Dumas, The Vicomte De Bragelonne (Conclusion)

Well, it begun quite sharp and lulled-off near the end- That is to say, that this first book in the cluster of installments in the Vicomte De Bragelonne. It is the longest segment in the Dumas’ D’Artagnan series and it encompasses 3 to 4 books. (Depending on the publisher.) The Oxford World’s Classics editions are split into 3; The Vicomte De Bragelonne, which is the one I have finished is then followed by Louise De Vallière and lastly, dramatically, the official D’Artagnan romances closes with the most recognizable, The Man in the Iron Mask. Let me count them all out for you in case my words have tempted you to follow along in this literary quest: Three Musketeers, Twenty-Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise De Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask. (The adventure does not have to stop there; you may also wish to pick up Paul Mahalin’s, D’Artagnan King Maker, and The Son of Porthos; no promises on how they match up with the actual writtings of Dumas.)

Let me continue my thoughts previously about the sharpness and equally the lull of, The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Surprisingly, the main actor which the title attributes is seldom seen in the first half; if our dear Raoul does appear it is usually in tears flying about Athos in some sensitive angst or in level-headed noble debate with his peers.  But what makes the first half remarkable is that the action presents itself to you immediately. D’Artagnan is fed-up with the empty promises of royalty. (His Captaincy, “the flower of chivalry”, has been his aim since the very first pages of, The Three Musketeers and has been unjustly denied or ignored outright.) At the ripe age of 50 or so, D’Artagnan asserts his resignation from the ranks of the Musketeers to Louis XIV and thus begins plotting as a soldier of fortune in his usual Gascony manner. Athos on the other hand is to begin a quest for another; the exiled king of England, Charles II and his fortune. Athos is honor bound to restore this fledgling monarch at the behest of his father, the executed Charles I. “Remember!” It is a dashing race against General Monk and Lambert- the figure heads of England whom are vying for the vacant throne of the king. Between the two adventures running in parallel with each other, the pages simply melt away. But then almost too suddenly, their two adventures are complete.

We are then introduced, more intimately to a new host of characters, (Surely to play apart in the next chapters and books) Manicamp, Malicorne, Montalais, Louise De Vallière and the affluent son of M. De Buckingham. Between these characters the second half of the book picks up. They are the courtiers of Phillip, Duc de Orléans (With the exception of Buckingham) and are all wrapped up and equally entangled in Monsieur’s marriage to Charles I sister, the jewel, Princess Henrietta.* Here we find the youths caught up in the intrigue of a royal court and its politics; the main focus here being the love interests of M. De Buckingham and Raoul, The Vicomte. And this is where the book ends.

It’s not mixed feelings about this book that I began with the words sharp and lull but simply to explain the contrasting plots found therein. I enjoyed this book, certainly, for its written well and follows well with the others. What it is missing, that I have found in each D’Artagnan book previous is that distinctive flavor that each contributes to the whole. For me, Twenty-Years After had the same flavor of the first half of, The Vicomte De Bragelonne, that is the romp and intrigue that follows a good mission. However, As I moved along in the pages, I felt some sort of reluctance to meet these new rather foppish, unseasoned characters and a slight dismay at the drop in excitment and the second half of the book’s journey into drama. I have faith, however, that Dumas will affect some grand purpose for these youngsters in the upcoming adventure:

Louise De Valliere

*The Charm of Princess Henrietta, a royal Stuart: “…and from her well-stored arsenal issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers…it was wholesale slaughter…By the time she had reached Paris, she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers…”


Dumas, The Vicomte de Bragelonne

Now, I am led, most willingly, to the 3rd installment of the epic D’Artagnan romance series, written by the masterful hand of Alexandre Dumas; to think that just a few months ago, I was relatively oblivious to the bold swordplay and fearless bravery of the, Three Musketeers! Pardieu! And to think that I was even more ignorant of the daring heroe’s continued grandeur across the countries of France and England(Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne), with missions and plots that scandalized, restored and sabotaged  the largest political figure heads of their time. Mordieux!


Oxford Word Classic, Translator, David Coward; One of the best translators of Dumas’ works.

