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Fortune’s Fool: Swordplay in the Time of Pestilence

Dust jacket from the first American edition. I much prefer the swordplay illustration below.

Set amidst the 1665 London plague, Fortune’s Fool by Rafael Sabatini spins the tale of an English officer too often abandoned by the goddess Fortune.

It’s not Sabatini’s best work, but it’s an enjoyable read and, in particular, it clearly show’s his worldview: one romantically cynical, in that he understood well the foolishness and fecklessness, even the depravity and cowardice, of much of humankind, while simultaneously asserting that good can, and often does, triumph in the end.

Sabatini understood that to succeed honorably, even nobly in such a world, one needed not only courage, but wit as well. And it never hurt to have a sharp sword too.

Early 17th century image of the plague in London.

In particular, the novel, whose details are almost certainly drawn from Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) and the Diary of Samuel Pepys, shows numerous parallels with today’s Covid-19 pestilence. After all, people don’t change. They lie, they deny, they seek supernatural counsel, they indulge in quackery, they hoard, they exploit, they scapegoat, they profit from the death of the members of some groups over others.

And yet, many rise above the baser nature of humanity, and behave nobly, with great courage and sacrifice.

From the Riverside Press leather-bound edition.

And, romance though it is, Fortune’s Favorite shows this hopeful, uplifting side of humanity amidst death and the panicked fear of it.

And it has an excellent description of swordplay in action too!

From the Riverside Press leather-bound edition.

Copyright Benerson Little 2020. First published March 30, 2020.


  1. S.G.Glasgow says:

    Thank you for posting this! A very enjoyable read and I certainly want to read this book now! Would you allow me to share this link to my Tumblr page? Also, I myself just finished reading The Plague by Albert Camus. Have you read it by chance?


    • Please, feel free to link! I haven’t read the Camus book, although it’s long been on my long to read list. Embarrassed to day I haven’t read Camus in more than thirty years. With your recommendation I’ll push it toward the top of my list. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mikko says:

    Thanks for this post! With all this extra time, it might be a good chance to finally give Sabatini a try. Hope you are keeping well in these difficult times!


    • Thanks much! I recommend Captain Blood or Scaramouche, or possibly The Sea Hawk, for a first Sabatini read. I’m also quite fond of The Black Swan. All are enjoyable, though. Hope you and yours are well too! Keep safe and well!

      Liked by 1 person

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