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The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon

The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon

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The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon

1,330 Seiten
20 Stunden
Oct 7, 2008


Selected as a Top Ten Book of the Year by The Washington Post: the newly discovered last novel by the author of The Three Musketeers.

Rousing, big, spirited, its action sweeping across oceans and continents, its hero gloriously indomitable, the last novel of Alexandre Dumas—lost for 125 years in the archives of the National Library in Paris—completes the oeuvre that Dumas imagined at the outset of his literary career. 

Indeed, the story of France from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, as Dumas vibrantly retold it in his numerous enormously popular novels, has long been absent one vital, richly historical era: the Age of Napoleon. But no longer. Now, dynamically, in a tale of family honor and undying vengeance, of high adventure and heroic derring-do, The Last Cavalier fills that gap.
Oct 7, 2008

Über den Autor

Frequently imitated but rarely surpassed, Dumas is one of the best known French writers and a master of ripping yarns full of fearless heroes, poisonous ladies and swashbuckling adventurers. his other novels include The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask, which have sold millions of copies and been made into countless TV and film adaptions.

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The Last Cavalier - Alexandre Dumas



The American edition of The Last Cavalier

is fondly dedicated to the Four Musketeers who

helped the book come to life:


and, most importantly, PETER SKUTCHES




A LOST LEGACY, by Claude Schopp






The Last Cavalier was originally published in France in 2005

under the title Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine.



TRUMPETING THE WORDS An unpublished work by Dumas has just been found! is not the same thing as firing a cannon. The Great Alexandre, the most profligate spendthrift of his time, both with his creative energy and his money, had too many earthly needs to satisfy not to furnish at the slightest opportunity whatever texts publishers might ask for because they knew he was so willing. He wrote travel sketches, literary reflections, lectures, humorous essays on all sorts of topics, and recipes. Such pieces, often insignificant and printed in the columns of a hundred newspapers, were not always gathered together in book form; far from it. We are still finding some of them even today, and many of them have not yet been located.

But to proclaim the words One of Dumas’s great unpublished novels has just been discovered, and we had no idea that it even existed—that is not simply lighting the powder to fire a cannon. It risks triggering a literary earthquake.

A few years ago, had those words been whispered to anyone who loved Dumas and knew anything about his work, that person would have smiled and said, That is impossible! And he would not have failed to support his opinion by asserting that even if we have not found the original versions of all the novels and tales that the writer first published in serial form in the contemporary press, surely all of his important narratives have been published in book form, thus escaping oblivion. Dumas needed money too badly not to take such precautions, for publishing his serialized novels as books allowed him to ensure that his work would last for centuries and also guaranteed that he would quickly double or triple his profits (the contracts he signed as a serial writer remind us that he was perfectly capable of demanding that he be allowed to publish his narratives in book form as quickly as possible).

So we can imagine Claude Schopp’s astonishment and wonder when the universally respected scholar and premier specialist of Dumas’s life and works discovered almost by chance (but is there really such a thing as chance?) a completely unknown Dumas text a few years ago. After he read the text and studied its background, he realized that it was the last of Dumas’s great novels. I imagine myself as fortunate as if I had discovered El Dorado, Schopp writes today. We can easily believe that. For the novel in question, even though it was unfinished (and though unfinished, it is still a symphony of more than a thousand pages!), does not stand simply as our Alexandre’s last conquest. It quickly proves to be the missing piece of the gigantic novelistic puzzle in which Alexandre the demiurge planned to include all of French history from the Renaissance up until his own day, from La Reine Margot up until Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. It is nothing less than the great novel of the Consulate and of the Empire, the same period that had seen the birth of our novelist and the death of his father, General Dumas, a brilliant officer who rose through the ranks during the Revolution and who was later broken by his rival Bonaparte.

All those knowledgeable about Dumas’s work had noticed that this piece was missing and assumed that the writer had decided not to treat that era of history, perhaps because he was too closely associated with it. Some have proposed that Dumas gave the best part of his genius to illuminate history through his novels in order to avenge his father, who was a victim of history as much as anyone has been. So we shall not be surprised to see that Claude Schopp considers Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine to be a legacy novel.

One question remains. Even though this major text had been lost (which, after all, is not unique in literary history), how could it be that no one even suspected its existence? I could not help asking Claude Schopp that question the day that he told me about Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, which he had been editing in secret for the past fifteen years, for Schopp had the reputation of knowing everything there was to know about Dumas. (Legend has it that during his long scholarly career Schopp has gathered enough documents about his hero Dumas to have in his own archives more than ten thousand biographical cards, each one corresponding to a single day in the writer’s life from the time he was twenty years old until his death.)

Claude Schopp answered my question, but first he debunked his own legend somewhat. He said that he does not have a card for each day of Dumas’s life (although it is true that for many days he has much more than one card). He pointed out that even though we know many details about how the energetic Alexandre spent his days, it is rarely possible to know exactly what he was working on when he shut himself up in his study. So, for the time period that corresponds to his writing Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, the specialists know that he was writing a lot, even though he was ill. Sometimes he would cover the paper with his own large, beautiful penmanship, and sometimes he would dictate, if his hand trembled too much. But he did not use ghostwriters on such occasions because they were expensive and the state of his finances did not allow it. As for the fruits of that late season, people only noticed those that had the opportunity to garner public praise, either because they appeared on stage or were published later in book form. Those works include Le Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine, a gigantic work that appeared only after his death; a five-act play drawn from his last novel, Les Blancs et le bleus, which enjoyed quite some success while he was still alive; and a novel he had set aside sixteen years earlier, Création et rédemption. He finished that novel in collaboration with his friend Alphonse Esquiros, though it appeared only after his death. He continued to make regular contributions to Le D’Artagnan, his final journalistic endeavor, and also wrote short notes and chats that people kept requesting. For a man near death, that is a lot. How can we imagine that he also had the time to launch (without any help, we must add) into a novel that would be longer than Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, even though Dumas had only about twenty months to live!

