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Amaury

Amaury

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Excerpt from Amaury: Never Before Translated Into English

"When I write finis to one book, it merely means I am beginning another,' Dumas says somewhere of himself, and his literary "output" for the year 1844 amply justifies the statement. This was the "great year," - the year of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers; but it saw the birth of quite a brood of minor romances as well, - Fernande, Gabriel Lambert, Sylvandire, and last, but not least, Amaury.

The book is not, of course, one of the "great" romances, in the sense in which The Three Musketeers, or The Chevalier & Harmental, or The Chevalier de Maison Rouge, on The Lady of Monsoreau, deserve that title; but it is a pathetic and beautiful story.

The tale is supposed to be told, or rather read aloud, under the following circumstances: M. le Comte de M, an old aristocrat who has survived the Revolution and all subsequent and successive bouleversements, and has known Rousseau and Voltaire, Franklin and Andre Chenier, Talleyrand and Mme. de Stael, Chateaubriand and Mme. Recamier, the Empress Josephine and the Duchesse de Berri, - still holds one of those "salons" where discussions were held "de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis" with all the wit and wisdom of cultivated Frenchmen and Frenchwomen and all the urbanity of the ancient regime. He writes on his invitation cards "Conversation," where common place hostesses put "Dancing;" "the word keeps bankers and stockbrokers away, but it attracts wits who like to talk and poets who like to listen." The Count "is one of the last and one of the most delightful representatives of the poor much-maligned Eighteenth Century. There are not a great many things he believes in himself, but, unlike the majority of free-thinkers, he has no sort of wish to make other people share his incredulity."

On one of his evenings the question is started, "Meurt-on d'amour?" - "Do people die of love?" By way of answer the Count directs his secretary to read aloud to the company a manuscript bequeathed to him by a dead friend. "They are written experiences," he explains, "from that friend's life. He was a famous Parisian physician; therefore these memoirs are nothing but - pardon the expression - a long post-mortem examination. Oh! do not be alarmed, ladies, - a mental post-mortem performed not with the scalpel, but the pen, one of those post-mortems of the heart at which you so love to assist." With this document was combined another diary, that kept by Doctor D'Avrigny's ward and his daughter's fiance, Amaury de Leoville; the two together give the life-story of the loves of Madeleine D'Avrigny and Amaury, the lingering death of the former and the eventual union of the latter with his lost darling's cousin and friend, Antoinette de Valgenceuse.

In connection with the first publication of the book as a feuilleton in "La Presse," Dumas was asked by M. de Noailles, whose daughter was "poitrinaire," like the heroine of the romance, and who was so intensely interested in the successive instalments of the story as seriously to aggravate the symptoms of her illness, to suspend the publication, if Madeleine was to die. This the kind-hearted author did, and even took the trouble, some versions of the story add, to improvise in manuscript a miraculous recovery and happy ending for the special benefit of Mlle, de Noailles. Publication was only resumed after her death.

The details of the disease and its progress had been studied by Dumas from the case of a companion of his own boyhood, Felix Deviolaine, son of his gusty-tempered relative, M. Deviolaine, Inspector of the Royal Forest of Villers-Cotterets (it was cut down subsequently by Louis Philippe), whose house and household, and especially his girls - Cecile, who saved Dumas from being made a priest, and the rest young Dumas' playmates and tormentors, were such important factors in the future great man's early days. The lad in question went through all the ph
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