The Three Musketeers

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The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas

Author Biography
Plot Summary
Historical Context
Critical Overview
For Further Reading


The Three Musketeers, published in 1844–1845, is typical of Dumas's works: quick-witted heroes who fight and love unceasingly, fast-paced narrative, and entertaining dialogue. In its romantic subject matter, the book is typical of its time; what is not typical is the fact that it has survived and remains entertaining and accessible for modern readers.

The novel has been adapted for over sixty films and spin-offs and has sold millions of copies in hundreds of languages all over the world. Despite the fact that it is very long and is filled with improbable events, larger-than-life characters, and exaggerated dialogue—or because of these traits—it is a fast, exciting read and still feels fresh and entertaining despite the long time that has elapsed since it was first written.

The story was drawn from a number of original historical sources, including Les Memoires de M. d'Artagnan by Sandraz de Courtils and Intrigues Politiques et Galantes de la Coeur de France, memoirs of events from the period in which the novel takes place. Dumas's collaborator, Auguste Maquet, brought him a rough scenario for a book set during the reign of King Louis XIII and starring the King, Queen Anne, Cardinal Richelieu, and the Duke of Buckingham. This scenario, drawn from events in the original sources, would be fleshed out by Dumas to become The Three Musketeers. According to records kept by the Marseille library, Dumas checked out Les Memoires de M. d'Artagnan and never returned it.

Because Dumas's works have been so wildly popular, for a long time he was not considered a "serious" writer. However, in recent years, more attention has been given to him because his work laid the foundations for bourgeois drama as he brought history alive for a broad segment of the population who otherwise would have had no interest in it and as he created a new kind of Romantic novel.

Author Biography

Alexandre Dumas was born on July 24, 1802, in Villers-Coterêts, north of Paris. His father was a soldier in Napoleon's army and his mother was the daughter of a local innkeeper. However, his grandfather was a marquis, and his grandmother was a slave in what is now Haiti. Throughout his life, his part-African ancestry would fascinate Parisians, who found it exotic; some made racist comments about him but were usually charmed by his witty responses.

Dumas's father died when he was four years old and left the family penniless. Dumas learned to read and write from his mother, his sister, and a neighbor but spent most of his time hunting and fishing in the forest near his home instead of studying. When he was sixteen, he met two friends, Vicomte Adolphe Ribbing de Leuven and Amedee de La Ponce, both highly educated, who encouraged Dumas to read widely. In addition, de Leuven, who wanted to be a playwright, soon convinced Dumas to collaborate with him on writing a play. Dumas, who had very elegant handwriting, found work as a clerk and in his spare time continued to read and to write. He attended plays and made friends in the theater world.

His first success came with his play Henri III et sa cour (Henry III and His Court), which was performed by the prestigious Comedie Francaise and, through his acquaintance with the duc d'Orleans, Dumas was attended by princes and princesses who happened to be visiting the duc at the time. Overnight he had fame and fortune and was the toast of Paris. He became friends with all the leading literary figures of the time, spent his money generously, traveled widely, and wrote prolifically.

In 1836, he signed a contract to retell various events in French history in the Sunday edition of the newspaper La Presse. These pieces, enthusiastically awaited by the public, led him to begin writ-ing historical novels. During the course of one year, 1844, he wrote The Three Musketeers, its sequels Twenty Years After, Le Comte de Bragelonne, and The Count of Monte Cristo. All of these works are still in print in France.

Dumas wrote an astonishing number of novels and plays, some of them hundreds of pages long; he usually worked with collaborators who did the historical research and often came up with plots. Then Dumas would flesh out the bare bones of the structure and bring the story vividly to life. One collaborator, Auguste Maquet, eventually sued for what he felt was his literary due. During the trial, his version of a chapter from The Three Musketeers was compared to Dumas's, and the court found in favor of Dumas because of the greater quality of his writing. None of Maquet's independent writing ever succeeded.

Although Dumas was hugely successful, he spent money as fast as he made it and had to keep writing to pay off his debts; however, it is likely that he would have written whether he was paid to or not. Although he had robust health throughout his life, at age 68 he went to his son Alexandre's house and told him he had come there to die. His son, like him, was a successful writer but led a more quiet life than Dumas had.

Dumas died in Puy, near Dieppe on the coast of France, on December 5, 1870. Before he died, he told his son that of all his works, his favorite was The Three Musketeers. In 1883, a statue in his memory was erected at the Places Malsherbes on the Right Bank in Paris.

Plot Summary

Part I: Chapters One through Ten

Young, ambitious d'Artagnan goes to Paris to seek his fortune, bearing a letter of introduction to Monsieur de Treville, captain of the King's Musketeers. He is impetuous and proud, and at his first stop at an inn, he gets into a fight with a nobleman who makes fun of his horse. The man's henchmen beat up d'Artagnan, but when he returns to consciousness, he sees the man talking to a beautiful woman in a carriage, calling her "Milady," before they set off. When he checks his belongings, he finds out that the man has stolen his letter of introduction.

He goes to see de Treville anyway and is impressed by the dash and swagger of all the Musketeers he sees at de Treville's headquarters. De Treville says he will help d'Artagnan but that he can't be a Musketeer before proving his worth, so he makes d'Artagnan a member of the King's Guards, a position that will allow him to prove himself worthy. D'Artagnan sees his enemy from the inn, "The Man from Meung," and runs out to attack him. On the way, he inadvertently insults Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, three Musketeers, and they each challenge him to a duel later that day.

When he arrives at the dueling ground, the Musketeers are surprised that they are all scheduled to fight the same man. However, d'Artagnan is a man of his word and is determined to fight even though he knows they will probably kill him. This courage and honor impresses them. When the fight is about to start, the Cardinal's guards show up to arrest the Musketeers because dueling is against the law. D'Artagnan joins the Musketeers, and they all beat the guards. The Musketeers are impressed with this and adopt him into their circle.

King Louis XIII hears about the fight and asks to meet d'Artagnan, but he is not home when they come to see him. They head off to the tennis court, where d'Artagnan gets in a fight with one of the Cardinal's guards. He wins again. They meet the King the next day, and he praises their loyalty and bravery and gives d'Artagnan a reward.

They spend the money on a lavish dinner and on a servant for d'Artagnan. Planchet is a loyal, intelligent man, the ideal servant. The others have servants too: Athos has Grimaud, a totally silent man; Porthos has Mousqueton, who shares his taste for luxury; and Aramis has Bazin, who is devout and who wants Aramis to quit the Musketeers and become a priest.

A stranger, Monsieur Bonacieux, shows up at d'Artagnan's house and asks him for help. His wife, who is a lady-in-waiting for Queen Anne, has been kidnapped, perhaps because she may know something about the Queen's affair with the Duke of Buckingham. Monsieur Bonacieux is d'Artagnan's landlord, so he agrees to help him in exchange for free rent. The kidnapper is the Man from Meung, d'Artagnan's enemy. D'Artagnan sees the man and runs after him, but loses him again.

The three other Musketeers agree that they should help Madame Bonacieux because helping her will help the Queen and annoy the Cardinal, who is their sworn enemy.

A group of the Cardinal's guards show up to arrest Monsieur Bonacieux, and d'Artagnan lets them take him. The Musketeers can't afford to be involved in this arrest—they have greater plans. The police then wait in Bonacieux's apartment and question everyone who shows up to visit him, while d'Artagnan eavesdrops from his apartment. When Madame Bonacieux arrives, however, he rescues her from their clutches and takes her to Athos's house. She says that the Cardinal's men kidnapped her and that she has escaped. She has important things to do for the Queen, so d'Artagnan takes her back to the palace. Meanwhile, he's fallen in love with her. He is aware that he may be questioned about what he did that evening, so he goes to visit Monsieur de Treville so that he will have an alibi. He changes de Treville's clock so de Treville will think d'Artagnan was with him at the time when he was really fighting the Cardinal's guards.

Part I: Chapters Eleven through Twenty

D'Artagnan goes to see Aramis and finds a woman knocking on Aramis's door. This surprises him, and so does the fact that a woman, not Aramis, answers. The women give each other handkerchiefs, and the woman in Aramis's house leaves. He is shocked to see that she is Madame Bonacieux.

He asks her what she's doing, and she doesn't tell him, but she allows him to walk with her to an-other house, where she's carrying out some secret mission. When he goes home, he finds that Athos has been arrested because the police thought he was d'Artagnan. He goes to the Louvre to tell de Treville about the arrest. On the way, he sees Madame Bonacieux, who is walking with Aramis. He's angered that she lied to him about being on a special mission, but when he confronts the man, he sees that it's not Aramis at all, but the Duke of Buckingham, the Queen's secret lover. Courteously, he agrees to guard them as they walk to the Louvre.

At the Louvre, the Queen and the Duke have a secret and emotional meeting. The Duke knows that the Cardinalists have summoned him to France and have made it look like the Queen summoned him. He's not fooled. But he wanted to see her so much that he came anyway. He adores the Queen, and she loves him, but she's more reluctant to admit it because she is married and he is loyal to the King of England, historically an enemy of the French. Buckingham says he will declare war on France if it will give him an excuse to make diplomatic missions to Paris and see her. She gives him a lovetoken—a set of twelve diamond tags that the King gave her for her birthday.

Meanwhile, Monsieur Bonacieux has endured imprisonment in the Louvre. He's petrified and broken down by fear. He is interrogated and brought to Cardinal Richelieu. Frightened and impressed by the Cardinal, he tells all about his wife's intrigues on behalf of the Queen and the Duke and swears that he will remain loyal to the Cardinal and tell him all about his wife's activities.

The following day, de Treville hears that Athos has been arrested. He goes to ask the King to release him, but the Cardinal arrives first and tells the King that Athos should remain in prison. However, de Treville does convince him that he can't arrest a Musketeer without a good reason. He tells the King that d'Artagnan was with him at the time in question, not knowing that d'Artagnan reset the clocks so he would have this alibi. The Cardinal is suspicious but can't do anything to prove his suspicions, so the King agrees to free Athos.

As soon as de Treville leaves, the Cardinal tells the King that the Duke of Buckingham has secretly visited the Queen. The King is furious, and the Cardinal slyly acts like he's defending the Queen's honor against scandal. He mentions that the Queen is apparently involved in a conspiracy with Buckingham and therefore England, as well as with Spain and Austria. This angers the King, but he is made even more furious by suspicions that the Queen is having an affair with Buckingham.

