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Joseph Balsamo

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Joseph Balsamo (written between 1846 and 1848) is part of the "Marie Antoinette" romances.


Wildside Press
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Alexandre Dumas
Publication Date
September, 2007
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.00 x 6.00 x 1.38 Inches

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1-3 of 3 reviews

Memoirs of a Physician...

Memoirs of a Physician begins where Joseph Balsamo left off as all Paris panics after a fireworks display goes awry and Andrée is almost crushed to death beneath the mob. Andrée's brother Phillip desperately searches for her and is feared dead - until she is returned unharmed to her family by the mysterious Balsamo. Lower born Gilbert is still madly in love with Andrée and he follows her (working as a gardener) when she is taken into service by Marie Antoinette. Madame DuBarry continues her schemes, as does the mysterious Balsamo working with the Freemasons to stir unrest against the monarchy and lustful Louis XV takes one look at the beauteous Andrée and he plots with her father to make her his latest conquest. Actually, there's a whole lot more to the story than that but this is Dumas and it would take another novel to try to outline the story better. Suffice it to say that as in the first book in this series, the opulence and shenanigans of the French Court, the manipulations of the politicians, Balsamo's hypnotic control over his wife Lorenza and Andrée, secret rooms and hidden staircases, a mad desire by Balsamo's master to obtain the one horrific ingredient needed to complete his elixir of eternal life culminates in a thoroughly unputdownable tale that had me reading well into the wee hours of the morning. I especially loved Gilbert's antics (ROFL, Hollywood would have a field day with this) as he spied on Andrée and the way Dumas used her contempt of his lower status as a way to emphasize the growing disparity between the classes. Next up in the series, The Queen's Necklace (1902). Side note on the first two books in this series - as I understand it they were originally published in one volume called Memoirs of a Physician and are now published separately as Joseph Balsamo and Memoirs of a Physician. I've noticed some complaints from other reviewers on the quality of editing and translation of some of these newly published editions and went searching for an older used copy and was quite happy with that.

Joseph Balsamo begins ...

Joseph Balsamo begins with a meeting in the dead of night high in the mountains as a group of robed and hooded freemasons from around the world meet to plot the fall of the French Monarchy (it's actually more complicated than that, but I'm not going to try to put it into words). The leader of this group, Joseph Balsamo, then takes shelter in a storm at the impoverished household of the Baron de Taverney and his daughter Andrée and things then become very mysterious indeed. How is it the younger Balsamo can recall incidents from Taverney's younger days as if he had been there himself? What mysterious hold does Balsamo have over the beauteous Andrée that he can command her actions with a wave of his hand? How is it that when the party of Marie Antoinette stops at Taverney Balsamo provides a sumptuous repast replete with gold plate out of thin air? After this, the story switches to Paris and Versailles with the intrigues and shenanigans of Louis XV's mistress Madame DuBarry as she connives to have an elderly Baroness agree to present her at court, Balsamo's wife begging sanctuary at a nunnery (very creepy), the wedding procession of Marie Antoinette, Balsamo's mentor's efforts to find the secret to eternal life (the final ingredient needed being the most costly of all) and ending in one heck of a cliff hanger as a fireworks display goes awry and puts Andrée in harm's way with only one person to save her. Suffice it to say that Dumas' tale of the lives and loves of the Court of Louis XV and the growing tension amongst the lower classes of Paris and beyond was quite entertaining, especially with the mysterious appearances and disappearances of Balsamo in and out of the story. I also very much enjoyed the way Dumas used the character of Gilbert and his rationales about his lack of bread and the methods he would use to obtain the bread an excellent way to support the early beginnings of socialism and resentment against the monarchy. Be advised, you won't find the swashbuckling page turning excitement of the Musketeer series. This is the first of a five volume series and Dumas is setting up much of the background for the later books in this one, so some readers might find this slow paced at times and I only recommend this for Dumas fans (I'm one) or for those looking for well written fictional tales of the times leading up to the French Revolution. Next book in the series, Memoirs of a Physician. Note, I see some other reviewers complaining about a poorly published edition of this book. I obtained a nice aging copy from the library and was quite satisfied with that, and my review is for that book and not any currently published edition.

I read this story in t...

