Classic Author Focus: Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas was a French writer who was certainly from an extraordinary family. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, was the son of an African slave and a French nobleman and became a great and popular general of the French Revolution. However, he fell out of favor with Bonaparte and the family went through years of hard times, especially after his death. Dumas himself first became known as a dramatist and then had a great reputation as a writer of historical fiction. He was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the 19th century. His son, Alexander Dumas fils, also gained fame as a writer of literary fiction and a dramatist.

Although Dumas’ father was never accepted as his father’s heir, his noble connections got his son a job as a writer with Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Orléans. There, Alexandre began to develop some reputation as a playwright. In 1930, Dumas took part in the revolution that replaced Charles X with Louis-Philippe, the Citizen King. After several years of turmoil, France began industrializing and the economy stabilized , making it easier for Dumas to be successful.

His first novel was the serialized La Comtesse de Salisbury; Édouard III, published in 1836. During this time, he developed an extensive production company which wrote hundreds of stories, all subject to his editing and personal direction. From 1839-1841, he and several of his friends compiled an eight-volume collection about famous European crimes and criminals, called Celebrated Crimes. Although he was so popular, he still had to deal throughout his life with issues of discrimination. One notable short novel was Georges, published in 1843, which dealt with racism and colonialism.

Dumas’ novels were extremely popular and earned him a lot of money, but he was constantly broke, partly because he had lots of mistresses (scholars count 40) and lived a lavish lifestyle. He published a total of 100,000 pages during his lifetime, including travel books. When Louis-Philippe was ousted by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who disapproved of him, Dumas fled to Brussels in 1851 (also fleeing his creditors). Several years later, he moved to Russia, where French was a principal language and he was extremely popular. He visited many areas of Russia and the surrounding countries over the next two years before moving to Italy, where he became part of the movement for Italian unification, the founder and editor of a newspaper called the Independente, and a friend to Garibaldi.

He returned to Paris in 1864, where he published travel books about Italy.

Although Dumas had no children with his wife, the actress Ida Ferrier, he was known to have at least four children by some of his mistresses, including Alexandre Dumas fils, the son of a dressmaker.

He died of natural causes, possibly from a heart attack, at the age of 68. Although he fell out of fashion, his reputation as a historical novelist was revived by scholars in the late 20th century.

Dates: 1802-1870

Most popular works: The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Black Tulip

Other works: La Reine Margot, Twenty Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, The Corsican Brothers, The Lady of the Camelias, and many others

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6 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Alexandre Dumas

    1. Or you could just read it! I found that for a while, I was waiting for the spins to read from my Classics list, but then I almost didn’t finish the last one on time (actually was a month or so late) and had to read a whole bunch of them at the end to do so, because the spins aren’t often enough. So now, I try to read one or two every month.

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      1. True… I could do that. I’m trying to get my spin list to include more books of shorter length, because otherwise I don’t have a chance of finishing them in time. There are now a bunch of books I want to buy that can all be in that list… I guess I shouldn’t really stop myself from reading something because maybe it will be the spin choice!

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