A search proves that the Queen does have incriminating letters, which show that she is involved in a conspiracy against the Cardinal but which don't mention any affair with the Duke. The King is relieved. He doesn't care about the plot against the Cardinal, since it doesn't affect him, and he decides to apologize to his wife by holding a ball in her honor. The Cardinal is the mastermind behind all of this and suggests that the King ask the Queen to wear all twelve of her diamond tags. Since she gave them to Buckingham, this will expose her when she shows up without them. The King has no idea that the tags are missing and is pleased with the idea of asking her to wear his gift.

Secretly, the Cardinal has had Milady, who is one of his spies, steal two of the tags from Buckingham so that if he tries to return the set to the Queen, her treachery will be revealed when she shows up with only ten.

Media Adaptations

  • Over sixty films and spinoffs have been made based on the novel. The most notable were filmed in 1933, directed by Colbert Clark and Armand Schaefer and starring John Wayne; in 1948, directed by George Sidney and starring Lana Turner and Gene Kelly; in 1973, directed by Richard Lester and starring Raquel Welch and Oliver Reed; and in 1993, directed by Stephen Herek and starring Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland.

The King asks the Queen about the tags, and she realizes that the Cardinal knows Buckingham has them. She arranges for Madame Bonacieux to send someone to England with a letter for Buckingham asking him to return the tags before the ball. Monsieur Bonacieux refuses to go and leaves to tell the Cardinal that his wife is planning this. D'Artagnan has overheard their fight and offers to go to England to get the tags, saying he is doing it because he is desperately in love with her and because he wants to serve the Queen. De Treville agrees to let all four of the Musketeers go on this mission.

On the way to England, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos are all waylaid, and d'Artagnan has to leave them behind. He duels with and almost kills the Comte de Wardes, an agent of the Cardinal who is trying to prevent him from getting to England, but finally he makes it and gets the Queen's letter to Buckingham.

Part I: Chapters Twenty-One through Twenty-Nine

Buckingham realizes that two of the tags are missing and that Lady de Winter has stolen them. He prevents all ships from leaving England so that Lady de Winter won't be able to get back to France to give the stolen tags to the Cardinal. This blockade is actually an act of war against France. Meanwhile, he has two other tags made, and d'Artagnan heads back to France with the nowcomplete set.

The Cardinal is confused when the Queen shows up with twelve diamond tags and his plan to expose her is foiled. He offers her the two missing tags, and the Queen acts surprised and thanks him for adding two more to her set of diamonds. In exchange for saving her, the Queen gives d'Artagnan a ring.

D'Artagnan gets a letter asking him to meet Madame Bonacieux the next night. He goes to visit de Treville, who asks him to be cautious in his involvement in royal intrigues. He advises d'Artagnan to sell the ring because if he is seen wearing it, enemies will have proof that he has helped the Queen. D'Artagnan refuses.

At the meeting spot, he waits for Madame Bonacieux. After an hour, he looks around and finds evidence of a struggle, and a man tells him a group of men came and kidnapped her.

De Treville believes the kidnapping was done by Cardinalist agents and tells d'Artagnan he will look into the matter. Meanwhile, he advises d'Artagnan to go find out what has happened to the other Musketeers. Before leaving, he finds that the Cardinal's guards are looking for him and that Monsieur Bonacieux was involved in the kidnapping.

D'Artagnan finds Porthos wounded but safe at an inn. Aramis is at a different inn, also wounded but safe, and Athos is at yet another inn, where he has locked himself in the basement and has been eating and drinking all the inn's supplies. He is very drunk, and he tells d'Artagnan the reason for his secret sorrow: he is actually a nobleman and once married a beautiful young common woman because he was so in love with her. After the marriage, he found that she was a thief, branded with the fleur-de-lis, the mark of a terrible criminal, and that she and her lover had planned the marriage just so they could get Athos's money. Betrayed and angered, Athos hanged her.

D'Artagnan is horrified by this, and they agree not to talk about it again. All four friends go back to Paris, where they are informed that France is now at war with Britain and they need to find their own fighting equipment. Since they're all broke, this is a problem. Porthos is the first to get equipped, when he gets money from his mistress.

D'Artagnan sees the "Woman from Meung," who is actually Lady de Winter. He fights with the man accompanying her and finds that he is Lord de Winter, her brother. They agree to duel the next day.

Part I: Chapters Thirty through Thirty-Seven

The Musketeers meet Lord de Winter and three of his friends for the duel. The Englishmen are defeated, and although d'Artagnan disarms de Winter, he spares his life. De Winter is grateful and agrees to introduce d'Artagnan to Lady de Winter.

D'Artagnan begins visiting Lady de Winter, who is the woman known as "Milady." He falls in love with her, even though he knows she's evil. Milady's maid, Kitty, falls in love with d'Artagnan, but he ignores her until he realizes she can be useful; then he flirts with her and tells her he loves her. She tells him Milady loves the Comte de Wardes, and while he is with Kitty, he overhears Milady saying how much she hates d'Artagnan because he spared Lord de Winter's life. If Lord de Winter had died, Milady would have inherited all his money. She also mentions that she was involved in Madame Bonacieux's kidnapping and that the Cardinal wants her to be careful with d'Artagnan.

D'Artagnan is horrified and hurt. He steals a letter she wrote to the Comte and answers it himself, pretending to be the Comte and arranging a meeting at her house. When he arrives, the house is totally dark, and they have sex. She believes he is the Comte and gives him a ring.

Athos has seen the ring before—it is a family heirloom—and he once gave it away to a woman. D'Artagnan, still pretending to be the Comte, writes Milady a letter saying he can't see her any more. Milady is angered and decides to have revenge on the Comte by seducing d'Artagnan and getting him to kill the Comte. She invites him to her house, and after they have sex, he tells her there never was any Comte, that he was the one who visited her before. Enraged, she attacks him, and he tears her nightdress, revealing a fleur-de-lis, the mark of a criminal, branded on her left shoulder. Horrified, he escapes.

Part II: Chapters One through Twenty

D'Artagnan and Athos both realize Milady is Athos's wife, whom he thought was dead. Kitty comes to the Musketeers for help: they have to hide her from Milady, who is enraged at her complicity with d'Artagnan. She also tells them Milady was involved in Madame Bonacieux's kidnapping.

They pawn Milady's ring and buy equipment with it. D'Artagnan receives a letter from Madame Bonacieux asking him to meet her that evening and another letter from the Cardinal demanding his presence later on that same night.

Madame Bonacieux rides past the meeting spot in a carriage. The Musketeers can't tell if she's safe or a prisoner of the people she's with. They go to the Cardinal, who tells d'Artagnan that he wants d'Artagnan to be an officer in his guards. D'Artagnan politely declines, and the Cardinal warns him that now he will be unsafe from the Cardinal's attacks.

La Rochelle, a port town populated by Protestants, has been taken by British forces and is now under siege by the French. D'Artagnan's guard regiment is sent there to do battle, but the Musketeers remain behind. While he's alone there, he's shot at by two men, and the next day, on a spy mission, they try to kill him again. He kills one and captures the other, who tells him Milady was behind the assassination attempt. This other man is deeply grateful to d'Artagnan for not killing him, but he is later accidentally killed when d'Artagnan opens some poisoned wine that Milady has sent, and he drinks it. The four friends realize they need to stop Milady and rescue Madame Bonacieux.

The three Musketeers run into the Cardinal at an inn, and he tells them to act as his personal bodyguards while he has an important meeting. Milady shows up and they eavesdrop on the meeting. The Cardinal sends Milady to England with a message for the Duke of Buckingham, telling him he must stop the war against France or the Cardinal will tell about his affair with the Queen. He will also have him assassinated. In exchange, Milady asks the Cardinal to put d'Artagnan in the Bastille and to find out where Madame Bonacieux is. Milady wants to kill Madame Bonacieux to get revenge on d'Artagnan.

Athos leaves the inn by himself. The other two Musketeers ride with the Cardinal to the army camp. Athos has been hiding in the woods, and he goes back to the inn and confronts Milady, who is shocked to see her old enemy and husband, whom she thought was dead. Athos tells her that if she does anything to d'Artagnan, he'll kill her. He also steals a safeconduct pass the Cardinal has given her. This document says that whoever has the pass can do whatever he wants, in the Cardinal's name.

The four friends meet, and at an inn they brag and make bets with some soldiers that they can enter and hold the St. Gervais fort against attackers, all by themselves, for an hour. At the fort, they eat breakfast, make plans, and easily defeat all attackers for more than an hour, winning the bet. They decide to send a letter to Lord de Winter, warning him of Milady's evil history and her plans to kill him, and another letter to Madame de Chevreuse, who is Aramis's mistress and a close friend of the Queen, to warn the Queen that there's a plot to kill Buckingham.

Their gutsy defense of the fort comes to the Cardinal's attention, and he authorizes the captain of the guards to make d'Artagnan a Musketeer. He does, and now the four friends are even more closely united.

Milady arrives in England and is arrested. John Felton, a Protestant soldier, is her guard. She immediately begins plotting her escape.

The siege is still at a deadlock. The people inside the city walls are getting hungry and beginning to protest against the siege, which the Cardinal is happy about, but Buckingham sends word that in a week, English, Austrian, and Spanish forces will come to help them. This foils the Cardinal's plans.

The Cardinal catches the Musketeers reading a letter, and they taunt him and refuse to let him see it. The letter is from Madame de Chevreuse. The Queen has told her that Madame Bonacieux is safe in a convent in the small town of Bethune. The four friends decide that when the siege is over, they'll go rescue her.

Milady lies and tells Felton, who is a religious fanatic, that she is also a Protestant and that she is ill and the victim of the abusive Duke of Buckingham, who branded her with the fleur-de-lis because she fought against his supposed attempts to rape her. The brand would make people think she was a liar and a thief so that they wouldn't believe her story of being raped. She says Buckingham killed her husband, Lord de Winter's brother, and that Lord de Winter, who believed Buckingham's story that she was a thief, captured her. To prove her willingness to die for her religious beliefs, when Lord de Winter walks in on their conversation, she grabs a knife and pretends to stab herself. Felton now believes she's a religious martyr, who would rather die than be defiled, and he falls in love with her.

Part II: Chapters Twenty-One through Epilogue

Lord de Winter suspects that Felton is on Milady's side and sends him away. Felton comes back and helps her escape. Felton plans to kill Buckingham and go to France with Milady. He does kill Buckingham, but not before Buckingham receives a letter from the Queen saying she loves him and will forever love him and that she knows he has declared war on France because he loves her. He dies happy in the knowledge of her love.

