Sunday, November 1, 1998

The Man In the Iron Mask

by Alexandre Dumas
edited and annotated by David Coward, from an older translation

Well, the mammoth saga of the once-invincibles comes to a rather sad end. Porthos dies because his strength gives out. Aramis flees France in disgrace because his schemes come to ruin. And Athos dies because the one thing dearer to him to God, his son, leaves his company to go die in the Africa campaigns under the Duke of Beaufort. And d’Artagnan – well, d’Artagnan’s star does not decline under the sun king, but that’s only because this once so haughty Gascon spirit humbles itself rather abjectly before the iron will of Louis (chapter 81, simply and appropriately titled “King Louis XIV”). I have one complaint with this action-packed adventure, during which in the course of 570 pages the suspense hardly slackens. Why did Aramis, General of the Jesuits, master planner always with an out at his disposal, admit defeat instantly when Fouquet announced he would denounce him? Up to that point, Fouquet had been a pawn of Aramis. Suddenly, Aramis had to flee for his life on the word alone of Fouquet. Well, maybe it was the onset of age that weakens Aramis’ resolve.

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