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?
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?”
A Young Louis XIV
Jean Fontaine, Author, Jester in this novel.
Louise De Valliere, the babe
Jean-Baptise Colbert, Pendant