The iconic novel called The Three Musketeers has become one of the well-loved stories of action and adventure. Written by Alexandre Dumas, this story not only tells about friendship and camaraderie and the adventures and journeys friends must jointly embark on. More than this, the story also gives us a glimpse of the 17th century society of France, especially the political and social scene of that time. Although Dumas, the author, is born on the 19th century, the setting for his novel is set on the 17th century, around 1625–1628 based on the novel’s narrative.
To know about the history of the story, we can look into the history of the story’s author himself, Alexandre Dumas. There is a lot of biographical information about Dumas, but we will only limit on the basic information and the events that led him to write his famous novel The Three Musketeers and its sequels. Dumas was born on 1802 from his mixed-race father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and French mother Marie-Louise Labouret Dumas. As a young boy, Dumas already has a penchant for reading and writing. He read and learned as much as he could during his childhood days before he worked for Louise-Philippe, Duke of Orleans – a.k.a. King Louise-Philippe I of France. Although not a gifted military tactician like his father, Alexandre Dumas inherited his paternal grandmother’s love for literature and writing. Alexandre was also fascinated with historical novels, and the one that particularly caught his eye was the historical novel of an earlier French novelist, Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras, who wrote Mémoires de Monsieur d’Artagnan (Memoirs of Monsieur d’Artagnan) in 1700.
Alexandre Dumas used the aforementioned novel of Courtilz de Sandras as his source for The Three Musketeers, which he wrote in its preface. He gathered information from Courtilz de Sandras’ book about the semi-fictionalized exploits and recollection of the real-life d’Artagnan (Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan) and built upon this information as his model for his character d’Artagnan in the novel The Three Musketeers and its sequels Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne. His research did not just end with the memoirs of the real-life d’Artagnan, he also did a number of separate researches for the three musketeers and their real-life counterparts like Armand de Sillègue d’Athos d’Autevielle (Athos), Henri d’Aramitz (Aramis) and Isaac de Porthau (Porthos). Of course, like our modern-day copyright laws, Dumas requested permission to reprint the manuscript, and it was granted.
From there, Dumas proceeded in conceptualizing the plot and the characters of his novel. However, making a historical adventure novel is not an easy task for one man during this time. Thus, Dumas needed the help of a fellow French author named Auguste Maquet. Maquet helped Dumas by providing the initial outline of the plot and characters and Dumas would expand on the plot and characters, and added the dialogues and details of the story. You may be wondering why Maquet was not included as a co-author to Dumas’ novels despite his significant contribution. This is because of the publisher’s insistence to use only Dumas’ name in the title page of the novel. In return for Maquet’s cooperation on the matter and the smooth flow of the publishing of the novel, Maquet received generous fees.
The Three Musketeers is a novel not just rich in adventure and action, but also in history. Alexandre Dumas chose to preserve the 17th century setting for the story in order to be true books and characters he based his novel upon. The process in publishing the novel was tedious and needed many source materials and help from a fellow author. In the end, the novel was first published in serialized form from March to July 1844 before it gained wide readership and success before it was reprinted in novel format. A good blend of history and heroics, this novel deserves special place in the bookshelves.