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Mulatto!

Enlarged image    
Cartoon of Dumas by Cham    
In this cartoon by Cham note the racist imagery, with its hint of cannibalism
British Library W5/5627, p.289
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At the moment of his triumph the issue of his origins returned with a vengeance. A journalist named Jacquot had written to Dumas and failed to get a reply. The result was a bitter attack on the "fiction factory". The terms are frankly racist - "Scratch M. Dumas' hide and you will find the savage... He lunches on potatoes taken burning hot from the ashes of the hearth and devours them without removing the skins – a Negro!... To arrive at the top he turned royalist in La Vendée, Bonapartist in 1830, and republican in 1832. His works are only foundlings whose father he has never been. But since he needs 200,000 francs a year... he hires intellectual deserters and translators at wages that degrade them to the condition of Negroes working under the lash of a mulatto!"

Jacqout was sentenced to six months in prison for libel. Dumas made a new deal with his collaborators and remained as flamboyant as ever. In 1846 he travelled to North Africa as a representative of the French government. Apart from the other pleasures of the trip, he found a vulture which he named Jugurtha, tamed it, and brought it back to France, provoking an indignant debate in the Chamber of Deputies about his extravagance at government expense. Everyone was talking about Dumas, and to support his new eminence he built an extravagant château near Saint-Germain which the locals immediately dubbed Monte Cristo. In the following year Dumas opened the Théâtre Historique. Even all this was not enough, and after the Revolution of 1848 he decided to stand for the National Assembly, but in spite of his popularity he found it impossible to persuade any district to adopt him. At one meeting he was greeted by cries of "The marquis! the aristocrat! the Negro! Orléans' secretary!"

If I had had enough money," he once remarked to a friend, "I should have gone to Martinique to be elected from there"; and pointing to his hair he added "This would be a representative's brevet... but perhaps I shall send them a lock of my hair by post".

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

The forgotten man Next - 'The forgotten man'

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!
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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