Thursday, November 30, 2017


The Revised Edition of Romantic Prince by Ruth Heredia, a study of Rafael Sabatini and his writings, is now offered as a gift to anyone who is interested in the writer.

The PDF files may be obtained by request on this blog,
and may be printed only for personal use. Please do not make commercial prints of these books and do not substitute another name for mine or in any way alter a single letter, word or punctuation mark in these files, or make commercial use of the photographs which only I have permission to use, as is clearly stated in my books, nor upload the photographs or any part of my book. In plain words, please respect my copyright. That copyright covers even the writings of Rafael Sabatini printed in Part Two of my book. My editing of them gives me copyright.

If these terms are respected, knowledge of Rafael Sabatini and his writings will spread and everyone will be happy.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Rafael Sabatini Book Covers

- and other mixed results

On 23 March 2015 I posted a piece here about the paintings used in covers of Rafael Sabatini’s books as published by House of Stratus.

At that time there were seven covers for which I had not traced the paintings that were their sources.  (I do not find the remaining five of any interest.)
Now I have three more sources, including an intriguing result, and an instance of frustration – a case familiar to me in the past eleven years.

Bellarion – Gerard Terborch – Gallant Conversation aka Parental Admonition, detail Photoshopped cleverly.
Love-at-Arms - Giovanni Mansueti – Miraculous healing of the daughter of Benvegnudo da San Polo (detail)
Turbulent Tales - Abraham Jansz Storck - Battle of Zuidersee, October 1573
The last took a great deal of time and effort to track down, especially as there are two paintings of the same date, and almost identical.  Who copied whom?  The one by Storck is in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. There the date given to this painting is 1663.  
Another with the same subject is so alike it might be a copy.  But is it?  This one is by Jan Theunisz Blanckerhoff, at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.  And the museum gives it the date – 1663.
The Sea-Hawk – The only image I can find online that exactly matches, has no source, and is part of a book cover or a poster.
By far more disappointing is the result reported by Stephen Wainwright of England.  He is no relative of Rafael Sabatini, but related to Rafael’s first wife through her mother.  Last October he visited the house in Maghull that once belonged to Rafael Sabatini’s grandfather, John Jelley, and is now No 1 Station Road.  A house in which the boy Rafael spent about four years as a child, and an unspecified time on his return to England at seventeen.  The present owners were friendly – then – and showed him the upstairs bedroom which had been Rafael’s as a youth.  When renovating the house the owner had found a few letters and documents written by Rafael, a cane with his initials on it, and in the stables outside some childish graffiti which it is claimed he wrote regarding a "Captain Blood".  The owners said Stephen Wainwright could organise a date with them to view all this properly.  (Quoted almost verbatim from his e-mail to me.)
But when he did try to arrange a viewing, they refused it.  The impression he got is that they feared he might “lay claim to bits and bobs”.  Quite inexplicable, and a sad ending.
What would compensate amply would be for someone to gain access to the correspondence between Rafael Sabatini and Houghton Mifflin that is housed in a Harvard library, especially the correspondence from 1929 to 1939.  One aim would be to look for any mention of his plans for the continuation of the Scaramouche story: any mention of the planned trilogy, of the immediate story following André-Louis’ escape over the border along with the Kercadious; of reading about François Chabot and de Batz, of the last days of the Venetian Republic, of Quiberon.  This is a matter that buzzes in my mind like an obstinate bumblebee.

In January 1930, Rafael was planning a novel taking André-Louis to Venice.  That same month he walked out on his wife and by May he was in Paris.  In November he said he had been reading about the French India Company affair.  In April 1931, the first part of Scaramouche the Kingmaker appeared (as a serial).

What options did French history offer Rafael?  By April 1794 the self-proclaimed Louis XVIII was in Verona, a part of the Venetian Republic.  He remained just over two years, and in May 1796 had to leave.  The final year of the Republic’s life offered scope for a story of adventure – but suitable for André-Louis?  What could he be doing from August 1792 until May 1796?  It is true that the disastrous landing at Quiberon Bay took place in June 1795, but Rafael would have to give it scant attention if he was to take André-Louis zigzagging across Western Europe to both Quiberon and Venice.  Besides, Venice was a byway, whereas Quiberon effectively extinguished realistic hopes of a restoration of absolute monarchy in France.

