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D’Artagnan forward, or the minority of Louis XIV (La jeunesse de Louis XIV)
A novelization of the play by Alexandre Dumas

Henry L. Williams

196 pages
1899 - États-Unis

Intérêt: *



Note: ce livre est classé à la fois dans la catégorie "suite des Trois mousquetaires" et dans celle "Autres oeuvres". Sa fiche peut donc apparaître deux fois dans les listes de recherche.

Grand spécialiste du genre, Henry Llewellyn Williams livre ici l’une de ses adaptations en roman d’une pièce de théâtre de Dumas. Auteur par ailleurs de traductions en anglais des grands romans de ce dernier, il a fait subir ce sort à des pièces comme Kean devenue The regal box, Catherine Howard devenue All for a crown ou La tour de Nesle devenue The Tower of Nesle.

Le caractère commercial de la démarche ne fait aucun doute. C’est particulièrement manifeste avec D’Artagnan forward: comme son titre l’indique, ce roman est présenté comme une aventure de d’Artagnan, alors que ce dernier n’apparaît absolument pas dans la pièce originale. Mais Williams s’est certainement dit qu’il serait trop dommage de rédiger un récit se passant à la Cour de Louis XIV en pleine période d’activité de d’Artagnan sans mettre en avant le plus célèbre des héros de Dumas. Cette caractéristique fait donc que ce livre apparaît deux fois sur ce site, dans la catégorie «Suite des Mousquetaires» et dans celle des «Autres œuvres».

La jeunesse de Louis XIV est une charmante comédie qui met en scène le roi au moment où il décide de ne plus laisser la reine mère et Mazarin exercer le pouvoir en son nom (voir une fiche sur la pièce sur le site La grande question qui se pose à propos du jeune roi est de savoir à qui le marier. Anne d’Autriche envisage la princesse de Savoie, l’intérêt de l’Etat pencherait pour l’Infante d’Espagne, Louis XIV est amoureux de Marie de Mancini, la nièce de Mazarin, et le cardinal verrait bien une alliance royale pour sa famille. Dans ce contexte d’intrigues, le jeune roi entreprend de faire savoir qu’il n’est plus un enfant. Faisant croire qu’il dispose d’un agent secret à la Cour qui lui en révèle les mystères et les intrigues, il amène les uns et les autres à se confier, il juge son entourage et finit par imposer sa volonté.

Dans son roman, Williams conserve bien sûr cette trame tout en faisant de nombreux ajouts. Comme dans The regal box, il porte son récit à la longueur d’un roman en ajoutant d’importants développements avant le début de la pièce. En l’occurrence, les premiers chapitres se déroulent loin de la Cour, en province, où les émissaires de la reine mère et du cardinal tentent, selon les cas, de faciliter ou d’entraver l’arrivée à Paris des prétendantes à la main royale, la princesse de Savoie et l’Infante d’Espagne.

Le principal ajout dans cette version romanesque est donc la présence de d’Artagnan. L’auteur lui a attribué le (tout petit) rôle que tient le capitaine des gardes Guitaut dans la pièce, en l’amplifiant considérablement. D’Artagnan devient un homme clé dans les intrigues de la Cour, recherché par la reine, le cardinal et le roi. Porthos est là également ainsi que, plus surprenant, Kitty, l’ancienne femme de chambre de Milady dans Les trois mousquetaires. Celle-ci se trouve même avoir une fille, Mariette, dont le père n’est autre que… d’Artagnan. Williams n’hésite d’ailleurs pas, tout à son œuvre d’«enrichissement» de la pièce, à imaginer que Mariette, servante au palais, est le sosie de l’Infante d’Espagne et que cette dernière est venue à Paris en cachette pour observer Louis XIV en prenant la place de Mariette…

Au bout du compte, évidemment, et même si l’adaptation ne manque pas d’habileté, mieux vaut se reporter à la pièce de Dumas qu’à cette «novellisation».

