Biography of the Original Masochist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch Part 3

About the original masochist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, history and biography of the man who coined the sexual term.


Leopold's best-known book, Venus in Furs, was written at this time, and its detailed exposition of his sexual philosophy made him quite notorious. The police commissioner's son became the subject of much gossip and the object of reams of correspondence from anonymous young (and not so young) ladies. He 1st met his future wife under a lamppost on a small side street in Graz, where, heavily veiled, she had come according to agreement to recover from him a packet of compromising letters that a friend of hers had written to him. She called herself Wanda after the heroine of his latest novel, wore a long fur coat, and pretended to be very elusive. Weeks later when they were finally alone together, she went at him with a whip. Leopold was fascinated and agreed to marry her, although only at 1st in a private unwitnessed ceremony to which he came dressed in white tie and tails and she, of course, in furs.

The marriage, later formalized by a public wedding, lasted 15 years, but it was not a happy one. Wanda, like Anna before her, had not really understood what she was getting herself into. She was the daughter of a gentleman's servant and had simply wanted the socially prominent name of Von Sacher-Masoch and the presumably enviable life of an intellectual's wife. She had not realized that this particular intellectual would insist on being thrashed daily with a nail-studded whip or that he would be so persistent about her taking a lover. In spite of the fact she was pregnant a great deal of the time, her husband steadfastly continued to parade before her a succession of potential "betrayers," always optimistic that his latest find would be a success. Finally, years later, one of his candidates--a M. Armond, alias Jacques Ste. Cere, alias Jacob Rosenthal--carried her off.

Meanwhile, through it all, Leopold continued to write. Although little read now, he was a leading literary figure of his time, and the 25th anniversary of his 1st-published work was marked by a formal celebration in Graz and public ceremonies in Lemberg, Prague, and Leipzig. By then he was living with a down-to-earth young German woman named Hulda Meister. They later married, and she loyally continued to care for him after his delicately balanced mind began to fail. Finally she had him quietly committed to an asylum after he had more than once tried to strangle her. Officially, he had died and was mourned accordingly, but actually he lived for another 10 years, during which time the German neurologist and psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing read about his career and named his particular kind of sexual aberration "masochism."

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