MrsLee and Bookmarque read Alexandre Dumas
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Since MrsL so bravely decided to tackle The Three Musketeers in November, I joined in solidarity by reading Chicot the Jester and The Forty-five Guardsmen which make up the 2nd two books in a trilogy.
Dumas can be dense and hard-going, but he always rewards with action, drama, humor and dastardly deeds. Once they get going they don’t stop and are very scene-driven in terms of chapters. Chicot, opened with a crazy situation and a lot of names just thrown at you with very little to distinguish or characterize them, but then got down to business in a straightforward way. Guardsmen is taking a bit longer; two major factions are gathering in Paris - some on the king’s side, some on his rival’s and it’s the usual confounding confusion of French names. OMG it’s crazy, but I think I can keep them straight.
If anyone else dares to do Dumas, come in and join us. There’s a lot to love and to choose from. I’ve read a ton of it so feel free to ask and you can hit my blog for posts about the d’Artagnan novels, the Valois novels and, of course, The Count of Monte Cristo!
Queen Margot (Valois novels 1)
Chicot the Jester (Valois novels 2)
D'Artagnan Romances -
Musketeers Part 1
Musketeers Part 2
Musketeers Part 3
Musketeers Part 4 (last)
Twenty Years After
Louise de la Valliere
The Man in the Iron Mask
Somehow I skipped a book, but a lot of it is covered in Louise.
The Count of Monte Cristo -
Part 5 (last)
MrsL - how are things coming with d’Artagnan and the gang? Have they stopped fighting already? Lol
I'm tempted to dig out Dumas on Food for a re-read. Would that be cheating?
>1 Bookmarque: I'm finding I can only read a chapter or two at a time, and none at all after 1 glass of wine! Possibly due to the translation I have. The man was a dedicated scholar, but perhaps not thinking of the reader? It isn't unreadable though, and the humor does come through.
We have taken a bread from the fighting to explore their domiciles. The names. Oh the names. I had to go back and skim the first chapter again, because I had thought D'Artagnan had the run in with Athos for some reason. Had the whole story in my head, then when it turned out not to be so, I wasn't sure how I thought it was.
>2 hfglen: I would love to hear about that!
Had to look up "Od's-boddikins!" and found that it is a less controversial form of "God's Body!" Which was impious. I suppose similar to our "Dad-gummit!"
I am glad to have read The Black Count as a sort of background to these stories.
>3 MrsLee: Thank you! I've also hauled out the rather elderly (1952) Bouquet de France that Gourmet Magazine published back in the day, for background. I suspect I may need Brillat-Savarin and Google as well. The introduction promises recipes, so I may comment on them either here or in the food and cooking thread.
Jump in, Hugh! Dumas is Dumas.
Alas, MrsL, the idiocy of French politics did me in with The Black Count as much as I wanted to really enjoy it, I couldn't. I still have it though so who knows, I may try again.
Been reading mostly Patrick McGrath today and back burnering The Forty-Five Guardsmen.
No other brave takers??!!
>1 Bookmarque: By the way, I'm saving your blog posts for when I'm done. I kind of enjoy researching on my wimsey.
Today my wimsey had me brushing up on history of the Louvre, Queen Anne of Austria, the 1st Duke of Buckingham.
Thoughts. Queen Anne seems to have been a formidable woman, perhaps not quite as helpless as Dumas portrays her, but she did have her close women friends removed by the powerful men. Assholes. She still managed to come out a Regent, in spite of them all.
After what I read about King James and the Duke of Buckingham, and the distance between Queen Anne and her king, one owners if the Earl of Buckingham was secretly meeting with her, or with her husband!
Question. Are Duke and Earl interchangeable? I seem to have seen them so.
Is there a better movie version than the '70s on with Michael York? I didn't like that one, have never cared for him. The images of it keep getting in my way for my reading.
>3 MrsLee: I am sorry your translator is not making things easy for you. I cannot remember who translated the Penguin edition I read but I remember I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the book, how humorous it was, and how the translator had managed to produce English that was poetic while translating from one of the world's most poetic languages. Translating poetry or poetic text is not very easy.
