Paris: Garnier, 1845. First Edition. 1/2 calf. 6 vols. 1st edition, preceded by a serialization in the newspaper La Presse (Dec. 1844–Apr. 1845), and generally coinciding with, or preceding, the Brussels pirated editions. Contemporary 1/2 speckled roan, small chip to the spine base of vol. IV, rubs to paper sides, else very good, unrepaired, nice margins, complete with half–titles. The first Valois novel, a high beam book, both great (Dumas at the pinnacle of his genius) and rare (ABPC shows no auction sales and OCLC lists just 2 sets in libraries, world wide, Yale and Cal. State Northridge, and though we found another in France, 3 plus this one is still as elusive as any novel from his pen). A noble copy, ex–a German Prince with his armorial stamp to each title page. Very good. Item #42
La Reine Margot is an electrifying tour de force, and an enrapturing read, pulsating with life (une grande classique). It opens in 1572, initiating a trilogy that devalues family values, and novelizes the events surrounding the last French dynastic transition (from Valois to Bourbon), and it’s entrenched among the very finest historical romances of all time, but why listen to me? I’ll quote from F. W. Reed, bibliographer, collector, and academic champion of Alexandre Dumas, builder of the comprehensive library, and a serious intellectual, who was not generally given to exaggeration or overstatement, and most assuredly was not, when his subject was equating one Dumas novel to another. “Some of Dumas finest historical portraits are to be found here, indeed it is probable...they have left their indelible stamp upon the historians...[including], Charles IX, Catherine de Medici, Henri de Navarre, Marguerite de Valois [and] Henri (Duc) de Guise. The fictional characters, La Mole and Coconnas, are only surpassed by the Musketeers themselves, as types of the truest of friends, and brothers–in–arms.” And Douglas Munro, the bibliographer of Dumas’ editions in French, states clearly, and without much argument that: “…it [La Reine Margot] was seen to be better constructed and, by and large, better written than the immortal ‘Les Trois Mousquetaires.’” Not as famous in America as The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte– Cristo, due to it being more serious, authentic, bloody, tenacious, political, and following history more faithfully. The pace is mercilessly fast, and the action is constant, and all the clashing, scheming, factions believe they serve a higher, noble purpose, so it is replete with complexities, and a shifting choice of heroes, and therefore, was never seen as a straightforward, movie friendly swashbuckler. And yet it lingered, cinematically irresistible, until an exotic, and prodigious, and expensive, French, German and Italian financed, Patrice Chéreau directed, film was finally written, made, and released in 1994. It starred Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi, Jean–Hugues Anglade, Dominique Blanc, and Vincent Perez, and is well worth an Amazon download if you’re ready to turn your sofa into a shock station. And unlike most movies based on historical novels, this one captured much of Dumas’ darkness, daring, villainy, valor, and wicked intrigue. And yes the sex is in your face, but hey, you can always wash your face. And as for books and films generally: Rooting for the lame book you overpaid for to be made into a film to help you out, is like the collectible ceramic plate industry rooting for Taylor Swift to have a tragic death (Book Code). Not unexpectedly, the book is even better than the movie, and, like most books adapted to film, it is so just because it is reading, because reading is amazing. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it unfolds at exactly the pace you choose, it is blissfully silent, it can be companionship for your feelings, or escape from them, it is simultaneously exercise and rest for your mind, you can read with focus or skip judiciously, it tells you other peoples’ thoughts and lets you compare them to your own, it gives you knowledge of your world, and experience of the wider world, you can read to remember or read to forget, it is morally illuminating, and further, we live at the level of our language, so reading’s uplifting possibilities bestow the gift of wings. Knowing that a good book awaits you at day’s end, makes that whole day happier.