Wednesday, April 29, 2009


He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. And that was all his patrimony.

- Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche

Rafael Sabatini was born on this day in 1875; above, the opening lines of Scaramouche (1921), his best-selling novel of the French Revolution (the lines inscribed on his gravestone when he died in 1950). This is my favorite of Sabatini's novels, with its story of the young aristocrat who becomes involved with the politics and turbulence of the revolution.
It has precursors in the work of Dumas and you might compare Saramouche to Cyrano or the Scarlet Pimpernel, but he stands on his own as one of the great romantic heroes of historical literature. Sabatini's most famous works have been translated into the classic swashbuckling films Captain Blood and Scaramouche. However, these books represent a small fraction of Sabatini's work. A popular author during his lifetime, he produced 31 novels, 8 short novel/short story collections, 6 nonfiction books, numerous short stories, and a play. Sabatini's writing, usually fiction in a historic setting, explores political intrigue, religion, and the place of chivalry and honor, while entertaining with clever dialogue, deftly drawn characters and action sequences as vivid and thrilling as modern movies.

Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. 1991 (1921)

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