Julietteby Marquis de Sade
“The Marquis is a missionary. He has written a new religion. Juliette is one of the holy books.” —The New York Times Book Review
While Justine, Juliette’s sister, was a virtuous woman who consequently encountered nothing but despair and abuse, Juliette is an amoral nymphomaniac murderer who is successful and happy.
“The Marquis is a missionary. He has written a new religion. Juliette is one of the holy books.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It is not necessary to take the Marquis seriously as a philosopher of total freedom, as some do, in order to relish the imagination and talent that went into the gilding nuggets of naughtiness contained here.” —Playboy
“An amazing sequence of imaginatively bizarre sexual adventures punctuated by philosophical and theological digression. Mlle. De Maupin, Lolita, Candy—all pale beside Juliette.” —Library Journal
It was at Panthemont we were brought up, Justine and I, there that we received our education. The name of that celebrated retreat is not unfamiliar to you; nor does it require telling that for many a long year the prettiest and most libertine women gracing Paris have regularly emerged from that convent. Euphrosine, the young lady in whose footsteps I was eager to follow and who, dwelling close by my own parents’ home, had fled her father’s household to fling herself into libertinage, had been my boon companion at Panthemont.
As ’twas from her and from a certain nun, a friend of hers, that I acquired the basic precepts of the morality which, as you listened to the tales my sister has just finished recounting, you were somewhat surprised to find in a person of my young years, it would seem to me that before anything else I ought to tell you something about those women, and to provide you with a circumstantial account of those earlier moments of my life when, seduced, corrupted by that pair of sirens, the seed destined to flower into vices without number was sown in the depths of my soul.
The nun I refer to was called Madame Delbéne. For five years she had been the abbess of the house and was nearing her thirtieth year when I made her acquaintance. To be prettier than she were a thing impossible; a fit model to any artist, she had a sweet, celestial countenance, fair tresses, large blue eyes where shone something tender and inviting, a figure copied after one of the Graces. The victim of others’ ambition, young Delbéne had been shut up in a cloister at the age of twelve in order that an elder brother, whom she detested, might be rendered wealthier by the dowry their parents were thus spared from having to set aside for her. Imprisoned at an age when the passions begin to assert themselves clamorously, although none of this had been of her choosing, for she’d then been fond of the world and of men in general, it was only by mastering herself, by coming triumphant through the severest tests, that she at last decided to give over and obey. Very precocious, having conned all the philosophers, having meditated prodigiously, Delbéne, while accepting this condemnation to retirement, had all the same kept two or three friends by her. They came to visit her, to console her; and as she was exceedingly rich, they continued to furnish her all the literature and all the delights she could desire, even those which were to do the most to fire her imagination, already very lively and little cooled by the effects of seclusion.
As for Euphrosine, she was fifteen when I became attached to her; and she had been Madame Delbéne’s pupil a year and a half when the two of them proposed that I enter their society—it was the same day I entered into my thirteenth year. Euphrosine’s complexion was somewhite less than white, she was tall for her age, very slender, had engaging eyes, considerable spirit and vivacity, but in looks she was no match for our Superior, and was far less interesting.
I have no need to say that among recluse women the thirst for the voluptuous is the sole motive for close friendship: they are attached one to the other, not by virtue, but by fucking: one is pleased by her who soaks one at sight, one becomes the intimate of her by whom one is frigged. Endowed with the most energetic temperament, I had, starting at the age of nine, accustomed my fingers to respond to whatever desires arose in my mind, and from that period onward I aspired to nothing but the happiness of finding the occasion for instruction and to launch myself into a career the gates unto which my native forwardness had already flung wide, and with such agreeable effects. Euphrosine and Delbéne were soon to offer me what I was seeking. Eager to undertake my education, the Superior one day invited me to luncheon. Euphrosine was there: the weather was incredibly warm, and this excessive ardor of the sun afforded them an excuse for the disarray I found them in: apart from an undergarment of transparent lawn maintained by nothing more than a large bow of pink ribbon, they were perfectly naked.
