An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Rafael Sabatini was born in Jesi, Italy, on April 29, 1875, to opera singers Vincenzo and Anna Sabatini. Educated in Switzerland and Portugal, Sabatini was fluent in several languages; however, his mother, herself English, saw to it that English was his most natural tongue. After spending most of his young life traveling Europe, Sabatini settled in England around the turn of the century and began his career as a writer, publishing his first novel, The Lovers of Yvonne, in 1902. In 1918, he became a British citizen and served in the War Office Intelligence Department during World War I. In 1902, he married his first wife, Ruth Goad Dixon; their son Rafael died in a motorcycle accident in 1927. Following his divorce in 1932, Sabatini married Christine Dixon (no relation to his previous wife) and remained with her until his death in 1950 while on holiday in Adelboden, Switzerland.
A prominent historical novelist and dramatist, Sabatini possessed a style of accuracy and adventure that enthralled readers and audiences. His second novel, Bardelys the Magnificent (1906), solidified him as a public favorite. Among his most successful novels were Scaramouche (1921), an epic set in the French Revolution filled with duels, disguises, and death; and Captain Blood (1922), the story of a chivalrous West Indian buccaneer. Both of these characters returned in later novels to much success. Sabatini adapted several of his novels for the stage, including Bardelys the Magnificent and Scaramouche. A number of his most popular books made it onto the silver screen, including The Scourge (1922) based on his novel Fortune’s Fool (1923), with the same conspicuous success as his writings.
The works of Sabatini have endured for over a century, with posthumous volumes of his works being published to continued acclaim, including Heroic Lives (1971), a compilation of his historic biographies, and The Fortunes of Casanova (1994), a collection of his short stories.
This collection is mainly composed of manuscripts of Sabatini’s works, with a small selection of his letters. The papers are arranged into two series: I. Works, 1909-1950, and II. Letters, 1912-1935. The works represented in the collection include three novels, four short stories, one play, a single poem, and a fragment from a biography.
Among the works in Series I. is The Fortunes of Casanova, which includes three short stories originally published in Grand Magazine in 1918 and differs from the posthumous short story collection of the same title published in 1994. Titles present include “The Augmentation of Mercury,” “The Priest of Mars,” and “The Oracle,” plus a fourth unpublished story entitled Courier of Love. The notebook for this work also contains two publicity photos of Sabatini as a young man and a copy of his obituary from the London Times dated February 14, 1950.
Sabatini’s notebook containing the manuscript of his novel King in Prussia (1944) also has calculations at the beginning which appear to be royalty figures for his works from 1937 to 1941. Typescripts with numerous revisions are present for the novels The Lost King (1937) and The Sword of Islam (1939). Additional typescripts include an unpublished play, The Sacraments of Shame, set in a 15th century English manor house, and “The Vintage Ale,” a poem composed for a dinner aboard the Doralie, the houseboat of Mr. Harold Lee, on January 23, 1909. A handwritten fragment from The Life of Cesare Borgia of France (1911) is also present.
The letters in Series II. are mostly related to Sabatini’s works and publishing rights, but there are a few that mention dinner invitations and trips abroad. They date from 1912 to 1935, with one undated item. Among the addressees of Sabatini’s letters in this collection are Ernest A. Baker, Mabel F. Boore, Brandt, A. B. Cooper, Professor Getchell, Cyril Rhodes Harrison, Mrs. Jacob, Ellis D. Robb, Meredith Starr, Robley Durham Stevens, Mr. Williamson, and Mr. Vesper.
Open for research
Purchase and gift, 1973 (R5374)
Jonathan Reynolds, 2006
Rafael Sabatini Papers--Folder List