The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas (Part 1)

I hate to do this, to my reader and myself and I ask to be forgiven but due to an Amazon based blunder, I’m forced (by curiousity and severe listlesness) to read the last of the d’Artagnan Romances before its due time! This delivery error has postponed my copy of Louise De Valliere and since the chain of post and letters don’t cease from day to day (except, perhaps sundays and observed government holidays.)-I recieved my copy of The Man in the Iron Mask on its date. I couldn’t bring myself to let it sit on the shelf while I waited empty handed for the other. I began, reluctantly, page after book-closing page, cringing at my own impatience but filled with excitment like a child whose torn open his long awaited christmas gifts on the eve. And thus I begin to devoure this grand finale…

Who is this man in the mask?

Who is this man in the mask?

At the halfway mark, the most publicized of Dumas’s work shines as bright as it has been extolled. The plot has been juiced and there is enough intrigue, fated love, treason, valour and shame to still the rest of previous serious with a bated and heavy breath!

Aramis has never aimed higher in his intentions and designs-so high in fact, anything else would be fit only for god itself to deign. The inner-machinations of this phantom-shadow titled the Bishope of Vannes are found everywhere, entangling all in woven nets and casting lines including the Surintendant of Finances, Focquet, M. Baisemeaux, the Governer of the Bastille to the scrambling and coniving bushy-browed Colbert who trails the heels of the King like a dog for a carress. Porthos, the gentle, amiable giant has been relagated to follow Aramis about as a funny, diverting departure between the dramas that surround.

D’Artagnan has never been more firm with a king-in his dotage he presses the young Louis XIV to hold his integrity; to keep his hat pressed firm and to wear his nobility as proudly and as righteously as the  the most illustrious in a trying and scandalous time. Our man d’Artagnan is oft sought for advice as he posses, “incarnate wisdom.” and knows the gossip of the royal court like his sword arm.

Athos is summoned to challenge the integrity of Louis XIV, risking the Bastille and life-blood to brand a chivalarous code of ideals on the walls of the palace with his passionate and supremely rational sermon. On behalf of his son, The Vicomte, Raoul and the royal blood of his ancestors, his name, he stands against the king in the chapter title, King and Nobility. The king is brought to face, by Athos, his cowardly underhanded and usurping deeds against the sacredness that is the engangment of marriage that lay between Raoul and his cast-away, ex-bride to be, Louise De Valliere. Raoul reflects darkly, “The King has betrayed me, the women disdained me. Miserable, unhappy wretch that I am!” At the climax of the dialogue between Athos and Louis the XIV regarding the trampled state of affairs, he unwaveringly seeks ammends: “The King’s honour, sire, is made up of the honour of his whole nobility. Whenever the King offends one of his gentlemen, that is, whenever he deprives him of the smallest particle of his honour, it is from him, from the King himself, that that portion of honour is stolen.”

P. 130, “‘Poor Raoul!” had said Athos. “Poor Raoul!” had said d’Artagnan; and, in point of fact, to be pitied by both these men, Raoul indeed must have been most unhappy.”

It goes on and on- A secret prisoner escapes from the Bastille and is alligned to throw chaos into the mix, a bankrupting fête takes place at Vaux palace for the Kings pleasure, Amorous and royal love boils over, seething with jealousy…! Alas, I will have to tell you more in the second part of this discourse. For now, either read the book yourself, content yourself with a few snippets I have selected below, and or wait for my concluding remarks on Alexandre Dumas’s, The Man in the Iron Mask. (This edition is an Oxford Worlds Classics, translated by David Coward, published 91′)

P.175, Conversation between the Bishop of Vannes and the mysterious prisoner: “”What do you call liberty, Monsieur?” asked the prisoner with the tone of a man preparing for a struggle. “I call liberty, the flowers, the air, light, the stars, the happiness of whithersoever the nervous limbs of twenty years of age may wish to carry you.”” 

P.247, Aramis to the Prisoner, “It is useless to flash bright visions before the eyes of one who seeks and loves darkness; useless, too, is it to let the magnificence of the cannon’s roar be heard in the ears of one who loves repose and the quiet of the country.”

P. 231, Aramis to M. Baisemeaux, “With my friends I reckon neither bottles of wine nor years.”

P. 92, Porthos To Raoul regarding money an Raouls refusal thereof: “So much the worse , then. I have always heard it said that that is the rarest service, but the easiest to redner. The remark struck me; I like to cite remarks that strike me.

P. 71, “After having talked reason with older heads, one loves to talk nonsense with youth.” 

P. 246, Aramis to the Prisoner, “There is conscience, which cries aloud; remorse, which never dies.”

P.176, “Aramis looked steadily at this singular youth who possesed the resignation of a martyr with the smile of an athiest. “Is not Heaven in everything?”

 

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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!

vicomte

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.

three-musketeers

 

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:

Swashbuckling!

Swashbuckling!

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.”

(FIN)

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

A Dashing Vicomte!

A Dashing Vicomte!

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.

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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…”