“Since you first arrived at this establishment,” Madame Delbéne began, kissing me rather carelessly upon the forehead, her eye and hand betraying a certain restlessness, “I have had an unabating desire to make your intimate acquaintance. You are very attractive. You appear to me to be in possession of some wit and aptitude, and young maids of your sort have a very definite place in my heart—do you blush, little angel? But I forbid you to blush! Modesty is an illusion—resulting from what? ’Tis the result of nought but our cultural manners and our upbringing, it is what is known as a conventional habit. Nature having created man and woman naked, it is unthinkable that she could have implanted in them an aversion or a shame thus to appear. Had man only faithfully observed Nature’s promptings, he would never have fallen subject to modesty: the which iron-clad truth, my heart, proves that there are certain virtues whose source lies nowhere save in total negligence, or ignorance, of the code of Nature. Ah, but might one not give a wrench to Christian morals were one in this way to scrutinize all the articles which compose it! But we’ll chat about that later on. Let’s speak of other matters for the nonce. Will you join us in our undress?”
Then those two minxes, laughing merrily, stepped up to me and soon had me in a state identical to theirs; whereupon Madame Delbéne’s kisses assumed a completely different character.
“Oh, but my Juliette is lovely!” cried she, admiringly; “See how those delicious little breasts have begun to heave! Euphrosine, I do declare she’s better fleshed there than you are . . . and, would you believe it? she’s barely thirteen.”
Our charming Superior’s fingers were tickling my nipples, and her tongue quivered in my mouth. She was not slow to observe her caresses were having so powerful an influence upon my senses that I was in serious danger of being entirely overcome.
“O fuck!” she apostrophized, unable to restrain herself and startling me with the vigor of her expressions. “Ah, by sweet Christ! what verve, what a fiery temper! Let’s be rid of all these damnable hindrances, my little friends, to the devil with everything that yet screens from clear view charms Nature never created to remain hidden!”
And directly flinging away the filmy costume which had enveloped her, she revealed herself to our eyes, lovely as Venus, that sea-risen goddess who exacted homage from the Greeks. It were impossible to be better formed, to have a skin more white, more sweet, to have more beauteous curves, forms better pronounced. Euphrosine, who imitated her almost at once, delivered fewer charms to my view: she was less plump than Madame Delbéne; rather darker in her skin, she would perhaps have pleased less universally; but what eyes I what vivacity! Stirred by such a quantity of wonders, earnestly solicited by the two women they belonged to, besought to follow their example and be rid of all modesty’s restraints, you may be very certain that I yielded. Her head reeling from sublimest drunkenness, Delbéne bore me to her bed and devoured me with her kisses.
“One moment,” she panted, wholly ablaze, “one moment, my dears, we had best introduce a little method into our pleasures’ madness: they’re not relished unless organized.”
So saying, she stretches me out, spreads wide my legs and, lying belly down upon the bed with her head lodged between my thighs, she sets to cunt-sucking me, the while exposing the world’s most handsome buttocks to my companion’s view, from that pretty little girl’s fingers she receives the same services her tongue is rendering me. Euphrosine knowing full well what was apt to flatter Delbéne’s tastes, amidst her pollutions interspersed sharp slaps upon the nun’s behind: they had an indubitable effect upon our amiable instructress’ physical being. Quite electrified by libertine proceedings, the whore bolted the whey she was making squirt in a steady stream from my little cunt. Now and again she paused to gaze at me, to contemplate me in these throes of pleasure.
“The beautiful creature!” the tribade exclaimed. “Oh, great God, was there ever a more inspiring child! Have at it, Euphrosine, frig me, my love, lay on, I want to die drunk on her fuck! Quick now, we’ll change about, let’s vary what we’re doing,” she cried a moment later; “you must wish for something in return, dear Euphrosine? But how shall I be able to repay you for the pleasures you’re giving me! Wait, wait, little angels, I’m going to frig you both at the same time.”
