Alexandre Dumas: Biography & Books

Instructor: Stefani Boutelier

Stefani has a PhD in Education and is a life long learner.

You may know of ''The Three Musketeers'' and ''The Count of Monte Cristo'', but do you know much about the author of these works? In this lesson you will learn about one of the most well-known authors of the 19th century, and will then take a quiz on your knowledge.

Meet Alexandre Dumas, French Author

All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.

The above is only one popular quote from the famed 19th century author, Alexandre Dumas. He wrote a large amount of novels and plays during his time. His romantic and adventurous writing has been translated into over 100 languages and has been developed into endless movies, television shows, and stage productions.

Biography

Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was born in 1802 in Villers-Cotterêts, France. Later he adopted the name Alexandre Dumas, and his name is now usually written with père (a French form of 'father' or 'senior'). He was educated in his birth town and did not visit Paris until 1822, when he moved there to write.

Dumas' novels and plays were popular immediately, which allowed him to earn a quick fortune. His riches helped him lead a life of privilege, which was the opposite of his impoverished upbringing. Or at least, it was until he overspent his earnings and had to flee France to avoid debtors around 1850. He later returned to France, where he died near his son and daughter in 1870.

This quote of Dumas' may summarize his feelings after his exile: 'How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it.'

Alexandre Dumas circa 1855
Dumas 1855

Alexandre Dumas was one-quarter black because his paternal grandmother was Haitian. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, rose through the French military during the French Revolution in the late 18th century to become the first black general. It is believed that he was the highest ranking black military officer in the western world until a U.S. military officer gained a higher rank in the 1970s.

Both Dumas men faced discrimination in France. Many French were ignorant of his mixed race until national ceremony celebrated his contributions to literature. During this, Dumas' ashes were moved to the Pantheon in Paris, along with his contemporaries, in 2002 by French president Chirac.

Notable Books

Dumas wrote prolifically during his life in France and his exile abroad. By far, his most popular books were The Three Musketeers -- the first part of a trilogy -- and The Count of Monte Cristo. Both have main characters from lower socio-economic beginnings who gain heroism through brain or brawn. If this sounds familiar, you also should know that Dumas wrote his own version of Robin Hood, one that focuses on Hood's beginnings. The majority of his books involve high adventure, where abridged versions exceed 500 pages of excitement.

An edition from 1942
Count of Monte Cristo

The following are only some of the popular works by Alexandre Dumas père:

  • The Fencing Master (1843)
  • Louis XIV and His Century (1844)
  • The Three Musketeers (1844)
  • Twenty Years After (1845)
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1847)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1846)
  • The Black Tulip (1850)
  • Robin Hood (1863)
  • The Count of Moret (1866)

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