“A gift of laughter…”

As I’m on a research mission this weekend, and having spent much of the week in hospital waiting rooms, I have dredged up a couple of old ones to share.This one was written two years ago…

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Rafael Sabatini is not the best known of writers these days, though he left his mark on both literature and cinema. He was born in 1875 in Jesi, Italy to Englishwoman Anna Trafford and Vincenzo Sabatini. His parents were touring opera singers and sent their small son to England to be raised by his grandmother. A few years later, his parents stopped touring and the family settled in Milan. Rafael’s schooling took place in Portugal and Switzerland where he learned a number of languages. Returning to England, he worked as a translator and began to write.

Within four years, Rafael was a regular contributor of short stories for national magazines and in 1901 was asked to write his first novel, ‘The Suitors of Yvonne’ followed by ‘The Tavern Knight’ in 1904. His next novels became rather better known when Hollywood discovered his swashbuckling heroes and flawless heroines. The first films were products of the silent era, with later remakes of his bestselling books ‘Captain Blood’, ‘Scaramouche’ and ‘The Black Swan’ attracting Hollywood greats such as Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power to the leading roles.

I first read ‘Scaramouche’ as a youngster after watching the 1952 film with Stewart Granger and Vivien Leigh. I saw it on television in black and white and it was already old by then, but to me it was full of colour and a certain mystery. I read the book…possibly my first intimation of how far a screenplay can stray from its origins. But no matter, the book set in 18thC France at the beginnings of the Revolution, a time and place that already fascinated me. I had been to Paris and Versailles and I knew the bare bones of the Revolution’s story, though with little real understanding at that age.

The story tells of Andre-Louis Moreau, a young lawyer with a mysterious past who, on the death of his friend at the hands of the Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr, is drawn into the current of change sweeping through France. Just to complicate matters, the Marquis seeks to marry the beautiful Aline…

Moreau is forced to flee. On his travels he becomes a master swordsman and also hides within a troupe of travelling players where he becomes Scaramouche, one of the traditional characters of the Commedia dell’Arte… the ‘comedy of craft’. The masked figures of this touring troupe of players was intriguing.

Who were these people who could combine political and social satire with ritualised plays… who could insult the gentry and get away with it in the manner of the court jesters of old? It was many years before I would begin to get even a glimmer of understanding that stretched right back to the druid bards and through to the Punch and Judy show of the seaside pier. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes and a line from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ together somehow seemed to sum it up; “He laughed to free his mind from his mind’s bondage.”

How can the mind be in bondage? To false ideas and inflated opinion, to the ego and its fears and barriers. Like the little boy who points out the Emperors’ nakedness, laughter can break the spell that chains the mind to its illusions. Laugh at illusion and your vision clears; you can see the madness of the fallacies with which we hem ourselves in. Laugh at yourself and the bonds of the ego are loosed.

Sabatini was a prolific and popular author, writing 31 novels, 8 short fiction collections, 6 historical nonfiction books as well as many short stories and a stage play. He wrote with both a light touch and a real depth, drawing upon the experiences and emotions of his own life and observations. He was no stranger either to laughter or to pain. His son, Rafael-Angelo, was killed in a car crash in 1927 and his step son’s plane crashed and went up in flames the day he qualified as an RAF pilot; he had flown over the family home in celebration and his family witnessed the tragedy.

Sabatini fell ill with what was thought to be stomach cancer and died on holiday in Switzerland at the age of seventy-four.

“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad,” is both the opening line of ‘Scaramouche’ and Rafael Sabatini’s epitaph.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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39 Responses to “A gift of laughter…”

  1. buffalopound says:

    Thanks for this post Sue – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope all is well.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thanks, Lynn… all’s well apart from granddaughters with chickenpox 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Garry Armstrong says:

        Sue, the moment I saw Rafael Sabitini, I immediately yelled “Captain Blood”. I’ve seen all the movies based on his books. Now, I must read the books. He sounds absolutely fascinating. I met Stewart Granger who sang praises about Sabitini.
        Thanks, Sue.

        Like

        • Sue Vincent says:

          The books, dare I say it, are as good as the films… though not quite as fast paced. I still love Granger’s final swordfight in Scaramouche, one of the longest ever filmed, I believe…though how realistic it might be, is up for debate 😉

          Like

  2. jenanita01 says:

    What a fascinating man… Curious about your opening statement, Sue. I would have thought you knew all about hospitals by now?

    Like

  3. Dalo 2013 says:

    Thanks for the introduction to Rafael Sabatini, I had never heard about him before – so well written, which is par for the course with you. A way with the pen ~ it is your gift. I hope that you are doing well.

    Like

  4. The Owl Lady says:

    This is a fantastic post, Sue! Now I want to see if I can find any of his works. Have a wonderful weekend! Hugz to you and Ani! @v@ ❤

    Like

  5. My mother was a huge fan of Sabatini’s books though whether that was before or after she fell in love with Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, history does not relate!

    Like

  6. Susan Scott says:

    Hope the hospital visits were fruitful Sue –

    Like

  7. What a fantastic opening line, and epitaph. Thanks for sharing, Sue. He sounds like he had a colorful life which probably contributed to his outlook. On another note, I hope your visits are going well. ❤

    Like

  8. I remember the writer. He was very popular when I was young.

    But, um, what were you doing in hospital waiting rooms?

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      You never hear of him nowadays… perhaps swashbuckling has gone out of fashion. Which would be a shame.

      (As to the rest… tests, scans x-rays…the usual…) 😉

      Like

  9. Anne Copeland says:

    This is all so true. Excellent observations. Thank you.

    Like

  10. Suzanne says:

    I hope the following week is easier for you. I really enjoyed your story. We must be on a similar wavelength – I wrote about minds being in bondage in response to your writephoto prompt.

    Like

  11. dgkaye says:

    Fantastic post Sue. I so hope all is well 😦 xx

    Like

  12. Reblogged this on Serendipity – Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth and commented:
    And the world really IS mad. I think possibly, so am I!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rae Longest says:

    Fascinating post!

    Like

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