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Tag: The Scarlet Pimpernel

From My Library: The Scarlet Pimpernel

By Baroness Orczy, this book is a marvelous story of intrigue, spies, deceit, and undying love. The first copy I bought was a small, paperback Penguin Press copy. Then I found this lovely boxed and illustrated hardcover at Second Read Books in St Augustine, Florida. It was printed by The Folio Society in 1997.

The illustrations are by Lucy Weller, and though they are not my favorite style of art, they are actually very well suited for this book. Each one is a collage of different images fitted together to form a whole. It is almost a true representation of each character who are collages of masks and emotions and lies. Here is one of Lucy Weller’s illustrations of Lady Marguerite and Sir Percy Blakeney. It is almost like a card, the king or the queen, isn’t it?

Illustration by Lucy Weller in The Scarlet Pimpernel, printed by The Folio Society, 1997

Exclamations by Sir Percy

“Sir Percy Blakeney, as the chronicles of the time inform us, was, in this year of grace 1792, still a year or two on the right side of thirty. Tall, above the average, even for an Englishman, broad-shouldered and massively built, he would have been called unusually good-looking, but for a certain lazy expression in his deep-set blue eyes, and that perpetual inane laugh which seemed to disfigure his strong, clearly cut mouth.

chapter VI, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, 1905

“Zounds, my dear fellow did you ever see such a beastly day?”


“Odd’s fish!”

“Demmed uncomfortable things, duels, ain’t they, Tony?”

“Odd’s life, m’dear!”



“Beastly uncomfortable place Paris, just now.”

“La! m’dear.”


“Suddenly… a sound… the strangest, undoubtedly, that these lonely cliffs of France had ever heard, broke the silent solemnity of the shore.
So strange a sound was it, that the gentle breeze ceased to murmur, the tiny pebbles to roll down the steep incline!
It was the sound of a good, solid, absolutely British ‘D***!'”

chapter xxxi, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, 1905

(I don’t make it a point to share curse words often, however, the above quote is at one of the greatest turning points in the story. It makes me laugh every time. All I can say is you’ve got to read the book.)

On Plot Twists

Even if you are not an avid reader, I am sure you have come across a book or two with a brilliant plot twist. Now, when I say plot twist, I don’t mean a surprise. For example, I have found while reading Sherlock Holmes, that many of those short stories have a surprise ending, something that the reader didn’t see coming. But that’s not what I mean. I am talking about a complete one-eighty. One minute, the story is going in this direction, you have figured out the hidden secrets, and you think you know what’s about to happen, and then BOOM! Plot twist.

I began thinking about plot twists while I was listening to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Baroness Orczy has a beautiful way of writing that just draws you into her story. The exploits and narrow escapes of the hero are not the main focus for the first half of the book. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s exploits are just a backdrop, like a fairytale in Lady Marguerite Blakeney’s life. Then, Plot Twist! She learns that he is not some distant, courageous man; he is much closer to her than she ever dared dream.

Then I thought about another book I recently read that had a plot twist: Speaking in Bones, by Dr Kathy Reichs. Forensic scientist Dr Temperance Brennan is approached with evidence that opens an old missing persons case. As Brennan investigates, she discovers that bones collected at several different crime scenes may belong to the same person. The good doctor and the reader believe they know who the bones belong to until new evidence comes to light. Plot Twist! Suddenly, those assumed to be dead may still be alive, and those thought to be missing may no longer be alive. The second half of that book was really quite fascinating!

Although I mentioned that most of the Sherlock Holmes short stories have surprises but not plot twists, there is one in particular that has a conclusion even the great detective never foresaw. In the adventure of “Charles Augustus Milverton”, Holmes challenges a ruthless blackmailer for the sake of a lady’s reputation. The blackmailer, Milverton, stubbornly refuses to give up the compromising letters in his possession, so Holmes and Watson take matters into their own hands. They enter Milverton’s house by night, and then Plot Twist! I can’t say more without giving away the story. But I assure you, it was totally unexpected.

