Alexandre Dumas Père wrote several novels starring the D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers. The original novel was The Three Musketeers (1844)—in which all the musketeers were in their youth—followed by Twenty Years After (1845) and the multiple volumes of The Vicomte de Bragelonne (1847-1850).
I am currently re-reading Twenty Years After and find that D’Artagnan and the Musketeers have not only grown older by twenty years: They have also matured in other ways. The novel takes place during the Wars of the Fronde (1648-1653) in which the nobility resists the penny-pinching Cardinal Mazarin, who with Anne of Austria (widow of Louis XIII) is acting as regent for the young Louis XIV.
As lieutenant of the King’s Musketeers, D’Artagnan is pledged to support the royal party. Mazarin discovers how the Musketeers has performed so valiantly two decades earlier and requests that D’Artagnan bring together his former companions. But time has passed. He succeeds in recruiting Porthos to his cause, especially as all he really wants is to become a Baron.
But Aramis and Athos are loyal to the Fronde. Even D’Artagnan’s old servant Planchet is of that party. What I find so interesting in this sequel is that the political disunity does not dissolve the old friendship: It is still “all for one and one for all.” I am constantly reminded of parallels to our own political situation in this grisly Presidential Election of 2016. The vagaries of national politics seem to have no effect on the friendship of these four valiant fighters.
Even though Twenty Years After is more crowded with incident than The Three Musketeers, I find it to be a better novel, if for no other reason than its insight into the nature of friendship—especially of friendships that last.