The Three Musketeers—this story of gifts—is presented by Dumas and given to readers as an offering. But this offering is also reiterated and replayed each time the work, in one form or another, is adapted, retransmitted, updated, and integrated into a new circuit of meaning. Dumas himself, in promoting a vision of literature as a collective creation and as myth, relegates to the background such literary notions as the unique author, genius, and the immutability of the text. His conceptions and his generous practice propose another approach to literature, in which it is offered up to the winds of posterity and open to multiple appropriations, even if the primary author (but does such a person exist, ultimately?) is dispossessed.
Given the preface “[i]n which it is proved that, notwithstanding their names’ ending in os and is, the heroes of the story which we are about to have the honor to relate to our readers have nothing mythological about them,” first published in the newspaper Le Siècle on March 14, 1844, no one can fail to recognize the novel in question. This parodic summary places alongside one another the narrator and audience of this tale, its author and its readers, its donor and its recipients, the capricious mind of the poet and the impressions of the great mass of readers. The bond between the singular—although couched in the so-called majestic plural—and the ordinary plural is the story itself, in which the author, as seen further on in this same preamble, privileges the amusing over the instructive.
At the end of the preface preceding the publication of the “Memoirs of the Comte de la Fère,” the manuscript of which was supposedly discovered in the stacks of the Royal Library, the man who presents himself as their editor reveals the title of the new serial:
Now, this is the first part of this precious manuscript which we offer to our readers, changing its title to The Three Musketeers […].
In the meanwhile, as the godfather is a second father, we beg the reader to lay to our account, and not to that of the Comte de la Fère, the pleasure or the ennui he may experience.
This being understood, let us proceed with our history.
The “history” is thus given as an offerin…
- A history of gifts
- From story to myth: The endless adventure of the gift
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