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.