Dumas was exhausted at last. By 1869 he was chronically confused,
and in July 1870 his son decided to take him to his villa at Puys,
Now Dumas who had never counted anything was obsessed with the fear of being without money, and the family took care to fill his drawer with cash. His other preoccupation was with his literary legacy. One day he asked Alexandre whether he thought his work would live on. The younger Dumas explained his conviction that the work would last forever and the old man's face lit up. The next day Dumas died.
Dumas was what he was in a completely un-selfconscious way, new and innovative, innocent of almost everything but ready for everything. He pushed himself to the top, which was where he wanted to be, and in that sense his life is the most ambitious and interesting of his melodramas. He talked of himself as a populariser, but he studied history with pasion and desire, and few storytellers have had such lasting power.
He also understood, very well, the racism of the age. In his novel
George, he sketches aspects of his father's experience
with an insight which shows how deeply he considered the matter,
and he records with an unblinking truthfulness the insults which
must have come out of his childhood experience. In many ways, other
books can be read as allegories in which he expresses crucial insights
about what it meant to share different and conflicting origins.
All the more impressive, then, his ability to reflect and representative
key aspects of the French culture, and to become a much loved icon
of French letters and world culture.
References and further reading
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Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips