The Three Musketeers

Written by Alexandre Dumas Lawrence Ellsworth (trans.)

Lawrence Ellsworth provides a vibrant, modern-day English translation of the classic high adventure, The Three Musketeers, first released by Alexandre Dumas in serial form. The 1626-28 war between France and England, seemingly driven by an illicit affair between the English Duke of Buckingham and the French queen, Anne, sets the stage for the story. The tale of the fearless d’Artagnan, a Gascon arriving penniless in Paris, but determined to make a name for himself, is told afresh. The interactions between d’Artagnan and the swashbuckling King’s Musketeers (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) come across as lighthearted. The young swordsmen, caught in the political schemes of Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis, brandish both their swords and words with flair. The various political intrigues intertwine and climax into a dark, yet satisfying, tale of revenge.

Ellsworth’s rendition is addictively readable in this lengthy but fast-paced novel. He masterfully captures Dumas’s distinctive voice and humor. The dialogue is witty and full of quips—in sharp contrast to the stiff, elevated diction of Victorian translations. Sexual seductions which had been elided in earlier translations are restored in this version, adding clarity to plot and to characters’ motivations. The best scenes are with the Cardinal’s agent—the femme fatale Milady—who has to rank among the best villainesses in literature. Ultimately, d’Artagnan, the three Musketeers, and two other noblemen pull together as one for all to outmaneuver the scheming Milady in their pursuit to exact justice.

The illustrations by Maurice Leloir give the book a classic look. Background information about Alexandre Dumas and short biographies of the real-life figures on whom many of the characters are based are added bonuses. The Three Musketeers is highly recommended for readers of literary classics who have not yet read or would like to reacquaint themselves with the tale.