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 Alexandre Dumas and the Epic Romance of the Musketeers

For whatever questions may have been raised about Alexandre Dumas' prolific writing (hundreds of books and plays in his lifetime), it can safely be said that the famous Dumas was the one who brought the exploits of our hero into homes over 300 years later. As we know them now, five books comprise the epic story. Originally these were only three, with Le Victome de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask being published in a single volume. For obvious reasons, the publishers decided to divide up this titan into 3 still formidable volumes.

As I have said previously, The Musketeers really got their start when Dumas read the first volume of the Memoirs of Monsieur D'Artagnan written by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras (ironically, it is also said that he had never read past the first volume). Reading the beginning of these memoirs shows that Dumas almost duplicated the beginning/opening of the work. More than 100 years after the death of D'Artagnan and the Memoires of de Sandras, Dumas had decided to bring new fire into the stories. He also borrowed a couple details from the Memoires M. le Comte de Rochefort, notably the branding of M'Lady. Dumas admits to having been influenced by the very real memoirs of D'Artagnan but also mentions a non-existent copy of the Memoirs of the Count de la Fere. It There never was such a set of memoirs and Dumas delighted in re-creating history as he saw fit. Yet, I believe that is what fiction is all about.

Of course, some mention must also be made of Dumas' somewhat 'shady reputation' when it came to his writing career - some of it somewhat based in truth. While he had been accused of outright plagiarism, it was more likely that Dumas may have occasionally been overly fond of 'collaboration,' aka taking ideas from a contemporary or other individual and rewriting it to his tastes. Our own beloved 'Three Musketeers' was, indeed, so much a rewritten version of a certain Auguste Maquet's work (right down to handily provided historical detail) that Maquet later sued Dumas (for the royalties though - not for plagiarism, since they had been a collaboration, after all). To be fair, Maquet had not chosen to sue for plagiarism, since the history-lover and aspiring writer had agreed to work with Dumas - but it is said that certain scenes in the earliest chapters were almost identical. Dumas had a knack for adding energy to the characters, as well as taking the expansion of the book to an art (hence why taking a look at the Musketeer series alone can be quite intimidating!).

The Books

Although I probably have 2-5 versions of each book, the best reading copy I can suggest are the Oxford World's Classics editions since they have helpful and educational footnote references as you read along.

cover cover cover cover cover

- Three Musketeers, The
- Twenty Years After
- Vicomte de Bragelonne, Le
- Louise de la Valliere
- Man in the Iron Mask, The

There are also two other books that have been sometimes included in the Musketeer romances but are still shrouded under valid suspicions of semi-forgery, D'Artagnan the King Maker and the less suspect, Son of Porthos

How accurate are they? Since they are based on the already highly-polished Memoirs by de Sandras, one can hardly write their 17th century literature paper on Dumas' tomes. Yet, there is nothing worse than someone who wants to spoil a good story by picking apart the technicalities. I have included historical information for the mere interest in the topic- NOT to ruin a great story or to criticize anyone's research. Where would the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood be if we went merely on historical fact? I have accrued my own personal collections of facts in the FACTS section of my Musketeer page for more information on the TRUE characters.