Alexandre Dumas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Alexandre Dumas
Nadar - Alexander Dumas père (1802-1870) - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Dumas in 1855.
BornDumas Davy de la Pailleterie
(1802-07-24)24 July 1802
Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, France
Died5 December 1870(1870-12-05) (aged 68)
Puys (near Dieppe), Seine-Maritime, France
Occupationplaywright and novelist
NationalityFrench
Period1829–1869
Literary movementRomanticism and Historical fiction
Notable work(s)The Count of Monte Cristo
The Three Musketeers
Relative(s)

Signature
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Alexandre Dumas
Nadar - Alexander Dumas père (1802-1870) - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Dumas in 1855.
BornDumas Davy de la Pailleterie
(1802-07-24)24 July 1802
Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, France
Died5 December 1870(1870-12-05) (aged 68)
Puys (near Dieppe), Seine-Maritime, France
Occupationplaywright and novelist
NationalityFrench
Period1829–1869
Literary movementRomanticism and Historical fiction
Notable work(s)The Count of Monte Cristo
The Three Musketeers
Relative(s)

Signature

Alexandre Dumas (French: [a.lɛk.sɑ̃dʁ dy.ma], born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, [dy.ma da.vi də la pa.jə.tʁi]; 24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870),[1] also known as Alexandre Dumas, père, was a French writer. His works have been translated into nearly 100 languages, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. Many of his historical novels of high adventure, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later were originally published as serials. His novels have been adapted since the early twentieth century for nearly 200 films. Dumas' last novel, The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, unfinished at his death, was completed by a scholar and published in 2005, becoming a bestseller. It was published in English in 2008 as The Last Cavalier.

Prolific in several genres, Dumas began his career by writing plays, which were successfully produced from the first. He also wrote numerous magazine articles and travel books; his published works totaled 100,000 pages.[2] In the 1840s, Dumas founded the Théâtre Historique in Paris.

Dumas' father (general Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie) was born in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) to a French nobleman and an enslaved African woman. His father's aristocratic rank helped young Alexandre acquire work with Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans.

In the election of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1851, Dumas fell from favor, and left France for Belgium, where he stayed for several years. Upon leaving Belgium, Dumas moved to Russia for a few years, before going to Italy. In 1861 he founded and published the newspaper, L' Indipendente, which supported the Italian unification effort. In 1864 he returned to Paris.

Though married, in the tradition of Frenchmen of higher social class, Dumas also had numerous affairs (allegedly as many as forty). He was known to have at least four illegitimate or "natural" children, including a boy named Alexandre Dumas after him. This son became a successful novelist and playwright, and was known as Alexandre Dumas, fils (son), while the elder Dumas became conventionally known in French as Alexandre Dumas, père (father). Among his affairs, in 1866 Dumas had one with Adah Isaacs Menken, an American actress then at the height of her career and less than half his age. Twentieth-century scholars have found that Dumas fathered another three "natural" children.

The English playwright Watts Phillips, who knew Dumas in his later life, described him as, "the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself."[3]

Early life[edit]

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of Alexandre Dumas.

Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (later known as Alexandre Dumas) was born in Villers-Cotterêts in the department of Aisne, in Picardy, France. He had an older sister, Marie-Alexandrine (b. before 1798).[4] Their parents were Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret, the daughter of an innkeeper, and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. Thomas-Alexandre had been born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), the mixed-race son of the marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a French nobleman and général commissaire in the artillery of the colony, and Marie-Cessette Dumas, a slave who was of Afro-Caribbean ancestry. It is not known whether she was born in Saint-Domingue or in Africa (although the fact that she had a French surname probably means that she was Creole), nor is it known from which African people her ancestors came.[5][6][7] Brought back to France by his father, Thomas-Alexandre was educated in a military school and joined the army as a young man. Thomas-Alexandre used his mother's name, Dumas, after a break with his father. Thomas-Alexandre was promoted to general by the age of 31, the first of Afro-Antilles origin to reach that rank in the French army.[8] He served with distinction in the French Revolutionary Wars. Although a general under Bonaparte in the Italian and Egyptian campaigns, Thomas-Alexandre had fallen out of favor by 1800 and requested leave to return to France. On his return, his ship had to put in at Taranto, in the Kingdom of Naples, where he and others were held as prisoners of war. During his two-year imprisonment, his health was ruined. At the time of Alexandre's birth, his father was impoverished.

