The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas

The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas

The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas

The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas

Excerpt

Few names are better known throughout the world than that of Dumas père. In every country people have read his books, and read them still. There is no need for me to justify my choice of subject. After making a study of the lives of George Sand and Victor Hugo, I ought, it seemed to me, since the chances of research had put me on the track of new documents, to add to my romantic comedy a portrait of Alexander Dumas. The critics of the generation of Doumic and Brunetière, though recognizing the man as something of a 'force of nature', had denied the importance of the writer. The excellent book by Monsieur Henri Clouard has restored to him his proper place in the history of French literature.

'He has been blamed for being entertaining, prolific and prodigal. Would his value have been greater had he been boring, sterile and miserly?' The dividing line, drawn in our own day, between writing which is difficult -- the only kind to which any value is nowadays attached -- and that which is commonly described as 'vulgar', did not exist in the great periods. 'Molière was a natural product of the barnstorming tradition', says Roger Caillos, 'and made an easy transition from popular farce to the Court. Balzac normally published his novels serially in the daily papers, as did Dickens and Dostoievsky. Hugo, throughout his working life, knew how to conquer and to keep a popular audience.' Homer was the poet of everyman.

It is right to rank Balzac, Dickens and Tolstoy higher than Dumas, and I, for my part, prefer them. But that does not keep me from feeling admiration and affection for a writer who was the delight of my boyhood, or from still loving his strength, his zest and his generosity of mind. Hugo set him on the level with the greatest writers of his day. 'You leave us in the wake of Dumas Lamartine and Musset', he wrote in his Tombeau de Théophile Gautier. The author of Les Misérables saw no reason why a writer should be ashamed of having more than five hundred readers: nor should it be forgotten that Dumas managed to pack as much action into his own life as into his novels. He is the darling of the biographers.

Some people may think it strange that I should devote so much space in this book to Dumas fils. 'Which Dumas?' said Henri Clouard.

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