Swashbuckler collector Jesse Knight has written, "Weymen really is a brilliant historical novelist who has been unjustly neglected." And I must say I am truly amazed that he is not to this day a household name with one or two of his books as widely known as one or two of Stevenson's. He was one of only two authors Rafael Sabatini explicitly claimed to have been an influence on his work; the other was mystic historical novelist Mary Johnston. Knight says, "Sabatini spoke highly of the older novelist, maintaining vigoriously that Weymen had advanced the field of historical fiction writing."
Weyman's great contribution to perfecting the historical romance in it's purest "swashbuckler" mode was to take all that was most thrilling about Alexander Dumas & Sir Walter Scott & get rid of everything that was tedious. That is not to say he made it simpler; he evaded stating the obvious, he used correct history as background without lecturing about it, he was never a blow-hard. He depended on environment & momentous occasion to guide the characters through a story. This resulted in a swift, forward-moving & suspenseful plot punctuated with action, heroism, witicism, & romance both of the high adventure-sort & the sort that requires a leading lady.
The book is a Dumas-esque swashbuckler of 1630s France, which a critic at the New York World thought the equal of Ivanhoe. The "red robe" aludes to Richelieu. The hero, de Berault, is a gentleman rogue who falls afoul of Richelieu & is given a choice between the Bastille or being sent on a secret mission against rebels in the south. Being a rogue his dubious mission seems a good one at first, but he falls in love with the sister of the man he is sent to betray & soon redeems himself valiantly. A rousing tale set largely in Bearn, & one of Weyman's finest.
I've taken the Gutenberg text and proofread it and restored the italics and accents, using page images from Google Books for comparison.
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