Alexandre Dumas

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Alexandre Dumas Biography

Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) is one of France’s greatest authors and one of the world’s most appreciated novelists. Dumas’s father died when he was a small boy, so he grew up listening to his mother’s stories of his father’s bravery in war. These stories spurred him to write such swashbuckling classics as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. In addition to novels, the incredibly prolific Dumas (some critics calculate his collected output to fill nearly 1,000 volumes) also wrote plays, magazine articles, and travel guides. Dumas’s stories have been translated into one hundred languages and made into over two hundred film adaptations.

Facts and Trivia

  • Dumas was always worried about the fact that he was biracial. Someone once insulted him about this fact and he replied, “It is true. My father was a mulatto, my grandmother was a negress, and my great-grandparents were monkeys. In short, sir, my pedigree begins where yours ends.”
  • Dumas did not write his novels alone. He had several assistants who helped him with research. Some even outlined the plots of his novels for him and wrote early drafts. Dumas would then add dialogue and other details.
  • Despite his success, Dumas was often in debt due to spending so much on his mistresses. Though he was married to actress Ida Ferrier, he had at least four illegitimate children.
  • In 2002, French president Jacques Chirac had Dumas’s body exhumed and interred in the same place as the bodies of Victor Hugo and Voltaire.
  • In 2005, Dumas’s last novel, The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, was sold in France. It was not quite finished at the time of his death, so the last two chapters were ghostwritten by Dumas scholar Claude Schopp.

Author Profile

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Last Updated on January 20, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386

Dumas is best known for such romances as The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), The Three Musketeers (1844), and The Man in the Iron Mask (1848-1550). He claimed to have written more than twelve hundred pieces of work, but that figure is an exaggeration. Dumas dealt with many issues pertaining to the history of France in his novels and plays, and he produced his best work during his middle years, from 1835 until 1860. In 1863, Dumas along with his son—who is known as Alexandre Dumas, fils—received a Decree of Condemnation which placed all of his writings on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by the Roman Catholic church because of their emphasis on “impure love.” He was branded one of the church’s eleven “Condemned Novelists” and all his future novels were to be automatically listed, unless they could be shown to be acceptable. This condemnation did not extend to Dumas’ dramatic works, however.

Later, some of Dumas’ works were given qualified church approval by Abbe Louis Bethleem, who made a detailed study of the French authors, particularly those whose works were placed under the ban of “all love stories.” Several of Dumas’ minor works and his major works, including The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, were banned entirely. The Corsican Brothers (1844), a story about the intimate sympathy between twin brothers, even when separated, and The Twin Lieutenants (1858), a story about the career of Napoleon, along with fifteen other works were designated as suitable only for adults to read. Seventeen minor works by Alexandre Dumas are considered works which may be read by all. These include The Chronicles of Charlemagne (1836), a portion of Dumas’ series The Chronicles of France. Several travel books by Dumas are listed as books that may be read only with serious precautions, including Ten Days on Mount Sinai (1839), a narrative of a scientific journey to Egypt and Sinai, and A Year in Florence (1841), a travelogue of Dumas’ journey through the south of Europe. (Abbe Bethleem did not recommend lifting the prohibition on any of Alexandre Dumas, fils novels.)

After the church’s Decree of Commendation, Dumas continued to write sparingly until his death, concentrating on dramas and serialized romances. Several of his later works dealt with the turbulent times in French history and are listed under the completely banned works of the author.

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