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The Last Will and Testament of Donatien-Alphonse-François Sade, Man of Letters
The Marquis De Sade’s actual will, translated into English by R J Dent.
For the execution of the clauses below, I rely upon the filial piety of my children, asking that they may act with regard to the clauses as they have done with regard to me.
First: It is my true wish to herein provide evidence regarding the esteemed lady, Marie-Constance Reinelle, wife of Monsieur Bathasar Quesnet, believed deceased; my true wish, as I say, to provide evidence regarding this lady, insofar as my limited powers permit, pertaining to my extreme gratitude for the care she has provided me and the sincere friendship she has shown me from the twenty-fifth of August, seventeen hundred and ninety, to the day of my death; succour extended by her not only with the utmost tact and lack of self-interest, but also with the most courageous energy, since, during the Reign of Terror, she saved me from the revolutionary blade which was only too assuredly suspended above my head, as everyone well knows. Therefore, in light of the explanations outlined above, I hereby legally will and leave to the said lady, Marie-Constance Reinelle, wife of Quesnet, the sum of eighty thousand livres, to be paid in cash from the Tours mint, in whatever currency is in use in France at the time of my passing, wishing and understanding that this sum be deducted from the freest and most unattached portion of my inheritance, and charging that my children deposit that sum in its entirety, within the space of a month from the day of my death, with Monsieur Finot, the solicitor at Charenton-Saint-Maurice, whom for this purpose I hereby name executor of my will and whom I instruct to utilize the said sum of money in the manner which is, without doubt, the securest and most advantageous to Madame Quesnet, and in a manner guaranteed to provide her with an income sufficient for her sustenance and support; an income which shall be, without fail, forwarded to her on a quarterly basis; which shall also be not transferable and not attachable to or by any other person whatsoever. I hereby stipulate moreover, that following the demise of his worthy mother, the principal and the sale of the above-mentioned endowment be revertible only to Charles Quesnet, son of the said dame Quesnet, who shall become the proprietor of the total.
And these instructions which I here express concerning the inheritance I leave to Madame Quesnet, I implore my children, in the unlikely case that they should seek to evade or avoid their legal responsibilities, I urge them to remember that they had promised the same dame Quesnet, a sum roughly similar in recognition of the care she took of their father, and as this present document merely concurs with and anticipates their initial intentions, any doubts as to their acquiescence to my final wishes is forever banished from my mind and will never for a moment trouble it further, especially when I reflect upon the filial virtues which have never ceased to characterize them and make them fully worthy of my paternal sentiments.
Second: I further leave and bequeath to the aforementioned Madame Quesnet all the furniture, effects, linen, clothing, books and papers which are in my chambers at the time of my decease, with the exception, however, of my father’s papers, which shall be indicated as such by labels placed upon the bundles; papers which shall be handed over to my children.
Third: It is equally my intention and the expression of my last will and testament that the present bequest should in no ways deprive Madame Marie-Constance Reinelle, wife of Quesnet, of any future rights, claims, or charges that she may care to make upon my estate, whatever the grounds may be.
Fourth: I leave and bequeath to Monsieur Finot, the executor of my last will and testament, a ring valued at twelve hundred livres, as renumeration for the trouble which the execution of this document shall have caused him.
Fifth: Finally, I absolutely forbid that my body be opened on any pretext whatsoever. I categorically insist that it be kept a full forty-eight hours in the chamber where I shall have died, then placed in a wooden coffin which shall not be nailed shut until the prescribed forty-eight hours have elapsed, at the end of which period the said coffin shall be nailed shut; during this interval a message shall be sent to M. Le Normand, a wood seller in Versailles, living at number 101, boulevard de l’Egalité, requesting him to come alone and in person, with a cart, to fetch my body away and to convey it under his own escort and in the said cart to a wood upon my property at Malmaison near Epernon, in the commune of Emancé where I would have it laid to rest, without ceremony of any kind, in the first copse standing to the right as the said wood is entered from the side of the château by way of the broad lane which divides it. The trench opened in this copse shall be dug by the tenant farmer of Malmaison under M. Le Normand’s supervision, who shall not leave my body until after he has placed it in the said trench; upon this occasion he may, if he so wishes, be accompanied by those among my relatives or friends who are averse to displays of ceremony or spectacle of any sort whatsoever, and who shall have been kind enough to give me this last proof of their attachment. The trench, my grave, once covered over, shall then have acorns strewn over it, in order that the spot become green again, and the copse grown back thick over it, so that any trace of my grave will disappear from the face of the earth, just as I trust the memory of me will fade from the minds of everyone, save for the few who in their goodness have loved me to the last, and of whom I carry a sweet remembrance with me to the grave.
Written at Charenton-Saint-Maurice in a state of reason and good health on the thirtieth day of January, in the year one thousand, eight hundred and six.
© R J Dent 2021
R J Dent is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and short story writer.