As the second half of the century began Dumas was in trouble. The
Théâtre Historique failed. His creditors began to circle
like a pack of wolves. Next was the turn of Monte Cristo. The bailiffs
stripped it and soon nothing was left – not even his vulture
Jugurtha, who went to an innkeeper who was owed 3,000 francs. At
the end of 1851 imperial order was resumed in France. The republican
Victor Hugo was exiled, and Dumas absented himself in Brussels.
After three years he returned to Paris and, irrepressible as always,
started a new journal, Le Mousquetaire. As usual with Dumas'
ventures the journal was a great success at first, but it made little
money. In the following years attacks in the journals and the courts
increased in frequency. “Old Negro” became a habitual
term of abuse.
After 1857, however, his popularity suddenly returned and his plays
were once more in favour. He set out to join Garibaldi, leader of
the movement to unify Italy (risorgimento), who was about
to invade Naples and Sicily to make them part of the new Italian
union. Dumas spent his fortune on weapons, and entered Naples in
triumph among Garibaldi's red-shirted soldiers. Garibaldi appointed
him director of Fine Arts, but his status didn't last long. The
Neapolitans were resentful of the foreigner in their midst and he
was soon on his way back to France.
His bohemian life began again on a smaller scale, but he was surrounded
by sycophants who fleeced him for all they could get. They alienated
his son Alexandre, whose glittering career as a playwright and novelist
was just beginning. In comparison Dumas was now a forgotten man.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
Next - 'The giant falls'