Having watched documentaries about De Sade which depicted him as a dribbling sot in an institution for the insane, I had expected De Sade is obviously no fool, and his arguments are intelligently put. In this novel, De Sade still conforms to Victorian norms in the respect that even libertine, rebellious De Sade felt he had to wrap everything he said in euphemistic terms, in spite of the fact that the content of the novel and the gist of his rhetoric would indeed have been wildly shocking to most Victorian sensibilities. Compared to certain contemporary literature, such as some of the works of authors like Palanuik, for example in his novel Snuff , also, various writings of J.

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You are on page 1of 76 Search inside document Justine or The Misfortunes Of Virtue Justine Or The Misfortunes of Virtue By the Marquis de Sade The ultimate triumph of philosophy would be to cast light upon the mysterious ways in which Providence moves to achieve the designs it has for man, and then to deduce therefrom some plan of conduct which would enable that two-legged wretch, forever buffeted by the whims of the Supreme Being who is said to direct his steps no less despotically, to know how to interpret what Providence decrees for him and to select a path to follow which would forestall the bizarre caprices of the Fate to which a score of different names are given but whose nature is still uncertain.

For if, taking social conventions as our starting-point and remaining faithful to the respect for them which education has bred in us, it should by mischance occur that through the perversity of others we encounter only thorns while evil persons gather nothing but roses, then will not a man, possessed of a stock of virtue insufficient to allow him to rise above the thoughts inspired by these unhappy circumstances, calculate that he would do as well to swim with the torrent as against it?

And will he not say that when virtue, however fine a thing it be, unhappily proves too weak to resist evil, then virtue becomes the worst path he can follow, and will he not conclude that in an age that is utterly corrupt, the best policy is to do as others do?

And will he not add of his own accord that, since in the imperfect fabric of this corrupt world of ours there is a sum of evil equal to the sum of good, the continuing equilibrium of the world requires that there be as many good people as wicked people, and that it follows that in the general scheme of things it matters not if such and such a man be good or wicked; that since misfortune persecutes virtue, and prosperity is the almost invariable accompaniment of vice a matter of complete indifference to Nature , then is it not infinitely better to side with the wicked who prosper than with the good who perish?

It is therefore important to guard against the dangerous sophisms of philosophy, and essential to show that when examples of suffering virtue are thrust before a corrupt soul in which principles of goodness are not entirely extinct, then even that straying soul may be returned to goodness as surely as if the road to virtue were littered with the most glittering prizes and the most flattering rewards. It is of course a cruel thing to have to depict the heap of misfortunes which overwhelms the sweet, feeling woman whose respect for virtue is unmatched, and on the other hand to portray the sparkling good fortune of her sister who scorned virtue all her life.

And yet if some good should come from our sketching of these two pictures, shall we take ourselves to task for laying them before the public? Shall we feel remorse for establishing an exact account which will enable the wise man, who reads with profit and draws the ineffable lesson of submission to the will of Providence, to answer part of his secret stock of unanswered questions and heed the fatal warning that it is often to redirect our steps to the path of duty that Heaven strikes those next to us who best appear to have discharged theirs?

Such are the sentiments which led us to take up our pen, and it is in deference to their unimpeachable sincerity that we ask of our readers a modicum of attention and sympathy for the misfortunes of unhappy, wretched Justine.

She had nevertheless been given the finest of educations. At an age which can prove fatal to the virtue of any young woman, she lost everything in a single day. Cruel bankruptcy brought her father to so ruinous a pass that his only means of escaping the most dreadful fate was to flee in haste to England, leaving his daughters in the care of his wife who died of grief within the space of one week after his departure.

The one or two relatives who remained deiiberated on what was to be done with the girls. Mine de Lorsange, then known as Juliette, was already to all intents and purposes as mature in character and mind as she was to be at 30, which was her age at the time we tell this story. She seemed alive only to the sensation of being free and did not pause for a moment to reflect upon the cruel reverses which had snapped the chains which had bound her.

A virginal air, large, engaging blue eyes, dazzling skin, a slender, well- shaped figure, a voice to move the heart, teeth of ivory, and beautiful fair hair—so much, in outline sketch, for the younger sister whose simple grace and delightful expression were of too fine, too delicate a stamp not to elude the brush which would capture them entire.

She told her she was a foolish girl and said that given their ages and pretty faces, it was unheard of for girls to starve to death. Justine was horrified by this pernicious example. She said she would die rather than follow her lead and categorically refused to share a lodging with her sister Juliette once she saw that she had set her mind on the kind of abominable life she had commended so warmly.

And so the moment it was clear that their intentions were so different, the sisters went their separate ways, making no promises to meet again. Would Juliette, who, she claimed, would 1 One of seven Ionian islands which, in Greek mythology, was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.

In the imagery of 18th-century French gallantry, Cythera stood for sexual licence. And for her part would Justine put her moral purity at risk by associating with a perverse creature who would surely be a victim of lewdness and public debauchery? And so each made provision for their money to be paid and left the convent the next day as arranged.

