Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Humble Wayside Flower

To think that such a humble flower should be the chosen signature of such a gallant gentleman. Granted, this picture is a close-up, and its real size is about 1/4 inch in diameter.
File:Scarlet pimpernel 800.jpgThis picture to the right is probably a better size representation.

But (forgive me!) you didn't come for a botany lesson, did you?
I promised you a review of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and as my sense of honor is as unimpeachable as is the hero's, I shall stick to my word.

Maguerite Blakeney escaped the uproar in France just in time, by marrying Sir Percy Blakeney. A staunch friend of the people, along with her brother Armand, she even denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family after her brother was publicly disgraced for making love to the Marquis' daughter. Unfortunately, this little incident sent his whole family to the guillotine, earning her the undying contempt of her foppish husband. Living in a dream, scarce twenty-three, she sets the fashions and graces the balls of London society, all the time fighting against an empty private life. During this time, the Scarlet Pimpernel and his deeds have surfaced in the English Channel, enthralling London with unequalled tales of bravery and humanity. Hats, dresses, even culinary dishes, are served à la Scarlet Pimpernel, and Marguerite and her husband have taken more than one French refugee under their wing. Enter: Chauvelin. When Marguerite's idolized brother throws in his lot with this mysterious hero's nineteen followers, the French ambassador puts the knife to her throat: she can help him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel and save her brother's life, or poor Armand will be sent to the guillotine by her hand.
Thus begins a beautiful woman's betrayal of the bravest hero of London society to save the brother she loves. From midnight balls to lonely coasts of France, The Scarlet Pimpernel will hold you enthralled until its climax. I promise.

A Few Thoughts
I already gave some thoughts in my series overview which I won't repeat. However, I have a couple to add. I would give Orczy points for her direct mentions of God, His providence, His blessings, and Christian principles. I don't know what her personal beliefs were, but she obviously had an understanding and respect for the Christian religion.
If you have problems with romantic gallantry, Sir Andew Ffoulkes obvious infatuation with Suzanne de Tournay, and Marguerite's longing for a renewal of her husband's love, then you'll want to avoid the series. I think the themes are appropriately and tastefully written, but I realize that different families have different standards.
I would critique Orczy on one point only: several times as Marguerite is vacillating on whether or not to betray the Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy classifies the actions she takes as "Fate":

"She would not allow herself any more time to think. Her early, somewhat Bohemian training had made her something of a fatalist. She felt that events would shape themselves, that the directing of them was not in her hands." 

"Fate had decided, had made her speak, had made her do a vile and abominable thing, for the sake of the brother she loved."

May I remark that such actions are never "Fate" but the deliberate choice of our sin nature. It isn't 'fate' that chooses the unkind words I speak, or 'fate' that 'makes' me tell a lie or 'fate' that 'decides' whether or not I'll covet that original edition of something-or-other. It's me. It's my choice. It's my sin.

However, I would hasten to add that in spite of this poor choice of words, if a wrong is done Orczy does not excuse it, but defines it as wrong. You might be somewhat confused if you've never read the book before, but you're supposed to be, so that you will experience Marguerite's confusion. She keeps thinking "Am I right?" "Am I wrong?" "I must be right." "I know I'm wrong." Orczy doesn't make the decision for her by stopping us in the plot and pointing out all her errors. She only unveils it when Marguerite herself comes to the decision. And I have to say, I don't mind reading the book for myself, rather than having the author tell me how I'm supposed to read it.

And finally, a continuing look at the background of the French Revolution:

The Actors of the Play

Jean-Paul Marat was a respectable doctor and scientist, who often treated aristocracy, including Louis XVI's younger brother. He presented several scientific theories to the Académie des sciences, but they were rejected, and he was not allowed to become a member. One of his studies was the effect of light on soap bubbles. In 1788, after the calling together of the Estates-Generals for the first time in 175 years, Marat gave up his scientific and medical career and devoted himself completely to politics. He edited his own paper, viciously attacking the aristocrats, and spent his time alternately attacking and fleeing to London. He even went into hiding in the Paris sewers, aggravating his skin disease, dermatitis herpetiformis. In April of 1792 he married Simonne Evrard in a common-law ceremony. He was elected to the National Convention, and one of his great achievements was the fall of the Girondins in 1793. After this he retired due to health problems and met his end at the hands of Charlotte Corday on July 13, 1793.

Georges Jacques Danton, president of the Committee of Public Safety, became minister of justice the morning after the march on the Tuileries. It is unknown whether or not he provoked the riot. He voted for the death of Louis XVI in January of 1793, and said "The kings of Europe would dare challenge us? We throw them the head of a king!" Danton helped create the Revolutionary Tribunal, instrumental in the Reign of Terror a little later on. He failed to settle the differences between the Girondists and Jacobins, and thus determined that the Girondists must be done away with. As he attempted to lessen the violence of the Revolution and shift it towards the setting up of a stable government, Robespierre and Couthon began to look for ways to put an end to him. After an accusation that he had accepted bribes and attempted to take for himself the money held by the French East India Company, he was arrested and executed, along with many of his colleagues, on April 5th, 1794. His only regret, he said, was that he had to be executed before Robespierre.

The other leaders I mentioned will have to wait until another review, I'm afraid. Next time I'm going to combine Sir Percy Leads the Band and I Will Repay into one review. Until then...

Lady Bibliophile

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your insights on this story! I've read it a couple of times and really enjoyed the swashbuckling hero. It wasn't until fairly recently that I thought much about the French Revolution or its ramifications, so next time I read this story, I'm sure I'll read it with a fresher, deeper perspective.

    I also enjoyed the botany lesson. I've always thought that a literature-themed garden would be fun to do. Some years ago, I ordered some scarlet pimpernel seeds and had every intention of planting them. However, it was a bit of a process to get them growing and even though I began it, I never finished. I would like to try again.

    I'm looking forward to your forthcoming reviews!:)


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