Catherine Blum (Les Cahiers Rouges t. 283) (French Edition)

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Thesis, London University. D Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Reintaim 'Raintime'. Le reine Margot. La dame de Monsoreau. Les quarante-cinq. Le collier de la reine. Ange Pitou. Craig Bell as My Memoirs, ] autobiography Les Mohicans de Paris. Walter Hodges in ; abridged and adapted by Jane Carruth; illustrated by John Worsley in ; translated by Lowell Blair in ; abridged and adapted by Vincent Buranelli; illustrated by Hieronimus Fromm in ; and translated by Marcus Clapham and Clive Reynard in , among many others.

It was also adapted as a drama in Philadelphia, Penn. Lippincott, Dumas in the inventiveness of his plays, Dumas in his eager appetite for history, Dumas in his pleasant stories of travel—these we have seen. Combine the three, not forgetting the wondrous imagination which underlies them all—the dramatist, the historian, the conteur —and we have the qualities of Dumas as the writer of historical romance. For some while past he has cherished the idea of popularizing French history: he has dipped into it on different occasions, and each dip has convinced him that the subject was worth pursuing further.

POINT LECTURE 42 : Bilan du French Read-a-Thon

Did any one say that French history was dull? Perish the thought! The historians may have been dull, but that was their own stupid fault. Scotch history would doubtless have been liable to the same reproach had there been no Sir Walter Scott , and who would say that the annals of France were less eventful than those of Scotland? Pass over the first as an "historian" proper—romantic and picturesque, but still a professional historian: did not Notre Dame, Cinq Mars, and Charles IX attest the influence and value of the Waverley novels?

Yet none of these three had really touched the popular level. For true popularity something on a larger scale was wanted, laid on with a thicker brush and in colours more vivid. For that business Dumas was the man, and the only man. His was the genius which could produce "the dramatic romance"—that form of novel which Victor Hugo dreamed of as forming "one long drama, divided into scenes, in which the descriptive parts serve as do the costumes and scenery of a theatrical piece. By good fortune Dumas had lighted on the man—a student of history, an unwearied rummager of documents, whose name was Auguste Maquet.

So began this most notable of literary partnerships. To catalogue the works which it produced in their order of publication would be merely to show that the popularization of French history did not proceed on a regular and progressive plan, but was effected bit by bit, the first often coming last and the last first, until at the end a sequence—not indeed of years but of epochs—found itself established, stretching from the reign of Charles IX to the French Revolution.

To us, however, it matters little in what order the slides of the magic lantern were originally made: we prefer to see them as a whole and as a series.

To do this we may begin even a little earlier than the Saint Bartholomew. The date is , and the reign is that of Henri II, over whom the fair Diana of Poitiers still holds sway. Through all the fighting of that time—the loss of St. For the first time now Queen Catherine comes to the front. Hitherto, as the sovereign's wife she has for long years effaced herself before imperious Diana and gruff Montmorency the Constable; now as the sovereign's mother she begins a long delayed vengeance for neglect.

Alexandre Dumas (père) |

This first son, indeed, she loved but little: he is too much the slave of his girl wife, beautiful Marie Stuart, and Marie is wholly influenced by the Guises, with whom Catherine has not yet made common cause. To him succeeds Charles, ninth of that name; the Queen-mother's grasp grows stronger and the scope of her dark deeds wider. As a Catholic she hates the heretics, as a mother she fears most of all men their leader Henri de Navarre, whom she foresees as a rival to her beloved Henri d'Anjou. The story of La Reine Margot is the story of the duel between these two.

On the other side Henri of Navarre avoids the various snares, partly by his own shrewd opportunism—for when it is a question of "Mort, Messe, ou Bastille" he does not hesitate to profess himself a Catholic, just as on a famous future occasion he will declare that "Paris vaut bien une messe"; partly by the help of his wife, Queen "Margot," who is a good friend to her husband—though they each have their own love affairs and have passed their honeymoon as far away from each other as possible; and partly also by the good offices of his brother-in-law, King Charles, who—though for the most part a puppet in the hands of Catherine—asserts sometimes his right to be generous, and, while shooting through his window at the wretched Huguenots, keeps his kinsman beside him out of harm's way.