Claude Schopp explains how this final mammoth novel managed to see the light of day and how Dumas was interrupted by death before he finished it. He also provides today’s reader the key for understanding the Dumas mystery, for though Dumas seemed open and transparent, he knew better than most how to hide the shadowy parts of his own character. It took Claude Schopp fifteen years to study the ins and outs of that mystery. Season after season he worked to establish the novel’s text from the serial segments that Dumas himself had never had the opportunity to edit.

For as we know, when Dumas took back his serialized texts to turn them into books, he took great care to correct the text and change any typographical errors, any inconsistencies, and any confusing sentences that had slipped by him when he wrote the first draft. No one better than Claude Schopp, of that we are sure, could complete such a Benedictine task. No one better than he could have presented the personal stakes that can be so clearly linked with the writer’s final endeavor.

He proposed the following preface almost apologetically, because he thought it was probably too long. He asked me not to hesitate, if I thought it necessary, to cut it down. That was not necessary. What Claude Schopp discloses about his discovery and careful research shows that he is very much like a Sherlock Holmes, though perhaps a more modest Sherlock Holmes. As for the long quotations from Dumas that Schopp uses to support his ideas, they are often drawn from hard-to-find or unpublished sources, and they are fascinating (as when Alexandre puts in his place the bootlicker Henry d’Escamps, who panders to those in power and who dares lecture Dumas in the name of History) and sometimes profoundly moving (as when the writer, then only thirteen years old, sees Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo).

Let us stop here. Claude Schopp’s preface is indeed long, but so much the better. He has a great deal to tell us! Dumas is also long, much longer still, but his novel is more than a gift—it is pure happiness!

To some readers, though, the happiness will also bring sadness. For after the thousandth page, when we suddenly realize that the time for farewell is drawing near, we feel an unexpected lump rising in our throats.


Claude Schopp


AN ARTIST’S LAST WORK, whether it be complete or only a sketch, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a novel, carries de facto value as a legacy, as the artist’s ultima verba.

On December 5, 1870, Alexandre Dumas passed away at his son’s home in Puys, near Dieppe. Four days later, on Friday, December 9, a Prussian column marched into the city … with music playing, we learn in La Vigie de Dieppe.

His sole legatee, Louis Charpillon, former notary in Saint-Bris (Yonne), justice of the peace in Gisors (Eure), a cautious man above all, had believed for a long time that Normandy would be safe from Prussian incursions. Nonetheless, for fear that things might play out differently, he buried his most precious belongings.

I am terribly sorry not to be able to send you the defeasance you request, he writes to Marie Dumas. "A week ago, I dug a hole in my cellar, and there I hid in a strongbox my most important papers, including the defeasance and my silver, etc.

I am sending you a sketch of my cellar because my wife Jeanne and I are the only ones who know the hiding place. If we should happen to be killed, you, my dear friend, will be able to find what I hid for my children, along with your father’s defeasance.¹

Her father’s defeasance, that is, Alexandre Dumas’s testament, was buried-so the sketch indicates-in the second cellar, against one of the cross walls (near a circle, it is pointed out).

Once the war ended in debacle, Charpillon dug it up and placed it four months later, on January 21, 1871, with a notary in Rouen, Maître d’Été.

The writer’s legacy novel, Hector de Sainte-Hermine,² lived a much longer life underground than did the holograph testament—one hundred fifty years, in fact—before seeing the light of day again today. More than simply a book, it completes Dumas’s work.


If perchance you find something you were not specifically seeking, it is because you have been looking fruitlessly for a long time. I was doing research in the Archives de la Seine near the end of the 1980s. I cannot be more precise than that. Though I am very careful about any dates relating to the life and works of Alexandre Dumas, I am much more casual about the dates marking my own life. The Archives were kept in the Hôtel de Maignan, a leaky old stone vessel, destined, it seemed, for early demolition. The reading room was dark and gloomy even on the loveliest summer days. We would feverishly skim through heavy file cards, which were dirty and crumpled, filed alphabetically, referring to acts from the Office of Public Records that had been reconstituted after fires during the time of the Communes. It was like wandering through an immense cemetery.

I no longer remember exactly what I was looking for. Certainly it was not the first time I had entered Alexandre Dumas’s infinite dark forests with their thousands of twisting paths, but I had not yet examined all the dark corners of his work, which Victor Hugo called sparkling, vast, multiple, astonishing, and felicitous in the light of day.³ My ambition must have been limited to looking for the birth certificate of some illegitimate child or some document providing the exact identity of one of his mistresses or the mistress of one of his editors, Louis Paschal Setier, perhaps. I had probably ordered some such document and was waiting for it to arrive. In the Archives de la Seine, one tends to spend more time waiting than actually doing research. Waiting idly, I must have opened a drawer and leafed through other papers. By chance, at the letter D, I read: Alexandre Dumas (père). Josephine’s Debts, L.a.s., 2p.

I grabbed an order form, filled in my name, address, and the document number—8 AZ 282—and sent it off immediately. But I had to wait patiently before I could finally hold those two square blue sheets of paper in my own hands.

Here I transcribe the document exactly as I read it then, without correcting any punctuation or spelling:

Josephine’s Debts

Despite the additional note placed in yesterday’s Le Pays and reproduced in Le Moniteur, not only does our collaborator and friend Alexandre Dumas maintain his assertions, but he adds for the edification of those interested some additional support for the proofs he has already provided.

Bourrienne is speaking, and he is the only person who can verify the accounts of the First Consul and those of Josephine:

"One can well imagine the First Consul’s angry mood. Although I had only admitted half of the debt, he clearly suspected that his wife was hiding something. However, he said:

‘Well then, take six hundred thousand francs. Use the money to liquidate her debts and don’t let me hear about this again. I give you authority to threaten her suppliers not to give them anything at all unless they relinquish some of their enormous profits. They need to learn not to be so free with selling on credit.’

Here I could have shown the power of a man who, having set himself above the Constitution of the Year VIII by his actions on the 18th Brumaire, was not afraid of placing himself above the Tribunal de Commerce by not paying his wife’s debts, or at least by agreeing to pay only half. But it appears that six hundred thousand francs in those days were enough to pay debts of twelve hundred thousand, since Bourrienne adds:

I finally had the satisfaction, after lively disputes, of taking care of everything with the six hundred thousand francs.

