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[du mah'] playwright and novelist
Alexandre Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne), on July 24, 1802. His father died in 1806, leaving the family with nothing more than 30 acres of land. Unable to support her son financially, Alexandre's mother was forced to raise him in the home of her parents. Dumas had little formal education but he read voraciously and was especially attracted to 16th- and 17th-century adventure stories. His beautiful handwriting secured him a position as a clerk, which in turn allowed him to attend performances of an English Shakespearean company.
Inspired to write drama, Dumas made his debut as a playwright with La Chasse et L'amour, which opened in Paris on September 22, 1825. The first Dumas play to receive wide acclaim was Henry III and His Court, which was first produced on February 11, 1829. Dumas would subsequently produce dozens of plays, most of which were performed before enthusiastic audiences.
Dumas was also the author of novels, including The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte-Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. Like his plays, most of Dumas' novels were very loosely based on historic events, although Dumas seldom let historical facts stand in the way of his stories.
Over the course of his lifetime Dumas would publish more than 270 works, and was the most widely read French writer of his day. To help him accomplish this he employed a number of collaborators, as well as a "fiction factory" in which hired writers executed his ideas.
Dumas' success as a writer made him large sums of money, but his extravagant lifestyle frequently left him in debt. In 1851 he was forced to flee to Belgium in order to escape creditors. In addition to flamboyance, Dumas was also known for carousing with mistresses. One of his liaisons resulted in the birth of Alexandre Dumas fils, who would become a respected playwright and novelist in his own right. Although he did actually marry one of his mistresses in 1840, he left her soon after spending her entire dowry.
At his death, on December 5, 1870, Dumas was virtually bankrupt. In 2002, his remains were removed from the cemetery of Villers-Cotterêts and reinterred in the Panthéon in Paris, among other notable French authors such as Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire.
Le Chasse et L'Amour (1825)
Fiesque de Lavagna (1827)
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This page was last updated on 07/23/2017.