She places us side by side on the bed; following her recommendation, we each advance a hand and set to polluting each other. Delbéne’s tongue first probes far into the recesses of Euphrosine’s cunt, and she uses either hand to tickle our assholes; from time to time she relinquishes my companion’s cunt so as to pump mine, and thus both Euphrosine and I, experiencing three pleasures simultaneously, did, as you may be fully persuaded, discharge like muskets. Several instants later the resourceful Delbéne has us turn over, and we put our asses at her disposal; while frigging us beneath, she applies determined lips to Euphrosine’s anus, then to mine, sucking with libidinous choler. She praised our buttocks’ conformation, spanking them teasingly, and half slew us with joy. When done, she drew away:
“Do unto me everything I have done unto you,” spake she in a thickened voice, “frig me, the both of you. Frig me. I shall lie in your arms, Juliette, I shall kiss your mouth, our tongues shall intertwine . . . shall strain . . . shall suck. You shall bury this fair dildo in my womb,” she pursued, putting the instrument into my hands; “and you, my Euphrosine, you shall assume charge of my ass, you shall employ this lesser tube to arouse me in that sector: infinitely straiter than my cunt, it asks for no bulkier apparatus’. You, my pigeon,” she went on, kissing me with inordinate feeling, “you’ll not leave my clitoris unattended, will you? ’Tis there the true seat of woman’s pleasure: rub it, worry it, I say, use your nails if you like—never fear, I know how to bear a little pressure . . . and I am weary, Christ’s eyes! I am jaded and I require to be dealt with stoutly: I want to melt absolutely into fuck, fuck I want to become, if I am able I want to discharge twenty times over. Make it so.”
Oh, God, with what liberality we did repay her in the one coin she valued! It were not in human power more passionately to labor at giving a woman pleasure . . . impossible to imagine one who had a greater appetite for it. The thing was done at last.
“My angel,” that charming creature said to me, “I attempt to express my delight at having come to know you, and words fail me. You are a veritable discovery, from now on I propose to associate you with all my pleasures and you shall find that we may avail ourselves of some very poignant ones, despite the fact male company is, strictly speaking, forbidden us. Ask of Euphrosine whether she is content with me.”
“Oh, my beloved, allow my kisses to speak for me!” exclaimed our young friend as she cast herself upon Delbéne’s breast; “’tis you I am indebted to for an understanding of myself and of the meaning of my existence. You have trained my mind, you have rescued it from the darkness wherein childhood prejudices enshrouded it. Thanks alone to you I have achieved being in this world. Lucky Juliette, if you will condescend to lavish similar attentions upon her!”
“Yes,” Madame Delbéne replied, “why yes, I am anxious to take her education in hand. Just as I have told you, I should like to cleanse her of all those infamous religious follies which spoil the whole of life’s felicity, I should like to guide her back to Nature’s fold and doctrine and cause her to see that all the fables whereby they have sought to bewitch her mind and clog her energies are in actuality worthy of nought but derision. But now to luncheon, my friends’, we’d best refresh ourselves; when one has discharged abundantly, what one has expended must be replenished.”
Irely naked, soon restored to us the strength necessary to begin afresh. Once again we fell to frigging one another—and immediately were all three plunged back into the wildest excesses of lubricity. We struck a thousand different poses; continually altering our roles, we were sometimes wives to fuckers whom the next instant we dealt with as husbands and, thus beguiling Nature, for the length of an entire day we compelled that indulgent mother to set the crown of her voluptuousness most sweet upon all the little infractions of her laws we committed.
A month was so spent; at its end Euphrosine, her brain nicely crazed by libertinage, left the convent, then bade farewell to her family and went off to practice all the disorders of frenzied whoring and low license. Later, she returned and paid us a visit; she figured her situation, and we being too corrupted to find anything amiss in the career she was pursuing, pity was farthest from our thoughts, and our last wish was to discourage her from forging ahead.
“I must say she has managed very well,” Madame Delbéne remarked to me; “a hundred times over I have yearned to respond to the same call, and indeed I surely would have, had my taste for men been strong enough to surmount this uncommon liking I have for women. However, dear Juliette, in fating me to inhabit the cloister all my life long, heaven also had the kindness to provide me with only a mediocre desire for any sort of pleasure other than those this sanctified place plentifully affords me; that which women may mutually procure one another is so delicious that my aspirations do not go very much farther. Nevertheless, I do recognize that one may take an interest in men; it is no mystery to me that one will now and then do everything under the sun to lay hands on them; whatever is connected with libertinage makes powerful sense to me.” My fancy has roved very far. Who knows, perhaps I have even gone beyond what one may imagine, have been gripped by wants whose satisfaction defies all conception?
