The Elusive Pimpernel
Written by Baroness Orczy
Edited by Aisley Oliphant
"We seek him here, and we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven, is he in hell, That demmed elusive Pimpernel?"
When Sir Percy Blakeney's wife Marguerite is kidnapped by French ex-ambassador Chauvelin, Sir Percy must don the persona of The Scarlet Pimpernel to save her. But Chauvelin has laid a clever trap to end the meddling of the Scarlet Pimpernel in the affairs of the Revolution for good. Can Sir Percy outwit the wily Citizen Chauvelin and save the love of his life from la guillotine?
The Elusive Pimpernel is the third book in Baroness Orczy's renowned The Scarlet Pimpernel series, and has connections back to actual characters and events that happened during the French Revolution.
The story takes place in the fall of 1793, when it is recorded that the terrible Robespierre orchestrated a Festival of Reason to worship a “Supreme Being” in an attempt to smooth over the government's failure to de-Christianize France. One of the characters Mlle Candielle stands in as “The Goddess of Reason” per the request of Robespierre, reminiscent of the Supreme Being recorded in French history. Le Culte de la Raison, or the Cult of Reason that resulted, was one of the first instances of a government and state sponsored aetheistic religion, and was based in principles of philosophy, the enlightenment, and anti-clericalism.
Further connections to historical characters can be found in Marguerite St. Just, the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney. She is written to be the fictional cousin of Louis-Antoine St. Just, also known as the Angel of Terror and the right hand man to Robspierre himself.
In writing all the Scarlet Pimpernel stories, the Baroness attempted and succeeded in portraying the seep of liberal French politics into Western European society, showing just how extreme people would go to achieve their goals and that no one was safe from defamation, arrest, or execution.
1908 First British Edition
This cover image is in the public domain
Piedra, A. M. (2018, January 12). The Dechristianization of France during the French
Revolution. The Institute of World Politics. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from https://www.iwp.edu/articles/2018/01/12/the-dechristianization-of-france-during-the-french-revolution/.
Portrait of Baroness Orczy, by Alexander Bassano
Baroness Orczy is best known for her creation of Sir Percy Blakeney, alias the Scarlet Pimpernel, and her novelizations and stage play following the character's exploits during the French Revolution. The Revolution inspired writers across Europe, as it sculpted the social and political climates in the years that followed, but out of all of them, the Baroness' stories about the Scarlet Pimpernel are the most historically accurate.
Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orci, or Baroness "Emmuska" Orczy to her friends and loved ones, was born on Sept 23, 1865 in Tarnaörs, Hungary. Her family, fearing a peasant revolution, fled to Budapest, eventually traveling to Brussels and Paris, where the Baroness lived until she was 14. From there they moved to London, where she attended two schools of art and met her husband, Henry George Montagu MacLean Barstow.
They were married in 1894, and the Baroness joined her husband in supporting their family through illustration and translation work. She had her first child, John Montague Orczy-Barstow, in 1899 and began her career as a writer.
Her first novel, The Emperor's Candlesticks, was an utter failure. But the Baroness did not give up, and found some success writing detective stories for The Royal Magazine, a few of them depicting the first representation of female detectives. Her second novel, In Mary's Reign, was published in 1901 and fared much better than her first.
Then, in 1903, she and her husband put their heads together to write a stage play based on one of her short stories about an English aristocrat who rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution. The Baroness then
submitted a novelization of the play under the same title to twelve publishers. While waiting for word from the publishers, The Scarlet Pimpernel stage play was accepted for production in London's West End. It started by bringing small audiences, but eventually exploded, running for four years and becoming one of Britain's most popular plays, running more than 2,000 performances.
The Baroness went on to write many more stories about the Scarlet Pimpernel, accumulating 15 novels about Sir Percy and his lineage, and around 19 short stories depicting his adventures during the Revolution. She is credited with introducing "the hero with a secret identity" trope into popular culture. In 1914, she formed the Women of England’s Active Service League in an effort to help encourage men to volunteer to fight in WWI, and in 1930 became a founding member of The Detection Club, a group of British mystery writers such as Agatha Christie. Baroness Emma Orczy passed away in London on November 12, 1947 in London after a long, happy marriage and successful career.
Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2021, September). Retrieved October 2021, from
Baroness Orczy. Wikipedia. (2021, September 17). Retrieved October 4, 2021, from