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The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas
 
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About The Author:
Alexandre Dumas
Novels
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)

One of the most famous French writers of the 19th century. Dumas is best known for historical the novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, both written within the space of two years, 1844-45, and which belong to the foundation works of popular culture. He was among the first, along with Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Sue, who fully used the possibilities of roman feuilleton, the serial novel. Dumas is credited with revitalizing the historical novel in France, although his abilities as a writer were under dispute from the beginning. Dumas' works are fast-paced adventure tales that blend history and fiction, but on the other hand, the are entangled, melodramatic, and actually not faithful to the historical facts.

Alexandre Dumas was born in Villes-Cotterêts. His grandfather was a French nobleman, who had settled in Santo Domingo (now part of Haiti); his paternal grandmother, Marie-Cessette, was an Afro-Caribbean, who had been a black slave in the French colony (now part of Haiti). 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 notary's clerk and went in 1823 to Paris to find work. Due to his elegant handwriting he secured a position with the Duc d'Orléans - later King Louis Philippe. He also found his place in theater and as a publisher of some obscure magazines. An illegitimate son called Alexandre Dumas fils, whose mother, Marie-Catherine Labay, was a dressmaker, was born in 1824.

As a playwright Dumas made his breakthrough with HENRI III ET SA COUR (1829), produced by the Comedie Francaise. It gained a huge success and Dumas went on to write additional plays, of which 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.

Historical novels brought Dumas enormous fortune, but he could spent money faster than he made it. He produced some 250 books with his 73 assistants, especially with the history teacher Auguste Maquet, whom he wisely allowed to work quite independently. Dumas earned roughly 200,000 francs yearly and received an annual sum of 63,000 francs for 220,000 lines from the newspapers Presse and the Constitutionel. Maquet often proposed subjects and wrote first drafts for some of Dumas' most famous serial novels, including LES TROIS MOUSQUETAIRES (1844, The Three Musketeers) and LE COMTE DE MONTE-CRISTO (1844-45, The Count of Monte-Cristo). As a master dialogist, Dumas developed character traits, and kept the action moving, and composed the all-important chapter endings - teaser scenes that maintained suspense and readers interest to read more.

Dumas' role in the development of the historical novel owes much to a coincidence. The lifting of press censorship in the 1830s gave rise to a rapid spread of newspapers. Editors began to lure readers by entertaining serial novels. Everybody read them, the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie, young and old, men and women. Dumas' first true serial novel was LE CAPITAINE PAUL (1838, Captain Paul), a quick rewrite of a play.

Dumas lived as adventurously as the heroes of his books. He took part in the revolution of July 1830, caught cholera during the epidemic of 1832, and traveled in Italy to recuperate. He married his mistress Ida Ferrier, an actress, in 1840, but he soon separated after having spent her entire dowry. With the money earned from his writings, he built a fantastic château Montecristo on the outskirts of Paris. In 1851 Dumas escaped his creditors - his country house, the Chateau de Monte Cristo. Dumas spent two years in exile in Brussels (1855-57), and then returned to Paris. In 1858 he traveled to Russia and in1860 he went to Italy, where he supported Garibaldi and Italy's struggle for independence (1860-64). He then remained in Naples as a keeper of the museums for four years. After his return to France his debts continued to mount.

Called as "the king of Paris", Dumas earned fortunes and spent them right away on friends, art, and mistresses. Dumas died of a stroke on December 5, 1870, at Puys, near Dieppe. His son Alexandre Dumas fils, became a writer, dramatist, and moralist, who never accepted his father's lifestyle.

Dumas did not generally define himself as a black man, and there is not much evidence that he encountered overt racism during his life. However, his works were popular among the 19th-century African-Americans, partly because in The Count of Monte-Cristo, the falsely imprisoned Edmond Dantès, may be read as a parable of emancipation. In a shorter work, GEORGES (1843, George), Dumas examined the question of race and colonialism. The main character, a half-French mulatto, leaves Mauritius to be educated in France, and returns to avenge himself for the affronts he had suffered as a boy.
 

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