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Tue, 07.27.1824

Alexandre Dumas Fils, Playwright born

Alexandre Dumas fils

*Alexandre Dumas fils was born on this date in 1824. He was a Black French author and playwright.

Dumas fils was born in Paris, France, the illegitimate quarteron child of Marie-Laure-Catherine Labay, a dressmaker, and novelist Alexandre Dumas. In 1831 his father legally recognized him and ensured that the young Dumas received the best education possible at the Institution Goubaux and the Collège Bourbon. At that time, the law allowed the elder Dumas to take the child away from his mother. Her agony inspired the younger Dumas to write about tragic female characters. In almost all of his writings, he emphasized the moral purpose of literature; in his play The Illegitimate Son (1858) he espoused the belief that if a man fathers an illegitimate child, then he should legitimize the child and marry the woman.

At boarding schools, he was constantly taunted by his classmates because of his family situation. These issues profoundly influenced his thoughts, behavior, and writing. Dumas' paternal great-grandparents were Marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a French nobleman and Général commissaire in the Artillery in the colony of Saint-Domingue—now Haiti—and Marie-Cessette Dumas, an African slave. Their son Thomas-Alexandre Dumas became a high-ranking general of Revolutionary France. In 1844, Dumas moved near Paris, to live with his father. There he met Marie Duplessis, a young courtesan who would be the inspiration for the character Marguerite Gauthier in his romantic novel La Dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias).

Although he admitted that he had done the adaptation because he needed the money, he had great success with the play, which started his career as a dramatist. He was not only more renowned than his father during his lifetime, but also dominated the serious French stage for most of the second half of the 19th century. After this, he virtually abandoned writing novels, though his semi-autobiographical L'Affaire Clemenceau (1867) achieved some solid success. On December 31, 1864, in Moscow, Dumas married Nadezhda von Knorring. The couple had two daughters: Marie-Alexandrine-Henriette "Colette" Dumas and Auguste Alexandre Lippmann, and Jeanine Dumas.

In 1874, he was admitted to the Académie française and in 1894 he was awarded the Légion d'honneur. Alexandre Dumas fils, best known for the romantic novel La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), died at Marly-le-Roi, Yvelines, on November 27,1895, and was interred in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. His grave is some 100 meters away from that of Marie Duplessis.

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