Between Two Kings: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers
Thirty years after he arrived in Paris, d’Artagnan is still a lieutenant in the Musketeers serving the 21-year-old son of the Spanish Queen Anne, King Louis XIV. No longer supported by Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, d’Artagnan is tired of dealing with the caprices of royal service. In Between Two Kings, d’Artagnan launches into a new adventure to help both his own king and the exiled Charles II of England.
Those who have read the 750,000-word last installment of the Musketeers saga may not recognize this first part by the title. Alexandre Dumas’ Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, to my knowledge, has not been published as a single volume in English, but traditionally broken into three volumes: The Vicomte de Bragelonne (Chapters 1-93), Louise de la Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Lawrence Ellsworth chose to break the book at Chapter 50, which covers d’Artagnan’s adventure in 1660, and named it Between Two Kings. Ellsworth’s overall goal in his new translations is to pare away the more formal translations of the past and give the verve of the original to the English version of Dumas’s cycle.
Compare for example, this line from Between Two Kings, “But what was one more trick of persuasion and perception to a man who’d been hoodwinking the diplomats of Europe for over twenty years?”, with the same line from the Oxford World’s Classics version of The Vicomte de Bragelonne (translated in 1857): “But what was the spilling of such a secret to him whose craft had for twenty years deceived all the diplomats of Europe?”
Ellsworth successfully balances the need to make a translation comprehensible to its current audience with the duty to preserve the original author’s voice. Dumas’s brilliance is highlighted by the word choices that Ellsworth makes, and it’s the totality of these choices by Ellsworth that makes Between Two Kings sparkle.