29 April 1875|
|Died||13 February 1950
|Nationality||Italian / English|
|Notable works||Scaramouche, Captain Blood|
He is best known for his worldwide best-sellers:
- The Sea Hawk (1915), a tale of an Elizabethan Englishman among the pirates of the Barbary Coast
- Scaramouche (1921), a tale of the French Revolution in which a fugitive hides out in a commedia dell'arte troupe and later becomes a fencing master (Sabatini wrote a sequel ten years later)
- Captain Blood (1922), in which the title character is admiral of a fleet of pirate ships (Sabatini also wrote two sequels comprising short stories)
- Bellarion the Fortunate (1926), about a cunning young man who finds himself immersed in the politics of fifteenth-century Italy
In all, Sabatini produced thirty-one novels, eight short story collections, six non-fiction books, numerous uncollected short stories, and a play.
At a young age, Rafael was exposed to many languages, living with his grandfather in England, attending school in Portugal and, as a teenager, in Switzerland. By the time he was seventeen, when he returned to England to live permanently, he was the master of five languages. He quickly added a sixth language – English – to his linguistic collection. He consciously chose to write in his adopted language, because, he said, "all the best stories are written in English."
After a brief stint in the business world, Sabatini went to work as a writer. He wrote short stories in the 1890s, and his first novel came out in 1902. In 1905 he married Ruth Goad Dixon, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant. It took Sabatini roughly a quarter of a century of hard work before he attained success with Scaramouche in 1921. The novel, a historical romantic set during the French Revolution, became an international best-seller. It was followed by the equally successful Captain Blood in 1922. All of his earlier books were rushed into reprints, the most popular of which was The Sea Hawk from 1915. Sabatini was a prolific writer; he produced a new book approximately every year, and maintained a great deal of popularity with the reading public through the decades that followed.
Several of his novels were adapted into films during the silent era, and the first three of these books were made into notable films in the sound era, in 1940, 1952, and 1935 respectively. His third novel was made into a famous "lost" film, Bardelys the Magnificent, directed in 1926 by King Vidor with John Gilbert in the lead, and long viewable only in a fragment excerpted in Vidor's silent comedy Show People. A few intact reels have recently been discovered in Europe. The fully restored version premiered on TCM on 11 January 2010.
Two silent adaptations of Sabatini novels which do survive intact are Rex Ingram's Scaramouche (1923) starring Ramón Novarro, and The Sea Hawk (1924) directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Milton Sills. The 1940 film of the same name, with Errol Flynn, is not a remake – but a wholly new story which just used the title. A 1924 silent version of Captain Blood, starring J. Warren Kerrigan, is partly lost, surviving only in an incomplete copy in the Library of Congress. The Black Swan was filmed in 1942 starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara.
His only son, Rafael-Angelo (nicknamed Binkie), was killed in a car crash on 1 April 1927. In 1931, he and his wife Ruth divorced. Later that year he moved from London to Clifford, Herefordshire, near Hay-on-Wye. In 1935 he married the sculptor Christine Dixon ( Wood), his former sister-in-law. They suffered further tragedy when Christine's son, Lancelot Dixon, was killed in a flying accident. On the day he received his RAF wings, he flew his aeroplane over their house, but the plane went out of control and crashed in flames before their eyes.
By the 1940s, illness forced the writer to slow his prolific method of composition, though he did write several additional works even during that time.
Sabatini died on 13 February 1950 in Switzerland. He is buried at Adelboden, Switzerland. On his headstone his wife had written, "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad", the first line of Scaramouche.