It is true that he adds:

But Madame Bonaparte soon returned to the same excesses. Her inconceivable mania for spending was the primary cause of all her problems. Her reckless use of money made for permanent disorder in her household, up until the second marriage with Bonaparte, when, so people have said, she settled down.

We cannot accuse Bourrienne of being spiteful to Josephine, for he remained her best friend up until the end. Never does he fail to seize an opportunity to praise Josephine, and never does he speak of her without expressing his gratitude for all the kindness she has bestowed upon him.

And now let us listen to the man who must have known the most about Josephine’s debts, for he is the one who paid them.

Josephine, said the Emperor, had that excessive taste for luxury, for untidiness, for lack of restraint in her spending that is so typical of Creoles. It was impossible to know how her accounts stood. She always owed something. And so there were always constant quarrels when it came time to pay her debts. Often she would send word to her suppliers that they should only ask for half of what she owed them. Even on the Isle of Elba, Josephine’s bills would swoop down on me from all over Italy. (page 400) Mémorial de Ste-Hélène, vol. 3.

Let us conclude with the parallel Napoleon makes between his two wives:

"At no time in the life of the first were there attitudes or positions other than pleasing or seductive. It would have been impossible to catch her or to see any problem in what she was doing; she used all imaginable art to favor her attractiveness, but with such mystery that no one could have guessed. The second, on the other hand, never even suspected that there might be something to gain in innocent artifice.

One was always slightly off the mark about what was true, and her first reaction was always negative. The other never tried to dissimulate, and beating around the bush was not in her nature. The first never asked her husband for anything, but she always owed something to everyone else. The second never hesitated asking when she needed anything, but that was quite rare. She would never have considered buying something without paying for it immediately. However, both were good, sweet, and strongly attached to their husband. But you have probably already guessed which woman is which. Whoever has seen them can recognize the two empresses. (page 407) Mémorial de Ste-Hélène, vol. 3.

My dear director, that is what I could have written to Monsieur Henry d’Escamps, but I thought that it would be useless to furnish copy gratis for Le Pays, if you yourself might place some value upon it.

I contented myself with writing the following letter:

"To Monsieur the editor of the newspaper Le Pays,


Your answer is not an answer. I was speaking of the twelve hundred thousand francs of debts Josephine contracted from 1800 to 1801, that is, over a period of one year. I was not speaking of debts from 1804 to 1809. I leave the accounts for those five years to Monsieur Ballouhey, to Monsieur de Lavalette, and to you, not doubting that the three of you together will be able to give an account that is as exact as what Monsieur Magne accomplished for the lost four billion used over a seven or eight year period to balance the budget.

Please accept, Monsieur, my very best wishes.

Alexandre Dumas"

The handwriting and the signature were indeed those of Alexandre Dumas senior, not junior, and not those of General Matthieu Dumas or of any other Dumas, for the Dumases are legion.

I had found; I now had to search.

So Dumas had portrayed Josephine plagued by her creditors in a text published in Le Moniteur universel and had drawn the wrath of Monsieur Henry d’Escamps of Le Pays. Dumas was answering his contradictor, in a letter to be published, by citing the sources he had used; and that is all that I could affirm. The Dumas text itself was unknown to me. I verified that it had not been catalogued in any of the Alexandre Dumas bibliographies (neither in Reed nor in Alexandre Dumas père: A Bibliography of Works Published in French, 1825-1900 by Douglas Munro). Of course, as is often the case with Dumas, the document was not dated.

Today I am incapable of remembering in detail all the various paths I took in trying to reach my goal. I must have looked in vain for a biographical sketch of Henry d’Escamps, and I probably remembered that Pierre Magne had been Minister of Finances between 1867 and 1870. I fruitlessly exhumed the brochure Letter addressed May 16, 1827 to Monsieur le Comte de Lavalette, by Monsieur Ballouhey, former budget secretary of Her Majesty the Empress Josephine, in-octavo, 1843, found in the second volume of Monsieur le Comte de Lavalette’s Mémoires (p. 376); I must have deduced that because it was publishing a text sullying Josephine’s reputation, Le Moniteur universel could only have ceased being the official newspaper of the Second Empire. And that change must have taken place on January 1, 1869, when the Journal officiel was founded.

Whatever my path may have been, I can imagine myself one day under the dome of the periodical room in the Bibliothèque Nationale, working in one of those little booths that look like confessionals, scrolling through a microfilm from the newspaper covering the first trimester of 1869, and discovering not the letter I had just uncovered (a letter that was never published, neither in Le Moniteur universel or in Le Pays), not an article by Dumas about Josephine’s debts, but a serialized novel, a very long novel, unfortunately unfinished: one hundred eighteen chapters running, rather irregularly, from January 1 to October 30, 1869. Nearly a year of serials! I can imagine that I must have been as happy as if I had discovered El Dorado. It was Alexandre Dumas’s final novel, a novel interrupted by illness and death, the novel on which his indefatigable pen finally had come to a stop.

Using all the funds at my disposal, a few months later I was able to obtain a photocopy of those chapters, and I eagerly attacked the thick bundle. At the time, though, no one was discussing whether Dumas should some day be in the Pantheon. But Guy Schoeller, director at the publishers Bouquins, loved Dumas (in the ninth grade, bent over his desk, he would read Le Comte de Monte-Cristo during his Latin class), and he agreed to include Hector de Sainte-Hermine in the series The Great Novels of Alexandre Dumas, of which I was the director. Because of changes in the editorial policies of the publisher, he was unable to carry out the project, however, and returned to me the manuscript.

"But when will you finally publish Hector?" my impatient friend Christophe Mercier kept asking each time I would meet him. I had told him about my secret child.

Today it has become a reality, thanks to Jean-Pierre Sicre, who has every bit as much panache as Guy Schoeller and who is his worthy successor.

"Habent sua fata libelli (Each book has its own destiny"), Dumas used to delight in saying, quoting Terentianus Maurus.