Monsieur de Treville gives the four Musketeers permission to leave the siege and go get Madame Bonacieux. This is urgent because Milady is going to go to the same convent when she comes back from England, and if she sees Madame Bonacieux, she will kill her.

Meanwhile, she's already gotten there and has made friends with Madame Bonacieux, pretending to be a friend of d'Artagnan's, who is being persecuted by the Cardinal. Madame Bonacieux tells her that d'Artagnan is coming, which delights Milady, who plans to use Madame Bonacieux to hurt d'Artagnan.

The Man from Meung comes to see Milady. He is the Comte de Rochefort, the personal spy of the Cardinal. Milady tells him to have a carriage come and take her and Madame Bonacieux to Amentieres as soon as possible. She tells Madame Bonacieux that Cardinalist agents are coming to kidnap Madame Bonacieux and that she must come with Milady.

The Musketeers arrive first, foiling Milady's plan. She tries to get Madame Bonacieux, who has not seen them and thinks the Cardinalists have arrived, to run away with her, but Madame Bonacieux is paralyzed with fright. Disgusted, Milady poisons some wine and gives it to Madame Bonacieux to drink and then escapes by herself.

D'Artagnan comes in, and Madame Bonacieux dies in his arms. Lord de Winter arrives, looking for Milady. Athos tells de Winter that Milady is his wife, and they all join forces to chase her.

Athos sends the Musketeers' servants out to find out where in Amentieres Milady is, and then he and the others go to Madame Bonacieux's funeral. Athos then makes a mysterious visit to an unnamed stranger, whom he convinces to help them. When the servants return with Milady's whereabouts, the men all chase her and catch her just as she's about to leave France. They try her for all her crimes of murder and attempted murder and for inciting others to murder. When Athos mentions the fleur-de-lis on her shoulder, she challenges them to find the court that branded her.

The mysterious stranger speaks up now. He is the headsman, or executioner, of the town of Lille, and he knows her whole story. She was a nun who seduced a young priest, who was the headsman's brother. They stole the Communion plate and the priest was caught, but Milady escaped. The headsman had to brand his own brother with the mark of a thief, and he was so enraged that he hunted Milady down and branded her himself. After that, she and the priest went away to Athos's lands, where Athos met and married her. The priest killed himself in mad jealousy and grief after she married Athos.

They sentence her to death for her crimes, and the headsman drags her outside to execute her by cutting off her head. He then throws her head and body into the river.

The Musketeers head back to the siege, but on the way, de Rochefort arrests d'Artagnan in the Cardinal's name. In a private encounter with the Cardinal, d'Artagnan tells the Cardinal that the woman who made all the accusations against him was a murderer and thief and that she's now dead. He tells the Cardinal the whole story of her life and hands the Cardinal the safeconduct pass that Athos stole from her, which says that the person holding it is free to do as he pleases, in the Cardinal's name. This letter frees him from being punished for anything he's done. The Cardinal, of course, could ignore this since he didn't issue the letter to d'Artagnan, but he admires d'Artagnan's cleverness and writes out a promotion to lieutenant in the Musketeers. The promotion has a blank space for the name, so that, like the letter, it can be used by anyone.

D'Artagnan tries to convince each of his three friends to take the promotion, but they insist that he take it. He does not like losing his friends, but he has no choice but to take the promotion.

The siege ends after about a year, d'Artagnan has a great career in the Musketeers, and he and de Rochefort eventually duel three times and then become friends. Athos retires to the provinces, Porthos marries his mistress after her husband dies, and Aramis becomes a monk.


Queen Anne

Queen Anne is married to King Louis XIII. She is originally from Spain, and is unhappy and unsettled as queen of France. She is still loyal to her Spanish origins, but wants to feel secure as queen; and she is in love with an Englishman, the Duke of Buckingham. The King knows she doesn't love him and he doesn't trust her. The Cardinal hates her.


Aramis is handsome to the point of being almost beautiful. He claims that he's only in the Musketeers for a short term and that soon he will become a priest, his true calling, but he makes no attempt to leave the Musketeers' ranks. He is described as having "a demure and innocent expression, dark, gentle eyes and downy pink cheeks like an autumn peach." He spoke very little and when he spoke he drawled. Despite his effete mannerisms, he is a skilled fighter, and has great inner strength; when he is wounded, he says little, but keeps on fighting until he collapses. He never uses injury as an excuse to escape his duty, or a good fight. He has a mistress, Madame de Chevreuse, but he is private about his personal life and does not usually discuss her, or her identity, with the other Musketeers.


Athos is the leader of the Musketeers, partly because he is older than the others, but also because he is highly intelligent and brave and is a phenomenal fighter. He carries a secret sorrow and is usually melancholy. Later in the book he reveals that he was born a noble lord and once fell in love with a beautiful girl of sixteen, who seemed pure and devoted, who had moved to the area with her brother, a priest. Deeply in love, Athos flouted tradition, which said that noble men should only marry noble women, and married the girl. Only after the marriage did he discover that she was branded with a fleur-de-lis on one shoulder—the mark of a thief. She had stolen a gold communion plate from a church. The "brother" was her first lover and her accomplice; they had conspired to marry her to Athos to get Athos's money. When Athos discovered that his beautiful love had betrayed him, he used his title as ruler and justice of the region to tie her hands behind her back and hang her from a tree until she apparently died. He tells d'Artagnan, "That cured me for ever of women, of enchanting creatures lovely as the dawn, and with the souls of poets. God grant you the same experience!" This cynicism masks a bitter pain and loneliness, which has marked Athos for life.


Bazin is Aramis's personal servant. He is eager for Aramis to quit being a Musketeer and enter the Church.

Madame Bonacieux

Madame Bonacieux is the wife of Monsieur Bonacieux. She is lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne and is completely loyal to her. She's also beautiful and not above flirting behind her husband's back, and when d'Artagnan falls in love with her, he's drawn into a web of intrigue involving the King, the Queen, Cardinal Richelieu, Milady, and other noble and dangerous players.

Monsieur Bonacieux

Monsieur Bonacieux is d'Artagnan's landlord and the husband of Madame Bonacieux. He is weak willed and cowardly. When his wife is kidnapped, he first goes to d'Artagnan for help in finding her but then turns against his wife after the Cardinal flatters and threatens him. After this, he is loyal to the Cardinal.

Duke of Buckingham

The Duke of Buckingham, whose real name is George Villiers, is hopelessly in love with Queen Anne and will do anything to see her and to make her happy. Back in England, he is Minister of War for King Charles I, a position that makes it necessary for him to travel to France on diplomatic missions. During these trips, he always tries to see the Queen or send her loving messages. He is a true nobleman and is good-looking, rich, powerful, loyal, and brave.


D'Artagnan is the hero of the novel. He is a young man from a noble but impoverished family, who leaves his home province of Gascony and goes to Paris, hoping to make his fortune. He is ambitious, proud, brave, clever, and insightful, but he is also impetuous and, because of his rural upbringing, not very wise about the ways of the world. Soon after he arrives in Paris, he inadvertently offends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, three of the King's Musketeers and ends up scheduled to fight three duels, one after the other, against these master swordsmen. The fight is interrupted by the arrival of Cardinal Richelieu's guards, and in the ensuing battle against them, d'Artagnan impresses the Musketeers so much that they all become friends, showing how d'Artagnan's personal charm, quick thinking, and gentlemanly conduct affect those around him. He also has a zest for love and romance, and he generally follows the chivalrous ideals of his class, although like many energetic young men, he sometimes tosses these ideals aside when he sees a pretty face.

Madame d'Artagnan

D'Artagnan's mother is filled with sorrow when he leaves home. Unlike her husband, who feels the same way but hides it, she cries openly. She gives him a parting gift of the recipe for a miraculous herbal salve that will heal all wounds, except heart wounds.

Monsieur d'Artagnan

Monsieur d'Artagnan, d'Artagnan's father, is an impoverished nobleman who clings to courtly ideals despite his financial ruin. He has taught sword fighting to d'Artagnan, a skill that will hold him in good stead. He is loyal to friends and family, aware of both the rights and responsibilities of his rank, and a staunch upholder of tradition. When d'Artagnan leaves home, he tells him, "Be honest and above board with everyone. Always remember your rank and carry on the tradition of good behaviour which your family has been true to for the past five hundred years." He also tells him, "Stand no nonsense from anyone but the King and the Cardinal. Remember, nowadays it's only by personal courage that a man can get by in the world," and he warns him to take opportunity without thinking and to take risks, live adventurously, and never shy from danger. All of these are ideals that d'Artagnan carries within him, and he lives them throughout the book.

Madame de Chevreuse

Madame de Chevreuse is Aramis's mistress. Because she is a friend of the Queen, the King sends her out of Paris because the Cardinal convinces him that she is helping the Queen conspire against the King.

Madame de Coquenard

Madame de Coquenard is married to a rich attorney, but she is Porthos's mistress. She adores him, and his visits are the high point of her life.

Comte de Rochefort

The Comte, the Cardinal's personal spy, is called "The Man from Meung" through most of the book because no one knows who he really is. He is d'Artagnan's personal nemesis and a mysterious figure who always appears when things are going wrong.

Monsieur de Treville

Monsieur de Treville is tough, strong, intelligent, and shrewd. He is the captain of the King's Musketeers. He is originally from the same province as d'Artagnan, and he and d'Artagnan's father are old friends. When de Treville was a child, he was a playmate of King Louis XIII, and like all children, they often wrestled and fought; often, de Treville gave the King a royal trouncing, leading the King to respect him for the rest of his life. This early exposure to royalty opened doors for him, but he has not earned his position only through royal favor. As d'Artagnan's father tells d'Artagnan, "Between this King's accession to power and the present day he's fought at least a hundred other duels, perhaps more. He's defied edicts, ordinance and decrees and see where he's got to! He's head of … a band of dare-devil heros who terrify the Cardinal, the great Cardinal, and it takes a good deal to frighten him." As his position shows, he is utterly loyal to the King.

Comte de Wardes

Comte de Wardes is loyal to the Cardinal and is one of his spies. Lady de Winter is in love with him.

