This Day In Literary History
On July 24th, 1802, the legendary French writer Alexandre Dumas was born in the village of Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France. He was half-black like his father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a top general in Napoleon's army.
When he publicly criticized Napoleon's military leadership, the emperor accused him of sedition. Thomas-Alexandre resigned from the army in disgust, and the ensuing scandal ruined the Dumas family.
Alexandre Dumas' father died of stomach cancer when he was three years old. His mother, Marie-Louise, couldn't provide him with much of an education, but Dumas loved books and read every one he could get his hands on.
That and his mother's stories of his brave father's adventures as a soldier planted the seeds of his future writing career. He dreamed of heroes and high adventure.
When Dumas was 20 years old, he moved to Paris, where he was employed at the Palais Royal in the office of Louis-Phillipe, the Duc D'Orleans and the future and last king of France.
While working in Paris, Dumas began his literary career, writing articles for magazines and co-writing plays for the theater. In 1829, King Henry III and His Court - his first solo play - was produced and became a great success, as did his second play, Christine.
After writing more successful plays, Dumas turned his attention to novels, as the newspapers and literary magazines of the day offered a lucrative market for serialized novels.
In 1838, Dumas' first novel La Capitaine Paul - a novelization of one of his plays - was published. The success of the book led Dumas to create a studio of sorts dedicated to producing short stories and serial novels, where he worked with assistants and other collaborators.
Dumas continued writing nonfiction, and from 1839 to 1841, he compiled an eight-volume collection of essays about famous crimes and criminals in European history called Celebrated Crimes.
During this time, Dumas married actress Marguerite-Josephine Ferrand, known by her stage name, Ida Ferrier. Though he loved Ida, Dumas was a notorious womanizer.
He would father at least four illegitimate children, one of whom, Alexandre Dumas Jr., would become a fine novelist and playwright himself.
In 1844, Dumas published The Three Musketeers - the first in a three-book trilogy, The D'Artagnan Romances. A fourth book, The Son Of Porthos, aka The Death Of Aramis, was published 13 years after Dumas' death; though it bore his name, it was written by Paul Mahalin.
In Dumas' classic swashbuckler, a young man named D'Artagnan sets out to join the King's Musketeers. He meets three of them - Athos, Porthos, and Aramis - and ends up being challenged to a duel by each man.
Just as D'Artagnan's duel with Athos is about to begin, the guards of the evil Cardinal Richelieu arrive and threaten to arrest all the men for dueling. Using his skill as a swordsman, D'Artagnan helps the three Musketeers defeat the guards.
The impressed Musketeers befriend D'Artagnan and offer to take him under their wing. Soon, D'Artagnan runs afoul of the vengeful Cardinal and his beautiful but deadly spy, Milady de Winter.
The Three Musketeers was followed by two more novels - Twenty Years After (1845) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, aka Ten Years Later (1847). It would be adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.
From 1845-46, Alexandre Dumas published, in serial format, what is considered to be his greatest novel, The Count Of Monte Cristo, an epic novel of adventure, betrayal, hope, vengeance, and forgiveness.
It told the story of Edmond Dantes, an honest and loyal man framed for treason by group of conspirators including a romantic rival and a corrupt prosecutor.
Sentenced to life imprisonment, Dantes is befriended by fellow prisoner Abbe Feria - a priest and sage. He becomes Edmond's friend, father figure, and teacher. They work on a plan to tunnel out of prison.
Fourteen years later, Dantes finally escapes from prison. Before he died, the ailing Abbe gave Dantes a map to a treasure he buried on Monte Cristo, an island off the coast of Milan. Dantes finds the treasure.
Now a wealthy man, Dantes buys the island and re-invents himself as a mysterious aristocrat known as the Count of Monte Cristo. He returns to France, where he finds that his former fiancee Mercedes married one of the men who framed him.
Dantes conceives and executes an elaborate plan of vengeance against the conspirators responsible for his imprisonment, then questions the value of his revenge when it threatens to destroy the son of the woman he still loves.
Even though the success of Alexandre Dumas' plays and novels brought him wealth, he spent money lavishly, and his mansion, the Chateau de Monte Cristo, was always filled with friends and hangers-on looking to take advantage of his generosity.
Often broke and in debt, he continued to write more great novels, including another classic swashbuckler, Robin Hood (1863), Dumas' retelling of the story of the legendary outlaw Earl of Huntingdon, his Merry Men, and his love, Maid Marian.
Alexandre Dumas died in 1870 at the age of 68.
Quote Of The Day
"How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it." - Alexandre Dumas
Today's video features a complete reading of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, The Three Musketeers. Enjoy!