The Wax Conspiracy

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

There is at fault, the malaise of picking up a book and not wanting for it, but not wanting to not want for it. That state of digging right into it and feeling a general wait, hearing a ticking as the book continues on. And then it gets renewed two times over.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is as it is, an adventure of sweating underneath the garb of the king's guard. The folly of running about dropping coins as fast as you drop bodies. Cavalier as they are, the four move on quick enough after a while of posturing. It is d'Artagnan's story, but he's not always the driving force and slips back as others take agency of the pages, leading along the machinations of it all.

And there is plenty of plotting, counter-plotting and overheard whispering afoot. That action doesn't do much at first. When it kicks in it amps things up just a little to have the read continue and not feel too out of sorts. Danger doesn't play as hard in the stakes as does the conniving and the treachery. That's what's really on show here, and the real gem of things is how each side gets under each other's fingernails before things come to a close. Of course, not until the dramatic pause of wading through a short lake and a muddy bank.

Not reading it from the original French, it is all on the translation. One where interpretation takes as much credit and as much fault as the original text. Phrases, what words are exacted, the whole scenery of the times, is affected by how the translator lets the words fall on the page. And when you have access to compare against another, it's most apparent in a few short sentences.

From "The King's Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guards"

And with the most gallant and fearless mien he drew his sword.

His blood was fairly roused, and at that moment he would have drawn his sword against all the musketeers in the kingdom with as little hesitation as he then did against Athos, Porthos an Aramis.

It was quarter past twelve, the sun was at its meridian, and the situation chosen for the encounter was exposed to its fierce heat.

compared with the one you can find on Project Gutenberg:

At these words, with the most gallant air possible, d'Artagnan drew his sword.

The blood had mounted to the head of d'Artagnan, and at that moment he would have drawn his sword against all the Musketeers in the kingdom as willingly as he now did against Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

It was a quarter past midday. The sun was in its zenith, and the spot chosen for the scene of the duel was exposed to its full ardor.

The choice of words are interesting in this 1846 William Barrow translation. By themselves they look rather lavish and florethic. Put them together and it all stands rather still.

Then again, "Her ladyship" flows better than "Milady" in a way that's better read:

There was no difficulty in vanquishing, as she had hitherto done, men ready to be led astray, whom the education of a gallant court swiftly drew into her snares. Her ladyship was beautiful enough to fascinate the sense, and skilful enough to prevail over all the obstacle of the mind.

The above from "The Fifth Day of Imprisonment" as opposed to "Captivity: The Fifth Day"

It was not difficult to conquer, as she had hitherto done, men prompt to let themselves be seduced, and whom the gallant education of a court led quickly into her net. Milady was handsome enough not to find much resistance on the part of the flesh, and she was sufficiently skillful to prevail over all the obstacles of the mind.

It's climbing over that quirk of word choice, and the spot of illustrations by Rowland Wheelwright from the George G. Harrap & Company Ltd 1920 edition interspersed, that continue the renewing against clicking through the ebook version.

We're at the end of The Three Musketeers and it's a tight bond between the four. But that bond is quickly solidified early on and what we're witness to is just how deep that camaraderie, that sense of friendship, really goes. Foolhardy, yes, and with that, a certain chaste living, though not without the splendours of good fortune in finding so much money to dole out like skin from eczema.

Turning the page, breaking into the story and seeing how the first chapter plays out, it's indifference that takes the rest of the day, then the weeks. Pretty soon you're back at the book return slot three months later and feeling not quite a sense of loss. More a sense of wonder in the work of Dumas and if the abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo sitting next to it on the shelf is as tidied up from its original as this.

The Three Musketeers
Reader's Digest edition of The Three Musketeers

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Wax Conspiracy


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