Tag Archives: France

Artist of the day 3/6/12: Dark Writing 5: Alexandre Dumas (Part two)


Alexandre Dumas

Career Continued

Dumas made extensive use of the aid of numerous assistants and collaborators, Auguste Maquet being the best known. Maquet outlined the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo, and substantial contributions to The Three Musketeers as well as it sequels,and several of Dumas’ other novels. When working together Maquet would propose plots and write drafts, while Dumas added all the details, dialogue, and final chapters. There is an essay by Andrew Lang done in 1891 giving a accurate description of their collaborations, titled Alexander Dumas—in his Essays In Little.

Dumas’ writing earned him a great deal of money, but he was frequently insolvent as a result of spending lavishly on woman and sumptuous living. The large Château de Monte-Cristo that he built was often filled with strangers and acquaintances taking advantage of his generosity.

Dumas was not looked upon favorably by the newly elected President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte when King Louis-Philippe was ousted in the revolt. Dumas fled to Brussels, Belgium in 1851 to escape his creditors, from there he traveled to Russia, Where French was the second language, also where his writings were enormously popular. He spent two  years in Russia, before moving on to seek adventure and inspiration for more stories. In March of 1861 the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed,  With Victor Emmanuel II as its king. The next three years Dumas was involved in the fight for a united Italy, He found and lead a newspaper named Independent. He returned to Paris in 1864.

Alexandre Dumas Had success and aristocratic background but his being of mixed race affected him all his life. He wrote a short novel in 1843 called Georges, it addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. Once he remarked to a man who insulted him about his mixed race background :”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.”

Personal Life

February 1, 1840 Dumas married actress Ida Ferrier (Born 1811, Marguerite Joséphine Ferrand, died 1859), but he continued with his numerous liaisons with other women, fathering at least four illegitimate children. One of those children, a son named after him, whose mother was Marie-Laure-Catherine Labay (1794—1868), a dressmaker, would follow in his footsteps, also becoming a successful novelist and playwright. Because of their same name and occupation, the father is often referred to as Alexandre Dumas, père, and the son as Alexandre Dumas, fils. His other children were Marie-Alexandrine Dumas (March 5, 1831—1878) who later married Pierre Petel and was daughter of Belle Krelsamer (1803—1875), Micaëlla-Clélie-Josepha-Élisabeth Cordier, born in 1860 and daughter of Emélie Cordier, and Henry Bauer, born of an unknown mother.

Death and Legacy

In June 2005 Dumas’ recently discovered last novel, The Knight of Sainte Hermine, went on sale in France. Within the story Dumas describes the Battle of Trafalgar, in which the death of Lord Nelson is explained. The novel was being published serially, and was nearly complete at the time of his death. A final two-and-a-half chapters were written by modern-day Dumas scholar Claude Schopp, who based his efforts on Dumas’ prewriting notes.

Although he was originally buried where he had been born, in 2002 French President, Jacques Chirac, had his body exhumed. During a televised ceremony his new coffin, draped in a blue velvet cloth and flanked by four Republican Guards (costumed as the Musketeers Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan), was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred. 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.”

During that speech Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed, saying that a wrong had now been righted with Alexander Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. The honor recognized that although France has produced many great writers, none has been as widely read and known as Alexander Dumas. His stories have been translated into almost a hundred languages, and inspired more then 200 motion pictures.

Alexandre Dumas’ home outside of Paris, the Château de Monte Cristo, has been restored and is open to the public. The Alexandre Dumas Paris Métro station was named in his honour in 1970.

Dumas appears as a character in the Kevin J. Anderson novel Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius. He encourages Jules Verne to find his own voice and write about his friend Captain Nemo’s exploits rather than emulate Dumas’ historical fiction.