Approximately one hundred and twenty years before the rediscovery of the text you will be reading, Alexandre Dumas, at his house on the Boulevard Malesherbes, was seated at his worktable or lying in his low bed and writing on his sky-blue paper, on 21-by-27-centimeter sheets, the first sentence of his novel: ‘Now that we are in the Tuileries,’ the First Consul said to his secretary Bourrienne, as they entered the palace where Louis XVI had made his next-to-last stop between Versailles and the scaffold, ‘we must try to stay.’

The year before, on October 25, 1867, La Petite Presse had published in serial form Les Blancs et les bleus, which, in four autonomous sequences—Les Prussiens sur le Rhin, Le Treize Vendémiaire, Le Dix-Huit Fructidor, and La Huitième Crusade—had painted a vast tableau of the history of France from December 1793 to August 1799, that is, from the Terror to Bonaparte’s return from Egypt: The book we are writing is far from being a novel, and perhaps it is not enough of a novel for some readers. We have already said that it has been written to accompany history step by step, Dumas had noted.⁴ And he also said, It should be obvious in the work we place before our readers that we are more a novelizing historian than a historical novelist. We believe we have displayed sufficient imagination to be allowed to demonstrate exactitude, trying to maintain, however, sufficient flights of poetry to facilitate reading and seduce the reader and avoid history stripped of all ornamentation.

To the same end, in November 1866, writing as a historian, the novelist had sent the following letter to Napoleon III, Caesar’s mediocre nephew:

Illustrious colleague,

When you undertook writing the life of the man who conquered the Gauls,⁶ every library was eager to place its documents at your disposal.

The result was a work that is superior to others because it incorporates the greatest quantity of historical documents.

Occupied as I am just now with writing the history of another Caesar named Napoleon Bonaparte, I need documents relating to his appearance on the world’s scene.

In short, I would like to have every brochure published about the 13th Vendémiaire.

I asked for them all at the Library, and they refused to give them to me.

The only means left to me is to ask you, my illustrious colleague, to whom nothing is refused, to request those brochures in your name from the Library and to put them at my disposal once you have received them.

If you are willing to grant my request, you will have rendered me a service I shall never forget.

I have the honor to be, with respect,

Illustrious colleague of La Vie de César,

Your humble and very grateful colleague.

Alex. Dumas

If one is to believe Le Journal du Havre of August 27, 1867, the letter bore fruit. Upon the intervention of Victor Duruy, Minister of Public Instruction, Dumas was likely given access to the sources he requested. And the writer had been able to describe the appearance on the world scene of Napoleon Bonaparte, the man who illuminated the first part of the nineteenth century with his glorious torch.

If we read Les Blancs et les bleus carefully, we note that Hector de Sainte-Hermine, the hero of the newly discovered novel, makes a furtive appearance when his brother Charles declares to Cadoudal that if he is guillotined, just as my elder brother inherited vengeance from my father [guillotined], just as I have inherited vengeance from my elder brother [shot], my younger brother will inherit my own vengeance.¹⁰

He still does not have a given name and no particular characteristics except his rank among his brothers. He is simply the youngest son held in reserve. The mission precedes the individual.

He will need another year before he himself dons the cloak of a novel’s hero.

In the meantime, A. Dumas attempted his final journalistic adventure with Le D’Artagnan, an adventure that he eventually found to be moribund and which he abandoned in order to spend the summer in Le Havre, at the exciting maritime exposition. Indeed, he seemed to appear everywhere: at the Hotel Frascati, at the Spanish bull corridas, at the Harfleur races, and at the theater, where he sponsored performances benefiting impoverished actors, all the while finding the time to continue working on Création et rédemption, a novel he had begun sixteen years earlier in Brussels, with his collaborator Alphonse Esquiros:¹¹ Because he must work until four in the afternoon, you cannot be annoyed with him for not receiving visitors before then, his secretary Georges d’Orgeval writes.

As for what follows, how he conceived of and began writing Hector, I am forced to summarize what my ten years of research have allowed me to reconstitute.

It was probably in Le Havre, near the end of that summer, that Dumas dictated to his secretary of the moment, perhaps that same Orgeval, a letter for Paul Dalloz, director of Le Moniteur universel. Dalloz was printing, at that moment, his Causeries sur la mer,¹² as well as conversations on other topics, like insecticides, volcanoes, mustards, and something called fourthief vinegar.

We ask that the timid reader skip the following letter,¹³ to which we make no changes, and read it only after finishing the book. For it completes what is incomplete and finishes the outline of the novel’s events (with many gaps, it is true). Alexandre Dumas’s first movement always carries him toward the impossible. The canvas he proposes here is immense: nothing less that the continuation of the history of that other Caesar, Napoleon I, from the moment he begins his rise toward the zenith to when he sinks beyond the horizon.

Here, my dear friend, is what I am proposing.

A novel of 4 or of 6 volumes entitled Hector de Sainte-Hermine.

Hector de Sainte-Hermine is the last member of a noble family in the Juras (Besançon). His father the Comte de Sainte-Hermine was guillotined, making his son, Léon de Sainte-Hermine, swear that he would die, as he himself did, for the Royalist cause. Léon de S[ain]te-Hermine died before the firing squad in the Harnem fortress.¹⁴ He made his younger brother Charles de S[ain]te-Hermine swear to die for the Bourbon cause as he did. And Charles de S[ain]te-Hermine, head of the Companions of Jehu, was guillotined in Bourg-en-Bresse,¹⁵ making the third brother, Hector de Sainte-Hermine, promise to follow the example his father and two older brothers had set for him.

Consequently, Hector joined the Companions of Jehu, swore a loyalty oath to the Bourbons and obedience to Cadoudal. And although he was deeply in love with a young Creole girl under Josephine’s protection, and although she loved him too, he never dared declare his love, slave as he was to the ties binding him to the Bourbons and to the obedience he swore to Cadoudal.

But once peace is restored to La Vendée, Cadoudal comes back to Paris and has a meeting with Bonaparte, who offers him the rank of colonel or a pension of one hundred thousand francs if he will give up the struggle.

Cadoudal refuses, declares to Bonaparte that since he cannot stay in France he will go to England. As he is embarking, he sends his friend Coster de S[ain]t-Victor to free all his men from the oath of loyalty they had sworn to him.

