View Full Version : Sylvandire

11-04-2008, 12:43 PM
Hello Dumas fans! I just finished this seldom read novel by Dumas. It is delightful. I strongly recommend it. It takes place at the final years of the reign of the Sun King, though he does not really appear in any overt way. Maria, Louise de Valliere, and Madame Montespan are all out of the picture, and Madame De Maintenon seems to be running the show. Versailles is a drag. Court is no fun; the hip crowd is in Paris making fun of Court.

But the novel begins in the country. Our hero is Roger Tancrede, the Chevalier of Anguilhem. He is from a once noble family that has fallen on hard times--funds all but dried up. The neighbors are a more wealthy family and are a snooty bunch, except for the saintly, young daughter, aptly named Constance. The two youngsters fall deeply in love but are kept apart by their families--for class differences. Roger's family does not want him to propose, because a refusal would be scandalous. Constance's family doesn't want her to marry Roger because they see a dead end there and have higher hopes.

Suddenly Roger's family comes into the possibility of a huge fortune--into the millions. A distant relative has died intestate. One other man has a claim to the fortune, the relative's Indian-born son. It becomes Roger's goal to travel to Paris, enter society, and convince the judges and lawyers (who all seem to be on the take) to look favorably upon him. He is befriended by some Paris coolios and learns the ways of the courtier. It becomes clear that in order to win his case he must marry the daughter of one of the judges. He expects her to be an ugly beast, but she is gorgeous. Her name is Sylvandire. So he is on the twin horns so to speak--a pietas question. Where does duty lie--true love, or filial responsibility? Save mom and dad from poverty and forsake his own happiness, or make them paupers for his own selfish desires?

It is at this point that we see the narrative enter what most refer to as the rough draft of Monte Cristo. For reasons I will not describe as they might spoil the fun for some of you readers, Roger finds himself wrongly imprisoned and vows revenge upon his betrayers. Everything is wrapped up in nice Dumas style.

Some have said of this novel that it is marred by a misogynistic element. Women are painted as either saints or beasts. Very little middle ground there. That is true. But it is the romantic period. Idealism is the vogue. My advice is to ignore that. It is a convention of the time. Try not to pay so much attention to the frame and look at the picture!

There is much to delight the Dumas fan. There is the Monte Cristo bit of vengeance. There is the similarity to Dartagnan's naive entry into Paris. There is the overwhelming sense of place--Provence, Marseilles, Paris etc.

There is also the sense of time--This Paris feels very different than Fronde Paris or Louis XIII Paris or Pre-Colbert Paris.

Read this one kids. You'll love it!

In fact you can read it right here (flip book is my favorite option) http://www.archive.org/stream/sylvandireromanc00dumauoft