First published in 1844, Alexandre Dumas's swashbuckling epic chronicles the adventures of D'Artagnan, a gallant young nobleman who journeys to Paris in 1625 hoping to join the ranks of musketeers guarding Louis XIII. He soon finds himself fighting alongside three heroic comrades-Athos, Porthos, and Aramis-who seek to uphold the honor of the king by foiling the wicked plots of Cardinal Richelieu and the beautiful spy "Milady." As Clifton Fadiman reflected, "We read The Three Musketeers to experience a sense of romance and for the sheer excitement of the story. In these violent pages all is action, intrigue, suspense, surprise-an almost endless chain of duels, murders, love affairs, unmaskings, ambushes, hairbreadth escapes, wild rides. It is all impossible and it is all magnificent."
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June 24, 2004
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Excerpt from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
From Alexandre Dumas, a precise and candid description of his particular view of history:
I start by devising a story. I try to make it romantic, moving, dramatic, and when scope has been found for the emotions and the imagination, I search through the annals of the past to find a frame in which to set it; and it has never happened that history has failed to provide this frame, so exactly adjusted to the subject that it seemed it was not a case of the frame being made for the picture, but that the picture had been made to fit the frame.
This is the point of view of the historical novelist, who approaches the past as theater the unending melodrama of saints and sinners, and who knows that history, eternally surprising, inspiring, disheartening, sometimes described as one damn thing after another," will never fail him. It is all there. And it is all there to be used.
Dumas was in his early forties when he wrote The Three Musketeers, an age when novelists are believed to be entering their best creative years. He is traditionally described as a man of vast republican sympathies, which, in contemporary terms, made him a believer in democracy, equality, and the rights of man. He had fought in the streets of Paris during the July revolution of 1830; would man the barricades in 1848; would aid Garibaldi, with guns and journalism, in the struggle for Italian independence in 1860.
Such politics came to him by inclination, and by birth. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie, had taken the name of his African slave mother, Marie Dumas, and spent the early years of his life on the island of Santo Domingo. When the French Revolution made it possible for men without wealth or social connections to rise to power, the soldier Alexandre Dumas became General Alexandre Dumas, commanding the Army of the Alps in 1794, serving under Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy, and later in Egypt. But his relationship with Bonaparte deteriorated; his health was destroyed by two years in an Italian prison; and he died, a broken man, in 1806. His son, in time the novelist Dumas, was then four years old, but he would be told of his father s life, and he knew what it meant.