Lady de Winter

Called "Milady" by many of the characters, she is beautiful, with a heart as evil as her face is lovely. She is sly, cunning, and loyal to Cardinal Richelieu, and she and the Musketeers are sworn enemies. She has a mysterious past; she claims to be from England but speaks French perfectly. (How did she become connected with the Cardinal?) And when d'Artagnan gets involved in a scuffle with her and tears her nightdress, he finds that she has a fleur-de-lis branded on her left shoulder. (What horrible crime did she commit to earn it?) Ultimately, the reader finds that she is the same woman who once married Athos. D'Artagnan is fascinated with her; she is unutterably beautiful, but when she thinks no one is watching, he sees her face change to that of a murdering animal.

Lord de Winter

Lord de Winter is Lady de Winter's brotherin-law. He is fastidious about his personal appearance and doesn't like to become involved in action, but later in the book, he becomes involved in Lady de Winter's intrigues.

John Felton

John Felton is an officer in the British navy. He is the ward of Lord de Winter and is a Protestant.


Grimaud is Athos's servant. Athos has taught him hand signals so he can communicate without speaking, and he is totally silent.


Kitty is Lady de Winter's personal maid. She falls in love with d'Artagnan and, hoping to please him, allows him access to Lady de Winter's private chambers. She is sweet but easily led and becomes jealous when d'Artagnan seems more interested in Lady de Winter than in her.

King Louis XIII

King Louis XIII is weak, insecure, easily confused and led astray, and petty. He is manipulated by his various advisors, particularly Cardinal Richelieu, who use his petty obsessions against him; for example, the Cardinal uses his insecurity about his wife's affection for him to set a trap for the Queen. The King is oblivious of this and thinks those who manipulate him most are those who are most loyal.

The Man from Meung

See Comte de Rochefort


See Lady de Winter


Mousqueton is Porthos's personal servant. He is similar to Porthos in that he has a taste for luxury.


Planchet is d'Artagnan's personal servant. He is loyal, smart, and brave, and he will follow d'Artagnan anywhere.


Porthos is loud and vain, and he likes to brag and to appear wealthier than he is. For example, he wears a gold-embroidered sash, but the gold is only where people can see it; where the sash can't be seen, under his cloak, it is plain. However, these flaws of vanity and self-importance are largely superficial; when it counts, he's brave and loyal, always ready to fight to the death for his honor or his friends' safety. He is the lover of Madame Coquenard, who is married to a rich attorney.

Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal Richelieu, not the King, is the strongest man in the Kingdom and the true leader of France. He is egotistical, controlling, manipulative, and sly, but he understands people and their motives and thus is extremely effective at getting things done; if he were not evil, he would be a phenomenal leader. Although he hates the King and is secretly his rival, he publicly promotes loyalty to the King and privately acts as his advisor because he knows that his power and position are based on those of the King. Although he is a Cardinal, a high religious office, he is the least devout person in the book and the most evil; his character thus provides a commentary on Dumas's views of the corrupt nature of the Catholic Church during this period.


The Quest

The book begins with a quest: young d'Artagnan sets out for Paris to seek his fortune. Like many heroes of quests, he is of noble birth but humble circumstance and must rely on his own wits and talent to rise to the level of his destiny. He yearns to be a Musketeer but must first prove himself worthy of the position. Aided by his father's friend, de Treville, he becomes a guard, and because of his curiosity, initiative, and pride, he is drawn into the center of a web of intrigue that eventually allows him to prove his worth and gain success as a Musketeer.

The book also contains another quest: the Musketeers join forces to protect the honor of the Queen, to help her conceal her affair with Buckingham, and to help her to arrange meetings with him. This may seem like a relatively trivial matter to most modern readers when compared to the urgencies of the political situation of the time, but according to the code of chivalry and honor that the Musketeers be-lieve in, fostering true love is of the highest importance.


All of the Musketeers view love as an exalted state and revere chivalry and honor. For example, their main mission in the book is to help Queen Anne in her affair with the Duke of Buckingham because they recognize that she and Buckingham share true love. D'Artagnan falls in love with Madame Bonacieux and gets into any number of dangerous situations when he tries to protect her from their mutual enemies. Athos, who once loved a woman, was forever scarred when she turned out to be a thief and liar who betrayed him.


Despite their interest in true love, the characters are curiously amoral. If a woman is married, this is no obstacle to true love; they will happily have an affair with her if she's attractive enough. Although they defend each other to the death, they cheerfully kill any and all enemies and never give the dead another thought. And although they value honor and integrity, this does not extend to their enemies; d'Artagnan would defend Madame Bonacieux with his life, but he deceives Milady into making love with him in order to get revenge on her and lies to her maid Kitty, telling her he loves her to get information and help in his campaign against Milady.


Complicated Story Line

The Three Musketeers, like other romances originally published in serial form, does not have the type of plot structure that modern readers recognize and approve of. There is no slow development of events, no building to a major climax. Instead, the action starts explosively and then simply continues, with new threads of action being woven in as the novel moves along. At some points, readers may feel that the book isn't getting anywhere but soon forget this as they become caught up in the action again. Although the chapters often end on "cliffhanger" notes, the plot is so complicated, with so many characters and events, that the overall story line of the book is difficult to sum up or describe.

Vivid Characters

Dumas's characters are vividly drawn and easily recognizable: d'Artagnan, with his youthful optimism, country-bumpkin naivete, and belief in his own self-worth; Athos, who is melancholy and carries a secret sorrow; Porthos, who is loud, grandiose, and flamboyant; and Aramis, who is somewhat effeminate and who longs to enter the Church. They are not "deep" characters, and the reader learns little about their inner feelings and motivations and even less of their pasts, but they are drawn vividly enough to become memorable people who remain in readers' minds and engage their interest.

Topics for Further Study

  • Research the code of chivalry and the ideals it upholds. How do the Musketeers advocate this code? Find several events in which their actions may be chivalrous but on another level are amoral or inhumane.
  • The Musketeers' loyalty to each other, and their enthusiastic killing of enemies, is similar in some ways to how modern gangs operate. Read about modern gangs and write about the similarities and differences between them and the Musketeers.
  • How accurately did Dumas portray Cardinal Richelieu? Read about the Cardinal's life and compare his real life to the life portrayed in The Three Musketeers.
  • Dumas presents the siege of La Rochelle as an amusing picnic for the Musketeers. What was war really like in the seventeenth century?

Most of the supporting cast are "stock" characters who do not change or grow over the course of the novel: the evil Cardinal, the bumbling King, the beautiful Madame Bonacieux. These simple characters are a typical feature of the novels of Dumas's time.

Swashbuckling Action

Although Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan are all very different characters, they have one thing in common: they are men of action who don't spend a lot of time considering the deeper meaning of life or of their actions. If someone is an enemy, they kill him and don't waste time wondering if they did the right thing or if his wife and children will grieve. They're ruthless with their swords, moving from one fight to the next with dispatch and energy. In the same way, if a woman is pretty, they flirt with her, whether she's married or not, and d'Artagnan is not above pretending to love a woman if she has valuable information he can use. They are careless about money, spending it if they have it and never worrying about tomorrow if they don't. Loyal to the death to each other, they have no compunctions about lying to others if the others are enemies or if it will get them what they need.

In all these traits, they are classic action heroes, similar to heroes of modern films, comic books, and novels. Dumas's style emphasizes action, and from his point of view, it had better be fast and entertaining.

Short, Fast-Moving Lines

La Presse, the newspaper in which the novel first appeared in serial form, paid authors by the line, so that a one-word line of dialogue, such as "Yes" paid as much as a whole sentence. Dumas invented the character of Grimaud, a servant, who had the habit of answering questions with a single word. This allowed Dumas to make a great deal of money without much work, until the paper changed the rule so that a "line" had to cover at least half the column. Dumas promptly killed off Grimaud, and according to Andre Maurois in The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas, told a friend who asked why, "I only invented him as a fill-up. He's no good to me now." Although Grimaud became a totally silent character in the novel version, Dumas's technique of using short, quick stretches of rapid repartee remained so that his work seems remarkably modern. He doesn't waste time or space on "he said" or "she said," when it isn't necessary, but simply presents the dialogue and trusts the reader to figure out who is speaking, as in the following excerpt:

They've been seeing each other.

Who? asked the Cardinal.

She and he.

The Queen and the Duke?



At the Louvre.

You're sure of that?


Who told you?

Madame de Lannoy, who's absolutely trustworthy.

In World and I, Cynthia Grenier remarked, "Dumas's special talents were ahead of their time. His gift for creating dialogue and character and action plus his way of working with collaborators would have made him ideally suited for working for motion pictures."

Historical Context

Many of the characters who appear in The Three Musketeers were real people who are depicted reasonably accurately in the novel, although Dumas did take fictional liberties with their actions. King Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Richelieu were important people during the period of the novel. Monsieur de Treville and Richelieu really were enemies—in fact, in 1642, de Treville was part of a plot to assassinate the Cardinal. Richelieu did have his own personal company of guards, who did have a fierce rivalry with the Musketeers. The tension between France and England, and the ensuing war in which the Guards and Musketeers fought, was an historical fact.

Louis XIII (1601–1643) ruled France from 1610 until his death, but the real ruler for much of that time was his domineering mother, Marie de' Medici. In 1617, he arranged the assassination of her minister, Concino Concini, forcing her into retirement. In 1622, he and she were reconciled, however, and in 1624, he allowed her protégé, Cardinal Richelieu, to run the government as chief minister. When his mother urged him to remove Richelieu from power in 1630, Louis, who believed Richelieu was on his side, sent his mother into exile instead. As in Dumas's book, Louis was melancholy and not very bright when it came to dealing with people, and he was happy to have the Cardinal do the work of ruling for him.

Richelieu strengthened the authority of the king and centralized government control. He also lessened the power of the nobility in favor of the king and suppressed the Huguenots, a Protestant faction, who were humbled by the siege of La Rochelle, which is described (albeit unrealistically) in the book.

D'Artagnan's character was based on Charles de Batz-Castelmore, who was from Gascony and had the title Sieur d'Artagnan through his mother's family. He left his home province in 1640 (the novel has him leaving home in 1625). He served as a Musketeer under Cardinal Mazarin and King Louis XIV (not, as in the book, their predecessors Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII) and had a distinguished career. He died in 1673 while fighting at the siege of Maestricht.

In addition, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos were based on real people. Porthos was really Isaac de Porthos, who was a member of Captain des Essart's company of the King's Guards until 1643. After 1643, he served as a Musketeer with d'Artagnan. Aramis's character was based on Henry d'Aramitz, who was a relative of Monsieur de Treville, and became a Musketeer in 1640. Athos was really Seigner d'Athos et d'Auteville and was also a relative of de Treville's. He was a Musketeer and died in 1643, apparently as the result of a duel.

