Book Review – THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1844) by Alexandre Dumas

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1844) *****
by Alexandre Dumas
Translated by Lawrence Ellsworth (2018)
This edition published by Pegasus, 2018, 814pp (760pp)
Interior Design by Sabrina Plomitallo-Gonzalez
ISBN: 978-1-64313-040-8
includes an introduction by Lawrence Ellsworth; Dramatis personae: Historical Characters; Notes on the Text; Illustrations by Maurice Leloir.
      Blurb: A new and vibrant translation of Alexandre Dumas’s renowned The Three Musketeers, following the adventures of the valiant d’Artagnan and his three loyal comrades. The novel’s fast-moving story is set in the royal court of Louis XIII, where the swaggering King’s Musketeers square off against their rivals: the crimson-clad Guards of the dreaded Cardinal Richelieu. The Red Duke rules France with an iron hand in the name of King Louis and of Queen Anne, who dares a secret love affair with France s enemy, England s Duke of Buckingham. Into this royal intrigue leaps the brash d’Artagnan, a young swordsman from the provinces determined to find fame and fortune in Paris. Bold and clever, in no time the youth finds himself up to his Gascon neck in adventure, while earning the enduring friendship of the greatest comrades in literature, the Three Musketeers: noble Athos, sly Aramis, and the giant, good-hearted Porthos.
      Comment: This brand new translation of Dumas’ classic adventure is by Lawrence Ellsworth, a student of Dumas’ fiction who had translated the Dumas rarity The Red Sphinx for the first time into the English language the previous year. Ellsworth’s expertise is evident throughout this vibrant new take on Dumas’ most celebrated novel. Having previously read the novel in a translation by Lord Sudeley, I was impressed by Ellsworth’s slant on the prose making it immediately more accessible whilst staying honest to Dumas. Any translation is reflective of the period in which the translator is operating and the only other recent translation was Richard Pevear’s 2006 take on the story. That too was well-received, but most commentators now acknowledge Ellsworth’s as the definitive version for a contemporary readership. The story seems to open up more and the often clumsy dialogue interpretations from previous versions are replaced with flowing, witty and elegant wordplay that more accurately reflects the characters. Re-reading the book has further cemented it as the classic it undoubtedly is – with its sweeping themes of romance, courage, vengeance, war, political intrigue and bold adventure irresistible. The dramatic finale is unforgettable and Ellsworth expertly captures the building tension. The intention is for Ellsworth to work through the remaining novels featuring Dumas’ musketeers, with Twenty Years After having just been re-published in hardback. For anyone who has never read The Three Musketeers, this is the version to go for.

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