Rafael, footloose and fancy-free in Paris during the early months of 1930 (and undoubtedly in May) could spend time in the national library or in the bookshops.  The Apologia of François Chabot, the many books by G. Lenotre, were all to hand.  Is that how he found his continuation of André-Louis’ story?  Yet, at the end of this continuation, André had to return to Hamm in search of the Kercadious.  There could be no further involvement in the French Revolution’s course.  However, there remained two tempting episodes to explore: the taking of Venice, and the landing at Quiberon.

In January 1930 it was Venice that Rafael had been looking to.  And after Scaramouche the Kingmaker, in November 1931, Rafael was already telling an interviewer that there would be a third book.  Almost at once, his imagination had turned back to Venice, although in a different period.  Nevertheless, the dreaded secret tribunal had a place in his long story, together with the informers/ spies.

The novel about the French Revolution in Venice, so to speak, was ready for serial publication in August 1933.  This is where the correspondence with Houghton Mifflin would be so valuable.  It might tell us when he had first thought of writing about Quiberon.  It seems to me significant that the disaster at Quiberon comes into the beginning of Venetian Masque.  It is almost too much to expect that Rafael wrote about his plans for The Marquis of Carabas.  Yet Ferris Greenslet was a very close friend, and Dale Warren, if not as close, was another friend.
Dreams, dreams.  If only someone could try to read that correspondence.....
Meanwhile, it is worth reading straight on from the end of Scaramouche into the first few chapters of Scaramouche the Kingmaker.  André seems to carry on from what he had become by the end of the first novel; Aline appears to slip back to what she was before the ‘revelation scene’.  Then, noticeably only if one is looking close, else without a hiccup, they change into the characters they are required to be for the new story.  Or so I have found.

Friday, June 30, 2017



Two pretty bulbuls
Built a little nest.
With dry stalks wound
In and out, round and round,
They shaped it and set it
In a fine ferny pot;
Well hidden it was
In a safe spot.

Lady bulbul she laid
Three eggs so sweet,
Sat upon them a week
With nothing to eat.
Crack, crack – on a morning,
Bony and grey,
Came three tiny bulbuls,
Beaks open all day.
Fed them fat and warmed them,
Did the mother so careful,
While father danced and sang,
Of his duties forgetful.

So the little ones grew,
Balls of fluff, very sweet,
And one day they flew,
Gone – to be a crow’s treat?

©2017 Ruth Heredia

Bulbuls in the Balcony

Printed in Knowledge News during the early 1960s

For eight years red-whiskered bulbuls (Pycnonotus jocosus) have visited our six plant-filled balconies, and sometimes ventured into the adjacent rooms.  They have disported themselves just as they pleased: bounced about and swung on plants, swung on clotheslines, flown directly into the glass panes that separate room from balcony - over and over again on purpose, and they have built nests.

They are accustomed to the monsters who inhabit this flat, perching on the grille bars, and cocking their heads as the monsters make strange but not hostile sounds addressed to them.

Four years ago, a pair built a nest in a particularly long, fairly wide balcony, the best of the six.  They chose a collection of dry branches stored in a cachepot at a height.  The balcony was not then enclosed with bird netting.  That story ended in tragedy.  As soon as the fledglings dare to attempt a hopping flight, the parents evidently turn frantic.  They chivvy the little ones, and dive-bomb a monster even if she is only chasing away the waiting crows.  Within a few hours of their first feeble flight, those poor wee three in 2013 were forced out of the balcony – straight into the beaks of waiting crows.  It was over in a couple of minutes.

In May 2017, another pair came scouting for a place to nest in the same balcony, now greener than before, and protected by netting.  What followed is told in pictures below.

The Nest – left & centre: after it was vacated and removed carefully; right: before the eggs were laid
Bye bye birdies
Photographs by Berenice and Naomi da Gama Rose ©2017
Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Morning


His mother was at prayer;
a sword run through her heart
sharp with words remembered:
Be it done to me –
Do as he says;
Into thy hands –
It is accomplished.

The sword, on a sudden,
became a ray of light:
her son stood before her, silent,
as when at first he came to her.
“Hail Mary,” his hands said,
a smile impending on his lips -
as on hers amid tears.
“Behold,” her own hands spoke,
“the handmaid of the Lord.”

©2017 by Ruth Heredia

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter Carol


Who comes down the hill, radiant as dawn?
Jesus our Lord, the Father’s Only Son.

Ring bells, light lamps, and flowers strew,
Good souls, put on your garments new,
Christ our Lord is risen today,
As to his friends he did say.

