Alexander Dumas, better known as Alexander Dumas, was the father of a French playwright, writer and one of the founders of the novel – a feuilleton.
He was born on July 24, 1802, in Wheeler Cotier, in the north of France, and died on December 5, 1870, in the town of Dieppe in Upper Normandy.
His works have been translated into numerous world languages and he is one of the most widely read French writers. Many historical novels, such as “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “The Three Musketeers” and “Twenty Years Later”, were originally published in series. His works have undergone over two hundred screen adaptations since the beginning of the 20th century.
As a young man, he arrived in Paris to become a lawyer, but he began his literary career writing plays. In addition, Alexander Dumas wrote texts for magazines and travelogues. In 1840, he founded the Historical Theater in Paris.
After Napoleon III came to power in 1851, Dumas left France. For a while, he lived in Belgium, Russia and Italy, where he founded the magazine ”Independence”. He returned to Paris in 1864.
He had at least four children from informal relationships, the most famous of whom is Alexander Dumas, a writer known for his works “The Lady with the Camellias”, “The Clemenceau Affair” and others.
I’ll introduce you the life story of Alexandre Dumas, the father of a French playwright.
Origin, childhood and education
Alexander Dumas was born in 1802 in Wheeler Cotier. His father’s name was Thomas Alexander Dumas and his mother Marie-Lou’s name was Elizabeth Labore. He had two older sisters, Marie-Alexandrina and Lou-Alexandrina, who passed away before his birth.
Thomas Alexander was born in the French colony of Saint Dominic (today’s Haiti). He was the son of a French nobleman and general, the Marquis Alexander Antoine, and a slave of Afro-Caribbean descent, Marie-Seset Dumas. As a boy, his father brought him to France, where he was educated in a military school and later joined the army.
He took the surname Dumas from his mother, after breaking off contact with his father. By the age of 31, he acquired the rank of general, and became the first soldier of African descent with that rank in the history of the French army.
After graduating from high school, Alexander Dumas enrolled at the Faculty of Law in Paris, but his life took a completely different direction.
While working for Duke Louis Philippe (later King of France), Dumas began writing articles for magazines and plays. His first play “Henry III and his trials” (“Henry III et sa cour”) was made in 1829. At just 27, he met with positive reactions from audiences and critics. That is why the following year he wrote the play “Christine”, which quickly became popular.
In 1830, he took part in the revolution, which overthrew King Charles X and brought to the throne a friend of Dumas, Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. During the first five years of his reign, the situation in the country was chaotic. Riots reigned among disgruntled Republicans and poor workers. However, at the beginning of industrialization, the situation in the economy also improved.
The end of press censorship helped Dumas become one of the most important and sought-after writers in France. After several very successful plays, he began writing novels.
Although he was attracted to a somewhat extravagant lifestyle because he always spent more than he earned, he proved to be a skilled businessman. That is why in 1838 he began publishing the novel “Captain Paul” (Le Capitaine Paul) in parts. He founded his own studio in which writers wrote hundreds of stories, but he personally read, edited and published each one.
In the period from 1839 to 1841, Dumas, with the help of several friends, compiled a collection of essays “Crimes Célèbres” about the greatest crimes in European history. He also collaborated with Augustin Grisier, a master of fencing, on his novel published in 1840 under the title “Master of Fencing”. Russian Tsar Nikolai forbade the novel to be sold in Russia, and until his death he did not allow Dumas to visit his country.
He also collaborated with August Make, with whom he ended up in court, because Make thought that he should get higher earnings due to the success of the short novel “George” from 1843. The court ordered Dumas to give him more money, but not the copyright to the work.
The popularity of his novels spread to other European countries, and they were translated into English, Spanish, Italian and many other languages. He earned large sums of money from that, but he was often on the verge of bankruptcy, because he spent money on a luxurious life and numerous mistresses. His contemporaries wrote that there were as many as 40 of them.
In 1846, he built a country house on the Le Port Marley estate, not far from Paris, in which he built his studio. His guests were acquaintances and friends, but also numerous foreigners who took advantage of his generosity. Two years later, faced with great financial difficulties, he sold all his property.
He wrote in a wide range of genres, and is believed to have published more than 100,000 pages of various texts during his lifetime. During his travels to Spain, Italy, Germany, England and Algeria, he wrote his impressions and published them in the form of travelogues.
After King Louis Philippe was overthrown and Napoleon III was elected the first president of the French Republic, Dumas fell into “disfavor”. Because of that, but also because of the great debts he made in Paris, in 1851 he fled to Brussels.
From there, in 1859, he moved to Russia. He lived in St. Peterburg, Moscow, Kazan, Astrakhan and Georgian Tbilisi. He translated his travel adventures into very popular travel books.
When Victor Emmanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele II) proclaimed Italy a Kingdom in 1861, Dumas moved to the Apennine Peninsula. He participated in the movement for the unification of Italy, founded and ran the magazine “Independents”, and was friends with the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Both respected liberal Republican principles and admired Freemasonry.
Dumas returned to Paris in 1864, and published travel books about Italy.
Despite his aristocratic background and great literary success, he often faced discrimination because of his skin color. That is why in 1843 he wrote a short novel called “George”, which dealt with issues of race and the consequences of colonialism.
To the man who insulted him because of his African origin, Dumas replied: “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was black, and my great-grandfather was a monkey. You see, sir, my family line begins where yours ends.”
Alexander Dumas led a very turbulent life. With literary success came money, and with it his fondness for a lavish life and numerous women grew. On February 1, 1840, he married actress Ida Ferie, but had no children with her.
It is known that he had at least four children from extramarital affairs. In 1824, he had a son, Alexander, with the tailor Mary-Lou-Catherine Labey. Alexander Dumas Jr. also became a successful playwright and novelist, and he is also known by the nickname “Son”.
On March 5, 1831, Dumas had a daughter, Marie-Alexandrina Dumas, with Belle Kreslamer, and a daughter, Mikaela, with Emeli Kordie.
Dumas also had a son, Henry Bauer, but his mother’s name is unknown.
Among the more than 40 mistresses was the famous American actress Ida Menken. They met in Paris at the height of her career. Ida was even twice as young as the French writer.
With writers Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Eugene Delacroix, De Balzac and Gerard de Neval, Dumas smoked hashish once a month in a Paris hotel. In the famous novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” there are several references to this habit of his.
The last days and the legacy of the French literary great
Alexander Dumas passed away on December 5, 1970, six months after his 68th birthday, and his body was buried not far from the family home. He left behind thousands of works that have been translated into more than a hundred languages. Over two hundred films have been made based on his books. He is considered one of the most widely read French authors of all time.
In 1970, one of the busiest metro stations in Paris was named after him. In 2002, at the celebration of the bicentennial of Dumas’s birth, French President Jacques Chirac poured his remains into the mausoleum of the Paris Pantheon, where the ashes of many famous French people rest.
Today, the works of Alexander Dumas are studied in many schools and faculties around the world. Many collectors have managed to collect unpublished manuscripts of the French writer that are in museums. The country house near Paris, where he wrote many of his works, has been renovated and turned into a museum, which is visited by several hundred tourists from all over the world every year.
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