I have not yet written about The False Prince and the five books that make up the Ascendance Series by Jennifer Nielsen, but I plan to make a post about these books as soon as I reread them. However, for this post, I couldn’t leave out The False Prince. Wow, what a plot twist in that book! About halfway through, I began to suspect, but the way it came about is just a testament to the brilliance of the author. I have told many people: The False Prince is even better the second (or third or fourth) time around because you know the ending. This is also another great audiobook, and it’s on Spotify performed by Charlie McWade. Briefly, after the death of the King, Queen, and Crown Prince Darius, a regent named Conner devises a plan to pass an orphan boy as the long lost Prince Jaron. The whole country had mourned the death of Prince Jaron two years previous. Conner “adopts”, buys, or kidnaps (however you want to term it) three orphans who resemble the lost prince and takes them to his home. He trains them extensively in history, sword fighting, horseback riding, manners, and anything else a prince should know. The book follows the orphan Sage as he tries as hard as he can to annoy Conner while learning how to be a prince. A false prince. Will Conner’s treasonous plan succeed? Plot Twist!

The last plot twist I will share with you today is in the Divergent trilogy. You have to read all three books to get there. But then there are two major Plot Twists in the third book. That’s all I’m going to say here because I plan to read Divergent again very soon, and so I’ll also be writing about it soon.

I hope you have decided by now that you will read one (or all) of these great books. They are fun, fascinating, and sometimes suspenseful. I highly recommend them all.

I Finished The Scarlet Pimpernel Today

I listened to the final chapters of The Scarlet Pimpernel this morning. I absolutely love the ending! The great trick played on the enemy, the sweet surprise for the lady, the hero safe. The first time I read this book, I was thoroughly surprised. Now, after several readings and listenings, I still love it. And I won’t say more so that you will be compelled to read it just to find out what I am talking about. Now forgive me, but I am going to listen to the end again.

What is a Scarlet Pimpernel?

“The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle,” [Sir Andrew] said at last, “is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.”

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, circa 1905
photo credit Dear Plants

Sir Percy’s Poem About the Scarlet Pimpernel

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere,
Is he in heaven? - Is he in hell? 
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.

(The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, circa 1905)

Sir Percy Blakeney becomes the talk of Lord Grenville’s ball when he recites (repeatedly) this little poem he devised. “‘All done in the tying of a cravat,’ Sir Percy had declared to his clique of admirers.”

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

Today I started to listen to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Again. And I couldn’t wait to tell you about it, because it’s one of my favorite stories! Although I would usually tell you that I prefer a nice hardback book, there are times when I must listen to a book instead. And the next best thing to a hardback is a well-recorded audio.

I was first introduced to The Scarlet Pimpernel when my childhood friend showed me the 1982 movie. I fell in love with it. The actors, the storyline, everything about it. We watched it three times that day, and I have watched it at least 100 times since. Did I say it’s one of my favorites?

Then I found out that the movie was based on a book, so of course the first time I came across that book, I bought it. If you ever get the chance, read it, listen to it, and watch the movie. I think you will enjoy it too.

Now for the story: The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in the middle of the French Revolution, when the French commoners were killing French aristocrats. Their weapon of choice was Madame la Guillotine. An Englishman, known only as “The Scarlet Pimpernel” begins to rescue the imprisoned aristocrats. Using elaborate disguises and well-planned schemes, he and his band of men smuggle the former nobles out of Paris and away from death. Who is this man? Can the French Republic capture him before he steals away any more “aristos”?

The story is told from the view of Lady Marguerite Blakeney. Once the “Queen of Intelligent Society” in Paris, the Lady finds herself in a loveless marriage to a lazy, “foppish” English gentleman. One day, she is approached by a representative of the French Republic, a former friend named Chauvelin. He tasks her with finding out who this Scarlet Pimpernel is. He threatens to turn her brother over as a spy if she will not help him. Though she is angered and initially refuses, she eventually agrees, for she fears her brother is the only soul left on earth who loves her.

Lady Blakeney learns too late that when she betrays the Scarlet Pimpernel, she also betrays everything she ever loved. She faces great danger when she tries to right her wrong. She must hide in the shadows, tread barefoot through the night forest, and risk being caught by those who would do her harm before she can find the forgiveness and undying love she always craved.

The first copy I bought of The Scarlet Pimpernel was a Penguin Press paperback that I may still have in my library (if I haven’t given it away). But on one of my trips to St Augustine, I found a beautiful collector’s edition at the used bookstore, Second Read Books. It has a box cover and several glossy pictures. It was printed in 1997 by The Folio Society. When I don’t have time to sit and read, I will listen to the audiobook on Spotify or YouTube. It is a LibriVox recording performed by Karen Savage, who does a wonderful job.

I hope that you will decide to pick up a copy for yourself. I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy The Scarlet Pimpernel.