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Ralph Nevill - D'Artagnan Translator & Historian

 

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 CYRANO DE BERGERAC (poet, swordsman, musician)

MILADY (The Real Evil Agent of the Cardinal from the pages of History)

GATIEN DE COURTILZ DE SANDRAS (Author of the Memoirs of D'Artagnan)

RALPH NEVILL (English Translator of the Memoirs of D'Artagnan)

ACTUAL MUSKETEER LETTERS (A rare look into the Musketeer past)

DONAREE THE MUSKETEER (New Musketeer Novel by Ted Anthony Roberts)

MUSKETEER STORIES (Started novels by Ted Anthony Roberts)

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (His views on Le Vicomte de Bragelonne)

 

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Musketeer historian: RALPH NEVILL

 

MEMOIRS OF

MONSIEUR D'ARTAGNAN

CAPTAIN-LIEUTENANT OF THE 1st COMPANY

OF THE KING'S MUSKETEERS

BY

COURTILZ DE SANDRAZ

NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH

BY

RALPH NEVILL

1898-1899

 

 

INTRODUCTION

by Ralph Nevill

 

The "Memoirs of D'Artagnan," although purporting to have been published by Pierre Marteau, at Cologne, were really printed at The Hague. They are the work of Courtilz de Sandras, an extremely prolific and, it must be added, Imaginative writer. Born at Montargis, in 1644, he became a captain in the Régiment de Champagne, and, while still pursuing his military career, composed several works, which were published in Holland—a country to which he eventually migrated. Sandras remained some time in voluntary and not unprofitable exile, but, returning to France in 1694, he managed, some eight years later, to incur the displeasure of the authorities. It was probably his authorship of " Les Annales de Paris et de la Cour " which led to his disgrace. Thrown into the Bastille, he remained there for nine years, the early part of his captivity being of a particularly rigorous nature. He was, however, liberated in 1711, and proceeded on his release to marry for the third time. His choice, it appears, fell upon a widow, " la veuve Auroy; " but Sandras did not long survive to enjoy afresh the delights of freedom and matrimony, for his demise occurred in May the following year, 1712.

 

A voluminous writer, nearly all his works claim to be the autobiography or biography of some well known character of his day. Most of them, indeed, were given to the public as authentic memoirs, but several severe critics have spoken of them as historical novels.

 

Amongst these is Voltaire, who has warned the world to beware of placing too great reliance upon the statements made in the many volumes which Sandras produced, at the same time somewhat harshly characterizing their author as a dangerous and unscrupulous writer.

 

Be this as it may, Sandras certainly wrote (as Bayle has said) with great vivacity and clearness, and although in many cases his chronology leaves much to be desired, most of the adventures he relates with so much vigour and life are founded upon fact. His is a spirited and romantic (if perhaps highly coloured) picture of seventeenth century life in France - a picture which cannot fail to fascinate and amuse ail those who have a taste for historical romance.

 

The " Memoirs of D'Artagnan " are, in this particular line, a masterpiece. Alexandre Dumas recognized them as such, for from the pages of Sandras's “D'Artagnan " came the material and inspiration for his immortal " Three Musketeers." The originals of the pictures Dumas so picturesquely drew pass before us in the pages of the Memoirs. Miledi, De Treville, the Musketeers themselves—ail are there— less decorous it is true in conduct, and a shade more human in their actions than in the modem work. While making every allowance for exaggeration on the part of Sandras, there is no overlooking the fact that the career of D'Artagnan was really one of a most dashing and romantic kind. The Memoirs, indeed, are probably a collection of the stories and traditions of the famous Musketeer's life current in his day, together with other détails of his exploits which the author was able to glean from such documents and letters as he had chanced to come across. A true soldier of fortune—the younger son of a poor though noble family of Bearn—Charles de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan, Captain-Lieutenant of the 1st Company of the King's Musketeers, combined extraordinary charm of manner with great Personal bravery. As daring, from ail contemporary accounts, in the service of Venus as of Mars, his rise from cadet in the Guards to the position which he occupied at his death in battle, was due in no small measure to his popularity with the fair sex. Madame de Motteville, indeed, terms him in her Memoirs "a creature of Cardinal Mazarin's," but this unflattering reference is probably the outcome of political spite. To the fair sex the gallant Musketeer was irresistible, and many of the hearts to which he laid siege appear to have surrendered at his first onslaught.

