Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), one of the most perplexing personalities of Western culture, has been called 'the freest spirit who ever lived' and 'a frenetic and abominable assemblage of all crimes and obscenities'. Yet scant attention has been given to the two women who were the catalysts of his fate: his loyal, tolerant wife, Renee-Pelagie, and his vindictive mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuil. This groundbreaking account vividly brings to life these two dynamic women and the complex bonds they evolved with the rakish Marquis, as they dedicated themselves to protecting, curbing and, ultimately, confining him. Francine du Plessix Gray draws on thousands of pages of correspondence between the magnetic, aristocratic Marquis de Sade and his plain, bourgeois wife, to explore in historical and psychological detail what it was like to live with this maverick adventurer and man of letters in the decades before the French Revolution. She brilliantly recreates the extravagant hedonism and corruption of late-18th-century France, the ensuing Terror, and the oppression of the Napoleonic regime under which de Sade spent his last years.