A friend of mine in college told me that Sherlock Holmes was not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorite series for which to write. He wrote Sherlock Holmes in order to pay the bills. Doyle got so tired of writing Sherlock Holmes that he attempted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, but the heartbroken British public urged him to bring Holmes back! According to my friend, Doyle wished to write stories of chivalry and adventure, like The White Company.
Now, I want to read the above work, but The Adventures of Gerard found its way onto my reading list first. I listened to these exciting adventures on audiobook–again through Librivox. The reader did an excellent job in capturing the character. My only complaint concerns his mispronunciation of corps. He pronounced corps the same way as corpse! Now, before this plague of people who mispronounce corps goes any further (our president is also guilty), let it be known that corps is pronounced the same way as core. One hopes that peer pressure and mockery would be enough to smash this phonetic heresy! Deus vult!
At any rate, our titular hero narrates his adventures to some drinking buddies in his old age. (Or perhaps he narrates them to the entire tavern. The quality of the stories surely beats the quality of any alcoholic beverage–which is saying something.) He served with Napoleon from Saragossa to Russia to Venice and lastly to Napoleon’s ultimate defeat at Waterloo. The adventures always display a wonderful variety and Gerard is a likable gallant. His self-esteem might appear insufferable to some if it were not for the many humiliations he endures at the hands of his foes and his ability to walk the talk. Some of his greatest weaknesses are his lack of cunning, fondness for young ladies, and hilarious provincialism. His time as a paroled officer in England contains some of the most amusing of his adventures. For example, his ignorance of British games induces him to think that the object of croquet is to peg the opposing player with a wooden ball as the opponent attempts to ward it off with his mallet!
Yet, the bulk of his adventures diverge from usual chivalric stories in showing the dark side of human nature. For example, one of his comrades ends up being crucified against the wall of a room! His captors left him there for days suffering from hunger and thirst with a bottle of wine placed on a table in front of him! From this bottle, his captors would occasionally drink in front of the poor sufferer! Gerard may be a knight, but his gallantry shines in a very dark world indeed!
I cannot imagine Gerard as anything less than a knight. He is not rash but at the same time shows no hesitation in accepting the most dangerous assignments which the French army bestows on him. Despite the above mentioned humiliations, he always maintains his self-respect. He also protects any women in his presence from coming to any harm despite the consequences to himself–as is adequately illustrated in the adventure “How Brigadier Gerard Lost his Ear.” To further highlight his image as a gallant swashbuckler, I might add that he hails from Gascony–the same province as D’Artagnan.
So, The Adventures of Gerard stands as a great book for light reading. The obstacles placed before Gerard as well as the alternations between humorous scenes and those of the darkness of human nature keep the reader turning pages. Of course, these adventures don’t reach the same level as Sherlock Holmes, but they still provide a great deal of entertainment and let one learn a different facet of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.