Alexandre Dumas

A bit about the Three Musketeers

As the maintainer of the site with the coolest version of Iron Mask, I’ve been asked a few things about it. Namely, where the heck does it come from, and why doesn’t it look the same as yours?

The answer is this: there is no such book as “The Man in the Iron Mask”, at least not as Dumas wrote it. He wrote a book called “Le Vicomte de Bragellone” and subtitled it “Ten Years Later”. It was thousands of pages long. Publishers balked (for good reason, I think) at publishing a single book of that length, so they broke it into the three or four parts. There are two versions of “The Man in the Iron Mask” that you can actually buy. The larger version contains the last half of what is generally called “Louise de la Valliere”—otherwise, what is generally the third part, “Iron Mask”, actually starts practically in the middle of a conversation.

There are generally considered five books in the Three Musketeers saga. The first and the last are usually easy to find. The middle three are usually hidden deep in the bowels of your local library, often disguised as the “collected” Alexandre Dumas. I’ve looked on Amazon.Com and joined their associates program in order to help you buy these books if you want to. Oxford World’s Classics has brought out a complete run, which makes it easier to get the whole set without having to worry about whether you’ve successfully got everything in the three-to-four book Man in the Iron Mask confusology:

  1. The Three Musketeers—everyone knows about it.
  2. Twenty Years After—no one knows about it.
  3. Le Vicomte de Bragelonne—the beginning of the end.
  4. Louise de la Valliere—the continuation of the end.
  5. The Man in the Iron Mask—the end of the end.

There are two other books that I have not read. They are both out of print:

  • D’Artagnan the King Maker: A Historical Novel. While listed as authored by Alexandre Dumas, it apparently is a semi-forgery. See Arthur Rypinski’s review for more information. Arthur also notes that the Library of Congress has a listing for another book translated by Henry Llewellyn Williams, the same translator as “King Maker”, “D’Artagnan's Exploit”. Whether this is real, a Dumas play converted to a novel, or an out-and-out forgery is up for grabs.
  • Son of Porthos. Still a bit murky, but see below for more information. This is also almost certainly not a Dumas work.

If you have any more information about those or other titles, please let me know.

The Three Musketeers is actually two books. The Four Musketeers starts after D’Artagnan receives his commission. It has always been included in The Three Musketeers in my experience; the only reference I’ve heard of is from William Roberts, who says that in Dumas’ own journals, he counts them separately. Which would make six books, not five.

Ten Years Later, Vicomte, Louise, and Iron Mask are really all the same book. You can’t open up the Iron Mask and expect to have any idea of what’s going on, unless you’ve read the other three. You can get away with just reading Louise to understand Iron Mask, and in fact some versions of Iron Mask include the last chapters of Valliere. As far as Dumas was concerned, they’re all one book, called “Le Vicomte de Bragellone”, and subtitled “Ten Years Later”.

And if that doesn’t fully confuse you, read what Onnea Hast compiled about an even later Musketeer book by (or not by) Dumas, as well as some non-Dumas books.