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Dumas, Alexandre(Dumas père), 1802–70, French novelist and dramatist
See studies by F. W. Hemmings (1980) and C. Schopp (1988).
Dumas, Alexandre(Dumas fils), 1824–95, French dramatist and novelist
See study by H. S. Schwarz (1927, repr. 1971).
Dumas, Alexandre (1802–1870)(pop culture)
Alexandre Dumas (Davy de la Pailleterie), prominent French novelist and playwright best remembered for his novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, was born on July 24, 1802, in Villers-Cotterets, France, the son of Thomas Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, a general in Napoleon’s army, and Marie Louise Elisabeth Labouret. His father’s mother was an African slave. Dumas’s father died in prison when his son was four. Dumas showed few outstanding qualities as he was growing up. He had beautiful handwriting and was a good conversationalist, but proved to be a dullard in arithmetic and only average in his other school work.
However, he had a vivid imagination which led him into the theater. Dumas turned to the theater at the age of eighteen after seeing a performance of Hamlet. He organized his own drama company for which he wrote material, directed the plays, and often performed. Fired by ambition, he moved to Paris early in 1823, ready to take the city by storm. Interestingly enough, his career was to begin and end with a vampire.
Shortly after Dumas’s arrival in Paris, Charles Nodier‘s play, Le Vampire, opened for its second run at the Porte-Sainte-Martin theatre. As Dumas was about to sit down for the performance, someone made a comment about his head of bushy red hair. Insulted, he challenged the man to a duel and left the theater. By the time he got to the street, however, he thought better of his actions and, after purchasing a second ticket, returned to the theater through another door. He was seated in the orchestra section next to a well-dressed gentleman, and they conversed until the play began. While Dumas enjoyed the play, the gentleman next to him obviously did not and let his displeasure show. Following the second act, the man stood up and announced he could stand no more. Then, during the third act, the performance was interrupted by some shrill whistles. The gentleman, whom Dumas later learned was none other than Charles Nodier, was ushered from the theater. The evening was to prove a significant one, and Dumas devoted three chapters of his Memoirs to a description of his reactions to the play.
Dumas spent the next years reading, writing poetry, and working hard at his job. In 1827 he finished a play, Christine, but he had no connections to present it to a producer. Someone suggested that he try to reach Baron Taylor of the Comédie-Française. Taylor was a good friend of Nodier, and even though Dumas had not seen Nodier since the night at Le Vampire, he risked sending a letter to the author. He reminded Nodier of the evening and asked for an introduction to Taylor. Nodier arranged an appointment, and Dumas was able to sell Taylor on the play. His literary career was launched. Instead of making the revisions requested by Taylor, however, he wrote a second play, Henri III et Sa Cour, which opened on February 10, 1829. With a new job as the librarian to the Duc d’Orleans, he was finally able to mingle with the artistic and intellectual community of Paris. He spent his spare time with a variety of mistresses. Dumas was one of the most successful playwrights in Paris for the rest of the decade. His career was interrupted in 1830 by the emergence of Louis Philippe, who did not like Dumas’s republican political views.
Dumas took the occasion to absent himself from Paris. Several unsuccessful plays in a row occasioned the writing of the first volume of The Three Musketeers in 1844. It was soon followed by The Count of Monte Cristo, and a series of very successful adventure novels. The dramatization of The Three Musketeers was also well received, and Dumas was again financially successful. He built a large estate, the Château de Monte Cristo. In 1847 the Théâtre Historique was constructed to show his plays.
However, this all came to an end with the revolution of 1848. The theater was closed during the revolution and attendance lagged in the aftermath. His debts mounted. Then on December 2, 1851, Louis Napoleon, the president of France, dismissed the Assembly and launched his coup d’état. Dumas had been desperately trying to recoup his fortunes, but his new plays all failed. Finally, in a last attempt, he turned to the vampire theme he had encountered when he arrived in Paris. On December 30, less than a month after the coup, his version of Le Vampire opened at the Ambigu-Comique.
About the same time he also authored a vampire short story, “The Pale Lady” (1848). It was to be his last play for the city he had so loved. Early in 1852 he left for Belgium to get away from his creditors and a government that, once again, did not appreciate his politics. Once in Belgium, he began work on his Memoirs and wrote several other books reflecting on his career and travels. He died at the home of his son in Puys, France, on December 5, 1870. Dumas holds a prominent place in nineteenth-century French literature for his fast-paced action novels and the vivid imagination he brought to his writing. He also is important in the development of the modern vampire myth as the last of a generation of great French writers to explore the theme.
