Alexandre Dumas – The Vicomte De Bragelonne

Too large to be printed as a whole, Ten Years Later, the third installment of Alexandre Dumas‘s novels about the three (or rather four) musketeers, is usually split into three books. The first book is called The Vicomte De Bragelonne (1847). Like the others books it was originally published as a weekly series and tells Dumas’ interpretation of historical events in the seventeenth century. The interpretation is mainly used to provide a setting for the adventures of his main characters. Dumas doesn’t have to invent the plot, he just needs to spicy it up and invent ways to let his characters play an important role on the background of these events. The edition that I read (Oxford University Press) has extensive notes and commentary which provide some better insight in the how and what of characters and situations, as Dumas does not bother much to give much background information. The story must have a sufficient pace and his readers probably didn’t care that much about knowing more. Else they could’ve just looked it up themselves.

There are certain differences between this book and the previous ones. Perhaps this is also because the story is three times as long and what Dumas usually crams in three times less the size he now can spend more time on other things. First of all is a greater focus on the character of D’Artagnan. In general he also used D’Artagnan as the central character in the previous books but this time I had the feeling Dumas created a greater depth and personalization. This greater focus subsequently had the effect that there was less time to spend on the other characters. Even so, characterization is one of Dumas’ strong points, so that is well done either way. The main difference is that they don’t manage to carry the story as well as we are used to. This means less variation in the color of the story, while this enhances the coherency instead. The previous books often changed tone and mood. Because of this I had to say that there werd better and lesser written parts. Now it is more consistent which leads to a more stable reading feeling. There is less a feeling that there are weaker parts.

Still, this doesn’t mean that the story itself is as strong. Unlike the previous books, Dumas sticks closer to historical events. There is less original plot concerning the non-historical characters. The middle part of the book has most of it and it is this section which was also the strongest. When the story is of his own invention, and thus usually more adventurous, he manages to exploit his characters better than when it is more restricted.

As the book follows historical events more closely there is less freedom of action and this is one of the reasons why this book has never been adapted, as it is harder to comprise events which so much background and complexity into a movie without explaining what is going on. Of course one can simplify things, but not everything works as well in a movie as it does on the screen, where it can seem duller.

Another adaptation issue is the lack of a main adversary. The previous two books had one or two strong opponents which struggle with the musketeers formed an underlying current alongside the historical events. In The Vicomte Of Bragelonne there is none such of great stature or cunning and even the historical opponents are not as cunning or vicious as before. They are in fact more grey in nature the way that Dumas portrays them.

The ending of the book is much more open as it is a single story cut in three. There is even something of a cliffhanger. Still, the moment picked is alright, probably to provide a sufficient strong open for the next installment, Louise De La Vallière.

This novel is certainly a great continuation of the musketeer saga. Again different with is strong points and weaker elements, but to me a better and more consistent read than the second book, Twenty Years After, while lacking the great moments that make the first book, The Three Musketeers, such a classic. Still I quite recommend it.

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