'Lost' Dumas novel unmasks Nelson's killer

22nd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 22 (AFP) - The mystery of who killed Admiral Nelson is to be explained in a previously unknown novel by Alexandre Dumas, author of "The Three Musketeeers," discovered by a French researcher and going on sale in June, the book's publisher said Tuesday.

PARIS, March 22 (AFP) - The mystery of who killed Admiral Nelson is to be explained in a previously unknown novel by Alexandre Dumas, author of "The Three Musketeeers," discovered by a French researcher and going on sale in June, the book's publisher said Tuesday.

"Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine" (The Knight of Saint-Hermine) is a classic Dumas adventure story about the start of the Napoleonic empire and includes a swashbuckling account of the Battle of Trafalgar, according to Jean-Pierre Sicre of Phebus press.

"The description of Trafalgar is indescribably brilliant. And in it we learn that it is the hero of the book - the chevalier himself - who shoots Nelson," he said.

The British naval commander, Horatio Nelson, led the English fleet in its victory over the French and Spanish off the cape of Gibraltar in 1805, but died on board his flagship when he was hit by a bullet from an unknown French sniper.

The 900-page book appeared in serial form in a French newspaper and lacked just a few chapters when Dumas died in 1870. Claude Schopp, the Dumas specialist who made the discovery, has added a short section to bring the tale to its conclusion.

"The first clue goes back to 1988," said Schopp.

"I was trying to check a detail for an article and after months of research had to look through copies of 'Le Moniteur Universel.' Imagine my surprise when among the spools of microfiche I came across an almost completed serial signed Alexandre Dumas," he said.

"For a quarter of an hour, in contact with this treasure, I had the feeling I had the world in my hands," he said.

"Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine" completes a trilogy of works set in the aftermath of the French revolution, which begins with "Les Compagnons de Jehu" - written in 1857 - and continues with "Les Blancs et Les Bleus," completed in 1867.

The chevalier is an aristocrat - the brother of two men who are killed in the previous books - who is caught between his royalist past and his fascination with the emerging Napoleonic empire.

The opening lines of the novel are classic Dumas:

"'Here we are in the Tuileries,' said first consul Bonaparte to his first secretary Bourrienne, as they entered the palace where Louis XVI made his penultimate residence between Versaille and the scaffold. 'We must make certain that we stay here.'"

The grandson of a Haitian slave, Dumas was a hugely prolific writer, producing more than 250 works including plays, novel and even a cookbook.

He remains today the most widely read French writer around the world. He died in 1870 at the age of 68.

In November 2002 the writer was accorded the highest posthumous honour when his body was interred in the Pantheon in Paris, the mausoleum of French national heroes.

Dumas' speciality - perfected in "The Three Musketeers" - was inserting fictional characters into true historical stories, and the account of Trafalgar is far from the first time his heroes interfere in Anglo-French relations.

In "The Three Musketeers" the evil Englishwoman Milady is responsible for the 1628 murder of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, in the port of Portsmouth; and in the sequel "Twenty years after" the musketeers are present at - but fail to prevent - the execution of King Charles I.

The existence of "Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine" was kept secret for years as Schopp worked on the text, which contained many mistakes and inconsistencies. Publication is due on June 3.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article