Extrait du chapitre 24 At last, an arrest

Mazarin was not so sure that this speaker and his emissary had not met, and he adroitly changed the subject. He rarely spurned an inferior, and this captain was to be encouraged, he saw too late.

"By the way, captain, one never hears you speak of your family?"

"I have nothing to brag of and nothing to be ashamed of," was D’Artagnan’s lofty reply.

"Well, there must be a first of his name," and Mazarin tried to draw himself erect as a living example of his text. "Parents?"

"Some years ago I followed my father’s remains to the grave. That was the sole occasion of my returning to my birthplace in fifteen years or so. Let me see, your eminence took a voyage of recreation into your native country — to see your birthplace, I dare say. Ah, what a sweet memory it is to dream during a long and active life of where we first drew breath. Often in the smoky officers’ quarters, I rested and saw the old home; again I lolled back on the mossy stone bench against the north wall, where the vines formed a chevaux-de-frise, and the green gages bombarded me from their overladen trees. I had but to lean back, and a ripe medlar would fall into my mouth, to the merry music of the bees, lowing of contented cattle, neighing of ponies turned out to grass, and the chirping of birds. Well, when I went there, my disillusion was perfect. The sunny wall was dismantled, the vines decayed and the plum trees were devoured with insects; some one else had the honey. It seemed to me that the fishers’ songs on the gulf no longer were merry, but told of wreck and loss. I came away, never caring to return. No, I have no estate to retire upon."

The minister, perhaps, sympathized, for he did not interrupt this rare sentimentality in the warrior.

"Have you no kith or kin?"

"Well, I have a young daughter to care for."

"Oh, a daughter."

"I do not see why a soldier should be denied a daughter, if churchmen have nieces."

This silenced the minister, during which pause D’Artagnan threshed out the mystery enveloping this familiar interview with one not usually genial on trivial topics.

With Padeloup’s story, and what Kitty had lately imparted to him, he acknowledged that he was not alone.

Some twenty years precedently, infatuated with an English beauty and spy of Cardinal Richelieu, he had acted on an old precept — the way to a mistress is through her maid’s heart. So he had courted her English maid, then a sylph, now the buxom hostess.

Having offended Lady Winter, the spy in question, and dreading her power, D’Artagnan helped the maid out of her reach by sending her into Spain with the Duchess de Chevreuse.

She could not write; he was passing from one seat of war to another, and he had no news of her until Padeloup struck a responding chord, and Porthos, discovering Falcone’s trick, had brought Mistress Caton with him to Vincennes.

What was left of the old flame, transient at its best? Hardly a spark, but on her side, Kitty tried to fan it into fierceness.

The captain perceived that, as servant to high ladies, she had become an adept in that backstairs diplomacy which was a feature of the times. She surprised him by her acquaintance with state secrets, and he began to fear her a little, as he saw that she meant to renew her previous charm. But while she might have been a sufficient mate for a plain gentleman and simple musketeer, it was different now that he was looking forward to being chief of the king’s lifeguard.

But he was prudent, and did not intend to turn this useful ally into a relentless foe, by scorn, or even coldness.

Besides, with all his reasoning against wedding an inferior, this child of his, of which she was the mother, with whom Padeloup was in admiration, whose looks were of the type of the splendid infanta whose name used in this daring stratagem must earn her a high reward — all combined to make Kitty still his friend, in a platonic sense.

"My dear D’Artagnan," broke in the minister, who had passed through a sea of thinking in the interval, "is she marriageable?"

"About eighteen by this."

"Well, on the day of her wedding, I — that is, the king - will endow her with a hundred thousand silver crowns, and I will give her — hem — my blessing."

The girl’s future was assured. The soldier felt melting, he hardly knew why, and bowed.

"That is kind of you, and meet, for so far I have received at least half as many wounds as Dentatus, without any crowns. Well, who am I to arrest?"

Mazarin stared.

"Who said anything about arresting?" queried he.

"It is clear, when the captain of the guards is called and told that his daughter shall be dowered — it is tantamount to ordering him to arrest some one."



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