Dumas' self-imposed exile from Paris was a wonderful holiday, but
on returning he heard that one of his plays had been hissed and
he decided to change course. He now set himself to reading works
of history. At the same time he was in the centre of the fashionable
crowd, throwing a costume ball in 1833 that was the social event
of the year. Afterwards he set out on a new round of travels to
the South, even getting himself arrested as a revolutionary in Tuscany
and thrown out. Back in Paris he put on a new drama, Caligula,
featuring a trained horse which he hoped would be a star, but the
play failed and the horse was hissed.
He was suddenly out of fashion and, paradoxically, he began pursuing
honours and decorations, successfully lobbying to be made a Chevalier
of the Legion of Honour on 2 July 1837 with the help of his friend
Victor Hugo. In August his mother died, and Dumas decided on a great
project - a statue in Haiti in honour of his father. He wrote a
letter to the government of Haiti, proposing a subscription for
the purpose. There was no response.
Dumas was actually deep in debt, as he would always be. He got
married, partly to get out of some of his debts, then started writing
comedies and doctoring scripts to pay for the others, but his gourmandising,
his notable generosity and his open-handed hospitality meant that
he spent money faster than he could earn it.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
Next - 'A new career - the novelist'