The main exception to Dumas's use of real people as bases for his characters is "Milady," or Lady de Winter. She was a creation of Dumas's, and it is interesting that she dominates the second half of the book, more than any of the "real" historical characters do.

Compare & Contrast

  • 1600s: Medicine is in its infancy and still consists mostly of the use of herbs and other traditional medicines, many of which are more harmful than no treatment at all. No one knows that germs and viruses exist, and antibiotics, vaccines, and painkillers are unknown. People who are injured in duels, wars, or other combats often die from infections.

    1800s: Although doctors still use bleeding, purging, and some dangerous substances that have no therapeutic value, they have discovered morphine, digitalis, and other drugs, as well as the importance of cleanliness in preventing disease.

    Today: Medicine has rapidly advanced, with new treatments being invented every year. The most striking advance is the recent decoding of the entire human genome, which may allow treatment of previously incurable diseases.
  • 1600s: King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu consolidate royal power, decrease the power of the nobles, and begin suppression of Protestants.

    1800s: King Louis Philippe promotes a rapprochement with England (although this ended in 1846). His unpopularity eventually leads to the French Revolution of 1848, after which he abdicates.

    Today: France is a democracy, with religious freedom for all, and both France and England are members of the European Union.
  • 1600s: Flintlock firearms are developed in the early 1600s, but swords are still important in combat.

    1800s: Percussion cap firearms, more reliable than flintlocks, are invented in the early 1800s, and guns become more common weapons than swords. However, swords are still used in hand-to-hand fighting.

    Today: With the development and widespread use of very accurate guns, swords are obsolete except for ceremonial uses.

Critical Overview

Dumas has been criticized largely because of his use of collaborators to produce his fiction and because his books have more action than emotional depth. Authors of his day were jealous of his phenomenal success; as Andre Maurois wrote in The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas, "It was a scandal that a single writer should produce all the serials in all the papers; offensive that he should employ a team of anonymous col-laborators." However, it must be remembered that at the time, it was considered perfectly acceptable for most writers to work with collaborators; what his detractors really objected to was his sheer volume and the success that emanated from it. One, Eugene de Mirecourt, went so far as to publish a pamphlet attacking Dumas, but it was so tastelessly written and so filled with offensive attacks on Dumas's African heritage and personal life that it was ignored.

His contemporaries also objected to Dumas's use of history for his own ends and his not being completely true to the facts. In Smithsonian, Victoria Foote-Greenwell wrote that when Dumas was accused of raping history, he replied, "Yes, but look how beautiful the children are."

According to J. Lucas-Dubreton in The Fourth Musketeer: The Life of Alexandre Dumas, Balzac actually could not stop reading the book once he got it, and although he scoffed at Dumas's use of history, he admitted that Dumas was a master storyteller.

Despite his use of collaborators, Dumas's talent for creating characters, dialogue, and interesting turns of events was the spark that could ignite even the dullest of plot frameworks. Maurois wrote, "Dumas had genius of a certain kind—the genius that comes of vigour and a sense of the dramatic." Maurois also noted that the book's charm comes from the fact that Dumas conveys "a living spirit of France … an epitome of that gracious, courageous, light-hearted France which we still like to recover through the imagination." In addition, he remarked that the lasting popularity of the book through the centuries and throughout the world is the surest mark of its value.

Lucas-Dubreton called the book a "masterpiece which remains as fresh and living as if it were written yesterday." Foote-Greenwell remarked that despite its length, improbable plot, and exaggerated events, "the book, awash with derring-do and sly comedy, is also great fun to read," and that this was the secret of its success. She also remarked that the book's fast action, adventure, and vivid characters "make Dumas's books a treasure trove for celluloid."

In Great Foreign Language Writers, Barnett Shaw wrote, "Two hundred years from now, you can be sure that at any given moment, someone, in some far-off place, will be reading The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo in one of the dozens of languages into which Dumas has been translated."


Kelly Winters

Winters is a freelance writer and has written for a wide variety of educational publishers. In this essay, she considers modern elements of Dumas's writing style in The Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers is still read and loved today, despite the fact that it was written over 150 years ago. Most work from that time has been forgotten, but Dumas's style, largely shaped by his originally publishing the story as a serial, is remarkably fresh and modern.

The style and structure of the novel were shaped by Dumas's need to write it as a serial, or, as the French called it, a feuilleton. Each week, a chapter would appear in the newspaper, ending on a suspenseful event, with the note, "To be continued in our next edition." This kept readers hooked, and it kept them buying papers.

Unlike some other writers of his time, Dumas could not afford to begin his story with a lengthy description of his characters' family background and personal history. A more traditional novel might explore d'Artagnan's family's past and explain why his father, a nobleman, had fallen on hard times, but Dumas doesn't bother. He dives right in. In the first pages of the novel, d'Artagnan has already left home and his bizarre-looking horse is already creating a ruckus in the market of the town of Meung. Readers find out later why he has left home and who his family is, but this is secondary to the action: he meets the man who will be his nemesis throughout the novel, the mysterious "Man from Meung."

Knowing that readers might not remember from week to week where he had last left off the story, Dumas recapitulates at the beginning of each chapter, telling readers the time, date, and place of the action.

Another aspect of the serial structure that affects the telling of the story derives from the fact that readers did not have the concentrated span of time necessary to delve into the psyches of complex characters. Thus, the characters don't change or grow much over the course of the novel. Although their fate may change, as when d'Artagnan is made a Musketeer and then a lieutenant, their personalities do not: they remain as they were when they were introduced in the first chapter. D'Artagnan remains quick-witted, energetic, and proud; Athos remains melancholy; Porthos remains strong and flamboyant; and Aramis retains his almost effeminate looks and his desire to join the Church. The Cardinal is evil through and through, although he does come to a truce with the Musketeers, and Milady similarly begins evil and stays that way, never learning from the consequences of her actions. These types of "flat" characters are a necessary part of serial fiction; their unchanging traits and appearance help readers remember them when picking up the story after some time has lapsed.

In addition to his strikingly modern technique of beginning the tale in the middle of the action, leaving out slow-moving background information, and ending each chapter on a cliffhanger, Dumas's style of dialogue also seems remarkably fresh to the modern ear. His dialogue is fast paced and often witty, despite the fact that it was written over 150 years ago by a man who lived in a society very different from modern times.

For example d'Artagnan gets in trouble with Porthos when he runs into him, gets entangled in his cloak, and notices what no one else has seen: Porthos's magnificent gold shoulder-belt is only gold in front, where it's visible. Under his cloak, it's plain fabric, revealing that he's a showoff and a braggart but is not really as well off as he would like others to think. Porthos asks d'Artagnan what he's doing, and d'Artagnan replies, "I'm very sorry, but I'm in a great hurry. I'm running after someone." Porthos angrily demands, "Do you always leave your eyes at home when you run?" D'Artagnan replies, "No, and my eyes are so good that they sometimes see things other people don't see," a sly dig to the embarrassing plainness of the back half of Porthos's shoulder belt. This of course angers Porthos, and the two schedule a duel.

In another amusing bit of dialogue, d'Artagnan gets in trouble with Aramis when he picks up a handkerchief Aramis has dropped. The handkerchief belongs to Aramis's mistress, and since one of her husband's friends is standing by, Aramis is not anxious to admit that she gave it to him. D'Artagnan insists that it belongs to Aramis, prompting Aramis to challenge him to a duel for embarrassing him. At the duel, Aramis doesn't want to tell the other Musketeers what the fight is about, so he says, "I'm fighting him on theological grounds," and the quick-witted d'Artagnan agrees, "Yes, we had a little dispute about a certain passage in St. Augustine."

In other cases, the dialogue sounds remarkably similar to conversations in modern movies, as when d'Artagnan bullies a stranger, asking for his travel permit:

I want your travel permit. I haven't got one and I must have one.

Are you mad?

Not at all. I simply want your travel permit.

Let me pass at once!

No, Sir, said d'Artagnan.

And he stood barring the stranger's way.

In that case, Sir, I shall have to blow your brains out!

Another aspect of Dumas's style that gives it a modern feel is his use of short paragraphs, often only one or two lines long. This is in striking contrast to many other nineteenth-century works. A glance at the literature of the period usually shows lengthy paragraphs, sometimes a page long, with little dialogue. Dumas broke up his scenes into short, quick actions and stretches of fast dialogue, which makes the book read very quickly, like any modern "page-turner."

Part of the reason he did this may have been that he was not paid by the word, like many other writers (such as Dickens), but by the line. Thus, he would be paid three francs for the sentence, "Yes, I did see the Queen, at the Louvre," which would have covered one line. However, he could break up that line into six, for example:

Have you seen her?


The Queen!



At the Louvre!

By doing this, he could make eighteen francs, or six times as much, for the same amount of work. His characters frequently interrupt each other and ask short questions, which are replied to with one-word answers that require more questions to get the full information. They then interrupt the answers, making for even more lines.

Although Dumas may have hit on this technique in order to make more money, it had the side effect of making the story read very rapidly. Modern writers use the same technique, not because they're paid more—even in Dumas's time, editors wised up to this trick and refused to pay for one-word lines—but because they know it keeps readers in the story. Pick up any modern detective story, suspense thriller, or bestseller, and the same pattern of short paragraphs, a great deal of dialogue, and short lines will most likely appear on the pages.

His style of dialogue also appears realistic. In real life, people do interrupt each other, and they rarely give a full explanation of anything when asked a question. A fatal flaw of much nineteenth-century fiction, and bad modern fiction, is dialogue in which people explain too much:

As you know, Robert, my father has held this land since the late 1600s, when his ancestor came over from Ireland with only a few pennies in his pocket, married a rich Virginia girl, and used her fortune to begin raising horses.

This sort of thing is deadly for most readers, who will close the book in boredom.

It's impossible to know now how much of The Three Musketeers was the work of Auguste Ma-quet, Dumas's collaborator, and what exactly Dumas did for the work, but it's easy to guess. Typically, Maquet would draw up an outline of events, characters, and scenes, which Dumas would bring to life with dialogue, humor, vivid description, and breakneck action. This method of working is common today in television and film production, where a writer's original work is often drastically rewritten to cut out any slow parts and fill it with action and intrigue.