I found The Three Musketeers dragged me along. Having picked the book up in a small bookshop in Heathrow Airport because it was the only book I thought I could possibly read, and having expected it to be dull and boring, I was very pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying it. I think a lot of this was due to the translator. I think translators can be unsung heroes or dastardly demons who get away with murder.
>8 pgmcc: Agreed. This book also has fairly small print, although it is spaced nicely.
>7 MrsLee: I recently had a discussion about the meaning of the words Earl and Duke, and from what I remember, they do indeed mean the same thing. I believe one of them (probably duke) originates from French, the other is germanic.
>7 MrsLee:, >10 zjakkelien: In the British peerage, Duke and Earl are two different ranks, with Duke being the highest and Earl in the middle (Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron is the order). Not having read the book I can't say whether using both titles is a translation error or if they are two different characters.
>11 Sakerfalcon: It's possible that I read the two different titles in some of my research on who he was, so that perhaps they were talking of his rank at two different times of his life? I believe in the book he is consistently the Duke of Buckingham.
I notice the anti-Monarchism Dumas writes into his book without a single speech or rant about it. D'Artagnan ponders a bit on the high-handed and thoughtless way the Duke handles the people around him, but never really comes out as for or against, he simply holds it in his heart to think on at another time. We see the Duke running over people in the street in his hurry, kidnapping and forcing a jeweler to accomplish a task which would normally take a week in two days, practically declaring war so that the shipping might be stopped in order to save the reputation of his beloved queen of France. We all know we are supposed to dislike the Cardinal, but the Duke and King don't come out very well either.
I did Count last year. Loved the book and Dumas. I had been debating to read The Man in the Iron Mask this year but I think it's going to push to next. I have read The Musketeers already but none of the books in between. Do you all think those are required before jumping into Iron Mask?
Without trying to discourage you, yeah, I think you have to read the books in between since they are the set up and, more importantly, provide the emotional impetus for the conclusion of Mask. At the very least you should read Twenty Years After and then do some deep synopsis reading of the other books - intense Cliff’s Notes. But even then you might not get the full impact.
Basically the books in between are about King Louis XIV coming to his own power. Queen Anne (mom) was regent against a lot of odds when he was young, but Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin have tremendous hold over him and the government. Then of course there’s the whole question of the Restoration in England and other sub-plots involving Louis’s mistress Louise (a real person) and Aramis’s son the Vicomte de Bragelonne and a host of other things. Yeah, there’s a lot in there and not all of it is riveting, but I think you need to be with our four friends for that long to really feel the last book in the way that Dumas wants you to.
>12 MrsLee: it is also possible for the same person to own more than one title. He (normally!) would be addressed solely by the highest, and in formal company introduced by all of them. But political considerations may mean that friends or acquaintances would acknowledge only one of them.
>11 Sakerfalcon: Really? Of course now I can't find our source anymore, but maybe the problem lay in the fact that we were looking for a translation into Dutch.
Wait, no! I was confused, we weren't talking about a Duke and an earl, we were talking about a count and an earl. Are those at least the same then?
>16 zjakkelien: AFAIK Count is a continental (European) title, and Earl is British blue blood. Only vaguely connected, I was mildly amused once to find that the hotel I was booked into in Stockholm was on Birger Jarlsgatan, which is fairly obviously Earl Birger street. Maybe one day somebody would be so kind as to tell me who the eponymous character was.
>16 zjakkelien: For titles in English, this may help: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_precedence_in_England_and_Wales
Since Count is not a British title, but the wife of an Earl is a Countess, it might be reasonable to assume that Earl equates to it.
I'm reading a Russian history and was surprised to see a Prince referenced who wasn't the son of the Tsar. Are Russian titles just totally different?
>22 jjwilson61: Vague memory so you might want to dig further, but IIRC there was a period in history when the "princes" (the original russian title is instead derived from the same root as "king") were great feudal lords, not the Tsar's sons. And the title went on being transmitted in some families even after there was a Tsar.
>22 jjwilson61: Prince is the usual translation for князь. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knyaz
Russian princely titles date back to Kievan Rus' and predate the existence of a Tsar by several centuries.
