THREE MUSKETEERS, The. If a Note were taken in Europe and America as to the best historical romance ever penned there can he little doubt that it would favor 'The Three Musketeers' ('Les trois Mousquetaires)) of Alexandre Dumas. Published in 1844, just three decades after (Waverley,' this work ex emplified Scott's theory of the historical novel to perfection. It focussed interest upon cer tain minor figures whose fate was linked with that of famous personages and great move ments of a bygone day. Unlike the fictions of Scott, however, it freely ordered and changed the facts of history, implying the romancer's emancipation from actuality and his right to shape his story at will so long as it should reflect in general the spirit of the time represented. Dumas had read the 'Memoircs de M. d'Artagnan,) by Gatien Cotirtilz de Sandras (Cologne, 1701-02). His imagination, thus incited, played over the pe nod of Richelieu's ascendancy, ana with un flagging verve and brilliance he described what might have happened to a more courageous and chivalrous d'Artagnan caught in the counter-currents of amorous and political in trigue in 1628.
The plot turns upon the enmity between the queen of Louis XIII and his Minister, Richelieu. The latter seeks to control the queen through his knowledge of love for Buck ingham, attested by her bestowal upon the Eng lish lord of certain diamonds, the gift of her husband. Richelieu, for his own ends, arouses the jealousy of the king, who demands that the queen wear the diamonds at a state ball. It behooves the queen, therefore, to recover the gems in all haste, and the difficult mission is undertaken by d'Artagnan and his gallant friends, the three guardsmen. After encoun tering well-nigh insuperable obstacles d'Artag nan succeeds, but he incurs the enmity of Richelieu's most dangerous agent, Milady Cla rik. He falls enamored of her, yet escapes her toils — assassination and poison — only to learn that she is the cardinal's emissary sent to England to threaten Buckingham with ex posure unless he will cease his efforts to aid the besieged Huguenots of La Rochelle.
D'Artagnan and the musketeers, thereupon, thwart Milady, who, languishing in prison, ere long prevails upon her Puritan jailer to re lease her and to achieve the murder of Buck ingham. Then she contrives to poison d'Artag nan's sweetheart, but, pursued by the avenging guardsmen, is overtaken and adjudged to suf fer death for her many crimes. Richelieu, secretly pleased to be relieved of so wicked an ally, pardons d'Artagnan and commissions him a lieutenant of the musketeers.
From first to last, the romance moves at a rapid pace in a world of passion and daring, of hot blood and ready swords, of intrigue and revenge, of jaunty heroism, of splendid loyalty and of dauntless love and friendship. It kicks up its heels, too, now and then, in the mood of rollicking humor. For all its de partures from historic fact, it paints in vivid colors a living picture of France in the 17th century. Especially memorable are its portraits. Though Milady prove the villain of melodrama in petticoats, she is far from being a mere lay figure; and Buckingham, Richelieu, the queen, even the lackeys of d'Artagnan and the musketeers, above all these gallant gentlemen themselves, are vital creations. D'Artagnan, the impetuous and generous Gascon, is well matched by his friends, the shrewd and dainty Aramis, the boastful and dandified Porthos, and the melancholy Athos. It is small wonder that the four should have enthralled the minds of readers of every race and clime, and that Dumas, yielding to popular demand, should have continued their adventures in 'Twenty Years After' (1845) and the 'Vicomte de Brage lonne' (1848-50). These sequels and 'The Three Musketeers' are discussed in monographs on Dumas, in French, by Glinel (1884), de Bury (1885), Parigot (1902) and Lccomte (1904), and in English by Fitzgerald (1873), Spurr (1902) and Davidson (1902). The re lation of Dumas to Scott is made clear in Louis Maigron's 'Roman historique en France> (1898).