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The giant falls

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Dumas Tomb   Monument
The tomb of Alexandre Dumas at Villers-Cotterêts
British Library W4/8783, vol.2
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Monument to Alexandre Dumas père by Gustave Doré
British Library W4/8783, vol.5

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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, near Dieppe.

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

Read a fuller version of Mike Phillips' essay in Adobe Acrobat (pdf format) 109KB.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

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
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
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
John Archer
John Archer
 
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