“The fundamental tenet of my philosophy, Juliette,” went on Madame Delbéne, who, since the loss of Euphrosine, had become more and more fond of me, “is scorn for public opinion. You simply have no idea, my dear one, to what point I am contemptuously indifferent to whatever may be said about me. And, pray tell, what beneficial or other influence can the vulgar fool’s opinion have upon our happiness? Only our overdelicate sensitivity permits it to affect us; but if, by dint of stern and clear thinking, we succeed in deadening these susceptibilities, eventually reaching the stage where opinion’s effects upon us are null, even when it be a question of those things which touch us most intimately—then, I say, then that the good or bad opinion of others may have any influence whatsoever upon our happiness becomes utterly unthinkable. We alone can make for our personal felicity: whether we are to be happy or unhappy is completely up to us, it all depends solely upon our conscience, and perhaps even more so upon our attitudes which alone supply the bedrock foundation to our conscience’s inspirations. For the human conscience,” continued that deep-learned woman, “is not at all times and everywhere the same, but rather almost always the direct product of a given society’s manners and of a particular climate and geography. Is it not so, for example, that the same acts the Chinese do not in any sense consider inadmissible would cause us to shudder here in France? If then this most unrigid organ is, depending merely upon latitude and longitude, able to excuse and justify any extreme behavior, true wisdom must advise us to adopt a rational, a moderate, position between extravagances and chimeras, and to evolve attitudes which will prove compatible simultaneously with the penchants we have individually received from Nature and with the laws of the country we happen to dwell in; and these are the attitudes out of which we must elaborate our conscience. And that is why the sooner one sets to work adopting the philosophy one intends to be guided by, the better, since that philosophy alone supplies its form to the conscience, and our conscience is responsible for governing and regulating all the actions we perform in life.”
“Heavens!” I cried, “have you carried indifference to the point of not caring in the slightest about your reputation?”
“Quite, I do not care about it in the slightest,” Madame Delbéne answered. “I might even confess that I take a greater inner pleasure from my conviction that this reputation is extremely bad than I would reap from knowing it was good. Oh, Juliette, never forget this: a good reputation is a valueless encumbrance. It cannot ever recompense us for what in sacrifice it costs us. She who prizes her good reputation is subject to at least as many torments as she who behaves neglectfully of it: the first lives in unceasing dread of losing what is precious to her, the other trembles before the prospects opened up by her own carelessness. If thus the paths conducting the one to virtue and the other to vice are equally bestrewn with briars, why is it that we subject ourselves to such vexations in selecting between these ways, why do we not consult Nature and loyally observe her directives?”
“But,” I objected, “were I to make these maxims mine, Madame Delbéne, I greatly fear I should have to flout far too many conventions.”
“Why indeed, my dear,” she retorted, “I believe I’d prefer to have you tell me you greatly fear you’d taste too many pleasures. And what precisely are these conventions? Shall we inspect the matter soberly? Social ordinances in virtually every instance are promulgated by those who never deign to consult the members of society, they are restrictions we all of us cordially hate, they are common sense’s contradictions: absurd myths lacking any reality save in the eyes of the fools who don’t mind submitting to them, fairy tales which in the eyes of reason and intelligence merit scorn only.” We’ll have more to say on that subject, you have but to wait a little, my dear. Have confidence in me. Your candor and naivete indicate you are in singular need of a tutor. For very few is life a bed of roses: only heed me, and you’ll be one of those who, with the thorns that must be there, will find a goodly number of flowers in her path.”
Seldom indeed does one come across a reputation in shabbier repair than this one of Madame Delbéne. A nun who held me in especially high esteem, being disturbed by my rapport with the Abbess, warned me that she was a doomed woman. She had, I was told, poisoned the minds of nearly every pensionnaire in the convent, and thanks to her advice at least fifteen or sixteen of them had already gone the way of Euphrosine. It was, she assured me, an unprincipled, lawless, a faithless, an impudent brazen creature who flaunted her wicked notions; vigorous measures would long ere this have been taken against her were it not for her influential position and distinguished birth. These exhortations meant nothing to me: a single one of Delbéne’s kisses, a single phrase from her had a greater effect upon me than all the weapons it were possible to employ with a view to sundering us. Even had it meant being dragged over the precipice, it seemed to me I should have preferred definitive ruin at her side to celebrity in another’s sight. Oh, my friends! there is a certain perversity than which no other nourishment is tastier; drawn thither by Nature . . . if for a moment Reason’s glacial hand waves us back, Lust’s fingers bear the dish toward us again, and thereafter we can no longer do without that fare.