The idea that a prince must be the son of a king is not universal. Often a prince is the ruler of a principality cf. Prince Albert of Monaco (or, historically, Llewellyn of Wales).
Russia's origins lie in a federation of such princes.
>17 hfglen: >19 Sakerfalcon: >21 Guanhumara: Now I am utterly confused! And wikipedia is not helping... Count is an English word, but not an English title, so what do you do with the word then? Does it refer to the title of nobility in other countries? But if the equivalent of that is earl in England, why not translate to earl?
>25 zjakkelien: I have never seen Earl used to describe a non-British nobleman, except those whose actual title is jarl.
Count is often used in English for foreign nobility - it translates both Comte and Graf.
Why two words? Blame the Norman Conquest in 1066! Earl is an old title possessed among the English (Anglo-Saxon) nobility. But after the Conquest, the English court was populated by Normans, who spoke French and may hold lands in both France and England. It wasn't until 1558 that the English monarch lost the last of her lands in France (inherited from her Norman ancestor), by which time the court spoke English. Up till that point there would be at the English court, people who, amongst their other titles, were Count of somewhere - just not somewhere in England.
Not to derail the titles discussion which is interesting, but I’m about ½ through The Forty-Five Guardsmen and boy, it’s reached the relentless pace of the other books. Here’s some notes from my reading -
P 41 - one of several mentions made of various men having lovely white hands - I’ve read this in other books, particularly the d’Artagnan books. It’s so funny. I mean they're all macho and preening little cocks of the walk, who cares how their hands look. And why would they want them to look like ladies' hands? So weird.
There are some people whose identities are cloaked and I guessed both of them.
Some great phrases throughout - “...he rose and prepared himself with about the agility of a tortoise.”
That has to do with Chicot, who is back and fabulous as ever. He’s been lying low and basically everyone he meets says “I thought you were dead.” Chicot is really Snake Pliskin.
Another gem particularly ironic since it’s Gorenflot who mutters “Greatness enslaves me.” Ha! All he does is eat and drink and sleep it off.
A lot of people are driven to rages and they express it in the strangest ways, but most bite something, for example lips but also - “St. Maline was furious, he bit his fingers with rage.” What? Why would you do that?
And then there is the forty-five themselves, mostly are admittedly of the bourgeoisie and thus had to be funded in order to buy the necessaries to make them presentable as guards to the king. Alas, while you can buy clothes, you cannot buy judgement - “Most of them were richly dressed, though generally in bad taste.”
There is a lot to keep track of - the plots, the factions, the double agent(s?), betrayals, alliances, armies and hell, the names alone are dizzying. But I’ve got it now; the Valois (Henri III, the king of France and his allies), the Leaguers (the de Guise faction, cousins to the king and a powerful family that holds several positions and provinces and seeks to depose Henri III) and the Navarrais (king Henri of Navarre, husband to Margot, sister of Henri III, who also has eyes on the throne). And there’s another Henri to boot. It’s crazy.
But I love it and will race to the end to see how the eventual displacement of King Henri III is engineered. I mean, given French history it’s not surprising, we all know how it turns out, but that doesn’t make it one ounce less fun.
>29 Bookmarque: lovely white hands
Peasants work outdoors and so have rough, tanned hands. Pale, soft hands mean that you don't do manual labour and spend your time indoors , ergo you are a gentleman. Blue-bloodedness is always an important pose factor.
bit his fingers with rage
I wonder whether that refers to making a fist and then gnawing on the knuckles? People do seem to gag themselves in this way when they feel like screaming and shouting, but are trying to suppress the signs that whatever it is has got to them. What's the context? Would that fit?
(You are reading one of the Dumas novels that I haven't read, so I am enjoying your commentary.)
>29 Bookmarque: lovely white hands
>30 Guanhumara: Peasants work outdoors and so have rough, tanned hands. Pale, soft hands mean that you don't do manual labour and spend your time indoors , ergo you are a gentleman. Blue-bloodedness is always an important pose factor.
That, and gentlemen wore gloves to protect their soft, white hands.
I'm also enjoying everybody's commentaries, even though I'm not planning on reading (or rereading) any Dumas in the near future.