The father died of cancer in 1806 when Alexandre was four. His widowed mother could not provide her son with much of an education, and had to reject an offer from the elite Mao school because they could not afford the fees. Undaunted, Dumas read everything he could and taught himself Spanish. His mother's stories of his father's bravery during the campaigns of the Revolutionary Wars inspired the boy's vivid imagination. Although poor, the family had their father's distinguished reputation and aristocratic rank. In 1822, after the restoration of the monarchy, the 20-year-old Alexandre moved to Paris. He acquired a position at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans.

Career[edit]

Alexandre Dumas by Achille Devéria (1829).

While working for Louis-Philippe, Dumas began writing articles for magazines and plays for the theatre. As an adult, he used his slave grandmother's surname of Dumas, as his father had as an adult.[9] His first play, Henry III and His Courts, produced in 1829 when he was 27 years old, met with acclaim. The next year his second play Christine was equally popular. These successes gave him sufficient income to write full-time.

In 1830 Dumas participated in the Revolution that ousted Charles X and replaced him on the throne with the Duke of Orléans. Dumas' former employer, he ruled as Louis-Philippe, the Citizen King. Until the mid-1830s, life in France remained unsettled, with sporadic riots by disgruntled Republicans and impoverished urban workers seeking change. As life slowly returned to normal, the nation began to industrialize. An improving economy—combined with the end of press censorship—made the times rewarding for Alexandre Dumas' literary skills.

After writing additional successful plays, Dumas switched to writing novels. Although attracted to an extravagant lifestyle and always spending more than he earned, Dumas proved to be an astute marketer. As newspapers were publishing many serial novels, in 1838 Dumas rewrote one of his plays as his first serial novel, Le Capitaine Paul. He founded a production studio, staffed with writers who turned out hundreds of stories, all subject to his personal direction, editing and additions.

From 1839 to 1841, Dumas, with the assistance of several friends, compiled Celebrated Crimes, an eight-volume collection of essays on famous criminals and crimes from European history. He featured Beatrice Cenci, Martin Guerre, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, as well as more recent events and criminals, including the cases of the alleged murderers Karl Ludwig Sand and Antoine François Desrues, who were executed.

Dumas collaborated with Augustin Grisier, his fencing master, in his 1840 novel, The Fencing Master. The story is written as Grisier's account of how he came to witness the events of the Decembrist revolt in Russia. The novel was eventually banned in Russia by Czar Nicholas I, and Dumas was prohibited from visiting the country until after the Czar's death. Dumas refers to Grisier with great respect in The Count of Monte Cristo, The Corsican Brothers, and in his memoirs.

Dumas depended on numerous assistants and collaborators, of whom Auguste Maquet was the best known. It was not until the late twentieth century that his role was fully understood.[10] Maquet is known to have outlined the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo, and made substantial contributions to The Three Musketeers and its sequels, as well as to several of Dumas' other novels. Their method of working together was for Maquet to propose plots and write drafts. Dumas added the details, dialogues, and the final chapters. Maquet took Dumas to court to try to get authorial recognition and a higher rate of payment for his work. He was successful in getting more money, but not a byline.[10][11]

Dumas' novels were so popular that they were soon translated into English and other languages. His writing earned him a great deal of money, but he was frequently insolvent, as he spent lavishly on women and sumptuous living. (He has been found to have had a total of 40 mistresses.[12]) In 1846 he had built a country house outside Paris at Le Port-Marly, the large Château de Monte-Cristo, with an additional building for his writing studio. It was often filled with strangers and acquaintances who stayed for lengthy visits and took advantage of his generosity. Two years later, faced with financial difficulties, he sold the entire property.