In this staggering Dumas frenzy I’ve plunged myself into, I think I have inadvertently become a Dumasophile; such is his power of wit, mirth and adventure that I too have been in the heat of the chase with all these legendary men, Athos, Porthos, D’Artagnan and Aramis.

Again, I’m not one for giving a synopsis instead, I’d like to highlight a few parts, that made me either laugh out loud (like in the middle of public transit) or made gaze up from an engrossing page and into my mug of beer in reflective solemnity.

Here are some quotes and advice I’ve gleaned from my highly esteemed French friends that I’d love to share with you, dear readers and friends alike:

P.80, A miserly Cardinal Mazarin to the Young Louis XIV: “Rejoice at being poor when your neighbor is poor likewise.”

P.286, “Planchet, suffocated with joy, had lost his senses. D’Artagnan threw a glass of white wine in his face, which immediatly, recalled him to life.” Dumas describing the craze of Planchet upon seeing the heaps of gold: “At this time, as they do now, grocers wore a cavalier moustache and full beard but money baths, already rare in those days, have become almost unkown now.”

P. 91 D’artagnan to Louis XIV: “Sire, an order is given by a sign, by a gesture, by a glance, as intelligibly, as freely, and as clearly as by word of mouth. A servant who has nothing but ears is not half a servant.”

P. 255 D’Artagnan to Athos: “My friend, pleasures to which we are not accustomed oppress us more than the griefs we are familiar.”

P.276 D’Artagnan’s Reflection: “Now, in times past all went wrong with me, and every month found a fresh hole in my cloak and in my skin, a gold crown less in my poor purse: of that execrable time of small beer and ups and downs, i regret absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing, save our friendship; for within me I have a heart, and it is a miracle that heart has not been dried up by the wind of poverty which pssed through the holes of my cloak or pierced by the swords of all shapes which passed through the holes in my poor flesh.

P. 136, Mousqueton to D’Artagnan, recounting the leisure of the week he and his master Porthos engage in: “Monsieur, on monday we see society; we pay and receive visits, we play on the lute, we dance, we make verses, and burn a little incense in honour of the ladies.” “Hell’s teeth! that is the height of gallantry,’ said the musketeer,…”

P.281 Athos to D’Artagnan, a paradise: “You are free, you are rich, I shall purchase for you, if you like, a handsome estate in the vicinity of Cheverny or of Bracieux. On the one side you will have the finest woods in the world, which join those of Chambord; on the other, admirable marshes. You who love sporting, and who, whether you admit it or not, are a poet, my dear friend, you will find enough pheasants, rail and teal, not to mention the sunsets and ample opportunities for excursions on the water, to make you think you are Nimrod and Apollo rolled into one.



From Kerry to Inniskillen; She Stands on Raglan Road

I was poking around the internet finding obscure and odd tidbits (mostly fuel for my writing) I was listening to some old Irish music when my fingers mechanically linked-up with what I was listening to. Out of curiosity, I began plugging names and places into a search engine.  I began pulling threads of an old history and by chance, I discovered an incredible connection between three well established staples of Irish music: The Kerry Recruit(Traditional) Enniskillin Dragoons(sung by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners) and a poem by Patrick Kavanagh sung also by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners), Raglan Road.


Here’s where I was taken: circa 1850’s, a poor farm hand, the Crimean war, A Northern Ireland trade fair, the charge of the light brigade, a dishonored general, and the legendary beauty of black haired women in Dublin. Interesting, eh? Allow me to expound a bit.

The Kerry Recruit is a song about a poor farm hand who, at the allure of money, excepted a position in the English Army and was sent of to fight the pointless Crimean War.

 When at Balaclava we landed quite soon,

both cold, wet and hungry we lay on the ground

 Next morning for action the bugle did call

,and we had a hot breakfast of powder and ball

Enniskillen Dragoons (6th)

Enniskillen Dragoons (6th)

 My question was this: In what regiments did he serve? And like lightening or some stroke of strange luck, the next song popped on my playlist. It was, The Eniskillen Dragoons. But listening to the lyrics I had to check back to, The Kerry Recruit. Some new curiosity began to stir.

