Saturday, February 7, 2009

Alexandre Dumas

Today, we pay tribute on The Writing Greek to Alexandre Dumas. In fact, I’ll likely do a couple of more blogs on him in the days to come as aspiring writers can learn a great deal from Mr. Dumas.

First, a brief introduction:
Dumas’ grandmother was a slave, and though his father had at one time been a French general, he fell from Napoleon’s favor and left Dumas with an impoverished childhood. Dumas originally made his own fame and fortune writing plays. Dumas must have been the John Grisham of his day because in a 3 year time period (1844-1846), he wrote "The Count of Monte Cristo," “The Three Musketeers,” “The Nutcracker” (updating a previously morbid version by E. Hoffman), and by my count, about 9 other lesser known works. Later in life, he also compiled a cookbook encyclopedia of sorts that wasn’t published until his death. Alas, he followed his father's footsteps and died broke, having spent all his money on women and a chateau that he named the Monte Cristo.

For more scoop on Dumas, purchase the unabridged Wordsworth Classics version of "The Count of Monte Cristo" as it has a nice footnoted introduction on him. Or, if you must, you can always rely on Wikipedia. Onward we go ...

In the 1840’s, literary works were often published in the newspaper or a magazine, and what you may not realize is that Dumas’ publisher originally intended for him to instead write a series of historical travelogues instead of "The Count of Monte Cristo." Fortunately for us, a rival paper ran a series called, “The Mysteries of Paris,” and Dumas was pressed to write something as equally as entertaining, which at last brings us to the main focus of today’s blog.

Ahem … [Dan coughs and clears his throat, very distinguishedly (new word!)] … Some fourteen years later, in an 1858 writing (“The Companions of Jehu”), Dumas wrote, “I have a twin goal, to educate and to entertain: and I place education first, because for me entertainment has only ever been a way to disguise education.”

Dumas’ statement speaks for itself. It’s rather well put, isn’t it?

It leads me to consider my own writing. I want to entertain, but I also try to educate as well. Since I write historical fantasy, plenty of opportunities exist. The trick, of course, is to make those educational ‘nuggets’ entertaining, an art at which Dumas excelled.

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