Dumas wrote in a wide variety of genres and published a total of 100,000 pages in his lifetime.[2] He made use of experience, writing travel books after taking journeys, including those motivated by reasons other than pleasure. After King Louis-Philippe was ousted in a revolt, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected as president. As Bonaparte disapproved of the author, in 1851 Dumas fled to Brussels, Belgium, which was also an effort to escape his creditors. He moved on to Russia about 1859, where French was the second language of the elite, and his writings were enormously popular. Dumas spent two years in Russia, before leaving to seek different adventure. He published travel books about Russia.

In March 1861 the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, with Victor Emmanuel II as its king. Dumas traveled there and, for the next three years, participated in the movement for Italian unification. He founded and led a newspaper, Indipendente. Returning to Paris in 1864, he published travel books about Italy.

Despite Dumas' aristocratic background and personal success, the writer had to deal with discrimination related to his mixed-race ancestry. In 1843 he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. His response to a man who insulted him about his African ancestry has become famous. Dumas said:

My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.[13][14]

Personal life[edit]

On 1 February 1840, Dumas married the actress Ida Ferrier (born Marguerite-Joséphine Ferrand) (1811–1859).[15] He had numerous liaisons with other women and was known to have fathered at least four children by them:

About 1866, Dumas had an affair with Adah Isaacs Menken, a well-known American actress. She had performed her sensational role in Mazeppa in London. In Paris she had a sold-out run of Les Pirates de la Savanne and was at the peak of her success.[16]

These women were among Dumas' nearly 40 mistresses found by the scholar Claude Schopp, in addition to three more children. He has been researching Dumas for decades, primarily his writings.[12]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dumas later in his career.

At his death in December 1870, Dumas was originally buried at his birthplace of Villers-Cotterêts in the department of Aisne. His death was overshadowed by the Franco-Prussian War and later, changing fashions decreased his popularity. In the late twentieth century, scholars such as Reginald Hamel and Claude Schopp have caused a critical reappraisal and new appreciation of his art, as well as finding lost works.[2] These contributed to the ceremony in 2002 to reinter Dumas in the Panthéon de Paris, an honor reserved for the great in French culture.[12]

In 1970, the Alexandre Dumas Paris Métro station was named in his honour. His country home outside Paris, the Château de Monte-Cristo, has been restored and is open to the public as a museum.[citation needed]

Researchers have continued to find Dumas works in archives, including the five-act play, The Gold Thieves, found in 2002 by the scholar Reginald Hamel in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It was published in France in 2004 by Honoré-Champion.[2]

In 2002 for the bicentennial of Dumas' birth, the French President, Jacques Chirac, had a ceremony honoring the author by having his ashes reinterred at the mausoleum of the Panthéon of Paris, where many French luminaries were buried.[2] The proceedings were televised: the new coffin was draped in a blue velvet cloth and carried on a caisson flanked by four mounted Republican Guards costumed as the four Musketeers. It was transported through Paris to the Panthéon.[9] In his speech, President Chirac said:

"With you, we were D'Artagnan, Monte Cristo, or Balsamo, riding along the roads of France, touring battlefields, visiting palaces and castles—with you, we dream."[17]

Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed in France and said that the reinterment in the Pantheon had been a way of correcting that wrong, as Alexandre Dumas was enshrined alongside fellow great authors Victor Hugo and Émile Zola.[17][18] Chirac noted that, although France has produced many great writers, none has been so widely read as Dumas. His novels have been translated into nearly 100 languages. In addition, they have inspired more than 200 motion pictures.

Tomb of Alexandre Dumas at the Panthéon in Paris.

In 2005, Dumas' last novel, The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, was published in France in June of that year. Featuring the Battle of Trafalgar, Dumas described a fictional character killing Lord Nelson. (In fact, he was killed by an unknown sniper.) Writing and publishing the novel serially in 1869, Dumas had nearly finished it before his death. It was the third part of the Sainte-Hermine trilogy. Claude Schopp, a Dumas scholar, noticed a letter in an archive in 1990 that led him to discover the unfinished work. It took him years to research it, edit the completed portions, and decide how to treat the unfinished part. Schopp finally wrote the final two-and-a half chapters, based on the author's notes, to complete the story.[12] Published by Editions Phébus, it sold 60,000 copies, making it a bestseller. Translated into English, it was released in 2006 as The Last Cavalier, and has been translated into other languages.[12]

