Louise de la Valliere

Louise de la Valliere

Louise de la Valliere

Louise de la Valliere

Synopsis

Louise de la Valli`ere is the middle section of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, or, Ten Years After. Against a tender love story, Dumas continues the suspense which began with The Vicomte de Bragelonne and will end with The Man in the Iron Mask. Set during the reign of Louis XIV and filled with behind-the-scenes intrigue, the novel brings the aging Musketeers and d'Artagnan out of retirement to face an impending crisis within the royal court of France. Tbis new edition of the classic English translation is richly annotated and places Dumas's invigorating tale in its historical and cultural context.

Excerpt

The Romantic Age in France was a period of extravagance and excess when feelings replaced thought and heroes died young. But it was also an Age of Money. After 1789, France had run through successive regimes of different political hues, from the rabid republicanism of the sans culottes to Napoleonic imperialism and, after 1815, the entrenched conservativism of the newly restored monarchy. the Revolution of July 1830 carried the hopes of a new generation eager to see the establishment of the rule of liberal values. in the event, it did not, as is the way with Revolutions, devour its children. Instead, it encouraged them to grow rich. the cautious reign of Louis-Philippe offered little to idealists. It refused to extend the suffrage, did nothing to improve the life of the poor, and, as J. S. Mill remarked, operated 'almost exclusively through the meaner and more selfish impulses of mankind'.

For France now at last embarked upon its long delayed industrial revolution. Manufacturers began to be a power in the land. Railways put out tentacles everywhere. Lawyers and moneymen became the new élite. Books, hitherto a privilege of the leisured classes, became a product and were now put within the reach of shallower pockets, not in the cause of enlightenment, but of profit. the artisanal publishing trade of the eighteenth century had been transformed by better inks, improved papers, and mechanized presses. Small and medium-sized publishing houses learned new methods and by the 1860s publishing would represent 10 per cent of France's industrial output. Thus the phenomenal abbé Migne, who cornered the market for sacred texts, was in 1842 employing 300 typesetters, printers, bookbinders, and clerks, a work-force exceeded only by the larger ironmasters and textile barons. But the competition for the hearts, minds, and money of the French was nowhere keener than in the fledgling newspaper industry.

The July Monarchy relaxed the rules controlling the press, which had contributed significantly to bringing down the previous regime. Anyone who could afford to put up a modest surety . . .

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