WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the professor and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL by BARONESS EMMUSKA ORCZY
The Scarlet Pimpernel inspired such great masterpieces as El Zorro and Batman. For that reason alone, the novel should be ripped and ripped bad. At least now we know what (or who) to blame for the spectacles of Zorro and Batman. They are the hideous offspring of The Scarlet Pimpernel. In truth, it does make this professor wonder just what Zorro’s and Batman’s offspring will be like.
An even scarier thought: The offspring could already be matured.
Too intimidating to think about.
Luckily, those great masterpieces—those hideous offspring—aren’t the only reasons that this novel should be ripped.
Even though The Scarlet Pimpernel was written in five weeks, it was rejected by 12 prominent London publishers.
And there’s good reason for this. Below is the first sentence as it appears in the novel:
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught by savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.
Hmm… Yes, it is a fragment. But not just a fragment. No. It is a confusing fragment. There’s a difference.
For example, here’s a fragment:
Here’s a confusing fragment:
The ugly, despicably intolerable, mournful man who is human only in name, for to the senses he is nothing but a savage beast-like creature, enlivened by wicked desires and by every unscrupulous deed that can be ruminated on in the mind.
Ahh, so you see! The 12 publishers in London can’t be blamed. Confusing fragments are so hard to digest, such bears to understand, usually so incomprehensible, that the fault lies completely with the author.
We may be sure that the editors didn’t get past that confusing fragment.
Nonetheless, though, Orczy was not discouraged. The story was reconfigured as a play, and…success! The play became so popular that a book was published forthwith. Yes, the confusing fragment was still at the front. But Orczy knew what she was doing. In the play, you see, it was quite impossible to have a fragment like that. So, the audience was spared the shock—and puzzlement—until they picked up the book.
Enough of that quarrelsome business!
The novel centers on Sir Percy Blakeney (aka The Scarlet Pimpernel) as he saves French aristocrats from the chop (i.e. guillotine).
Now, throughout the entire novel, everybody wonders who the Scarlet Pimpernel is. You see, it’s a secret that Sir Percy is the man himself. It’s not a well guarded secret because it is painfully obvious. As a matter of fact, it was quite interesting to see just how unintelligent everyone really was. An example of a person who exhibits such unintelligence is Pimpernel Thickness.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is supposed to be a genius. Maybe he is one. But I say, it’s quite easy to be clever if everyone else around you is dull to the point of tears.
Since I think that character descriptions are somewhat important, I’d like to share Sir Percy’s:
Physically, Sir Percy Blakeney was undeniably handsome—always expecting the lazy, bored look which was habitual to him… …his coat set irreproachably across his fine shoulders, his hands looked almost femininely white, as they emerged through billowy frills of finest Mechlin lace. The extravagantly short-waisted satin coat, wide-lapelled waistcoat, and tight-fitting striped breeches, set off his massive figure to perfection, and in repose one might have admired so fine a specimen…
Two things should be mentioned here, I think.
Firstly, how can a coat sit irreproachably across one’s shoulder? It is quite a wonder. Did anyone really plan to criticize it? I doubt it—highly.
Secondly, the picture that the professor takes from this description is definitely a scare. A perfectly massive figure possessing femininely white hands? Now we know the truth. It wasn’t that they couldn’t catch him; it was that they wouldn’t catch him. Far too eerie.
Now we come to an example of Pimpernel Thickness, exhibited by Chauvelin, Sir Percy’s archenemy.
Here is the setting: Sir Percy is cornered; the troops are coming to arrest him. Chauvelin is preparing to jump for joy in his triumph. After all, as soon as the troops arrive, the Scarlet Pimpernel is his. But, he’s trying to remain unconcerned and keep up the pretense that he doesn’t suspect Sir Percy for a second. Though, Sir Percy is quite aware of Chauvelin’s plan and that his doom is approaching.
So, Sir Percy offers Chauvelin his snuffbox. But the brilliant Sir Percy had moments earlier, while Chauvelin’s back was turned, replaced its contents with pepper-pot. So, when Chauvelin takes a snuff…
I’ll let Orczy finish it:
Chauvelin felt as if his head would burst—sneeze after sneeze seemed nearly to choke him; he was blind, deaf, and dumb for the moment…
Of course, while Chauvelin is having his fit, Sir Percy escapes quietly and swiftly. A book full of daring escapes? I think not!
This was an example of Pimpernel Thickness. You see, everyone who deals with Sir Percy becomes undeniably thick and obtuse. Of course, Chauvelin would trust his mortal enemy and take a sniff (or snuff) from his snuffbox. Of course, Chauvelin would be so preoccupied that he didn’t see Sir Percy replace the snuffbox’s contents. Of course, the pepper would be that effective. Of course, Sir Percy would be able to escape.
As a side note, I did not know that pepper was so effective. It should probably be used in the military. Couldn’t you see it? Enemy soldiers sneezing uncontrollably and momentarily blind, deaf, and dumb?
No, I couldn’t either.
I think it should be mentioned that the word ‘zooks’ is used throughout the novel. Yes, it is strange. Yes, it was a wonder. But it was also quite perplexing—like many things in the novel.
One more thing should be shared. The poem, or whatever you want to call it:
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 professor doesn’t really understand this. Who exactly is seeking the Scarlet Pimpernel? Is it the English? You see, it says ‘we seek him here,’ and then it says ‘those Frenchies seek him everywhere.’
Yes, another bewilderment. But we were ready for it. The first sentence was a great foreshadowing.