Well we fought at the Alma, likewise Inkermann,
and the Russians they whaled us at the Redan
In scalin’ the walls there meself lost an eye,
and a big Russian bullet ran off with me thigh

 If he served in these campaigns, in all likelihood he certainly may have been part of the Enniskillin Dragoons who fought these battles with a northern Irish contingent. I did a bit more digging. What campaigns did these dragoons serve in?

And when the war is over we’ll return in full bloom
And we’ll all welcome home the Enniskillen Dragoons

Well, what does Wikipedia have to say about that? I checked it out and indeed they were at Balaclava.

…during the Crimean War as part of the successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade against superior numbers at the Battle of Balaklava.

It was an interesting connection, certainly but It didn’t end there. Another song came to me by way of…well you know technical audio things, but perhaps something more?

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,

It begins beautifully and at first crack, it is perhaps just great poetry. Something jumped out at me, “Raglan Road.” I opened my internet browsing history and pulled up the last pages I was reading. They were all stuffy information regarding these campaigns during the Crimean War. Lord and General Raglan who commanded British troops during this event was the very same who gave the legendary order that Lord Alfred Tennyson took advantage of in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. In short, that charge was a supposed false communication and the cavalry on horses charged into heavy artillery. Rock crushes scissors, and so the 600 who charged were massacred. What a blunderer.

But where was this charge? Balaclava.

So I buttered me brogues, shook hands with me spade,
then went off to the fair like a dashing young blade
When up comes a sergeant he asks me to list,
‘Arra, sergeant a gra, stick a bob in me fist

Our Kerry Recruit, went up north and joined the dragoons. He was sent to fight with their regiment in Crimea. He was wounded at Balaclava, perhaps during the very same charge that Tennyson wrote of and the order given by none other than Raglan.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now 
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow 
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay – 
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.

That same road that the charming women with black hair walks down is named after this very same Raglan. My last question, and goes unanswered is, what political debauchery and shame took place to give this pedant general a tree-lined avenue in Dublin?

Himself, Lord Pedant (Raglan)

Himself, Lord Pedant (Raglan)

I pushed the poems together, inserted my own creativity and came up with this poem; it has yet to have a title:

Raglan road

On Raglan road on an autumns day I staggered, stumbling along the way,

I saw her first and asked a new,

where goes your man, that Kerry Recruit,

to a fair far north? 

He has joined, alas, a sergeant,


Who stuck a bob in his fist,

And sent him away aboard of a warship,

Bound for the Crimea,

So fair thee well to my Enniskillen dragoon

Who shook hands with his spade to shake hands with the Devil,

the reapers scythe;

the man whose dishonor they named this road,

Fair Thee well, my Eniskillen Dragoon!

He Who is now layed low,

In Inkerman or Balaclava,

the charge that we rued,

At the dawning of the day.

On completely different tangent, I present to you, a badass picture of Winston Churhill

1895, 20yr old Churchill 4th Hussar

1895, 20yr old Churchill 4th Hussar

Happy St. Paddy’s day, Adieu!

Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After (conclusion)

The previous month I posted a note mentioning the current classic I was enganged in. I’d like to finish the note with its conclusion and some after thoughts for you to chew on:



What is there to say about these cavaliers of Dumas’ sweeping romance, Twenty Years After? Perhaps too much. All I can manage of honest sincerity after closing the last chapter is a deep sigh of contentment. I put the book to my lap and rested my palm on it like a faithful companion. I looked to the wall and past it, my head was swimming in these latest extraordinary adventures. I had found myself in a Dumas induced stupor.

To think that just a month ago,(During my reading of the previous and first installment, The Three Musketeers) these gang of heroes were all just around 20 years of age, excluding Athos of course. In Twenty Years After, they are middle aged men. Upon learning this my first feeling towards this novel was dismay. The quick passing of so many years between the last novel and this novel made me feel nostalgia saddened by want; In my sentiment I perceived that I had missed out on the grandest adventures of their charming youths; My newly acquired dear friends grew up too soon.

