Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

THE QUEEN’S NECKLACE is a sequel to the MEMOIRS OF A PHYSICIAN (1846-1848) and the second of the Marie Antoinette series. It was written by Alexandre Dumas in collaboration with Auguste Maquet. This is generally classed as the last of the most famous or great novels in which Maquet collaborated. The picturesque tragedy of the diamond necklace is narrated in Dumas’ best style and is a very fine piece of work, usually considered to be a favorite with English and American readers because it moves steadily and uninterruptedly to its conclusion; there are fewer threads of plot to be followed than in some of Dumas’ other novels.

In a brief introduction, Dumas refers to the Revolution of 1848, just accomplished, and to his foretelling of it in 1832, in GAULE ET FRANCE. The prologue is borrowed from Jean-Francois de La Harpe’s PROPHETIC DE CAZOTTE, but Dumas has instilled into it a great deal of spirit and life. The novel itself gives a thoroughly amusing and cleverly constructed picture of court intrigues and dissoluteness, and of the rumblings of the coming storm. It does, however, present Marie Antoinette as a sympathetic character of intelligence and charm amid the decadence surrounding her. She is portrayed by Dumas as being victimized by her enemies, who try to cast doubts upon her honor. The queen shares with Count Cagliostro the distinction of being one of the most clearly defined characters in the novel and one who instigates most of the major action of the story—action that is lively and robust in the Dumas manner.

The novel first appeared as a serial in LA PRESSE in 1849-1850 and was instrumental in helping Dumas out of some difficulties caused by a controversy surrounding the reissue of some of his earlier works in the Paris journals as new stories. The result of this controversy was a fine series of stories of which the most prominent was THE QUEEN’S NECKLACE.