Dumas, who used collaborators for most of his work, was very open about the practice; in fact, he wanted to have Maquet's name printed along with his as the author of the serials, but the newspaper editors objected, saying that Dumas's name alone would sell far more copies than those of Maquet and Dumas together. They refused to print Maquet's name, leaving Dumas open to accusations that he abused his collaborators, making money off their work and doing little of his own. However, even in his own time, these accusations didn't go far. At a trial aimed at determining who was the true author of The Three Musketeers, Maquet presented his version along with Dumas's, hoping that it would convince the judge that he was the real author. Instead, his version was so colorless and lifeless compared to Dumas's that the case went nowhere. All of Dumas's collaborators have been forgotten, and none of their own work is still read, proving that Dumas's talent was the spark that brought the stories to life.

Source: Kelly Winters, Critical Essay on The Three Musketeers, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2002.

R. S. Garnett

In the following essay, Garnett discusses the question of authorship of The Three Muskateers.

On the evening of 27th October 1845, an unrehearsed scene took place on the stage of the Am-bigu Theatre, Paris. On the final fall of the curtain, while the applause still thundered, a man precipitated himself on the stage, where, shedding tears of mingled joy and gratitude, he embraced another man.

The first man was Auguste Maquet.

The man whom he embraced was Alexandre Dumas.

The play that had been performed was The Musketeers.

Dumas fils, who narrates the incident, says that he was in a box, Maquet and his family being in the next one as ordinary spectators, they having no expectation of the occurrence of anything unusual; that the piece was nearing the end when his father summoned him by means of an attendant, and said, "If the play continues to go like this, I promise you some pleasure. I want to give Maquet the surprise of hearing himself named with me. No warning. And you will see how he takes it. But be careful to say nothing."

What Do I Read Next?

  • Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask (1848–1850) tells the tale of a mysterious political prisoner in the late 1600s.
  • Dumas's Twenty Years After (1845) is a sequel to The Three Musketeers and continues the story of d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
  • In Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo (1844–1845), Edmond Dantes is falsely accused of treason and arrested on his wedding day. He escapes to seek revenge.
  • Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), set in fifteenth-century Paris, tells the story of a deformed bell-ringer who falls in love with a beautiful woman.
  • Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (1910) is the tale of a disfigured man who falls in love with a beautiful singer.

The Three Musketeers is one of those rare books which have a universal popularity. The man hardly exists who can read of the adventures of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan unmoved. Perhaps he could find a score of critical objections to the story if he tried; but he will not care to try, and he will never forget the pleasure he experienced. From Flaubert and Stevenson to the man in the street, admirers of the book are numberless. The romance on its publication in 1844 won instant fame; in Paris copies disappeared like snowflakes in sunshine, and almost at once translators were at work. In recent years a statue of d'Artagnan has been unveiled, archives have been ransacked for facts about his family and those of his companions in arms, and books and articles have been published about them. Today the cinematograph is showing the Musketeers all the world over, and they are the subject of an opera. D'Artagnan had by far the most distinguished career of the four; it is said that his master, Louis XIV., wrote a verse to commemorate him when he was killed at the siege of Maëstricht. Furthermore, a prolific author of the time, Gatien Courtilz de Sandras, wrote three thick volumes entitled Mémoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan. Much read in its day, this book passed into oblivion. After its use as the idea or foundation for the romance called The Three Musketeers, copies were sought for. Thackeray tells us that he chanced to pick up the first volume in Gray's Inn Road, London, for 5d., and that he liked d'Artagnan in that book best. Victor Hugo bitterly regretted Dumas' use of it, he himself wanting to utilise one of its episodes. A partial version in English has appeared. As for The Three Musketeers it is read as much as or more than ever, and the few who do not like it are resigned to its selling for aye with its sequels Vingt ans après and Le Vicomte de Bragelonne.

In the month of January 1919 the European bookshops began to display a volume encircled by a band bearing the conundrum


The text within the covers gave as the answer—Maquet.

The author, M. Gustave Simon, wrote on behalf of the Maquet family. He held all the Maquet papers, and claimed to be fulfilling a duty imposed by Maquet on his heirs. The book was the forerunner of the cause-célèbre, echoes of which reverberate throughout the world of letters even today. The lawsuit, which turned chiefly on the interpretation of a contract between Dumas and Maquet and the application thereto of the copyright law in respect of the author's royalties, has been decided. The books written by Dumas and Maquet in collaboration still bear the name of Dumas only; but nearly all those who have read M. Simon's book, and thousands who have not read it, but have read the almost unanimous verdict of the French Press in Maquet's favour, consider that he was the author of The Three Musketeers. M. Simon's thunderbolt first fell from the Revue de Paris, for it was there that the most striking portion of his book appeared. In his book he complacently refers to the anguish of men of letters, who, after reading the Revue, asked themselves what had Dumas to do with The Musketeers, seeing that Maquet had found the subject of the romance and then written it. M. Simon, in effect, answers: "I cannot help it. It is the documents that are in Maquet's favour." Well, I ask no better than to be allowed to prove by reference to documents that M. Simon is in error. The anguish of the men of letters will then be relieved, and it is hardly too much to say that even unlettered men will breathe more freely. If Maquet really and truly were the author of The Three Musketeers, ought they not to read the many volumes signed 'Auguste Maquet'?

As M. Simon's book preceded the lawsuit, he had not the pleasure of recording there that, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, his conclusions were adopted by M. le Substitut Tronche-Macaire in a speech which has become famous. M. le Substitut would be astonished to find that his speech must now be corrected.

Alexandre Dumas, who was born in 1802, and was the despair of his would-be instructors, after living in dire poverty, educated himself and achieved fame in 1829, when his play Henri III. et sa cour gained a triumphant success. On that eventful night, his collar, cut by himself, was of paper, but this passed unobserved, so dazzling was the triumph which was applauded by a score of princes and princesses blazing with diamonds. Before Maquet made his acquaintance, early in 1839, Dumas had successively produced Christine, Antony, Richard Darlington, Le Mari de la Veuve, La Tour de Nesle, and other equally remarkable plays besides fresh and charming volumes of Impressions de Voyage, and many novels and romances, chief among which, perhaps, was Acté, a tale of the days of Nero, which had placed him in the front rank of historical novelists. Everything that he produced was the subject of violent controversies, and yet looking back, we see that in 1839, in France, Dumas' works ranked in popular esteem only after Lamartine's and Victor Hugo's. In England his name was scarcely known. His personality was more than attractive—magnetic; his conversational powers unforgettable.

Auguste Maquet, who was born in 1813, was a model student, and at an early age turned a good education to account, for he earned his living as a school teacher, while he wrote plays in collaboration with his young friends Théophile Gautier and Gérard de Nerval—plays which were not performed, however. The school management, rightly suspecting him of being at heart a Romantic, treated him too hardly; he handed in his resignation. In his desk were some five or six MS. plays. One of them, entitled Un Soir de Carnaval, was judged worth the offer to a manager. On its refusal, Gérard de Nerval took it to his friend Dumas. Dumas, wholly to oblige Nerval, rewrote it, called it Bathilde, and sent it to the same manager who had refused Un Soir de Carnaval. It was accepted, and successfully performed as Maquet's work.

It was in this way, then, that Maquet, whose personality was reserved, a little unsympathetic, made Dumas' acquaintance. Maquet next wrote a novel in two volumes called Paresse, which relied on analysis of character rather than on action for its interest, but he failed to place it with a publisher. Not allowing himself to be discouraged, he resolved to follow Dumas' example, and weave an episode from history into a story, a story of (it is said) sixty pages called Le Bonhomme Buvat, ou Le Conspiration de Cellamare, and offered it to the Presse. The editor declined it. The dispirited author, happening to meet Dumas, briefly told him the subject of the story, which Dumas, after paying for it, took to Florence, where, utilising it, he wrote the celebrated romance in four volumes known as Le Chevalier d'Harmental (1843). With another somewhat similar and equally popular historical romance, Ascanio, published by Dumas at about the same time, Maquet had nothing whatever to do. But we know that Maquet received payment from Dumas for the idea, communicated verbally, of a third story called Sylvandire, and that Dumas dedicated the book to Maquet.

So far, Maquet had not collaborated with Dumas, for he had not written a book with him, but it was known that Dumas was indebted to him for ideas. Now he began to find publishers for various stories, which met with some little success. Dumas, in a letter dated 17th February 1845, addressed to the Society of Men of Letters, says that in the preceding two years Maquet had put to his individual credit Le Beau d'Angennes, Les Deux Trahisons, Cinq mots sur un mur, Bathilde, Vincennes, Bicêtre.

Although the first-named work—a romance—is the only one that is in the least remembered today, Maquet must not be thought, as many have considered him, a man who could not stand on his own feet. With a certain modesty and great uprightness of character, he had great facility in composition, ingenuity, a wide fund of information, and an unflagging capacity for work. His education was altogether superior to Dumas', whose knowledge of the world and absolute confidence in himself were then so lacking in his young friend.

We come now to 1844, the year of the publication of The Three Musketeers, which M. Simon calls the most celebrated romance of that period. As a matter of fact, The Count of Monte-Cristo, a large part of which was published in the same year, had an even greater vogue. Ignoring Monte-Cristo for the time being, M. Simon writes:—

In 1844 a great event occurred. It was spoken of everywhere and in all ranks of Society. Announcements were displayed in all the bookshops. It was the publication of The Three Musketeers, a romance! But what a romance! It enraptured the public…. Maquet had until then worked alone. There had been no collaboration properly so called until then. He confined himself to taking his "copy" to Dumas, who manipulated it as he chose, without mutual understanding, without exchange of ideas; he was so full of respect and admiration for the Master, he was so happy to see each of his works favourably received. Was it not for him a kind of warrant of capacity which could create for him rights for the future? And what a stimulant for him, what an exhortation to perseverance. What an eager desire to discover a new subject! What joy to exercise his industry as discoverer! And, above all, what a happy good fortune if he could, without consulting Dumas, bring him some important work. A popular work! He had hunted out the Mémoires d'Artagnan, which were almost unknown at that time. What a windfall! He immediately became enraptured with his subject, his heroes. He wrote, full of ardour, without rest, the sheets accumulated, he was already in possession of several volumes, and he carried his trophy to Dumas.

