Ripping Book Review—The Scarlet Pimpernel

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 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.

Moving on.

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:

The man.

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.



37 Responses to “Ripping Book Review—The Scarlet Pimpernel”

  1. 1 gita4elamats July 14, 2013 at 15:57

    I love this: “…it’s quite easy to be clever if everyone else around you is dull to the point of tears.” ! :lol:

    • 2 Professor VJ Duke July 14, 2013 at 17:51

      Thank you! Should I make it a Punchy Proverb? (Of course, I’ll have to ask Shnodgrate!)

      • 3 gita4elamats July 15, 2013 at 03:03

        Definitely! (。◕‿◕。)

      • 4 Professor VJ Duke July 15, 2013 at 11:07

        It shall be added to Proverb Palace!

      • 5 gita4elamats July 15, 2013 at 16:11

        Great! :lol:

      • 6 Professor VJ Duke July 15, 2013 at 16:33


  2. 7 krugthethinker July 11, 2013 at 20:33

    Bwahahaha! I have never read this novel, and I never will, which is why I so appreciated having its finer and not so finer points broken down for me. It is easy to be clever when everyone around you is dull to the point of tears! Best line ever. This should be a Punchy proverb, methinks.

    • 8 Professor VJ Duke July 12, 2013 at 14:57

      :) Thank you! You right! It should be Punchy Proverb! I’ll tell Shnodgrate. ;)

  3. 9 Holistic Wayfarer July 11, 2013 at 19:46

    Your book reviews are my favorite on your board.

    • 10 Professor VJ Duke July 12, 2013 at 14:58

      Thanks! But you should look at the videos… ;)

  4. 11 L. Marie July 10, 2013 at 16:59

    I have reproached many a garment.

    • 12 Professor VJ Duke July 10, 2013 at 18:36

      Really? The professor feels bashful now.

  5. 13 Angeline M July 10, 2013 at 05:20

    Two rips for the price of one today. Excellent!

    • 14 Professor VJ Duke July 10, 2013 at 11:04

      But the professor was ripped… That can’t be good, can it? ;)

  6. 15 The Hook July 9, 2013 at 16:40

    Fantastic review, Professor!

    • 16 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 16:41

      Thank you, Hook!

  7. 17 nerdywordybirdy July 9, 2013 at 15:57

    Just want to say, I love the Scarlet Pimpernel. But I enjoyed this anyway. :)

    • 18 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:59

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. (Don’t tell anyone: the professor enjoyed the book too!)

  8. 19 Susan P July 9, 2013 at 15:57

    Laughing! Loved the rip. Yes, I have read the book – twice, I think. Zooks!

    • 20 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:59

      Thank you, Susan! Zooks just might become a new favorite word, but we mustn’t use it on here! ;)

      • 21 Susan P July 9, 2013 at 17:13


  9. 22 Strictly Confidential July 9, 2013 at 15:23

    Crack me up! lol; lol; lol; Encore Pleeease!!!!

    • 23 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:35

      Every Tuesday there is a ripping review!

  10. 24 FictionFan July 9, 2013 at 13:45

    ‘Zooks! Ripping review! A surging, seething, savage review for the mind’s rumination! Perhaps they weren’t his own hands peeping forth from the Mechlin lace, but those of his victim?!?

    (Dontcha just love when authors use 2,000 adjectives per sentence?)

    • 25 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 14:54

      I started off laughing but then jumped in horror. His victims? Ahh! Too ghastly to think about! Too many crime novels, I think.

      Was the review really savage?

      Yes, I love adjectives. I think I shall use millions of them in my novel. It staggers the mind.

      • 26 Jennwith2ns July 9, 2013 at 15:33

        Adjectives AND adverbs. I always take personally Stephen King’s observation that “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs.”

    • 27 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:45

      A good observation. I will have to save myself, I think.