I read this story in two volumes: the Collier editions of _Joseph Balsamo_ and _Memoirs of a Physician_ (which are great translations). I will admit first of all that the first time I attempted to read these I didn't get very far into the book before abandoning it. I think this was due mostly to my expectations, since this story is not really a swashbuckling adventure tale (though it has its share of intrigue) and I was expecting something more like _The Three Musketeers_. I'm glad that I gave the story a second chance though because, for all its differences from his better known tales, it's still classic Dumas.We start with a suitably moody scene as a mysterious figure enters a secret chamber hidden in the mountains near the Rhine in the midst of a night time storm only to be confronted by the representatives of the secret order of the Illuminati who wish to overthrow the corrupt political regimes of the day. From here things move apace and we discover that the figure we have met is the elusive Joseph Balsamo (later know more famously as the adventurer and supposed immortal Count Cagliostro). Balsamo is entrusted with the leadership of his sect and given the commission to further the fall of the French monarchy.The story then shifts to another locale: the estate of the impoverished aristoractic Tavernay family. The father, the Baron de Tavernay, is a crusty old man, barely living at a subsistence level despite his title and estate and when not railing at the circumstances of the present, he is living on his memories of the glorious past. Here we also meet one of Dumas' most interesting, and frustrating, characters: Gilbert, a servant boy raised by the Tavernays. Gilbert is a model figure of his times: a boy born to low estate, but with a quick mind and who has read just enough Rousseau and Voltaire to have a rather large chip on his shoulder. Gilbert constantly rails at the injustice of fate that has set foolish aristocrats above himself simply through the chance of birth, and hungers for the fall of this unjust regime. Warring with this inborn dislike of the people who raised him (albeit with little enough care for his welfare) is his nearly all-consuming passion for the apple of the Baron de Tavernay's eye, his daughter Andree.Of course Andree barely knows that Gilbert exists and so his days are spent in a constant froth, sometimes railing against the injustice of his station, and at others at the injustice of his unrequited love. Into the midst of this little domestic purgatory comes Balsamo, a dashing figure to all who not only promptly informs the horrified Baron that he will soon be visited by the dauphin's fiance who is on her way to Paris (the ill-starred Marie Antoinette), but then mysteriously produces all that the impoverished family needs to impress this great personage apparently out of thin air.From here a third major thread joins the tale as we begin to be told of the political intrigues of court and see the characters of Marie Antoinette, her somewhat feckless fiance (the future Louis XVI) who lives constantly under the thumb of his domineering grandfather, Louis XV. Added to this power family are the courtiers, most notably Louis XV's mistress Madame du Barry and the old and wily Duke de Richelieu, who are constantly manoeuvering for position at court and who draw into their schemes the hapless Gilbert and innocent Andree, and who in turn are drawn into the wider schemes of Balsamo.This description barely scratches the surface of what is going on in the tale and doesn't even touch on other interesting elements such as Andree's heroic brother Philippe, the Tavernay's servant girl Nicole (the former lover of Gilbert who also happens to be the spitting image of Marie Antoinette), and a very amusing portrait of the hen-pecked philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who befriends Gilbert as the latter journeys to Paris. Dumas uses his consummate skill to bring together the varied strands of his plot and show us how all of these characters will be brought together in order to further the plans of the master manipulator (and mesmeric magician) Balsamo.The only real stumbling block I had, and the thing that put me off the most during my first attempt at the story, were the scenes involving Louis XV and his court. While some elements of this were interesting (namely the intrigues of Madame du Barry as she attempts to get an official presentation at court) others left me somewhat cold as we seemed to follow the foppish king and his meaningless diversions a bit too much. I see what Dumas was doing here: presenting us with a detailed picture of the inherent moral bankruptcy of the French monarchy at the time and priming us with the roots of its ultimate downfall, but one scene of kingly decadence is often much like another and began to get a bit tedious in the end. That said it's still a great story and I recommend it to any hard core fan of Dumas. The character of Gilbert is worth the price of admission and even though he is at times, as I mentioned, a very frustrating, even infuriating, character I think in many ways he is a fascinating one as well.

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Electrode, Comp-812502105, DC-prod-az-southcentralus-17, ENV-prod-a, PROF-PROD, VER-30.0.3-ebf-2, SHA-8c8e8dc1c07e462c80c1b82096c2da2858100078, CID-f9c489b5-f8c-16e8cf733215f9, Generated: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 07:57:21 GMT