Critical Evaluation

THE COUNTESS DE CHARNY is the sequel to ANGE PITOU (1852) and the final work of the series MEMOIRES D’UN MEDECIN (1848). Like its predecessor, it was originally intended to have been written in collaboration with Auguste Maquet. Although Maquet helped a little with ANGE PITOU, financial difficulties caused a break between the two men, and Alexandre Dumas was left to his own resources for the authorship of both works. Much of THE COUNTESS DE CHARNY, like its predecessor, is based on Dumas’ boyhood memories, yet the author, inspired greatly by Jules Michelet’s HISTOIRE DE LA REVOLUTION FRANCAISE (1847-1853), gives more actual history than is usual in his romances. The work, however, maintains the Dumas tradition of spirited storytelling. He takes fewer liberties with fact, but he creates and revivifies the atmosphere with detail typical of romanticism and imbues it with fast-flowing action, flamboyant dialogue, and his renowned curtain lines. The story of Charny and Andree comes to its well-rounded conclusion and leaves no need or any real wish for a sequel.

One interesting aspect of THE COUNTESS DE CHARNY is the fact that Dumas prefaces it with one of his amusing “chats” in which he explains how ANGE PITOU came to its abrupt end, an occurrence which bothered many readers. Dumas gives as his reason the fact that ANGE PITOU was first published serially and toward the end of the series a stamp duty was imposed on papers which published stories in installments; thus the novel’s conclusion was rushed to beat the tax. This did not pose a problem for THE COUNTESS DE CHARNY, which was published in book form and gives no impression of hurried or sloppy writing. It has been cited by critics for its display of imagination and its excellent portrayal of action.