Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Four Musketeers

Kari Maund & Phil Nanson, The Four Musketeers: The True Story of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis and Athos

A fascinating and clearly-written book on the historical characters behind Alexandre Dumas' romantic heroes, giving what is known about them, and mapping out their fiction after-life. The only unanswered question was how this happened. The real d'Artagnan was a figure of some importance, but the three companions he is given in Dumas were quite obscure (Athos, for instance, we know almost nothing about). They were associated with d'Artagnan by Gatien Courtilz de Sandras, who gets a chapter all to himself, but it's never clear to me why Courtilz chose Armand d'Athos, Isaac de Portau and Henri d'Aramitz to be his characters, nor indeed, given that he seems not to have been a diligent historical researcher, how he even knew about them.

That aside, this is plainly a labour of love, and should be anyone with an interest in the Musketeers or the seventeenth century, or indeed just anyone who liked Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver.


Gabriele Campbell said...

Oh nice.

I'm such a Three Musketeer fan. In fact, I used the books (including the sequel Vingt ans après) to teach myself French. I know the real names behind the musketeers, but not many details, the authors should have figured out some more.

Anonymous said...

A while back I came across an article in , IIRC, the BBC History Magazine, arguing that the original Man in the Iron Mask was in fact the historical d'Artagnan.

Unfortunately for the entertainment value, this meme doesn't appear to have taken off.


Tony Keen said...

Gabriele - There's quite a lot about the historical d'Artagnan, considerably less for the others (and almost nothing for Athos).

Chris - An interesting theory, but it rather falls down due to the first evidence for the prisoner comes from 1669, three years before d'Artagnan's death. Unless Louis provided an imposter to be governor of Lille and then resume command of the Musketeer units in the Franco-Dutch war, which seems unlikely, I think we should quietly forget about this one.

Rick said...

Coming to this late, I remember how startled I was when I first encountered the name D'Artagnan in straight histories.