But it was not long before I noticed our amiable Superior’s attentions were not concentrated exclusively on me, and I as quickly perceived that others were wont to cooperate with her in exercises where libertinage had a more preponderant share than piety.
“And will you take lunch with me tomorrow?” she inquired one day. “I expect Elizabeth, Flavie, Madame de Volmar and Madame de Sainte-Elme. We’ll be six in all; we ought surely to be able to accomplish some truly startling things, I dare say.”
“Goodness!” I exclaimed. “Do you amuse yourself with all those women?”
“Of course. But you mustn’t for one instant suppose I am limited to them. There are thirty nuns in our establishment, I have had commerce with twenty-two; we have eighteen novices: I have still to make the acquaintance of one of them; and of the sixty pensionnaires presently with us, only three have resisted me so far. Whenever a new one arrives I simply have to get my hands on her: I accord her one week, never longer, to think over my proposals. Oh, Juliette, Juliette, my libertinage is an epidemic, whosoever is in my vicinity is bound to be infected by it. How very fortunate for society that I restrict myself to this dilute form of evil-doing: oh, what with my proclivities and principles, I could perhaps adopt another which might easily prove more of a nuisance to the world.”
“And what would you do, my gentlest one?”
“Who can tell? Do you not realize that the effects of an imagination so depraved as mine are like unto the impetuous waters of a river in flood? Nature wouldst that it wreak destruction, and destroy it does, no matter what, no matter how.”
“Do you not ascribe to Nature,” I suggested to my interlocutress, “what ought rather to be considered the result of your depravation?”
“Now heed me well, little light of my life,” said the Superior; “it’s early yet, our friends aren’t due to come till six and before they arrive I can perhaps reply to some of your frivolous notions.”
We both sat down.
“In that our unique knowledge of Nature’s inspirations,” began Madame Delbéne, “reaches us through that interior sensory we call the conscience, it is by analyzing this latter we shall rationally and profitably sound Nature’s operations—which, in us, are impulsions—and which fatigue, torment, or bring enjoyment to the conscience.
“The word conscience, my beloved Juliette, denominates that as it were inner voice which cries out when we do something—it makes no difference what—we are forbidden to do: and this eminently simple definition lays bare, to even the most casual glance, the origins the conscience has in prejudices inculcated by training and upbringing. Thus it is the child is beset by guilt directly he disobeys instructions—and the child will continue to suffer pangs of remorse until such time as, having vanquished prejudice, he discovers there is no real evil in the thing his education has induced him to abhor.
“And so conscience is purely and simply the construction either of the prejudices that are insinuated into us or of the ethical principles we ourselves devise in our own behalf. So true is this that it is altogether possible, if for material we employ sensitive principles, to forge a conscience which will haunt and sting and bite us, afflict us most woundingly upon every occasion—it is, I say, quite possible that we find ourselves possessed of a conscience so tyrannical that, once having promised ourselves to execute them for the sake of our sensual gratification, we then fail to carry out in their fullest and richest details any however entertaining schemes, even vicious ones, exceedingly criminal ones. Whence it is there is engendered, as antidote to the first, that other sort of conscience which, in the person who stands aloof from superstition and vulgar claptrap, speaks angrily to him when by miscalculation or self-deception he chooses to come at happiness by some other road than the highway which must naturally lead him to his object. Hence, in the light of the principles we have devised for our own individual use, we may equally well have cause to repent at having done either too much evil, or too little, or none. But let us take the word in its most elementary and most common acceptation: in this case, guilt—that is to say, what prompts the utterances of the inner mechanism we have just designated as the conscience—in this case, guilt is a perfectly useless debility, a weakness whose grip upon us we have got to break with all possible dispatch and with all the determination we can muster. For feelings of guilt, once again, are nought but the distillations, the effluvia of a prejudice produced by fear of what may befall us for having done any conceivable kind of thing forbidden for who knows what vague or flimsy reason. Remove the threat of retribution, alter opinions, abolish civil codes, shift the felon from one clime to another, and the misdeed will, of course, remain exactly in substance what before it was, but he who commits it will no longer feel twinges of guilt over his act. Guilt, thus, is merely an unpleasant reminiscence; it crops out of the customs and conventions one happens to have adopted, but it never results from, never has any connection with, the character of the deed one happens to have performed.
