Juliette (novel)  

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"La philosophie doit tout dire"

"He [God] was thought wicked, because some very disagreeable effects resulted from the necessary workings of nature's laws; to appease him, victims were needed: whence fastings, macerations, penances, and every other sort of idiocy ..." --Juliette (1797–1801) by Marquis de Sade, tr. Austryn Wainhouse

"Oh, Juliette! forget it, scorn it, the concept of this vain and ludicrous God. His existence is a shadow instantly to be dissipated by the least mental effort, and you shall never know any peace so long as this odious chimera preserves any of its prize upon your soul which error would give to it in bondage. Refer yourself again and again to the great theses of Spinoza, of Vanini, of the author of Le Systeme de la Nature."--Juliette (1797–1801) by Marquis de Sade, tr. Austryn Wainhouse

"One of the essays in Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) is titled "Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality" and analyzes Juliette as the embodiment of the philosophy of enlightenment, a symbol of Enlightenment gone wrong."--Sholem Stein

 This page Juliette (novel) is part of the Marquis de Sade series  Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein
This page Juliette (novel) is part of the Marquis de Sade series
Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein

Related e



Juliette is a novel written by the Marquis de Sade and published 1797–1801, accompanying Sade's Nouvelle Justine. While Justine, Juliette's sister, was a virtuous woman who consequently encountered nothing but despair and abuse, Juliette is an amoral nymphomaniac who is successful and happy.

The full title of the novel in the original French is Histoire de Juliette ou les Prospérités du vice, and the English title is "Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded" (versus "Justine; or Good Conduct Well-Chastised", considered to be the prequel of Juliette).

As many other of his works, Juliette follows a pattern of violently pornographic scenes followed by long treatises on a broad range of philosophical topics, including theology, morality, aesthetics, naturalism and also Sade's dark, fatalistic view of world metaphysics.

Both Justine and Juliette were published anonymously. Napoleon ordered the arrest of the author, and as a result Sade was incarcerated without trial for the last 13 years of his life.


Foreword to the 1968 Grove edition


To the final version of Justine— and there are three versions of Justine— Sade added, as its complement and to complete it, The Story of Juliette; the two panels of a diptych, interrelated and yet distinct, they were first published in the year 1797 as an immense book called La Nouvelle Justine. The bibliographical details are these:

La Nouvelle Justine, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu. Ouvrage orne d'unfrontispice et de quarante sujets graves avec soin. En Hollande [Paris], 1797. Four volumes, i8mo. These four volumes comprise the first part of the definitive edition of this work, of which the second part, in six volumes, bears the title: La Nouvelle Justine, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu, suivie de VHistoire de Juliette, sa soeur [ou les Prosperites du vice]. Ouvrage orne d'unfrontispice et de cent sujets graves avec soin. En Hollande [Paris,] 1797.

As for the preceding redactions, the earliest and shortest, Les Infortunes de la Vertu, whose manuscript shows the date 1787, was designed for inclusion in a volume of those contes, historiettes, andfabliaux, carefully made, inoffensive, and eminently regular writings to which Sade attached a special importance. For it was through his "public" performances- first as a storyteller, later as a playwright— that, as he rightly felt, he belonged to the "world of letters." At the same time, and ever more so as he passed his prisoner's time, along with his literary ambitions he nourished others, totally irregular, engendered by a rage no ordinary consolations could appease, and that rendered him the mortal enemy of the world outside. He wrote Les Infortunes de la Vertu in the Bastille. He was still there the next year when, seeing further into his theme, he began those variations and expansions upon which he was to remain embarked for a decade.

Justine, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu, printed in 1791, enlarges upon the "philosophical tale" without departing from its conventional expression. However, the increased violence of her experience is transforming the central figure: she is turning into something that neither the postulates nor the language of eighteenth-century common sense or "right reason" can securely fix. In her resistance to "things as they are," in her incorrigible unwillingness or her inability to learn the lessons of the world, her mysterious absence in a world ruled by laws of wickedness, where only crime pays, where there are only weak and strong, only victims and tyrants, the latter always right and the former wrong perforce— in this, the given and the possible world, Justine's virtue is unreasonable and unreasoning: It is not miscalculation, it is aberration. Her tormentors, with logic and lucidity on their side, consider her perverse, mad. But they do more than consider her; she is of enduring interest to them, they are fascinated by her; in the unhappy girl's nature they encounter something irreducible, something insurgent and unconquerable. And, well considered, that something is hardly less awesome, it is even more troubling than all the barbarities she undergoes.

Again rewritten, the dialectic of the earlier versions now reinforced through presentation in two stories, the scenes, the discourses multiplied, the whole invaded by excess and now in ten volumes and four thousand pages long, it is a masterpiece that appears in 1797, "a work beyond which no other writer, at any time, has ever managed to venture; we have, so to speak, a veritable absolute in our hands, in this relative world of letters

La Nouvelle Justine has been outlawed in France for the past one hundred seventy years. Since the Directory no French government has shown itself delinquent in regard to Sade. Like all its predecessors, the Fifth Republic has discharged its duty. The law must of necessity respect crime.

