(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Knight, Jesse F. “Rafael Sabatini: The Swashbuckler as Serious Artist.” Romanticist 9/10 (1985/1986): 1-22. A lengthy discussion of the life and literary career of Sabatini. Provides a list of all his works, including his uncollected short stories and film adaptations of his novels.

McAlpin, Edwin A. “Sin and Its Consequences.” In Old and New Books as Life Teachers. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Doran, 1928. Summarizes the plot of Scaramouche and analyzes the novel’s characters and themes.

Orel, Harold. The Historical Novel from Scott to Sabatini: Changing Attitudes Toward a Literary Genre, 1814-1920. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. A collection of essays that traces the rise and fall in popularity of the historical novel from Sir Walter Scott to Sabatini.

Overton, Grant. “Salute to Sabatini.” Bookman 60, no. 6 (February, 1925): 728-735. Written at the height of Sabatini’s popularity, this tribute discusses the author’s works, praising him as one of the few writers of historical fiction then remaining.

Pilkington, Ace G. “Reviving Sabatini.” Journal of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters 76 (1999): 245-257. Examines the characters and major themes of Sabatini’s significant works while asserting that he is a greater writer than his critics generally claim.

Voorhees, Richard J. “The Return of Sabatini.” South Atlantic Quarterly 78, no. 2 (Spring, 1979): 195-204. This respected scholar asserts that Sabatini’s fiction is superior to the usual historic fiction of his time and deserves to be read again.

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Sabatini considered verisimilitude to be a central feature of good historical fiction and went to great lengths to develop his skill in this area. He was fond of trying to convince the reader that what was being presented was history, not fiction. He frequently cites fictitious references. For instance, in Scaramouche, Sabatini quotes letters that Andre-Louis wrote and he mentions a book the character wrote called his Confessions. The Sea Hawk (1915), supposedly, is taken from "eighteen enormous folio volumes" of history written by Lord Henry Goade.

Another of Sabatini's favorite techniques, one he freely admits he learned from Dumas pere, was to mingle real characters with fictional ones, actual events with created ones, in order to blur the distinction between fiction and history. So Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Danton — all architects of the Revolution — appear on Sabatini's stage.

(The entire section is 137 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Sabatini used the French Revolution in no less than seven novels, as well as many short stories. However, as a blend of passion, psychological insight, technique, and bravado storytelling, he never surpassed Scaramouche. At one time, Sabatini thought of turning Scaramouche into a trilogy. It never materialized, but he did publish a sequel in 1931, Scaramouche the Kingmaker. While technically adequate, most of the fire and passion of the first novel is missing, and Andre-Louis's concern for his future wife's fidelity becomes somewhat tedious. The Lost King (1937) focuses on the search for a successor to Louis XVI. The Marquis of Carabas (1940) is a fine, but little-known Sabatini novel. During the desperate days of 1940 it was generally overlooked.

(The entire section is 116 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Sabatini has been at once lucky and unlucky in the adaptation of his novels to film. There can be little doubt that the film versions of Scaramouche, Captain Blood, and The Sea Hawk have kept Sabatini's titles familiar to the public. On the other hand, these very films often have little to do with his books.

In 1923 Rex Ingram directed the first screen version of Scaramouche, starring Ramon Novarro as Moreau, Alice Terry as Aline de Kercadiou, and Lewis Stone as the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr. A 1952 version, directed by George Sidney, starred Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, and Mel Ferrer.

(The entire section is 101 words.)