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Others were not so fortunate. The romantic La Mole—lover of Queen Margaret—and the jovial Coconnas had fraternized at their first meeting when they entered Paris on the eve of St. Bartholomew; then they fought each other desperately, as in duty bound, since the one was a Huguenot and the other a Catholic; finally they became bosom friends again, and both perished together—victims of that same dire Catherine.

Vive le roi! The Queen-mother has failed to kill Henri of Navarre, but she has managed to postpone his reign and make him fly for his life. The new King, who oscillates between debauchery and superstition with occasional fits of Satanic kingliness, has enemies enough—his treacherous brother d'Anjou, the ambitious Henri de Guise, and the crafty Cardinal.

His "minions" can amuse him and are good enough to fight with d'Anjou's "Gentlemen"; but how would he fare without Chicot the Jester, wisest of fools, who baffles the conspirators at every turn—personating the King, hiding in the confessional-box, making brother Gorenflot drunk, preaching sermons, signing abdications, and what not? Wamba was nothing to him. Now it is the Duchesse de Montpensier, sister of Guise, masquerading as a page-boy to help her brother: now it is Chicot, who for having trounced Mayenne has had to go into hiding for some years till we refind him in Robert Briquet—faithful as ever to his King, and a good friend also to Henri of Navarre, whom he accompanies to the siege of Cahors.

A wonderful picture this siege gives of the future Henri IV , physically a coward and trembling with fear, yet by sheer force of will leading the attack as bravest of the brave. There are other battles and sieges too, notably that of Antwerp, which Anjou conducted while the fleet under Joyeuse gave help.

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Little glory did French arms gain there, nor was Anjou more successful in love than in war. For returning to France he fell in with Diane de Monsoreau, who had loved Bussy and had never forgiven the Duke for his death. Seeking now to entrap her he prepared retribution for himself. It was the old story—the laboratory, a little "aqua tofana," a mysterious illness, and farewell Duke of Anjou! Obviously such an interval invites reflection and discussion on what has passed. The majority of readers are quite content: some few will be troubled by the pangs of the historical conscience; one will even go so far as to write a book to prove the "Historical Inaccuracies in La Dame de Monsoreau.

Let us rather grant at once to the author of dramatic historical romance the privilege of regulating facts and marshalling them for effect. Otherwise how can he realize that famous ideal which Dumas set before himself of "elevating history to the dignity of romance"? History informs us that, between the death of Charles IX and the arrival of his brother Henri from Poland, some three or four months passed. But La Reine Margot teaches us better by showing how Catherine just secures the succession for her favourite son by bringing him back at the dramatic moment before Charles has yet quite ceased to breathe—an arrangement which every one will admit to be more effective.

Ex uno disce omnes : yet these, and some "extra-historical" incidents, are but the acknowledged licences of fiction, with which none but a pedant will quarrel. The more important question is, What impression of the main characters and events of French history will these romances leave on a reader who knows French history only through them?

Will such an one on the whole see right? Doubtless, yes. About the course of religious strife, of domestic intrigue, of foreign policy, he will gather little which serious history would have him unlearn. And as to the persons of the drama, admit that their characters are modelled on the traditional and popular view; it is always possible that this view, formed at or near the time itself, may be the truest.

Dumas, of course, adopted it naturally and unconsciously as being the most suitable for his purpose: even had he been aware of another it is inconceivable that he would have hesitated between—let us say—a white-washed Catherine de Medicis, a passive instrument of Spanish policy, and the masterful woman of scheme and intrigue, spell and poison: the one was so colourless, the other so lurid.

