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
Next - 'Time of transition'