The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer
Author: Eugène Sue
Publisher: W. Strange
Publication Year: 1845
Book Dimensions: 12.5cm x 18.5cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S83 F 1845
In this 1845 Eugène Sue novel, the Female Bluebeard is believed to have killed her past three husbands and now has three lovers: a pirate captain, a hide dealer, and a cannibal.
The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer is originally a French text by Eugène Sue; this edition presents the English translation. This edition does not give the original French title, but the French edition is entitled L’Aventurier ou la Barbe-bleue, with the name Barbe-bleue, or Bluebeard, coming from a French folk tale. In this edition, the full English title, The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, appears on the fifth page and across every set of adjacent pages. Additionally, the author’s name appears on the fourth page under an illustration of the author, and again on the fifth page, under the title. It is on the fifth page that the book also gives the name of the illustrator, Walmsley, and the publisher, W. Strange.
The translator of this particular English edition is not specified, but we do know it was done in London in November of 1844, and the copy was published by William Strange in his office at 21, Paternoster Row, London, England in 1845. The text features thirty-four illustrations by Walmsley, and a separate epilogue to the story entitled “The Abbey of Saint Quentin.” The translator provides the reasoning behind the epilogue, noting that Eugène Sue was notorious for tying up the rest of his stories very quickly and in an “unsatisfactory manner” (286). Thus, this additional story gives a finished outcome and resolves any unanswered questions.
The translator prefaces both the full story and the epilogue. The epilogue was published separately by T.C. Savill, Printer, 107, St. Martin’s Lane in London.
The book is entirely unique, the cover of the book being a hard paper board which has been hand painted with a marbling technique. This particular cover has a muted, gray-green color with small swirls of reds, yellows, and blacks mixed in. The spine and the corners of the book are bound with dark brown leather, and the spine has both seven sets of parallel gilded lines going across it and a shortened version of the title, Female Bluebeard, also in gilt on the top of the spine. The book is 12.5cm by 18.5cm, and the edges of the cover and around the leather are worn. The binding of the book is still well intact; however, it is fragile upon opening it.
Inside of the book, the first couple pages are end sheets of a thicker, more brittle paper, and the rest are of a softer, thinner sheet. There is a table of contents after the title page with both the chapter names and corresponding pages indicated. There are thirty-eight chapters plus an additional two for the epilogue. The pages of the book are identified with numbers indicated on the top left and top right of the pages, consecutively. There is a total of two-hundred and seventy-six pages for The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, and the full story including the epilogue concludes on page three-hundred and six. Roman numerals, appearing at the bottom of some select pages, going up to the numeral XX, or twenty, were indicators to the people who bound the books which sections went in order.
The font of the text is rather small and closely set, and the margins are not very large. The illustrations appear both at the beginning of some chapters with the first letter of the first word in that sentence incorporated into the drawing, as well as throughout the chapters. They are all done in black ink by wood cuts. The illustrations don’t feature a caption, but they reflect scenes from that particular page or section. In some of the illustrations, the name of the illustrator, Walmsley, can be found cleverly hidden. For instance, in the opening of the chapter there is an illustration in which Walmsley’s name appears under the shadow of a fallen candlestick.
This particular book has some marks from previous ownership and from natural weathering. There is a name on the first page of the first chapter, written in pencil and signed in cursive, as well as a number scrawled in the corner of one of the first pages of endpapers. The significance of both is unknown. The pages show some browning and staining from air pollution interacting with the books over time, but little to no stains are from human error.
The author of The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, Eugène Sue, was well known across Europe, his French texts being adapted into every European language. He was lauded as the nautical romance author of Europe. His early works, generally maritime and romance focused, were immensely popular and enjoyed, but ultimately viewed as immoral and depraved. Many authors and publications were quick to defend Eugène Sue’s own moral character though, and his popularity in France led him to be elected as a representative of the people. After publishing several books then going into debt, Sue decided to leave Paris and abandon his upper-class roots to be among the people. This prompted his most popular novels, Mathilde and Les Mystères de Paris, which gave rise to many imitations and put him in the spotlight as a great socialist philosopher and novelist. Sue wrote some of the dramatic adaptations of these novels as well as for some of his other works, including the Morne-Au-Diable, an adaptation of The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer (“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works” 54–66).