Right now D'Artagnan's lady love has disappeared, leaving behind what looks like a violent altercation in the room. He is so concerned that he goes off to find the three companions who were left bleeding or in bad straights along the wild ride to the coast. To be fair, he gives the problem over to his superior, and is told to let it rest while inquiries are made, and to go care for his friends.
I find it interesting that he admits one of the reasons he likes to find out all about their past is to be able to make use of it in becoming their leader.
It would seem that being branded as a thief is worse than having affairs?
I forgot how much of a manipulator d'Artagnan is, but he doesn't actually hurt his friends though, at least not that I remember.
And yeah, a thief is much worse. In Guardsmen, affairs are open secrets and tolerated between Henri of Navarre and his wife, Margot. They both kinda sorta admit it to each other and of course Chicot knows, but it seems like a normal situation.
I should have thought about that bit with the hands. Same as being very pale v tan as a mark of ease and privilege, although now it's the reverse. You only get tan if you have leisure time and don't have to be a cube dweller who rarely sees the sun or goes on vacation.
Another nice line came up recently - "Sometimes death seems to forget old men, and they live on as though by habit of living..."
And leave it to Dumas to introduce an execution scene at the beginning, but not explain it for almost 200 pages! Crazy. But you get so caught up in other things that it's easy to forget stuff like this. He's not as adept as Dickens I don't think, but he does tie things up rather well.
So poor Diana is once again set upon by another man who glimpses her mere shadow and falls in love. Of course she is just another thing, and object, a collectible. When he (another Henri) makes some false assumptions about what she's doing of course he feels justified in doing almost anything to her - "...I shall have the courage to address this woman and reproach her..."
WTF does she owe him? It's amazing how ingrained this kind of thing is with men to this day, as news headlines are pointing out. He's nothing but a nuisance to her, but yet she's the one who has to bow to his every whim, she's the one who must be in the wrong. Oy vey. But he's not as bad as his brother, who when he finds out that she is cold to Henri tells him - "...I should have taken her house by assault, and then herself; and when she was conquered, and came to throw her arms around your neck and say, "Henri, I adore you," I should have repulsed her..."
Yeah, because rape and violence always make the ladies more loving. At least Henri is aghast at his brother's statement, having earlier realized - "Besides, is she not mistress of her own actions?" Well, kinda, but not really. You know, the lack of dangly bits means you just can't do or think what you want. You can't have privacy or agency or security. Oh no. The danglers really have it in for you.
Later when her nemesis, the Duc d'Angou turns out not to be dead, he and his lackey go over and above to see this mysterious woman because no woman has the right not to be seen by him. Once done, he tells his lackey that he is to get her and take her to one of his castles. No notion that this is in any way wrong. Gah! Men.
And of course she has to be saved over and over again, putting her in a position to exact revenge, but I wonder if she'll be allowed to or if one of the men will have to rescue her. I know it's a trope and a victim of worldwide culture since forever, but it is tiring.
Still, I press on.
As usual lately, I'm getting tired of reading a long book. :/
There is a moment in a chapter which reminds me of an Abbot and Costello routine! Athos is telling D'Artagnan that he lost the horses from the Duke of Buckingham. Hilarious!
Still, I don't really care for our musketeer characters, and sympathize with the Lady de Winter. I'm sorry, but chivalrous men can be such assholes!
More tomorrow when I'm on a keyboard instead of my tablet.
>29 Bookmarque: I'm noticing a lot of "biting the lips until they bleed." Really? I guess people these days just don't get as worked up about stuff as they used to. ;)
The value of money is confusing. Pistoles, Francs, Louis, etc. I've looked them up, but my mind can't keep it straight. Some of them seem of equivalent values, then they don't. Sigh. Let it go, Lee. Let it go.
Love this quote from Athos: "In general, people only ask for advice," he said, "that they may not follow it; or, if they should follow it, that they may have somebody to blame for having given it."
This thought occurred. Is this whole story supposed to be a spoof on the gallantry and chivalry of the era? It seems that Dumas does not really hold the Musketeers up as examples, as much as clowns and hyperbole.
