Memoirs of a Libertine


“He is not a pretty baby… but do not fear him,” said the nurse. Mirabeau’s father had his own opinion. From 1777 till 1780 he had his son locked up at the Chateau of Vincennes. Mirabeau’s maternal cousin was also there, but they did not get along: in spite of Mirabeau’s reputation in the matters of debauchery, De Sade apparently had higher standards. So what does it mean to be a real libertine? The cousins offer us two answers. Let us first look at Memoirs of a Libertine. Mirabeau’s protagonist is a gigolo who decides to settle down, but his marriage turns into a disaster: a trickster is tricked, a libertine is punished. Not so for De Sade, his Justine reverses the paradigm: to Sade the naivete is worse than a crime; consequently, the sin is rewarded, the crime is rewarded, the virtue is punished. Criminal! That is his answer, to be a true libertine you have to be an unrepentant criminal, a remorseful gigolo does not measure up. So cousin, looks like your nurse was right.

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