The Italian-born Sabatini (1875-1950), who first published this swashbuckler in 1921, always received more popular acclaim than critical praise, and it's easy to see why. His historical romance (written in English, the language of Sabatini's mother), set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, has all the elements that made his books such appealing movies: sword fights, swooning damsels, class conflict, and melodramatic revelation. It also means long speeches and armchair historical editorializing. But Sabatini wears much of his research lightly, and the stoicism of his central character drives a clean path through the difficult politics of the actual events. As Scaramouche changes his costumes—from lawyer to actor to duelist—Sabatini indulges in his love of period detail. All in all, this "sheer knight-errantcy" is a marvelous entertainment.
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