Alleluia! Christ is risen;
Satan’s power is overthrown.
Alleluia! From Death’s prison
Jesus mounts his rightful throne.

Long time it was Darkness reigned,
Held poor souls, each one, in thrall.
Christ for us has freedom gained,
Gates of Heav’n opened to all.

Sleepers awake, it is morning;
See how Light breaks a New Day.
For all sinners hope is dawning,
Love and mercy shall hold sway.

©2017 by Ruth Heredia

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Edward Bulwer Lytton on the Historical Novel

A National Journal of Politics, Literature, Science and Art
Volume 1: March-June 1838

LONDON: Longman & others

THE CRITIC – No. I [pg 42]

The Novelist has three departments for his art: MANNERS, PASSIONS, CHARACTER.
The delineation of manners embraces both past and present; the Modern and the Historical Romance.

The Historical [pg 43]

We have a right to demand from the writer who professes to illustrate a former age, a perfect acquaintance with its characteristics and spirit.  At the same time, as he intends rather to interest than instruct us, his art will be evinced in the illustrations he selects, and the skill with which they are managed.  He will avoid all antiquarian dissertations not essentially necessary to the conduct of his tale.  If, for instance, his story should have no connection with the mysteries of the middle ages, he will take care how he weary us with an episodical description that changes his character from that of a narrator into that of a lecturer.  In the tale of Notre Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo, the description of the cathedral of Notre Dame is not only apposite, but of the deepest interest; for the cathedral is, by a high effort of art, made an absolute portion of the machinery of the tale.  But the long superfluous description of the spectacle with which the story opens is merely a parade of antiquarian learning, because the Scholars and the Mysteries have no proportionate bearing whatever in the future development of the tale.

The usual fault of the historical novelist is over minuteness in descriptions of dress and feasts, of pageants and processions.  Minuteness is not accuracy.  On the contrary, the more the novelist is minute, the more likely he is to mar the accurate effect of the whole, either by wearisome tameness or some individual error.

An over-antiquated phraseology is a common and a most inartistical defect: whatever diction the delineator of a distant age employs, can never be faithful to the language of the time, for if so, it would be unintelligible. ..... The language of a former time should be presented to us in the freest and most familiar paraphrase we can invent.  Thus the mind is relieved at once from the task of forming perpetual comparisons, and surrenders itself to the delusion the more easily, from the very candour with which the author makes demand on its credulity. [At this point Bulwer Lytton takes his illustration fromany story of ancient Greece” but what he says could be applied to another place and time.]  The author will, therefore, agreeably surprise the reader, if he adopt a style as familiar and easy as that which a Greek would have used in common conversation; and show the classical spirit that pervades his diction, by the grace of the poetry, or the lightness of the wit, with which he can adorn his allusions and dialogue.  .....  instead of selecting such specimens and modifications of human nature as are most different from, and unfamiliar to, the sympathies of modern times, he will rather prefer to appeal to the eternal sentiments of the heart, by showing how closely the men of one age resemble those of another.  ...  The reader will be interested to see society different, yet men the same; and the Manners will be relieved from the disadvantage of unfamiliarity by an entire sympathy with the humours they mask, or the passions on which they play.

Again, if the author propose to carry his reader to the times of Richard the First or of Elizabeth, he will have to encounter an universal repugnance from the thought of an imitation of Ivanhoe or Kenilworth.  An author wo was, nevertheless, resolved to select such a period for his narrative would, accordingly, if an artist of sufficient excellence, avoid with care touching upon any of the points which may suggest the recollection of Scott.  He would deeply consider all the features of the time, and select those neglected by his predecessor; - carefully note all the deficiencies of the author of Kenilworth, and seize at once upon the ground which that versatile genius omitted to consecrate to himself.

To take the same epoch, the same characters, even the same narrative, as a distinguished predecessor is perfectly allowable; and, if successful, a proof at once of originality and skill.  But if you find the shadow of the previous work flinging itself over your own – if you have not thoroughly escaped the influence of the first occupant of the soil, - you will only invest your genius to unnecessary disadvantage, and build edifices, however graceful and laboured, upon the freehold of another.

An author once said, “Give me a character, and I will find the play;” and, if we look to the most popular novels, we shall usually find, that where one reader speaks of the conduct of the story, a hundred readers will speak of the excellence of some particular character.