 

According to St. Simon, D'Artagnan enjoyed the confidence of Louis XIV., and he makes particular mention of the devotion of that monarch to his Captain of Musketeers, and of his sincere grief at his untimely death at the siege of Maestricht in 1673, where he fell while gallantly leading his company to the attack.

 

The Musketeers had retired to rest for the night, when the order was given for them to recapture a position which the defenders of the town had managed to take. Although utterly tired out, they rushed to the charge under the leadership of their captain, who, in the sanguinary conflict which ensued, met a soldier's death at the head of his men. It is said that these soldiers, greedy of glory as they were, reckoned their victory dearly bought on account of the loss of a commander whom they idolized. Besides D'Artagnan, there were in this fight thirty-seven men killed and fifty-three wounded of the 1st Company of Musketeers, which went into battle two hundred and fifty strong!

 

It was on the occasion of the disgrace of Fouquet, Surintendant des Finances, in 1661, that Louis XIV. gave such proof of the great reliance he placed upon his Captain of Musketeers. By the King's own Personal wish he was chosen to effect the arrest of that minister. The King himself handed D'Artagnan the lettre de cachet in his own private closet, feeling sure, as a trustworthy writer says, that he could find no better man to carry out his wishes. Nor was his confidence misplaced. Fouquet's arrest was managed in such a way that ail disturbance was avoided, and, to the credit of his captor be it said, with as much delicacy and gentleness as the circumstances allowed.

 

Escorted to Pignerol by a guard of Musketeers, the captive, we learn, was treated with every consideration possible, D'Artagnan even going so far as to supply him with furs wherewith to make his journey the more comfortable. M. de Treville had been the first commander of the Musketeers, and D'Artagnan succeeded his former patron as Captain-Lieutenant of the 1st or King's Company, being himself succeeded on his death in 1673 by the Chevalier de Fourbins, who, from all accounts, never appears to have attained the popularity or renown of his predecessor, who by general consent had been recognized as the perfect type of everything a Musketeer should be.

 

Frequent mention will be found in the Memoirs of one Besmaux, a companion in arms of D'Artagnan's, who too often appears in a somewhat contemptible light. This Besmaux, curiously enough, afterwards became Captain of the 2nd Company of Musketeers (Cardinal Mazarin's company), and died in 1697, having in his time occupied the post of Governor of the Bastille.

 

A short account of this gallant company - a body of troops whose memory is still surrounded with a halo of romance—may not here be out of place.

 

The Musketeers of the Guard were the corps d'élite of the household troops of the French kings. They were practically founded by Louis XIII. , although in the previous reign a small guard of somewhat the same kind had existed. M. de Troisville, who afterwards called himself De Treville, was their first captain lieutenant, and held this rank throughout the whole of the reign of Louis XIII. At first, like ail troops of their time, they wore no particular uniform, and it was only in 1657 that Louis XIV. decreed that they should don a special dress. The 1st Company consisted of 250 men, all mounted on white or grey horses, who were known as " Mousquetaires gris." The captain was the King himself, and the company was reckoned the crack corps of France. Its standard of white satin bore a device representing a bomb, shot in the air from a mortar, falling on a town; underneath, “Quo ruit et lethum."

 

The company was quartered in the Rue du Bac, and the facings, lace, etc., of the uniform were of gold. The 2nd Company (originally Cardinal Mazarin's) had barracks in the Rue St. Antoine. The men were mounted upon black horses, and, in consequence, were known as " Mousquetaires noirs." On the standard was a bundle of twelve arrows pointing downwards, with the motto, "Alterius Jovis altéra tela." The facings of these Mousquetaires were not as rich as those of the 1st Company, being only of silver. The uniform of both companies was blue with a silver cross, and their original weapon was the "mousquet," afterwards exchanged for a brace of pistols, in addition, of course, to the sword worn by ail mounted troops.