Schopp has since found additional material related to the Saints-Hermine saga. Schopp combined them to publish the sequel Le Salut de l'Empire in 2008.[12]

Works[edit]

Fiction[edit]

Alexandre Dumas wrote numerous stories and historical chronicles of high adventure. They included the following:

Drama[edit]

Although best known now as a novelist, Dumas first earned fame as a dramatist. His Henri III et sa cour (1829) was the first of the great Romantic historical dramas produced on the Paris stage, preceding Victor Hugo's more famous Hernani (1830). Produced at the Comédie-Française and starring the famous Mademoiselle Mars, Dumas' play was an enormous success and launched him on his career. It had fifty performances over the next year, extraordinary at the time.

Other hits followed. Antony (1831)—a drama with a contemporary Byronic hero—is considered the first non-historical Romantic drama. It starred Mars' great rival Marie Dorval.

Dumas wrote many plays and adapted several of his novels as dramas. He founded the Théâtre Historique in the 1840s, located on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris. The building was used after 1851 by the Opéra National (established by Adolphe Adam in 1847). It was renamed the Théâtre Lyrique in 1851.

Non-fiction[edit]

Dumas was a prolific writer of non-fiction. He wrote journal articles on politics and culture, and books on French history.

His lengthy Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine (Great Dictionary of Cuisine) was published posthumously in 1873. A combination of encyclopedia and cookbook, it reflects Dumas' interests as both a gourmet and an expert cook. An abridged version (the Petit Dictionnaire de cuisine, or Small Dictionary of Cuisine) was published in 1882.

He was also known for his travel writing. These books included:

Travel Impressions in Russia – Le Caucase Original edition: Paris 1859

Personal images[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Alexandre Dumas on Encarta. Archived 31 October 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f French Studies: "Quebecer discovers an unpublished manuscript by Alexandre Dumas", iForum, University of Montreal, 30 September 2004, accessed 11 August 2012
  3. ^ Watts Phillips: Artist and Playwright by Emma Watts Phillips. 1891 pg 63
  4. ^ John G. Gallaher, General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution, Southern Illinois University, 1997, p. 98
  5. ^ Claude Schopp, Société des Amis d'Alexandre Dumas – 1998-2008
  6. ^ "Alexandre Dumas > Sa vie > Biographie". Dumaspere.com. Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "Le métissage rentre au Panthéon"[dead link].
  8. ^ "L'association des Amis du Général Alexandre Dumas", Website, accessed 11 August 2012
  9. ^ a b Webster, Paul (29 November 2002). "Lavish reburial for Three Musketeers author". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Samuel, Henry (10 February 2010). "Alexandre Dumas novels penned by 'fourth musketeer' ghost writer". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  11. ^ See Andrew Lang's essay, "Alexandre Dumas", in his Essays in Little (1891), for a full description of these collaborations.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Crace, John (6 May 2008). "Claude Schopp: The man who gave Dumas 40 mistresses". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2008. 
  13. ^ Christian Biet; Jean-Paul Brighelli; Jean-Luc Rispail (1986). Alexandre Dumas: Ou les Aventures d'un romancier (in French). Editions Gallimard. p. 75. ISBN 978-2-07-053021-2. "Mon père était un mulâtre, mon grand-père était un nègre et mon arrière grand-père un singe. Vous voyez, Monsieur: ma famille commence où la vôtre finit." 
  14. ^ "Dumas et la négritude" (in French). Archived from the original on 6 September 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2008. 
  15. ^ British Library biography
  16. ^ Dorsey Kleitz, "Adah Isaacs Menken", in Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, ed. by Eric L. Haralson, pp. 294-296 (1998) (ISBN 978-1-57958-008-7)
  17. ^ a b Chirac, Jacques (30 November 2002). "Discours prononcé lors du transfert des cendres d'Alexandre Dumas au Panthéon" (in French). Retrieved 19 August 2008. 
  18. ^ "Paris Monuments Panthéon-Close up picture of the interior of the crypt of Victor Hugo (left) Alexandre Dumas (middle) Émile Zola (right)". ParisPhotoGallery. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]