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.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
Next - 'Arrival in Paris'