Musketeers Week: Everyone’s a Critic, An Academic; or, Things You May Not Have Known

In one place, for when you have more than a moment, links to articles and essays on Alexandre Dumas and his works of fiction (mostly, of course, The Three Musketeers).

Caricature by André Gill Caricature of Alexandre Dumas Cover of La Lune 2 December 1866 Hand-colored Engraving [X]

Caricature by André Gill
Caricature of Alexandre Dumas Cover of La Lune 2 December 1866 Hand-colored Engraving [X]

The role of race in the life and literature of Alexandre Dumas: The episode that inspired the man behind the Musketeers
Boyd Tonkin

In September 1784, an unpleasant incident took place at M. Nicolet’s fashionable theatre in Paris. A young, aristocratic man-about-town, born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), had escorted to the play an elegant lady whose family also came from the West Indies. Dashing, handsome, the son of Count Davy de la Pailleterie might have seemed the ideal squire for the evening. Save, in many eyes, for one thing. He was black – notably dark-skinned, the mixed-race youth had a slave mother – and his companion white.

All for One
Terrence Rafferty

“Words never failed Alexandre Dumas. In his maniacally productive writing career, he pumped out millions and millions of them: some good, some bad and all indifferent to any value other than propelling a story forward at the giddiest possible pace, if not, perhaps, with optimum fuel efficiency. Dumas’s novels are shameless word-guzzlers, big and plush and almost sinfully comfortable: ideal vehicles for the long, scenic excursions into French history he regularly conducted for the newspaper readers of mid-19th-century Paris.”

Behind the Iron Mask
Roger Macdonald

“Long before the days of mass-produced paperbacks, Alexandre Dumas achieved sales of over one million for his Musketeers trilogy: The Three Musketeers (1844), Twenty Years After (1845) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1850). In an obituary notice published in 1870  after his death, aged sixty-eight, an American newspaper placed Dumas second only to Napoleon Bonaparte as the most famous man of the century. Yet the great French playwright and author, having set the Musketeers firmly on the road to immortality, had been compelled through circumstance to obfuscate their origins, until they came to be regarded as entirely fictional characters, when they were really based on flesh and blood. In doing so he also unwittingly distanced himself from clues to the true identity of the secret prisoner in the mask, a tale more extraordinary and terrible than even Dumas could devise.”

The Old Hotel de l'Ecu where Alexandre Dumas lodged D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

The Old Hotel de l’Ecu where Alexandre Dumas lodged D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

Dumas Among the Gods
Algis Valiunas

“Somehow amid all this boyish commotion I read a lot of books, and when I was ten years old, I came upon The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and discovered the way of life I was surely born to lead: manly adventure transformed into literature. First I’d live it, then I’d write it. At the time, living it meant playing at war with my friends, whom I undertook to intoxicate with accounts of seventeenth-century Gallic military virtue. I considered myself an embryonic musketeer…” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

Musketier mit Gabelmuskete - Jacob de Gheyn

Musketier mit Gabelmuskete – Jacob de Gheyn

Of Kings, Queens, and Musketeers
Allen G. Wood

“The first half of the French seventeenth century remains vividly animated in the collective, popular imagination as the period of the Three Musketeers, even more than one hundred and fifty years after the publication of Alexandre Dumas’ historical novel. The exploits of d’Artagnan and his three musketeer friends are perhaps better known and more read than works actually written during the reign of Louis XIII, for readers in France and indeed throughout the world. And the commercial success which Dumas enjoyed, as installment followed installment during the spring and summer of 1844 in Le Siècle, called for the sequels of Vingt Ans Après and the Vicomte de Bragelonne, which advanced the musketeers to the time of the Fronde, then to Louis XIV. Even today, the popularity of the musketeers is still apparent in the various film versions of this modern classic story. It is important to examine the dynamics of history and fiction contained within the novel in order to ascertain the mechanisms of historical transmission in novel form, and determine which elements of the seventeenth century are conveyed by the popular icon.” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

The Neglected Side of Dumas
A. Craig Bell

“Anniversaries of the births and deaths of great writers have in reality little significance; if their works survive at all they are timeless, and if they do not live in the affection and esteem of posterity no amount of eulogy, however erudite, will give them new life. Nevertheless they provide occasion and material for the pointing of a moral or the adorning of a tale, and for the making of comparisons which are not always odious. I will begin by stating that precisely a hundred years ago, when Dumas’ celebrity was just past its peak, and until about the time of his death, the name of a contemporary was frequently linked with his merely on account of the equal popularity of a couple of works; and I leave it to the French Academy and such-like highly respectable literary institutions to enlighten us as to why there is unlikely ever to be a statue erected to Eugène Sue, and why the Mystères de Paris and The Wandering Jew have long ago dropped out of circulation while Monte-Cristo and Twenty Years After live on.” [A NOBLE Library Card will be needed to access the full article]

Further reading/viewing:

 

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