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Scarlet Pimpernel, The

The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction

Sandra Kemp,

Charlotte Mitchell,

David Trotter

Scarlet Pimpernel, The, 

Baroness Orczy, 1905, Greening.

The bestselling story of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a band of young English gentlemen, dedicated to the rescue of innocent aristocratic victims of the French Revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror. Their leader, Sir Percy Blakeney, continually outwits the enemy (personified by the cunning intellectual, Chauvelin) not simply through plain courage but also by his use of disguise and his sheer insouciance. Blakeney similarly disguises his identity from his society friends in England (and even, for a while, from his wife), thus establishing a model (which would be widely used by detective and spy story writers) of the effete and ineffectual aristocrat who is, in reality, a dashing, ingenious, and determined man of action. Not surprisingly, The Scarlet Pimpernel inspired several sequels and has been regularly adapted for stage, screen, and television.