The King’s Gallant (Henri III et sa cour)
or King Henry III and his court
Henry L. Williams
1902 - États-Unis
The King’s Gallant est l’une des nombreuses adaptations sous forme romanesque de pièces de théâtre de Dumas réalisées par Henry L. Williams. Dans ce registre, celui-ci a écrit The regal box (tiré de Kean), D’Artagnan forward (La jeunesse de Louis XIV), The Tower of Nesle (La tour de Nesle) et All for a crown (Catherine Howard). Avec The King’s Gallant, il s’attaque à Henri III et sa cour, le premier grand succès théâtral de Dumas.
Comme d’habitude, le livre est présenté comme ayant été écrit par Alexandre Dumas lui-même. La page de titre écrit de façon un peu ambiguë qu’il s’agit d’une « novellisation du célèbre drame d’Alexandre Dumas », ce qui n’implique pas obligatoirement que la novellisation soit de la plume de Dumas lui-même. Mais Henry L. Williams se présente comme le traducteur de ce roman, alors qu’il en est bien évidemment l’auteur. La confusion des rôles est encore accentuée par le fait que le nom d’Alexandre Dumas est suivi de la mention « auteur de ‘D’Artagnan the King Maker’, ‘The count of Monte Cristo, ‘The three musketeers’, etc. » alors que le premier titre est un roman dû à Williams lui-même.
Dans son traitement romanesque, l’auteur suit sa méthode habituelle : il respecte l’intrigue initiale dans les grandes lignes mais introduit quelques divergences notables. La trame historique porte sur les intrigues qui entourent le roi Henri III, visé notamment par les ambitions et les complots du duc de Guise. En parallèle, Saint-Mégrin, un favori du roi, est amoureux de l’épouse de Guise. Ce dernier force celle-ci à écrire un billet à Saint-Mégrin qui le fait tomber dans un piège. On trouvera un résumé de la pièce sur dumaspere.com.
Parmi les différences entre le roman et la pièce, on peut relever entre autres le fait que l’épouse du duc de Guise dans la pièce n’est que sa fiancée dans le roman ; la lettre écrite sous la contrainte par la duchesse dans la pièce est écrite par une autre dans le roman. Une différence majeure surtout : la pièce se termine sur l’assassinat de Saint-Mégrin par les hommes du duc de Guise. Dans le roman, en revanche, le jeune homme se sort du traquenard. L’histoire se poursuit alors jusqu’à l’assassinat du duc sur ordre du roi Henri III.
Pour le reste, le texte ressemble comme deux gouttes d’eau aux autres œuvres de Williams : les événements sont énormément dilués (il s’agit de passer d’une simple pièce de théâtre à un roman de plusieurs centaines de pages) et surtout le récit est écrit dans un style verbeux, touffu, pesant, et entrecoupé d’interminables descriptions…
Extrait du chapitre I The royal favorites
His lord, full of meditation, did not find the Louvre Palace gay.
The shadow, streaked with red, of St. Bartholomew's Eve, lowered upon it, and darkened every lobby and deep window recess.
The courtiers took their cue from the king, who sought quiet, and even the young men, his associates, alternately, in fantastic pastimes and extravagant devotional acts, shared the general dullness. Add to this that scarlet and purple were ranked as royal hues, and it can well be understood how monotony of the decorator's palette marred the interior. The bright paintings of the debauched Italian school had been removed from the walls or draped over when the king was fitfully fastidious.
The apartment called "Of the bath," because it had contained a "Susannah by the Bath," by Titian, was used as a secondary throne-room. There was no throne, but one end was slightly raised; upon this were placed two armchairs and several stools for the privileged to sit so near royalty.
The courtiers, principally those called "the king's gallants," being young and light-hearted, were playing chess, cards, and cup-and-ball, which was then a fad of the hour. They were named Joyeuse, Epernon, Halde, St. Luc and St. Megrin, the latest addition to their choice circle.
