One of the most widely read French authors famed for his historical fiction of high adventure, Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) wrote more than a hundred plays and novels, including the famous Three Musketeers trilogy, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. His books have been translated into more than 100 languages.
The page of the Duke of Savoyby Alexandre Dumas
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By universal consent Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), also known as Dumas pere, is now acknowledged the most entertaining of the French writers of romance. For variety of incidents, sprightliness of dialogue, and vividness of narrative no tales of adventure can compete with such works as The Three Musketeers or the Count of Monte Cristo. It is doubtful also, whether the life of any novelist comes as near as the life of Alexandre Dumas to what is expected of an entertaining work of fiction. Viewed as a hero of romance, the great novelist is almost as striking a figure as his picturesque and fascinating D'Artagnan, so that his Memoirs and the numerous volumes in which he relates the story of his travels seem to differ from his other narrative works only in the use, for the hero, of the first instead of the third person of the verb.
But whether Dumas takes us through the halls and corridors of the Louvre, at the time of Catherine of Medici, Charles IX. or Henry III., to some treasure cave under the waters of the Mediterranean, to the Palais Royal, with Richelieu, or to the walls of Janina, with the terrible Ali-Pasha, he always holds us, wistfully listening to his wonderful story-telling, even with the look of the child carried away to fairy-land by the old tales of the nursery.
What sort of works did Dumas bring out during this eventful life, in which so much time was given to pleasure, to passion, to outside activity, that none seemed to be left for the intense labor of literary production? As has already been remarked, it is as a dramatist that Dumas first won distinction, and it is to be here noticed that he is one of the very few writers who attained a very high rank both as authors of novels and of dramatic works. In France itself, Balzac, George Sand, Daudet, Zola, the great rivals of Dumas on the field of romance, have done comparatively little for the stage, and that little is not of such high excellence as to add very much to the fame that they justly possess as novelists. Hugo alone towers above all, and his magnificent poetical gifts shine no less in Les Miserables and in Ninety-Three than in Hernani or Ruy Blas. Outside of France we know the novels of Thackeray, Dickens, George Eliot, Freytag, Sienkiewicz, Tolstoy, D'Annunzio; their names owe nothing, or next to nothing, to dramatic activity. Not so with Dumas. His dramas stand out by themselves, and his place in the literary history of France would be a conspicuous one, even if not a single romance had ever come from his pen. The twenty volumes of his Theater are filled with thrilling dramas, some of which, indeed, are simply dramatized romances, but the most striking of which were conceived by him originally as dramatic works, and have not been treated by him in the more extended form of the novel. In fact, Dumas conceived life as a drama: the conflict of human desires as expressed in human speech and revealed in human deeds; such is the all-absorbing theme of his thoughts, and in his hurried life he quite naturally chose for its manifestations, first the shorter, more condensed, and, let us add, more quickly remunerative form of the play. No wonder, therefore, that action, which is the chief element of the drama, should also be the main source of interest in his romance
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The greatest author of historical fiction, Alexandre Dumas is a masterful storyteller. The Page of the Duke of Savoy is the story of Emmanual Philibert, the Duke of Savoy, and his lover Leona Maraviglia. Set against the seige of Saint Quentin, Dumas brings the reader back through time to a point when France was nearly conquered. He introduces the key political figures of the time - Henri II, the Duke de Guise, and the Constable Montmorency and entices the reader to watch as their intrigues and ambition threaten to destroy the happiness of the two young lovers. An excellent read and highly educational, I would strongly recommend this novel to anyone. I must point out that this novel is historical in nature, as were most of his works, and that Dumas, as a rule, leads his characters before us in the same course their lives naturally took. Many people malign a great number of Dumas writings, as not all have the 'fairy tale' ending the majority of the commonfolk now demand. The Two Dianas, for example, was a masterfully told story of high adventure and intrigue, of a son who has lost his father to the jealousy of the King - but could yet save him. Still, as all does not end perfectly for the hero, many readers dismiss this masterpiece in disgust and move on, saying 'It started well'. The five other novels in the 'Musketeer' saga are largely overlooked as well because Dumas did not pen too much fiction at the expense of history. For those who truly appreciate the genre, I would recommend this and all the lesser known works of Dumas. In short, if you seek the satisfaction you received from the intricately woven 'Count of Monte Cristo', you will find it - Dumas didn't write anything unless it was complex. But if you seek the happiest of endings for all involved, perhaps historical fiction isn't your genre after all.