All this is absorbingly interesting, or would be so, if we were sure that it was a statement derived from documentary evidence, and not the result of M. Simon's imaginative talents. M. Simon naturally foresaw the question: what had Dumas to do with the book? He writes:—

Oh, let us have the indulgence and generosity of Maquet; let us not deprive Dumas of what belongs to him. He had an active part in the collaboration, he modified the order of some chapters, he added some developments, but it was Maquet himself who conceived and conducted the romance. Maquet had handed Dumas his work ("the several volumes"). They discussed it together. Such a splendid subject, with such a scope, necessarily inspired Dumas with new episodes. But the plan and the intrigue were so well contrived, the sheets of "copy" were so numerous that the work of revision was relatively easy. It was not more than the dotting of the i's.

M. Simon does not refer his readers to any documents whatsoever in support of all this, but tells us that Maquet expressly declares in his notes that he wrote the first volumes. "In a list of manuscripts," adds M. Simon, "there are these lines—'Manuscript of the end of The Musketeers. My first work—à moi seul.'"

As against Maquet's private notes, M. Simon cites, however, in the note at the end of his book, a passage from a carefully written letter which was communicated to him as his work was going to press. It was addressed to M. Paul Lacroix with the object of rectifying certain erroneous statements made by a biographer. Maquet wrote:—

All the execution of The Musketeers is wrongly attributed to me. I had, together with Dumas, arranged to write an important work to be drawn from the first volume of the Mémoires d'Artagnan. I had even, with the ardour of youth, begun the first volumes without an agreed plan. Dumas happily intervened with his experience and his talent. We finished it together.

M. Simon cannot explain away this passage, but his final words are, "The author is Maquet."

This letter, especially in the circumstances in which it was written, must altogether outweigh a note which its writer never printed.

So far, in his relations with Maquet, Dumas, as we have seen, had done more than the lion's share; he had adopted ideas and developed them entirely at his ease in his own manner. With what result? That these works, when published, fitted in with and resembled his other works (written by himself alone or in collaboration with others). In fact, La Comtesse de Salisbury, Le Capitaine Paul, Acté, Georges, Gabriel Lambert, Le Capitaine Pamphile, Le Maître d'Armes, Pauline, Les Frères Corses, Amaury, Ascanio, Maître Adam le Calabrais, Isabeau de Bavière, Souvenirs d'Antony, all resemble one another in the same sense that Ivanhoe, The Talisman, Quentin Durward, Anne of Geierstein, widely different though they are, resemble each other. The books bear the stamp of their respective authors.

We turn now to M. Simon on the subject of Monte-Cristo. "It happens that Dumas to set idle gossip at rest wrote an account of the genesis and composition of this book." M. Simon, having found the account, utilised and adopted it. There being no dispute in the matter, I will only say that the idea of the book and the first plan were Dumas'; that in the course of a conversation after Dumas had written a volume and a half, Maquet made a remark of the utmost value about the plan; that Dumas adopted Maquet's view; and that the two men then wrote the rest of the book together. It is clear, therefore, that either M. Simon trusts Dumas to give a correct account of the literary history of Monte-Cristo, or he considers it binding on him because Maquet did not dispute its accuracy.

What would M. Simon not have given to have found a Causerie by Dumas on the subject of The Musketeers? What a drain on his imagination would it not have saved him! Unfortunately, in resorting to his imagination, he completely overlooked the clues given by Dumas both in his Preface to the romance and again in his letter of 1845 to the Society of Men of Letters, wherein, as M. Simon shows, he enumerates his own publications without Maquet's collaboration. This enumeration included his Louis XIV. et son siècle in nine volumes. (Dumas erroneously says ten volumes.) Let us first of all turn to the Preface, and extract a few sentences:—


Wherein it is proved that, in spite of their names in os and is, the heroes of the history which we shall have the honour of relating to our readers are not mythological.

About a year since, while making researches in the Bibliothèque royale for my History of Louis XIV., I lighted by chance on the Mèmoires de M. d'Artagnan, printed, like so very many of the works of that period whose authors wanted to write the truth without risking a more or less lengthy enforced stay in the Bastille, at Amsterdam, and issued by Pierre Rouge. The very title was seductive; I carried it off, by permission of the Librarian, if you please, and I devoured it.

And then Dumas, after referring his readers to the Memoirs, adds:—

But, as is well known, what strikes the poet's capricious fancy is not always what fixes the attention of the Multitude. So while admiring, as others will doubtless do, the details we have mentioned, what struck us was something to which certainly no one else had paid the slightest attention.

D'Artagnan relates how, on his first visit to M. de Tréville, Captain of the King's Musketeers, he encountered in the anteroom three young men serving in the illustrious Corps to which he solicited the honour of admission, and named Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

We admit it, these three strange names struck us, &c, &c, &c.

As for the History of Louis XIV. (with which Maquet had nothing to do), it was there naturally that Dumas had written the name d'Artagnan for the first time. Its readers, moreover, have the pleasure of comparing Dumas, the historian, with Dumas, the romancer; for one of the most exciting episodes in the history—that of the diamond studs given by Anne of Austria to the Duke of Buckingham—is developed in the romance. All who have studied their Dumas know that a mine once found was never relinquished until every ounce of ore had been extracted from it. Did he write a history, it was sure to provide him with a romance or two, and perhaps a play as well; did he write a romance, it would suggest a play, a history, or a volume of memoirs, so-called; and it is astonishing how fresh and delightful each successive work invariably is. Dumas made little use of the Mémoires d'Artagnan for his History of Louis XIV., but the hour or so spent over the first volume was to bear good fruit in due season. How is it that M. Simon neglected both Dumas' Preface and his History of Louis XIV.?

But in all probability M. Simon would say: "I admit that I did not notice these clues, as you call them, but they prove but little. Dumas says that he found the Mémoires at the Bibliotheque royale, but later in his Preface he says that he also found there a manuscript written by the Comte de la Fere, which we know never to have existed. The Preface was a piece of blague. It is of no importance. And as for the History of Louis XIV., I admit that to write it Dumas had to read some volumes of history and memoirs in which the name d'Artagnan occurred, but what then? How do we know that Maquet did not read similar books, including, as I have said in my book, the Mémoires de M. d'Artagnan, which inspired him to write several volumes of The Musketeers. It was a coincidence only that the two friends happened to pursue a similar course of reading. But I confess that if Dumas had devoted a Causerie to The Musketeers, which we know he never did, his volumes of Causeries not having a word about it, if, I say, he had done so—well, then, it would be different…."

I could not quarrel with such remarks as these, and am glad to be able to invite M. Simon to read a Causerie written by Dumas about The Musketeers, with a similar object to his famous Causerie about Monte-Cristo. It is to be found in one of his own journals, in one appropriately named 'D'Artagnan.'

Here it is:—


It was in 1844, as near as I can remember, that there fell into my hands a volume entitled Les Mémoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan, by Courtilz de Sandras.

The book was given to me as a sufficiently correct picture of manners of the Seventeenth Century.

In fact, the Les Mémoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan, published at La Haye in 1689—that is to say, in the most fatal and reactionary period of Louis XIV.,—have preserved a certain cavalier air which was not then the mode, and which, indeed, belongs entirely to the first part of the Seventeenth Century.

I read it without remarking anything more than the three names of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. These three strange names belonged to three Musketeers, friends of d'Artagnan. But in the whole book, to which we refer those who are interested, nothing is explained respecting the characters of those gentlemen.

One episode only struck me—that of the love affair of d'Artagnan with an English woman called Milady, who tries to have him killed by her lover, one de Wardes. But in the book of this romancer, sitting astride on the times of Louis XIV. and Louis XV., everything is glanced at, nothing is really examined, and the style, a really surprising thing at that period which lay between the days of Mme. de Sevigne and those of the Duke de Saint-Simon, style and composition are alike mediocre.

Nevertheless, the names of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis remained in my memory. The episode of Milady, whom I kept on thinking of, in spite of myself, led me to sketch a first outline, altogether a shapeless one, which I submitted for Maquet's appreciation.

Maquet, without caring much for the subject which, besides, was not then found, set himself to work. I retook the book from his hands, and succeeded in communicating to him a certain enthusiasm for the task.

When the book was finished, I, having a contract with the Siecle, sent it to Desnoyers, who at that time superintended the feuilleton, with the title Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

Desnoyers read, or did not read, the four volumes deposited by me in his hands. In any case, he did not much care for them. Nevertheless, as the acceptance of my romance by the Journal had nothing to do with him, he was notified by the Management to send it to the Printer. It was then that I received from him a letter to the following effect:—

"MY DEAR DUMAS,—Many of our subscribers jib at the title, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Some of them believe that it is the history of the three Fates which you have undertaken to write, and as, unless you have new sources of information about these three goddesses, the story does not promise to be gay, I propose the less ambitious but much more popular title of Trois Mousquetaires.

"An answer if you please."

I replied by return of post,

"I am all the more of your opinion to call the romance the Trois Mousquetaires, since, as they are four, the title will be absurd, which promises for the book the greatest success."

The romance was called Les Trois Mousquetaires.

No one remarked that there were four.

It is strange, no doubt, to have to realise that the famous title The Three Musketeers was imposed on Dumas by a man who did not care for the volumes of MS., but we have no choice.—A search of the files of the Siecle has elicited the fact that on 29th December 1843 the feuilleton section con-tained the following announcement: "Athos, Porthos, et Aramis, roman historique en 5 parties par M. Alexandre Dumas," and that on 14th March of the following year the romance began to appear under the title, Les Trois Mousquetaires.

By the side of Dumas' illuminating Causerie I would place some remarks culled from a book which was published in 1848—that is to say, only four years after the publication of The Three Musketeers. The work in question is Galerie des Gens de Lettres au XIX siécle, by Charles Robin. It contains two long and deeply interesting studies on Dumas and Maquet respectively. The latter abounds with intimate personal details, which must have been supplied by Maquet himself or his family, and it is astonishing that it should have been unknown to M. Simon. Respecting Les Trois Mousquetaires, Robin wrote:—

Dumas had sent to Maquet the first volume of the Mémoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan with these few words:—

"My dear friend, tell me whether you think that two men of ability can make an interesting book out of this?" "Certainly," Maquet answered, after having run through the volume in half an hour; and, without even opening the remaining volumes, he took his pen and dashed three or four chapters on the paper. A good beginning was made, and the peculiar character of the book indicated. To what purpose servilely to follow the steps of Courtilz de Sandras? Why not be original, dramatic, and much more amusing than the author of the Mémoires themselves had managed to be?