The Female Bluebeard was published in several manners. The book could be purchased whole as a single volume, but there was also the option to buy it in sections. It was sold in twenty parts in a magazine, for a price of one penny each. The sections contained two of the illustrations each. This twenty-number option could be bought by the publisher in London at 21 Paternoster-row, or “at all booksellers in England, Ireland, and Scotland” (The Standard 1). The W. Strange edition from 21 Paternoster Row, in 1846, just published, could also be purchased whole for three sickles (“Popular Books” 32). The English version of the text was published by several companies in London and by one in New York. The first English edition was the London edition by W. Strange. The New York version of L’Aventurier ou la Barbe Bleue, published in 1844 by J. Winchester, is titled differently as The Female Bluebeard; or Le Morne au Diable, taking from the name of the Female Bluebeard’s habitation. It is only one hundred and fifteen pages. The London publisher, Stokesley pr. owned by J.S. Pratt, likewise, used this title in their publication of the novel in 1845. This edition contained two volumes, measuring 445 pages, and a two-page insert about the other novels published by Pratt at Stokesley. The French text was translated to English for this edition by Charles Wright. Later, in 1898, The Female Bluebeard had several of its chapters published weekly in a London newspaper on “tales of mystery,” and it was advertised as a story of “love, intrigue, and adventure” (“Tales of Mystery” 241). There are several advertisements regarding the editions and where they could be bought. Stock of The Female Bluebeard was even auctioned off by a book collector at his house, boasting a thousand perfect copies of the eight-volume edition, illustrated with woodcuts with about one hundred and ten reams (“Sales by Auction” 546).
The Female Bluebeard: Or the Adventurer was adapted for the stage several times. It appeared in England for one of the first times at the Drury Lane Theater in an adaptation entitled Adventurer in the Fiend’s Mountain (Amusements, &C 246). It was also adapted into a play by C. A Somerset Esquire at an amphitheater in Manchester (“Provincial Theatricals”). Both performances seemed to attract favorable attention and were deemed by the press a success. The novel likely had many more shows, as Eugène Sue himself, wrote an adaptation of it.
There were mixed reviews for The Female Bluebeard, as it did not quite capture the hearts of the people as much as many of his other works did. This novel, again, brought scrutiny on Sue’s character. One critic published that The Female Bluebeard was “licentious,” leading the translator of the W. Strange edition to write to the paper and defend the novel’s values. The translator argued that while not many French novels possessed a moral to their story, The Female Bluebeard did, and a valuable one at that (“Literature: The Female Bluebeard”). Moreover, there were some reviews that raved of its success, calling it “the most curious and exciting work” produced by Eugène Sue (“Popular Books” 32).
This particular text is not well attended to by scholars, as Eugene Sue produced a plethora of novels which garnered more attention and acclaim. His novel, Les Mystères de Paris, or The Mysteries of Paris, inspired several other locations-based mysteries such as the Mysteries of London and the Mysteries of Munich, and has been published since by the company Penguin Classics. His novel, the Wandering Jew, has also been published by modern companies, and has gained more attention, particularly for its strong anti-Catholic sentiments. In many of his popular novels, his socialist ideology attracted scholars and inspired a great deal of the emerging writers at the time. Sue’s work is thought to have influenced Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas. Alexandre Dumas wrote the biography of his friend and fellow writer, Eugène Sue (“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works” 54).