The passion of Love is not represented by a series of eloquent rhapsodies, or even of graceful sentiments.  It is represented, in fiction, by its effects on some particular character: the same with Jealousy, Avarice, Revenge, &c.  Therefore, in a certain sense of the word, all representations of passion in fiction may be considered typical.  .....  in the novel, as in the drama, it is in the struggle of emotions that the science of the heart is best displayed.

The Sentiment that pervades a book is often its most effective moral, and its most universal charm. It is a pervading and indescribable harmony in which the heart of the author seems silently to address our own.  ...  Of all the qualities of fiction, the sentiment is that which we can least subject to the inquiries or codes of criticism. It emanates from the moral and predominant quality of the author the perfume from his genius: and by it he unconsciously reveals himself.

What if Rafael Sabatini’s historical fictions, long and short but chiefly long, were to be evaluated by the views expressed above? (There are many more in this article, on other aspects of writing prose fiction.) His earliest short stories, (reprinted in ROMANTIC PRINCE: Part Two: READING RAFAEL), would have been torn to shreds by Bulwer Lytton! It is also interesting to refer to Rafael’s own views on writing historical fiction. These are set out in Chapter V – The Artist’s Studio – of ROMANTIC PRINCE: Part One: Seeking Sabatini.

Friday, March 03, 2017

On Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Early in 2014, I made time to very slowly compare my printed copy of the original (that is, uncut) UK version of Scaramouche with the heavily cut and most often unnecessarily edited (meaning altered in wording and punctuation) US first edition, which was the only text to be found online. I was doing this in order to supply Project Gutenberg Australia with the UK text to add to the almost complete collection of printed Sabatini found there.

To pay sufficient attention, I emptied my mind of over fifty years' memories of the novel and started as if I were reading a book not read before. It was an illuminating experience. I played it in my head like the perfect movie no one can ever make, seeing and hearing all as if it was happening before me. One reaction I can put down to old age: I wept as the young
André cradled Philippe's unresponsive head, begging him to speak. That did not happen when I was 13! I noticed small details I had missed in a score of re-readings: both André's parents have dark eyes like his own.

Then there was this:
"The surest way to the gallows of all," laughed André-Louis. At the moment Le Chapelier manifested impatience. I wonder did the phrase cross his mind that day four years later when himself he rode in the death-cart to the Grève?

The last sentence coming out of nowhere, it would seem, is like the sudden quotation of the Dies irae in Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, preceded and followed by a tolling bell; it sends - as it is meant to - a shiver down the spine. That can only happen because Le Chapelier was a real person, and he is true to life in the Scaramouche novels.

In a way, Rafael Sabatini's narrative gift, the power to seize the reader's attention and take him/ her hurtling through an exciting part of the story, undoes his other gift, the wonderful ability to recount history with an eloquence whose beauties require the reader to pause and savour them.

He weaves the story of his fictional characters so skilfully into that history that the same elevated mood which is induced by his eloquence enhances their story. I am thinking of how Bertrand des Amis is caught up (and crushed) in the historical event of 12 July 1789, one among so many real people who were killed, and of the final sentence of that chapter, merging at once the bond of affection which has grown between des Amis and his assistant, the sadness of its ending, and the portentous announcement of the French Revolution:
To André-Louis, waiting that evening on the second floor of No. 13 Rue du Hasard for the return of his friend and master, four men of the people brought that broken body of one of the earliest victims of the Revolution that was now launched in earnest.

To me it resonates like music, like the end of a movement, the sad, solemn movement, of a symphony. When reading the novel for the story one might miss these effects.

I realised just how grand Rafael Sabatini can be at his grandest, and writing a history which deeply moved him, he is very grand. It is not my habit to compare novels and novelists unless - on the rarest of occasions - they cover the same ground. To a limited extent, A Tale of Two Cities bears comparison with The Trampling of the Lilies, and with Scaramouche. But I've always found Dickens' novel too nightmarish, too much outdoing Carlyle, for me to take it seriously as a novel of the French Revolution. As a novel, yes, but not as one I would recommend to a student of history. The slow transformation of André's beliefs about reform and revolution, the complexity of any great movement in history because of the complexities of human beings, the actual unfolding of events, these are so superbly blended with the fictional element. I can't go into all the details here, but in chapter after chapter - especially in the marvellous Book Three - in paragraph after paragraph, his special artistry is to be seen - this novel is an inspired work in his output of novels.