This Paul Stuart, Lord of St. Megrin, had the air of those angels with a sword which Raphael tempered in copying them from Michael Angelo. His youth was so vigorous that he seemed five years more than twenty; his countenance was cherubic; his mustache was but down, and the blush on his cheek was pink and not red.
He came of a long line of warriors. "Not an ecclesiastic among us," had been his father's boast at a time when more progress was made by the prelate than the statesman, so that the aspiring statesman often became a priest.
He was graceful in every act, and yet all was so manly that he stood out like a stone man among wax effigies in the midst of the Valois' "gentle cutthroats."
A little melancholy, arising from his already looking seriously upon life, chastened the joyousness and impudence of his age.
He had that reserve of indefinable but valuable qualities found in captains of consequence, enabling them to save their company, if not themselves, in pressing situations.
He was a friend whom a companion could depend upon, a favorite who would not betray his monarch, and a captain who knew when to keep himself in the rear of his troops as well as to spring forward when the charge must be personally led.
Among the animated crowd in the apartment, St. Megrin was perhaps the only person who did not deign to join in the game of cup-and-ball.
"Bless us !" he cried, suddenly, amid this throng going and coming, and keeping the balls in the air until one was dizzy, "here is old Montprison !"
"The master of the ceremonies!"
"More like the master of the revels," said Joyeuse, between peals of mirth. "Hang me in chains, but he is playing with cup-and-ball, too!"
"One fool has made many," said St. Megrin.
"Oh, we are nowhere!" sighed St. Luc. "The old marquis is ambidexter—he is keeping the ball going, with one in each hand!"
"Ha! ha! my tomtits !" chirruped the old whitebeard, in his cracked voice. "Methinks this is not so bad for a man of seventy!"
"Excellent! We acknowledge that you take the palm! But I cry a truce!" and Joyeuse fell into the royal chair, gasping for breath. "Here, boy, is a franc of gold. I have not so heartily enjoyed myself since I was a stripling and rode my first horse!"
"Now that you are composed," said the Marquis of Montprison, "I can, perhaps, get in the news?"
"Guise has fallen downstairs?"
"That sneak, Antraguet, has fallen upstairs again?"
"By St. Denis, you were never more right, Halde!" returned the ancient gossip. "That smell-feast has entered into favor anew!"
"That ram-scuttle! that traitor !"
"He is a traitor, for he holds with the Lorrainers."
"I do not doubt that," went on the tattler, "for his reinstatement in grace is due to the interposition of the Duke of Guise. The king is doing everything to please him now."
"Because he may need him and his bullies," said Epernon.
"Yes," said a soldierly-looking man, who was Captain Treigny, of the Queen's Guards, "for it appears that the King of Navarre is out-of-doors in battle array, casque a-top and spurs a-pied, galloping up and down and to and fro in front of our lines!"
"That beanpole of Navarre!"
"A great breaker of chains and lances!" re-turned Treigny, with professional pride in a born warrior.
"And is the Lorrainer to be the securer of our safety ?"
"The worst of it is," remarked Joyeuse, wiping his brow with a perfumed handkerchief, "we shall have to fight before the cool weather comes. Fight in the false summer of St. Martin’s! bah! Imagine riding out on a horse big as an elephant, with a hundred and fifty pounds of hammered iron on one's suffering frame, to come home brown as an Andalusian gipsy!"
"And down there, where they have all weathers at once!" added St. Luc. "It will be a scurvy trick to play on you wit-crackers at court, to decoy you out to crack your ribs with a stroke of the pike, and not a merry jest!"
"Ah, and since powder is made at home and no longer imported, every schoolboy carries a pouchful, so that a battle is no longer cuts and knocks, but singes and burns, a foretaste of purgatory! Why, I confess that I have more apprehension of a sunstroke than a sword-stroke! Ah, if I had my way, I would have all the fighting done as Bussy of Amboise fought his last duel—by moonlight!"