THE FORTY-FIVE GUARDSMEN (Illustrated)by Alexandre Dumas, Frank T. Merrill
The acquaintance so pleasantly begun in the earlier story, with 'Chicot the Jester', is here renewed with even greater delight. Disguised as Maitre Robert Briquet, to escape the vengeance of the Duc de Mayenne, he is no less original and amusing than in his proper person, — no less active in his care for the interests of the somewhat unappreciative and… See more details below
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The acquaintance so pleasantly begun in the earlier story, with 'Chicot the Jester', is here renewed with even greater delight. Disguised as Maitre Robert Briquet, to escape the vengeance of the Duc de Mayenne, he is no less original and amusing than in his proper person, — no less active in his care for the interests of the somewhat unappreciative and ungrateful master, to whom his faithful attachment never varies.
The whole episode of the jester's mission to the Court of Navarre — his hazardous journey, his brief stay at Nerac, the "hunt" which ended at Cahors, and his narration of his experiences to the king on his return — would alone be sufficient to stamp the "Forty-Five " as one of the very best of our author's romances. In all his varied experiences, Chicot never found his match in shrewdness and finesse till he crossed swords with Henri of Navarre. And how frankly he acknowledged his defeat, and how warmly each appreciated the other's merits!
The events which led to the journey of the Due d'Anjou to Flanders with the hope of wearing a crown at last, the course of William of Orange towards the French prince, and the abortive attempt upon Antwerp, are sufficiently touched upon in the body of the story. Francois, after all his longing and scheming, died uncrowned; and it may be doubted whether he would ever have ascended the French throne, even if he had outlived his brother. Had he done so, it is safe to say that the crimes and shortcomings of his brothers would have been almost forgotten, and the odium which attaches to the memory of the last degenerate Valois kings would have been concentrated upon him.
The constant growth of the Holy League under the leadership of the Guises, and with the almost avowed patronage of Philip II. of Spain, is interestingly woven into the narrative; perhaps we need not marvel at the success of a cause which had for its high priestess so charming a personality as the heroine of the celebrated golden scissors,—that energetic 'intrigante', the clever and fascinating Duchesse de Montpensier.
It is interesting to know the estimation in which these romances were held by their author's compatriot, George Sand, herself a novelist of the first rank.
Says Andrew Lang in his "Essays in Little:" "M. Borie chanced to visit the famous novelist just before her death, and found Dumas's novel, 'Les Quarante-Cinq,' lying on her table. He expressed his wonder that she was reading it for the first time. 'For the first time!' said she; 'why, this is the fifth or sixth time I have read "Les Quarante-Cinq" and the others. When I am ill, anxious, melancholy, tired, discouraged, nothing helps me against moral and physical troubles like a book of Dumas.'"
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