“Were this not so, how could one ever succeed in stifling remorse, in overcoming guilt? And we may be very certain that even when it be a question of acts of the broadest consequence, stifled they definitely may be, provided one’s mental development is sufficient and provided one has toiled earnestly to extinguish one’s prejudices. Proportionately as these prejudices are extirpated by maturity, or as habitual familiarity with deeds that initially upset us gradually toughens the sensibility and subdues the conscience, the susceptibility to guilt, formerly but the effect of the conscience’s frailty, is soon diminished, finally annihilated: and thus one progresses, until one arrives at the most appalling excesses: they may be repeated as often as one likes. But, it may perhaps be objected, guilt feelings are surely more or less intense in keeping with the variety of the misdeed perpetrated? Yes, to be sure, since the prejudice against a major crime is more powerful than one against a lesser crime, and the punishment prescribed by the law commensurately heavier in the one instance than in the other; however, discover the strength indiscriminately to do away with all prejudices, acquire the wisdom to rank all crimes on a single plane, and, becoming swiftly convinced of their resemblance, you will know how to tailor guilt to fit the occasion. Which is only to say that, having first learned to cope with the guilt consequent upon petty misbehavior, you will soon learn to quell any uneasiness over having performed a sizable atrocity, and to learn also to execute every atrocity, great and small, with a constant and inviolable serenity.”
“And so it is, my dear Juliette, that if one is visited by misgivings after having done a fell deed, that is because one clings to some doctrine of freedom or of free will, saying to oneself: How wretched I am because I didn’t act otherwise! But were one really to wish to persuade oneself that this talk about freedom is all empty prattle and that we are driven to whatever we do by a force more puissant than ourselves; were one to wish to be convinced that everything in this world has its purpose and its utility, and that the crime whereof one repents is just as necessary to Nature’s grand design as are war, the plague, famine by which she periodically lays whole empires waste—and empires are infinitely less dependent than Nature upon the acts that comprise our individual existences—were we to make these efforts, we’d cease even to be able to conceive of remorse or guilt, and my precious Juliette would not say to me that I am mistaken in laying up to Nature’s will that which ought only to be regarded as depravity’s handiwork.
“All moral effects,” Madame Delbéne went on, “are to be related to physical causes, unto which they are linked most absolutely: the drumstick strikes the taut-drawn skin and the sound answers the blow: no physical cause, that is, no collision, and of necessity there’s no moral effect, that is, no noise. Certain dispositions peculiar to our organisms, the neural fluids more or less irritated by the nature of the atoms we inhale, by the species or quantity of the nitrous particles contained in the foods making up our diet, by the flow of the humours and by yet a thousand other external causes—this is what moves a person to crime or to virtue and often, within the space of a single day, to both. There’s the drumhead struck, the cause of a vicious or of a virtuous act; one hundred louis stolen out of my neighbor’s pocket or transferred as a gift from mine to someone in need, there’s the effect of the blow, the resultant sound. Are we answerable for these subsequent effects when the initial causes necessitate them? May the drum be beaten without there being a sound emitted? And can we avoid these reverberations when they and the blow are themselves the consequence of things so beyond our control, so exterior to ourselves, and so dependent upon the manner in which we are personally constituted? And so ’tis madness, ’tis true extravagance to refrain from doing whatever we please, and, having done it, to repent thereof. Thus guilt and remorse appear as pusillanimous frailties we ought not to encourage, but to combat to the very best of our ability and overcome by means of sane deliberation, reason, and habit. Will remorse alter the fact the milk’s been spilt? no, and so we might as well dry our tears: remorse does nothing to make the act less evil, since remorse always comes after the fact; very rarely does remorse prevent the fact from recurring. Therefore, I must conclude that remorse is futile. The evil act once committed, one of two things must follow: either the act is punished, or it is not. In the second hypothesis, to feel sorry would assuredly be the height of stupidity: for what is the point of repenting any conceivable sort of deed which has given us the very completest satisfaction, and whence we have endured no painful consequences? In such a case, to regret the harm this act may have caused someone else would be to love him more than one’s own self, and it is perfectly ridiculous to grieve over the sufferings of others when their pain has procured us pleasure, when it has been of some use or profit to us, when it has tickled, titillated, aroused, delighted us in whatever may be the manner. Hence, in this case, there is no earthly excuse for remorse.