I think, in a way, that's true, but I think it comes from a desire to entertain more than ridicule. Take the Aeneid for example, I found Aeneas to be a complete bore as compared to Odysseus even though they both do basically the same things. The trouble was that Aeneas was so darn upright and perfect that he left me cold. Odysseus was flawed and therefore more relatable and funny even if he was a cad a lot of the time. Ditto with our boys, even though they're reprobates in a lot of situations and are vainglorious manipulators, their hearts are in the right place and you can't help but root for them.
And yeah, overall I find that the people in older books are really, really emotional. It was hard for me to get through Crime and Punishment because everyone was constantly moaning and belaboring the same damn things, and usually something they did completely on purpose. I mean, get over yourself already Raskolnikov!
The money thing tripped me up as well, but I let it go, too, just getting enough from context to know if it was pocket change or a king's ransom.
Oh and what do you think of Milady?
Read the sequel instead, Pete. If you can just do a review of the first one, you'll fall right in with the second. In my opinion, it's better - Twenty Years After.
>I read The Three Musketeers in the 1990s so any review would be based on hazy recollections. It had always been my ambition to read the sequels. Now you are aiding me in that direction. I suppose you might regard that as a book bullet hit.
In my first post there are some links to my Musketeers journal when I read it. That might be enough!
Gotta get back into Guardsmen today. Yesterday I got sidetracked.
>37 Bookmarque: Oh and what do you think of Milady?
One thing that I respect about Dumas is that his women are usually competent. Whether it is Constance, manouevring on behalf of her Queen, or Milady, who is working for herself, these are active, intelligent women. They are not vapid, passive objects (even if their menfolk tend to behave as if they were).
Well, I'm not too sure about that in the series I'm into now, Guanhumara. Oh sure, Catherine de Medici was a force and painted with a ruthless lust for power (albeit through the men in her life), but damn if Diana isn't just a fainting flower to be carried off by one man after another. She is bent on revenge in this last book, but I don't know if she's going to get it directly; from her own hands. So far all she's been able to do is be rescued.
>37 Bookmarque: What do I think of milady? Well that's a complicated question. Obviously she is a villain because she has a monkey for a pet. However when I read how the men treat her who can blame her for trying to kill them? I'm not sure about the fleur de lys on her shoulder. It is a mark of a thief but knowing that in those days if you stole a loaf of bread it was enough to be hanged, well, it makes me a bit more compassionate towards her. She is a villain and yet the reason she became so? Unclear.
That's pretty much how I felt about her when reading. What else could she do? She had to make her way in the world and had the brains and the will, and in some ways, her victims deserved what they got. Not enough to make her a heroine, but enough so she isn't totally repulsive.
Aaaand, I'm done!
I had no recollection of the fall of Ms. de Winter, or the final chapter from my audio read, so that was fun to read it afresh. Kind of scary about my mind though.
>1 Bookmarque: Hahaha, love your equation to Captain Jack Sparrow.
I enjoyed reading through your notes!
Can we take a moment here to consider Porthos' treatment of his mistress, when she didn't cough up the money he thought he was entitled to? Being kept by a woman was apparently not a dishonorable thing then. It didn't carry the opprobrium that a gigelo has these days. At least he married her when her husband died. Yay for her?
Yeah, the expectation of women in these books is something hard to swallow these days. In Guardsmen, Diana is just an object of desire, but when she just wants to be left alone, she is somehow at fault for the "pain" it causes in the men who can't have her. The brother of one basically castigates her for it while she's trying to retreat to a convent. She eventually makes him feel shitty about it and he leaves, but the mere fact that he thought he had the right to say these things to her and hold her at fault is ludicrous.
Overall though, I'm disappointed with this final installment. As I was nearing the end I was worried it wouldn't wrap up well and we wouldn't
It's the only book that's let me down though. I will probably read more in future, but it will have to wait a while.
>48 Bookmarque: I read somewhere, possibly in the Afterword of my book, that Dumas always had his story, then found the period in history that would fit it. He was only interested in history as it served his story, and played a bit fast and loose with the facts. Sort of like Hollywood.
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