Alexandre Dumas was not, however, quite of Maquet's opinion. He wished that there should be brought into action in the romance of The Three Musketeers the great historical figures of the time—for instance, Buckingham, Anne of Austria, and many others of minor importance. As for Maquet, he dared to pronounce a contrary opinion; according to him, the action of the romance would gain much and develop much more easily merely with the picturesque element, new characters, and the few well-drawn personages delineated by Sandraz. The success of the book amply justified Dumas.

Nevertheless both opinions combined, both brains and both pens worked together, and this romance of The Three Musketeers, which is simply a masterpiece of its kind, amused the whole of Paris, the whole world, during fifteen months.

It would be interesting, would it not, to ascertain whether Maquet was in agreement with Robin's presentment of the details which he had gleaned, for it is always possible that the writer submitted his notice to Dumas and that Dumas added something. So might M. Simon say, though I think he would agree that certainly it would be totally unlike Dumas to have added anything to his own advantage. Still, we would like to be able to show that Maquet approved of the notice. Well, we are able to do so, thanks this time to M. Simon, for it is from his own book that we quote from a letter written by Maquet in 1857 to a journalist who had asked him for biographical information:—

SIR,—The biography which I have the honour to send you will give you a sufficiently precise idea of my younger days and of my works. The author addressed himself to my family in 1847 to obtain his information.

It remains to fill the gap which separates 1848 from 1857.

The biography was naturally that written by Robin for his Galerie in 1847, and published in 1848. M. Simon cites Maquet's letter without realising at all to what biography Maquet referred. He little dreamt that in so doing he destroyed his own case.

Maquet being satisfied with Robin's statement respecting the matter, there is no longer any need to explain why he (Maquet) failed to challenge the accuracy of Dumas' Causerie, which gives substantially the same account. The fantastic narration of M. Simon—where is it? M. Simon pictured Maquet finding the Mémoires de Monsieur d'Artagnan, pictured his enthusiasm for the subject, for his heroes, his writing several volumes without rest and taking them to Dumas. Why? M. Simon did not know that it was Dumas who had found the Mémoires, Dumas who had supplied the title Athos, Porthos, and Aramis to the Siècle, Dumas who pressed to fulfil his contract, sent the book to Maquet, Dumas who insisted on the story being a roman historique, Dumas who took up the work from Maquet, and completed it with him.

And here is yet another link in the chain of evidence which will interest M. Simon:—

Fiorentino, another of Dumas' "ghosts," records that Dumas, being accustomed to fill his twenty sheets a day, finished Monte-Cristo in his presence on the fifteenth. But not wishing to depart from his rule, the romancer took more paper and completed the first five sheets of the new story—The Musketeers—before finishing for the day.

Here is indisputable evidence that Dumas who, I concede, had received Maquet's "copy," treated it as a draft only. It is only the MS. of Maquet's "copy" of the end of The Musketeers that is forthcoming. That "copy," as M. Simon shows, is but a draft. We have proved that Maquet wrote a few chapters, and not a few volumes, before taking the "copy" to Dumas. That Dumas rewrote it is obvious to any one familiar with the works of Dumas and those of Maquet. I can picture Maquet's justifiable annoyance when, on reading his copy of the Siecle, he found that Dumas, in his tenth chapter, forgetful or regardless of the latter portion of his Preface (in which, as has been said, he attributes the authorship of the book to the Comte de la Fere), had written as follows:—

As perhaps our readers may not be familiar with the slang of the rue de Jerusalem, and as during our life as an author, which is fifteen years long, it is the first time that we have had to employ the word in the sense in which we now use it, let us explain what a mousetrap is.

We know that at that time—1844—Dumas' life as an author was fifteen years long, for Henri III. et sa cour—his first success—was performed just fifteen years before The Musketeers was written. Moreover, it was a foible of Dumas' to refer to himself in his works, and certainly Maquet would not have the least idea of writing such a sentence.

It is clear from the foregoing that, as in the case of Monte-Cristo, the idea and the plan of The Musketeers belong to Dumas. Not only did he refuse to alter it, as he and Robin recorded, but we may affirm also that Dumas either wrote the MS. or revised Maquet's drafts. M. Simon's claim that Maquet conceived and conducted the romance, and that Dumas did little more than dot the i's, is inadmissible. Oddly enough, M. Simon considers that by printing a chapter of Maquet's manuscript of the end of the romance—a chapter carefully selected by him,—he adduces a final "proof." Maquet's draft was a good one, and suitable for the Master to deal with, and, indeed, he let most of it stand. But his deletion of inept passages, his interpolations and alterations, are marvellously effective, such, indeed, as only he could have made. What was merely a situation becomes a reality. Maquet ought, I think, to have done even better work, near the end of the book especially, when it is remembered what lessons his Master had given him throughout seven volumes, not to speak of Monte-Cristo, Sylvandire, and the Chevalier d'Harmental. That the "copy" was better than what Maquet could write when he was without Dumas' inspired encouragement it is easy to understand. In truth, one has only to read Maquet's romance Beau d'Angennes (1842) to see what a difference there is between his unaided work and his work as Dumas' "ghost." Then he had no intimacy with the Master, none of those wonderful conversations with him. That Dumas was immensely assisted by Maquet, I feel sure, for Dumas had most of the failings commonly attributed to men of genius, while Maquet had the valuable qualities of the all-round man of ability.

I am sure that, if Maquet had not assisted Dumas with his real devotion, unflagging toil, and undoubted talent, many of the latter's best romances would not be in existence, for no one man could have written nearly so many unaided. Maquet, though by no means a profound scholar, must often have saved the time of Dumas, whose general knowledge then was weak in comparison. Moreover, the two friends, so opposite in temperament, remedied each other's defects. Dumas was too gay and brilliant, too volatile, too much in the air; Maquet too sentimental and sombre, wanting in humour and in dramatic power, too much on the ground. When Dumas insisted on having his way, we get such characters as Chicot and Gorenflot (the former of whom Maquet failed badly with, when, years later, he transplanted the immortal jester into his romance La Belle Gabrielle); when Maquet had the better of the friendly contest of ideas, we get a hero such as the worthy but rather dull Vicomte de Bragelonne. I have a vivid recollection of one of Maquet's heroes—a lovesick young man who spends the night leaning on a balustrade, which in the morning is wet with his tears. Dumas would not have suffered that youth. Maquet's Travels and Memoirs would have been as widely different from Dumas' Memoirs and Travels as can be imagined, and these works are assuredly most suggestive of the most popular of the Dumas romances. Hence my conviction that Dumas was the genius in the collaboration and Maquet the ghost. This I contend, while duly acknowledging that the ghost was more widely read than the genius. If any one considers that Maquet was the Master, the genius, let him read the books which Maquet wrote after his rupture with Dumas, such as La Belle Gabrielle, and others. If any one wishes to know what Dumas could accomplish in the field of historical romance without Maquet, let him read La Comtesse de Charny, Le Page du Duc de Savoie, Les Compagnons de Jehu, La San-Felice, Les Blancs et les Bleus, Acté, and others. I have much respect for Maquet—a man, in his private character, worthy of great esteem, and had he been the author of Les Trois Mousquetaires, I should have been among the first to acknowledge the fact. As it is, I must think that his chief claim to a niche in the temple of fame rests on the fact that Dumas considered him by far the best of his many collaborators, and one of the best of his friends. That he did so is strikingly and pathetically shown in the following passage, which I have pleasure in citing.

Dumas concludes a Causerie, written in 1859, with a summary of his new dramatic undertakings by saying:—

Now I must express regret that, except for La Dame de Monsoreau, which was written six or eight years ago, I am not bringing myself before you with my customary collaborator Auguste Maquet.

As a man of talent and good feeling who has been my companion in my travels in Spain and Africa, and who never failed me in my arduous undertaking of the Theatre Historique, he would never have the idea of severing our friendship. I ascribe the same to jealous feelings on the part of his family.

I have regretted, I do regret, and I shall always regret our severance by which both our works suffered, by which I lose the most, since I loved him, and he apparently did not love me.

Whether Dumas was right in his conjecture about "the family" I cannot say, but it would have rejoiced him to know that accompanying Maquet's papers was found a note in which this passage occurs:—

I will never try to disparage this great writer (Dumas), my master, and during a long time my friend. I proclaim him one of the most brilliant among the illustrious, and the best perhaps among men of good-will—bonce voluntatis—I have said among men.

Maquet knew better than did any one Dumas' compelling reason for needing a collaborator—it was pressure of time.

The Three Musketeers, like Don Quixote, will, I fancy, some day be annotated. Before this is done, it is well to settle the question of its authorship. Such is the purpose of this paper.

Source: R. S. Garnett, "The Genius and the Ghost, or, 'Athos, Porthos, and Aramis'," in Blackwood's Magazine, Vol. 226, No. 1365, July 1929, pp. 129-42.


Foote-Greenwell, Victoria, "The Life and Resurrection of Alexandre Dumas," in Smithsonian, July 1996, p. 110.

Grenier, Cynthia, "Dumas, the Prodigious: A Profile of Alexandre Dumas," in World and I, June 1998, p. 284.

Lucas-Dubreton, J., The Fourth Musketeer: The Life of Alexandre Dumas, Coward McCain, 1928, pp. 126-49.

Maurois, Andre, The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas, translated by Gerard Hopkins, Harper and Brothers, 1957, pp. 171-87.

Shaw, Barnett, "Dumas, Alexandre," in Great Foreign-Language Writers, edited by James Vinson and Daniel Kirk-patrick, St. Martin's Press, 1984, pp. 165-72.

For Further Reading

Cooper, Barbara T., "Alexandre Dumas, père," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 119: Nineteenth-Century French Fiction Writers: Romanticism and Realism, 1800–1860, edited by Catharine Savage Brosman, Gale Research, 1992, pp. 98-119.

This biography provides a list of selected works by the author and a detailed list of sources for further reading.

Hemmings, F. W. J., "Alexandre Dumas Père," in European Writers: The Romantic Century, Vol. 6, edited by Jacques Barzun and George Stade, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985, pp. 719-43.

This biographical chapter emphasizes Dumas's development as a playwright and his subsequent career as a novelist.

――――――― Alexandre Dumas: The King of Romance, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979.

This biography traces Dumas's life, from his African heritage to his death as a famous writer.

Ross, Michael, Alexandre Dumas, David and Charles, 1981.

This biography traces the writer's life and career.

Whitlock, James, "Alexandre Dumas, père," in Cyclopedia of World Authors, rev. 3d ed., edited by Frank Magill. Salem Press, 1997, pp. 582-84.

This brief biographical entry provides a complete list of all of Dumas's works.

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