      • 28 deanthefish July 9, 2013 at 19:34

        A remarkable review, bravo Professor! BTW…. Jenn should be glad you’re not Mark Twain as well … given a considerable shinbone is a considerable shinbone. Especially when one is to be whacked or bludgeoned with the object in consideration.

      • 29 Professor VJ Duke July 10, 2013 at 11:03

        :) That’s true, dean!

  11. 30 Jennwith2ns July 9, 2013 at 13:37

    This review is hilarious and, no doubt, right on target–but I have a soft spot for the Scarlet Pimpernel, so I’m going to review the review, mkay?

    1. If the Professor is going to rip the (admittedly puzzling) first fragment (he is correct, it’s not a sentence–and also it’s blatantly melodramatic), one would think he might be a little more careful to avoid redundancy: cf. “Nevertheless, though . . . ”

    2. A coat can totally sit irreproachably across the shoulders. It’s a great description–particularly of someone who is as fashionably fastidious as Percy L Blakeney, Esq. (Did I mention I have a soft spot for this story?) A coat can also sit reproachably across the shoulders, for that matter–if the fit’s not quite right. Shoulders and sleeve-length are key. (Trust me. I am a 6-foot tall, long-armed woman with abnormally wide shoulders for my relatively small-boned frame.)

    3. Pepper is effective. Haven’t you ever heard of pepper spray?

    Okay. I guess that’s enough. :-)

    • 31 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 14:51

      I love this! Oh boy. Now the professor is getting ripped. I wonder what Twain would have done…

      1. But you know, redundancy drives a point home. And the professor tends to be very redundant, very redundant. But the opening sentence doesn’t suffer from redundancy. It suffers from…not being a sentence. Which is an artistic choice. She should have just stuck it in the middle of the novel. That way, the publishers wouldn’t have seen it as early!

      2. Maybe it is a fine description after all! Now this professor knows how to deal with clothes that don’t fit well. They should be criticized! Don’t criticize the person; for he had nothing to do with it!

      3. I do believe that the active ingredient in pepper spray comes somehow from chilis. Nevertheless, though, I was not aware that pepper was so effective. ;) The professor should make use of it against some of his archenemies…

      By the way, just for giggles, who is your favorite character in the book? This professor has always been partial to the antagonist. He was always really cool, even if he did lose in the end.

      • 32 FictionFan July 9, 2013 at 15:01

        The excessively-facially-hairy Twain, no doubt, would have threatened to beat poor Jennwith2ns over the head with her own shin-bone…

      • 33 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:03

        :lol: Well, I’m not that bad yet, since I haven’t tried to read P & P. You wanted to see how I handled being ripped, didn’t you?

      • 34 Jennwith2ns July 9, 2013 at 15:36

        It seems to me you are defending your redundancy as an artistic choice, and then attacking the good Baroness’ artistic choice because it IS one. Which makes me think redundancy and fragmentation aren’t all as different as you say. (Don’t tell me that’s not logical. I’m not Mr Spock here.)

        In other news:

        Phew! I’m glad you loved that. I was hoping, since I don’t actually know you that well, that you would take it in the spirit of good-natured finger-pointing in which it was meant. ;-)

      • 35 Jennwith2ns July 9, 2013 at 15:37

        PS Given the fact that a 6 foot tall woman’s shinbone is considerable, I’m glad you’re not Mark Twain, I guess.

      • 36 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:44

        Interesting, isn’t it? That’s a professorish mind at work!

        Yes, I did enjoy it! And now we know each other much better, I would say!

        (Keep this confidential: While I was reading the novel, I couldn’t put it down. Really enjoyed it. I love that time period. But this professor rips even books that he loves! I’ve ripped A Princess of Mars and it’s one of my all-time favorites!)

      • 37 Professor VJ Duke July 9, 2013 at 15:46

        The wicked FictionFan put that shinbone thing in your head! Good old Twain only wanted to beat Jane Austen because of how he suffered while trying to read P & P! This professor isn’t that vicious!

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