A Gentleman of France
Being the Memoirs of Gaston de Bonne Sieur de Marsac
by Stanley Weyman
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The death of the Prince of Conde, which occurred in the spring of 1588, by depriving me of my only patron, reduced me to such straits that the winter of that year, which saw the King of Navarre come to spend his Christmas at St. Jean d’Angely, saw also the nadir of my fortunes. I did not know at this time–I may confess it to-day without shame–wither to turn for a gold crown or a new scabbard, and neither had nor discerned any hope of employment. The peace lately patched up at Blois between the King of France and the League persuaded many of the Huguenots that their final ruin was at hand; but it could not fill their exhausted treasury or enable them to put fresh troops into the field.
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I think, as we sat our horses in the rain, the holly-bush not being large enough to shelter us all, we were as sorry a band as ever set out to rescue a lady; nor was it without pain that I looked round and saw myself reduced to command such people. There was scarcely one whole unpatched garment among us, and three of my squires had but a spur apiece.
From the Stanley J. Weyman site:
Admired by renowned authors such as Stevenson, Wilde, and Rafael Sabatini, Stanley John Weyman is today a forgotten literary giant of the late 19th century. While for years his best-selling historical romances enchanted thousands of readers, today his books are mostly neglected.
One of his most well known novels was A Gentleman of France, which describes the “grand climacteric of a man’s life”. Forty-year-old M. de Marsac is in the process of losing his finances and gentleman status. He has been forced to groom his own horse by cover of night and faces ridicule because of his tattered appearance when he goes before the court of Henry of Navarre seeking a commission. . . . . A silent film in 1921 was based on the novel.
For lovers of historical novels, A Gentleman of France (1893) is available free at Project Gutenberg in numerous formats. I’ve heard it described as The Three Musketeers without the tedious bits.