregarde after all had nothing to his name in the 1911.
Though that seemed the path of cowardice.
Possibly the sole accusation not leveled against Donatien Alphonse François.
Vicious, obscene, unnatural, but never a coward.
No, damn it all, the seigneur de Sade would remain the seigneur de Sade.
Then should he announce intentions to take holy orders and hie off to some remote part of the Sade holdings, to wait till some other up-time revelation distracted from the Marquis de Sade?
Not that taking off was doing the d’Aubrays great good.
Yes, of course they went to Grantville, but the fact—if events years from now in a different world could legitimately be called a fact—their little daughter Marie-Madeleine became a major murderess maintained interest among the belle monde.
Fortunately for the d’Aubrays, having Madames Bovary and Petiot constantly fulminate against them bestowed more empathy to their plight than condemnation.
Perhaps he should insult those two? Give them the cut direct?
Possibly, but such a tactic could easily backfire. Use it when fitting.
As Jean-Baptiste, seigneur de Sade, asked himself what would fitting mean, the salon’s hostess presented herself. She was accompanied by a footman, carrying a silver salver with a wax-sealed missive upon it.
“Seigneur de Sade, Jean-Baptiste, how good to see you!” intoned Marie-Madeleine, the Marquise de Combalet.
Perfectly the French courtier, Jean-Baptiste, Seigneur de Sade, bowed low before her and kissed her hand, in turn intoning, “I am equally pleased to see you, Marquise. You do me honor.”
You really do, he told himself. Choosing to be seen with a perhaps-pervert, most bold! Though it be only part of your duties as hostess, I honestly do appreciate it.
Her hand back at her side, the Marquise replied, “More than you know or expect, Seigneur de Sade.”
With that confusing remark, the footman beside and slightly behind her bent forward, bringing the salver closer to Jean-Baptiste.
As that occurred, the Marquise de Combalet explained, “My uncle the Cardinal wishes you to learn of what the 1985 Encyclopædia says of Donatien Alphonse.”
Ears around them pricked at her words. Her uncle the Cardinal Richelieu wanted the Seigneur de Sade informed? How interesting! How possibly significant and useful!
The Marquise de Combalet, as though unaware of the impact of her words, continued.
“Having read it in full, I regret to say it adds to your probable descendant’s ill reputation. However”—and here she paused, drawing in more attention—”it also shows the Marquis de Sade was, is, more and perhaps, better than the 1911 says of him. Read this, Seigneur. You may find it of use.”
Once the missive was in Jean-Baptiste’s hands, the Marquise took her leave of him, the footman following.
Conscious of peoples’ eyes upon him, Jean-Baptiste, murmuring his excuses, left the salon for a nearby antechamber.
Inside, seated upon a chair in the new Louis XIII style—a combination of the pre-RoF Louis XIII and the Empire style of Napoleon—the Seigneur de Sade broke the wax seal and read more of what the future said of that appalling creature, the Marquis de Sade.
In the Marquise’s elegant penmanship was
This comes from the 15th Encyclopædia Britannica, the 1985 edition.
It is not the complete section upon your infamous progeny.
I warn the 15th describes and adds to his crimes of sexual perversity and abuse.
That de Sade would never be received at any salon of mine.
However, the 15th also states his letters “combine incisive wit with an implacable spirit of revolt.” Furthermore, during the Reign of Terror the Marquis saved the lives of his parents-in-law and was accused of modérantisme, for which he nearly lost his head.
As for his writings, the 15th Britannica presents the following:
Today Sade’s writings can be more comfortably categorized; they belong to the history of ideas and mark an important moment in the history of literature—with Sade figuring as the first of the modern écrivains maudits.
I find it amusing how time and perspective alter attitude and judgment.
In 1911 the Marquis de Sade was only a ‘French licentious writer.’
In 1985 he marks ‘an important moment in the history of literature.’
The Marquis’ renascence seemingly began with the early 20th century poet Guillaume Apollinaire. A fact which may say all one needs to know of Apollinaire.
As for the Marquis, although a ‘damned writer’ is perhaps not an honourable accolade, it however places Donatien Alphonse François de Sade as a major figure within French and thus, world literature.
As well, confirmed by various researchers in Grantville, he was for his ‘implacable spirit of revolt’ termed ‘the Divine Marquis.’
I confess its application to that changeling mystifies.
That however was, is, by the second millennium the verdict of Literature, the verdict of History.
I am uncertain this provides much to any comfort. ‘The Divine Marquis’ remains someone I am certain we would both despise.
Credit his occasional displays of modérantisme, probably, but in general despise.
It would nonetheless seem we would respect his accomplishments (though not how he achieved those) as an incisive wit and as an homme de lettres.
Trusting this provides the Seigneur de Sade with something better than the 11th, I remain
Marie-Madeleine, Marquise de Combalet.
Jean-Baptiste, Seigneur de Sade, voiced the sobriquet.
I am equally mystified, Marquise. But—”The Divine Marquis.”
I shall petition for that rise in rank, the Seigneur de Sade decided.
After all, the Divine Marquis!
Take that, whisperers! Fie, you fools behind your fans! Would you hide from The Divine?
If so, then choke upon all fault, shame and derision, for the Marquis de Sade will NOT!