But I had the book in my hand and was thumbing through the introduction and that is were I was planted; This reality where our heroes are all men and seasoned veterans of their trade. I pressed on with a slight reluctance but I simply had to see what news the years have brought my French comrades. This expanse of time had a great effect on my mindset too that Dumas was quick to take advantage of. He sew the books together grandly and he knew too, that the reader would be anticipating the reunion of the musketeers, including me. This is where I believed the book would start and take off for they all had parted ways at the closing of the previous. But pardieu, it was not so!

“’Ah, My friend,” said D’Artagnan, “’it is not civil wars which disunite us; it is that we are all twenty years older. The loyal outburst of youth have gone, and given place to the din of interests, the breath of ambition, and the counsels of egotism.’” The twisting intrigue found within made me truly grasp the popular phrase, “The plot thickens.” I heartened to plumb the depths of their adventures as soon as I began the first several pages.

(Warning: The following is not a plot spoiler but it illuminates some facts that you may wish to discover on your own)

Here we are brought: Athos as it turns out, has not become a tragic drunk as believed by our Heroes but a noble heart-of-gold with a new responsibility at his hands; a young man name Raoul. Athos lives quietly as an authentic gentleman living in a country manor that is dotted with hills, flowers and a babbling stream.

D’Artagnan, poor gentleman of supreme Gascon wit, he lay forgotten in the mind of Queen Anne of Austria whom he had saved. D’Artagnan, still scrapes by as a lieutenant under a new Cardinal, Mazarin. His heroism and daring passed and faded by way of years in the service as a soldier-automaton. He has since relieved Planchet, his quick, sturdy lackey who, in this installment, has taken fortune and became a pseudo sergeant-confectioner.

Porthos, the giant, who’s fists still can fell an ox, had the most fortune of the lot in most respects, he acquired the properties of a royal family from his deceased wife. With all his excess and vanity, he is crushed by his own blood-it is the respect of his neighbors he seeks and no money can win royal prestige and the distinction that comes with it. He is at loss with so much and we find that it is a barony he seeks so as to establish himself among the landed gentry. His tender and loyal lackey, muskatoon has grown fat and supremely content with his masters new wealth- and a bit disturbed at the new adventures that lay ahead!

Aramis, the beloved of the ladies, the sensual and determined sought a higher religious ground and in his quest, he had found it. He achieved what he was searching for 20 years previous, he has become an abbot. But alas, in his religious devotedness and new garments of devotion he has become restless; In his position he has grown, ironically, more swashbuckling and more implacable than ever. His lackey, Basin, is of the opposite feeling and has, on the contrary, grown pious. As Aramis has said himself among a royal crowd, “’My cassock only holds by one button, and I am quite ready to become a Musketeer again.” Athos may have the been the best to put it thus, “There is an abbe who is giving a blow to a man and a bow to a woman. That’s Aramis.”

Now, I am not aiming to give a synopsis but a feel and a taste for this fitting and honorable sequel. Here are some snippets I’ve collected throughout my journey in Alexandre Dumas’, Twenty Years After, in no particular order except that of preference.(Oxford World’s Classic 2008 edition, Translated by David Coward):

P.375 line 27 , Athos to Aramis: What is offered nobly ought to be accepted nobly”

p. 489 line 36-39, Sound Advice from D’Artagnan: “Learn, M. Olivian, that people such as we are don’t allow themselves to be served by cowards. Rob your master, eat his sweetmeats, and drink his wine, but cap de Diou! Don’t be a coward, or I will cut off your ears.

P.579 line 38-39, A Disguised Aramis to a detained King Charles I: Meanwhile, do not close your eyes tonight; don’t be astonished at anything and await everything.

P.359 line 12-13, “Athos was happy; happy as he had never been.”

P.271 line 15-28, Athos’ s speech to D’Artagnan and Porthos: “Never, I swear before god, who sees and hears us in the solemnity of this night, shall my sword touch yours never shall my eye have for you a look of anger never shall my heart have a pulsation of hatred. We have lived together, hated and loved together, have spilt blood, and perhaps, I will add also, there is between us a tie more powerful than that of friendship-the compact of crime; for we have condemned, judged and executed a human being whom we had not perhaps the right of sending out of the world, although she seemed to belong to hell rather than this world. D’Artagan, I have always loved you as my son. Porthos we have slept ten years side by side; Aramis is your brother as he is mine-for Aramis has loved you as I love you still, As I shall love you always.”

