Who was the Marquis de Sade really?

Suzi Feay in The Telegraph:

SadeThe Marquis de Sade, who died 200 years ago today, lived a turbulent life. He was born into an aristocratic Provençal family, enjoying all the privileges of the ancien régime before it took against him; he kept his head through the French Revolution and died, aged 74, in a lunatic asylum. His libertarian writings alienated two kings, a revolutionary tribunal and an emperor. He spent most of his adult life under lock and key: if they couldn’t get him for being bad, being mad would do. In his final miserable years, Sade was an obese, despised and penniless social outcast. Yet soon after his death in 1814 his reputation began to climb. He was claimed as a hero by writers and artists; in 1839, he was hailed as “one of the glories of France, a martyr… the very high and powerful seigneur de Sade”. He is now a seminal (an unfortunate though apt adjective) cultural figure. In France this year, celebrations are being held in his honour: the Musée D’Orsay is currently hosting an exhibition tracing the influence of Sade on Goya, Géricault and Picasso. The manuscript of his most notorious work, The 120 Days of Sodom, has been bought for seven million euros; his Provençal châteaux is owned by Pierre Cardin and acolytes beat a path there every year.

Sade’s bizarre psychopathy and life story, as much as his gruelling writings, have inspired such disparate figures as Flaubert, Angela Carter, the Surrealists, Camille Paglia and Pier Paolo Pasolini. American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman is a descendant of Sade’s murderous protagonists; Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose grows up in the shadow of Sade’s chateau, with a violent, abusive father who could have walked straight from the pages of Sade’s 1791 novel Justine. And let’s not forget Moors murderer Ian Brady, whose youthful reading of Sade apparently inspired his fantasies of domination and murder.

More here.