(Dumas fils). Born July 28, 1824, in Paris; died Nov. 27, 1895, in Marly-le-Roi, Seine-et-Oise Department. French writer. member of the Académie Franchise from 1874. Son of A. Dumas.
The first published work by Dumas fils was the collection of poems Sins of Youth (1845). He was the author of the novels La Dame aux camelias (vols. 1-2, 1848; Russian translation, 1892), Doctor Servan (vols. 1-2, 1849; Russian translation, 1850), and Three Strong Men (vols. 1-4, 1850), and he also wrote petit bourgeois philanthropic plays. Dumas won wide acclaim in 1852 with the staging of the drama La Dame aux camelias (in English, Camille), which was based on his novel of the same name. (Verdi’s opera La Traviata was based on the plot of La Dame aux camélias.)
Dumas understood well the rules of the stage and knew how to develop intrigue and dialogue. His plays are not devoid of fundamental truth, but many of them tend to moralize and are imbued with petit bourgeois morals affirming the stability of the bourgeois family and society (The Demimonde, 1855, The Natural Son, 1858, The Wife of Claude, 1873, and The Stranger, 1876).
WORKSThéátre complet, vols. 1-10. Paris, 1923.
REFERENCESIstoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Maurois, A. Tri Diuma. Afterword by K. Andreev. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from French.)
Claretie, J.A. Dumas fils. Paris, 1883.
Bourget, P. Essais de psychologie contemporaine. Paris, 1886.
Doumic, R. Portraits d’écrivains. Paris, 1897.
I. A. LILEEVA
(Dumas père). Born July 24, 1802, in Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne; died Dec. 5, 1870, in Puys, Seine-Inférieure Department. French writer. Son of a republican general.
Dumas père began his literary career in 1825 as a playwright, achieving fame with the staging of his play Henry III and His Court (1829), one of the first French romantic dramas. His most famous plays are Antony (1831), The Tower ofNesle (1832), and Kean (1836). The plays of Dumas perè were a milestone in the history of romantic theater.
In 1835, Dumas pere published his first historical novel, Isabella of Bavaria. In the 1840’s his historical adventure novels appeared one after the other in Parisian newspapers. Among them was a trilogy united by its main characters (The Three Musketeers, 1844, Twenty Years After, 1845, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, which was published separately between 1848 and 1850). Also published serially was the trilogy on Henry of Navarre— Queen Margot (1845), Lady Monsoreau (published separately in 1846), and The Forty-five (published separately in 1847-48). Dumas perè created an enormous number of works. In addition to novels and plays, he wrote memoirs (vols. 1-22, 1852-54) and travel notes, including a description of his visit to Russia in 1858 that abounds in errors but is imbued with sympathy for Russia (From Paris to Astrakhan, vols. 1-5, 1858).
Dumas perè’s best novels are inherently entertaining, with swiftly developing plots, vitality, and a spirit of enterprise. His heroes are all endowed with great energy, daring, and ingenuity, and they overcome all obstacles. This accounts for the exceptional popularity of Dumas’s work. His last works, however, were permeated with pessimism, gloomy fatalism, and lack of faith in the power of human reason.
WORKSOeuvres complètes, vols. 1-301. Paris [1846-68].
Théâtre complet, vols. 1-15. Paris, 1863-74.
In Russian translation:
Poln. sobr. romanov, vols. 1-24 (in 84 books). St. Petersburg, 1812-13.
Izbr. soch., vols. 1-8. Leningrad, 1928-29.
Dvadtsat’ let spustia, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1957.
Vikont de Brazhelon, ili Desiat’ let spustia, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1957.
Sheval’e d’Armantal’. Moscow, 1962.
Askanio. Moscow, 1962.
P’esy. Leningrad-Moscow, 1965.
REFERENCESDurylin, S. “Aleksandr Diuma-otets i Rossiia.” In Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vols. 31-32. Moscow, 1937.
Andreev, K. “Khoziain zamka: Monte-Kristo.” Mir prikliuchenii, no. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Kuprin, A. “Diuma-otets.” Don, 1961, no. 3.
Maurois, A. Tri Diuma. Afterword by K. Andreev. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from French.)
Craig Bell, A. A. Dumas: A Biography and Study. London, 1950.
Clouard, H. A. Dumas. Paris, 1955.
“Alexandre Dumas père.” Europe, 1970, nos. 490-91. (Special issue.)
Talvart, H., and J. Place. Bibliographie des auteurs modernes de langue francaise (1801-1934), vol. 5. Paris, 1935. Pages 1-65.
A. IU. NARKEVICH