It was committed anew, La Nouvelle Justine was reprinted and circulated clandestinely under the Third Republic and read, but read, be it understood, by the rare readers of-rare books who in Sade beheld everything they for the most part were not, a rageur they could approach, could savor and admire in safety, protected by the implicit belief that the positions Sade assailed were invulnerable. Of those positions not one seemed anything like secure when, under the Fourth Republic, in 1949, VHistoire de Juliette was reissued in an edition which, while not clandestine, was hardly very public, being limited to "475 copies" sold with utmost discretion and at a dear price. Nonetheless, and although the authorities were slow to move, the rules of the game had to be complied with in the end, and the publisher was prosecuted by the regime through the intermediary of La Commission du Livre and on January 10, 1957, found guilty of "outrage to public morals."

On the question of "public morals," on the question of in what sense— in what final sense— they are outraged by Juliette, and on the question of the final sense— the outrageous and revolutionary sense— of Juliette, it would be advantageous to reproduce a few lines, written over half a century ago, in which Apollinaire, with his sure intuition, exactly grasps what is at issue in Sade's novel. The passage is quoted in the prefatory note to the 1949 Pauvert edition, and deserves to be inserted in this first American edition.

The Marquis de Sade, that freest of spirits to have lived so far, had ideas of his own on the subject of woman: he wanted her to be as free as man. Out of these ideas— they will come through some day— grew a dual novel, Justine and Juliette. It was not by accident the Marquis chose heroines and not heroes. Justine is woman as she has been hitherto, enslaved, miserable and less than human; her opposite, Juliette represents the woman whose advent he anticipated, a figure of whom minds have as yet no conception, who is arising out of mankind, who shall have wings, and who shall renew the world.

Ten years ago, the publishing of Sade in the United States seemed impracticable, seemed practically unthinkable; it was a project to wait and think about. The present translation was begun in September of 1956, and not finished until September of 1966. Signed by a Pieralessandro Casavini, most of it— to be precise, the first five of what were to be seven volumes in all— was brought out in Paris over the years 1958-1961. That translation has been reviewed throughout, revised here and there; what remained incomplete has been completed; and altered circumstances have appeared to authorize the abandoning of a pseudonym.

Circumstances aside, the Sade I have frequented is a revolutionary, and his importance, in my eyes, is associated with revolutionary perspectives. Let me try to specify which ones.

As a thinker, as a pamphleteer, as secretary and then president of his section in Paris, as a magistrate, Sade took an active part in the Revolution, and certainly took his risks: his concern with the Revolution was intense, and yet his attitude toward it was divided. Its objectives— the classical objectives, those which despite all the bitterest controversy

remained, by and large, the possible objectives with Western revolutionaries down to the other day— were his, but only to a certain extent. That is, they fell short of what he was after; and the question of degree became a question of the essential. Like Antigone, Sade wanted "everything, and all at once": which is to want the "impossible." But that is what a revolution is, the desiring of the impossible, the striving for the fulfillment of the impossible desire; and anything less is too little, it is nothing. For "Those," as Saint-Just warned, "who make their revolutions halfway do but dig themselves a grave."

The Marquis de Sade wanted what no mere formal rearrangements could provide, what no modifications of material and relative conditions can alone satisfy; he wanted "a permanent insurrection of the spirit," an intimate revolution, a revolution within. He wanted then what today revolution no longer holds "impossible" but holds to be a starting point as well as a final end: to change man. To change him through and through, cost what it may, be it at the price of his "human nature," and even at the price of his sexual nature— and above all at the price of that which, in our communities, has forged all relations between all men and denatured them, and merged love and continuity into one disaster, one inhumanity.


Plot summary

Juliette is raised in a convent, but at the age of 13 she is seduced by a woman who immediately explains that morality, religion and other such concepts are meaningless. There are plenty of similar philosophical musings during the book, all attacking the ideas of God, morals, remorse, love, etc, the overall conclusion being that the only aim in life is "to enjoy oneself at no matter whose expense." Juliette takes this to the extreme and manages to murder her way through numerous people, including various family members and friends.

During the novel, which follows Juliette through the ages of 13 to about 30, the wanton anti-heroine engages in virtually every form of depravity and encounters a series of like-minded libertines, such as the ferocious Clairwil, whose main passion is in murdering young men, and Saint Fond, a 50-year-old multi-millionaire who commits incest with his daughter, murders his father, tortures young girls to death on a daily basis and even plots an ambitious scheme to provoke a famine that will wipe out half the population of France.


