Dumas, Alexandre

Tagged: Author

(1802-1870) French dramatist and author, best remembered for romantic historical fictions about France whose most famous examples appear in the Musketeerssequence [for this, and for detailed discussion of Dumas' extensive fantasy and supernatural oeuvre, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy]. His use of anonymous collaborators, most prominent among them Paul Lacroix and Auguste Macquet, is fully acknowledged; but collaborations were usually restricted to research and plot outlines. Tales of fantasy and horror interest include the main story included in Une famille corses; suivie de Historie d'un mort (coll 1844; main story separately as Les frères corses 1845; trans anon as The Corsican Brothers 1852; new trans Alfred Allinson in The Corsican Brothers and Otho the Archer anth 1903) [dramatizations not listed], whose dual protagonists, Siamese twins separated at birth, mystically share a single sensorium; L'Histoire d'un Casse-Noisette (1845 2vols; trans anon as The History of a Nutcracker 1847), a radical adaptation of E T A Hoffmann's "Nußknacker und Mausekönig" ["Nutcracker and Mouse King"] in Kinder-Mährchen (anth 1816) [for more details see Checklist below]; and Le Meneur de loups (1857 3vols; trans Alfred Allinson as The Wolf-Leader 1904; trans cut and edited by L Sprague de Camp 1950), whose protagonist enters into a deadly bargain with a great spirit-wolf, paying dearly for every act of revenge he is magically allowed to enact [for Answered Prayers see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

But Dumas is relevant in the frame of this encyclopedia mainly for one tale, his most famous. Almost certainly taking and transforming some elements from two novels by Paul Féval – the revenge tale as initiated in Les Mystères de London ["The Mysteries of London"] (20 December 1843-12 September 1844 Le Courrier Français; 1844), and the costumed crime fighter in Le loup blanc (1843; trans anon as The White Wolf circa 1850) – he created a proto-Superhero of sf interest in Edmond Dantès, the protagonist of Le Comte de Monte-Christo (28 August 1844-15 January 1846 Journal des Débats; 1844-1845 18vols; trans Emma Hardy as The Count of Monte Cristo 1846 3vols; rev vt Le Comte de Monte-Cristo 1846 2vols; trans anon – possibly by William Francis Ainsworth – as The Count of Monte-Cristo 1846 2vols) with the anonymous collaboration of Auguste Macquet in its early drafts [for bibliographical details, and the change from Christo to Cristo, see Checklist below; note that all English editions with the spelling Cristo are translated from the revised text of 1846, or from editions based upon it]. Illustrating the experimental nature of narratives constructed this early in the evolution of what we term Fantastika in this encyclopedia, the rhetoric of the telling of Monte Cristo constantly (if naively) fluctuates amongst various readings, mundane, supernatural, speculative, gothic. In the end, the generically unstable portrait of the Count can be seen as proleptic of Heroes and Antiheroes to come (see in particular Batman; Superman).

Though innocent of any crime, Dantès is betrayed and incarcerated without trial, his immurement (see Crime and Punishment) lasting from 1815, just as Napoleon returns from exile, until 1829, during which period he begins his long metamorphosis into an nearly omnipotent avenger –as did the Frankenstein Monster a few decades earlier (see Mary Shelley) – by listening for years to his fellow prisoner the Abbé Faria, who has memorized the gist of Western civilization and conveys it to him orally, along with various techniques useful in mastering the world outside. After escaping from Prison and saving those who had originally attempted to help him, Dantès disappears mysteriously for nine more years of preparation, creating during this period a fit-to-task persona while gaining intimate knowledge of the continuing weaknesses and sins and crimes of his original tormentors. The greater part of the novel, which had seemingly begun as a Gothic melodrama, reveals itself to be a Godgame tale, with the new-minted "Count of Monte Cristo" slowly revealed as puppet-master and, in the final pages, as a Messiah figure (an attribution he eventually abjures).

