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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Alexandre Dumas was born July 24, 1802 in Villes-Cotterets to a French noble father that had settled in Santo Domingo (now part of Haiti). His paternal grandmother, Marie-Cessette, was an Afro-Caribbean that had been a black slave in Santo Domingo. There is no indication that Dumas ever defined himself as a black man, although his works would later be popular among African-Americans, probably because the tales were often stories of emancipation, and a shorter work, Georges (1843), specifically examined the issues of race and colonialism. Dumasí father was a well-known general in Napoleonís army that eventually fell out of favour, and Dumas himself maintained close ties with the resistance movement during the Napoleonic era. After Dumasí fatherís death in 1806, Dumas worked as a notaryís clerk and went to Paris in 1823 to find work. There, he gained a position with the Duc díOrleans (later King Louis Philippe), and did some theatre work and publishing for obscure magazines.
Dumas was notoriously fond of women, having several mistresses and fathering illegitimate children, one being his son Alexandre Dumas fils ("fils" meaning "son") with Marie- Catherine Labay in 1824. In general, his life, like his books, was adventurous. He took part in the revolution of July 1830, caught cholera during the epidemic of 1832 and married one of his mistresses, Ida Ferrier, an actress, in 1840, separating from her after having spent her entire dowry. He built himself an impressive chateau, which he named "The Chateau de Monte Cristo" on the outskirts of Paris, and spent two years in exile in Brussels between 1855 and 1857 from his creditors before returning to Paris. He travelled widely to countries including Russia and Italy and assisted in Italyís struggle for independence between 1860 and 1864. Alexandre Dumas fils also later became a writer, dramatist and moralist, but never accepted his fatherís lifestyle.
While Dumasí novels are primarily focused on adventure, his works generally tackled issues of racism, God, greed, forgiveness and menís relationships. Dumas has been criticized for his sometimes melodramatic tales which are not necessarily faithful to the historical facts, although it should be noted that for the purposes of the roman feuilleton, fast-paced and adventurous tales based on intrigue and action usually use the historical background as a supplement to the tale as a whole. Dumas died in December of 1870 at Puys, near Dieppe at the age of 68, pursued by creditors and having spent most of the money he had on his lavish lifestyle.
LITERARY / HISTORICAL INFORMATION
Published in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is, along with The Three Musketeers, one of Dumasí best-known novels. Dumas was well-known in Paris at the time of The Count of Monte Cristoís publishing as both a celebrated playwright, but also as a master of "romans feuilletons", the serialized novels which were extremely popular in nineteenth-century Paris. The Count of Monte Cristo was published as one of these "romans feuilletons" in Parisí Le Journal des Debats between 1844 and 1846, which serves somewhat to explain the adventurous mood of the tale, whose chapters would have provided effective cliff-hangers for its readers.
It is perhaps obvious to say that Dumas also based a large part of The Count of Monte Cristo on The Arabian Nights, borrowing names, backgrounds and major Themes. Dumas was also assisted in his writing of the novel by Auguste Maquet, a scholar who assisted in the research of factual and historical material and sources.
In all, however, The Count of Monte Cristo reads quickly, like an adventure tale, and the major Themes of revenge, betrayal, escape and intrigue all ensure the reader remains captivated by the tale. The reader roots for Dantès in his quest for revenge and becomes a fascinated observer of the battle between good and evil.