“If, on the other hand, the act is discovered and punishment ensues, then, if one chooses to view the matter objectively, one will recognize that what we now repent is not the hurt caused someone else by our act, but our clumsiness in allowing it to be found out—and presently one has grounds for regret, yes, and should surely ponder the thing . . . simply in order, from lengthy reflection upon one’s misadventure, to realize that in the future one must be prudent—if the punishment inflicted upon one is anything short of capital. But these reflections are not to be confused with remorse, for true remorse, real remorse, is the pain produced by the hurt one has done oneself: which distinction brings to light the vast difference subsisting between these two sentiments, and at the same time reveals the usefulness of the one and the inanity of the other.
“When we indulge in a bit of foul play, however atrocious, the satisfaction it affords, or the profit it yields, is ample consolation for the trouble, however acute, which amusing ourselves may bring down upon the head of some one or more of our fellow men. Prior to performing the deed, do we not clearly foresee the inconveniences it will cause others? Of course; and this thought, rather than doing anything to stop us, usually spurs us on. And then the deed once done, suddenly and belatedly to fall prey to worry, to start to fret, to sweat, to allow scruple to hinder one from savoring pleasure—than this there is no greater nor baser folly. If because it has been detected this deed brings us unhappiness in its wake, let us bend our keener faculties to ferreting out the reasons why it came to public intelligence; and without shedding a superfluous tear over something we are powerless to arrange otherwise, let us mobilize every effort so that the next time we shall not be wanting in tact, let us turn this mishap to our advantage, and from this reversal draw the experience necessary to improve our methods: henceforth, we will ensure our impunity by swathing our irregularities in thicker veils and more entire obscurity. But let us not contrive, by means of purposeless remorse, to extirpate sound principles; for this bad behavior, this depravation, these vicious and criminal and abominable caprices, are precious attributes, they have procured us pleasure, have delighted us, and unwise is he who deprives himself of anything he enjoys—that would be similar to the lunacy of the man who, merely because a heavy dinner troubled his digestion, were to abjure forever the pleasures of good eating.
“Veritable wisdom, my dear Juliette, consists not in repressing, one’s vices, for, vices constituting, practically speaking, the sole happiness granted us in life, so to do would be to adopt the role, as it were, of one’s own executioner. The true and approved way is to surrender oneself to them, to practice them to the utmost, but with care enough and circumspection to be secured against the dangers of surprise. Fear not lest precautions and protective contrivances diminish your pleasure: mystery only adds thereto. Such conduct, furthermore, guarantees impunity; and is not impunity the most piquant aliment to debauchery?
“After having taught you how to deal with the remorse born of the pain one suffers from having done evil rather too conspicuously, it is of the essence, dear little friend, that you permit me now to indicate the manner of totally silencing that inner and confusion-breeding voice which, when thirsts have been slaked, wakes now and again to upbraid us for the follies into which passions have plunged us. Well, this cure is quite as sweet as it is sure, for it consists simply in reiterating the deeds that have made us remorseful, in repeating them so often that the habit either of committing these deeds or of getting away scot free with them completely undermines every possibility of feeling badly about them. This habit topples the prejudice, destroys it; it does more: by frequently exercising the sensibility in the very way and in the very situation which, at the outset, made it suffer, this habit at length makes the new state it has assumed wholly bearable and even delicious to the soul. Pride lends its aid: not only have you done something no one else would ever dare do, you have become so accustomed to doing it that you cannot anymore exist without it—there is one pleasure. The enacted deed produces another; and who is there doubts that this multiplying of delights very speedily induces a soul to adopt the lineaments and character it has got to have, however painful at first may have been the difficulties wherewith, perforce, it was beset by the deed in question?
“Do we not experience when performing any one of the alleged crimes in which lust is dominant the very sensations I have cited to you? Why is it one never repents a crime of libertinage? Because libertinage very soon becomes habitual. Thus may it be in the case of every other extravagance; like lubricity, they may all be readily transformed into custom, and like lewdness, each of them may provoke an agreeable vibration in the nerve fluids: this poignant itching, closely resembling passion, may become quite as delectable and consequently, like it, metamorphose into a primary need.