Sade's philosophy

L'enfer détruit; ou, Examen raisonné du dogme de l'éternité des peines and Théologie Portative, ou Dictionnaire abrégé de la religion chrétienne by D'Holbach were integrated in the text. D'Holbach's System of Nature was mentioned as well as Baruch Spinoza and Lucilio Vanini.

Fictional characters

Minski is a fictional character from L'histoire de Juliette of Sade. Minski has a historical counterpart in the famous Blaise Ferrage.

Real people in Juliette

"This is by far the most realistic of de Sade's books. Research has shown that one after another of the institutions and persons that de Sade denounced were not figures of a diseased imagination but historical truth. Two hundred and fifty pages of [Duhren]'s book are filled with parallels between de Sade's work and the history of the epoch. From the description of the brothel where Juliette started her apprenticeship to the horrible behaviour of Ferdinand and Caroline, King and Queen of Naples, there is little that is not historically true. Even the man-eating ogre Minski has a historical counterpart in the famous Blaise Ferrage. With regard to the Italian part of the book we have seen that de Sade claimed complete accuracy for all the details, which are based on personal experience. This may be true, for Casanova has shown how easy it was for people of far less distinction than de Sade to approach foreign royalty. His description of Ferdinand and Caroline is certainly not an exaggeration of the facts. Juliette's interview with the Pope is in another category." --The Revolutionary Ideas of the Marquis de Sade

A long audience with Pope Pius VI is one of the most extensive scenes in Juliette. The heroine shows off her learning to the Pope (whom she most often addresses by his secular name "Braschi") with a verbal catalogue of alleged immoralities committed by his predecessors. The audience ends, like almost every other scene in the narrative, with an orgy.

Soon after this, the male character Brisatesta narrates two scandalous encounters. The first is with "Princess Sophia, niece of the King of Prussia", who has just married "the Stadtholder" at the Hague. This is presumably intended for Wilhelmina of Prussia, Princess of Orange, who married William V of Orange, the last Dutch Stadtholder, in 1767, and was still alive when Juliette was published. The second encounter is with Catherine the Great, notorious Empress of Russia.

Other real people include Gustavus of Sweden, Ferdinand of Naples, Victor-Amedée of Savoy and Leopold of Tuscany.

Analysis and influence

One of the essays in Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) is titled "Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality" and analyzes Juliette as the embodiment of the philosophy of enlightenment, a symbol of Enlightenment gone wrong.. They write: "she demonizes Catholicism as the most-up-to-date mythology, and with it civilization as a whole […] her procedures are enlightened and efficient as she goes about her work of sacrilege […] She favours system and consequence."

Andrea Dworkin, who vilified Sade as the archetypal woman-hating pornographer, nevertheless modeled her first novel Ice and Fire (1986) on Juliette.

The French critic Maurice Blanchot observes, "the two sisters' stories are basically identical...those uncommon tortures which are so terrible for Justine [are for] Juliette a source of pure delight...Thus it is true that Virtue is the source of man's unhappiness, not because it exposes him to painful or unfortunate circumstances but because, if Virtue were eliminated, what was once painful then becomes pleasurable, and torments become voluptuous." (Reference: M. Blanchot, "Sade", 1949).

Character of Juliette

While Justine embraces virtue despite the reality of vice, Juliette is the reality of vice. The two sisters are moral antipodes: One good, one bad. In the Sadean world, however, the bad haunts the good, continuously. The virtuous sister is forever being raped, beaten, tortured, by men and by nature. The depraved and hedonistic Juliette moves from one pleasure concocted from vice to another vile pleasure.

Assorted quotes

Décharger: a possible reference to female ejaculation?

- "Delbène, dit Mme de Volmar en entrant, je te défie de me faire décharger aujourd'hui ; je suis épuisée, ma chère ; j'ai passé la nuit avec Fontenille... J'adore cette petite friponne ; de ma vie je ne fus mieux branlée ... je n'ai jamais versé tant de foutre, avec tant d'abondance ... avec tant de délices ! Oh, ma bonne, nous avons fait des choses !"
""Delbene," said Madame Volmar upon making her entrance, "I defy you to wheedle me into discharging today "

There is no God, he is a chimera

Ô Juliette ! n'en doutons pas, ce n'est qu'aux bornes de notre esprit qu'est due la chimère d'un Dieu ; ne sachant à qui attribuer ce que nous voyons, dans l'extrême impossibilité d'expliquer les inintelligibles mystères de la nature, nous avons gratuitement placé au-dessus d'elle un être revêtu du pouvoir de produire tous les effets dont les causes nous étaient inconnues.
"Oh, Juliette ! let us have no doubt, this fantasy about there being a God has its origins in nothing but the mind's limitations. --tranl. Austryn Wainhouse