Narrative Point of View
The Female Bluebeard: or The Adventurer is narrated in the third person, not through a specific character, but by an anonymous narrator. The narrator continuously interjects throughout the novel to guide the audience’s reading along, directly addressing the reader as a willing participant in learning the history of the characters. The narration has a sense of self-awareness, being cognizant of and acknowledging the ridiculousness of some of its characters as well as several aspects of the story. There is a controlled omniscience throughout, as the characters’ emotions and motives are blatantly revealed. However, regarding some secrets, the author chooses to withhold their answers until it is needed for the plot. The narration is rich, striking a balance between complex and uniquely singular characters, vibrant and multi-sensory descriptions, and a wild and dynamic plot. Finally, some parts of the narration are left in French, as there was not quite as fitting a translation in English, either because of word play or connotations not being expressed in the same manner once translated.
We beg, therefore, to inform the reader, who has, doubtless, long since seen through the disguise, and penetrated the mystery of the Boucanier, the Flibustier, and the Carib, that these disguises had been successively worn by the same man, who was none other than THE NATURAL SON OF CHARLES THE SECOND, JAMES DUKE OF MONMOUTH, EXECUTED IN LONDON, THE 15TH OF JULY, 1685, AS GUILTY OF HIGH TREASON.
We hope such of our readers as have had any ill opinion of the Female Bluebeard within their hearts will now do her ample justice. (141)
The narration, particularly in this paragraph, capitalizes on the involvement of the reader in the analysis and reading of the text, creating a greater sense of investment on the reader’s part and making each reveal that much more impactful. While, the narrator gives the reader the benefit of the doubt of likely predicting the mystery element, this simultaneously invites the unaware reader to look retrospectively at the story and recall any clues or foreshadowing, keeping the reader participating. Through the inclusion of the reader throughout the novel, the narrator grabs the readers’ attention, continuously checking in on the progress of their interpretation and ideas about the text. By actually calling forth to the reader, each reader is figured as a singular person whose participation matters to the story, rather than having the story appeal to the emotions of many. This feigned exchange creates an even greater sense of a tale being told by word of mouth, and holds the possibility of investing the reader more into the story. As this connection is made, and mutual involvement and shared knowledge is established, the narrator is more effective in dispelling any of the reader’s disbeliefs or disparagements against the story. In the above sample passage, the narration dispels any aspersions on the Female Bluebeard’s character. The narrator, by voicing what the reader has “doubtless” thought, creates this idea that the reader’s and narrator’s opinion and view of the story will logically match up throughout the story, not just in this one singular instance. Therefore, the narration figures the reader as likely to go along with the rest of what the narrator presents and take it as truthful to the history. Thus, through the inclusion of the reader in the progress of the story, the author is able to give the feel of a spoken tale and interestingly sway the reader to accept what the author says as fact.
The novel opens up on the ship, the Unicorn, which has presently left la Rochelle for the island, Martinique, and is occupied most usually by Captain Daniel, a small crew, Reverend Father Griffon, and most unusually, by the Gascon, the Chevalier Polyphemus Amador de Croustillac. It is May of 1690, and France is at war with England. The Chevalier de Croustillac has chosen to wait until a less conspicuous time to reveal himself from where he has hidden on board the ship in order to get safe passage to Martinique and eventually, to America. Being a man of great immodesty and foolhardiness, he assumes a spot at supper with no word on how he arrived on board the moving vessel. The Chevalier manages to evade all questioning of his mysterious appearance on board the ship through extreme flattery, party tricks, and by the promise to only confess his intentions to Father Griffon. Nearing the end of the journey to Martinique, Captain Daniel offers the Chevalier de Croustillac a place on board his ship as a permanent source of entertainment, and Reverend Father Griffon, wanting to help the poor adventurer, offers for him to reside with the Reverend at his house in Macouba, where he can attempt to earn some capital. However, this all changes when word of the Female Bluebeard is passed around the ship and meets the ears of the Chevalier.
