Dumas, Alexandre

Tagged: Author

(1802-1870) French dramatist and author, best remembered for romantic historical fictions about France whose most famous examples appear in the Musketeerssequence [for this, and for detailed discussion of Dumas' extensive fantasy and supernatural oeuvre, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy]. His use of anonymous collaborators, most prominent among them Paul Lacroix and Auguste Macquet, is fully acknowledged; but collaborations were usually restricted to research and plot outlines. Of direct fantasy and horror interest are tales like L'Histoire d'un Casse-Noisette (1845 2vols; trans anon as The History of a Nutcracker 1847), a radical adaptation of E T A Hoffmann's "Nußknacker und Mausekönig" ["Nutcracker and Mouse King"] in Kinder-Mährchen (anth 1816) [for more details see Checklist below]; and Le Meneur de loups (1857 3vols; trans Alfred Allinson as The Wolf-Leader 1904; trans cut and edited by L Sprague de Camp 1950), whose protagonist enters into a deadly bargain with a great spirit-wolf, paying dearly for every act of revenge he is magically allowed to enact [for Answered Prayers see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

But Dumas is relevant in the frame of this encyclopedia mainly for one tale, his most famous. Almost certainly taking and transforming some elements from two novels by Paul Féval – the revenge tale as initiated in Les Mystères de London ["The Mysteries of London"] (20 December 1843-12 September 1844 Le Courrier Français; 1844), and the costumed crime fighter in Le loup blanc (1843; trans anon as The White Wolf circa 1850) – he created a proto-Superhero of sf interest in Edmont Dantès, the protagonist of Le Comte de Monte-Christo (28 August 1844-15 January 1846 Journal des Débats; 1844-1845 18vols; trans Emma Hardy as The Count of Monte Cristo 1846 3vols) with the anonymous collaboration of Auguste Macquet in its early drafts [for bibliographical details, and the change from Christo to Cristo, see Checklist below; note that all English editions after 1848 are translated from the revised text of 1846]. Though innocent of any crime (see Crime and Punishment), Dantès is incarcerated for fourteen years, during which period he begins his long metamorphosis, escaping from Prison into a mysterious obscurity from which he emerges, a decade later, almost supernaturally agile, strong, learned, profoundly Intelligent, sensitive, untiring, immune to liquor, able to see in the dark, inexhaustibly rich, creator of an elixir capable of restoring life to the dead, with a Fortress of Solitude rich in recondite books (see Libraries), to which he can retreat on occasion, and costumed in order to conceal his secret Identity; in his pursuit of evil-doers, often in disguise – ostensibly to take revenge on those who had conspired to imprison him, but with the effect of purging society of evil – he becomes almost a force of nature (see also Superman), a Mysterious Stranger invading the society of those who wronged him. This book was a powerful influence on Jules Verne, whose career Dumas promoted, in particular for tales like Mathias Sandorf (1885); on Gaston Leroux's Le Roi Mystère ["The Mystery King"] (1910), on M P Shiel's The Lord of the Sea (1901; savagely cut 1924); and, especially and acknowledgedly, on Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (October 1956-January 1957 Galaxy as "The Stars My Destination"; 1956; rev vt The Stars My Destination 1957; rev 1996). More recently, both plot and characters were openly homaged in John Jakes's spoofish Monte Cristo #99 (1970), and in great detail by Gwyneth Jones in Spirit (2008). Direct Sequels by Other Hands include Jules Lermina's The Son of Monte-Cristo (1881).

Most of the Count's characteristics are replicated, with cartoon-like intensity, in the portrait of the eponymous hero of Dumas' last and unfinished novel, Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine (1869 Le Moniteur universel; 2005; trans Lauren Yoder as The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon2008), who can also sing like an angel and suddenly speaks perfect English (though he has never been to England). Characters such as Edmond Dantès and Sainte-Hermine are a small step from the pulp Heroes and Antiheroes of the next century.

Though his vast oeuvre may reveal further examples, Dumas's closest approach to Proto SF as such seems to have been an "adaptation" of William Maginn's "Daniel O'Rourke's Wonderful Voyage to the Moon" in Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland (anth 1825) edited by Thomas Crofton Croker; in Dumas's version, published as "Un Voyage à la Lune" (8 October 1857 Le Monte Cristo; trans Harry A Spurr as "Trip to the Moon" in The Dumas Fairy Tale Book coll 1924), the original protagonist O'Rourke, now renamed Mocquet, is plucked from a mysterious Island by a giant eagle which deposits him on the Moon; after several days, he is taken back to Earth by an enormous goose. In its use of the Immortality topos, his Wandering Jew tale, Isaac Laquedem (December 1852-March 1853 Le Constitutionnel; 1853; trans anon as Izaak Lakadam 1853), also approaches sf, but not closely. [JC/DRL]