This woman loved me once. Why then does she turn me away now? Because, alas, I am an orphan and penniless, because I no longer have means to call on and because people are valued only in terms of the help or profit that may be got out of them. But the charitable churchman answered ambiguously, saying that the parish was overburdened and that it was not possible for her to receive a portion of the poor-box, but that if she were prepared to work for him he would gladly give her lodging in his house.

Too little time has gone by since my station in life was far above the lowly circumstances in which such favours have to be begged for, for me to be reduced to soliciting them now! I asked you for the guidance I need in my youth and misfortune, and you would have me purchase it with a crime. Justine, twice spurned on the very day she was sentenced to a life of isolation, entered a house with a notice in the window, took a small furnished room which she paid for in advance, and was now at least table to surrender undisturbed to the mortification engendered by her circumstances and the cruelty of the few people to whom her unlucky star had led her.

The reader will allow us to leave her in her dark coop for a while and return to Juliette so that we may tell as briefly as possible how, from her unremarkable beginnings on leaving the convent, she became within the space of fifteen years a lady possessing a title, an income of 30, livres, gorgeous jewels, two or three houses in Paris and in the country, plus, for the time being, the heart, purse, and confidence of Monsieur de Corville, a Councillor of State, a man enjoying the highest credit and poised to become a Minister of the Crown.

Her path had been thorny. Of this there can be no doubt: it is only by serving the most shameful, bitter apprenticeship that girls of her sort make their way. The woman who today occupies the bed of a prince may well still bear upon her person the humiliating marks of the brutality of the depraved libertines into whose hands she was thrown by her tentative first steps, her youth, and her inexperience.

On leaving the convent, Juliette had promptly gone off in search of a woman she had heard mentioned by her friend, the former neighbour who had taken to debauchery. She had kept the address and appeared shamelessly on the doorstep with her bundle under her arm, her plain dress in disarray and with the prettiest face that ever was and the air of one who was only too willing to learn.

She told her story to the woman and pleaded with her to grant her the same protection that she had bestowed on her friend a few years earlier. I shall need proof. Follow my advice strictly, be accommodating in observing my rules, be clean and thrifty, behave candidly with me, courteously with your companions and deceitfully with men, and under my direction you shall be in a position a few years hence to withdraw from this place to a room of your own with a chest for your clothes, a pier-glass, and a maid, and the art which you acquire in my house will provide you with the means of procuring the rest.

Once this sermon was done, the newcomer was presented to her companions, she was shown to her chamber in the house and the very next day her virginity was put up for sale. Within a space of four months, the same merchandise was sold in turn to eighty persons who each paid as though for unused goods, and it was only at the expiry of her thorny novitiate that Juliette was granted entry to the sisterhood.

From that moment on, she was truly acknowledged as a full daughter of the nunnery and bore her share of its lewd and exhausting labours—in effect a further novitiate.

She felt that since she was made for crime, then at the very least she should set her sights on the highest peak and refuse to languish in her present lowly condition which required her to commit the same foul acts and be no less degraded, but brought her nothing like the same profit.

She managed to beguile him into keeping her in the most opulent manner and at last she began to be seen in theatres and in the fashionable walks on an equal footing with the luminaries of the Order of Cythera.

It was enough to make her reputation. Such is the blindness of people nowadays that the more impure one of these unfortunates shows herself to be, the keener they are to be on her list. It is as though the depth of her depravity and corruption is the only yardstick by which the feelings which they lavish so shamelessly on her in public are to be measured.

Juliette had just turned 20 when a certain Count de Lorsange, a nobleman from the province of Anjou aged about 40, became so smitten with her that he resolved upon making her his wife since he had not fortune enough to keep her as his mistress. He made over an income of 12, livres to her, and arranged that the remainder of his fortune, a further 8,ooo, would be hers should he die before she did; he gave her a house, servants, and a retinue and conferred on her a degree of respectability in society which ensured that within two or three years her beginnings were forgotten.

She conceived her plan and, regrettably, executed it with such stealth that she was able both to elude the arm of the law and to bury all traces of her abominable crime along with her hindrance of a husband. Once more in possession of her freedom and now a Countess, Madame de Lorsange took up her old habits, but thinking that she cut some figure in the world, she put a measure of decency into her proceedings.

She was no longer a kept woman but a rich widow who gave gay supper- parties to which the ornaments of town and court were only too happy to be admitted—yet she could be bedded for louis and bought for a month.

To these horrors, Madame de Lorsange added two or three infanticides: considerations of all kinds—fear of spoiling her pretty figure or a need to safeguard twin amours running in tandem—led her to resort on several occasions to abortion. These crimes, like the others, went undetected and did nothing to prevent this scheming and ambitious woman from finding new dupes daily and swelling her fortune at every turn as her crimes accumulated.

It is regrettably only too true that prosperity may accompany crime and that even in the most freely embraced state of depravity and corruption the thread of life may be gilded by what men call happiness. But let not this cruel and unavoidable reality be a cause for dismay.