Dantès in his full pomp is "atrociously pale" and mesmerizing, an explicitly Byronic figure recognizable from the early nineteenth century Vampire stories and plays by John Polidori and Charles Nodier (to whose literary Cénacle Dumas belonged) where a saturnine Byron (as Lord Ruthven) is unmistakably present (Byron is specifically cited several times in Monte Cristo). He is almost supernaturally agile, immensely strong, seemingly omniscient, profoundly Intelligent, scientifically learned (he creates an elixir capable of restoring life to the dead), fluent in all languages, inexhaustibly rich, sensitive, untiring, able to see in the dark, with jackal-sharp pointed teeth and eyes that seem luminous, immune to liquor and repulsed by food. In a secret cranny, deep Underground within the Island of Monte Cristo which he owns, can be found a Fortress of Solitude, rich in recondite books (see Libraries) and other pleasures including Drugs, where he can be at ease. A Mysterious Stranger who knows all and whose secret Identity is unrecognizable to those who exiled him from his life and homeland, he hounds with unhouseling ferocity these usurpers into the hells that befit them. But the terrible revenge that is meted out has a larger effect, as Dantès's four main enemies emblematically represent in turn the French military, the legal system, the criminal underground, and the world of finance. The exposure of their sins inevitably exfoliates therefore into a Satirical portrait of July Monarchy France, though Dumas sends his masked avenger off to sea in a Slingshot Ending before the land can be cured.

Monte Cristo was a powerful influence on Jules Verne, whose early career Dumas had promoted, in particular for tales like Mathias Sandorf (1885); on Gaston Leroux's Le Roi Mystère ["The Mystery King"] (1910), on M P Shiel's The Lord of the Sea (1901; savagely cut 1924); and, especially and acknowledgedly, on Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (October 1956-January 1957 Galaxy as "The Stars My Destination"; 1956; rev vt The Stars My Destination 1957; rev 1996). More recently, both plot and characters were openly homaged in John Jakes's spoofish Monte Cristo #99 (1970), in Stephen Fry's nonfantastic The Stars' Tennis Balls (2000; vt Revenge 2002), and in great detail by Gwyneth Jones in Spirit (2008). Direct Sequels by Other Hands include Jules Lermina's The Son of Monte-Cristo (1881).

Most of the Count's characteristics are replicated, with cartoon-like intensity, in the portrait of the eponymous hero of Dumas' last and unfinished novel, Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine (1869 Le Moniteur universel; 2005; trans Lauren Yoder as The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon2007), who can also sing like an angel and suddenly speaks perfect English (though he has never been to England).

Though his vast oeuvre may reveal further examples, Dumas's closest approach to Proto SF as such seems to have been an "adaptation" of William Maginn's "Daniel O'Rourke's Wonderful Voyage to the Moon" in Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland (anth 1825) edited by Thomas Crofton Croker; in Dumas's version, published as "Un Voyage à la Lune" (8 October 1857 Le Monte Cristo; trans Harry A Spurr as "Trip to the Moon" in The Dumas Fairy Tale Book coll 1924), the original protagonist O'Rourke, now renamed Mocquet, is plucked from a mysterious Island by a giant eagle which deposits him on the Moon; after several days, he is taken back to Earth by an enormous goose. In its use of the Immortality topos, his Wandering Jew tale, Isaac Laquedem (December 1852-March 1853 Le Constitutionnel; 1853; trans anon as Izaak Lakadam 1853), also approaches sf, but not closely. [JC/DRL]

Alexander Dumas père

born Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, France: 24 July 1802

died Dieppe, France: 5 December 1870

works (highly selected)

The immense popularity of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo inspired within weeks of its French publication a range of English translations, complete, abridged, and in synopsis form, in both magazine and book formats, covering a very wide prospective readership. Though any analysis of this publishing phenomenon is beyond the remit of this encyclopedia, it can be noted that the ferment occasioned by these multiple releases is of strong interest in the study of Early Victorian literature and culture. For clarity, the two book versions of the French original, Le Comte de Monte-Christo and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, are listed separately below. Translations of the first edition are numerous but invariably (it seems) incomplete and/or defective. All translations in print in the twenty-first century – sometimes variously abridged, and not all listed below – are based on the second edition.