Alexandre Dumas (père)

To name the Queen-mother is to name the strongest instance of a possible perversion of truth. Others are less questionable. Charles IX, Henri III, Henri IV—what historian can amend the characters of these kings as they are presented by the novelist, or what historian can draw their characters with more distinctness? And if any one wants to see how Dumas had advanced in historical knowledge since the days when he wrote Henri III et sa Cour, let him compare the Duc de Guise of that drama with the Duc de Guise of the Valois novels.

Human nature , as Plato long ago observed, has been coined in very small pieces; and the sorting of these, to form a just estimate of character, involves so much balancing and counterbalancing that it ends in being perplexing without being any the more infallible. For Dumas it has to be said that whenever he touches history—in novels, plays, or studies—he has the true historical instinct; without either faculty or inclination for the drudgery of analysis he somehow arrives at a synthesis quite as convincing as any that can be reached by the most minute methods.

When the curtain rises again it is on a scene very different from that of the decadent Valois house. The gloom of secret stratagems and snares has been dispersed: a brighter and more buoyant air is felt at once, when on a morning of —Louis XIII being King and Cardinal Richelieu his minister—a certain young Gascon appears in the township of Meung on a wonderful orange-coloured pony, which excited the jeers of Rochefort and gave the newcomer a first opportunity of showing his metal. To his sword also D'Artagnan owed his introduction to Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the three musketeers, who henceforth are four.

Hence the desperate journey to England undertaken by the four heroes with their four lackeys, when by one misadventure or another the rest drop out, and on D'Artagnan and his man Planchet rests the whole burden of saving the Queen's honour. How that was accomplished is a matter of history—or at any rate of romance. We know also how Richelieu had vainly employed on this business the beautiful criminal "Milady," as he employed her again more successfully to bring about that "miracle for the salvation of France" which was wrought at Portsmouth by the dagger of Felton.

For these reasons and for others of a more private nature the brotherhood had vowed a righteous vengeance against Milady, performed with due ceremony by the executioner of Bethune. Not however to this sombre ending nor to the general unpleasantness of "Miladyism" does the story of the Musketeers owe its popularity. Rather it was the loyal comradeship of these seventeenth-century gallants, their reckless fighting, their impetuous love-making, which typified to the French public certain characteristics identified with France in her greatest days. Athos for dignity, Porthos for strength, Aramis for subtlety, D'Artagnan for wit and resourcefulness, all for a courage to which other virtue is quite secondary—such qualities fascinate readers of all nationalities, whether in the way of similarity or of contrast.

It is not a question here of historical persons—they are less problematical, and the chief of them, Richelieu, is excellently drawn in his day of power—but rather of catching the spirit of a particular epoch; and this by common consent Dumas has done most admirably. Nor does any book illustrate better his power of assimilating material and improving upon it than the story of the Musketeers.

There we have D'Artagnan and his three friends, as also Milady lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta , de Vardes, Rochefort called Rosnay , Madame Bonacieux and her spouse, the rivalry of the King's Musketeers with those of the Cardinal, and much else. The life of D'Artagnan himself represents three phases of character. At first he is the quarrel-seeking adventurer, swaggering in wineshops, gambling in the ante-chambers of the King, leading wives astray and beating husbands.

Then under Mazarin during the Fronde period he becomes more attached to intrigue both in love and in politics, and he is entrusted with confidential missions to England, where he spends much time. Later on, when Louis XIV has assumed power and the splendours of the Court have begun, D'Artagnan, now Capitaine-lieutenant of the Musketeers, appears as a punctilious and particular gentilhomme, most anxious to forget the wildness of his early fights and amours, He died in , killed during the siege of Maestricht.

Thus one may read in Courtils de Sandras, 4 from whose voluminous memoirs—without excluding other authorities of the same sort 5 —ransacked by himself or Maquet, Dumas borrowed freely, and at the same time discreetly. Over all he sprinkled the salt of his own wit: much he imagined and invented—such as the entertaining characters of Grimaud, Mousqueton, Bazin, and Planchet, or the details of the journey to Calais: some things he altered—ante-dating, e.