The Female Bluebeard, like her folktale namesake, Bluebeard, is believed to have killed her past three husbands, and currently holds the abominable company of three ugly lovers: Hurricane, the pirate captain; a hide dealer boucanier coined, “Tear-out-the-soul”; and a Carib cannibal from Crocodile Creek, Youmaale. Despite these alarming and less than spectacular qualities possessed by the elusive Female Bluebeard, the Chevalier de Croustillac decides that he will show her a true gentleman and win her heart, and with it her fortune, regardless of the potential of her being old and ugly. And so, the Chevalier decides to go with Father Griffon, if only to leave after a night’s repose. This plan is met with strong disagreement from the Father, for he knows some truth to the story of the Female Bluebeard having received confession from a man who encountered her at her home on the Devil’s Mount, or the Morne au Diable. While staying with Father Griffon and resting for supper, a threat to forget his pursuit of the Female Bluebeard comes to the Chevalier in the form of a note tied to an arrow which narrowly misses his flesh. The Chevalier goes against both warnings, sneaks out of Father Griffon’s care, and embarks on a harrowing trek to the habitation of the Female Bluebeard at the Morne au Diable.
It is during this time that we catch a glimpse of the equally daunting and troubling journey to the Morne au Diable, full of danger and risk of death, of the Colonel Rutler, a partisan of the new king of England, William of Orange, who is tasked with a mission which will later be revealed.
Back at the Morne au Diable, the Female Bluebeard, revealed to be exceptionally fine and beautiful, is seen flirting with a man named Jacques, who she also lovingly calls Monsieur Hurricane. It is here that she also learns that the Chevalier de Croustillac is after her hand in marriage, and she, consequently, sends word to the Boucanier, Tear-out-the-soul, to bring him to her.
The Chevalier de Croustillac, led by his gut and the magnetism of his heart to the Female Bluebeard’s, stumbles into the Carib’s camp, exhausted, bloodied, and starving. He is met with a feast of the most unusual variety, and is led to the Morne au Diable, albeit with some feigned protestation from the Boucanier. Upon arriving at the magnificent dwelling of the Female Bluebeard, the Chevalier, wishing to impress the lady, requests a change of clothes for his own sullied and ripped ones, and is put into the garments of the Female Bluebeard’s late first husband.
The Chevalier meets the Female Bluebeard, who we learn is called Angelina, with great awe and wonderment, and attempts to inspire Angelina with much of the same amazement and admiration that he holds for her. Angelina bemuses the Chevalier, speaking falsities and making fun of the Chevalier’s brash actions. She sticks close to her lovers, further aggravating the mind and heart of the Chevalier. She does offer him a limited position as her new husband, which shall end before a year is up through rather gruesome means, an offer the Chevalier is reluctant to accept, aside from his previous promises of marriage. However, Angelina recognizing that the Chevalier is not falling for her murderous and sinful façade, relates to the Chevalier that her three lovers are actually her guards, and her proposition to the Chevalier was made to poke fun at him and amuse herself. She then proposes to make him a new offer the next evening.
Meanwhile, we catch a glimpse of the interactions between the nervous and sweaty governor, Monsieur le Baron de Rupinelle, and Monsieur de Chemeraut, the envoy of France, aboard a French frigate, regarding a state secret vested in the Morne au Diable and backed up by Father Griffon. Monsieur de Chemeraut requests of the governor, ships with thirty of his best armed guards and a ladder, and advances towards the Morne au Diable. Father Griffon learns of their swift advance to the Devil’s Mount, and alarmed that they have learned the secret that only he possesses and fearing the safety of la Barbe-Bleue, he hurries to beat the French frigate to the Morne au Diable. Colonel Rutler, who we learned of earlier, has at this moment, escaped great perils and landed in the interior garden of the Morne au Diable, and is lying, hidden, in wait.