P. 605 line 7-9, An image of London after the execution of Charles I: The gloom had grown deeper; the snow continued falling and looked like a vast winding-sheet stretched out over the regicide city.

P. 533 line 32-33, Porthos to the company of Musketeers: “It seems to me that in the most critical of situations in our life we have always dined.”  

P. 611 line 16-18, Oliver Cromwell to his adviser Mordaunt: There is no idea sublime in politics except one which bears its fruits. Every abortive idea is foolish and barren.

P. 726 line 31-39, D’artagnan explaining to Athos a chef’s life:

D’artagnan: My dear fellow, do you know why master cooks never work with their own hands? Porthos: No; but I should be glad to know. D’artagnan: Because they would be afraid of making, before their pupils, tarts to much baked or creams that have turned. Porthos: Well? D’Artagnan: Well, they get laughed at, and master cooks must not allow themselves to be laughed at. Porthos: and why are master cooks at all like us? D’Artagnan:Because, we ought, in our adventures, never to suffer any check, nor give occasion for people to laugh at us.

P. 353 lines 25-27, Princess Henrietta to Lord de Winter regarding her father, Charles I: Tell my father that whether he is a king or a fugitive, conquerer or conquered, powerful or poor, he has in me me a most obedient and affectionate daughter.”

P. 357 lines 8-13, Mordaunt to his Uncle, Lord de Winter: Listen to these words, and let them sink into your memory, so that you may never forget them: this murder, which has deprived me of everything, and taken away my name, has made me corrupt , wicked and implacable; I demand expiation for it, from you first, and then from your accomplices when I know them.”

P. 776 line 36-38, Athos to the Duchess Chevreuse: “Alas! Excuse my weakness, Madame; there comes a moment when a man lives and grows young again in his children.”


…Stay tuned for more greatness in the next romp, “The Vicomte de Bragelonne”

A Dashing Vicomte!

A Dashing Vicomte!

A Response: Steinbeck, East of Eden

Steinbeck 1940's

John Steinbeck was dedicated to the human spirit; in all of our sadness, remorse, cruelty, all of our joys, longings and indeed our mortal futility and earthly resignations. I’m afraid to think how John came upon this knowledge, this depth and equally a bleak hopelessness that can too be found. I can surmise that in his old age he had accumulated these things as divers of warm waters gather pearls. This is evident in the expansive novel which accounts for the lives and trials of 3 or 4 generations of two Californian families living around the turn of the 20th century; The Hamilton family and the Trask family.

“Thou Mayest.” -What of it? It is that within us, the child, the adolescent youth, the man, and the wizened and equally the doddard have the capacity for greatness and depravity. This is what I’d  like to examine in these golden pages. How does one hold greatness and likewise how does one sink into a cold darkness; can the mold be broken? The human characteristics one is born with-can they be overcome?

The map of the heart for some is paved with good intentions that does its best to circumvent the chasm of hate, the pitfalls of bitterness and vengeance. But such is that roads wear and are exposed to elements and extremes. The crushing loss that is death greats all of us. The betrayal of a friend, a brother, creeps in our hearts like a storm. Our world so bright, crushed like paper under the coldness of a women gone without a reason. These things can dim the path to utter obscurity; We are beset by things stronger than high wind, floods, drought and the like. And it so happens that even those without a map and given a wilderness to cut through can find it flashing by in chances. East of Eden, tell us to look, and look well.

The human at every age and reason wages battles and becomes entrenched in battles that echo forward for sometime as stones cast into a pond. The choice in war is ultimately the strategy for how a victory is best achieved. It seems though that a disaster, like an encroaching enemy strikes without warning, upturning all that stands in its wake. How can one surf a Tsunami, how can one aim to shoot when a bayonet is jammed in your gut? Can one prepare for this unknown? I think not but we do have a choice of how we survive these ravages. Are we caught up in a hurricane and left closed on a scorched island or desolate and resigned to death as we lay bleeding out on the field? It seems that these lessons of the heart and mind are always learned in retrospect after the damage has been achieved and hell wreaked.

