- Category : Writer
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Small (6,12)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Distraction 1
Alexandre Dumas born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, [24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870), also known as Alexandre Dumas, père, was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure.
Translated into nearly 100 languages, these have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of his novels, 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. In the 1840s, Dumas founded the Théâtre Historique in Paris.
His father, general Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, was born in Saint-Domingue from a French nobleman and a black slave and his mother was French, thus Alexandre Dumas was a quadroon. As a young man, Dumas' aristocratic rank helped him acquire work with Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans.
With the election of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1851, Dumas fell from favor, and left France for Belgium. After several years, he moved on 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.
Married, Dumas also had numerous affairs, said to total 40. 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.
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). Their father was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, 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. Brought back to France by his father, Thomas-Alexandre was educated in a military school and joined the army as a young man. He married Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret, the daughter of an innkeeper. He took 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. 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 to Sicily, 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, but Dumas read everything he could. 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, 20-year old Alexandre moved to Paris. He acquired a position at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans.
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. 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. 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.
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.) In 1846 he had built a country house outside Paris at 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. 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.
On 1 February 1840, he married the actress Ida Ferrier (born Marguerite-Joséphine Ferrand) (1811—1859). He had numerous liaisons with other women, and was known to have fathered at least four illegitimate children:
Alexandre Dumas, fils, son of Marie-Laure-Catherine Labay (1794—1868), a dressmaker. He became a successful novelist and playwright.
Marie-Alexandrine Dumas (5 March 1831—1878), the daughter of Belle Krelsamer (1803—1875). Marie-Alexandrine later married Pierre Petel.
Micaëlla-Clélie-Josepha-Élisabeth Cordier (born 1860), the daughter of Emélie Cordier.
Henry Bauer, the son of a woman whose surname was Bauer.
About 1866, Dumas had an affair with Adah Isaacs Menken, a well-known American actress less than half his age. 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.
These women were among the total of Dumas' nearly 40 mistresses found by the scholar Claude Schopp, in addition to three more illegitimate children. He has been researching Dumas for decades, primarily his writings.
Death and legacy
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. These contributed to the ceremony in 2002 to reinter Dumas in the Panthéon de Paris, an honor reserved for the great in French culture.
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.
Researchers have continued to find Dumas works in archives:
In 2002, the scholar Reginald Hamel found Dumas' five-act play, The Gold Thieves, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It was published in France in 2004 by Honoré-Champion.
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. 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. 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."
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 Emile Zola. 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.
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. 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.
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.