And only then is Hector de S[ain]te-Hermine, freed from his oath, able to declare to Mademoiselle de La Clémencière his love for her and to ask for her hand in marriage.

His request is granted immediately. Everything is made ready for the wedding, and the day has been set. They are signing the contract, and just as Hector has picked up the pen, a masked man appears, comes over to him, and hands him a note.

Hector pauses, reads the note, lays down the pen, grows pale, gives a cry, and rushes out like a madman.

The note is an order to go immediately to the Andelys Forest to rejoin his friends, the Companions of Jehu.

This is what has happened.

Cadoudal has faithfully kept his promise, but Fouché, trying to instill fear in Bonaparte, creates bands of arsonous brigades that in Cadoudal’s name begin to ravage farms in Normandy and Brittany.

Cadoudal, whose name has been compromised, leaves England, comes back into France over the Biville cliffs, and requests hospitality at a farm.

By chance a band of arsons, led by a false Cadoudal, has planned to burn the farm that very night.

The arsons seize the farmer, his wife, and his children. They put their feet to the fire, and their cries alert Cadoudal, who comes in holding a pistol in each hand.

Who among you is Cadoudal? he asks.

I am, a masked man replies.

You are lying! Cadoudal says to him, blowing his brains out. I am Cadoudal!

And since the oath made to him has been broken, he sends word to all his agents that he is continuing his campaign and that they should obey him as before.

This is the order Hector receives at the very moment he is signing the marriage contract, and that is why he rushes out of the reception room and takes the mail coach for Les Andelys.

The attack on a stagecoach takes place. Hector is wounded, taken prisoner. and imprisoned in Rouen. He is acquainted with the Prefect and asks him to come to the prison, telling him he absolutely must see Fouché, the Minister of Police. The Prefect assumes the responsibility of letting him out of prison, answering for him, and taking him by coach to Paris. They go to see Fouché.

The young man admits his guilt and asks for the favor of being shot without his name being made public. He was about to be allied with a family as noble as his own, about to marry a woman he adored, and he would like to disappear without casting either blood or shame on the woman who was to be his wife.

Fouché climbs into his carriage, goes to the Tuileries, and tells everything to Bonaparte. Bonaparte merely responds: Grant him the favor he requests; have him shot.

Fouché insists that the prisoner be kept alive. Bonaparte turns his back and walks out.

Fouché contents himself with hiding the prisoner away, planning to speak about it later with Bonaparte.

The fiancée is in despair. Nobody can tell her what has happened to her lover. The conspiracy led by Pichegru, Cadoudal, and Moreau goes on. Cadoudal is arrested. Pichegru is arrested. Moreau is arrested. Trial. Situation in Paris during the trial. Inside the First Consul’s mind.

Cadoudal’s execution. Pichegru manages to strangle himself. Moreau goes into exile.

Napoleon is crowned.

The evening of the coronation, Fouché goes to see him.

Sire, he says, I’ve come to ask what should be done with the Comte de S[ain]te-Hermine.

What is all this about? Bonaparte asks.

He is that young man who requested the favor of being shot without his name being made public.

Well, was he not shot? the Emperor asks.

Sire, I thought that the Emperor, on the day of his coronation, would not refuse me the first favor I would ask. I ask that the young man be pardoned, for I grew up with his father.

Have him sent as a simple soldier to join the army, where he can get himself killed.

Hector de Sainte-Hermine goes off as a simple soldier, and during the Empire’s long struggle with the rest of the world, he tries to get himself killed as the Emperor had ordered. But with every peril he encounters he performs some brilliant action, so that he rises through all the ranks for which the Emperor does not need to be involved, which is to say up to the rank of a captain.

From that time on, Napoleon, who has recognized the name, twice refuses further promotions. At Friedland, however, having witnessed a brilliant feat performed by the poor disgraced man, but not realizing who he is, Napoleon goes up to him and says:

Captain, I promote you to major.

I am unable to accept, Hector answers.

And why not?

Because Your Majesty does not realize who I am.

Who are you?

I am the Comte Hector de Sainte-Hermine.

Napoleon whirls around on his horse and gallops off.

Twice they try to promote Hector de Sainte-Hermine to major, but only at the battle of Eylau does the Emperor agree to sign his promotion order.

On the way back from Russia, Hector proposes leading the sled that will carry Napoleon back to France.

Napoleon has just removed his cross to give it to him when the mujik takes a step back and says: Excuse me, Sire, I am the Comte de Sainte-Hermine.

Napoleon reattaches his cross.

The campaign of 1814 arrives. A major comes to Bonaparte carrying a letter from Marshall Victor at the moment when Napoleon has once again become an artillery gunner on Surville Mountain. A bomb falls at Napoleon’s feet. The major shoves Napoleon aside and throws himself between him and the bomb.

The bomb explodes. Napoleon is safe and sound, and although he does recognize Hector de Sainte-Hermine, he pulls off his cross and hands it to him, saying:

I believe there is nothing you would not do!

Napoleon abdicates; the entire Sainte-Hermine family surrounds him. Hector is barely thirty-five years old, and his career will no doubt be magnificent if he wants to continue serving the Bourbons whom his ancestors, his father, and his two brothers served. They propose a commission as Capitaine des Mousquetaires, the equivalent of general, and he accepts.

However, during his first audience with Louis XVIII, he offends the king’s susceptibilities by calling him Majesty. The king tells him that the word majesty, having been profaned by the usurper, is no longer used.

Now the word king is used, and people speak of him in the third person. As he leaves his audience, Hector meets a beggar asking for alms.

He gives the man a coin.

Ah, the beggar says, that is not enough for an old comrade.

Me, your comrade?

Or companion, if you prefer. Companion of Jehu. I was with you on that memorable evening when you allowed yourself to be captured. So you see that I cannot be satisfied with alms.

You are right. You deserve better. Come to Rue de Tournon, number 11. That is where I live.


Immediately. I shall be waiting for you.

Hector gallops off, arriving ten minutes before the beggar.

He puts a pair of pistols in his pocket, sends his domestic off on an errand, and waits.

The beggar rings. Hector opens the door. He takes him to his study, opens a secretary, and says: Take what you want.