Back at the Morne au Diable, the Chevalier’s rambling poetry and protestations of love, are met with amusement and some fondness by la Barbe-bleue or the Female Bluebeard. However, she relates to the Chevalier that she was expecting his arrival from word by her good friend, the Father Griffon, and had used the Chevalier’s foolishness for means of entertainment. They wander into the garden, the Chevalier becoming increasingly humiliated and affected, his love for the Female Bluebeard being genuine, and each of her words stinging and hurting his heart and hubris. To add to this, she offers him diamonds to reconcile his hurt feelings which only worsens the injury to his pride. La Barbe Bleue claims that humiliation was not her intent, and that she was under the incorrect notion that the Chevalier was only after her money and posed a threat to her and the inhabitants of the Morne au Diable. She demands his forgiveness, calling him her friend, and offering him a place to stay at her home, which completely reverses the anger and sorrow raging inside the Chevalier. The Female Bluebeard leaves to look for Youmaale and grab a more deserving present for the Chevalier, and in her absence the Colonel Rutler, still hiding in the garden, rushes toward the Chevalier. Pulling a hood over the Chevalier’s face and binding his hands, Colonel Rutler arrests him for high treason.
Colonel Rutler mistakes the Chevalier for the believed late husband of the Female Bluebeard, calling him “my Lord Duke,” and the Chevalier plays the part of the royal Englishman to gain information, learning that la Barbe Bleue’s husband is wanted by the King of England, William of Orange, for treason. The Lord Duke had posed a threat to the King, possessing great fortunes and having previously led a group of devoted partisans against the King, fighting for his royal father of a falcon of Lancaster. The Duke had, after his attempt at revolt, been executed, or at least thought to be until of late. All this being said, the Chevalier promptly decides to assume the personage which has already been given to him, without raising alarm to Angelina, in a means to gain the affection and permanent gratitude of la Barbe Bleue for saving her husband, who she loves dearly.
Arousing great surprise, the bound Chevalier and the Colonel are met by Angelina herself, disguised as one of her domestics, and she gives the Chevalier the Lord Duke’s sword and cloak to further cement his false identity. She leaves to relate the news to her husband, who we find out was masquerading as all three of her lovers, and is in reality, James Duke of Monmouth, the son of Charles the Second. Angelina believes them saved, but her dreams are disrupted when the Duke will not let the Chevalier risk his life for him. To add to her dismay, Father Griffon arrives with the news that the French Frigate knows of the Duke’s existence and location, and had questioned the Father of his whereabouts outside. Upon the arrival of the French frigate, Colonel Rutler had attempted to strike the Chevalier disguised as the Duke, and his blade had broken. This action did not go unnoticed by the French envoy, Monsieur de Chemeraut, and furthered confirmed his suspicions that the fallen and gagged man, was indeed the James Duke. Monsieur de Chemeraut propositions the Chevalier, believing him to be the Duke, to rejoin his partisans and place him back at the head alongside his royal uncle, James Stuart, by driving the “usurper,” William of Orange from his throne of England. Later, he informs the Chevalier that refusing the offer would mean imprisonment. Thus, the Chevalier accepts.
The Chevalier de Croustillac, guarded closely by the Monsieur de Chemeraut, happens upon Angelina and Captain Hurricane conducting in improper displays of affection, and is horrified by her actions, the Captain’s real identity still unknown to the Chevalier. After much arguing, frustration, and consideration of the Chevalier’s trustworthiness, Angelina and the Duke reveal their secret, leading the Chevalier to readopt his plan and secure the lovers their safety and security. We also learn how the Duke had evaded death despite there being a witnessed execution.
The Gascon Chevalier, in his natural element, puts on a show for the French envoy and condemns the Female Bluebeard to a seemingly horrible fate, sending her and her lover away on the ship, the Cameleon, to a deserted island where they shall live out the rest of their limited days together. He rejects the Female Bluebeard brutally, while secretly arranging them both safe passage out of the Morne au Diable. Angelina bestows upon the Chevalier a medallion with her initials, and it is all the Chevalier needs to face the unpredictable hardships which lie ahead of him.
