Alexandre Dumas: Prolific 19th-Century Writer
Black European Alexandre Dumas, one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century, was born July 24, 1802, in Villers-Cotteréts near Paris. His grandfather was the Marquis Antoine-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie and his grandmother was Marie-Céssette Dumas, a Black slave from Jérémie, Saint-Domingue (Haiti).
Young Alexandre grew up in Villers-Cotterêts. Dumas’s father was a general in Napoleon’s army who had fallen out of favor. After his death in 1806 the family lived in poverty. Dumas worked as a clerk and went to Paris in 1823 to find work.
Because of his stylish handwriting, he got work with the Duc d’Orléans, later King Louis Philippe. He also began working in theater and as a magazine publisher. By age twenty-five, he had his first success as a playwright with “Henri III et Sa Cour” (1829), produced by the Comedie Francaise. It gained success and Dumas went on to write additional plays. “La Tour de Nesle” (1832, “The Tower of Nesle”) is considered the greatest masterpiece of French melodrama. He wrote constantly, producing a steady stream of plays, novels, and short stories.
Dumas wrote many interesting observations about the world during his life. Much can be found in his piece “Mes Mémoires.” Dumas also wrote several children’s stories and a culinary dictionary. He also did not shy away from collaborating with other authors or rewriting older stories. He produced some 250 books with his 73 assistants, especially with the history teacher Auguste Maquet, whom worked independently. His most successful novels contained vivid adventures with action, and bigger-than-life characters. He took great liberty with the truth to achieve a good story.
Dumas’ life as a writer was filled with years of traveling. Some of his writings include The Count of Monte-Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Three Musketeers. In a shorter piece, Georges (1843, Dumas examined the question of race and colonialism. The main character, a half-French mulatto, left Mauritius to be educated in France, then returned to avenge the affronts he had suffered as a boy. Alexandre Dumas died in Puys, near Dieppe, on December 5, 1870.
Dumas’ son, Alexandre Dumas fils, wrote several important novels, including La Dame aux Camélias, the basis of Verdi’s opera “La Traviata.”