Solange: Dr. Ledru’s Story of The Reign of Terror by Alexandre Dumas (1850s)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, July 23, 2013
During the Reign of Terror, did you know that a skilled guillotine executioner could behead two victims per minute? The death toll ran in the tens of thousands. It was thought at the time that the victim would likely only feel a quick cold chill tingling rapidly at the base of the head, as the blade struck the flesh. And what if the executioner was not so skilled? I’ve got a wicked stabbing at my neck just thinking of it!
Some of Alexandre Dumas’ fans might know that this author was more than just a little interested in beheadings of the era. Dumas often speculated if a guillotined person suffered pain during the beheading, so of course these beheading themes runs through some of his stories.
Solange reflects this theme but is actually a little love story. However, don’t underestimate the horrific executions in this particular fiction because it carries a riveting reality.
We are in the streets of terrified France, at Rue Tournon, when a beautiful young woman called Solange is about to be hauled off to the guard house for not having a pass (which surely meant death on the scaffold).
Pale and trembling, “with feet like a child’s,” Solange is saved by M. Albert, our gallant and generous narrator. Albert is a physician/scientist investigating beheadings by examining and testing the severed heads and trunks of the victims. A gruesome task beyond the imagination. Albert is of high devotion to his work. He soldiers on to his goal of convincing the lawmakers that capital punishment must be abolished “for the good of humanity.”
To this effort, Albert acts not only to save Solange from the guardhouse and guillotine, but he falls wildly in love with this very pretty young thing. With the revolutionary police ever present and aggressive, escape or hiding was Solange’s only hope.
While their tears mix with their kisses for Solange and Albert, the plot takes a wicked turn that you may or may not find predictable. I was nearly breathless at the end expecting the worst for these two lovers. And the worse was certainly fulfilled for Dumas doesn’t spare you a moment’s relief. This haunting ending will not fade away easily and is truly a tale of terror and woe.
Read it at OnLine Literature.
Are you a Dumas fan? What other stories/novels would you like to suggest here for the readers?
Maybe, if you are up for more about beheadings, you might like Horror at Fontenay. I couldn’t find the text as an online read but the novel is on Amazon or likely at your local library.