- Scaramouche (1921)
- Scaramouche the King-Maker (1931)
- Tales of the Brethren of the Main (a series of short stories first published in Premier Magazine from 1920–1921)[a]
- Captain Blood (also known as Captain Blood: His Odyssey, 1922)
- Captain Blood Returns (also known as The Chronicles of Captain Blood, 1931)[b][c]
- The Fortunes of Captain Blood (1936)[b]
- The Lovers of Yvonne (also known as The Suitors of Yvonne, 1902)
- The Tavern Knight (1904)
- Bardelys the Magnificent (1906)
- The Trampling of the Lilies (1906)
- Love-At-Arms: Being a narrative excerpted from the chronicles of Urbino during the dominion of the High and Mighty Messer Guidobaldo da Montefeltro (1907)
- The Shame of Motley (1908)
- St. Martin's Summer (also known as The Queen's Messenger, 1909)
- Mistress Wilding (also known as Anthony Wilding, 1910)
- The Lion's Skin (1911)
- The Strolling Saint (1913)
- The Gates of Doom (1914)
- The Sea Hawk (1915)
- The Snare (1917)
- Fortune's Fool (1923)
- The Carolinian (1924)
- Bellarion the Fortunate (1926)
- The Nuptials of Corbal (1927)
- The Hounds of God (1928)
- The Romantic Prince (1929)
- The Reaping (1929)
- The King's Minion (also known as The Minion, 1930)
- The Black Swan (1932)
- The Stalking Horse (1933)
- Venetian Masque (1934)
- Chivalry (1935)
- The Lost King (1937)
- The Sword of Islam (1939)
- The Marquis of Carabas (also known as Master-At-Arms, 1940)
- Columbus (1941)
- King In Prussia (also known as The Birth of Mischief, 1944)
- The Gamester (1949)
- The Justice of the Duke (1912)
- The Banner of the Bull (1915)
- Turbulent Tales (1946)[d]
- Saga of the Sea (omnibus comprising The Sea Hawk, The Black Swan and Captain Blood, 1953)
- Sinner, Saint And Jester: A Trilogy in Romantic Adventure (omnibus comprising The Snare, The Strolling Saint and The Shame of Motley, 1954)
- In the Shadow of the Guillotine (omnibus comprising Scaramouche, The Marquis of Carabas and The Lost King, 1955)
- A Fair Head of Angling Stories (1989)
- The Fortunes of Casanova and Other Stories (1994, stories originally published 1907–1921 & 1934)
- The Outlaws of Falkensteig (2000, stories originally published 1900–1902)
- The Camisade: And Other Stories of the French Revolution (2001, stories originally published 1900–1916)
- The Tyrant: An Episode in the Career of Cesare Borgia, a Play in Four Acts (1925)
- A Century of Sea Stories (1935)
- A Century of Historical Stories (1936)
- The Life of Cesare Borgia (1912)
- Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition: A History (1913)
- The Historical Nights' Entertainment (1917)[e]
- The Historical Nights' Entertainment – Series 2 (1919)[e]
- The Historical Nights' Entertainment – Series 3 (1938)[e]
- Heroic Lives (1934)
- Most of the stories were woven together by the author to form Captain Blood, and two that were not were included in Captain Blood Returns.
- N.B. Captain Blood Returns and The Fortunes of Captain Blood are not sequels, but collections of short stories set entirely within the timeframe of the original novel.
- One of the stories from this collection, "The Treasure Ship", was reprinted as a standalone paperback in 2004.
- Includes several stories about Alessandro Cagliostro, and one connected to Captain Blood.
- The Historical Nights' Entertainment stories are 'factions' – truth so far as anyone knows it, embellished with imagination. Some are actually apocryphal, not even history.
- "Sabatini, Rafael". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37926. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Knight, Jesse F.; Darley, Stephen (2010). The Last of the Great Swashbucklers: A Bio-Bibliography of Rafael Sabatini. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll. ISBN 9781584562795.
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- Rafael Sabatini.com
- Works by Rafael Sabatini at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Rafael Sabatini at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Works by Rafael Sabatini at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Works by Rafael Sabatini at Internet Archive. Scanned, illustrated original editions.
- Rafael Sabatini Dustjacket Gallery
- Sabatini Timeline, a chronology of events in Sabatini's works