Captain Fracasse


Capitaine Fracasse (Captain Fracasse) is a novel by Théophile Gautier (1811−72), the title character of which is a brash, loudmouthed swaggerer. The novel recounts the adventures of the baron of Sigognac during the reign of Louis XIII, a penniless nobleman who, taking on the role of the braggart Matamore, leaves his decaying castle to join a traveling theatrical troupe out of love for a young actress. The novel includes all the main characteristics of the typical roman de cape et d’épée (swashbuckling romance) made popular by Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas: chases, fights, intrigues, irony, love, dramatic turns of events, and a fast-paced narrative style. It became an enormous success immediately upon its release and has remained so ever since. But the work is more than an entertaining story. Gautier was a strong believer in “art for art’s sake” and the novel is written in a polished style with descriptions of flamboyant characters, cities, inns, and landscapes that recreate a long-gone society. Gautier honors 17th century novelists, such as Paul Scarron and his Roman comique (Comic novel) and addresses the intricacies of drama, appearances, and reality. Gautier had promised Capitaine Fracasse to his publisher in 1836, but the novel was finally only published between 1861 and 1863, in installments in a periodical. It was published in one volume by the firm of Charpentier in 1863. The 1866 edition, presented here, is the first to include the drawings by the greatest French illustrator of the 19th century, Gustave Doré (1832−83).

Last updated: January 8, 2018