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D'Artagnan the King-Maker

D'Artagnan the King-Maker

roman/novel, pub:1901, action:1640

This is not a novel by Dumas. It is by Henry Llewellyn Williams.


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From Reviews (ADR) by Arthur D. Rypinski:
     Henry Llewellyn Williams translated many works of Alexandre Dumas during the late 19th century, including the sole published English translation of Comte de Moret. Around the end of the 19th century, when Dumas developed an immense posthumous popularity, he hit on the clever expedient of converting some of Dumas' successful plays into novels, using Dumas' dialogue and converting the stage directions into exposition. Williams constructed at least three such novelizations, based on Henri III et sa cour, Catherine Howard, and Kean.
     About 1900, he wrote D'Artagnan the King-Maker, advertised by the publisher as a novelization of a Dumas play (a sequel to Les Trois Mousquetaires) that never actually existed. Given Dumas' immense oeuvre, it is hard to prove that no such play ever existed, but the internal evidence of the book itself is decisive.
     Williams is no Dumas. While Dumas' writing was often hasty and occasionally sloppy, he had wonderful gifts as a novelistic craftsman. His prose was almost always simple, direct, clear, and vivid; his dialogue so witty and entertaining that readers almost never notice its implausibility; and he had a kind of genius for expositional mechanics. Dumas could breath life into a character in three sentences. If the plot requires that the character go to a certain place and receive a certain piece of information, Dumas could arrange the trip and the message for his character is half-a-page or less, without the reader noticing anything untoward. Dumas made all of these considerable accomplishments look easy
     Mr. Williams had none of these gifts. His plot is one of which Dumas might have made something: In 1640, Cardinal Richelieu dispatches D'Artagnan and Porthos to Portugal, then a dependency of the Spanish crown, in order to organize a revolution in favor of the Duke of Braganza, a Spanish courtier whom the King has just tried to assassinate. D'Artagnan arranges an immense loan from one of the last Jewish bankers to survive the inquisition, recruits the semi-piratical "Brotherhood of the Coast" to the Duke's cause, and infiltrates besieged Lisbon while carrying on a romance with one of the Duchess' ladies-in-waiting.
     The writing, however, is dreadful, filled with pedantic English word-play, as boring as it is implausible. For example, Porthos, talking to D'Artagnan.

     "Faith, this poet, I think, has drunk full from Parnassus' pump," commented Porthos. "I take back any accusation that there were thieves here, or the Don Sebastian spirit--it was just a sapper who---"
     "Bless us and preserve us! A sapper for Sappho! Porthos, a sapper is one who carries on his boring with pick and spade, while a Sappho---"

     And so, on for 300 pages. Notwithstanding the original publisher's claim, this dialogue doesn't sound anything like the work of Alexandre Dumas. This book has nothing to recommend it to the modern reader, neither those who enjoyed Les Trois Mousquetaires, nor those who have enjoyed Dumas' other works.
     The circa 1901 Street & Smith edition of this book was reprinted in 1989 by Amereon, Ltd. and is currently available through Amazon.com as "by Alexandre Dumas."
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