Alexandre Dumas wrote stories and historical chronicles of high adventure that captured the imagination of the French public, who eagerly waited to purchase the continuing sagas. A few of these works:
 Charles VII at the Homes of His Great Vassals (Charles VII chez ses grands vassaux, 1831) – drama, adapted for the opera The Saracen by Russian composer César Cui
 Othon l’archer
 Captain Pamphile (Le Capitaine Pamphile, 1939)
 The Fencing Master (Le Maître d’armes, 1840)
 Castle Eppstein; The Specter Mother (Chateau d’Eppstein; Albine, 1843)
 Georges (1843): The protagonist of this novel is a man of mixed race, a rare allusion to Dumas’ own African ancestry.
 The Conspirators (Le chevalier d’Harmental, 1843) later adapted by Paul Ferrier into an opera
 Ascanio (1843?); Written in collaboration with Paul Meurice (1820-1905): France — History — Francis I, 1515-1547 — Fiction.
 Louis XIV and His Century (Louis XIV et son siècle, 1844)
 The Nutcracker (Histoire d’un casse-noisette, 1844): a revision of Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, later adapted by Tchaikovsky as a ballet
 the D’Artagnan Romances: The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires, 1844)
 Twenty Years After (Vingt ans après, 1845)
 The Vicomte de Bragelonne, sometimes called “Ten Years Later”, (Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard, 1847): When published in English, it was usually split into three parts: The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask, of which the last part is the best known. (A third sequel, The Son of Porthos, 1883 (a.k.a. The Death of Aramis) was published under the name of Alexandre Dumas; however, the real author was Paul Mahalin.)
The Corsican Brothers (Les Frères Corses, 1844)
 The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, 1845–1846)
 The Regent’s Daughter (Une Fille du régent, 1845)
 The Two Dianas (Les Deux Diane, 1846)
 the Valois romances The horoscope : a romance of the reign of François II (1897?)
 La Reine Margot (1845)
 La Dame de Monsoreau (1846) (a.k.a. Chicot the Jester)
 The Forty-Five Guardsmen (1847) (Les Quarante-cinq)
the Marie Antoinette romances: Joseph Balsamo (Mémoires d’un médecin: Joseph Balsamo, 1846–1848) (a.k.a. Memoirs of a Physician, Cagliostro, Madame Dubarry, The Countess Dubarry, or The Elixir of Life)(Joseph Balsamo has a length of about 1000 pages, and is usually separated into 2 volumes in English translations: Vol 1. Joseph Balsamo and Vol 2. Memoirs of a Physician.)
 The Queen’s Necklace (Le Collier de la Reine, 1849–1850)
 Ange Pitou (1853) (a.k.a. Storming the Bastille or Six Years Later)
 The Countess de Charny (La Comtesse de Charny, 1853–1855) (a.k.a. Andrée de Taverney, or The Mesmerist’s Victim)
 Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge (1845) (a.k.a. The Knight of the Red House, or The Knight of Maison-Rouge)
The Black Tulip (La Tulipe noire, 1850)
 Olympe de Cleves (Olympe de Cleves, 1851-2)
 The Page of the Duke of Savoy (Catherine Blum, 1853-4)
 The Mohicans of Paris (Les Mohicans de Paris, 1854)
 The Wolf-Leader (Le Meneur de loups, 1857)
 The Gold Thieves (after 1857): a lost play that was rediscovered by the Canadian Reginald Hamel, researcher in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in 2004
 The Companions of Jehu (Les Compagnons de Jehu, 1857)
 Pietro Monaco sua moglie Maria Oliverio e i loro complici, 1864)
 Robin Hood (Robin Hood le proscrit, 1863)
 The Count of Moret; The Red Sphinx; or, Richelieu and his rivals (Le Comte de Moret; Le Sphinx Rouge, 1865–1866)
 The Whites and the Blues (Les Blancs et les Bleus, 1867)
 The Knight of Sainte-Hermine (Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, 1869): This nearly completed novel was his last major work and was lost until its rediscovery by Claude Schopp in 1988 and subsequent release in 2005.
 The Women’s War (La Guerre des Femmes): follows Baron des Canolles, a naive Gascon soldier who falls in love with two women.
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, launching him on his career. It had fifty performances over the next year, extraordinary at the time.
Other hits followed. For example, Antony (1831)—a drama with a contemporary Byronic hero—is considered the first non-historical Romantic drama. It starred Mars’ great rival Marie Dorval. There were also La Tour de Nesle – 1832, another historical melodrama, and Kean – 1836, based on the life of the great, and recently deceased, English actor Edmund Kean, played in turn by the great French actor Frédérick Lemaître. Dumas wrote many more plays and dramatized several of his own novels.
It is worthwhile to note that Dumas founded Théâtre Historique at the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, which later became Opéra National (established by Adolphe Adam in 1847). That in turn became Théâtre Lyrique in 1851.
Dumas was also a prolific writer of non-fiction. He wrote journal articles on politics and culture, and books on French history.
His massive Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine (Great Dictionary of Cuisine) was published posthumously in 1873. It is a combination of encyclopedia and cookbook. Dumas was 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 a well-known travel writer, writing such books as:
 Impressions de voyage: En Suisse (Travel Impressions: In Switzerland, 1834)
 Une Année à Florence (A Year in Florence, 1841)
 De Paris à Cadix (From Paris to Cadiz, 1847)
 Le Journal de Madame Giovanni (The Journal of Madame Giovanni, 1856)
Travel Impressions in the Kingdom of Napoli/Naples Trilogy (Impressions de voyage):
 Impressions of Travel in Sicily (Le Speronare (Sicily – 1835), 1842
 Captain Arena (Le Capitaine Arena (Italy – Aeolian Islands and Calabria – 1835), 1842
 Impressions of Travel in Naples (Le Corricolo (Rome – Naples – 1835), 1843
Travel Impressions in Russia:
 Adventures in Czarist Russia, or From Paris to Astrakhan (Impressions de voyage: En Russie; De Paris à Astrakan: Nouvelles impressions de voyage (1858), 1859–1862
 Voyage to the Caucasus (Le Caucase : Impressions de voyage; suite de En Russie (1859), 1858–1859