Let not the truth of which we shall presently furnish an example that it is on the contrary vice which everywhere pursues and attacks virtue, trouble the hearts of honest, decent persons. The prosperity of crime is more apparent than real. Independently of Providence which of necessity punishes his ostensible success, a guilty man harbours in the recesses of his heart a worm which gnaws at him unceasingly, makes it impossible for him to bask in the felicity which bathes his existence, and leaves him instead with only the grievous memory of the crimes by which he came by it.

The affairs of Madame de Lorsange had reached this pitch when Monsieur de Corville who, at 50, enjoyed the credit which we have already mentioned, resolved to devote himself entirely to her and to keep her for himself alone.

What with thoughtfulness or attentions on his part and discretion on hers, he had succeeded and had been living with her for four years together on exactly the same footing as if she were his legally married wife, when a superb estate which he had just bought for her near Montargis prompted in both the desire to spend a few months of the summer there. One June evening, the fine weather tempted them to push on by foot as far as the town and, feeling too weary to return in the manner in which they had come, they entered the inn which serves as a staging-post for the Lyons coach, thinking to send a rider thence to fetch them a carriage from their chateau.

They were resting in a cool, low-ceilinged room which looked out on to the courtyard when the coach we have mentioned drove in. Observing travellers is a natural pastime; anyone with an idle moment to spare will gladly occupy it in this way when the occasion arises. Madame de Lorsange stood up, her lover did likewise, and both watched as the passengers entered the inn. At a cry of horror and astonishment which escaped from Madame de Lorsange, the young woman turned, revealing features so sweet and delicate and so fine and shapely a figure that Monsieur de Corville and his mistress could not restrain a desire to intervene on behalf of so wretched a creature.

Monsieur de Corville approached and asked one of the constables what the unhappy creature had done. Where were the crimes committed? She was tried at Lyons and is on her way to Paris for confirmation of sentence.

Monsieur de Corville, sharing her wish, spoke of it to her escort and made himself known. They raised no objection. Madame de Lorsange and Monsieur de Corville now resolved to spend the night at Montargis and asked to be given a suitable apartment with an adjacent room for the constables.

Monsieur de Corville took full responsibility for the prisoner. Her hands were untied and she was shown into the room of Madame de Lorsange and Monsieur de Corville. Her guards dined and went to bed in the adjoining chamber.

To tell it would be to accuse Providence and complain of its workings. It would be a sin of a kind and I cannot bring myself to Tears then streamed from the eyes of the unfortunate young woman, but after letting them flow freely for a moment, she began her story in these terms. With your leave, I shall withhold my name. I come of a family which, though undistinguished, Madame, was respectable, and I was not born to the mortifications which have been the source of the larger part of my misfortunes.

I lost both my parents when very young. With the modest means they left at my disposal, I had thought to obtain an honest situation, but constantly rejecting offers which were far from honest, I exhausted my small inheritance more quickly than I realized.

The poorer I grew, the more reviled I was. The more I stood in need of help, the smaller grew my hopes of finding it or the more frequently was it held out to me in unworthy and shameful forms. Of all the hardships which I endured in my distressed condition, of all the horrid propositions that were made to me, I shall mention only what befell me in the house of Monsieur Dubourg, one of the richest merchants in the capital.

I had been directed to him as the kind of man whose wealth and credit were most suited and best able to alleviate my fate. After waiting two hours in his antechamber, I was shown into his presence. Monsieur Dubourg, who was about 45 years of age, had just risen from his bed and was wearing a loose-fitting robe which barely covered his state of undress. Being about to have his peruke arranged upon his head, he dismissed his valet and asked me what I wanted.

After listening to me most attentively, Monsieur Dubourg asked me if I had always been a good girl. But I ask only to be of service. You are neither old enough nor sufficiently presentable for me to find you a position as you ask. But if you were to adopt a less ludicrously strict attitude, you might aspire to a modest future in any libertine circle. And it is in that direction that you had now best move. The virtue of which you make so much serves no useful purpose in the real world. Those of us who actually dole out charity, which is something we do as little as possible and then only with the greatest reluctance, want to be compensated for the money which is taken out of our pockets.

Now, what can a little girl like you do to repay the help she receives, if not to agree to whatever is asked of her? The mania for obliging others without asking anything in return is now a thing of the past.


Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue

It is a novella pages with relatively little of the obscenity that characterized his later writing, as it was written in the classical style which was fashionable at the time , with much verbose and metaphorical description. This final version, La Nouvelle Justine, departed from the first-person narrative of the previous two versions, and included around engravings. The two together formed 10 volumes of nearly pages in total; publication was completed in Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette, and as a result de Sade was incarcerated for the last 13 years of his life. Modern publication[ edit ] There is standard edition of this text in hardcover, having passed into the public domain. A censored English translation of Justine was issued in the US by the Risus Press in the early s, and went through many reprintings. Wainhouse later revised this translation for publication in the United States by Grove Press


- Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue


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