Perhaps, Steinbeck is trying to tell us something. Perhaps he, is trying to speak from his character Lee as he repeatedly can be heard saying, “Timshel.” This is what is called, Thou mayest in Hebrew as described in an afterthought. You have the option, be damned or rise above yourself to greatness. The venom of bitterness, vengeance and doubt are poisons that complicate; yourself crippled lays in its wake.

I believe that this book would be great if it only encompassed the aforementioned moral standpoint, Don’t hate and live as peaceable neighbors. Ye, it smashes greatness and hangs at lofty peaks, peering down. What of resignation? What of ignorance of reality?

East of Eden, calls us to look again-look what else we have here in these golden pages. In all that is found in greatness, including generosity and all the positive attributes of humanity it is observed that there is an ability or perhaps a tendency to loose the very essence that make these attributes great; perhaps it is found playing craps among inflated self worth, a head that floats in the billowing cumulus clouds, or blinded love built of air and fantasy. In the romance of love and the passions of ardor it is greatness but oh, how pretentiousness can come like a thief-And how we use noble pursuits to ignore another facet in us; using a crutch to shoot the stars-is it still greatness? It is shown how such over-love and generosity can get oneself shot. It is shown how such piety and righteous can be a sham; an illusory coat of arms to guard against an inability to cope with harsh, unyielding truth. Is Samuel Hamilton right, “The weight of knowledge is too great for one mind to absorb.”?

Icarus compensated for his ineptitude by flying so high as to disregard natural laws then only in burning horror did he end up crashing down. What Steinbeck is trying to tell us is that there is a tact to life. There are hells above and below us. Perhaps, East of Eden, is asking us to be real, to be honest, to be forthcoming. Thou mayest fly above reality or thou mayest wallow in wretchedness but what thou aught is to find that imperceptible balance between the two-but there it is and here we are left: Would we be anything but human if we could just manage that?

“Maybe it’s true that we all are descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers, the brawlers, but also the brave, independent and generous.” I think it is the mastery of Steinbeck to show us something we have always known in a way that is shocking, gripping and lasting, that is East of Eden. “His whispered word seemed to hang in the air:”


Twenty Years After, Alexandre, Dumas

The next installation Romances that follows, The Three Musketeers, is, Twenty Years After. Alexandre Dumas does not fall short of simply swashbuckling in this novel. As you’d expect from this great novelist, general and gourmand, the contents of this book are rich with timeless wit, burning friendship, adventure, savory food spreads and fine french wine. (some Spanish too.)

This month, I encourage you to find yourself a copy and read along with me and share your thoughts. Don’t worry, if you have not read, The Three Musketeers, it is not necessary for understanding this book. I recommend that you do read it though as it fills in nuances and beautiful subtleties in the following series.

If you need further convincing, please allow yourself the privilege of skimming some quotes to whet your appetite.


Athos to his Raoul viscomte de Bragelonne: “I see your future as through a cloud. It will be better than ours. We have had a minister without a king; you, on the contrary, will have a king without a minister. You will be able then to serve, love and honor the king. If he prove a tyrant-for power in its giddiness often becomes tyranny-serve, love and honor the royalty; that is the infallible principle.”

 “There is no figure so expressive as that of a real gourmand before a good table…”

D’artagnan: “’Should that diamond ever fall again into my hands,’ he was saying, ‘I should turn it at once into money, I should purchase certain properties around my father’s Château -a pretty residence, but which has for all its dependencies only a garden scarcely as large as the Cimetière des Innocents -and there I would await in my majesty, until some rich heiress, attracted by my good looks, came to spouse me. Then I would have three sons; I would make of the first a great nobleman like Athos; of the second, a handsome soldier like Porthos; and of the third, a pretty Abbé like Aramis.’”

To his lacky Bazin: Because you always have your beadle’s costume on your shoulders,’ interupted Aramis, ‘and pass all your time reading breviary. But I forwarn you that if by dint of polishing the things in the chapels you forget how to clean my sword, I will make a great fire of all your holy images and roast you in it.’”

“Bazin, scandalized, made the sign of the cross with a bottle…”