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Early life

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Napoleon Bonaparte in exile   House in Villers-Cotterets
Napoleon Bonaparte in exile
British Library L.R.305.a.9 frontispiece

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  Birthplace of Alexandre Dumas at Villers-Cotterêts
British Library W4/8783, vol.1
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Napoleon crossing the River Nieman    
Napoleon crossing the River Nieman (1812) - a great event in Dumas' childhood imagination British Library 9080.m.3
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Dumas spent his childhood wandering in the woods, catching birds, hunting, and exploring the neighbourhood. He learnt fencing from the local fencing-master, and at only 10 would harangue adults with complete assurance. Around this time his mother decided to send him to the local seminary to train for the priesthood, but Dumas settled the matter by running away and living in the woods until his mother gave up the idea.

When he was about to leave school Madame Dumas gave her teenage son the choice of what to call himself. As Davy de la Pailleterie he might be able to get a position with the royal family. As Dumas he had no prospects at all, but the young Dumas didn't hesitate in choosing his father's name.

His only useful skill was his beautiful handwriting which allowed him to enter the office of the local notary. He might have established himself as a local worthy, but temptation suddenly appeared in the form of young nobleman, Adolphe de Leuven, who visited Villers-Cotterêts, befriended Dumas, and took him on his first trip to the Paris theatre in November 1822. After this Dumas was hooked on Paris and the theatre.

Returning home, he began searching novels for suitable subjects to turn into plays and schemed his escape. His chance came when one evening he won 90 francs, enough to take a coach to Paris and to keep him there while he found his feet. Almost without delay Dumas said goodbye to his childhood and set out to conquer Paris.

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Arrival in Paris Next - 'Arrival in Paris'

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