Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
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Photography, Atelier de Nadar © Minsitère de la Culture - Médiathèque du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Atelier de Nadar
Posthumous portrait, Charles-Alphonse Bellay, 1878 © RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot
Alexandre Dumas, master of the historic novel, once said: "What is History? A nail on which I hang my novels". To which Michelet replied: "You have taught people more about history than all the historians put together."
His father, a General of the Empire, descendant of Norman country squires but also the son of a slave from Saint-Domingue, died in 1806, leaving his family entirely without means. A notary's clerk in Villers-Cotterêts, Alexandre Dumas came to Paris in 1822 where, inspired by Shakespeare, Schiller and Walter Scott, he achieved fame one evening in 1829 when his piece entitled Henri III et sa cour, one of the first Romantic dramas, was performed at the Comédie-Française.
After writing for the theatre (Antony, 1831; La Tour de Nesle, 1832; Kean ou Désordre et Génie, 1836), Dumas moved away from the theatre, returning when he founded the Théâtre-Historique (1847), where he produced the heroes of his novels.
Meanwhile, assisted by his “negro” Auguste Maquet, he applied himself to writing the greatest popular novels of all time. This included Les Trois Mousquetaires , published in 1844 after appearing as a serial, and which was so successful that Dumas wrote a sequel twenty years later, extended by Le Vicomte de Bragelonne”, tales of the era of Louis XIII, whilst La Reine Margot (1845), La Dame de Monsoreau (1846) and Les Quarante-Cinq (1847-48) take place during the Wars of Religion. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, his other hugely famous novel, is one of the few novels that Dumas set in his own contemporary France. He is the father of Alexandre Dumas Fils, author of La Dame aux Camélias.
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