The Last Troubadour
by Eugene Scruggs
Stratton Press Publishing

"Isn’t it a paradox that false devotees are really the sinners?"

Emeritus Professor Scruggs applies his considerable knowledge of seventeenth-century French literature, culture, and history in this first-person narrative featuring Charles Coypeau, aka Sieur d'Assoucy or Dasouccy, a French musician and burlesque poet. Coypeau prefers a life of artistic freedom to his father's wish that he study law. So he sets out at seventeen to rove around the "taverns of Europe" and later rub elbows with Parisian libertines and literary luminaries such as Moliére, Cyrano de Bergerac, and many others.

As Scruggs aptly illustrates, Coypeau's irreverent literary aesthetic runs counter to the stuffy classical mainstream aesthetic as he ages and returns to Paris from Italy. Between an unconventional lifestyle and unconventional writing, he and other libertines are ever in danger of scrutiny by Church and state authorities. There's also the assumption that Coypeau is either homosexual or bisexual because of his interest in training young boys in the musical arts. He denies any wrongdoing and cites his youthful affairs with women, as the penalty for a gay lifestyle is capital punishment.

Scruggs expertly combines facts derived from Coypeau's autobiography and features some of his poems and songs, filling in some historical gaps with fictional interludes or characters. The narrative voice is strong, often direct and authentic, though it feels more contemporary in some excerpts than one would expect of a seventeenth-century setting. The contrast isn't jarring, and the down-to-earth delivery is accessible to mainstream readers. Scruggs's lively writing is reflective of Coypeau's artistic sensibilities, providing a fair sense of the cultural milieu. As one would expect, Coypeau's observations and adventures are quite entertaining. There is much to be learned from this biographical tale about seventeenth-century France's literary and artistic culture.

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