An angry God needs to be appeased

Anger of God
On le croyait méchant, parce que de très méchants effets résultaient de la nécessité des lois de la nature ; pour l'apaiser, il fallait des victimes : de là les jeûnes, les macérations, les pénitences, et toutes les autres imbécillités ... [1]
He was thought wicked, because some very disagreeable effects resulted from the necessary workings of nature's laws; to appease him, victims were needed: whence fastings, macerations, penances, and every other sort of idiocy ... --tranl. Austryn Wainhouse

Vanini, Spinoza, D'Holbach

"Juliette, oublie-la, méprise-la, l'idée de ce Dieu vain et ridicule ; son existence est une ombre que dissipe à l'instant le plus faible effort de l'esprit, et tu ne seras jamais tranquille tant que cette odieuse chimère n'aura pas perdu sur ton âme toutes les facultés que lui donna l'erreur. Nourris-toi sans cesse des grands principes de Spinoza, de Vanini, de l'auteur du Système de la Nature, nous les étudierons, nous les analyserons ensemble ; je t'ai promis de profondes discussions sur ce sujet, je te tiendrai parole : nous nous remplirons toutes deux de l'esprit de ces sages principes. "[2]
"Oh, Juliette! forget it, scorn it, the concept of this vain and ludicrous God. His existence is a shadow instantly to be dissipated by the least mental effort, and you shall never know any peace so long as this odious chimera preserves any of its prize upon your soul which error would give to it in bondage. Refer yourself again and again to the great theses of Spinoza, of Vanini, of the author of Le Systeme de la Nature. We will study them, we will analyze them together, I promised you authoritative dissertations upon this subject and I am going to keep my word: both of us shall feast heartily upon these writers and shall fill ourselves with the spirit of their sage opinions."--Juliette (Austryn Wainhouse translation)

References to the erotic classics 'Thérèse philosophe', 'le Portier des Chartreux', 'l'Académie des Dames and L'Éducation de Laure'

Several classics of French erotic literature are mentioned in Juliette. In the following excerpt Thérèse philosophe, le Portier des Chartreux, l'Académie des Dames and L'Éducation de Laure are commented upon.

On n'a pas d'idée de ce que nous y trouvâmes d'estampes et de livres obscènes : le premier que nous aperçûmes, fut le Portier des Chartreux, production plus polissonne que libertine, et qui, néanmoins, malgré la candeur et la bonne foi qui y règne, donna, dit-on, au lit de la mort, des repentirs à son auteur... Quelle sottise ! l'homme capable de se repentir en ce moment de ce qu'il osa dire ou écrire pendant sa vie, n'est qu'un lâche dont la postérité doit flétrir la mémoire.
Le second fut l'Académie des Dames, ouvrage dont le plan est bon, mais l'exécution mauvaise ; fait par un homme timide qui avait l'air de sentir la vérité, mais qui n'osait la dire, et d'ailleurs, plein de bavardage.
L'Éducation de Laure fut le troisième : autre production manquée net, par de fausses considérations. Si l'auteur eût prononcé l'uxoricide, qu'il laisse soupçonner, et l'inceste, autour duquel il tourne sans cesse en ne l'avouant jamais, s'il eût multiplié davantage les scènes luxurieuses... mis en action les goûts cruels dont il ne fait que donner l'idée dans sa préface, l'ouvrage, plein d'imagination, devenait délicieux : mais les trembleurs me désespèrent, et j'aimerais cent fois mieux qu'ils n'écrivissent rien, que de nous donner des moitiés d'idées.
Thérèse philosophe figurait : ouvrage charmant du marquis d'Argens, le seul qui ait montré le but, sans néanmoins l'atteindre tout à fait ; l'unique qui ait agréablement lié la luxure à l'impiété, et qui, bientôt rendu au public tel que l'auteur l'avait primitivement conçu, donnera enfin l'idée d'un livre immoral.
Le reste était de ces misérables petites brochures, faites dans des cafés ou dans des bordels, et qui prouvent à la fois deux vides dans leurs mesquins auteurs : celui de l'esprit et celui de l'estomac. La luxure, fille de l'opulence et de la supériorité, ne peut être traitée que par des gens d'une certaine trempe... que par des individus, enfin, qui, caressés d'abord par la nature, le soient assez bien ensuite par la fortune pour avoir eux-mêmes essayé ce que nous trace leur pinceau luxurieux ; or, cela devient parfaitement impossible aux polissons qui nous inondent des méprisables brochures dont je parle, parmi lesquelles je n'excepte pas même celle de Mirabeau, qui voulut être libertin pour être quelque chose, et qui n'est et ne sera pourtant rien toute sa vie6.
A la suite de nos recherches chez le moine, nous trouvâmes des godemichés, des condoms, des martinets, tous meubles qui nous convainquirent que le père Claude ne nous avait pas attendues pour se jeter dans le libertinage. Il revint.[3]

See also

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