As the beggar reaches out and grabs a handful of gold, Hector pulls a pistol and blows his brains out. Then he closes the doors, comes back to the Tuileries, asks to see the king, and tells him what has just happened.

He explains that he was a stagecoach robber, for the purpose of raising money for Cadoudal and serving the Royalty.

Louis XVIII, still disgruntled by the word majesty, is willing to grant him pardon, but only on the condition that he resign his commission and leave France.

Thank you, Sire, Hector answers.

He leaves for Italy, gets on a boat in Livorno and arrives at the Isle of Elba. There he finds Napoleon.

He has returned to join him and dedicate himself to Napoleon’s fortune. He comes back from the Isle of Elba with Napoleon, becomes a general at the battle of Ligny, participates in the battle of Waterloo, comes back to Paris with Ney. Labédoyère is sentenced to death along with them.

And then, Mademoiselle de La Clémencière, who has spent twelve years in a convent faithful to her first love, comes and throws herself at the feet of King Louis XVIII, begging him to pardon Hector.

Louis XVIII refuses, saying: If I pardon the man you love, I shall also have to pardon Ney and Labédoyère, and that is impossible.

Well then, Sire, answers Mademoiselle de La Clémencière, grant me one last favor. As soon as Comte Hector is dead, allow me to carry off his body and bury him in our family vault. Not having been able to live with him in this world, at least I will sleep beside him throughout eternity.

King Louis XVIII writes on a sheet of paper:

As soon as the Comte de Sainte-Hermine is dead, I authorize delivering his body to Mademoiselle de La Clémencière.

Mademoiselle de La Clémencière is Cabanis’s cousin. She asks him if there is a narcotic that simulates death so well that the prison doctor, who must confirm that the prisoner is dead, could be fooled.

Cabanis himself prepares the narcotic. They are able to slip it to Hector, and the very night he is to be shot the doctor at the Conciergerie confirms his death.

At three in the morning, Mademoiselle de La Clémencière shows up with a post chaise at the prison gates and hands them Louis XVIII’s order to give her the body.

The paper being in order, she is given the body, and they leave for Brittany. But on the way Mademoiselle de La Clémencière gives Hector an antidote, and once again he is in the arms of the woman he loved twelve years before, whom he still loves, but whom he has never expected to see again!

A. Dumas.¹⁶

It is also during one of the writer’s short stays in Paris that Paul Dalloz visits Dumas at his last residence in the capital, 79 Boulevard Malesherbes. The director of the newspaper and his serial novelist agree on the conditions for publication, and the terms are confirmed the next day in a contract letter written by Dumas, undated, as is the case for most of his letters. He is to deliver the first of the six volumes of the novel he is writing especially for Le Grand Moniteur universel (the title at that moment is Hector de Sainte-Hermine), so that the publication can begin on January 1, 1869, and continue without interruption. According to normal practice, Dalloz can interrupt publication, but in his personal opinion, it would be better to continue publishing the episodes regularly. The price is established at 40 centimes a line. The work will become the author’s property after it is published recto and verso in Le Moniteur, but his editor (Michel Lévy frères) cannot place any volume on sale until two months have elapsed after its appearance in Le Moniteur.

I pray that God will keep you in his holy protection, he concludes.¹⁷

At the beginning of November 1868 the writer is back in Paris, in his studio, where, as it is described by Mathilde Shaw, he had arranged his bedroom and assembled souvenirs of his family and friends: the portrait of his father, his mulatto face full of energy and loyalty; some watercolors given to him by his friend William III of Holland when he was heir to the throne; and finally a collection of quite handsome old weapons.

His age, though, has finally caught up with him. He is often ill and must remain in his large low bed, which faces the beautiful portrait of his son by Louis Boulanger.¹⁸

However, he does still have the strength to contemplate the future when, pen in hand or dictating if his hand is trembling too much, he delves into the past—the near past for him, since as a child he lived through the events he presents—as he throws himself into Hector de Sainte-Hermine. Although he does not realize it, it will be his final novel.


When we consider the rhythm of the serial’s publication, we notice that the first volume, comprising twenty-two chapters that were published between January 1 and February 9, appears regularly in Le Moniteur’s columns. It appears daily, except for Monday, which offers a serial play. The serialized novel is placed, as tradition demands, at the bottom of the first and second pages of the newspaper (except on January 9 and 17), and only on the front page from January 21 on (except for the last episode, which is found once again on both the first and second pages).

The second volume (or the second part of the first volume, as is indicated when it is delivered), with twenty-six chapters, meets with more upheaval. It begins on February 16, after the customary suspension of several days, and appears regularly until February 23, after which there is a series of interruptions ranging from several days (from February 24 until March 1; March 30; April 4 and 6; May 4, 5, 18, 22, 23, 26, and 28) to three weeks (April 8 to 28). It is completed on June 5.

What conclusions can we draw from these very specific observations? That Dumas gave the complete first volume (or the first part of the first volume) to Paul Dalloz before January 1, 1869, the date the first episode was published, and that then he had difficulty meeting the deadlines imposed by the daily publication?

Might events in his life help explain such difficulty? During the entire month of February, he was actively engaged in rehearsals for Les Blancs et les bleus, his play in five acts and eleven tableaux adapted from the first part (Les Prussiens sur le Rhin) of the novel with same name. On March 4, he goes to Saint-Point, near Mâcon, to bury his old friend Lamartine. On Sunday, March 7, he attends a dinner dance beginning at 12:30 a.m., in honor of the one hundredth performance of the revival of La Dame de Monsoreau, in the Grand Hôtel du Louvre, where for ladies, formal evening dress is forbidden, and for men, formal dress in not required. But his health is failing, and the day after the ball his daughter Marie writes to a friend that she is taking care of her sick, tired father. I have no time to myself with my beloved father whom you know. My own work, his work, and obligations of all kinds make my poor existence a perpetual pillage in which everyone takes things that belong to him or even things that do not, she adds. At the end of March, probably hoping to regain his health, he accepts the hospitality of Olympe Audouard (a charming woman, he would say, with only one flaw … she is always sick at the wrong time) at her little house in Maisons-Laffitte. He stays five or six weeks, and from there probably sends episodes one at a time to Dalloz by train. That perhaps explains the gaps in publication that we have pointed out. The good forest air in Saint-Germain does not appear to have had the beneficial effect he had counted on, since, around May 10, he admits to his son: It is true, my hand does tremble, but don’t worry about a situation that is only temporary. Too much rest makes my hand tremble. What do you expect? My hand is so used to working that when it has seen me do it the injustice of dictating instead of writing myself, it begins to tremble from anger. As soon as I start writing seriously myself, my hand will regain its majestic bearing.¹⁹ And again, in June, just as he has finished the second volume: I am better, and although I am not writing myself, it is only because writing is too fatiguing.²⁰

