Friday, 9 June 2000

Baroness Orczy: Eldorado (1913)

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1939
Review number: 523

In Eldorado, one of the better novels featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel, he becomes involved in one of the most famous plots of the French Revolution, the attempt to rescue the child heir to the French throne from imprisonment in Paris. His ultimate fate is one of the unknowns of history, though it is almost certain that he died in prison. The main character in reality in the various plots which centred around him was the Austrian-financed agitator, the Baron de Batz. I think Orzcy's portrayal of him is basically accurate: an egocentric, who kept himself safe by betraying his friends and paying large bribes.

The Scarlet Pimpernel becomes involved in the situation when he makes his own plans to rescue the Dauphin, which are endangered when one of his agents falls in love with a Parisian actress. This romantic side of the plot is less sentimentally handled than in some of the other Orczy novels (though there are still plenty of passages that are better skipped). In the end, this part of the plot assumes more importance than the liberation of the prince, and this is perhaps a good thing, as it reduces the amount of space Orczy has available to eulogise the late eighteenth century Bourbons. Orczy's faults are apparent in the novel, but the story is strong enough to overcome them. just as happens (to a greater extent) in The Scarlet Pimpernel itself.

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