“Oh, Juliette! if like myself you would live happily in crime—and, my beloved, I am wont to indulge heavily therein—if, I say, you would find in crime the same happiness that is mine, then strive as time passes to make of evil-doing a habit, until, with the passing of time, you have become so endeared to the habit that you literally cannot go on without imbibing of this potent drink, and until every man-made convention appears so ridiculous to your consideration that your pliant but nonetheless sinewy soul becomes gradually accustomed to construing as vices all human virtues, and as virtuous whatever mortals call criminal: do this, and lo! as though miraculously, new perspectives, a new universe shall appear before you, a consuming and delicious conflagration will glide into your nerves, it will make boil the electrically charged liquor in which the life principle has its seat. Fortunate enough to be able to dwell in a mundane society whence my sad fate has exiled me, with every new day you will form fresh projects, and their realization will every day overwhelm you with a sensual euphoria such as none but you shall know anything of. All the persons, all the creatures about you shall look to you like so many victims destiny has led up in fetters to sate your heart’s perversity. No more duties, no more hampering ties, no more obstacles to impede you, they’ll all vanish in a trice, dissolved by the vehemence of your desires. No longer from the depths of your soul shall any voice speak reproachfully, hoping to impair your vigor and rob you of joy. Nevermore shall prejudice militate against your happiness, wisdom shall abolish every check, and with even stride you shall walk along a pathway strewn thick with flowers, till finally you accede to perversity’s ultimate excesses. It will be then you’ll perceive the weakness of what in days past they described to you as Nature’s dictates; when you shall have spent a few years winking at what imbeciles term her laws, when, in order to become familiar with their infraction, it shall have pleased you to pulverize them all, then you’ll behold her, that Nature, a wicked smile on her lips, thrilled half to death at having been violated, you’ll see the quean/melt before your impulsive desires, you’ll see her come crawling toward you, begging to be shackled by your irons . . . she’ll stretch forth her wrists, plead to be your captive; now a slave to you instead of your sovereign, subtly she’ll instruct your heart in what fashion to outrage her further yet; as though degradation were her whole delight, only by showing you how to insult her excessively will she demonstrate her ability to impose her governance upon you. Let her. When once you reach that stage, do not resist, ever; as soon as you have discovered the way to seize Nature, insatiable in her demands upon you, she will lead you on, step by step, from irregularity to irregularity: all are preparatory, the last committed will never be but progress accomplished toward still another by means whereof she prepares to submit to you yet again; like unto the whore of Sybaris, who will put on every shape so as to excite the lust of him who buys her, she will in like wise teach you a hundred ways to soil and vanquish her, and all that the more completely to ensnare you in her turn, the more utterly to make you her own. However, one single hint of resistance, let me repeat, one reluctant gesture were fatal: it will cost you the loss of all you have won by complacency heretofore: yield: unless you acquaint yourself with everything, you’ll know nothing; and if you’re so timid as to pause in your conversation with her, Nature will escape you forever. Above all, beware of religion, nothing is more apt to lure you astray than religion’s baneful insinuations. Comparable to the Hydra whose heads grow back as swiftly as they are lopped off, it will unceasingly debilitate you if you falter at the task of obliterating its principles. There is the danger ever present that some bizarre ideas of the fantastical God wherewith they befouled your childhood return again to disturb your maturer imagination while it is in the midst of its divinest heats. 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 Systéme 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. Should you be visited by further doubts, you shall communicate them to me, I will set your mind at rest. Grown as staunch and doughty as I in your thinking, you’ll soon be imitating me in action, and like myself, you’ll never more pronounce this loathsome God’s name save with revulsion and in hateful blasphemy. The very conceiving of this so infinitely disgusting phantom is, I confess it, the one wrong I am unable to forgive man. I excuse him all his whims, his ironies, and his eccentricities, I sympathize with all his frailties, but I cannot smile tolerantly upon the lunacy that could erect this monster, I do not pardon man for having himself wrought those religious chains which have so dreadfully hobbled him and for having crept despicably forward, eyes downcast and neck stretched forth, to receive the shameful collar manufactured only by his own stupidity. There would be no end to it, Juliette, were I to give vent to all the horror waked in me by the execrable doctrine based upon a God’s existence; mere mention of him rouses my ire, when I hear his name pronounced I seem to see all around me the palpitating shades of all those woebegone creatures this abominable opinion has slaughtered on the face of the earth. Those ghosts cry out beseechingly to me, they supplicate me to make use of all I have been endowed with of force and ingenuity to erase from the souls of my brethren the idea of the revolting chimera which has brought such rue into the world.”