The second part of the second volume (also designated as the second volume) in Le Moniteur universel comes immediately after the first part, on June 6. It is published regularly, although there are a few interruptions (June 10; July 3 and 6; August 5, 15, 17; and September 4, 8, and 26), which might be due to editorial necessities rather than to lack of copy. Its final episode appears on September 30. Clearly, the manuscript, in one or more bundles, was delivered in its entirety to Paul Dalloz before Dumas left for Brittany, probably on Tuesday, July 20, when he is feeling worn out by slave labor. For the past fifteen years I have produced no fewer than three volumes a month. My imagination is edgy, my head is throbbing, and I am completely ruined. But I have no debts.

He spends that summer in Roscoff, where he continues working on his Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine. To Jules Janin, he writes:

For the past year and a half, suffering from physical disabilities, supported only by moral will, I am obliged to draw the strength I need from momentary rest periods, from breaths of fresh sea air. … I have just come from Roscoff, where I expected to be able to finish the work from simple memories, but I needed to do a great deal of research and tiring work.

Why did I choose Roscoff, the point that extends the furthest into the sea at Finistère?

Because I hoped to find solitude, inexpensive living, and tranquility."²¹

Another undated letter to Pierre Margry, an assistant conservator in the Archives at the Ministry of the Marine, can obviously be closely linked with the writing of the second part; but it also raises some difficult questions.


I arrived from St-Malo this morning and found your excellent letter. Needless to say, I accept your offer. I hope that you are young and nimble, because I suffer from a heart disease that keeps me from walking. Otherwise I would not dare tell you that I await you whenever you can come, for I am always at home. The sooner you come, the greater will be my pleasure to see you. I am acquainted with the work of Garnerey [sic] and I have seen nothing more picturesque about Surcouf. If you can give me some details about the coast of India, I would be much obliged to you.²²

I place in your good graces my great uncle the bailiff Davy de La Pailleterie.

A thousand attentive compliments.

Alex Dumas²³

Clearly, this letter answers an offer to write a biographical note on the Bailiff of the Order of Malte Charles Martial Davy de La Pailleterie (1649–1719?). It seems that Margry had read the first episodes of the second part of Hector de Sainte-Hermine, since he brought up Surcouf’s name in the lost letter. Furthermore, thinking about the Burmese chapters, published beginning on July 13, Dumas asks him for details about the coast of India. We could therefore appropriately suppose a trip by Dumas to Saint-Malo, unknown by biographers, between the beginning of June and the beginning of July. However, the chapters about Saint-Malo at the beginning of the second part seem to indicate that Dumas was familiar with the area before writing or revising them, and that would situate his stay there in May.

The publication of the third part begins immediately, on October 2, and ends October 30, without almost no interruption (only the 22nd and the 26th), and the episodes are now printed at the bottom of page two. Dumas did not leave Roscoff until about the middle of September. Had he worked on Hector de Sainte-Hermine while he was there? There is nothing to confirm that. We must therefore suppose that he wrote part three upon his return to Paris.

Dumas is perhaps alluding to his work on part three when he writes to his former collaborator Cherville:

My good Cherville,

I am both the most loving and the most forgetful of men. But I am forgetful only because of my immense workload and my boring distractions. I still love my friends.

I never see you, and that is unfortunate.²⁴

End of part three (soon to be continued), are the words written above the signature (Alexandre Dumas) of the last episode on October 30, although the last chapter, La Chasse aux bandits (In Pursuit of Bandits), has scarcely been sketched out and the resolution of the intrigue has been left hanging (how will René-Léo manage to reach Il Bizzarro?).

So the search begins as we scroll anxiously through spools of microfilm from Le Moniteur universel. For November-December 1869, nothing. January and February, nothing. And so on. Desperately, nothing. We have to give up: The continuation must never have been published.

And yet, we do have documents attesting that Dumas did not drop his pen in October 1869 and that he continued writing.

First, there is a letter to the same Pierre Margry, at the beginning of 1870:

L’Indipendente Editor in Chief: Alexandre Dumas

10th year

Offices: Paris, Boulevard Malesherbes, 107

Naples, Strada di Chiaia, 54

C.A. Goujon,²⁵ director.

Paris, January 15, 1870

Dear Sir,

Please do come dine with us this evening.

If you are able and if you have them available, can you lend me:

1. Le Manuscrit du Baron Fain—1812.

2. Waren—L’Inde.

3. Ségur—Campagne de Russie.

You will be able to respond over some white turkey and a lobster that I have received from Roscof [sic].

All the best,

Alex Dumas.

[address:] Monsieur Margri [sic], Archivist in the Ministry of the Navy.²⁶

Which book could the requested documentation have been used for? Le Manuscrit de 1812, contenant le précis des événemens de cette année pour servir à l’histoire de l’empereur Napoléon by Baron Fain (Paris: Delaunay, 2 vols. in-octavo); L’Inde anglaise, avant et après l’insurrection de 1857, par le comte Edouard de Warren (Paris: Louis Hachette, 1857–1858, 2 vols.), the third edition revised and considerably expanded of a work that appeared earlier with the title L’Inde anglaise en 1843 et L’Inde anglaise en 1843-1844; L’Histoire de Napoléon et de la grande armée pendant l’année 1812, par le général comte Paul-Philippe de Ségur (Paris: Baudoin frères, 1824, 2 vols.), which had gone through numerous editions. The three works all dealt with subjects relating more or less directly to the plot of Hector de Sainte-Hermine.