I can find only one iffy moment: the long speech in self-exculpation from La Tour d'Azyr at a tense moment when time is of the essence. But make it he must, and at what other moment could it be possible? One must take it as one takes the soliloquies in Shakespeare or the arias in Grand Opera - Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor singing a long, beautifully decorated aria with a sword stuck in his middle.

Rafael unconsciously poured much of himself into Scaramouche, possibly carried away by the power of his own story. Look again at the word placement in that sentence I quoted ("I wonder...the Grève?") Speak it and listen to the musical effect of "himself he rode" instead of "he rode himself"; to the cadence of "in the death-cart to the Grève". 
If the writer was himself responding to the influence of music I, being accustomed to singing, hear music in his words. There is so much music buried deep in the novel, so deep that not even he realised it was flowing underneath his writing, like a subterranean stream which feeds the greenery above, unbeknownst to any.

There is that sequence leading to a climactic moment, the duel between André and the Marquis. It builds up so tensely, there is a palpable electricity about the meeting of Mme de Plougastel and Aline at No 13 Rue de Hasard. And then they hear this:
"A raccommoder les vieux soufflets!"
As I read that, I recalled at once the cry of the toy-seller in Puccini’s La boheme, at a moment not comparable in mood but musically similar, when the many voices and the orchestra have risen to a crescendo:
“Ecco i giocattoli di Parpignol!”

I wish I could hear the trained voice of an actor of the English stage long ago declaim the grand chapter that opens Book 3. It is no wonder that Esther Forbes was so captivated by the script that she picked up and read right through, not putting it down until she had read every word.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


In the course of reading the entire series of stories and novels about the 12th-century Benedictine monk, Brother Cadfael, by Edith Pargeter (as Ellis Peters), I had occasion to seek for more about Brian FitzCount. I found the following, and reflected on how little humankind has changed. The opinions to which I have drawn attention hold true even today, perhaps more today than at other times.

No professional advocate, however skilful in his exposition, can tell us what, as historians, we most desire to know. It is not merely or chiefly that he suppresses the facts which incriminate his clients. These we may easily enough obtain from the writers of the other faction. The more serious shortcoming of such an advocate is that, even where he states fairly enough the principles which were held to justify a given course of action, he gives them the colour of his own idiosyncrasy. He has his own way of marshalling the arguments; and he often adduces arguments which would scarcely have occurred to the men for whom he speaks. But the historian is as much concerned with men as with principles; the temperament of the politician is to him no less interesting and important than the idea which the politician represents. Even if the historian believes that the mainspring of feudal policy was a naive and brutal egotism, he cannot believe that feudal politicians were fully alive to the sordid character of their own motive. There is evidence enough that even Geoffrey de Mandeville had followers to whom he appeared in the light of a respectable and injured man. It is only reasonable to suppose that he and his like deceived themselves before they were able to deceive others. Self-knowledge is rare in any age — rarest of all in an age so unintellectual, so strenuous, and so eventful as the twelfth century. Now the truth about men is only one part of history; the myths which they make about themselves, and which they succeed in circulating, are also to be carefully considered. For it is in these myths that the ideals of any age are most infallibly revealed; not indeed the ideals of the best minds, but the ideals of the market-place, the conventional standards of morality.

We can never understand feudalism as a factor in history until we correct our conception of feudalism in the abstract by studying the mental processes of the individual feudatory. He was not to himself or to the majority of those who came in contact with him the mere incarnation of a centrifugal and disruptive individualism. He looked at political questions through a haze of sentiment and of tradition. So much we can imagine without the help of documents. But to estimate what sentiments and what traditions blurred his vision at a particular moment is less easy. And we are seldom supplied with the evidence that we require for arriving at an estimate.

No doubt confidential letters were exchanged, and manifestos were dispersed, whenever a crisis was at hand. Few however of these documents have come down to us from the age when feudalism was still robust and unsophisticated. Therefore we have in general to be content with secondary sources of information. We know how the baron of the Anglo-Norman epoch appeared to the minstrel, the monk and the esurient scholar. We know what was thought of his aims and his manoeuvres by kings and lawyers and highly placed ecclesiastics. But it is a rare piece of good fortune when he speaks in his own person. He may not be telling the truth; even so, we are glad to know the lines on which he thought it desirable to lie, the excuses which he thought would vindicate his conduct in the eyes of honourable men.
(H.W.C. Davis, "Henry of Blois and Brian FitzCount~"English Historical Review XXXV (1910), pp. 297-303.)

The article, and the letter from BrianFitzCount to Henry of Blois, are to be found at
and the letter in translation at