The Count of Monte Cristo

  • Le Comte de Monte-Christo (Paris: Pétion, 1844-1845) with August Macquet, anonymous [published in eighteen volumes issued sequentially, first two volumes 1844, the remaining volumes 1845: first appeared 28 August 1844-15 January 1846 Journal des Débats: hb/]
    • "The Prisoner of If" (volume 7 1845 Ainsworth's Magazine) [anonymous précis of approximately the first third of the above by William Francis Ainsworth: mag/]
    • "The Count of Monte Christo" (volume 8 1845-volume 9 1846 Ainsworth's Magazine) [abridged narrative rendering of the remaining two-thirds of the above: follows directly from "The Prisoner of If": William Francis Ainsworth is here acknowledged as "adaptor" of the original: mag/]
    • The Prisoner of If; Or The Revenge of Monte-Christo (London: Geo Peirce, 1846) [heavily cut trans anon of the above: 400 pages of normal size: observes cuts and phrasings similar to latter part of the William Francis Ainsworth trans listed directly above: possible penny-blood release in 26 parts not established: published January 1846: pb/]
    • The Chateau d'If: A Romance (Belfast, Ireland: Simms and M'Intyre/London: W S Orr and Company, 1846) [comprising approximately the first third of the above: trans by Emma Hardy of the above: number 3 in the publisher's The Parlour Novelist series: published March 1846: hb/nonpictorial]
    • The Count of Monte Christo: Being a Sequel to "The Chateau d'If" (Belfast, Ireland: Simms and M'Intyre/London: W S Orr and Company, 1846) [published in two volumes: comprising approximately the remaining two thirds of the above: trans by Emma Hardy of the above: numbers 8 and 9 in the publisher's The Parlour Novelist series: published ?May-?June 1846: hb/nonpictorial]
    • "The Count of Monte Christo" (cut version of the above translated by John Taylor Sinnett 25 April 1846-18 December 1847 The London Journal in weekly instalments)
  • Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (Paris: Bureau de l'Echo des Feuilletons, 1846) with August Macquet, anonymous [rev vt of the first version cited separately above: published in two volumes: establishing the default spelling of "Cristo": illus/Paul Gavarni and Tony Johannet: binding unknown/]
    • The Count of Monte-Cristo (London: Chapman and Hall, 1846) [published in two volumes: uncredited trans, possibly by William Francis Ainsworth, of the above: first appeared March-?May 1846 The Morning Post: this first nearly complete trans of revised text released in May two months after the Emma Hardy trans of the first third of the first French edition as The Chateau d'If (for details, see citation above): the rest of her version, trans as The Count of Monte Christo in two volumes, appeared after the Chapman and Hall edition here cited: illus/Henri Valentin: hb/nonpictorial]
    • The Count of Monte Cristo; Or, the Revenge of Edmond Dantès (New York: F M Lupton Publishing Company, 1892) [cut trans by Henry L Williams of the above: hb/]
    • The Count of Monte Cristo (New York: Bantam Classics, 1956) [cut trans by Lowell Bair of the above: pb/]
    • The Count of Monte Cristo (London: Penguin Books, 1996) [new trans by Robin Buss of the above: first translation without cuts or bowdlerizations: introduction by Buss: pb/from Jacques-Louis David, "Portrait of an Artist"]

other individual titles

collections and stories (titles and translations selected)

  • Une famille corses; suivie de Historie d'un mort (Brussels, Belgium: Société Belge de Librairie, 1844) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • Les frères corses (Paris: Hippolyte Souverain, éditeur, 1845) [main story from the above title: binding unknown/]
  • L'Histoire d'un Casse-Noisette (Paris: J Hetzel, 1845) [published in two volumes: radically adapted from E T A Hoffmann's "Nußknacker und Mausekönig" ["Nutcracker and Mouse King"] in Kinder-Mährchen (anth 1816): illus/Bertall: binding unknown/]
    • The History of a Nutcracker (London: Chapman and Hall, 1847) [published in two volumes: trans anon of the above: a possible 1845/1846 magazine appearance has not been traced: in the publisher's Picture Story Books by Great Authors and Great Painters series: contains 220 illustrations: illus/pb/Bertall]
      • The History of a Nutcracker (London: George Routledge and Sons, ?1873) [undated: 1875 has also been given: same trans and setting as above: but here numbered pp 159-313, identical to appearance in A Picture Story-Book with Four Hundred Illustrations by Eminent Artists(anth 1871) but here separately bound: c "234" illustrations, differing from 1847: a possible counting error: illus/Bertall: hb/uncredited]
  • Les Mille et Un Fantômes ["A Thousand and One Phantoms"] (Paris: A Cadot, 1849) [coll: Club Story format: binding unknown/]
  • La Jeunesse de Pierrot (Paris: Librairie nouvelle, 1854) [first appeared March 1853 Le Mousquetaire: binding unknown/]
    • When Pierrot Was Young (London: Oxford University Press, 1975) [chap: trans by Douglas Munro of the above: illus/hb/Peter Farmer]
  • Causeries (Brussels, Belgium: Office de Publicité, 1857) [coll: contains "Un Voyage à la Lune": binding unknown/]
  • The Phantom White Hare and Other Stories (Edinburgh, Scotland: Canongate, 1989) [coll: trans by Douglas Munro from various sources: pb/Janet Pontin]

about the author


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