Paris: Hyppolyte Souverain, 1845. First Edition. Hardcover. 2 vols. 1st edition (the authentic Paris 1st printing) probably preceded by the pirated Brussels editions, and that is as was usual with Dumas, but what is not usual is that, in this case, the Brussels editions are dated prior to the 1845 serialization in La Nord, so from what source the Brussels editions were copied is unknown, and because of that, valid questions remain about the accuracy of their dates of issue (whether the title page dates are accurate), and of Muro’s priority (Alexandre Dumas Pere. A Bibliography of Works Published in French). Modern half oasis, marbled boards by Yves Rameau, small oval stamp of Cercles des Proceens in a few places, minor flaws to margins, else a near fine set. Near fine. Item #931
RBH lists 2 sales at auction, Munro found the one listed in his bibliography, but my search of OCLC did not locate a single copy in any National or University Library, so our set makes 4, and yes, there will be another one out there somewhere, and if anyone has seen it, I’d like to hear about it.
An astonishing novel, a sky full of thunder. Unusually for Dumas, it’s set (1841) almost in the year it was written, it’s narrated by him in the first person, and he himself makes an appearance as one of the characters. The style is smooth, light, and elegant, the descriptions of scenery and delineations of characters are moving, highly poetical and salient, and Dumas is peculiarly adept in his witty and sarcastic dialogues. It’s a 2–part tale of psychological suspense with dark undertones, more an intrigue than a swashbuckler, about a pair of conjoined twins, separated at birth, who remain psychically connected and can still feel each other’s emotions, above all their distress, even when not in close proximity.
“You lock the door and throw away the key,
…There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.”
–Roger Waters and Peter Watts (Pink Floyd), Brain Damage
Lucian has remained in Corsica. Louis is a Paris lawyer. Lucian’s part is rural and violent, and spins on him being drawn, reluctantly, into a posture where he must mediate a vendetta between 2 treacherous Corsican families (Orlandi and Colona). The part with Louis is more cosmopolitan and refined, and includes the civilized pursuits omnipresent in Paris (operas, salons, mistresses), and it ends with a digression, a gift from Dumas, a deep and intricately detailed description of the formalities of a duel, from insult to fatal bullet. And though the reader is meant to anticipate the finale, it is not so much predictable as it is inevitable.
The Brussels editions have the title Une Famille Corse (The Corsican Family), while the Paris edition titled it Les Frères Corse (The Corsican Brothers), which title it retained thereafter, but under whatever title, the public loved it, and it became such an extensively translated minor classic, that it remains in print, and has been revered as an exhilarating read since the day it was published. It was adapted to the stage countless times beginning in 1852 and has been filmed (by my count) 16 times, beginning with a George Albert Smith directed take in 1898. The best of the movies that followed included a 1941 revision starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and a more faithful French/Italian 1961 adaptation starring Geoffrey Home.
As to this edition’s rarity there is no argument, but the word rare is tossed around these days like dollar bills at strip clubs. How, I wonder, can booksellers be so self–defeating, as to put a book up online and call it rare when there are 5 (or 25) other copies online right next to it?
Now, back to our 1st edition of Les Frères Corse. Once its rarity is broadly realized, it will mean more to the next generation than it did to the previous one, and this touches an idea. The quality of a library is not measured by the status of the books you buy, but rather by the rise in status they undergo during the time they are in your hands. Much in the same way that a university is not measured by the quality of the students they take in, but rather by the quality of the citizens they turn out.
As for Dumas, it’s simple. He endures as the most read of all French authors.