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Conscience l'innocent; Le bien et le mal; Dieu et Diable

The Conscript

roman/novel, pub:1853, action:1810-1815

Religious theme, though Napoleon wanders through Villers-Cotterêts en route to Waterloo. Written on the basis of a few chapters of Hendrick Conscience's "Conscrit". (says Spurr)

A tale set in Villers-Cotterêts, Dumas' home town.


From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     A dainty little story, one of Dumas' own favourites. It deals with the adventures of a conscript in the later years of Napoleon's reign, and of the girl he loves and who loves him. The scenes after he is afflicted with blindness are very deftly handled. Period 1810-15.
     When Dumas found himself in exile at Brussels, towards the end of 1851, he prepared to commence his romance "La Comtesse de Charny," but while waiting for a copy of Michelet's history to be sent to him from Paris, a friend, to while away his vacant hours, brought him a copy of "Le Conscrit," by Hendrik Conscience. Dumas was charmed, and particularly attracted by one incident. He wrote to the Flemish author, asking his permission to use a chapter of the story in a long romance which he intended to write. This was readily granted. The result was "Conscience l'Innocent," which name was chosen out of compliment to the author of "Le Conscrit," after the rejection of "Dieu et Diable" and "Le Bien et le Mal."
     The original MS. of this work in the Reed Dumas Collection comprises rather more than 400 sheets, all in Dumas' beautiful handwriting, but with here and there a correction in another hand, evidently that of a secretary. The first leaf is blank, the second bears on its recto the inscription: "Offert à Mademoiselle Mathilde Kindt, comme un hommage de tendre et respectueuse amitié. Alex. Dumas." ("Offered to Mlle. Mathilde Kindt, as a homage of tender and respectful friendship. Alex. Dumas.") The next two sheets bear the letter to his publisher Méline, which appears in the Brussels but not in the French editions. The work is dedicated to "Michelet, l'historien; Michelet, le philosophe; Michelet, le poète." On the following sheet the romance itself commences.
     For this work Dumas had no collaborator.
     First appeared serially in "Le Pays," with some omissions regarding Napoleon ; these were afterwards restored in the editions in volume form.
     Original edition : Brussels, Méline, Cans et Cie., 1852. This edition, which establishes the date, includes the letter to Méline and the dedication to Michelet, which were omitted from the French one.
     Original French edition : Paris, Cadot, 5 vols,, 8vo., 1853.
     Vol. I. pp. 301      Vol. IV. pp. 287
     Vol. II. pp. 331      Vol. V. pp. 333
     Vol. III. pp. 303         
     The final volume is completed by two stories by Dumas fils: "Le Pendu de la Piroche" and "Les Trois Chants du Bossu." (1)
     (1) "Le Pendu de la Piroche" may be read in Dumas fils' "Contes et Nouvelles" (second edition, 1856), or in his "La Boîte d'Argent" (new édition, 1888), and "Les Trois Chants du Bossu" in "Thérèse." An English translation of "The Hanging at La Piroche" may be found in the "Masterpiece Library of Short Stories," Vol. IV.
     This work (with "Marianna") fills two volumes in the standard Calmann-Lévy edition, and is also found in their "Musée Littéraire."
     In Le Vasseur's "Alexandre Dumas Illustré" it forms part of Vol. XVI.
     The Brussels edition of Alphonse Lebègue was issued as "Dieu et Diable."
     This work has also been printed under its first chosen title : "Le Bien et le Mal."

         References :—
     Glinel: "Alexandre Dumas et Son Œuvre," page 430.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alex. Dumas," page 60.
     Dumas: "Causerie" in "Le Mousquetaire" in the No. for January 1st, 1854.
     Conscience (Hendrik): "Le Conscrit."
     Dumas: "Un Mot sur la Poésie en Belgique," which appeared in "Le Pays" for July 5th and 14th and August 2nd, 1853, being reprinted in the "Revue de Paris."

         English Translations :—
     "The Conscript; or, the Days of the First Napoleon;" Philadelphia, Peterson Brothers, 18—.
     "Conscience;" London, Methuen, sewed, 1905.
     Hendrik Conscience's "The Conscript" has been translated into English and published in numerous editions; London, Burns and Oates.


From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     (CLXXVI.) Chapter VI., six eleven-line stanzas, rhyming a, b, c, c, c, d, d, e, e, f, f.
     (CLXXVII.) Chapter VI., an eight-line stanza, rhyming a, a, a, b, c, a, b, d, d, followed by a refrain "Zon, zon, zon;" then three six-line stanzas, rhyming a, b, b, a, c, c, each with the same refrain ; finally the first verse of eight lines repeated, again followed by the refrain.

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