It would appear, then, that the writer was getting ready to recount the disasters of the Russian campaign of 1812. The reader had left Hector-René-Léo in Calabria at the end of the year 1806; might the author have intentionally made a leap of six years? The events of the first episode ran from February 19 until the beginning of April 1801; the events of the second, from April 1801 to June 1804; of the third, from July 9, 1804, until February 7, 1806; and of the fourth, from June to October 1806. No time gap appears between the various episodes. Why, then, suddenly, would Dumas have adopted a different narrative strategy? Or, on the other hand, should we believe that after his novel had ceased being published in the columns of Le Moniteur universel, he continued to write other chapters—which would have taken his hero up to the year 1812?

For me, doubt became certainty when I discovered at the beginning of the 1990s, in the book Sur les Pas d’Alexandre Dumas père en Bohème (in which Maria Ullrichovà indexes the Dumas manuscripts his daughter Marie had given to Prince Metternich), the following description (pages 190 and 191):

The manuscript number 25, having the title Le vice-roi Eugène-Napoléon, fragment autographe, is composed of twenty-seven sheets of light blue paper, with a format of 21.2 cm by 26.5 cm, numbered from 1 to 27 and written on only one side.

The first page carries the title of the first chapter, which runs through sheet nine: Son Altesse Impériale le Vice-Roi Eugène-Napoléon (His Imperial Highness, Viceroy Eugene-Napoleon), from On sait … (We know) to … le Vice-Roi ("the viceroy).

On page ten can be read the words: Le déjeuner (At lunch), designating a new chapter, from Les deux battans… (The double doors) to … monsieur, dit-il (Please join us, monsieur) (sheet 18). [cf. p. 740, 745]

On page nineteen a new chapter begins, entitled "Préparatifs" (Preparations), from Une grande carte … (A large map) to … inclinée devant lui (bowed respectfully). [cf. p. 746, 752]

Summary: the follow-up of the Treaty of Campo Formio envisions the destiny of the Republic of Venice. Napoleon gave Eugène Beauharnais the title of Prince of Venice. His residence was in Udine, on the banks of the Roya. On April 8, 1809, a young officer named René appeared at his home, carrying dispatches from Napoleon announcing that in two or three days they would be attacked by Duke John. At lunch, René was asked to narrate his life’s story, full of adventures. He was a prisoner, sailor, traveler, soldier, hunter, and bandit. He fought at Cadiz and Trafalgar, was sent to serve Joseph and Murat. Along with his military qualities, he was also a good musician and played for the princess one of his own compositions that was admired by everyone there."²⁷

At the time of this discovery I was the only person alive who had read Hector de Sainte-Hermine. In spite of the disjointed nature of the summary, I could not but recognize a fragment opening a new episode of the unfinished novel I had read. Immediately I wrote to the Ústrední Archiv in Prague, from which several months later I would receive a photocopy of the manuscript pages I was so impatiently awaiting.

It was indeed the same hero setting out on a new perilous sequence, which would perhaps lead him to some glorious action on the battlefield at Wagram (1809). However, those pages, far from solving an enigma, proposed another nagging one. Did not the existence of this manuscript fragment suggest that additional fragments might have been destroyed or preserved by jealous or ignorant collectors, fragments that might have allowed me to fill in further gaps?

The publication we are undertaking today is also an appeal to search for the lost manuscripts.


So the rediscovered letter to Henry d’Escamps that allowed me to rediscover the novel echoed the polemic triggered by the novel’s first chapter, entitled Les Dettes de Joséphine.

For on January 8, on the front page of Le Pays, which, since the coup d’état of December 2, 1851, had been the semiofficial newspaper of the prince-president who then became Emperor Napoleon III, Henry d’Escamps had viciously attacked Dumas without naming him. In his eyes, and in the eyes of the Bonapartists, Dumas was guilty of besmirching Empress Josephine’s image:

Josephine’s debts. We ask the reader to believe that the title he has just read is not our own. It is the title of a serial that has just appeared in the first issues of Le Moniteur universel. The author puts the First Consul, his wife, and Monsieur de Bourrienne, his secretary, on stage and gives them language and sentiments that are both odious and ludicrous, against which history loudly protests. In order to show how unseemly such a publication is, a few of its features will suffice.

After refuting at length the impropriety of what he has done, the author concludes with a hymn to Josephine:

Our memory of the Empress, moving out from under the clouds in which malevolence and foolishness have sometimes tried to envelop her, will remain as a halo of glory and clemency placed above Napoleon’s victorious brow, and for the French people who loved her so, she will always be, as for posterity, ‘good Josephine.’

Alexandre Dumas is probably not displeased about the furor surrounding the initial publication of his novel.

But, in answer to the Bonapartists, with supporting documents, he seizes the opportunity in another letter to present at some length his conception of history, and incidentally, to chip away at the image of Napoleon III, liberator of Italy. The letter in question, written on January 9 or 10, is printed in Le Moniteur universel on January 11, 1869, preceded by the words: "We are sending the following letter to the director of the newspaper Le Puy, asking him to please publish it."

"To Monsieur the Director of Le Puy


There are two ways of writing history.

One ad narrandum, to narrate, as does Monsieur Thiers.

The other ad probandum, to prove, as does Michelet.

The second method seems to us to be the better of the two, and this is why:

The first consults official documents, Le Moniteur, newspapers, letters and acts deposited in archives, that is, events written down by those who carried them out, and consequently, almost always modified them to their own advantage.

An example would be Napoleon on Saint Helena, looking back over his life and arranging it for posterity.

I saw in Monsieur de Montholon’s hand the original of the letter announcing Napoleon’s death to Hudson Lowe.

It had been modified in three places by Napoleon himself in his own handwriting.

Thus, even as he was dying, Napoleon was arranging a Napoleonic death for himself.

That method, in our opinion, is not the truth, but the paraphrase of the following maxim of Monsieur de Talleyrand: ‘Speech was given to us to disguise our thoughts.’

The second method is totally different. It establishes a chronology of events, that is, of uncontestable facts. And then it seeks the causes and results of those events in contemporary memoirs.

And finally it draws a conclusion that those who write only to

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