The Three Musketeers

I finished reading The Three Musketeers yesterday. (These days, as a result of being broke and unable to afford books, all my reading is either review copies that newspapers send me, or out-of-copyright classics.)

The book approves of, among other things:

  • extra-marital affairs
  • monarchical government
  • summary executions
  • persecuting religious minorities

and throws in a bonus girlfriend-in-refrigerator.

It’s impossible for this book to be anything but a guilty pleasure. But pleasure it is.

Incidentally, one of the chapters begins this:

It was a stormy and dark night; vast clouds covered the heavens, concealing the stars; the moon would not rise till midnight.

Hmmm. The Three Musketeers was published in 1844 in French, and I think the translation I read dates to 1846.

The more widely known “It was a dark and stormy night” dates back to Lord Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 Paul Clifford, so now I wonder just what is going on here. Does the original French version also contain “It was a stormy and dark night,” and did the translator reproduce it faithfully, or was the translator trying to sneak in a pop culture reference on his own accord? (Actually, back in the 1840s, was “It was a dark and stormy night” a meme at all, or did it explode into consciousness thanks to Snoopy?)  And if Dumas had written this in the original French, was he making fun of Bulwer-Lytton, or was he just doing it unselfconsciously, and being as melodramatic a writer? This is a mystery, on the order of, dare I say it, the identity of the man in the iron mask.

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