An extremely original literary work, The Gallants of the old court depicts an age of moral decay, which affected a certain part of the Romanian society at the beginning of the 20th century. The characters feel a strong fascination for secrecy and symbol, for fusing the visible and the hidden life, in a strange atmosphere, which integrates the supreme refinement and the utmost depravity. The narrator is deeply influenced by the three gallants. The squire Pașadia belongs to an old aristocrat family, but has a dubious past, where nobility stands next to vice; he introduces Cara into the cult of history and time past. Pantazi, a descendant of Mediterranean pirates, the Greek-origin nobleman and the refined aesthete, a great lover of luxury, opens his mind eyes towards the nostalgia of travels, while the Mephistophelian character Gore Pirgu, a guide toward the lowest areas of Mateiu's world, lures him to the mysteries of the promiscuous life of the city from "the gates to the Orient", into the hellish life of vice.
The characters move in a symbolic setting, with mirror-windows in shades of grey reflecting the hustle and bustle of that trollopish universe, while the violet curtains - with their purifying colour that stimulates creativity and compassion - seem to mitigate to a certain extent the decomposing microcosm. The touch of sadness and death imprinted in this symbolic setting enhances the twilight atmosphere of the story. The script follows metaphorically the story of the "gallants" which transfigures, first of all, Mateiu I. Caragiale's inner world. The three characters are facets of the "ideal man": the intellect - Pașadia, the emotional side - Pantazi, the instinct - Gore Pirgu, and they initiate the young Cara in the depraved world of the city, for example, by taking him to "the real Arnoteni". The soundtrack follows closely everything that takes place on the stage, and completes the strange atmosphere, which is a combination of "filth and sublime".
Mateiu Caragiale (1885-1936) was born in Buchareest, the son of Ion Luca Caragiale and Maria Constantinescu. He developed a great interest in heraldry and history. He debuted with the short story Remember. He wrote the novel Under the Seal of Secrecy and the small poetry volume Tails. But his major work remains The Gallants of the Old Court. The novel was published in volume at the "Cartea Românească" Publishing House in 1929, after a creative process that lasted approximately nineteen years. The writer's notebooks and diary reveal that he had been conceiving his work from 1910 already, spending "a lot of time on a construction site" that he "often left, but never abandoned".
"The Gallants of the Old Court" is how the four characters are called in a fit of madness by the beggar hag Pena Corcoduşa, who had lost her minds during youth, when her lover, a Russian prince, was killed in the 1877 war. Pașadia relishes in the surname bestowed by the old woman upon the four night-walkers, and observes broodily: "It would be a wonderful title for a book".
The name of "Gallants of the Old Court" seem to have appeared in the last decades of the 18th century, to define society's declassed who took shelter among the ruins of the old King's Court. The word "gallants" (from the syntagm "Gallants of the Old Court") described somebody who was vagabond, depraved, a rake, a wanderer.