 

Composed for the most part of young men of from seventeen to twenty years of age, the dash and courage of the Musketeers became proverbial, and on many occasions secured victory to the French arms. The last time this proved the case was at Fontenoy, where their charge at the head of the King's household troops decided the day.

 

In the turmoil and anarchy of the Revolution the Musketeers disappeared practically for ever. An attempt indeed was made to revive the corps on the restoration of the French Monarchy, but its existence had become an anachronism, and the recreated "Mousquetaires du Roi " bore but little resemblance to the famous cavaliers of the ancien régime who already loomed, "mere old world shadows," across the blood-red mists of the Terror.

 

The Musketeer belonged to the old France—that France which with its stately pomp and ceremonious chivalry had vanished into the past. The spirit which had animated him was no more. Careless, prodigal, brave and loyal, he was no sympathizer with democracy and its somewhat pinchbeck ideals, and indifferent to most things except love or war, his motto, like that of the old chivalry of France, was ever "Dieu! Mon Roi! Ma Dame!"

 

With regard to this translation, the Memoirs have not been abridged or tampered with in any way. I have, however, ventured to divide them into chapters, for to the modem reader a volume without any break whatever is apt to appear tedious. Those who may take exception to some of D'Artagnan's adventures and doings, I would bid remember that life in the seventeenth century, especially the life of a French soldier of fortune, is not to be judged by the moral standard which this century affects, and would assure them, as they themselves will perceive from a perusal of the Memoirs, that no one is quicker to recognize his faults than their hero. Certainly his resource and pluck, under the most trying and occasionally embarrassing circumstances, must command admiration, even should they not inspire respect. In conclusion I hope, while fully conscious of many shortcomings, that I have not entirely failed in my attempt to render into acceptable English the seventeenth-century French of the original.

 

RALPH NEVILL.

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Product Details (From Amazon.com)

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (November 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449913172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449913175
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

 

READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT DONAREE:

"Nicely done. I really enjoyed the history in the introduction and the duel is well written. Best of luck with the novel!" ~ Author David Lee Summers, author of five books: Vampires of the Scarlet Order, The Solar Sea, and the "Old Star" science fiction series: The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. www.davidleesummers.com

"Very exciting read! Felt like I was there witnessing the action!" ~ Candle Artist Jfay,
www.studio3bonline.com

"I really enjoyed the humour and really laughed, not at Monsieur de la Donaree but with Monsieur de la Donaree! I dont know if you wrote it in this spirit but if you had a bit of Molière in you, I would not be surprised! He knew how to study people and would turn situations into a comic play! I laughed out loud, this is a gem! Not only de la Donaree is a fine sword, he has also a fine nose when it comes to pinpoint personalities, I'm talking about the Inkeeper and his situation with the wife here!! The second part is indeed in pure swashbuckling spirit, in rhythm and enthusiasm! And the end is a cliff-hanger! The beginning is "cocasse" (funny) as they might have said then in Gascony, and witty! Indeed Alexandre Dumas had a sense of humour too and satirically created at least one of his character ( in another book) to a character made up by Molière in one of his comic play. And Molière also took his inspiration from Dumas' s Musketeers and "The Man in the Iron Mask." I liked it! I had fun while reading this chapter about Monsieur de la Donaree, as while following the spirit of the Musketeers you gave a contemporary touch to the text!" ~ Artist Nicole Marques,
www.myspace.com/nicolemarques

"Hurrah, Ted! I gleefully await the next installment! LOVE the romantic stuff! Bring it on! There are few things in this world I like better than a hot Viscount. Keep going, Ted! Bravo! Keep writing! I can't wait to read more! But it is par for the course as I am also a writer. Keep in touch!" ~ Author Genella de Grey, author of "Remember Me."
www.genelladegrey.com

"Wow - What a wonderful beginning. As a whole, you have a unique way of writing & you captivated me by a few sentences peaking my interest to continue. For instance: ...hazed by the early morning mist...I love it! I look forward to reading the next chapter. You've gained my interest. That was impresive & informative. You've still got the hook in & I'm dangling to hear more. Thanks for the sneak peak." ~ Aspiring Author R.F.Taylor: Rianna

"Well done. Chapter One entices the reader craving more. I will look for The Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer on the web. Keep up the excellent writing..." ~
Ferf