Alexander Dumas père

born Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, France: 24 July 1802

died Dieppe, France: 5 December 1870

works (highly selected)

  • Le Comte de Monte-Christo (Paris: Pétion, 1844-1845) with August Macquet, anonymous [published in eighteen volumes: appeared 28 August 1844-15 January 1846 Journal des Débats: binding unknown/]
    • The Chateau d'If: A Romance (Belfast, Ireland: Simms and M'Intyre/London: W S Orr and Company, 1846) [comprising the first third of the above: trans by Emma Hardy of the above: number 3 in the publisher's The Parlour Novelist series: binding unknown/]
    • The Count of Monte Christo (Belfast, Ireland: Simms and M'Intyre/London: W S Orr and Company, 1846) [published in two volumes: comprising the remainder of the above: trans by Emma Hardy of the above: numbers 8 and 9 in the publisher's The Parlour Novelist series, apparently simultaneous: binding unknown/]
    • Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (Paris: Au Bureau de L'Echo Des Feuilletons, 1846) [rev vt of the above: number of volumes unknown: establishing the default spelling of "Cristo": illus/M Valentin: binding unknown/]
      • The Count of Monte-Cristo (London: Chapman and Hall, 1846) [published in two volumes: anon trans of the above: this trans of revised text appeared two months after the Emma Hardy trans above of unrevised text: illus/M Valentin: hb/nonpictorial]
      • The Count of Monte Cristo (London: Penguin Books, 1996) [new trans by Robin Buss of the above: first translation without cuts or bowdlerizations: introduction by Buss: pb/]
  • Les Mémoires d'un médecin (Paris: Fellens et Dufour, 1846) [volume one of series: this volume signed at close as being the story of Joseph Balsamo: binding unknown/]
  • Les Mariages du père Olifus (Paris: Alexandre Cadot 1849) with Paul Bocage [binding unknown/]
  • Isaac Laquedem (Brussels, Belgium: Alphonse-Nicolas Lebègue, 1852) [published in four volumes: this may be part-publication only: first appeared December 1852-March 1853 Le Constitutionnel: binding unknown/]
    • Izaak Lakadam (London: Vizetelly and Company, 1853) [trans anon of the above: hb/]
  • Le Meneur de loups (Paris: Cadot, 1857) [published in three volumes: binding unknown/]
    • The Wolf-Leader (London: Methuen, 1904) [trans by Alfred Allinson of the above: hb/]
      • The Wolf-Leader (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Prime Press, 1950) [cut and revised version by L Sprague de Camp of the above translation: illus/hb/Mahion Blaine]
  • Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine (Paris: Phébus, 2005) [hb/]

collections and stories

  • L'Histoire d'un Casse-Noisette (Paris: J Hetzel, 1845) [published in two volumes: radically adapted from E T A Hoffmann's "Nußknacker und Mausekönig" ["Nutcracker and Mouse King"] in Kinder-Mährchen (anth 1816): illus/Bertall: binding unknown/]
    • The History of a Nutcracker (London: Chapman and Hall, 1847) [published in two volumes: trans anon of the above: a possible 1845/1846 magazine appearance has not been traced: in the publisher's Picture Story Books by Great Authors and Great Painters series: contains 220 illustrations: illus/pb/Bertall]
      • The History of a Nutcracker (London: George Routledge and Sons, ?1873) [undated: 1875 has also been given: same trans and setting as above: but here numbered pp 159-313, identical to appearance in A Picture Story-Book with Four Hundred Illustrations by Eminent Artists (anth 1871) but here separately bound: contains "234" illustrations, differing from 1847: a possible counting error: illus/Bertall: hb/uncredited]
  • Les Mille et Un Fantômes ["A Thousand and One Phantoms"] (Paris: A Cadot, 1849) [coll: Club Story format: binding unknown/]
  • La Jeunesse de Pierrot (Paris: Librairie nouvelle, 1854) [first appeared March 1853 Le Mousquetaire: binding unknown/]
    • When Pierrot Was Young (London: Oxford University Press, 1975) [chap: trans by Douglas Munro of the above: illus/hb/Peter Farmer]
  • Causeries (Brussels, Belgium: Office de Publicité, 1857) [coll: contains "Un Voyage à la Lune": binding unknown/]
  • The Phantom White Hare and Other Stories (Edinburgh, Scotland: Canongate, 1989) [coll: trans by Douglas Munro from various sources: pb/Janet Pontin]

about the author


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