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The Tower of Nesle
Or : The Queen’s intrigue, a romance of Paris in the Middle Ages

Henry L. Williams

306 pages
Street & Smith Publishers - 1904 - États-Unis
Roman

Intérêt: *

 

 

 

Ce livre publié au début du XXème siècle aux Etats-Unis sous le titre The Tower of Nesle affiche le nom d’Alexandre Dumas comme auteur. Rien de plus naturel que de penser qu’il s’agit de la traduction de la célèbre pièce de ce dernier La tour de Nesle, qui défraya la chronique lors de sa parution. Sauf que cette version américaine est un roman et que Dumas n’a jamais écrit de roman portant ce titre (même si Henri Demesse l’a fait…).

L’explication est fournie par ces quelques lignes figurant au bas de la page titre : «Founded on Dumas’ celebrated Drama of ‘La Tour de Nesle’ by HENRY L. WILLIAMS».

Williams est spécialiste de la transformation en romans de pièces à succès de Dumas. Il a procédé ainsi pour Kean devenue le roman The regal box, pour Catherine Howard devenue All for a crown, La jeunesse de Louis XIV devenue D’Artagnan forward, ou Henri III et sa cour devenue The king’s gallant. Sans compter les suites apocryphes attribuées à Dumas comme D’Artagnan the king maker. Notons au passage que la page titre de The Tower of Nesle présente Dumas comme l’auteur de «D’Artagnan the king maker, The king’s gallant, The regal box, All for a crown, Monte Cristo, etc» - uniquement des livres (à l’exception du dernier) issus en fait de la plume de Williams lui-même!

Avec La tour de Nesle, l’Américain procède comme à son habitude. Il reste fidèle à l’intrigue de la pièce de départ: l’histoire tragique des débauches de Marguerite de Bourgogne qui fait assassiner à l’aube ses amants d’une nuit, et comment Buridan, ancien amour de jeunesse, cherche à la faire chanter pour devenir Premier ministre. Mais pour en tirer un roman de plusieurs centaines de pages, il n’hésite pas à raconter en détail des événements rapidement évoqués dans la pièce. Il modifie aussi fortement la chronologie du récit. Par exemple, la révélation des liens de jeunesse entre Buridan, ex Lyonnet de Bournonville, et Marguerite, qui intervient au milieu de la pièce, fournit tout le début du roman.

Comme toujours, Williams se livre à de très longues descriptions touffues, avec une prose ampoulée qui a beaucoup vieilli. Autant dire que la version romanesque n’apporte rien par rapport à la pièce originale.

 

Extrait du chapitre VII The champion of the college

Few knew, like Lyonnet de Bournonville, who had become more changed than his name of Jehan Buridan, what is the vengeance amassed drop by drop in a racked bosom. It was not the torrent of tropical climes, but the reservoir which, when full, and not till then, crushes through the barrier and overcomes the object of its unerring and destined fury. It had been imbibed from the parchments he read, the tombstone legends which he traced with his finger on the engravings, the “sealed library” of the cloister to which only the venerables had access; it traced those wrinkles on his brow and made the youth a man of unmitigated solemnity.

Buridan had absolved his enmity of a personal cast; he pursued Marguerite as a sinner against the purest love which ought to have commanded sanctity. So, his vengeance was not the swordsman’s whose steel chafed in its scabbard to be out and thrusting; not the scholar’s become sacerdotal and blunting his un-Christian resolve with prayer. It was the soft, rich metal, changed by secret alchemy into hardened bronze, capable of piercing flint; the love of twenty years altered into hate as fiery, as potent and as irresistible.

No longer any fever of passion; just the constant companion, grateful though a vampire; sitting beside him wherever he withdrew from the world; turning the leaves over for him, pointing to the verses which inculcated punishment of the offender against love, and present still though he closed his eyes in sleep.

Through long journeys and voyages, amid perils of nature and of savages, more hideous, his bitter thought had sustained him; he felt when the tempest raged or the barbarians’ arrows whistled, or the tiger leaped out of the poisonous jungle, that he would be the survivor—that he must pluck down the forsworn woman at her happiest moment—-that when she fell, it would be from her greatest height.

To a mere woman it would be cowardly, but to a queen, the spirit of iniquity, he felt that he was Maccabee attacking a Behemoth. For her, he who was a scion of a blameless house, had become an adventurer without hope, love or happiness, throwing his best moments to the winds, but his nobility would obtrude. He could not be content with the existence of a free companion, clerk or cavalier of fortune; he felt that his way to refind her was pointed out by the dagger.

Tranquillity had come to him, as to the bandit chief who has selected his part in the plunder.

 

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