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Dumas the dramatist - "glass beads and corals"

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Portrait of Victor Hugo   Caricature by Noder
Victor Hugo
British Library PP.1931.pch
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  Caricature by Noder - fame had made Dumas' features immediately recognisable
British Library W5/5627, p.147
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Dumas at 28    

Alexandre Dumas aged 28
British Library W5/5627, p.129
Copyright © The British Library Board

 


In the years following his great triumph with Henri III et sa coeur, Dumas produced an unsuccessful play and started an abortive project with Victor Hugo, before returning to the play Antony, which attacked conventional ideas of marriage, idealised romantic love, and ended in murder and suicide. "The most obscene play that has ever appeared in these days of obscenity!" the classic critics thundered. Dumas had struck the right note, and once again his play became an anthem of the young romantics.

Dumas was on top again. He lived in a new house in the Square d'Orléans in the rue Saint-Lazare. He wore flamboyant waistcoats, green as the sea, purple cloaks and massive golden chains. Once when his patron Monsieur Nodier saw Dumas arriving he sighed: "Ah, Dumas, my poor fellow, what a lot of baubles! Will you Negroes always be the same and forever be delighted by glass beads and corals?" Dumas didn't take offence. He was busy regularising his relationships with children and former lovers, and now he launched into the mixture of work, love, gastronomy, travel, festivals, financial speculations, dazzling successes and heavy failures, splendour and misery, which were to characterise his life to the end.

In 1832 a new insurrection broke out which saw half of Paris taken over by insurgents. Dumas was in the thick of the crowd, typically, distributing weapons from the property store rooms of a theatre. The insurrection failed and the repressive measures were harsh. On 9 June 1832 a newspaper announced that Dumas, taken with weapon in hand, had been shot. He was, of course, still alive, but he decided to make himself scarce for a while, and as he had never seen any high mountains, he started off for Switzerland.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

Time of transition Next - 'Time of transition'

Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor John Archer
 
 
 
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Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
The Father - General Dumas
The father - General Dumas
Early life
Early life
Arrival in Paris
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Dumas the dramatist - "glass beads and corals"
Time of transition
Time of transition
A new career - the novelist
A new career - the novelist
Mulatto!
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The forgotten man
The forgotten man
The giant falls
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George Polgreen Bridgetower
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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
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John Archer
John Archer
 
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