Alexandre Dumas

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"On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the Jolly Miller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity." (opening paragraph of The Three Musketeers)

Alexandre Dumas, père (1806-1876) was a famous French author and the creator of iconic French literature. His name suffix, "père" ("father") corresponds to the English designation "senior" and is used to distinguish him from his namesake son Alexandre Dumas, fils, also a major French writer. Dumas is particularly known for his swashbuckling historical novels but was also the author of noteworthy works of non-fiction. He was born at Villers-Cotterêts and following his death was interred there, but in 2002 his body was exhumed and ceremoniously buried in Paris at The Panthéon; President Jacques Chirac later apologised for the racism which had denied Dumas, a person of mixed ancestry, the recognition given to other luminous French writers.

Early life

Dumas was the son of an aristocratic French general, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a creole, and his wife Marie-Louise Elisabeth Labouret. He lost his father at the age of 4 and Marie-Louise had to raise her young son in near poverty, although his father's reputation and connections would eventually assist young Dumas to find gainful employment.

Adult life

Dumas came to Paris to seek his fortune, where he obtained office work, and his skilled writing soon received critical and popular acclaim. He became famous as a playwright, but today, his best known works are his novels. These include the most famous of the D'Artagnan Romances The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne ("The Man in the Iron Mask") (1848); also The Count of Monte Cristo (1844—1846). These have been widely translated and there are scores of films based on them. In his vast output he undoubtedly used collaborators, and there is dispute over how much he owed to them, particularly in Monte Cristo.

Despite his success his private life was less than happy, he was dogged by racism, was unhappy with and unfaithful to his wife, and made and squandered vast amounts of money. He died near Dieppe with his physical and mental health broken, where his son and daughter attended to him.

References