The Chevalier puts off his departure several times, afraid of the charade being discovered, but ultimately boards the ship to England, with little suspicion from the Monsieur de Chemeraut. It is at this time that Captain Daniel, commander of the ship, the Unicorn, approaches Monsieur de Chemeraut, requesting to sail alongside him for protection against pirates. Monsieur de Chemeraut refuses, but Captain Daniel sails alongside them anyways, carefully maneuvering his ship to avoid any attacks by the Fulminate, Monsieur de Chemeraut’s ship. The convenience of these ships’ locations works well for the Chevalier, as his treachery is discovered aboard the Fulminate by the Duke’s most adoring partisans, Lord Mortimer, Lord Rothsay, and Lord Dudley, and to avoid death or imprisonment, he jumps into the surrounding sea. The ship, the Cameleon, holding both Angelina and John, having appeared alongside the Fulminate as well, gives the Chevalier the distraction he needs to escape and board the Unicorn. The Chevalier, and Angelina and John tearfully part ways, the revered Lord Duke being pursued by the befuddled and furious French frigate. On board the Unicorn, Father Griffon and the Captain Daniel fill the Chevalier in on the orders they had received to accept him onto the ship, and surprise him with the last gift of the Lord Duke and Angelina; the ship, the Unicorn, and all its cargo. Again, receiving it as a hit to his ego, the Chevalier prescribes to Father Griffon in a note that he refuses the gift and has left the ownership to the Reverend to use charitably, as he sees fit. The Chevalier departs, beginning a new journey to Muscovy where he will enlist as a soldier under the Czar Peter.
The Abbey of Saint Quentin: An Epilogue to the Female Bluebeard
The epilogue opens up on a convent, roughly eighteen years after the events of the Female Bluebeard, where the monks are corpulent and greedy. Two young farmer’s children by the names of Jacques and Angelina are approached by one of Reverends, who demands of them the produce and grains indebted to him by their father. Diseased since the last couple of months, the father is bedridden and incapable of work, their mother taking care of him, leaving them all penniless. Regardless, the Reverend threatens to displace them and lease their farm to a more able farmer. These words are heard by an old man with sad eyes and furs, and he approaches them feeling sympathy for their situation. Upon hearing their names and witnessing the startling similarities between them and the woman he once loved, the man, the Chevalier is overcome with emotion as always. He requests of the children to stay in their barn and to be given a simple dinner which he will pay for. They depart together to see their father, and upon entering and seeing their mother, who is now middle-aged and dressed very plainly, the Chevalier faints. Angelina, the Female Bluebeard, does not recognize the Chevalier until she and her children come across the medallion she had once gifted him, tied around his neck just beside his heart.
The three old friends reunite, and the Chevalier asks of them to stay in their company for the rest of his life, paying rent to cover the needs of the struggling family. They accept after some groveling, neither party quick to accept gifts, and the Chevalier decides to search for the Father Griffon to reclaim his money from the sale of the Unicorn. The Father, still alive and having spent much of the money to become the proprietor of an estate, happily gives it to the three friends who reside there with their children for the rest of their days, their lives blissful and peaceful at last.
“Amusements, &C.” The Lady’s Newspaper, no 512 (October 18, 1856): 246.
“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works.” Bentley’s Miscellany (July 1858): 54-66.
“Literature: The Female Bluebeard,” Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, no 96 (September 22, 1844).
“Popular Books to be had by Order of All Booksellers.” Reynolds Miscellany (November 14,1846): 32.
“Provincial Theatricals.” The Era, no 335 (February 23, 1845).
The Standard [London], Issue 6273 (August 26, 1844): 1.
“Sales by Auction.” The Athenaeum, Issue 1178 (May 25, 1850): 546.
Sue, Eugène. The Female Bluebeard: or The Adventurer. London: W. Strange, 1845.
“Tales of Mystery: A Noble Scamp.” The London Journal (September 10, 1898): 241.
Researcher: Halle Strosser